On July 21st we get the chance to see a fantastic main event at Korakuen Hall as Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (15-2-1, 10) takes on the unbeaten Taku Kuwahara (8-0, 4). The bout may not have feature some huge name, but it's a match up between two men who have often been over-looked, and are quietly moving towards bigger and better things than the Japanese national title.
Given that neither man is a big name it's worth learning a little bit about both men before we look at how we think the bout will go.
The champion is a 25 year old from Okayama, a place not known as a boxing hotspot. Despite not having a big team behind him Akui has managed to make quite a lot of noise in his 18 bout career. He turned profession in 2014 and the following year he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight, aged 20. At that point in time he was 6-0-1 (2) and someone who looked promising, but not too much fuss was made about him, even with his Rookie of the Year triumph. He then went on a destructive run, stopping his following 5 opponents in a combined 7 rounds before losing to Junto Nakatani in August 2017. That bout said more about Nakatani than Akui, with Nakatani being too big and too good, but soon afterwards Akui bounced back with a blow out win over Masamichi Yabuki, the man who will challenge world champion Kenshiro Teraji later in the year. That win was followed by an unfortunate TKO loss to Jaysever Abcede in late 2018, when Akui suffered an injury and fought on with it until being stopped with just over 40 seconds left.
Since suffering his second loss Akui has been on a tear again, blasting out Yoshiki Minato and Shun Kosaka, both within a round with the win over Kosaka netting Akui the Japanese Flyweight title. He has also made a single defense of that belt, beating Seiya Fujikita last October, via 10 round decision.
With a 10 stoppages in 18 bouts it's easy to assume that Akui isn't a dangerous fighter. In reality however he's a vicious puncher, and a fast starter. From 15 professional wins he has managed to score 9 opening round stoppages, 10 stoppages in the first 3 rounds and has one got one decision win since the start of 2016. He is a brute of a puncher, a fast starter and a very, very dangerous man in the ring. Sadly though when fighters do see out the early stages of bouts with Akui he can be out boxed, out fought and can give him real problems. In saying that however he did impress with his engine and boxing skills against the tough Fujikita and that win did show there was more to him than his early power.
The 26 year old Taku Kuwahara was a very good amateur, with international experience, and despite originally being from Osaka he is now based in Kanagawa, fighting out of the Ohashi Gym, where he gets top quality training and sparring. There was some excitement about his debut in 2018, and he quickly built some buzz, but sadly it wasn't until 2019 that he managed to notch a couple of wins of real note, beating Jonathan Refugio and Ricardo Sueno. Those wins saw him build some real momentum, but that momentum, like with many fighters, was stopped in 2020 and he didn't fight at all during the the year. Thankfully however he returned to the ring this past March with a solid win, in a very exciting fight, with Yoshiki Minato. Notably Kuwahara went 8 rounds with Minato, a man blown out in a round by Akui.
Early in his career Kuwahara looked like a man with plenty of pop, stopping 4 of his first 5 opponents, but he's gone the distance in his last 3 and there are question marks about his punching power. However he is a high skilled boxer, with some lovely tricks up his sleeve, he's quick, he's sharp, and we've seen him go 8 rounds on 4 occasions, answering plenty of questions about his stamina. He also fights at a good tempo and keeps a high work rate whilst looking very relaxed in the ring.
Coming in to the bout it really is a compelling match up. Will Akui manage to launch himself to the next level with a big win in Tokyo? Will Kuwahara manage to make the most of his chance and take his first title? Will the power of Akui be too much for Kuwahara to handle? Will Kuwahara have the skills and experience to cope with the power and aggression of his foe?
The first thing we need to think about is whether Kuwahara can see out the early storm. We suspect that someone with the experience, amateur and professional, of Kuwahara should be able to fight smartly, being cautious early on, and then moving through the gears as the bout goes on. The second thing is whether or not Akui can change things when he's being out boxed, something we expect to see Kuwahara do. That's where we're less confident and we suspect that Akui will end up starting fast, being neutralised, and then really struggle to catch up with the quicker, sharper, smoother Kuwahara.
As the rounds go on we see Kuwahara getting more and more comfortable, and whilst he might end up eating a shot or two later in the bout, and we've seen him take some shots he's not needed to in the past, we don't see Akui managing to have any sustained success later in the bout. Instead we see Kuwahara having a scare or two, from single shots, but seeing them out and taking a clear unanimous decision over Akui, and becoming the new champion.
Prediction - UD10 Kuwahara
This coming Thursday we'll see world ranked Japanese Flyweight Ryota Yamauchi (7-1, 6) look to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title as he takes on domestic challenger Yuta Nakayama (8-3-1, 5), in what is a step up in class for Nakayama. On paper this looks a bit of a mismatch, but on the other hand it is good to see Yamauchi staying busy, after a rather frustrating 2019 and 2020 and it does give his second shot at a professional title.
Of the two men the star here is the champion. The Kadoebi promoted 26 year old is among the most exciting young fighters in Japan, with an aggressive mentality, heavy hands and flawed defense. Those things together make him a must watch fighter and unlike many youngsters in the sport he hasn't tried to pad out his record. In fact in his first 8 bouts he has faced 6 fighters with winning records, and has fought on foreign soil, and has picked up several very, very good wins. They include victories over Lester Abutan, Yota Hori, Alphoe Dagayloan and Satoru Todaka. Sadly he does have a loss on his record, but it was a controversial one in China to Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi, in a bout that saw both men hit the canvas.
In the ring Yamauchi is aggressive, he has some brilliant body shots in his arsenal, but sadly he's some defensively naive, and Wulan landed big straight head shots on him time and time again. Also he has been cut in bouts, notable against Alphoe Dagayloan, and it's fair to say that there is a lot of work he can do defensively. Despite that he's big, he's strong, he's powerful and he comes to fight. He might take a shot, but he'll look to land some himself in return, and applies consistent, calculated pressure coming forward, which means his fights will, typically, be fun to watch.
Nakayama on the other hand has been a professional since 2016 and hasn't really managed to shine. He began his career going 1-1-1 before reeling off 5 straigth wins, building some moment against some some poor opposition. Since then however he has gone 2-2, before stopped twice, and hasn't looked like he belongs at title level. His most notable bouts so far are losses to Ryuto Oho, who beat him in a JBC Youth title fight, and Yuto Takahashi, who stopped him in a round before going on to win the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Although Oho and Takahashi are, or in Takahashi's case was, decent neither man is a big puncher, and neither man is a naturally strong and powerful fighter yet both stopped him. In regards to his best win, it's probably his TKO win over MJ Bo, a man that Yamauchi has also beaten.
Although not a bad fighter, by any stretch, Nakayama is also not a great fighter. He lacks fight changing power, his defensive is open and when he throws shots they are often very wide, leaving him even more open. He has a nice jab, his best punch, but it's hard enough to get respect from opponents and he seems to struggle with pressure, as we saw against Oho. There's a good boxer there, or at least the potential for him to be a good boxer, but in reality, he's very, very much a work in progress and it's a shame in many ways that he's so early in his development. With some polish he has got the potential to make a mark on the domestic scene, but as he is he's the sort of fighter who is made to order for Yamauchi.
We expect to see the champion pressing from the opening bell, getting inside and breaking down Nakayama with body shots. They will take the legs away from the challenger, who will struggle to get his own shows off. After 2 or 3 rounds Nakayama will be feeling the pressure and will either be broken down to the point of the referee stopping it after a knockdown or his corner pulling him out accepting the bout is a lost cause.
Prediction - TKO3 Yamauchi.
By Troy Parslow
Try as I might to enjoy other factions, in my distractions as a boxing fan there are few ecosystems more challenging and rewarding to keep pace with than those of the Asian flyweight.
Between the three ‘flyweight’ classes of 108, 112 and 115 lbs, the Philippines, as I’m sure you’ve come to expect, offers much of the depth. And, accordingly, they deliver styles and characters manifold. Understanding where they all fit in amongst the domestic abundance is esoteric in the time and deviations it requires of you, and it can be easy to lose fighters in the shuffle. Above all though, this depth binds new prospects to a standard and spawns rivals to prove their worth.
True to form, on the 13th February, at Paniqui Mega Mart, the contrasting identities of Bienvenido(Ben) Ligas, 12-1-1 (9) and Alphoe Dagayloan, 14-3-6 (5), meet to contest the vacant Philippine Flyweight Championship.
Under the Elorde and Fairtex banners, training in their satellite gyms, ‘Sniper’ Ben ‘Fairtex’ Ligas, 22, of Caloocan City, looks to have the talent and resources to transcend this domestic pile up and move his career through the levels.
Following his suffering of a technical draw to Joseph Ambo and his losing an all-action bantamweight rematch in 2018, aged 19, Ligas has been streaking to the tune of six wins and five knockouts; shaking up JC Francisco(misrepresented by his 8-15 losing record) and cruising to a decision, as well as toppling Jesel Guardario in one, Cristoval Furog in three and Joan Imperial also in three.
Big and strong at the weight in his 5’7” frame and with an exciting, if relatively untested, skillset, at his core Ligas is an aggressive counter puncher. Feinting and agitating with his lead hand and jab, shuffling with deceptive footwork and movement at the upper body; he looks to create opportunities to explode into his offence with fierce counters to body and counter in combination. Comfortable setting traps and punching as he moves in any direction, composed up close and unflustered fighting off of the ropes, it’s always encouraging when you can trust a young prospect has the versatility to draw on.
In the ten rounds against southpaw veteran JC Francisco, we got to see a lot of what Ligas does best. Shifting his weight over his front foot as he shuffled forwards or back, baiting with his jab, feinting with his right shoulder or countering with his right hand; Ligas likes to establish the threat of his rear hand and load his left hip to lead unexpectedly with his left hand or follow up on the right. Channelling Canelo, almost, in the fifth, he shifted his weight onto his front foot, twitched his lead hand, flared a right hand feint and dropped Francisco with a lead left uppercut. As he shifts his weight over the front foot, he’s able to manipulate the distance by leaning over his base and giving the impression of being in range. When he does this as he shuffles back, he’s able to draw leads and counter off of half-steps, making his opponent fall short. Also impressive was his keen use of hand traps to pull down the right side of his Francisco’s guard and land the left hook.
Fighting out of the lesser-known, talented Quibors gym, if we’ve come to expect anything of ten year professional Alphoe Dagayloan, 29, and his upstart career revival, it’s his rising to the role of opponent.
Debuting in 2010, it would take eight years and 16 fights for Dagayloan, Bacoor, Cavite, to find form, tallying a messy 8-2-5. He’s since gone 6-1-1; dropping Kazakh Madiyar Zhanuzak five times to an eighth round stoppage win; decisioning domestic prospects Danrick Sumabong and Esneth Domingo; losing narrowly on points to Kadoebi Gym-trained Ryota Yamauchi and taking Carlo Penalosa to a draw.
Watching Dagayloan, we see a fighter struggling to keep their shape on just about everything he throws and yet, as much as he isn’t a correct puncher, when it comes to landing off-beat out of his southpaw stance, he’s perfectly awkward for it. He doesn’t really pressure with his feet or cut off the ring, so much as he reacts and moves towards his opponent’s centre, punching into the clinch and hooking to both sides of the body(or anything in the way), before switching upstairs when he notices either side of the guard slipping. Forgoing his balance, falling in and then squaring up, he simply allows for no transfer of weight and looks less like he’s punching to hurt the longer his combinations continue. So long as it doesn’t stop him coming forward, though, or throwing off of both hands, he’s content to lead and keep a high output—to push his pace.
As disagreeable as his brand of brawling can come off, you can only imagine the frustration his opponents have finding separation and a pocket of air to breathe. Uncomfortably effective and constant, not since a loss in his third fight has Dagayloan allowed anyone the space to separate themselves from him unanimously—or otherwise enough to beat him. That’s not to say better fighters wouldn’t have done so, but whenever he’s needed to find a new gear, that next level of craft or skulduggery, he’s always had enough to impose his pace and physicality. To beat him clearly(and cleanly) would be a statement, but fall short of that and you’re surely wrestling every second of the fight to return to the comfort of the fundamentals.
Sharpening both edges of his blade with every close run decision, there are few opponents less fashionable and more significant for a Pinoy prospect than Alphoe.
Can he spoil?
As with any of his fights, of course, is the risk of the fight looking ugly in the moments Dagayloan leads with his head. And it wouldn’t be the first time—or the fourth—a clash of heads ended a Dagayloan or Ligas fight prematurely.
That said, we know the value of Dagayloan being himself and when he’s consistent in hiding his left hand entries behind a short jab and raiding whenever his opponent is trying to take stock, standing in range or backing up straight, at this level it has proven a nightmare to manage. When he punches into the clinch or finds himself on the inside, it’s important he’s as rough and crafty as we know he can be. He needs to lean on Ligas’ right shoulder like he did Penalosa’s, holding his head with his right hand and throwing left uppercuts across his body. As well as using his own head to stand Ligas up and prevent him from tying up or using his strength to create separation with a forearm.
Dagayloan plays fast and loose with southpaw-orthodox lead dynamics, stepping either side of an orthodox lead foot to land his jab and, again, it works for him entering range and landing off-beat. If he steps inside Ligas’ lead foot recklessly he might find himself walking into that rear hand, but he will always give up opportunities to counter and if he’s to push a pace on Ligas, he might need to take these risks to get to his body early. Being that this is Ligas’ first fight scheduled for 12 rounds, and that he has only ever gone as far as 10 rounds once, there’s no telling how he’ll handle the pace if Dagayloan can regularly get to his chest and work the body.
Winning for Dagayloan—being recognised with the Filipino title—would mark a quite admirable comeback from a turbulent rise at the journeyman level.
A significant step for Ligas, if he can handle the Dagayloan problem suitably, it could rubberstamp his credentials as one of the foremost prospects in the country.
And he’s equipped to beat Dagayloan well. Particularly using his feet to manipulate distance and counter off of half-steps. Dagayloan moves in straight lines and doesn’t like to punch with his opponent: hiding behind a rigid high guard and waiting his turn to punch. As I’ve mentioned, Dagayloan’s imbalance makes him readily available to counter if you can time him, but if Ligas can’t bait him into leading and counter as he falls in, he can have success occupying him in a high guard, stepping around his southpaw lead foot to change the attack and turn him, guiding Dagayloan past him with his (check) left hook.
Dagayloan is consistent on the inside if he has the freedom to stand square on and work the body, and he throws tight uppercuts well off of both hands, but considering how often finds himself in the clinch, it shouldn’t be so easy to control him and walk him back to the ropes. It’s not something we’ve seen all that much from Ligas and, late on in their fight, Francisco made him look slightly uncomfortable working under him and preventing him from tying up, but if he employs basic grappling technique here he’ll be able to dictate terms on the inside and walk Dagayloan back when he wants to break up his offense. Despite his willingness to fight off the ropes in recent fights, it makes more sense for Ligas to keep the fight at a range his cleaner footwork can make the difference and help create opportunities to counter or exacerbate Dagayloan’s shortcomings. At the very least, here Dagayloan should serve as a fascinating test of Ligas’ ability to control distance with his feet and manage a fight.
On a date heaving with exciting fights, when a young prospect tries to balance aggression and control against a marauding vet, the Philippines looks like a great place to start.
The next of the Champion Carnival bouts sees our attention turn to the Flyweight division, where heavy handed champion Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) defends against mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6). The bout, set to take place on October 18th in Okayama will be Akui's first defense of the title and will be Fujikita's first title bout. For Akui it serves as a chance to build on last October's title win, when he beat Shun Kosaka inside a round, whilst Fujikita will be getting his first title fight, and gets it almost by default.
For those who haven't seen Akui he is a very fast starter. From his 14 career wins 9 having come in the first round, and all 10 of his stoppages have come in the first 3 rounds. What's more notable than being a fast start is the type of competition he has been blasting away, with wins already over the likes of Kenji Ono, Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshiki Minato and Shun Kosaka, all of those have come in the opening round. He does however seem to struggle when he can't blast though opponents, and he found himself unable to blow out Junto Nakatani and Jaysever Abcede, both of whom went on to stop Akui.
For those who haven't seen Akui he's someone who is incredibly fun to see go to work. He's aggressive, powerful and lets his hands fly early. Defensively he is open, he can be tagged, and against fighters who can take his power he does appear to struggle, though at domestic level not many can take his power. Notably his 4 decision wins came in his first 7 bouts, with the final one being his win over Hiroki Hosoya in the 2015 All Japan Rookie of the Year, and since then he hasn't heard the final bell.
Interesting Fujikita has gotten this bout, as the mandatory challenger, for essentially making weight last year. The original plan had been for him and Ryota Yamauchi to face off in an eliminator, but Yamauchi was forced out of the bout due to an injury, leaving the door open to Fujikita, as long as he could make weight on the day of the planned weigh in. Which he did. That allowed him to become mandatory for his first title bout, and make up for the disappointment of losing in a title eliminator in 2018, when he lost a narrow decision to Naoki Mochizuki.
On paper the 32 year old Fujikita doesn't look much of a challenger. He has 4 losses in 17 bouts, and has got a single win of note of real note, a 2016 TKO over Yusuke Sakashita. His record is however one full of misfortune, with 3 split decisions and one technical majority decision. All of those close decisions have come to good domestic fighters, including Mochizuki, Yuta Matsuo and Hayato Yamaguchi.
Although he's without many wins of real significance Fujikita looks like one of those types of fighters who could score the upset over a decent guy. He looks solid, takes a shot well, applies smart pressure, and can fight on the back foot when he needs to. He's certainly more comfortable going forwards than backwards, and looks physically strong. When he is on the backfoot he moves very well and avoid shots really well, but seems to struggle to fire off counters.
Coming in to this we see Fujikita as the better boxer, the way he moves and the way he looks after himself in the ring makes it look like he could genuinely give Akui issues. If Akui fights the way he usually does, trying to steam roll Fujikita, things will be interesting. We suspect we'll either see Fujikita taken out early, in what would be a very impressive result for Akui, or we'll see Fujikita seeing out the storm, and then slowly picking Akui apart as the bout goes on. Fujikita looks like a tough guy, takes a shot really well when he needs to.
We expect Akui's aggression and power to be too much, and for Fujikita to be taken out early, maybe not the opening round but still early. Fujikita might be tough, but Akui is the most dangerous fighter he's faced so far. If Fujikita sees out the storm we could be in for a bit of a classic, but that's a huge "if".
Prediction - TKO3 Akui
The WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title has become one of the more important titles regional titles in recent years with a host of it's title holders moving on from the regional belt to a world title fight. Since 2010 we have seen holders include Tepparith Kokietgym, Froilan Saludar, Sho Kimura, Masahiro Sakamoto and Wulan Tuolehazi all go on to fight for a world title, with Tepparith and Kimura both going on to claim global honours.
With that in mind the August 19th WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title bout between Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5) and Satoru Todaka (10-3-4, 4) is a pretty significant one, and will likely see the winner taking a huge step towards a future world title shot of their own. With that said the bout is one worthy of genuine attention and makes for a great main event on the upcoming "Slugfest" show.
Coming in to the bout the big favourite will be once beaten 25 year old Yamauchi, a Kadoebi promoted fighter who has long been tipped as a star of the future. He made his debut in 2017 and quickly scored notable wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori, wins that instantly got us excited about the trajectory he was on. Sadly his career hit a bump in 2019 when he travelled to China and lost a decision to Wulan Tuolehazi, in what was a truly brilliant fight. The loss was a debatable one, but it did, clearly, slow Yamauchi's rise.
Thankfully since that loss Yamauchi has bounced back, scoring wins against Alphoe Dagayloan and MJ Bo.
In the ring Yamauchi is a boxer-puncher, though he can employee a pressure style and a brawling style pretty effectively when he needs to up the tempo. Sadly for him he is still some defensively naive and was consistently tagged by Tuolehazi in their bout last year. He was dropped, and hurt several times, in that bout, and it's clear he does need to work on his defense. He is however a real talent and given he's only had 7 bouts he has shown a lot of potential and a lot of ability that suggests he could go on to win a world title sooner rather than later. With that in mind he's certainly wanting a regional title, to help open the door to a world title fight down the line.
In the opposite corner to Yamauchi will be 30 year old foe Satoru Todaka, who turned professional way back in 2012. He actually began his career with a loss, to Yukiya Hanabusa, before reeling off a 9 fight unbeaten run, taking his record to a rather peculiar looking 5-1-4 (1). Since then his he's gone 5-2 (3) though has notably been stopped in both of those losses, and has failed to get a top level domestic win.
In his biggest bout to date Todaka lost in a bout for Japanese Light Flyweight title against Kenichi Horikawa, just last year. In that bout he was out boxed, out fought and and forced to retire at the end of the 8th round.
Sadly, given how long his career has been, there isn't much footage on Todaka available, however he's shown little in terms of power, which we suspect a fighter will need to get Yamauchi's respect, and he's also going to be under-sized against the surprisingly imposing Yamauchi.
For Todaka it's the bout against Horikawa that we suspect tells us what we need to about this one. He wasn't really competitive at all with Horikawa, who was too good, too skilled and too experienced. Whilst Yamauchi lacks the experience of Horikawa he's is a very talented young man and a naturally bigger fighter than Horikawa.
We suspect that Todaka will struggle with the size, speed, aggression and power of Yamauchi who will break him down in the middle rounds, to claim his first professional title.
Prediction - TKO5 Yamauchi
Earlier this month we saw a tremendous Japanese Youth Bantamweight title fight, with Toshiya Ishii stopping Haruki Ishikawa in a 4 round shoot out that saw both men hitting the canvas. On December 28th we cut down a few pounds for another Japanese Youth title bout, as unbeaten Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Joe Shiraishi (9-0-1, 4) take on Jukiya Washio (7-4-1, 2), in an rather weak looking first defense.
The talented Shiraishi has been on a great since making his debut in May 2016 as a 19 year old. Despite a draw in his second pro bout, to Ryosuke Nasu. In 2017 the youngster would go on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Flyweight, taking the unbeaten of Yoshiki Minato along the way and noting good wins over Toma Kondo and Kento Yabusaki. He sadly failed to build on his Rookie success in 2018, when he only fought once, but in 2019 he's scored a KO win against Prince Andrew Laurio of the Philippines and beating Minato in a rematch, to claim the Japanese Youth title back in September.
Although not a big puncher Shiraishi has proven to be a solid hitter with great boxing skills, a smart boxing mind. He's accurate, he punches through the target, moves well and appears to be getting better with every fight, whilst also maturing and developing physically. There are areas for him to work on, his work rate isn't great and he does look like he's still years from his physical prime, but there's so much to like about him and it's clear that he has the potential to go a very long way, if guided and matched right.
It's a bit harder to see a bright future for Washio, despite the fact the challenger is a perfectly solid fighter himself. The 22 year hasn't really scored any major wins, and is 3-4 in his last 7, but with a touch of luck those numbers could have been very different and he has been within distance of a win in 2 of those losses. It's worth noting however that he's not naturally a Flyweight, and he's looked poor at at the weight, which again isn't the most natural division for him. Arguably his best weight is actually Light Flyweight, where he has had much of his success so far.
Washio's most notable bout to date came earlier this year, when he challenged Arata Matsuoka for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title, and lost a clear but competitive decision. During the bout Washio looked better than his record would suggest. He seemed to through some very smart right hands, but looked very under-sized and under-powered against Matsuoka, who bossed the action on the front foot. Had the men both been naturally the same size the bout could have gone Washio's way, but it was so clean, even when he landed clean, this his shots just lacked in terms of power compared to that of his rival.
Sadly for Washio we see him in up against someone who is just better than him in every way. We feel that Shiraishi is too big, too good, too strong, too sharp and too smart for him. Washio will have moments, but they will be few and far between as Shiraishi gets an easy first defense under his belt, by simply boxing and moving.
Prediction - UD8 Shiraishi
Earlier this year we saw Junto Nakatani win, and then vacate, the Japanese Flyweight title. On October 27th we'll see that vacancy filled as, two former Nakatani foes battle for the belt.
In one corner is the heavy handed Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9), who has proven to be very dangerous early on, whilst the other corner will have in tough guy Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4). On paper it's not the most amazing of fights, but in reality it is an interesting looking one.
Of the two fighters it's Akui who has been the much more fun to watch fighter. The 24 year old from Okayama first made his mark in 2015, when he won Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight. At the time Akui was just 20 years old and following his win he was 6-0-1 (2). He didn't seem like much of a puncher. Since then however he has gone 7-2 (7) with his only losses coming to Nakatani and the criminally under-rated Jaysever Abcede. The Nakatani bout saw Akui just beaten down in an action packed fight whilst the Abcede fight was a very competitive one that saw him being stopped in the final round.
Rather than focusing on Akui's losses it's more interesting to look at his success, and since the Rookie of the Year he has scored 7 T/KO wins, with 6 of them coming in the first round. Not only has he been destructive but he's been scoring them against decent opponents, like Kenji Ono, Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki and Yoshiki Minato. Although a flawed fighter he is a quick starter, pressing the fight early and looking to land big right hands and huge left hooks. He has got question marks about his chin, defense and toughness, but it's his own fire power and aggression that has made him a must watch fighter in Okayama. Everything is thrown with bad intentions from a very wide and open stance. Technically he's very flawed, but so much damn fun to watch!
Kosaka, who is also 24, began his career in 2012 and reached the Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing to Kenya Yamashita over the 5 round distance. In his very next bout Kosaka was stopped by Tetsuya Hisada, who of course fought for a world title just a few weeks ago. He went from 9-0 to 9-2 in the space of 6 months but rebuilt with 4 straight wins. Those wins lead him to a bout with Akinori Hoshino, which he lost. Since then he is 3-2, including a loss in an OPBF title fight against Jayr Raquinel and a loss in a Japanese title eliminator to Junto Nakatani.
Kosaka looks a well skilled fighter, but seems a bit lightweight, lacking power and physical strength. He was unable to ever enforce his game plan against Raquinel, and was given a beating by Nakatani, though lasted the distance with the unbeaten Japanese fighter. He's tough but lacks the ability to compete at that level and doesn't have the fire power in his arsenal to get the respect of title level fighters. What doesn't help is the fact he has taken a lot of punishment in some fights, particularly the Nakatani fight, and punishing losses do add up.
Given the fast start of Akui there is a risk he will take Kosaka out early. His aggression is dangerous. In reality however we expect Akui to pay for his aggression and feel the toughness of Kosaka could prove a real issue. We're expecting a fast start for Akui, but counters from Kosaka will land clean and we wouldn't be surprised at all if Kosaka sees off the early storm and drops Akui at some point with a counter. We think as the bout goes on Kosaka will build in confidence, and come on strong as Akui tires. That could make this very close, and very competitive.
Prediction SD10 Kosaka
On October 21st we see an intriguing rematch between Yusuke Sakashita (18-8-3, 13) and Naoki Mochizuki (16-4, 8), as Sakashita looks to avenge a prior loss to Mochizuki and record his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title. Whilst neither are world class hopefuls, both are solid fighters and interesting their careers look like they are heading in different directions.
In their first bout Mochizuki took a clear and wide win over Sakashita. The loss was Sakashita's 4th loss in 6 bouts, which had also included a brutal 1-punch KO loss to Suguru Muranaka, and it appeared his career was on a rapid decline. At that point Mochizuki was riding a 5 winning streak and the win over Sakashita seemed to be hint that he had a bright future.
Since their first bout Mochizuki's career has rebounded, with a 5 unbeaten run which has seen him go 4-0-1 (4), including wins over Keisuke Nakayama and Masahiro Sakamoto and a draw with Takuya Kogawa. On the other hand Mochizuki is now struggling, and has gone 5-3 since the win over Sakashita. Those 8 bouts for Mochizuka has seen him score 2 very close wins, and suffer his only stoppage loss, which was a really punishing defeat to Junto Nakatani.
In the ring Sakashita is a pretty basic fighter, but he's tough has solid power and appears to be believing more in his power. His jab is a genuinely hurtful shot and he managed to mess up Masahiro Sakamoto's face with it earlier this year. When he lets his hands go it's clear there is plenty of pepper on his shots, and he is a very strong fighter with good range. Watching him he doesn't do anything spectacular, but he's consistent, picks his spots well and is tough enough at this level to take one to land one. One thing that is notable about Sakashita is how he goes at an opponent he's got hurt, and this could be a key here if Mochizuki is still feeling the ill effects of his loss to Nakatani.
Having just described Sakashita as being strong but basic, it's genuinely a fair description of Mochizuki too. Mochizuki took a real beating against Nakatani and stood up to a lot of punishment in a bout that got progressively more one-sided as Nakatani went through the gears. There's been nothing in other Mochizuki fights, such as the one with Seiya Fujikita for example, to suggest that there's another great with him. Instead he is very much what you see it what you get. He's a tried, he gives his all, he comes to fight and will let his hands go in range. Unlike Sakashita however he doesn't have that bang on shots, and his win over Sakashita back in 2016 seems to have been partly due to circumstance as well as everything else.
Whilst neither guy is spectacular in any way, we do see this as a pretty interesting fight all the same. We suspect that the damage done to Mochizuki by Nakatani will be an issue, and Sakashita will look to make the most of it, but Mochizuki won't go down without a fight and that should make this a fun one to watch.
We're expecting Mochizuki to make a good start, but as the bout goes on the power of Sakashita will take it's toll on Mochizuki's face and the challenger will be a swollen, if not bloody, mess when the bout comes to an early conclusion.
Prediction TKO10 Sakashita
The Japanese Youth Flyweight title has so much promise to help establish what the Japanese Youth titles are all about, but sadly neither of it's first two champions have really established the belt. Junto Nakatani gave it up after winning it to fight for the main Japanese title whilst Arata Matsuoka made one defense before giving it up earlier this year.
Due to Matsuoka vacating we're now set to see a new champion being crowned, as Joe Shiraishi (8-0-1, 4) takes on Yoshiki Minato (8-2, 3) for the belt this coming Monday, at the EDION Arena Osaka. The bout is the chief support contest for a card headlined by Yuki Nonaka and although a much less high profile bout, the expectation is that this will be much, much more competitive than Nonaka's. Notably it is also the second time the two fighters will have met in their young career.
The unbeaten Shiraishi, 22, is an Ioka promoted youngster from Osaka who turned professional in 2016 but really made his mark in 2017 when he became the All Japan Rookie of the Year. Along the way to his Rookie triumph he beat Minato via unanimous decision, in the first bout between the two men, before winning the West Japan Rookie of the Year against Toma Kondo and the All Japan final against Kento Yabusaki. Since winning the Rookie of the Year we've seen Shiraishi score two wins, both stoppages over international opponents, as he's taken out Stevanus Nana Bau and Prince Andrew Laurio. That newly found power is an interesting new addition to Shiraishi's game and sign that he is physically maturing and developing his technique.
Minato also debuted in 2016 and he has rebuilt well following his loss to Joe Shiraishi in the Rookie of the Year. He reeled off 4 straight wins and won the 2018 Rookie of the Year before losing inside a round to Seigo Yuri Akui this past April, a loss that really isn't anything to be embarrassed by. After losing to Shiraishi we also saw Minato, who is now 21, develop his power scoring 3 stoppages in the 2018 Rookie of the Year. Of course the loss to Akui is his latest result, and whilst that's a bad result Akui is an incredibly dangerous on the Japan scene and is much further advanced in his career than either Minato or Shiraishi.
In their first bout, which was really competitive, Shiraishi just seemed to have that extra bit of snap on his punchers and was a bit more aggressive than Minato. For both men it was their 5th bout and since then both have developed, so whilst their first bout is certainly something to look at here, we suspect a very different fight here.
Shiraishi is a quick handed, technically solid boxer-puncher, who as mentioned is adding power to his game. He's not got venom in his fists but certainly hits cleanly and can hurt opponents. He combines the clean punching with crisp combinations and smart work on the back foot. Minato isn't quite as crisp or clean with his punching but his key to victory is power and when he connects with his straight right hand he seems to really hurt opponents.
If Shiraishi can avoid the hard right hand of Minato he should have the skills and the tools in the arsenal to take win the rounds needed to take a decision, or a late stoppage. We feel that Minato's only way to win here will be a KO, he's a touch less clean with his punching, which will see him losing rounds, but that right hand really could turn the tables if he can land it clean.
Prediction - UD8 Shiraishi
If we're being totally honest the Flyweight division is at a bit of a low point right now. There is talent there, and a lot of promise, but right now it feels like there is a big drop off between the champions and the contenders. One way to bridge that gap is having the contenders actually facing off for a chance to fight for a title. That's exactly what we'll see in the Philippines this coming Saturday when the once beaten Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19) takes on Komgrich Nantapech (25-5, 16), aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, in an IBF eliminator. Not only is this an eliminator but it may also be the low key fight of the week, with the two men having styles that should gel amazingly well.
Of the two fighters it's Nantapech who is the more recognisable. The 30 year old Thai has been a professional for more than 8 years, and fought under a host of names during that time, and in the last few of those years he has found himself stuck around the world title scene. He's best known for his 2017 bouts with Donnie Nietes and Juan Carlos Reveco, and although he lost both he showed that he was tough and in fairness he gave Nietes one of his toughest bouts. Sadly against Reveco the Thai was made to look slow and clumsy, but Reveco never came close to taking him out.
Since the loss to Reveco we've seen Nantapech going 3-0, though unfortunately he did have to pull out of a 2018 eliminator with Masayuki Kuroda and hasn't fought since the very end of 2018. So coming into this bout he'll have been out of the ring for 9 months, the longest break he's had between pro bouts. Not only has he been inactive but he also has history going against him here, with a 1-5 record on the road, and a 0-3 record in the Philippines with losses to Nietes, Froilan Saludar and Albert Pagara.
In the ring the Thai is a tough, aggressive fighter fighter. He's technically limited and slow, a bit clumsy, but has a style that can, with the right foil, make for some really fun fights. He looks to have a fight up close and will apply pressure trying to make that happen. If a fighter moves however he can be made to look as flawed as he is.
Although relatively unknown outside of Asia Magramo is one of the biggest hopes for the Flyweight division, and the hard hitting, aggressive, exciting 24 year old Filipino is very unlucky to even have a loss against his name. He's a third generation fighter, following his father Melvin Magrama and grandfather Ric Magramo, and has the sport running through his blood with 3 of his uncles also being former professional fighters.
Magramo debuted back in 2012, at the age of 17, and won his first 17 bouts before losing a very close contest in South Korea to Pakistani Muhammad Waseem. Since the loss he has gone 6-0 (6) taking out former world title challenger John Mark Apolinario, Petchchorhae Kokietgymand Wenfeng Ge, taking Ge's unbeaten record in a dominant display back in January in China. What we've seen from those wins is that Magramo is Magramo is an aggressive boxer-puncher, he's defensively not the tightest but offensively he is a machine, stalking is prey then unleashing power shots up close. He switches between head and body wonderfully and whilst he's a hard hitting he's not a 1-punch KO artist. Instead he's more of a grinder, who will break down his opponents.
Given that both are aggressive, exciting and like to let their hands fly this has the potential to be a real FOTY contender, and a total phone booth war. Both come forward, both like to fight and both are defensively questionable, leading to both to taking more shots than they really need to. In a fight like that it tends to come down to the fighter with the heavy hands and the more varied output. We feel that man, for this fight, is Magramo, who will also be helped by the crowd cheering everything he does.
Although both are tough we're expecting the war to leave both damaged, and eventually Magramo will break down his Thai foe, in an absolute barn burner!
Prediction - TKO10 Magramo
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.