The 126lb Featherweight division is one of the sports deepest. Unfortunately due to it's depth it leaves a number of notable, talented and exciting fighters on it's periphery rather than really in the mix. One of those sat on the outside looking in is OPBF champion Hisashi Amagasa (27-4-2, 18) who holds world rankings with all 4 bodies though is very unlikely to get a world title shot, at least for now.
Amagasa has held the OPBF title for around a year, in fact when he returns to the ring this coming Wednesday he'll have held the title just over a year, and has already defended it twice. He now looks for the third defence of the belt as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Ryo Takenaka (11-2-1, 6), a man written off as little more than an easy challenger for the interesting champion.
Whilst Amagasa is the champion he is also a fighter that really confuses us at times. He's a long and rangy fighter with solid power, great work rate and fantastic reach for a Featherweight. Yet he fights as if he's an untrained and under-skilled brawler giving up his height all too often whilst swinging some very loose and wild looking shots. This seems to work for him with some major wins though when he actually thinks about what he's doing he can land some of the most beautiful and thudding shots we've seen, such as the finishing uppercut in his bout with Koji Nagata, you'll be hard pushed to find a better uppercut KO. On the whole however his wins have have often been messy and down to grinding effect of his wild hooks as opposed to crisp and clean shots.
Although a flawed fighter Amagasa is a fighter who does show signs of improvement and has reeled off a 12 fight winning streak since losing a decision back in 2012 to Ryol Li Lee, a loss that was avenged in Amagasa's OPBF winning title bout last year.
As for Takenaka he's a challenger we don't know a lot about. 29 year old has been a professional since 2008 and although he showed early promise with some solid wins early on his career was derailed back-to-back set backs in 2012 as he lost a decision so Masayuki Wakimoto and was stopped in 5 by Ryol Li Lee.
Whilst those set backs were hurtful for Takenaka's rise he has since strung together 4 straight wins with those some of those wins coming over the likes of Vergel Nebran and Rene Bestudio and helped him climb into the OPBF rankings. Sadly however the leap from Bestudio and Nebran to OPBF level is huge, especially when you consider that Takenaka has never fought in a bout scheduled for more than 8 rounds. The step up from 8 rounders to OPBF title bouts is huge and that alone tells what we need to know here. Takenaka isn't ready for this fight.
Whilst we accept Amagasa is flawed he has the ability to challenge for a world title and make a good account of himself. Against someone like Takenaka it's hard to see anything but an easy win for the champion who probably scores a mid round stoppage with out too many problems. That's not to say it won't be fun to watch, we love watching Amagasa, but it will be relatively one-sided.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Although some what unknown on the international stage Hisashi Amagasa (26-4-2, 17) is a man who is starting to make his mark on the world stage. He's not only a former Japanese Featherweight champion but is the current OPBF champion at 126lbs and has managed to earn himself top 15 rankings with all 4 major title bodies. Western fans might not recognise his face or his name but he's a fighter who really beginning to prove himself and come in to his own as a potential world title challenger.
Part of why Amagasa is so highly ranked is his OPBF title, the belt tends to act as a huge booster towards a world ranking with the WBC, another part of why he is ranked is the fact he has scored 11 successive wins one though the biggest reason is that some of those wins have come against recognisable fighters including a decision over former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion Ryol Li Lee. The most significantly reason however is not that he has just won his last 11 fights but the fact that those wins were against mostly credible opponents, not just Lee, and good wins do help improve a fighters rankings.
Amagasa will be hoping to extend his winning run to 12 fights this week when he returns to defend his OPBF title for the second time. Unfortunately however this defence comes against a much more limited foe than a number of his recent fights. That's because Amagasa will be fighting the very limited Thai Maxsaisai Sithsaithong (14-4, 3) who really is a very questionable OPBF title challenger.
Aged 35 Maxsaisai is getting the biggest fight of his career and it could well be his last.
At the early stages of his career Maxsaisai looked very promising. He won his first 11 fights in under 3 years before being forced out of the ring in 2007. It took over 5 years before the fighter returned to the ring and unfortunately his return has been less than memorable with 3 wins and 4 losses including a decision loss to journeyman Jack Asis, a loss to Juan Martin Elorde and stoppages to Joel Brunker and Jun Doliguez. Those results, which make up 4 of the last 6 bouts for Maxsaisai suggest that he's not fit for an OPBF title fight.
From what we've seen of the Thai there is nothing that he has that should worry Amagasa, in fact he has nothing that should worry any OPBF ranked fighter at 126lbs. He's not a puncher, he's not ultra skilled, he's not fast, he's not going to break you down. In all honesty he's just very poor.
Amagasa, whilst not comparable to the likes of Shinsuke Yamanaka or Takashi Uchiyama is a very talented fighter. He combines skills, power and awkward size to make himself a very hard to beat fighter and despite having 4 losses on his record he's developed into a very good fighter and one we'd suggest could hold his own with some of the current world champions.
With all the tools at Amagasa's disposable we're expecting to see him stop Maxsaisai as he continues his march towards a world title fight. With the reach and height of the Japanese fighter we'd not be shocked at seeing him lining up powerful straight that eventually wear down the over-matched challenger who will be lucky to see out more than 6 rounds.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
When you see a fighter with a record like 34-15-3 (16) you tend to write them off by default, especially in this day and age of padded records, protected fighters and selective match making. That however can prove to be a costly mistake and sometimes you just need to realise that a record doesn't actually tell us a lot about a fighter. Although we think they do show us something about a fighter a record is rarely the bee all and end all of a boxer's ability.
We had a great example of misleading records just a few weeks ago when Filipino Rey Loreto, who boasted a 17-13 record, upset Nkosinathi Joyi who was 24-2-0-1.
Loreto, like a number of Filipino fighters, has a record that is hugely misleading due to controversial losses, losses in hard fights early in his career and just generally being matched tougher than he should have been. Another Filipino in a similar position to Loreto is Vinvin Rufino (34-15-3, 16) who boasts the record used at the beginning of this preview.
Rufino, the OPBF #1 contender, has won less than 66% of all his fights. Of his 15 losses though at least 6 are highly questionable and 12 have come on foreign soil where results are rarely expected to go in favour of the visiting fighter. If you switch the highly questionable losses to victories Rufino's record would be a somewhat respectable 40-9-3.
On March 24th Rufino will be hoping to shock the boxing world like Loreto did as he takes on OPBF Featherweight champion Hisashi Amagasa (25-4-2, 16) in a bout that is a lot more interesting than the records of the men would indicate.
Amagasa goes in to the bout a clear favourite. That's just stating the obvious, he's at home, he's the defending champion, he's world ranked by the WBC #11, WBO #12 and IBF #13, he's a man in the form of his life with 10 straight victories and he's a tricky customer at the best of times. As we all know however upsets happen and Amagasa will need to be fully aware that he's not fighting an over-matched foe, he's fighting his #1 challenger.
Amagasa won the title last year by scoring a decision victory over former world champion Ryol Li Lee who had beaten Amagasa back in 2010. The victory over Lee saw Amagasa avenging his most recent loss and putting his name on the world rankings in the process. Despite the victory many questioned whether he was fighting the real Lee or a man who was had mentally retired from the sport. Lee, not quite looking himself, managed to keep the fight close and although Amagasa was the rightful winner one has to wonder what a determined Lee could have done that fight.
Interestingly Amagasa had to himself turn around a poor looking record. After just 12 fights he had a record of 7-3-2 (6) and the only decision he had won in that time had come against Yoshiharu Yajima who was 3-2 entering his bout with Amagasa. Of course since then Amagasa has improved though should be fully aware that a bad looking record doesn't tell you how good a fighter is, as he himself has proven by winning 18 of his subsequent 19 contests.
Unlike Amagasa, Rufino doesn't hold a really notable win. His best victories are over the likes of Adones Aguelo and Rene Bestudio. He does however deserve major credit for his losses to Aleksander Bajawa, Naoki Matsuda, in an absolute thriller, and Sipho Taliwe all on the road. A number of which could easily have gone in his favour.
It's fights with South African Taliwe that really show how competitive this bout is. Taliwe gave the popular Daud Yordan a very close fight last year and with Rufino arguably deserving of two victories we refuse to write him off.
Whilst we won't write off Rufino we do think he'll struggle with the both the power and reach of Amagasa. The Japanese fighter is almost 5" taller than the Filipino, much rangier and a very solid hitter. If he uses his strengths then Amagasa should box off the jab, fire in powerful straights and slowly break down Rufino.
Rufino, to his credit, will try and get inside the champion and rough him up with his under-rated power and strength. If Rufino gets his way this could turn into a genuine war and a FOTY contender though the question is whether or not he can get inside. If he can't there is only one winner and it's not the brave and under-rated challenger.
We'll be picking the obvious choice in Amagasa though we do not expect this to be easy for him and we'd expect a least a few hairy moments for the champion who will know he's been in a real fight at the end of it.
This fight is one of two title fights on the same card, the other is the very good looking Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Hidenori Otake and Takafumi Nakajima.
(Photo courtesy of Boxmob)
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.