The OPBF Middleweight title has been a strange title in recent years. The best Middleweights in the Orient and Pacific region, such as Daniel Geale, Ryota Murata and Sam Soliman, have all ignored the belt to focus on world title aspirations and it has, at times, become more of a secondary Japanese title with unification bouts between the OPBF and JBC belts happening several times in recent years. Whilst that sounds bad it has lead to things like the brilliant Makoto Fuchigami vs Koji Sato bout, from 2012, and the 2014 clash between Akio Shibata and Daisuke Nakagawa.
Earlier this year we saw Dwight Ritchie (14-0-0-4, 1) become the first non-Japanese champion since Indian born Australian based Pradeep Singh back in 2006, almost a decade earlier. Ritchie easily out boxed, out moved and out sped the rugged but limited Hikaru Nishida to claim the title but will be heading back to Japan for his first defense, taking on the big hitting Koki Tyson (10-2-2, 10).
The 24 year old Ritchie is one of the rising hopes of Australian boxing and is one of the more pure boxers coming out of the country. He's not the strongest, the biggest puncher or the most dangerous but he's the sort of fighter who has bucket loads of skill, is slick, high talented and a really good pure boxer. His skills likely won't carry him to the top of the sport, unless he can add some serious power to his game, but he does have wins over the likes of Kiatchai Singwancha, Ryan Waters and Nishida with a lot of promise that he can develop into becoming a more notable figure on the international stage.
When it comes to Tyson there's a frustrating fighter in there. The 23 year old Japanese fighter is a pretty heavy handed fighter, but has shown real flaws through out his career. His debut ended in a draw, he was stopped in 3 rounds in just his 4th bout and looked like a fighter who was going to either blow opponents out, or be stopped himself. His first title bout came last year when he was easily beaten by the then JBC/OPBF champion Akio Shibata, who schooled Tyson until scoring a 7th round stoppage, and although he won the Youth title earlier this year he did little to impress last time out, fighting to a very lucky draw with Joon Yong Lee.
On paper this looks like a puncher against a boxer, and when that tends to happen the logical feeling is that the boxer will win a decision or the puncher will win by stoppage. Here however we have to favour Ritchie to actually stop Tyson, who will chipped away at round by round, and broken down in a similar way to how he was against Akio Shibata. Ritchie has proven his stamina and ability to go 12 rounds, Tyson however hasn't and has never been beyond 8 rounds, so we suspect he'll be stopped in the later rounds
Throughout the world of boxing we see fighters with “misleading” records. This could be world class fighters with a lot of losses, for example Rey Loreto, or domestic level fighters with records stacked with mismatch wins, for example Noknoi Sitthiprasert who is on a winning run of more than 50 bouts.
One fighter who is much better than his record suggests is OPBF and Japanese Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida (15-7-1, 7) who returns to the ring this coming Tuesday, to defend his Oriental title against Australian challenger Dwight Ritchie (13-0-0-4, 1). On paper the champion should be the under-dog, if records were the only thing that mattered, but the reality is that this is a really, really, good match up.
Nishida's record belies the fact that he's a fighter who has totally turned his career around after a slow start, in fact he was once 6-6-1. Since the poor start Nishida has really developed and is a determined, tough, high intensity pressure fighter who has broken down fighters like Makoto Fuchigami, Akio Shibata, scoring stoppages over both, and scored other notable wins. Although not a big name he's a fighter who, at 28, looks like the type of fighter who will be a tough test for anyone outside of the top 20 or 30 in the world.
Whilst Nishida has picked up losses, early in his career, Ritchie has picked up No Contests, with his first 4 bouts all being listed as No Contest's due to a breach of licensing rules regarding his age. Were it not for those results being reversed Ritchie would be 17-0 (2) though his competition hasn't been great with his best wins coming over a semi-retired Ryan Waters and Dean Mikelj. Whilst he hasn't score really notable wins he has shown a good boxing brain, good speed and movement and knows how to fight to his advantages. Notably however this is his first bout outside of Australia.
On paper this is “unbeaten man Vs journeyman”, but the reality is that it's “proven pressure fighter Vs unproven speedster”. Given how unproven Ritchie is, having never fought outside of Australia and having never previous fought in a 12 rounder, it's clear the pressure is on him and with that in mind we have to favour the champion.
We suspect Ritchie will get off to a good start, and may well be 4-0 up after a few rounds, however as the bout progresses and as Nishida applies his pressure we see Ritchie wilting and losing a close but clear decision
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.