They often say that winning a title brings a fighter up to a new level, with the fighter showing a new hunger to go further and claim more gold. A taste of silverware never being enough to fully satisfy anyone in sport and the hunger grows. Sadly though it seems like the Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (21-1, 16) [尾川 堅一] has hit a bit of a wall since winning the title, and instead of progressing and building to the next level he has struggled and faltered past opponents he was expected to defeat. This coming Saturday Ogawa looks to return to his best as he defends his belt against 33 year old veteran Hirotsugu Yamamoto (20-13-3, 4) [山元 浩嗣], with the champion seeking his 5th defense.
In the ring Ogawa has shown real touches of being a world class fighter. He has spiteful power, good boxing and and the ability to really go along way. There are holes in his game, and he's not the most natural boxer or the quickest fighter, but he's a brute of a puncher, and sometimes that's more than enough to make a name for yourself.
On his rise to the title Ogawa went 15-1 (13), avenging his only loss which came to Yuki Miyoshi in 2012, and stopping good opponents like Ribo Takahata, Raymond Sermona and Deivi Julio Bassa. He would then win the title by bullying the then unbeaten Rikki Naito on route to a 5th round Technical Decision. That should have been the start of a huge rise by Ogawa but instead he has struggled to shine, scoring late stoppages against Satoru Sugita and Kento Matsushita in bouts where here looked like a weak champion and then taking ultra close decisions against Rikki Naito and Satoru Sugita in rematches.
Since winning the title it has looked like the hunger has left Ogawa a bit. It looks like he has accomplished what he's wanted and that he's happy to remain fighting at the top of the domestic tree. It's a shame, but it does look like he has taken a step backwards, and if he can't find the hunger he had on his way up the title may well slip away in a bout that he's expected to win. The firepower might not be enough to bail him out late, and he may well find himself pushed down the pecking order if he does suffer another defeat.
Aged 33 Yamamoto has been a professional for almost 12 years and has, if we're being honest, gotten this fight as a reward for his hard work in Japanese boxing rather than as about earned on merit and results. In fact in terms of results he has gone 6-8-1 in his last 15 bouts dating back more than 5 years. Not only has has been losing more than winning recently but he has been doing so to domestic foes such as Satoshi Hosono, Hitoshi Ichiba, Dai Iwai, Yuhei Suzuki, Tsukasa Saito and Tsuyoshi Tojo, as well as international fighters like Juan Martin Elorde and Jhonny Gonzalez.
Whilst he is better than his record suggests, and has a number of very closes losses including the one to Tojo and one to Elorde, he has also suffered 7 stoppage losses and hasn't shown the best of durability, with Gonzalez stopping him in a round last September. That will likely prove to be his problem here. He can box well, but soon or later he will be caught by Ogawa, even a rather lacklustre Ogawa.
We suspect that Yamamoto will have success, at times, but sooner or later Ogawa will take him out, with the eventual stoppage covering over the cracks we've already spoken about. It may well be that a good win here could kick start Ogawa's rise to a world title, and be the confidence builder he needs, but we can't help but think his real hunger is gone and that a win here won't actually help him push on.
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.