On December 7th we'll see a really interesting Japanese Super Featherweight title fight, as the defending champion Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) takes on former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (19-5, 16). On paper this is a bout that, if Sueyoshi wins, will likely see him begin an ascent towards a world title fight, whilst Saka will know that a win brings him a second Japanese divisional title, and set up a very interesting first defense at the 2020 Champion Carnival against Takuya Watanabe.
The once beaten champion is on a 17 unbeaten run, going 16-0-1 (8) with 4 defenses already under his belt. Whilst he hasn't always shone as the champion, and certainly doesn't appear to have found that new level that title holders often find, he has shown enough to suggest that he can get beyond this level, though may well need to see the stakes rise to get the best out of him. He is a smart boxer-moved, with a very odd and unique sense of distance and range. He looks talented, is a sharp puncher, but often a bit too negative to really enjoy watching, no matter how skilled he is.
At his best Sueyoshi is a brilliant counter puncher. His 2017 KO win over Allan Vallespin is one of the best KO's we've seen in years, but at his worst he struggles to make opponents make mistakes and can't always force the fight himself. We've seen him twice fail to shine against Ken Osato, winning the first in 8 rounds against a tired Osato and struggling to a majority decision in a rematch. He very much needs the right type of dance partner to look great against, but is a genuine talent and if given an aggressive foe he can look sensational.
In Kosuke Saka we'll Sueyoshi take on a legitimate puncher, but a flawed puncher and someone who hasn't looked great in recent performances. Saka has been a professional since 2012 and suffered his first loss to Masayuki Ito in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, incidentally Sueyoshi suffered loss to Ito in the same tournament, and his career really struggled afterwards with Saka losing 2 of his 4 bouts following the Ito bout. Those losses were however followed by a strong run of results as Saka beat the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima and Shota Hayashi, to become the Japanese Featherweight champion. As the time it seemed his career was going places, and he had stopped 8 in a row, but then he lost the title when he mentally switched off and lost to Takenori Ohashi. Since the loss to Ohashi we've seen Saka going 3-1 but a loss in 2 rounds to Joe Noynay certainly suggested that he'd become a bit of a glass cannon.
Saka, at his best, is a wrecking machine, but we've not really seen that in recent bouts, with losses to Ohashi and Noynay leaving us with more questions about Saka, his concentration levels and his willingness to dig deep.
Given how Saka is a naturally smaller, aggressive, slugger, he has the style that Sueyoshi should be very happy facing. Yes Saka is dangerous, he's a legitimate brute of a puncher, but Sueyoshi should get a lot of chances to counter him, and catch him with some very clean shots as Saka comes forward. There's a chance Sueyoshi gets caught, and we do have doubts over Sueyoshi's chin, but we suspect this will end up being a bit of a showcase performance from the champion who will take out Saka with a perfect counter right hand in the middle rounds.
Predictions - TKO7 Sueyoshi
The Champion Carnival in 2020 is still having it's eliminators and title bouts being fought for through November and December. Among the bouts that are left are a Japanese title fighter, between Masaru Sueyoshi and Kosuke Saka, which is set to take place in December, and an eliminator between Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) and Takuya Watanabe (36-9-1, 21), with the winners fighting next year. Whilst the title bout is an excellent match up, we wouldn't be surprised by the eliminator actually being the better bout, pitting a true puncher against one of the most insanely tough guys in the sport.
The 28 year old Minamoto is a former Japanese Featherweight champion, and is someone who left his previous division due to issues making weight. Hisreign was a short one, beginning in April 2018 and ending after just 2 defenses, when he vacated following a draw with Reiya Abe. Despite the short reign reign he left an impression, winning the title in an excellent performance against Takenori Ohashi and pulling himself off the canvas to stop Tatsuya Otsubo and then twice dropping Abe to earn a draw. Prior to winning the Featherweight title he had challenged for the Super Bantamweight belt, but been beaten by Yukinori Oguni, before moving up.
As a fighter Minamoto is a very good boxer-puncher. He's got real venom in every shot he throws, he sets a good work rate and has under-rated speed. He's good at getting behind his jab and working at range, boxing and moving. Where he lacks, is just touches of polish, and if he had that polish there's a good chance he'd have taken the win over Abe. He's defensively a little bit open, though usually his offensive work keeps opponents from taking advantage of those flaws. To date his chin has proven to be generally good, and it's unlikely the extra 4lbs will be a major issue in how he takes a punch, but he has been down in the past, and can get dragged into a toe-to-toe brawl. Something that is not good for him.
Watanabe has been around or years, and it's genuinely hard to believe that he's only 30 years old. The teak tough Watanabe has been around, and around, and actually debuted way back in 2007. His career has been a road less travelled, and he has legitimately fought through much of Asia with bouts not only in Japan but also Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Given he such a road warrior it's worth noting he's actually had success on his travels, though is best known for his bloody and brave effort against Jae Sung Lee than any road win. His bout with Lee was a genuine blood bath with Watanabe bleeding profusely from very early on. Despite his long career he's never been stopped, and has gone the distance in all of his losses, including defeats to Satoshi Hosono, Masayuki Ito and most recently Hironori Mishiro.
Watanabe is a very capable boxer. He's got solid size, power, speed and very impressive toughness. Sadly though being solid in all areas doesn't make you great in them, and his toughness alone won't win all fights. He can be out boxed, as Ito and Mishiro did, and he can be out fought, though fighters will have to go through hell to outfight him. Like Watanabe he prefer to box than fight, though perhaps he would have had more career success if he had been a fighter and swarmed opponents bringing them into a war and testing his toughness against theirs. Sadly it does appear that Watnaabe is slowing down, and although he was competitive, at times, with Mishiro he lacked the foot speed to really push Mishiro all the way when the two men fought back in March.
At his best Watanabe is a nightmare for anyone at domestic level, and we would love to see him to go up against either Sueyoshi or Saka, though unfortunately we do think he's slipped a little. Against a fighter like Minamoto, who can box at range and land sharp shots, we see Watanabe struggling for sustained success. We do see Watanabe having moments, but not enough of them to convince the judges that he's doing enough to win. Up close Watanabe has the ability to out work and slow Minamoto's foot work down, but we don't imagine that happening early enough for Watanabe to ever be in control of the bout. Instead we see Minamoto as a little bit too good, too light on his feet and too quick.
Prediction - UD8 Minamoto
The Super Featherweight division in Japan is a really interesting one. Not only is there Masayuki Ito, who defends the WBO world title later this month against Jamel Herring, but also the likes of Hironori Mishiro, Kosuke Saka, Takuya Watanabe and, of course, Japanese national champion Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11).
This coming weekend Sueyoshi looks returns to the ring to defend his title against mandatory challenger Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4). This will be a rematch from a 2018 clash that saw Sueyoshi being dropped before battling back to stop Osato in the 8th round of a very interesting match up. That first bout, despite being a win for Sueyoshi, did leave enough doubt that a rematch, down the line, would remain intriguing. If they fought again could Osato finish off Sueyoshi? Or would Sueyoshi manage to control the bout better if they fought a second time and avoid the trouble he was in first time around?
For those who haven't seen Sueyoshi before he's a talented, though frustrating, boxer. He's an excellent judge of distance with good movement, sharp punching and good ring control. He's often seen on the back foot, dictating the tempo of the bout with smart half steps. He doesn't have amazing power, but that's slightly misleading, as he does hit hard when he sits on his shots, something that he rarely does. If he sat on shots more he could do real damage, but instead he relies on his foot work, and is regularly shifting his weight backwards, relying more on speed than power.
At 28 years old we're not expecting Sueyoshi to reinvent himself. He can tweak his style but will never reinvent the wheel. He will always be a fighter with a good technical brain, but a fighter who relies on his speed, accuracy and counter punching, rather than his power and aggression. It can make his bouts frustrating to watch at times, but has seen him going unbeaten for well over 6 years, since losing a split decision to Masayuki Ito back in his 4th bout.
If we're being honest Osato isn't a fighter who looks like he will progress beyond Japanese level, however at just 24 he is likely to have a long and credible career in the domestic title scene. He's proven to be a more aggressive fighter than Sueyoshi, with some a style that has plenty of aggression to it. Despite that he's not the crispest of punchers often firing shots with a slappy style, and although he does have a solid hook it does look like it could be tightened up significantly, and would be much more potent if hee did shorten it. He's a lot more rigid than Sueyoshi, and not only suffers in terms of general movement but also in stamina, often fighting with a tense style, rather than relaxing in the ring. That was certainly shown the first time he fought Sueyoshi, where the tension seemed to sap his energy, and he really struggled in the second half of the fight, if he can change that he does have a chance.
Although we don't imagine Osato moving beyond domestic level that isn't an insult and he could well surprise Sueytoshi. He does hit hard enough to hurt the champion, he's talented enough to land, and to land regularly on Sueyoshi, but it's hard to imagine him winning against someone like Sueyoshi on a regular basis. He's too tense, too likely to drain himself and not the type of fighter who has shown that he can clearly put on 10 good rounds. A lot of his bouts have been close and it's to imagine him putting on 8 or 10 really good rounds one after the other.
We know Osato can hurt Sueyoshi, and can be dangerous, but we can't imagine Sueysohi will be too good, too smart and too tricky for Osato. We suspect Osato will have success early, as he did the first time around, but we expect to see the same winner as last time. We'd be very surprised if Osato scored the win here. The real question is whether he does better than last time, and we suspect he probably will. We're still expecting him to lose, but we're not expecting him to get stopped.
Prediction UD10 Sueyoshi
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.