This coming Sunday Japanese Heavyweight hopeful Brandon Mitsuro Tajima (1-0, 1) will attempt to etch his name into the history books by setting a new record for the fewest fights needed to win a Japanese title, as he faces Sung Min Lee (7-2-1, 2) for the vacant Japanese Heavyweight title, in just his 2nd professional bout. The bout, which is to crown only the 4th ever Japanese Heavyweight champion, will be headlining at the EDION Arena Osaka with Tajima looking to become the new face of the Japanese Heavyweight scene, following on from former champion Kyotaro Fujimoto.
Before we talk about the specific bout we really do need to look at what Tajima is looking to achieve. So far the record for fewest fights to win a Japanese title, at least for men, is set at 4 fights and has been achieved by some legitimate legends, such as Naoya Inoue, Akinobu Hiranaka and Joichiro Tasuyoshi, with international fighters who fought out of Japan, with James Callaghan and Modesty Napunyi having achieved the feat. To see Tajima not just trying to beat that record, but essentially half it, really is a statement of belief and trust in him from his team, including promoter Koki Kameda.
Prior to beginning his professional carer Tajima was a very notable amateur on the Japanese scene, winning a number of domestic titles whilst running up a very solid 42-9 (20) record in the unpaid ranks, whilst fighting 81KG’s, 178.574lbs. Stood at just shy of 6' he's a small Heavyweight, and if he was fighting in the West he would likely be making his name at Light Heavyweight if not Super Middleweight, but in Japan he is a legitimately big guy, albeit one carrying some extra pounds of body weight. He's a Brazilian-Japanese fighter who is strong, skilled, powerful and quick, and whilst his tools likely won't take him to major international success he does like he has what's needed to make a massive mark on the domestic scene, and the regional scene.
In the ring it's hard to say too much about Tajima, at least as a professional fighter. His debut lasted less than a minute, and whilst he looked incredible powerful it's fair to say that his opponent, Sang Ho Kim, offered absolutely nothing. Tajima could have done anything he wished and won here, and we can only assume he wished to get this over with quickly, taking just 56 seconds to take out Kim. The bout was a cameo, but showed Tajima had solid guard, hand speed and heavy body shots in his arsenal. Tools he'll be looking to show off again here.
Aged 31 Sung Min Lee, who gets the chance to fight for a Japanese title due to very specific rules regarding fighters from OPBF regions being able to win national titles that aren't their own, has been a professional since 2017 and has previously won the Korean title, though has fallen out of form recently. He debuted in 2017 with a win, but lost his second professional bout. From his 1-1 start he turned things around well, stringing together 6 straight wins before going 0-1-1 in his last two bouts, with a draw against Hyun Tae Bae in 2020 and a loss last time out to Ja Sung Jo, back in December 2020. With those results it is now more than 3 years since Lee last won a bout, and he is 1-1-1 in his last 3, in bouts that could well have all gone against him.
Unlike most Heavyweights out there Lee doesn't have much power and his 5'11" frame looks podgy rather than of an athlete. Quite often he has clear fat rolls on his belt line and he looks like someone who could boil down to Cruiserweight if he tried. He not only lacks power but also work rate, and he doesn't set a high tempo. He is however tough, he takes a good shot and he responds in kind with shots of his own. He's gritty, he's determined and as fights go on his will to win shines as he looks to take fights to his opponent. It was that will to win that saw him play his part in a thrilling 10 round war with Hyun Tae Bae in 2020. Sadly though his will doesn't make up for his relative lack of skill, and he's open to counter shots, he slaps a lot and his footwork is trudging. He's very much a Korean tough guy who can box a bit in a paper thing division, than a true heavyweight boxer.
With Lee being tough we suspect he will last longer than Kim did against Tajima, but we can't see Lee posing much of a test for the Japanese hopeful. We see the lack of foot work, the open defense and the poor stamina and speed as all playing into Tajima's strengths. We expect Tajima to press forward behind a high guard, get a look at what Lee is offering, and then pick him apart with single heavy shots before raising the tempo when Lee is hurt to close the show.
Tajima is no body beautiful. He looks like a man carrying 20-30lbs too much weight, but a bit like Andy Ruiz it's clear that he is a much better boxer than his body would have one to believe and Tajima could well end up being a notable name on the regional scene. Sadly though that seems to be the best he can become unless he intends to leave Japan, drop the excess weight and fight in a weight class better suited to his body. At this level however, carrying the excess weight isn't going to do him any harm at all,
Prediction - TKO2 Tajima
Earlier this year Kyotaro Fujimoto vacated the Japanese Heavyweight title, to pursue bigger and better fighters, including the upcoming bout with Daniel Dubois. As a result of Kyotaro's decision we now have no Japanese Heavyweight champion, though that will change on December 15th when Kotatsu Takehara (15-12-3, 8) and Ryu Ueda (8-1-1, 5) battle for the vacant title, in what will be a second bout between the two men.
The 41 year old Takehara twice came up short against Fujimoto in shots at the Japanese title, and also lost in 2014 to Nobuhiro Ishida in what was essentially an eliminator for the title. Since then he has gone 5-1 (4) and made the most of a JBC rule change regarding the age of a fighter. Although no world beater he is a rare Japanese Heavyweight who is a natural Heavyweight, and hasn't been under the Heavyweight limit since 2005, when he managed to fighter as a Cruiserweight. He's also, notably, had international experience with fights in Australia, USA and China, and has shared the ring with genuinely notable names. Among those to have fought Takehara are Alex Leapai, Magomed Abdusalamov, Johann Duhaupas and Lucas Browne.
Although Takehara has never been the quickest, the strongest or the most powerful he is certainly slower and clumsier than he once was and at 41 years old he is unable to fight at a high pace. His 2018 bout with China's Zhiyu Wu was certainly not a Heavyweight classic, with both looking exhausted, out of shape and very limited. What he is however is an experienced fighter, he picks his shots well and seems to realise his limitations. Rather than setting a high pace he'll fight conservatively, waiting for his moments to strike. It's a tactic that suits him, but one that can cost him against busier or younger fighters.
The 27 year old Ueda is more of a Light Heavyweight, come Cruiserweight, come Heavyweight than a natural Heavyweight. He began his career weighing 180lbs back in 2014 and has blown up the high 220's. Despite the weight increase he has actually got the height to be a natural Heavyweight, standing at around 6'4". Notably Ueda's one professional loss came in to Takehara back in 2016, but since then he has gone 3-0-1 (3) with wins against a pair of Korean fighters and once against domestic foe Yamato Fujinaka back in April this year.
Footage of Ueda has, at times, been hard to find though what is available shows a guy who looks like an athlete. He's in shape, he looks like he could have done other things and he looks really exciting. He's a southpaw boxer who looks the part. That until he starts actually fighting and we realise he's someone who is uncoordinated, clumsy and not the athlete he looks to be. He over balances, he swings around the house, fights with a low guard, fights in straight lines and over reaches. For someone who visually looks the part before he throws a punch, he really is worryingly bad.
Although Ueda is younger, taller, fresher we see him being stopped again here, with Takehara picking the better shots and breaking down the youngster, to claim the Japanese title and the biggest win of his career.
Prediction - TKO7 Takehara
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.