On April 23rd we'll see a new Japanese Super Flyweight champion being crowned, or more precisely we'll see a former champion being reclaiming the throne as Hiroyuki Kudaka (28-18-4, 11) [久髙寛之] and Kenta Nakagawa (20-4-1, 12) [中川健太] clash for the belt that both have held in the past, and now want to recapture before bowing out of the sport.
The title became vacant at the end of 2021, when former champion Ryoji Fukunaga landed the opportunity of a life time, and got the chance to face Kazuto Ioka for the WBO Super Flyweight world title, losing a competitive decision to Ioka. As a result of Fukunaga vacating it lead to the JBC ordering the two top ranked fighters to face off for the vacant title, Kudaka and Nakagawa.
Of the two men the more well known is Kudaka is the more well known, and with good reason. The 50 fight veteran is a 4-time world title challenger, who has faced a legitimate who's who of the lower weight classes over the last 15 years. Win or lose he has really faced a huge number of notable fighters, including Tomonobu Shimizu, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Hussein Hussein, Takefumi Sakata, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Hugo Fidel Cazares, Tetsuya Hisada, Oleydong Sithsamerchai Sonny Boy Jaro, Omar Andrez Narvaez, Ryo Matsumoto, Takuya Kogawa, Suguru Muranaka, Takuma Inoue, Go Onaga and Takayuki Okumoto. Whilst he has lost to most of those top names he hasn't been discouraged, and has instead proven himself to be a strong, aggressive, tough handful. Now aged 37 his career is coming to an end, but his desire to recapture the Japanese title, which he briedly held in 2018, is obvious and would be the perfect way for him to end his career.
In his prime Kudaka was a big, strong and aggressive fighter, who came forward, and looked to out work, out fight and out tough opponents, in thrilling clashes. Technically he was always limited, but made up for it by having a very fan friendly style that gained him opportunities, despite his losses. His physicality often made him a handful, though his technical flaws were there to be picked apart, as we saw when he faced Narvaez and and really had no answer to the brilliant Argentinian's work rate and accuracy. In recent years he has however adapted to getting older, and although still a physical fighter he does now rely more on setting up his attacks than just wading in, relying on a high guard, and really crushing the distance down to get close. Up close he's a nightmare to fight, with his body shots being particularly notable, and fighters who do well against him typically keep him at range, use their feet and prevent him from turning the fight into an inside war.
Despite the fact Kudaka is more well known, it would be rather foolish to say he's more successful, with Nakagawa being a 2-time Japanese champion and now looking to claim the Japanese Super Flyweight title for the third time in his career. The 36 year old Nakagawa began his career in 2004, but took a 6 year break from the ring after his third professional bout. Since returning to action in 2011 he has fought regularly and notched notable wins, whilst winning the Japanese title in 2016, when he beat Hayato Kimura for the vacant title, and in 2019, when he beat Takayuki Okumoto. Sadly though his two reigns have a combined only a single defense and only around 18 months with the title. He has also been stopped in both of his title losses, losing to Ryuichi Funai and Ryoji Fukunaga who both went on to fight for world titles afterwards.
Nakagawa is certainly the more technical of the two fighters, with his boxing relying more on fighting with some room, and landing straight head shots from mid-range. Nakagawa has a good understanding of the ring, decent hand speed, and a an ability to mix it up when he needs to. Although a more technically rounded boxer than Kudaka, we have see Nakagawa wage war when he's had to, and he's proven he is a warrior at heart as we saw against Fukunaga in an instant classic. Sadly for Nakagawa his chin has let him down in the past, though to his credit, he has taken a lot before getting stopped and won't fold under the first sight of pressure. Instead he will stand, fight his ground and make for some thrilling back and forth action.
Given the styles of the two men there is a chance, albeit a slim one, that this could be messy with Kudaka closing the distance and Nakagawa trying to neutralise his man up close. However we're expecting something a little bit special instead.
What we're expecting early on is for Nakagawa to create space, work his straight shots and land regularly on Kudaka, as Kudaka comes forward. The first 4 or 5 rounds of the fight will see Nakagawa having success at mid-range though before too long Kudaka will begin to get inside, and from there on we will end up with a war with Nakagawa looking to repsond when he's hit, giving us 4 or 5 rounds of brutal bath and forth violence. By the end of the 10 round bout the early success from Nakagawa will have been relatively forgotten and Kudaa will have done enough, just, on the inside to take home the win with a hotly contested decision.
Prediction - UD10 Kudaka.
The final Japanese title eliminator set to take place this year occurs in Osaka on December 22nd and will see 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) battle against former Japanese title challenger Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8). Despite being the final of the eliminators this year it's certainly not the best of the eliminators, but should be a thrilling match up between two men who, with the right opponents, can make for some amazing bouts.
The 34 year old Kudaka is a proper veteran, with 47 bouts under his belt and 331 professional rounds. He has been a professional since September 2002 and despite losing his first 2 bouts had gone on to carve out a bizarre yet excellent memorable career. He has faced the likes of Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Hussein Hussein, Takefumi Sakata Denkaosan Kaovichit, Hugo Fidel Cazares, Tetsuya Hisada, Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Sonny Boy Jaro, Omar Andres Narvaez, Ryo Matsumoto and Takuya Kogawa, and managed to pick up a number of upsets during his career.
Whilst Kudaka's opponents have included a number of world class fighters he is actually quite a limited fighter himself, though he's got traits that can make him a handful. He's big, at both Flyweight and at Super Flyweight the divisions he has regularly fought at, he's tough and rugged and he throws a lot of leather. Despite not being a big puncher he's a solid puncher, and his shots do do damage. Sadly though he's rather slow of foot, and his hand speed it nothing to write home about, he's a clunky and defensively poor, and speedy fighters can take him and get away. He's typically wanting to fight on the inside, which makes for fun bouts but at 34 we do wonder what his body has left after such a hard career.
Conmpared to Kudaka it's fair to say that Matsuo is a boxing baby with 20 bouts, but he's now 30 and opportunities to get title fights won't come around much more often. He's been a pro since 2012 and has had mixed success of his own. He began his career in good fashion, winning a B class tournament in 2013, less than a year after his debut, but since then has had a bit of a rocky time, going 10-4-1. He has typically held his own, and all 4 losses were competitive, but they have all come in his biggest bouts, including losses to Masayuki Kuroda for the Japanese "interim" Flyweight title and to Takayuki Okumoto for the Japanese Super Flyweight title. His other losses include a razor thin decision to Ardin Diale.
In the ring Matsuo always strikes us as a basic, but aggressive fighter. He comes forward behind his jab and does apply pretty constant pressure, but doesn't always combine that pressure with much in terms of output, which means he can be out worked. He's also not the quickest and sometimes his pressure can look more like he's following an opponent around, rather than being effective on the front foot. When an opponent opens up he tends to be willing to respond, and fight fire with fire, but all too often that is contingent on his opponent taking risks, rather than opportunities that Matsuo creates for himself. He's tough, has under-rated hand speed and plenty of tools in his arsenal, but often looks like he fights the wrong fight to make the most of the tools he has.
Although neither of these are world beaters they are the type of fighters who styles should click. Both come forward and both like to lets shots go, when their opponents are in front of them. If Kudaka is willing to open up we see Matsuo responding in a fire fight of an 8 rounder. If this happens the fans are set for a treat, and a real thriller.
The issue, although a small one given what's at stake, is that both might just wait for the other to lead, and give us a stinker. We don't see this happening, but there is a risk.
If we get a stinker this could easily end in a slow and gruelling draw, but in reality we expect a fight, with Matso's youth handspeed and extra youth being the difference in a brilliant little action bout.
Prediction - UD8 Matsuo
The Super Flyweight division is one of the most talent laden division's in the sport today with fighters like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Jerwin Ancajas, Juan Francisco Estrada, Donnie Nietes and Kazuto Ioka all being among the notable names competing at 115lbs. Sadly the division is a bit of a top heavy one right now, with a lot of world level talent and not much really making their mark on the Japanese domestic scene. At the moment the Japanese national champion is veteran Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-17-2, 11), who claimed the title earlier this year when he over-came Go Onaga to claim his second professional title almost 8 years after he claimed the WBC International Silver Flyweight title.
This coming Friday Kudaka looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Super Flyweight title as he takes on 26 year old southpaw challenger Takayuki Okumoto (20-8-3, 10) at the EDION Arena Osaka.
Although Kudaka is a relatively limited champion he has long been a must watch fighter. Win or lose Kudaka is a fun to watch fighter and despite being 33 years old he is still a fighter gets involved in wars, is durable enough to go the distance and has the stamina to lets his hands go in every round. At his very best, around a decade ago, he was a very good fighter who gave hell to the likes of Denkaosan Kaovichit, Takefumi Sakata, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Tetsuya Hisada, Oleydong Sithsamerchai and Sonny Boy Jaro, taking several wins from the fighters in that group. Over the last few years however he has picked up more losses than wins, coming up short against the likes of Ryo Matsumoto, Omar Andres Narvaez, Takuya Kogawa, Mark John Yap and Takuma Inoue.
The Osakan champion began his career back in 2002 when he was stopped inside a round. Since then however he has proven a tough nut with only Narvaez stopping him in the subsequent 44 bouts. He can be dropped, he can be hurt but his fighting heart is hard to break and he will always look to come forward and break down opponents, especially at this domestic level. He lacks the power to take them out with one shot, but will look to grind them down and secure the wins on the scorecards. He can do that at domestic level, but above Japanese level he does seem to lack the skills to match his desire.
The challenger made his debut in 2007, as a 15 year old in Thailand. Despite winning his debut he would be stopped in his second bout, also in Thailand. He would then be out of the ring for close to 2 years before making his Japanese debut and would lose his first bout in Japan. Following that loss he would go on an 8 fight unbeaten run, going 7-0-1 whilst defeating novice Japanese and Thai opponents. That winning run would come to an end when Okumoto stepped up in class, losing back to back bouts to Myung Ho Lee and Kohei Kubo, then being held to a draw by Akiyoshi Kanazawa, who would go on to beat Okumuto in a rematch between the two men. Even a return to Thailand failed to help Okumoto rebuild his career momentum as Rusalee Samor stopped him in 2 rounds.
Despite the struggles Okumoto continued his career and actually managed to reel off 6 straight wins, including victories over Shota Kawaguchi and Yuta Saito, before losing a close decision to Thailand's Komgrich Nantapetch, aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking. That loss to the Thai was a set back but it was one that Okumoto bounced back from with a pair of stoppage wins before a technical draw with Eranio Semillano slowed his rise once again. It was only a temporary slowdown however as his next fight would see him getting a Japanese title fight with Ryuichi Funai, who took a technical decision over Okumoto.
In the ring Okumoto really doesn't do anything special. He's gritty and can make fights ugly, but really isn't that powerful, that strong or that quick. His flaws however should lead to a fun fight here with Kudaka pressing the action and forcing both men to unload shots up close. We suspect the flaws of Okumoto will be his downfall, and Kudaka will be too be experienced, too tough and too busy for the challenger, in what will be a fun and entertaining contest, but one that Kudaka comes out on top of.
The 2017 Champion Carnival had a number of rematches, across the weight classes. This year however was a bit different and there hasn't been the same feeling of “seen this one before”. The one real exception is the 2018 Champion Carnival bout fort Super Flyweight title, with the bout pitting Go Onaga (28-3-4, 19) and Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-17-2,11) in their second bout, in the space of just over 4 months.
The two men battled last December in a bout to decide who would be facing Ryoichi Funai for the Japanese Super Flyweight title. That bout resulted in a very disappointing and frustrating 3rd round technical draw, due to a nasty headclash, with Kudaka being assured a shot at the title. Funai would then vacate the title, and turn his attention to fighting for a world title, and as a result we not get this rematch between the two veterans.
Of the two men it's Kudaka, who previously fought as Hiroyuki Hisataka, who is the more well known. He is a 4-time world title challenger, who has challenged Takefumi Sakata, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Hugo Fidel Cazares and Omar Andres Narvaez. As well as that world title experience he has also shared the ring with a genuine who's who of the lower weights, including Tomonobu Shimizu, Hussein Hussein, Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym, Oleydong Sithsamerchai, Sonny Boy Jaro, Ryo Matsumoto, Takuya Kogawa, Keisuke Nakayama, Tetsuya Hisada, Mark John Yap, and Takuma Inoue.
Kudaka hasn't just mixed who's a who's who but often held his own thanks to his under-rated skill set, which is something his record really doesn't reflect. Kudaka's record suggests he's a bum, if we're being honest, but he has suffered losses due to the very tough competition he has been up against. Even against the best of that competition he has shown impressive toughness, stamina, work rate and aggression. He marches forward, sometimes quite crudely, throws a lot of leather and looks to make for exciting, fan friendly bouts. He's not the biggest puncher, mostly due to his flawed technique, but he is an imposing Super Flyweight who will take a lot of damage in in the hope of wearing down his opponent, or out working them, which makes him so tricky fighter.
At 32, and given his style, Kudaka doesn't have long left in his career. He already has over 300 rounds since debuting in 2002, but he will know this will probably be his final title fight, if he loses. Through his career so far he has come up short in bouts for the Interim Japanese title, WBC Youth title, WBA and WBO world titles, and WBC International title. In fact from his 8 previous title bouts, he has gone 1-7 winning only the WBC International Silver Flyweight Title.
Aged 37 Onaga is a man who has had a very frustrating career, and has become one of the forgotten fighters of the now top level Ohashi gym. He, like Kudaka, debuted back in 2003 and he was unbeaten in his first 16 bouts. That unbeaten run came to an end in a bout for a Japanese interim title, as he was stopped by future world champion Yota Sato. A second loss would come less than 2 years later, when he was beaten by Teiru Kinoshita in a bout for the Japanese Super Flyweight title. Interestingly that loss came following a technical draw with Kinoshita in a bout at the Strongest Korakuen, before the title was vacated by Sato for a world title fight. A little bit of history repeating here for Onaga.
The loss to Kinoshita was followed by a 10 fight winning run from Onaga, with wins over Reyan Rey Ponteras, Breilor Teran, Masafumi Otake, Jonas Sultan and Renoel Pael. Sadly for Onaga that run came to an end in 2016, when he was beaten by Rene Dacquel, and since then he has gone 1-0-2, though could well have lost a 2017 bout to Ryan Lumacad. In recent bouts Onaga hasn't good, and despite having a very good win over Jonas Sultan less than 3 years ago, there was a feeling that Onaga got a bit of luck from the judges.
We know Onaga wants to win a title before he retires. He has never managed to hide that desire, but we feel this shot has come several years too late. He has a chance, but we feel that his 37 year old legs won't be ale to keep up with the aggression or pressure of Kudaka. Both will be cautious not to have another head clash early in the bout, but Kudaka will still be the busier, more aggressive amn and the one who impresses the judges to take the win and the title.
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.