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
The Flyweight scene in Asia is a rather weird one right now. There are some amazing fighters there, like Kosei Tanaka, and some really fast rising hopefuls, like Junto Nakatani. Sadly though there is a really awkward gap between some of the regional level fighters and the world class fighters.
Among those stuck between the Oriental scene and world level is current OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7), who travels to Japan later this month to make his second defense of the title. In the opposite corner to the champion is former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13), who appears to have slipped significantly from his prime.
Aged 22 Raquinel has a lot of potential to make a mark at world level, much like the aforementioned Nakatani and fellow rising youngster Ryota Yamauchi, though his has a lot of questions over his head. He showed his ability to perform on the road in early 2018, when he stopped Keisuke Nakayama to claim the title and then again just months later when he stopped Shun Kosaka in his first defense. Sadly his rise hit the skids last year when he lost a competitive decision to Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi, in China, and he's not fought since that bout. Whilst his title wasn't on the line against Tuolehazi the bout did cost him momentum and his unbeaten record and it's almost a year since he last stepped in the ring.
At his best Raquinel is a solid boxer-puncher. He's got a hard hitting southpaw left, a good right hook, and smart movement. Sadly for all the positives about him he can often look lazy in the ring, too reserved and unwilling to let his shots go. Against Tuolehazi he looked great, when he threw his punches, but all too often looked happy to not do much, cruising and waiting, often waiting too long and letting Tuolehazi do enough to take the win. Given his age that loss could be a great learning experience, or could be a setback that he struggles to ever really rebuild from.
The 34 year old Kogawa has long been one of the most fun to watch fighters on the planet. Having debuted 14 years ago Kogawa has been one of the staples on the Flyweight scene much of that time. He began his career with a 17-1 (10) record, and won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, before getting a world title fight against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Kogawa lost to Wonjongkam but bounced back and won the Japanese Flyweight title just 6 months later. It's been the Japanese Flyweight title that has really been the focus for much of Kogawa's career over the last 8 years with title bouts against the likes of Shigetaka Ikehara, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Kudaka and Masayuki Kuroda.
Through his career Kogawa has been in some amazing bouts, his fights with Muranaka, Kudaka and Kuroda stand out.He has had a career from being a boxer-brawler, with a high tempo style, that has seen him take a lot of punishment. Sadly in the last few years Kogawa has started to show the damage of those battles, and looks to have slowed significantly from the star he was. Whilst some of that could be put down to lingering effect from a serious ear injury, which he suffered in 2016, it's fair to say that his warrior mentality, hard fights and really hard rounds, along with his age, has simply caught up with him.
At his best Kogawa would be strongly favoured over Raquinel, sadly though he's a long way removed from his best. This version of Kogawa has struggled with the likes of Naoto Fujimoto and Hideyuki Watanabe, limited domestic foes. Even with Raquinel having been out of the ring for a year we suspect his youth, freshness and speed will be the key. With Kogawa being aggressive we see Raquinel getting chances to sit back and counter, rather than in the Tuolehazi fight where the Chinese fighter didn't give Raquinel opportunities to counter.
We suspect Raquinel will come out on top here, and Kogawa will then end his long, and thrilling career.
Prediction- Raquinel UD12
In the west fight fans are often quick to write fighters off after a loss, especially one early in their career. In the east fans are a lot less harsh, with losses often being used to develop a fighters skills, and coming less from being exposed and more from being tested. If you test your guy and they come up short, they can rebuild and work on what has caused them to lose.
On August 23rd we see two men who have had their cherry's popped facing off in one of the most under-rated bouts of the week. In fact it goes down as one of, on paper at least, the most intriguing bouts of the month so far and will certainly push the winner towards a really significant contest. That bout in question is an 8 round contest between once beaten Japanese hopeful Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) and in form Filipino Alphoe Dagayloan (13-2-5-1, 5). On paper this may not get attention from fans who are unfamiliar with the two, but the match up is set to be something very, very special.
The 24 year old Yamauchi made his debut in 2017 and quickly became one to watch, scoring wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori in his first 3 bouts. Sadly he was beaten, albeit somewhat controversially, when he took on world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi in Shanghai. The two men traded knockdowns, in one of the most interesting bouts of 2019, but in the end the 3 Chinese judges all scored it to the local, with two of the judges only giving Yamauchi 2 rounds, including the one he dropped Tuolehazi in. Had the bout been anywhere else there's a really solid chance Yamauchi would be 5-0 (4).
Despite being unlucky against the awkward Chinese fighter Yamauchi really had some flaws shown up. His inability to defend against the unique right hand of Tuolehazi was a major issue, from the opening moments right through the bout. That was the shot that repeatedly landed on Yamauchi, and showed he had real work to do on his defense. Offensively however he was brilliant and he answered serious questions about his stamina, work rate and heart. We already knew he was heavy handed, exciting and had good shot selection, but he ticked other boxes, even in defeat.
The 27 year old Dagayloan, from the Philippines, is a really interesting example of a fighter developing after a less than amazing start to professional boxing. He made his debut at the age of 18, way back in 2010, and had the strange record of 4-2-4-1 after 11 bouts. Since then though he has "come good" and gone 8-0-1, with notable wins against Madiyar Zhanuzak, Danrick Sumabong and Esnth Domingo. He hasn't just improved, which he's done significantly since a 2016 loss to Jason Dogelio, but he's become a very good fighter and a very hard guy to beat.
From the footage of Dagaloan out there he is a smart, but aggressive fighter. He's a sharp puncher, pick his shots well and uses the southpaw stance well. He lines up fantastic left hands, to head and body. When he has his man hurt he really does know how to turn it on, but he's not someone who takes risks until he feels his man is ready to be taken out. What's particularly impressive is his body punching, and his inside work.
Coming in to this we do see the bout as a bit of a 50-50 clash, though we're swayed slightly in favour of Yamauchi, who will have a point to prove after the loss to Tuolehazi. He will have to over-come the southpaw trickery of Dagaloyan however, and that is not going to be easy. If Dagayloan can force his intelligent pressure on to the fight he could give Yamauchi real problems, especially with his straight left hand and his backhand uppercut at close range, which he does love throwing, though we're expecting the Japanese fighter to do enough and take home the victory.
Prediction - UD8 Yamauchi
On May 26th we'll see former world title challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) return to the ring following his 2018 loss to IBF Flyweight king Moruti Mthalane. The 28 year old Osakan will be dropping down from world level, but will look to remain a title level fighter, and will be up against fellow Japanese fighter Yusuke Sakashita (17-8-3, 12) in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title. A win for either man should secure them a WBO world ranking and potentially move them into the mix for a potential world title fight down the line.
The bout, as mentioned, will be Sakamoto's first since losing to Mthalane in an IBF title fight at the very end of 2018 That bout was Sakamoto's first shot at the big time, though he had had a decent career prior to fighting for a world title. He had won the Rookie of the Year in 2015, had given Sho Kimura problems in 2016 and won the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017, stopping Kwanthai Sithmoreseng for the title. Sadly whilst he did win the regional title in 2017 he only defended it once, stopping veteran Pigmy Kokietgym in a less than taxing bout. He gave up the regional title to challenge Mthalane and will be looking to recapture it here, in what is set to be one of his toughest bouts.
Although Sakashita has more bouts to his name he is less notable than Sakamoto. He would struggle badly early in his career, falling to 2-2-1 after 5 bouts, though rebuilt by winning the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Some mixed success at domestic level eventually saw him getting a shot at Suguru Muranaka for the Japanese Flyweight title in 2014, and being knocked out by Muranaka, who landed a thunderbolt right hand to take out Sakashita in round 8. Since the loss to Muranaka Sakashita has been inconsistent to say the least, going 5-3-1, though is riding a 4 fight unbeaten rung including a TKO win last time out against former OPBF champion Keisuke Nakayama.
Whilst we did see Sakamoto look really limited against Mthalane one that we couldn't fault was his effort, his hunger and his drive. Technically he was poor, though in fairness Mthalane makes very good fighters look poor, but his work rate was impressive and his toughness also shone through. That will often be enough to win at this level, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him mixing at regional level for the rest of his career. It is worth noting however that Sakamoto is a smart guy and is, or at least was, studying at a high level suggesting he has an exit for the sport. Another damaging loss and it could well be the end of his career, walking away to participate in a safer occupation.
Sakamoto is open, aggressive, exciting and hard working. He's not got masses of power, he's not slick or particularly sharp, but at this type of level being able to bring a fight for 12 rounds is often enough.
Sakashita is also quite limited, but also makes for good fights. He's very much a a puncher, and in recent years has shown more and more belief in his power. He's never going to have the power to take him up to world level, but at domestic and regional level he hits hard enough really ask questions of opponents. Defensively he is open and he will take shots. He drops his guard a lot and is open to a good straight right hand, a solid left cross due to his defensive flaws. However he will also look to take opponents out and does have fun domestic fighters, win or lose.
When we have technically flawed but aggressive fighters facing off we do tend to expect fun action and we're expecting these two to put on a low key thriller. Both guys have edges they will look to make the most of, Sakamoto has the work rate and engine whilst Sakashita has the power. With that in mind we expect to see Sakamoto press the action, and eat counters as a result, but eventually break down Sakashita in the later rounds of a nail biting contest.
Peduction - Sakamoto TKO11
Flyweights in Japan have real momentum right now. Not only do you have Kosei Tanaka at the top but fighters like Masayuki Kuroda and Junto Nakatani are both having really good runs, with Kuroda set for a world title fight and Nakatani set to make his first national title defense.
Sadly the youth level Japanese scene isn't as hot as it is at senior level, and this coming Sunday we'll see that being exemplified pretty well, when Japanese Youth Champion Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) makes his first defense. The champion, who won his title last December, will be taking on little known Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2), in a bout that doesn't really get the juices going. The champion has a less than stellar record, whilst the challenger is unknown and isn't much of a puncher.
Whilst it may not be something special on paper, we do actually expect a pretty decent fight here, and one that's much more competitive than the records suggest.
There isn't a huge amount of footage of the 24 year old champion, though rather kindly his last bout, his title win, was shared by TV channel Osaka TV. That bout was a clear decision win over Hikaru Ota, in what was one of the worst Japanese Youth title bouts on paper. In that bout Matsuoka showed what he was able to do. He was a much more skilled fighter than his record suggested, he had a really nice southpaw jab, picked his shots better than you'd expect of someone who's lost such a high percentage of his fights, and almost moved well, using the ring well to neutralise Ota before firing off his own counters. Not all his shots are crisp, and his defense could certainly do with some work, but there is a pretty talented fighter there, something his record doesn't show.
Despite looking pretty good against Ota we can't ignore Matsuoka's losses. The most recent of those came last September, when Shunji Nagata stopped him in 4 rounds. That ended a 4 fight winning streak, a streak that had followed up 4 losses in 5 bouts. In fact Ota started his career 2-5 so has turned things around really well. There is clearly a lot for him to do, but he does have some momentum here.
Sadly it's not just Matsuoka who is lacking in terms of footage but also Washio, and the only fight of his we've seen in full was his 2016 clash with Junichi Itoga. Washio, who is now 21, was just 19 when that bout took place, and it lasted just 156 second, so what we can really read into that bout is unclear. However he did look like a confident youngster, finding holes in Itoga's limited defense, and landing at will. He looked good, but Itoga looked awful and it really is hard to take too much from this bout.
Since the fight with Itoga the youngster has gone 4-2, though both of his losses were razor thin defeats. What needs to be noted is the level he's been fighting at, and that's a concern. He has really never faced anyone with real promise, and arguably his best win came in April 2017, when he beat Naoki Tanaka.
Whilst this bout isn't appealing on paper we do expect it to be hotly contest, with Matsuoka's experience, southpaw stance, and level of competition, being the difference. Whilat the bout isn't going to get much attention, it should be a solid and competitive bout, where the styles of both gel well. Neither, from what we've managed to see, like to make things messy, and although the southpaw vs orthordox stances could cause some issues, we're expecting a clean contest here.
Preduction - Matsuoka SD8
The Flyweight division is really interesting at the moment, with some great potential match ups and some great scheduled match ups. For us the best looking fight in the coming few weeks at the weight will see unbeaten Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) take on world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). On paper this might not scream anything special, just another prospect taking a step up, but Yamauchi is a sensational prospect, and Tuolehazi is no push over, having beaten OPBF champion Jay-r Raquinel last year and being a in fantastic form at the moment.
Of the two fighters we've certainly focused more on Yamauchi's rise since his debut, than that or Tuolehazi. The unbeaten Kadoebi gym fighter is a 24 year who was a stellar amateur and has shown real potential since beginning his professional career in June 2017. He's not been hugely active, with just 2 bouts in 2017 and 2 in 2018, but he hasn't been given easy match ups. Through his first 4 bouts he has already beaten Lester Abutan and Yota Hori and has looked sensational at times. There is work to do, but he has looked like a real natural. He's quick, powerful, sharp and intelligent. He's perhaps a little bit on the wild side at times, but there is a feeling that that has come because of his confidence against lesser fighters, rather than genuine lack of ability.
Despite looking like a star in the making Yamauchi does have a number of question marks over his head. His 4 bouts have combined for just 16 rounds, and he has yet to enter the 6th round of a bout. His stamina is unlikely to be bad, given he's at the Kadoebi gym and they do tend to have very fit fighters, but we do wonder how he copes with a long distance bout. He has also not faced a puncher, or anyone with the skills to really hurt him, so there is of course a question mark about his chin as well. We expect to see those questions getting answer here, with Yamauchi not expected to blow the Chinese fighter away.
The bout will also answer more question about Yamauchi, how he is on the road, and this is his first bout away from Tokyo as a professional.
Chinese fighter Tuolehazi is a rugged fighter, a 26 year old with a crude style, an effective roughness if you will. He started his professional career with back to back losses and was 2-3 after his first 5 bouts, but he has since battled back, tuning things around with an 8-0-1 (5) record in his last 9. That unbeaten run has been pretty notable if we're being honest and has included not only the win over Raquinel but also victories over Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Yokthong KKP and Roland Jay Biendima. He has proven his stamina, dropping Raquinel in the 12th round to solidify a decision over the previous unbeaten Pinoy puncher, and has done 10 or more rounds 4 different times in his 14 bouts.
Watching Tuolehazi there's nothing that stands out as being "special". In fact he's quite slow if we're being honest, not a plodder as such but certainly not quick, he's a little clumsy, a and not very smooth. He is however consistent. He will let his jab go frequently, landing it at an impressive rate, he has a good straight right hand, he's tough and physically very strong. Few fighters will be able to push him and bully him around, and instead they will have to actually out box him. He can make things ugly, but isn't a dirty fighter, more a fighter who is not yet technically rounded.
This is an excellent match up and a great chance for a prospect to test themselves against an awkward, tough opponent. We do believe that Yamauchi is a special fighter, and could fight for, and win, a world title in his first 10 bouts. We suspect he'll show what he can do here, using his technical ability, speed and movement to be the difference, with Yamauchi taking a clear, but hard fought decision. Tuolehazi will not be an easy out for anyone, but we suspect his limitations will be an issue against someone as talented as Yamauchi, even with the crowd clearly supporting the Chinese fighter.
A big step up for Yamauchi, but a gret chance to crash the world rankings, a chance we think he will make the most of.
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.