Earlier this year the Champion Carnival bouts were announced and there was a number of those that really caught our eye and got us excited. One of those was a Featherweight title bout that would have seen talented youngster Hinata Maruta get his first shot at a domestic title. Sadly due to the on going situation the 2020 Champion Carnival has not gone the way many of us had hoped when the bouts were announced, and we've only had a few of those bouts actually take place, and it's unclear if, or when the others will happen.
With Maruta not having his shot at champion Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4) this year, we have seen Sagawa turn his attention else where. Instead of being made to face his mandatory challenger he will actually be in the ring on August 13th to defend his title against Yuri Takemoto (8-1-1, 4). On paper this looks a decent bout, but in reality it's unlikely to live up the expectations we had for Sagawa Vs Maruta.
Saying that however, what do we really expect here?
Although not yet a name on an international level Sagawa is a highly skilled fighter who has been on a tear recently. Before turning professional he was a successful amateur who turned professional in 2016 and was tipped for success. Sadly however he was upset in his second professional bout, when he was stopped in 2 rounds by Retsu Kosaka. The loss was a major set back, but one that Sagawa quickly bounced back from and he has now won 8 in a row. Not only has he been scoring wins but he has been scoring notable ones, beating the likes of Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto, Shingo Kawamura, Reiya Abe and Ryo Hino.
Watching Sagawa we get the chance to see a fantastic boxer-puncher. He looks really well polished, with fluid movement, and makes boxing look easy. He makes the sport look effortless at times, and like a man who was born to be in the ring. He's light on his feet, quick with his hands and able to both box on the move, or apply pressure and fight. Sadly however there are real question marks over his chin. The loss to Kosaka to showed his chin was questionable and he was also dropped in his win over Junki Sasaki. It seems if there is a flaw to target as an opponent it is Sagawa's chin.
Whilst Sagawa has proven himself as one of the best in Japan in recent years the same can't be said of Takemoto, who is taking a huge step up in class.
The 24 year old challenger made his debut back in 2017 and, like Sagawa, lost his second bout. Unlike Sagawa however his loss was a close decision loss to Kensuke Nakamura. The youngster then fought to a draw with Tomoya Kishine, but has since reeled off 8 wins. The most notable of those was in December 2018 when he beat Hikari Mineta to be crowned the All Japan Rookie of the Year, in what was a huge win for him.
In his Rookie of the Year win Takemoto looked talented, promising and heavy handed, dropping Mineta 3 times in the opening round. Sadly however he seemed like a work in progress, and struggled to have success outside of that first round, with Mineta looking the more talented and rounded fighter. He seemed like he had some raw talent, but certainly needed a lot of work to reach the higher levels of the sport.
Sadly since winning Rookie of the Year Takemoto hasn't really impressed. He's picked up 3 wins but they included a against the hapless Kiki Marciano and a technical decision against Yoshiyuki Takabayashi. They have done little to prepare him for a title fight in a talent laden division in Japan. If anything this shot feels like it's coming far, far too early for him and whilst he may become a legitimate domestic contender one day he's not there yet.
What we're expecting to see here is Sagawa to out box, out punch and out think Takemoto. Takemoto is certainly dangerous if he lands, especially given what we know about Sagawa's chin, but it's hard to see him landing clean with any regularity. Instead we're expecting Sagawa will tag him at will, break him down and then stop him in the middle rounds. Afterwards it will like a mismatch, and in reality it's hard to see the bout being anything but an easy defense for the talented champion.
We do understand that the sport isn't running as freely in the country as we'd like but it's hard to get too excited here in a bout that we can't help but think is far too much, far too soon for Takemoto.
Prediction - Sagawa TKO 6
As part of an Ohashi card on July 16th we'll see OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) defending his title against former Japanese Youth champion Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4). On paper this doesn't look the best of bouts, but there is a lot that makes this bout really interesting, and something that could be, potentially, a slippery match up for the defending champion.
The 34 year old Shimizu turned professional in 2016, with many thinking he turned pro far too late to make the most of his ability. Prior to that he had been a very successful amateur, fighting at 2-Olympics and winning bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London. Had he turned professional then we would likely be talking about Shimizu having made an impact at world level. Sadly he wanted to battle for a place at the 2016 Olympics, falling short and turning professional afterwards.
In the ring Shimizu is a crude, but awkward, gangly southpaw puncher. Despite a very strong amateur background he's very unorthodox and throws shots from weird angles, often with his chin exposed. Typically he's gotten away with it in the professional ranks due to his freakish power and absolutely bizarre dimensions for a Featherweight. Last time out however he was punished with Joe Noynay stopping him in 6 rounds in a Super Featherweight bout. That loss not only scuppered Shimizu's unbeaten record but also left him injured and requiring a lengthy break from the ring to recover. As a result Shimizu is now 11 months removed from his last bout and 18 months removed from his last win, which was also his last defense of the OPBF Featherweight title.
With the inactivity, injuries, age, and potentially low confidence Shimizu may well be there for the taking.
In Tonomoto we have a challenger who is just starting to come into his physical prime. He turns 25 in July and appears to finally have some momentum in his career. He made his debut in 2013, reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing to Reiya Abe, and then vanished from the sport in late 2015 for over 3 years. Since returning to boxing in December 2018 Tonomoto has gone unbeaten in 3 fights, including winning the Japanese Youth Featherweight title in May 2019, and defending it 7 months later.
Sadly footage of Tonomoto is relatively scarce, though in his Japanese Youth title win he did show a lot to like. He moved around the ring well, was accurate and smartly neutralised Hikaru Matsuoka early on before finding his range and boxing well behind his clean and effective jab. It wasn't the most exciting or explosive of performances but it was a smart and efficient stuff from the youngster who was well deserving of the win. He looked like he had the ability to go further in the sport than the Japanese Youth title, but also looked like there was areas holding him back, including his lack of power and lack of intensity.
We do believe this is the perfect time to face Shimizu. If he was in with a dangerous fighter, someone with some bang, or a high work rate, he could be in a lot of trouble. In reality however he's in with a light puncher who he should, really, be able to walk through.
We suspect Shimizu will start slowly, ease his way into the bout, and then begin to step up on the gas in the middle rounds and break down the game challenger. Tonomoto will be there to win, but will, sadly, lack the ability, strength and power to cope with the champion.
Prediction - TKO6 Shimizu
On December 14th in the City Sogo Gym in Kishiwada fans will see Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2, 4) make his first defense, as he takes on Ryotaro Motohashi (9-1, 2) in a very interesting looking match up. The bout isn't one that will get headline treatment, but is an evenly matched contest between two men who are both still in the formative years of their career and both promise a lot going forward.
The champion won the belt back in May, when he defeated previous champion Hikaru Matsuoka in Hyogo, with a majority decision. The win was, by far, the biggest win of Tonomoto's career and saw him show the early potential we had seen in 2014, when he lost in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final to Reiya Abe. Sadly for Tonomoto his career lost a lot of steam in 2015, and despite his talent he didn't fight for over 3 years, before resurfacing in 2018 with a win over a Thai novice. Given his inactivity the win over Matsuoka was a huge surprise, though a very legit win at this level.
Although Tonomoto doesn't do anything amazingly eye catching he does the basics really well. He's a solid technical boxer who moves well, controls distance well and really does love doubling up his accurate jab, controlling the tempo well with it. He's busy, accurate and very relaxed in the ring, though does look like he perhaps lacks in the physical side of things and if someone tries to bully him it does appear that he might struggle to force them to back off.
The 23 year old Motohashi is a really obscure Japanese fighters, even for us, and the Kyoto based Osakan born youngster has managed to remain under the radar after his debut in September 2015. That was despite getting relatively far in the 2017 Rookie of the Year. He was sadly unable to compete in the West Japan final, which ended his tournament just a fight from the All Japan final. Sadly this is only his third bout since his Rookie tournament came to an end, and it's hard to be too confident in him given how little we've managed to see.
Despite all the footage of Japanese boxing being available Motohashi is a bit of an enigma with the only fan cam footage being available of him, and strangely Boxing Raise have seemingly mislabeled a fight that is supposed to feature him but is actually a Koki Tyson fight. From what little footage there is of him, which is admittedly from 2017, he looks rather slow and although more physical than Tonomoto he looks clumsier, and the sort of fighter who, at time, was happier to engage in close combat. The footage of him is so old that it's hard to read much into, but it was certainly fun to see and he did look like he could be in some very fun bouts if matched right.
Making a prediction on such little footage of one of the fighters can be tricky, but from what we have seen this does look like a stylistically straight forward bout for Tonomoto, who should be too sharp, too accurate and too busy. Motohashi will likely have moments when he does get up close, but overall we think those moments might be often enough for the challenger to bully the champion or rack up the rounds.
If Motohashi had scored a stoppage or two in his last 5 bouts we may have been convinced that his gruelling style would break down Tonomoto, but his lack of power suggests that won't be the case.
Prediction - UD8 Tonomoto
One of the contenders for Japanese domestic fighter of the year in 2019 is Japanese Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa (8-1, 4), who has continued to build his reputation after a very good 2018. On December 12th Sagawa returns to the ring and looks to score his first defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Ryo Hino (13-1-2, 8).
Sagawa turned pro in 2016, following a good amateur career, and despite losing in his second bout has really come along at an alarming pace. In 2018 he scored notable wins over Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto and Shingo Kawamura before travelling to the Philippines earlier this year and beating Toyogon before winning the Japanese title with a win over Reiya Abe. Given the quality of his last 4 wins it's clear he has incredible momentum and potential, and at only 25 years old the future is very, very bright for Sagawa.
For those who haven't seen him Sagawa can can box and brawl. At his best he's an excellent outside boxer with a sharp jab, great combinations and some lovely footwork. When he needs to get inside he can, and we saw that to great effect in his win over Toyogon, where he put his foot on the gas, got inside and out fought Toyogon when the judges made it clear they weren't going to credit his boxing. It was a smart change in tactic from a smart fighter. For all his talent Sagawa does have some issues, and his chin doesn't match his talent. He doesn't go down every time he's touched, even though he has been down a few times already, but tries to fight back when hurt and that has got him in trouble. He's similar to Amir Khan in that way, and it's obvious when he's hurt. That is something that can be a big problem for him as he steps up through the levels.
Whilst Sagawa had been in great form with very solid wins it's felt like Hino has been treading water since a 2017 win over Sho Nakazawa, and essentially wasting some of his best years. Now aged 29 Hino really hasn't put his name in the mix through level of competition but more from how the division it's self has been sorted out. We've seen Taiki Minamoto move up in weight, Sagawa beat Abe, Musashi Mori go the WBO Asia Pacific route, Takenori Ohashi lose in an eliminator, and Hinata Maruta is now waiting in the wings for a title fight at the 2020 Champion Carnival. The division has been tidying it's self up whilst Hino has been biding his time.
Although Hino's competition hasn't been impressing us, with his last 2 wins coming against Tasuku Suwa and Toshizane Kinoda, he is a genuinely skilled fighter and he's shown he's got very good tools in his kit. He's a tall rangy southpaw with a busy jab and good control of distance. He upset Nakazawa by simply keeping Nakazawa at the end of his jab, and stopping Nakazawa from setting himself, boxing on the back foot and picking his spots whilst luring Nakazawa in. It wasn't an exciting tactic, but it was an effective one, and saw him out boxing a then promising young hopeful.
Whilst Hino is better than his competition suggests this is a massive step up in class and Sagawa really is a very, very good fighter. Hino's southpaw jab might have success early on, but as he bout wears on it'll leave him open to Sagawa's straight right hand, and more notably if Sagawa does fall behind we see the champion speeding up his feet and applying more intense pressure, the same pressure he used against Toyogon. Although Hino's record suggests he's a big of a puncher the reality is that he doesn't hit all that hard, and we don't see Sagawa's chin having many questions asked of it here.
Prediction - UD10 Sagawa
The EDION Arena Osaka is a busy venue on December 8th hosting 2 shows, with a combined 3 title bouts. On the second of those cards we'll see Shinsei gym promoting a low key card that really is all about it's main event, the only non-4 rounder on the show. That main event will see fast rising youngster Musashi Mori (10-0, 6) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against once beaten puncher Takuya Mizuno (17-1-1, 14), in what looks like a mouth watering match up between talented young men.
Mori really burst on to the scene very quickly. After debuting in December 2016 he would go on to claim the 2017 Rookie of the Year, stopping the big puncher Zirolian Riku in the final. By the end of 2018 he had notched wins over Allen Vallespin and Richard Pumicpic, with the win over Pumicpic netting him his WBO Asia Pacific title, and a defense against Pumicpic in a rematch earlier this year showed that he really is a fighter still learning. Talking about learning Mori has began linking up with Ismael Salas, who trained him for his last fight, and real changes were made in how the youngster tames his aggression and boxes more smartly.
With Salas again behind him Mori is expected to make his second defense here against Mizuno, and continue to build on the skills, power and speed he has shown. The one real notable flaw early on was his defense, but that now appears to be getting corrected, and although their are a lot of areas for Salas to tweak with his new charge Mori looks like the type of youngster with the foundations in place to go a very, very long way.
At 24 years old Mizuno is a mature man, whilst Mori is still only 20, and with 19 fights already under bis belt since his debut more than 6 years ago, he is a man who is very much the more experienced fighter. Notably he has had more soft touches than Mori, but he has also scored a number of solid wins, such as a victory in July over Roli Gasca and a 2017 over Yuki Iriguchi. Like Mori he made his mark quite young, and reached the West Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2015, though lost to Tenta Kiyose in what is his only defeat to date.
Watch Mizuno it seems like he is someone who has the tools to go far, but is missing the mentor that Mori has. Mizuno has power, work rate and desire, but needs to be polished, a lot. During his 19 fights he has had 5 that have ended by majority decision or split decision, going 3-1-1 in those 5 bouts, and it very much feels like he needs to be shown how to use his power better and how to control fights more. He has always struggled when he's been unable to beat opponents with his power, and that needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later.
Sadly for Mizuno we see his biggest strength, his power, also being his weakest point. If that power can't take his opponent out he really doesn't look good. Mori looks like he can take a shot if he needs to, and can also avoid shots. His defense was his weakness but with Salas working on Mori's technical skills we suspect his defense will be tighter here than ever before. Mori is likely to need to stay on point, but we suspect he'll box smart, temper that aggression further and take a wide decision against the dangerous but flawed Mizuno.
Prediction - UD12 Mori
On October 26th at the Korakuen Hall we'll get a host of Japanese title eliminators, included in those is an excellent Featherweight bout between rising youngster Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) and former Japanese champion Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11), who will be clashing to decide who challenges for the title next year at during the Champion Carnival.
Of the two men it's certainly Maruta who is the more talented and has the more upside. He's a 22 year old who turned professional with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. The expectation hasn't been fulfilled yet, but he has shown a lot of ability and already holds notable wins against the likes of Jason Canoy, Wilbert Berondo, Joe Tejones, Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. His one loss came in an OPBF title fight to Hidenori Otake, in a bout that came a little bit too early, whilst his draw was a controversial one in the Philippines against Ben Mananquil.
In the ring Maruta is a real talent, and is incredibly skilled. He's a long, lean fighter, with nasty power in his shots, fantastic speed and a developing professional style. Early in his career there was question marks about his in ring mentality, often waiting too long and being a touch lazy, not getting on the front foot enough or letting his hands go. More recently he has been letting shots go, using his jab to keep opponents at range and showing an extra gear to his in ring work. There is still a slightly over cautious approach to what he does, but it is changing and he has shown an ability to force the fight more than reacting to it. Naturally he's a counter punching outside fighter, waiting for mistakes, but there is a fighter in there, even if it's not been on show often enough. If, or when, he unlocks his aggressive side he will be a very hard man to beat.
At 30 years old Ohashi is pretty much in the "must win" stage of his career. He is, as mentioned, a former Japanese champion though won the title in a weird circumstances after Kosuke Saka misheard the bell and got knocked out back in 2017. In his first defense Ohashi was given a genuine beating by Taiki Minamoto, and stopped whilst well down on the cards. Since then he has picked up a couple of wins, but looked poor in both performance, especially last time out when he was being outboxed by Shun Wakabayashi, before scoring one of the best KO's of 2019.
In the ring Ohashi is slow, cumbersome and deliberate. He can be hit, he can be out boxed, and he's really basic. He does however have a real equaliser in his mitts and his punching power makes him a genuine danger, to the very end of the bout. His KO of Wakabayashi completely bailed him out against a fighter who showed an easy way to beat him. Box, move, use your feet and keep it simple. If you can avoid the power of Ohashi you can beat him.
Given the styles of the two men involved this really doesn't look like it will be competitive. We suspect that Maruta will be too quick, too smart, too sharp and too good. As long as he can avoid the right hand of Ohashi he should make this look very, very easy. On paper it would be his biggest win, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was also one of his easiest, and will look like a sparring session almost.
Prediction - Maruta UD8
The Japanese scene at Featherweight is a really interesting one, despite the hard hitting Taiki Minamoto has abandoned the division due to struggles making weight. this coming Friday we see just how interesting the division is as we get a mouth watering bout to crown a new Japanese champion. The match up question sees former Minamoto foe Reiya Abe (19-2-1, 9) and the criminally under-rated Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4). Whilst fans who don't follow the Japanese scene won't be hugely impressed by the fighters on paper, this is one of the most interesting match ups currently on schedule, and it to be something very interesting.
Of the two men it's Abe who is probably the more well known, though it's certainly not clear cut. He's world ranked by the IBF and WBC and is a 26 year old who has gone through things the hard way, learning on the job and doing so without any substantial amateur background. He debuted at the age of 20 and was narrowly beaten in his second bout, back in 2013, before rebuilding to take the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014. A loss in 2015 to Shingo Kusano could have been a major set back but instead appeared to be little more than a blip as he has since gone 11-0-1. That 12 fight unbeaten run really has been credible to say the least with victories over Ryo Hino, Hikaru Marugame, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay, Satoshi Hosono and Daisuke Sugita, as well as revenge over Kusano. The only mark on his record since that second loss was a majority draw with Minamoto back in May, in what was a thrilling contest for the title.
Although less well known Sagawa has really made a name for himself, at least regionally, in the last 18 months or so. He turned professional with pretty expectations on his shoulders following an impressive 62-22 record in the unpaid ranks. He looked really good on his debut, stopping Ho Ya Kim, but then suffered a stoppage loss to Retsu Kosaka just 5 months later. The loss to Kosaka left many wondering whether Sagawa could take a shot, and whilst clearly very skilled the issues with his durability were expected to hold him back. It wasn't like he had been taken out with one shot, but had been hurt and instead of holding he just fell apart, lost his shape and was eventually stopped. Since then however he has gone 6-0 (3) and scored noteworthy wins over the likes of Junki Saski, Ryo Matsumoto, Shingo Kawamura and, most recently, Al Toyogon.
Whilst both have some clear similarities, being under-rated in good form, holding wins over a former world title challenger and losing their second bout, the two men are stylistically quite different. Yet both would be described as technically solid boxers.
Abe is a tricky countering punching southpaw, who uses his jab well, sits back, controls range and fires in booming left hands. He has often been perhaps a touch on the safe side, but he knows how to turn up the tempo and go for the finish. He's not the most exciting of fighters, not even close, but is one of the smartest boxers in Japan and has a an excellent ring IQ. Last time out, against Minamoto, he was dropped twice, but seemed to win to take the vast majority of rounds. The trouble for Abe isn't his chin but is his work rate, and there are times when he simply doesn't do enough, and waits for his opponent to make the first move, rather than drawing a mistake.
Sagawa on the other hand is more of offensively mined boxer, who can box on the back foot when he needs to. He has the typical crispness we've seen time and time again from fighters who have come from the Japanese amateur scene, and he is a lovely puncher, with crisp combinations and great accuracy. When he needs to press forward he can turn into a pressure fighter, as we saw against Toyogon when he had to be more aggressive to get the judges on side. The big worry for him is his chin, and not only was he down against Kosaka but also Sasaki and he's been shaken in several bouts, leaving us to really wonder about his durability going forward.
With both men being excellent boxers, though having contrasting styles, we're expecting a really tactical and smart fight between the two men. Abe will try to draw Sagawa in, countering with the left and picking his moments to up the tempo in the hope of rocking, and then stopping, Sagawa. Sagawa on the other hand will look to avoid the left, but still be pretty aggressive, and we're expecting to see him switching between head and body with raiding attacks then smothering any return fire.
We feel the difference between the two men is the durability, and even when Abe was down against Minamoto he was up and didn't look like he was going to be stopped. Sagawa certainly has the power, especially with body shots, to questions of his durability but we suspect the under-rated power of Abe, and his countering punching skills, will eventually crack Sagawa. When that happens we'll see Abe go for the finish and take out Sagawa.
Prediction - Abe TKO9
The Japanese Youth title scene is a genuinely intriguing one, even if it doesn't feature the huge names that compete in Japan. This coming Sunday we get the chance to see some Youth title bouts, and again the bouts are really interesting, without being huge news.
One of those bouts this weekend will see Japanese Youth Featherweight champion Hikaru Matsuoka (15-4-3, 2) make his first defense, as he takes on Kyohei Tonomoto (8-2, 4). Neither of these two are big names, but both will certainly see this bout as a chance to help make a name for themselves.
The 24 year old champion, a member of the Taisei Gym, win the title last year with a technical decision win over Noboru Osato. That was his third straight win and his 7th win in his last 8. Whilst that sounds impressive, his competition hasn't been the best, and more worryingly he has shown a real lack of durability, with 3 stoppage losses, including 2 stoppage losses in his last 9. Whilst he has shown a shaky chin he also has a lack of power, with only 1 stoppage in his last 7 wins and only 1 stoppage in th elast 6 years. Like some other fighters however his focus isn't on punching through the target or inflicting damage. He knows he 's not a puncher. Instead he looks to box behind a jab, fight at range and control the fight with his jab and movement.
Although no world beater it's clear that Matsuoka is a talented fighter. He's well schooled, a good mover and he fights to his strengths. Looking through his record he has fought plenty of notable opponents, scoring wins over Richard Pumicpic, Yu Konomura and of course Osato. On the other hand he has lost to the likes of Seizo Kono and Yuki Strong Kobayashi. From those losses it's clear if he needs to avoid punchers, and if he can do that he could have a pretty successful career. Luckily for him, Tonomoto is no huge puncher.
Aged 23 Tonomoto is someone who has been really over-looked and hasn't really had much attention at all. That's despite reaching the 2014 Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to the then unheralded Reiya Abe. Part of the reason why Tonomoto hasn't had much attention following his Rookie of the Year run is due to inactivity, and he took more than 3 years out, following a blow out win against Namchoke Meesri. Thankfully for the youngster he was young enough to have that 3 year break and still being a young kid when he returned to the ring last December, when he stopped Nanthipat Kesa inside a round.
Given his long break there isn't a lot of recent footage available of Tonomoto, though his last fight is available on Boxing Raise. That fight lasted just 164 seconds but it was clear Tonomoto was a pretty well schooled fighter, firing off hard and crisp jabs, flowing combinations, nice movement and although there was flaws he looked fun and exciting. He looked defensively questionable, but exciting, aggressive and like someone with the potential to go a very long way. That was however a bout against some one not fit to be in the ring with him, whilst his upcoming bout is a contest against a national youth champion.
Despite the inactivity we're actually backing Tonomoto here. We suspect that both will match each other well in terms of speed, though Matsuoka may have the slight edge, however Tonomoto appears to have the variation in his work, and the more aggressive mentality. Those, we suspect, will be his keys in a very close and competitive bout.
Prediction SD8 Tonomoto, in an bit of an over-looked and hotly contested fight
It's not often that you'll see a national champion, who is making their second defense and on a 6 fight unbeaten run being regarded at the under-dog in a mandatory Japanese title defense. This coming Wednesday however we see just that, as Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) defends his title against Reiya Abe (19-2, 9) in a truly mouth watering clash at Korakuen Hall. On one hand you have an explosive, and hard hitting champion, who has lost just once in the last 4 years, on the other a challenger who has won his last 11 and at times has looked untouchable.
This is one of the most interesting looking Japanese title bouts of 2019.
The 28 year old Minamoto is promoted by the Watanabe gym and has been a pro for a little over 8 years.His career showed early promise, though also showed him to be a bit of a glass cannon, going 9-3 (8) in his first 12 bouts. From his 3 early losses 3 were stoppages, whilst the other came to future world champion Masayuki Ito. Since that start he has gone 7-2 (5), beating the likes of Eita Kikuchi, Seizo Kono, Dai Iwai, Takenori Ohashi and Tatsuya Otsubo, whilst his last loss came in 2015 to Yukinori Oguni. It was the win over Iwai that set up his rise to the title, which he took from Ohashi and defended against Osubo. During those bouts we saw the best of Minamoto, who looked amazing against Ohashi, using his boxing skills, speed, accurate punching and heavy hands to dismantle, beat up and stop the then defending champion. Against Otsubo however we saw Minamoto struggling, and needing to dig incredibly deep to over-come the then challenger.
At his best Minamoto is a real talent. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, and his performance against Ohashi saw everything click for him, he dominated the then champion, using movement, speed, skills, power, and ring IQ. It was a relative mismatch with Minamoto never looking in any trouble and Ohahsi being made to look like a rank novice. When he fights like that he is going to be a very, very, very hard man to beat at domestic level. Sadly though his performance after the winning the title saw him ignoring his boxing skills and becoming more of a brawler, fighting Otsubo's fight. It was a stupid tactical move and showed a bit of arrogance in a bout where he was strongly favoured to win. If he fights like that against Abe he'll be made to look silly, and he'll know he needs to stick rigidly to a game plan, and not make errors.
In Abe we have a 26 year old who has really come into his own and improved so much from his early days in the ring. Had he been with a big promoter he may well have a 21-0 record, with both of his losses being razor thin decision, though his losses have helped shaped the fighter he is today. His first loss came in his second professional bout, when he was 20, he would bounce back the following year to win the Rookie of the Year before a loss in 2015 to Shingo Kusano. That loss saw Abe's record fall to 8-1 (4) but since then he has gone on a tear. Look at Abe's record since his second loss is impressive, taking the unbeaten records of Ryo Hino, Hikaru Marugame and Daisuke Sugita, whilst adding notable wins over Shingo Kusano, avenging his loss, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. His record is as good as anyone who hasn't yet fought for some form of a title.
In terms of his style Abe is a relaxed counter punching southpaw. He looked to establish a long distance on his bouts, pecking away with accurate clean punching, landing solid straight left hands and using his right jab and footwork to neutralise opponents. It's not always an exciting style to watch, but it is almost always very effective, and fighters are finding it very hard to cut him off, to change the fight or even have success against him. He has hardly lost a round in his last 5 bouts, and no one, since Noynay more than 2 years ago, has managed to run him close. He's slippery, skilled and will make opponents pay for rushing in. He is, arguably, the best counter puncher on the Japanese domestic scene right now.
Whilst we think Minamoto will need to box to win, he will also have to be smart about it. Boxing with Abe holds a lot of risks, most obvious of which is the fact Abe is the better pure boxer. Brawling and coming out swinging would cost Minamoto heavily, with Abe being given serious countering chances. If Minamoto can box smartly, not give Abe chances and control the fight with his harder punching, he has a chance. Otherwise we see Abe continuing his surge and taking a relatively clear decision, and the Japan title.
Prediction UD10 Abe.
The Featherweight division is Asia is incredibly interesting right now, both at the domestic levels and on the Oriental level. Fighters like Satoshi Shimizu, the OPBF champion, and Reiya Abe, the in form future Japanese title challenger, have really impressed recently with excellent performances. Another Japanese fighter who is emerging as one to watch is teenage prospect Musashi Mori (8-0, 5), who faces off with Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) this coming Sunday. The bout will be a second meeting between the two, who fought last year, and will be the first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title for Mori.
As mentioned this is the second meeting between the two men. They fought last November with Mori taking a split technical decision win over Pumicpic to take the WBO regional title. The bout ended in the 5th round, giving us a very inconclusive and disappointing conclusion, but one that has certainly left us all looking forward to their rematch.
At 19 years old Mori is one of the most accomplished teenagers in the sport. He made his debut in 2016, as a 17 year old and would win the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. He build on that success in 2018 with 3 more wins, including the one over Pumicpic as he dropped down in weight. Notable Mori looked like a puncher to begin his career, stopping his first 4 opponents in a combined 6 rounds and 5 of his first 6 opponents. He has however struggled to make an impact with his power at a higher level, going 8 very close rounds with Allan Vallespin last Summer. There are also question marks about Mori's defense and stamina.
Mori impressed early in his career, when he seemed to take opponents out. As he's stepped up it's become clear that there are areas for improvement. He showed some of those against Pumicpic in their first bout, showing more to his defense than he had against Vallespin. That is however still an area for him to work on. Where he is strong is with his sharp punching, he has a very good jab, a quick straight left hand, an educated hook and he is physically strong. Although only 19 he is a strong fighter at Featherweight, and doesn't look like a fighter who is draining to make the weight. Given how their first fight went, with it being a rough and tough battle on the inside, that physical strength will likely be a key asset here for the youngster.
On paper Pumicpic has the record of a fringe regional contender, in reality however he is a genuine nightmare to fight. The 28 year old has been a professional since 2008 and has proven his ability to compete at a high level, giving fits to Ryosuke Iwasa and Cesar Juarez as well as defeating the likes of Hisashi Amagasa, Roli Gasca, Joe Noynay and Yoshimitsu Kimura. He has also claimed various titles through his career, often winning them as the under-dog.
Stylistically Pumicpic is a handful. He's in the face of his opponents, applying pressure and is happy to go to war. Despite not being heavy handed, he is accurate, and refuses to let fighters use their size or speed against him. He's also a very under-rated fighter defensively, slipping and sliding shots with smart movement whilst cutting the distance. Sadly there are two things holding him back from the top level. One is his lack of power, and he'll never get respect from the top fighters with his clean but relatively weak shots, and the other is his lack of size, even at Super Bantamweight he was relatively small. He's very talented, tough and has good stamina, but is on the small side for the division.
Given how messy and sloppy their first fight was we're not expecting a pretty fight here. We're expecting another messy battle. As with their first bout we're expecting the natural strength of Mori to be a key factor, especially early on. We're expecting to see Mori take an early lead though as the bout goes on we expect Pumicpic to claw back the difference. Unless headclashes again force an early conclusion we see this being a very close decision bout, with Mori again taking the 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.