On April 18th we see the Japanese Bantamweight title being unified, as regular champion Yuta Saito (11-9-3, 8) takes on interim champion Hayato Kimura (28-10, 19) in an interesting contest. The bout isn't the best of the 2019 Champion Carnival bouts, but is an intriguing one and one that could, finally, end the curse of the Japanese Bantamweight title.
The "curse" reared it's head last year, and struck a number of fighters. We saw Ryo Akaho vacate the title due to weight issues, Ryoichi Tamura suffer an injury before a title bout, Suguru Muranaka fail to make weight and Saito suffer an illness after winning the belt. It was Saito's illness which lead to an interim title being created, and has essentially lead to this bout.
Saito's title win, which came in September, was the biggest win of his career by far. The Hanagata Gym fighter won the title by stopping veteran Eita Kikuchi in 2 rounds. It was his first win in over 2 years, though he has been in and around the title mix for much of that time. He had fought to a draw with Tatsuya Takahashi in early 2017 and had also given Ryo Akaho a close bout in a title fight. Whilst the win over Kikcuhi was his best win Saito had shown good ability prior to the win, and had been incredibly close in a number of his losses. With some luck he could well have had 6 of his losses swing the other way, and things would look very, very different.
At 31, and now reportedly suffering from ulcerative colitis, we do wonder what Saito has left in him. He was never the quickest, or sharpest of fighters. He is heavy handed, tough, happy to bring pressure and force a fight, at a pretty exciting pace, be he's not quick and can certainly be out manoeuvered, out jabbed and outsped.
Kimura is a 29 year old who already has close to 40 bouts, an has been a professional for close to 14 years. He fought many of his early bouts outside of Japan, fighting numerous times in Thailand, Korea and the Philippines before really beginning to make a name for himself in Japan, from 2013 onwards. Whilst his success in Japan has been mixed he has fought stiff competition, losing to the likes of Michael Dasmarinas, Marlon Tapales, Sho Ishida, Kenta Nakagawa and Rene Dacquel, and has usually been competitive even in his losses.
As a fighter Kimura is a busier fighter than Saito, he's someone who can fight at range, but can also bring a war when he wants. At his best he sets a high work rate, brings pressure and lets his hands go, though can often fight a bit too much too orders, and can be rather tiresome to watch. A bit too reserved. When he shakes the shackles however he's a very good fighter and should be mixing on the regional scene, rather than just the domestic one.
Although Kimura can be in some pretty dull bouts we don't imagine this will be anything short of brilliant. The aggression of Saito will draw out the fighter in Kimura and we're expecting to see the two men meet in center ring, go to war, and give us some exhilarating action. We'd favour Kimura to come out on top, relying on his better speed, experience and youth. Saito is the puncher, but we've seen Kimura over-come punchers before and we expect to see him do the same again here.
The 2018 curse of the Japanese Bantamweight title has really been a massive problem this year. First we saw Ryo Akaho vacate the title after falling ill from weight, cancelling a January fight with Yuhei Suzuki, then we saw Suzuki suffer an injury ahead of a scheduled bout for the vacant and then we saw Suguru Muranaka fail to make weight. In the end we had to wait until September to see a champion being crowned, with Yuta Saito defeating Eita Kikuchi for the vacant title.
Even with a champion being crowned things haven't been plain sailing, with Saito then being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This has caused a number of issues, including the JBC taking the rare step of organising a JBC "interim" title bout, with Hayato Kimura (27-10, 18) facing off with Seizo Kono (19-10-1, 12) for the JBC Interim Bantamweight title on December 20th.
Sadly the bout doesn't capture the imagination in the way a title bout should, though we expect the contest to be a good one all the same. The two men are both flawed, on paper they are similarly matched, and both are hungry fighters looking to make the most of their chance. A chance that perhaps neither has really earned.
The 29 year old Kimura began his career as a teenager in Thailand, debuting on his 16th birthday. Over the last 5 years however he fought solely in Japan where he has mixed success. To begin his career he was 19-5 (14), fighting in Thailand, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. Since fighting exclusively in Japan Kimura has gone 8-5 (4) That has included losses in two Japanese title fights, losing decisions to Sho Ishida and Kenta Nakagawa, as well as a loss in a OPBF title fight against Rene Dacquel, all at Super Flyweight. He has been matched hard, with other losses coming to Marlon Tapales and Michael Dasmarinas, both at Bantamweight, but his best wins have come against the likes of Toyoto Shiraishi and Kenya Yamashita, and those wins were 2 years apart.
Although Kimura is lacking results, and has scored his most notable wins at Super Flyweight, he is a very capable fighter and he is still developing, both technically and physically. He'd a quick boxer puncher, with a sharp jab and nice offensive work. Sadly for him his foot work and balance questionable and he does lack real thunder in his shots. Although tough he is defensively flawed can be tagged, often relying too much on his reactions.
The 29 year old Kono has been a professional for a little over 11 years and has had an interesting career, but like Kimura it's not all rosy and successful. In fact his career has seen him fighting for the WBC Youth Intercontinental Super Bantamweight and OPBF Bantamweight title, losing by stoppage to Rey Vargas and Mark John Yap respectively. Other losses on his record to notable names include a TKO loss to Taki Minamoto, a decision loss to Yu Kawaguchi and a decision loss to Kazuki Tanaka. Worryingly he is now 18 months from a win, following back to back losses to Yap and Tanaka. Not only is he ona 2 fight losing run but he is 6-7 over his last 13 fights dating back over 6 years! Not the sort of form a fighter should be getting a title shot from, even if some of those losses have been at Super Bantamweight.
Although out of form Kono is a decent fight, with a good work rate, a fun enough style and someone who brings a decent amount of aggression and excitement. He's at his best on the front foot, however his foot work is a touch slow, his punches don't appear to be crisp and snappy, and he can often be seen with his hands down when on the edge of range, sometimes inside it. His lack of real speed or power is a major issue, and although technically pretty solid he is clearly missing a standout out trait.
Given the recent losses for Kono it's hard to see him bringing any momentum into this bout, or much confidence. Kimura however is coming into the bout on the back of a win over Kenya Yamashita and we suspect that that sort of boost will really help Kimura. Kono is the naturally bigger man, but he's not a man who fights with his size usually, and we suspect that the size advantage will actually be neutralised by the speed and movement of Kimura anyway.
Although we don't think these are the best in the division in Japan this should still be a very interesting match up, and leave us going into 2019 with some interesting things going on at 118lbs in Japan. Hopefully next year will be a much better one than this year for the Japanese Bantamweight title, which has really been cursed through the whole year.
n September 9th the boxing world focuses on the Super Flyweight division, as we get arguably the biggest day in the division's history, as 5 of the top fighters at the weight are all showcased on the same show in the US. The show, dubbed “Superfly” will feature WBO champion Naoya Inoue, WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, former 4-weight world champion Roman Gonalez, former WBC champion Carlos Cuadras and former Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada. It's a night that will put the division on the global boxing map, and could potentially make Inoue into the global star that his talent deserves.
Before that super show there will be a number of other notable Super Flyweight bouts, with the next of those taking place on July 19th as OPBF champion Rene Dacquel (19-6-1, 6) looks to extend his reign as champion. In the opposite corner will be Japanese contender Hayato Kimura (26-9, 17), who looks to score the biggest win of his career and upset a man who is enjoying a good run at the moment.
Filipino fighter Dacquel has been a professional since 2011 and has had mixed success, though seems to be maturing into a very capable Oriental level fighter, despite having struggled early in his career. Over his last 9 fights he has gone 7-2 scoring notable wins over Melvin Gumban, Lucky Tor Buamas, Go Onaga and Shota Kawaguchi, and only losing to fringe world class guys like Jonas Sultan and Takuma Inoue.
In the ring Dacquel is a talented and hungry fighter who is slowly, but surely, climbing up the rankings. He's no world beater, and no one would suggest he was, but he's a genuinely talented fighter on his way up, and in fairness he still has plenty of time to develop into a real contender given that he is only 26 and still has maturing and developing to do. If he continues to develop in the way he has done in recent years, and continues to rack up solid wins, he will be getting big opportunities in the near future.
Kimura has been a professional since 2005, having made his debut on his 16th birthday back in South Korea. Many of his early bouts took place outside of Japan, and at one point he looked like a genuine super prospect having gone 13-0 (8) whilst still a teenager. Sadly though he has never really built on that start and over the last 8 years he has struggled to get much going in his career. As a result he has lost to the likes of Brix Ray, AJ Banal, Martin Mubiru, Oleydong CP Freshmart, Marlon Tapales, Michael Dasmarinas, Sho Ishida and Kenta Nakagawa, with the losses to Ishida and Nakagawa coming in Japanese title fights.
Despite falling short against his best opponents it does seem like Kimura has the potential to score a decent win at title level. Unfortunately for him it would take a career best performance for him to match the skills of Dacquel. He has an edge in speed here, and is certainly an experienced fighter with, but is unlikely to have the movement, skills or power to ever really put Dacquel under the pressure he'd need to to take the title away.
We're expecting to see this be another successful defense for Dacquel, but a very hard fought and competitive one with the Filipino taking the fight on the score cards.
The Super Flyweight scene is arguably the hottest in the sport today with both great fighters and great match ups. Unlike many divisions the best seem happy to fight each each other and fighters like Naoya Inoue, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada seem more focused on their legacies than on picking up easy win after easy win. Whilst the guys flying the flag for the division at the top are now becoming names known around the world the lower level guys are also not avoiding each other and when Sho Ishida vacated the Japanese title several fighters made it clear they wanted that gold and black title.
As a result of Ishida vacating we'll now the Japanese #1 and #2 face off with Kenta Nakagawa (12-2-1, 9) taking on Hayato Kimura (25-8, 16) for the vacant title. The two men are certainly very different, and have had incredibly different careers, but their hunger for the title is the same and both will come in to this looking to prove they are the better fighter.
The #1 ranked fighter coming in to this is the 31 year old Nakagawa, who made his professional debut in December 2004 but had a very frustrating start to the sport. After winning his debut he would lose to Yasutaka Ishimoto, yes the current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion, he would then fight once more in 2005 before spending more 6 years away from the ring. He returned to the ring with a loss, to fall to 2-2 but has since gone 10-0-1 (9) scoring notable wins over Jo Tanooka and Shuji Hamada as well as having technical draw with Toyoto Shiraishi.
Sadly footage of Nakagawa has been very hard to come by come into this one, however fans who have seen him have described him as a venomous puncher with his straight left and as he's a southpaw he's a nightmare to fight anyway. Although a puncher the fact he has a win over Tanooka suggests he can box as well as bang. Reports suggest that he is an exciting fighter and his win over Hamada was an eye catching KO.
Although very little footage of Nakagawa is out there the same cannot be said of Kimura who has had much of his career documented on film. He began his career in 2005 as a 16 year old fighting in Thailand before making a name for himself in Korea where he claimed the Korean national title in 2007. By the start of 2013 Kimura was 19-5 (14) having fought in Japan 7 times, Thailand 5 times, Korea 9 times and the Philippines, once. It was however from 2013 that he began to fight full time in Japan and he has since gone 6-3 in the land of his birth .
On paper that 6-3 record in Japan sounds pretty poor but he hasn't been matched easily with bouts against the likes of Marlon Tapales, Michael Dasmarinas, Jomar Fajardo, Sho Ishida and Toyoto Shiraishi. Given that level of competition his record is less poor, and given his “pre-Japan” record includes losses to AJ Banal and Oleydong Sithsamerchai it's again to say his record has suffered because he's tried to prove himself.
In the ring Kimura is a fast fighter with lovely hand speed and combinations, however he really lacks power at this level and struggles to get the respect of opponents. He's well schooled and tougher than one would assume, given he's got 3 stoppage losses but can still be hurt, though he now knows how to react to getting hit. His biggest flaw, at times, is actually knowing when to strike though he has proven to be capable late in fights and that could be a key here given that Nakagawa has only gone beyond 4 rounds once.
For Nakagawa the gameplan is obvious. Jump on Ishida, give him a shell shock early and don't let him off the hook, go for the finish and chase it before Ishida can take the bout in to the middle rounds. For Ishida the key is to avoid a tear up early on. If he can see off the early storm then he will grow into the fight whilst Nakagawa fades, and that could open the doors for the Watanabe man.
We think Nakagawa's power will be the difference, but we know that is Kimura can see off the early storm he really could take this in a potentially brilliant match u
The Super Flyweight division really is one of the most criminally under-rated divisions in the sport today, and the leading country for the division is Japan which boasts not only two world champions but also a host of top contenders.
One of those top contenders is Japanese national champion Sho Ishida (19-0, 10) who will be making the third defense of his title on September 27th when he takes on the experienced Hayato Kimura (23-7, 15) in what looks like a really solid contest on paper.
Ishida really is a world level contender. Boxrec.com list him as the #10 ranked fighter in the division and is also ranked by all 4 major world bodies and is in the top 15 of the IWBR*. Not only is highly across the board but he's also a very capable, high skilled and well trained fighter, who has learned his craft in the successful Ioka gym, along side Kazuto Ioka, Ryo Miyazaki, Takahiro Yamamoto and Masayoshi Nakatani.
In the ring Ishida is a wonderful boxer-puncher. His record might not show it but he's a solid punching fighter who really does show the traits of a world champion in the making. He's a fast, fights to his strengths and at 5'8” is very tall for a Super Flyweight. On the outside he has an excellent jab, intelligent movement and a solid right hand, with intelligent shot selection. On the inside he can hold his own when he needs to, though would be well advised to avoid an up close war when he can.
Whilst we have been impressed by Ishida he's certainly a fighter who is still some way from being the finished article. At 23 he lacks his man strength and he also lacks experience with only 90 professional rounds, including just two complete 10 rounders. The second of those 10 rounders was the bout that has left lingering doubts, with Ishida running out of gas late on against Taiki Eto, who pushed him to the brink last time out. It's clear that Ishida needs to work on his stamina or energy management before being moved towards his first 12 rounders.
When it comes to Ishida the talent is there, the experience isn't, yet.
With 30 bouts to his name Kimura, who has also fought as Jin-In Yoo and Big Yoo, cannot be described as an inexperienced fighter. Amazingly he has been a professional for more than 10 years and has fought in Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines as he's gone on to compile a solid, though unspectacular, record.
Kimura's career was filled with early promise. After less than 3 years as a professional he was 13-0 (8) and won both the South Korean and the WBO interim Asia Pacific Super Flyweight titles. He was making a name for himself in Korea and. Sadly though that early promise failed to really be built into on going success and he quickly fell to 16-4 (11), suffering a couple of stoppage defeats along the way.
Since suffering 4 losses in 7 bouts he has since gone 7-3 (4) losing to every notable fighter he has faced during those 10 bouts, including Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Marlon Tapales and Michael Dasmarinas. Losing to those 3 isn't shameful but it does show his level and suggests that he's a very long way from being world class.
Early in his career Kimura fought mostly by using his size, strength and aggression. That tactic worked early on when he was typically fighting low level opposition though hasn't worked as he's stepped up through the levels and faced better and stronger fighters. Not only have those better fighters been able to take his power and aggression but they have also been able to out box him, as shown when Dasmarinas outboxed him, just over a year ago.
Incidentally it seems like it's fair to use that Dasmarinas fight as the key to this bout. In that fight Kimura was unable to close the distance, he was tagged repeatedly at range by Dasmarinas and was given a bit of a boxing lessen by the Filipino. Given how Dasmarinas beat Kimura we expect a similar result from Ishida who has the ability and style to do a very similar job on his experieced foe. Whilst we know that Dasmarinas is a southpaw the style of boxing, moving and picking his spots should still take Ishida to a clear decision win, if not a stoppage in the middle rounds.
On paper Kimura could take some confidence from the way Ishida struggled late on with Eto. The truth however is that Eto is a much better fighter than Kimura and Ishida's early performance in that bout would likely have seen off Kimura.
*All stats accurate at the time of writing and publishing
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.