This coming Tuesday fight fans in Japan are in for a little bit of a treat, as the teak tough Hidenori Otake (30-2-3, 13) defends the OPBF Super Bantamweight title against the big punching Brian Lobetania (13-4-3, 11). The bout is likely to be one of the hidden gems of 2018 and could be one of those rare fights that really goes under the radar yet gives the hardcore fans something really memorable.
Otake is best known for his 2014 loss to the then WBA Super Bantamweight champion Scott Quigg. Since then however Otake has gone 8-0 (4) and claimed the OPBF title, as he's began a charge towards a second world title fight. He's not just gone unbeaten but has done so against good competition, beating the likes of Jelbirt Gomera, Kinshiro Usui and the very talented Hinata Maruta. Those bouts have all shown that Otake, at 36 years old now, has an amazing engine still and is just as teak tough as he showed against Quigg.
Although not the most technically gifted fighter out there Otake has so many things going for him. As mentioned he is incredibly tough, he was pounded by Scott Quigg but never took a backwards step and kept coming, even getting stronger the longer the bout went on. He has an incredible work ethic and can fight 12 rounds at a great tempo, often picking up the pace later in fights. He also has a lot of experience, with 231 rounds under his belt and 9 title bouts, in which he has gone 8-1 and has under-rated skills, with a nice jab, a solid right hand and great body work.
Looking at flaws with Otake he's not very quick, not a big puncher and pretty much a 1-trick pony, however it's a very good single trick. He will bring insane amounts of pressure, from round 1 to round 12 he will come forward, marching behind his jab, and look to out work opponents. It's not enough to win him a world title, against smarter, quicker opponents who move and take advantage of his slow feet, but against anyone below world level he's a nightmare.
Whilst fans in the west have seen Otake odds are they won't have seen the challenger, whilst fans in Japan have seen him, with his last bout being a mild upset win against the promising Kai Chiba. That bout showed that Lobetania is pretty limited, and like Otake is a one trick pony. Thankfully for Lobetania that one trick is pretty potent, and is a brutal overhand right hand. Against Chiba we saw Lobetania essentially spam his right hand, like a video game character, he missed with a lot of them, but every time it connected Chiba felt it, and wobbled hard in round 3 before being stopped the following round.
Aside from the win over Chiba it's easy to question Lobetania's record. He has 4 to his name, with only one of those coming against a really notable name, and that was against Jonas Sultan. Against Chiba however Lobetania proved not only that he has power, but also toughness, taking some bombs from the Japanese fighter. It should be noted he has only been stopped once, a surprise given his relatively open defense. Lobetania can punch, and take a shot, though interestingly he has got questions about his stamina, and he is 0-3 in bouts that have gone beyond 6 rounds.
What we're expecting here is for Otake to look to control the bout fighting at mid range early on and letting Lobetania tire himself out with the wild swings, before returning fire with busy combinations. In the second half of the fight, as the challenger slows down, Otake will be coming on strong and potentially even breaking down Lobetania in the second half for a TKO. If Otake can't stop the Filipino, we still expect him to take a clear and wide decision, in what will be an exciting war, until Lobetania starts to slow and fade.
In recent years Japanese prospects have been fast tracked with alarming regularity. It's become almost the done thing in Japan, with promoters knowing that if a fighter can fight against good fighter's there no point in keep them busy and padding their records for years. The latest Japanese youngster to be headed on the fast track to the top is Hinata Maruta (5-0, 4), who was long tipped to be a star for the Morioka gym. This coming Friday Maruta will take a huge step up in class and look to prove that he belongs to be regarded as the next in the line of super talents, like Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka, as he takes on OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hidenori Otake (29-2-3, 13).
Of the two men it's probably Otake who is better known. He is a former Japanese national champion, the current OPBF champion and a former world title challenger, who showed his toughness in a wide loss to the then WBA champion Scott Quigg in the UK. Aged 36 he is in the twilight of his career, but has looked good recently whilst running up a 7 fight winning run, following the loss to Quigg. Those wins have included his OPBF title victory over Jelbirt Gomera and a stoppage win over Kinshiro Usui in his first defense.
At his best Otake was a teak tough fighter who was insanely tough and had incredible energy. He's now likely on the slide, but still appears to be incredibly tough, and know how to bring the relentless assault that can cause fighters to mentally crumble. Over 12 rounds very few fighters will look to have a toe-to-toe war with him. On the other hand Otake is technically flawed, crude around the edges. He's not a very accurate fighter, or a very heavy handed one, but he's very physically strong and fighters to his strengths, making fights a trench war and simply breaking down opponents with his relentlessness.
It should be noted that some cracks have appeared in Otake's toughness recently. He was cut a few fights back by the little known Alexander Espinoza, and he also struggled with Gomera, who has subsequently lost two more bouts. The Japanese warrior does like to set his feet before throwing, and against a mover, or a fighter with high ring IQ he can have his flaws taken advantage of.
Whilst Otake is probably the better known it's fair to say that fans in Japan do see Maruta as a star of the future. He's a handsome and fresh faced youngster, who has the looks to become a crossover star, he has the frame to move through a number of weights and more importantly he has the skills to go to the top. Aged 20 he is a prodigious talent, but one who has been known about long before his professional debut, with a solid amateur background and a team who regularly take him over to the US for training camps, building on his skills and experiences. Although still a boxing baby he won the WBC Youth Bantamweight title, and defended it twice, whilst also making a statement on debut by beating the then world ranked Jason Canoy.
In the ring Maruta is a slick, boxer-mover who has solid power, enough so to drop the teak tough Jason Canoy, one of the best jabs in the sport, a lovely ability to switch between head and body, good footwork and a very high ring IQ. He has been shown to turn off at time, but it often seems like he's doing so to get more experience and learn more about the sport and his opponents, rather than truly switching off. As a result he has lost a few rounds, but never come close to losing a fight.
One place where Maruta is perhaps a little “weak” is his experience. He has only had 26 professional rounds, compared to Otake's 219, but as mentioned he has held a number of training camps in the US, and that has seen him take part in long sessions, and share the ring with a number of other styles. Those training camps will help him fight over the longer distance, but we're still interested in how he will fair in the later rounds, especially with Otake's relentless forward march. Interestingly he has already been chin checked, taking some bombs from Canoy, and appears to have a very sturdy chin, but hasn't been tagged when he's tired yet.
We have seen Murata answer more questions in his first 5 bouts than most fighters, but it's clear that this bout has been made to allow him to prove even more. It's a chance for him to prove his stamina, and to prove his power, if he stops Otake it would be a huge statement, whilst a decision win would “just” be a big statement. This is certainly dangerous match making, but that seems to be the way they go with the top young talents in Japan, and it's part of what is making the Japanese scene so exciting right now. Young fighters are told to prove themselves, almost straight away.
We can see how Otake could win. We can see him just refusing to go away, taking Maruta in the deep water and drowning him, with either a late stoppage or a close decision. But our view is that Maruta's speed, skills and movement will be too much for Otake, and we even go as far as to say that a stoppage for Maruta isn't out of the question. The old adage “speed kills” is likely to play a factor here, and Maruta will be too quick and too sharp for the veteran, who will be made to look his 36 years of age, and will be finished off late into the bout.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting in Japan right now, with two world champion, a really exciting national champion, a number of rising prospects and some top class contenders. This coming Wednesday we'll see two Japanese Super Bantamweights trading blows for the OPBF title, and the potential to meet one of the world's best prospects.
The bout in question will see OPBF Super Bantamweight Hidenori Otake (28-2-3, 12) defending the title for the first time, as he defends the crown against veteran Kinshiro Usui (27-5, 11) in a well matched all-Japanese bout. Whilst it's clear neither man is a spring chicken, with a combined age of 73, it's also clear that neither fighter can really afford a loss at this point in their career.
Of the two men Otake is the more well known. In 2012 he claimed the Japanese title, beating Takafumi Nakajima, and he went on to defend that title 4 times before vacating it in 2014, as he got a crack at Scott Quigg and the WBA world title. Although Otake came up short against Quigg, scarcely winning a round, he proved his toughness and his incredible engine going 12 rounds against the Englishman and rarely taking a backwards step.
Since losing to Quigg we've seen Otake go 6-0 (3), with a win over Jelbirt Gomera last time out for the OPBF title. During his 6 fight winning run that was the only win of real note, and the only bout at Super Bantamweight, following a short flirtation at Featherweight.
At his best Otake is a tough, rough and energetic fighter. He's not the quickest, the heaviest handed or the most skilled, but his will to win is second to none and it will take something very special to slow his charge forward.
Aged 37 Kinshiro Usui is a name many won't be familiar with, at all, despite the fact he's had a 15 year career and holds wins of note against the likes of Mike Tawatchai, Nobuhisa Coronito Doi, Masaaki Serie and Hikaru Marugame. He fought regularly between 2002 and 2011 before walking away from the ring for more than 3 years. In 2014 he began an unexpected comeback and reeled off 6 straight wins before losing last time out in a razor thin decision to Hisashi Amagasa, in a bout many felt he deserved.
Talented, and with a steely toughness, Usui is a solid boxer. Sadly at 37 his time is running out, and it's a shame it's taken more than 8 years for him to get his second shot at a title. He's got under-rated skills, decent speed for someone his age and real hunger, with it being clear that this could be his final shot at silverware.
On paper it's really against Usui here. He's older, smaller, less proven, less experienced and the lighter puncher. However he's coming in with little pressure on his shoulders and he will clearly be the under-dog.
We'd love to see Usui win here, it'd be a great way for him to end his career. Saying that however it's hard to bet against Otake, who has proven his title ability and will likely be too busy and too physical for the smaller, Usui.
Interestingly the winner of this is booked in to defend the title later in the year, against the very highly regarded Hinata Maruta in what could be the coming out party of the next Japanese boxing superstar.
In late 2014 Hidenori Otake (27-2-3, 12) came to the attention of the wider boxing world as he travelled to the UK to take on WBA Super Bantamweight champion Scott Quigg. The bout saw the Japanese fighter go from being a relative unknown outside of Tokyo, where he had fought all 26 of his previous bouts, to a man widely applauded for his toughness and stamina in going 12 tough rounds against Quigg.
Since losing to Quigg we've seen Otake score 5 wins, almost against less than notable competition, as he's moved back into title contention, and this coming Friday we'll see him return to title action to take on Filipino foe Jelbirt Gomera (12-1, 6). For Otake it's a chance to add an OPBF title to his collection, which also include a Japanese title from earlier in his career, whilst Gomera looks to announce himself on the Oriental scene.
The 35 year old Otake made his debut back in 2005 and was unbeaten in his first 8 bouts, going 6-0-2 (1) before suffering a loss to Manabu Koguchi in the 2007 East Japan Rookie of the Year final. That loss would be Otake's only defeat until his 2014 bout with Quigg. During the 7 years between losses Otake went on to score wins over the likes of Kentaro Masuda, Takafumi Nakajima, Mikihito Seto and Nobuhisa Coronita Doi as he won the Japanese Super Bantamweight title and recorded 4 defenses of the belt.
Sadly since losing to Quigg it does seem like Otake has slowed. Although he is 5-0 (3) since his bout with Quigg he did fail to shine when he took on Hernan Cortez and genuinely struggled past Alexander Espinoza. Although it might be unfair to say it but it does seem like Otake's body, at the age of 35, is slowing down and his once incredible stamina is wearing away. His toughness can't be question but there are cracks showing and his relative lack of power has seen him rack up close to 200 rounds of professional action in his 32 fight career, averaging a little over 6 rounds a fight. His stamina is undeniable but he lack of power has seen him stopping only 38% of his opponents so far.
Filipino fighter Gomera debuted back in April 2013 and has been a professional for close to 4 years. He won his first 4 bouts by stoppage and moved out to 10-0 (6), with a notable win over Ryan Rey Ponteras, before being stopped in 8 rounds by Mark Anthony Geraldo in November 2015. that has been Gomera's most notable bout to date but since that loss he has racked up two wins, with a win last time out over Eduardo Mancito to claim the Philippines Boxing Federation Featherweight title.
Other than his record little is really known about Gomera,though footage does suggest that he's a southpaw who likes to come forward, though isn't the most aggressive or the quickest. Although the footage is limited we have read fight reports suggesting that Gomera's last bout, against Mancito, was an exciting and bloody affair with Gomera getting up from a 2nd round knockdown to defeat Mancito. It's also worth noting that newspaper reports have given Gomera as being 19 when he lost to Geraldo, suggesting he is 20 or 21 at the moment, reports from that fight also suggest that Gomera is a gutsy fighter and pulled himself off the canvas a number of times against Geraldo.
Although he's the “unknown under-dog” Gomera is the youngster with a point to prove and we suspect he will give Otake a lot of problems here, especially with Otake showing his age in recent fights. Despite that we still think Otake's experience will be too much over the distance, but it will be a very close contest with Gomera proving himself as one to watch from the Philippines.
Otake looks to take one more step towards a world title fight as he defends his Japanese title once again
The Super Bantamweight division is to be a busy on through out the month of July with numerous major bouts taking place in less than a week. In Macau fans will get the chance to see the exceptionally gifted Guillermo Ringondeaux defending his WBO and WBA titles against Thailand's Sod Kokietgym, in Peru fans will get to see Nehomar Cermeno defending his WBA interim title against the unbeaten Carlos Zambrano and in Japan fans will see OPBF champion Shingo Wake defending his title against Jeasung Lee.
Before any of those bouts however we get a Japanese title fight as the world ranked, IBF#3 and WBO #11, Hidenori Otake (22-1-3, 9) defends his national title for the 5th time in under 2 years and attempts to extend a 17 fight unbeaten run that dates all the way back to 2008.
Although Otake, for our money, isn't the best Super Bantamweight in Japan right now he is an accomplished fighter who has been stringing together credible wins on a regular basis in recent years. Those wins have included victories over Kentaro Masuda, Takfumi Nakajima and Mikihito Seto, though they have all proven that he's not a major puncher and has had to rely on his toughness and work rate which in turn has shown off his stamina and heart.
This time around Otake will be fighting against a real under-dog in the form of Japanese #6 ranked challenger Daisuke Furuhashi (16-5, 6). It's fair to say, considering how highly Otake is ranked by both the IBF and WBO as well as numerous independent ranking bodies, that this is widely viewed as a mismatch, however in our eyes it's more competitive than it looks on paper, though we do still favour Otake.
On paper Furuhashi's looks like a very limited fighter though one thing that needs noting is that his record is mostly marked up from fights that he had at Bantamweight, fights that were very close and fights fought before he began to reach his prime. If Furuhashi had had a bigger name backing him we'd suspect 3 of his losses would likely have been wins. In the last 12 months it's also worth noting that Furuhashi has started to find his boxing groove and has scored a trio of solid wins including a very notable stoppage over former Japanese Featherweight title contender Toru Suzuki.
From what we understand Furuhashi, who is the man pictured in the top right of the poster, is an aggressive fighter who can be out boxed but comes to win. He lacks power himself though has scored notable stoppages over both Suzuki, as mentioned above, and Nobuhisa Coronita Doi, who gave Otake some serious questions last year. If he can make the most of that power he could give Otake some real issues, especially when you consider that Otake isn't defensively the most sound.
Whilst we're not Otake's biggest fans he has been finding ways to win fights by gritting his teeth and toughing it out. For this fight he has even more reason to grit his teeth, as a chance for a world title fight is just around the corner and anything but a convincing win could see that chance vanishing. With that in mind we expect to see Otake trying not just to win but to make a statement taking the fight to Furuhashi from the off.
Of course Otake doesn't need to impress us but he will need to impress someone to get a chance at a world title and we imagine that this performance will be all about impressing his team, the title bodies, the JBC and the fans. To do that we think OTake will be hunting a stoppage and we acctully expect him to get it very late in the fight, though not without a struggle early in the bout.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
It's not often a Japanese national title fight is considered a "4 star" fight on Boxrec.com though on March 24th we do get one of those rare oddities and hopefully it's not just a fight that will interest Japanese audience but in fact those around the globe.
The reason this fight is so highly regarded by boxrec.com is due to Hidenori Otake (21-1-3, 9) the defending Japanese Super Bantamweight champion who is seen by some hardcore fans as one of the fringe elite level fighters in his division.
It's not just the fans and the JBC who have been taking note of Otake but also the world title bodies, two of which have Otake ranked inside the top 15. One of those is the WBO who have him at #12 (at the time of writing) the other is the IBF who have given him a very lofty #3 ranking and will almost certainly view him as one of their top contenders.
The reason Otake is ranked so highly isn't due to a big stand out win but his impressive 15 fight winning streak that dates back more than 6 years and has included 3 Japanese title defenses in less than 18 months.
Otake's 4th title defence comes against Takafumi Nakajima (22-6-1, 9) a man he has already beaten, albeit in a very narrow and hard fought contest that could easily have gone the opposite way, back in August 2012. In effect this bout not only features a world ranked fighter, a Japanese national title but also a continuation of their back story together. Three separate but very significant features that all add up to making this a hugely notable clash.
When the men first met it was Nakajima on a great run of results. He was entering on a 6 fight winning streak which included victories over Kinshiro Usui, Coach Hiroto and Shingo Wake. It may have been a shorter run than Otake's, which saw him winning his previous 9, but it was a better run in terms of who he had beaten.
The better results going in to the first fight however didn't help Nakajima beat Otake for the then vacant title. It was a close fight but two of the judges saw it as a clear but competitive victory for Otake, both scoring it 97-94, whilst the third judge felt Nakajima had just nicked it with a 96-95 card.
Since their first fight Nakajima has been relatively inactive fighting just twice. Whilst one of those wins did come against Mikihito Seto, a former Japanese interim champion, neither were great considering Nakajima's relatively merits in the first Otake meeting. As for Otake he has, as previously mentioned, defended the belt 3 times though didn't look great in beating either Seto or Nobuhisa Coronita Doi.
If we look at the world rankings and their previous bout against each other you'd probably think that Otake has this in the bag. Instead however this is one of those true 50-50 fights. In fact using boxrec's rankings Nakajima, ranked #10 by Boxrec, should be the favoured fighter over the Otake, #13.
One thing that perhaps could swing it is age. Otake is 32 going on 33 and whilst he's not had a long career he has had a hard one with his lack of power causing him to have 148 rounds in his 25 fights to date, an average of almost 6 rounds a fight. As well as the total of 148 rounds his last 5 bouts have gone a combined 48 rounds and each of those rounds was very tough for Otake who often had to go to the well to secure wins. At 32 Otake isn't young for a Super Bantamweight and with hard rounds piling up he's probably "older" in terms of boxing years than many other fighters at a similar point in their career.
At 29 years old Nakajima is notably the younger man in terms of "real years". He may have had marginally more rounds at 163 though that's only just over 5 rounds a fight and his last 4 bouts went just a combined 28 rounds, including the 10 rounds he spent with Otake in their first fight together. Many of the other rounds were easier than rounds that Otake has been in with only Wake really giving Nakajima a good tough fight, other than Otake obviously.
The one thing that is clear is that neither man is a puncher and this is likely to go the distance. This will likely leave us with a lot of close and competitive rounds which will again be split very little. It really is a toss up and a draw wouldn't be out of the question.
If you put a gun to our heads we'd favour Nakajima with his youth but it really is too close to call. An excellent match up and the sort that national titles were designed to create. Two of the best Super Bantamweights in Japan colliding in a major domestic scrap great stuff.
The one hope we do have for this bout is that the winner will fight Shingo Wake in an OPBF/Japanese title unification later this year. That bout is better than this one though only just and it would pretty much serve as world eliminator between two of the top fighters in the division.
(Poster courtesy of Boxmob. Otake is the man with a belt on the right whilst Nakajima is inset nest to him)
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.