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 title challengers for the 2020 Champion Carnival are mostly set now, with only 2 eliminators yet to be fought. One of those, the Super Flyweight bout, will take place on December 22nd but before that, on December 15th, we get a truly mouth watering bout at Light Flyweight. The bout will see the flawed, but heavy handed, Masamichi Yabuki (9-3, 9) take on sensational youngster Rikito Shiba (4-0, 2), with the winner likely to be getting a crack at Yuto Takahashi in the new year. This is a bout that might not set alarm bells ringing for those who don't follow the Japanese scene, however those who do follow the domestic scene will know that this is a bout to get very excited about.
At 27 years old Yabuki is the older of the two fighters, and the man regarded as the better puncher. He made his debut back in 2016 and began to make a name for himself almost immediately, scoring 3 quick blow out wins to reach the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, fighting at Flyweight. Sadly for Yabuki his winning run would come to an end in the Rookie final where he lost a decision to a then 8-0 Junto Nakatani, who has obviously shown his ability since then. A second run of blow outs, including an opening round win over Masashi Tada, came to an end in 2018 when he was himself stopped inside a round by Seigo Yuri Akui. Since then he has gone 3-1, with notable wins against Gilberto Pedroza and Ryuto Oho and a loss to the very talented Daniel Matellon.
Despite being a puncher Yabuki isn't an overtly aggressive or risky fighter. Instead he's a heavy handed boxer-puncher. He boxes, rather than fights, and it's his boxing that opens the door for his KO's thanks to how heavy his punches are and how smart he is with his punches, often fighting more as a counter puncher than the aggressor, bringing fighters on to his shots, rather than chasing them. Whilst he is talented we did see him being out boxed by Daniel Matellon, and it was a much clearer win than the score-cards suggested. His issue at times is he's sometimes not active enough, and seems to fight like his power is enough to win any fight. It's always worth noting that he did come up on the wrong end when Akui dragged him into a fire fight, and questions will remain about his chin, especially as he's dropping down in weight for this fight.
Aged 24 Shiba won his first title earlier this year, taking the Japanese Youth title last time out. Despiute being a professional novice he was a solid amateur, running up a 38-13 record in the unpaid ranks and captained his university team. His amateur reputation was so strong that he was quickly put into a B class tournament, winning the tournament final in his second bout, and then earned a shot at the Japanese Youth title as part of a 4 man tournament. Although he's only 4-0 he has shown more in those 4 fights than many fighters show in significantly more fights, and he has proven he can box, he can brawl, he can counter puncher and he's a real natural talent.
Watching Shiba in action we see a super talented youngster who looks as good going backwards as he does getting on the front foot. He changes gears with ease and finds holes for shots that most wouldn't have seen. As well his versatility we're always impressed by his footwork and movement, and he creates the space he needs with such ease. There is often a sense, when watching him, that he needs a challenge to get the best out of him, and we don't think we've seen him at 100% yet. Whilst he is impressive there are areas for him to work on, and he has been seen as being a little bit of a show boater at times, looking bored at others and over confident. That's something we expect to see less from him when he steps up in class.
We've enjoyed seeing both men so far and coming into this one it really does have that 50-50 type edge to it. It's a bout where the naturally smaller, but more talented, fighter takes on a naturally bigger, stronger and more powerful fighter, and they are often hard ones to predict. The key question coming into this bout however is whether or not Yabuki can comfortably make 108lbs. If he can we expect something special as he looks to counter Shiba's speed and movement with his heavy body and timing. If making weight takes too much out of him though this could end up being a rather prolonged beating for Yabuki.
Prediction - Shiba UD8
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 main event of November's Dynamic Glove will be a Japanese Light Middleweight title bout as Hironobu Matsunaga defends his belt against Koki Koshikawa, interesting the winner of that bout will know their next opponent before their own fight. That's because the show's chief support bout is a Japanese Light Middleweight title eliminator pitting former champion Nobuyuki Shindo (20-5-2, 8) against Yuto Shimizu (13-4-2, 5), and the winners will be expected to face off at the Champion Carnival next year.
On paper this doesn't scream excitement or a great fight, but in reality both fighters are under-rated and, with the right dance partners, they can make for some sensational fights due to their flaws. This is seen most notable with Shindo who has been in his share of fantastic over the last few years.
The 33 year old Shindo is a physical freak at 6'1" and has the added benefit of being a southpaw, a very gangly and long southpaw. He's not a particularly big puncher, but he lands from really unusual angles and is a very relaxed fighter who can take punishment, and can dish it out. His 2018 bouts with Ryosuke Maruki and Akinori Watanabe, particularly the Watanabe one, were fantastic and showed what can happen when he's forced into a fight. Sadly his effort last time out, when he lost the Japanese Light Middleweight title to Matsunaga, was disappointing and looked like he was on the way out, but this fight will make it clear what he has left in the tank.
At his best Shindo looks to use his size and box behind a busy jab, using his legs and keeping distance between him an dhis opponent. Although not a powerful fighter he does throw crisp shots, and his straight left hand is a genuinely damaging punch whilst his jab is a shot that can control fights. Sadly though he can struggle on the inside and if fighters get at him they can legitimately get to him and break him down.
The 31 year old Yuto Shimizu will be viewing this bout as a opportunity to secure his second title fight, following a loss in a Japanese title fight in 2016 to Yuki Nonaka. Since his loss to Nonaka we've not seen Shimizu being active, with only 3 bouts, but he has proven his value with 2 excellent bouts, a win and a loss, against Charles Bellamy. Prior to facing Nonaka we had also been impressive by Shimizu thanks to wins over the likes of Hikaru Nishida, a win that has aged wonderfully, Toru Chiba, Takehiro Shimokawara and Yosuke Kirima. Those may not be big wins outside of Japan but in Japan they are very good domestic level wins.
Shimizu, like Shindo, is a freak at the weight with a very wiry frame. His punching isn't as crisp as Shindo's, and in fact his hands look really slow, but he's tough, has more power on his shots than Shindo and seems more consistent, with his overall output. He has more to him than his jabs and straights and has a capable, if not incredible inside game. Where he struggles however is that he looks to be a slow starter and in both of his bouts with Charles Bellamy he looked really slow to get going. When he got up to speed he never looked sensation, but looked consistent and was willing to go war.
To us this feels like one of those bouts where Shindo has the type of opponent to look fun with. Shimizu is flawed, very flawed, but comes forward and will be looking to force the fight to be fought on the inside. Early on that won't work and Shindo will make the most of his edge in speed, though as the bout goes on we see Shimizu getting more success, getting closer and out working Shimizu with heavier shots. It's just a case of whether he can start that charge early enough and whether he can keep up with Shimdo's movement. Out guess is it will be too little too late from Shimizu, and Shindo will be the one getting a chance to reclaim the Japanese title next year.
Prediction - SD8 Shindo
Whilst many of the Japanese title eliminator bouts this year look like good bouts, even if few look great, the odd one does look like a mismatch, where we feel confident who know who will be the challenger for the Champion Carnival next year. One bout that looks like a mismatch is the Welterweight bout, which will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) taking on Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6).
Obara is, of course, the more well known fighter. He is a former Japanese Light Welterweight champion, a former OPBF Light Welterweight champion and a former WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight champion. He has fought outside of Japan 3 times, fighting to a controversial draw in 2015 with Walter Castillo, being knocked out of the ring in a world title fight against Eduard Troyanovsky and being beaten by Kudratillo Abdukakhorov earlier this year. He also went somewhat viral thanks to his first bout with Alvin Lagumbay, which featured a dramatic double knockdown.
In the ring Obara is a talented fighter. He's a good boxer puncher, and although he's not world class he is a very capable fighter. He's really solid in terms of his boxing and his power is nasty at the regional level. Sadly his issue is his chin, and 3 of his 4 losses have seen him being stopped, including dramatic and very visual losses to Troyanovsky and Lagumbay. He's also not the quickest, which allowed Abdukakhorov to out box him relatively easily back in March. Despite his flaws it does take a good fighter to over-come him, and the general feeling is that he's still the best Welterweight in Japan, despite the recent rise of domestic champion Yuki Nagano.
At 25 years old Tarumi is someone who is relatively unknown outside of those who actively follow the Japanese scene, and even then he's still got a relatively limited profile. He debuted in 2014 and fought to 3 draws in his first 4 bouts. Worse yet he was 3-2-3 after 8 fights, an odd record to say the least. Since then however he has gone 9-1, with his only loss coming to the current national champion Yuki Nagano, as part of Nagano's current 15 fight winning run. In those 9 wins he has scored some solid domestic victories, with wins over the likes of Noriaki Sato, Takashi Inagaki and Shusaku Fujinaka, twice.
From the footage of Tarumi that's out there he looks a genuinely capable fighter, who has has plenty to like about him. He moves well around the ring, has a decent jab and throws some solid combinations. Where he lacks though is in terms of that extra something. He's not the most aggressive, he's not razor sharp with his punches and he's not got serious power. He's good, and he's likely to be a future fixture on the domestic title picture, but there's little there to really challenge someone like Obara.
We expect to see Tarumi coming out to fight, but lacking the tools needed to really test Obara who will get behind his jab, dial in his straights and slowly, but surely, break down Tarumi. Tarumi will be there to win, but will be broken down and stopped in the later rounds from the heavy hands of Obara.
Prediction - TKO7 Obara
The bouts to decide who will be challenging for Japanese titles at next year's Champion Carnival are a mixed bag this year, with one of the most interesting on paper being the Lightweight bout between Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) and Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2). On paper both are novices, with less than 10 bouts each, but both fighters were capable amateurs, have proven to be talented professionals, and although both are flawed those flaws should make for a compelling match up.
Of the two we'd argue Saito is the more well known. The 27 year old from the Kadoebi gym, is an incredibly talented boxer-puncher, with one huge flaw. His chin.
Saito moves brilliantly around the ring has gorgeous sharp offense, wonderful combinations and looks like a natural in the ring, until he gets hit. When he gets tagged there's a real worry he'll go down, and he doesn't seem to recover quickly when he does get hurt. He's been down in several fights, and was stopped by Pharanpetch Tor Buamas after going down twice in round 2. Whilst having a poor chin hasn't prevented some fighters from reaching the top of the sport, we do see that as the big issue with Saito and what will likely prevent him from reaching the levels that his skills should have taken him too.
As an amateur Saito was really good, going 83-14, and you can see that amateur background when he fights. Unfortunately the smaller gloves have exposed his lack of durability and in some ways he's like a Japanese domestic level Jorge Linares. Talented, but lacking the toughness to back up his skills.
Tomioka on the other hand is very different. The 22 year old is a pure outside fighter, jabbing, moving, spoiling on the inside and getting back behind his long jab. He started his career at Super Featherweight but quickly moved up to Lightweight and in 2018 gave Masayoshi Nakatani a really competitive fight, before being stopped in the 11th round. Sadly he followed that up with a less than enthralling bout against Shuya Masaki, losing that by split decision. As with Saito it's fair to say that Tomioka is an incredible skilled fighter, and he really is, but like Saito he has a major flaw. Tomioka really lacks the physical side of the game, lacking power. The lack of power means that whilst he can win rounds on his he struggles to keep opponents at bay, and fighters will feel happy to take risks against him if they feel the need to.
Tomioka will be looking to keep this bout at range, moving and keeping up his effort for the scheduled 8 rounds. He's done 8 a number of times, and went into the 11th with Nakatani, but will likely need to be able to land a straight behind his jab to make Saito think twice. Whilst Tomioka is rather feather fisted he likely has got enough power to keep Saito honest, if he actually lets a power or two go.
We're expecting to see Tomioka attempt to set the tempo, and try to keep it at range, but due to a lack of activity and an unwillingness to let his bigger shots go we'll see Saito get into the bout, and after 8 rounds we suspect Saito will have done enough to earn the decision. This might not be pretty at times, but we expect a very close, competitive and intriguing match up, that is open to debate on the scoring.
Interestingly the winner of this may find themselves with a chance to become a triple champion next year, as current Japanese champion Shuichiro Yoshino holds not only the Japanese title but also the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. There's a chance he vacates one, or two, of those belts but if not that would mean the winner of this will get a massive bout next year.
Prediction SD8 Saito.
On October 26th at the Korakuen Hall we'll get a host of Japanese title eliminators, included in those is an excellent Featherweight bout between rising youngster Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) and former Japanese champion Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11), who will be clashing to decide who challenges for the title next year at during the Champion Carnival.
Of the two men it's certainly Maruta who is the more talented and has the more upside. He's a 22 year old who turned professional with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. The expectation hasn't been fulfilled yet, but he has shown a lot of ability and already holds notable wins against the likes of Jason Canoy, Wilbert Berondo, Joe Tejones, Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. His one loss came in an OPBF title fight to Hidenori Otake, in a bout that came a little bit too early, whilst his draw was a controversial one in the Philippines against Ben Mananquil.
In the ring Maruta is a real talent, and is incredibly skilled. He's a long, lean fighter, with nasty power in his shots, fantastic speed and a developing professional style. Early in his career there was question marks about his in ring mentality, often waiting too long and being a touch lazy, not getting on the front foot enough or letting his hands go. More recently he has been letting shots go, using his jab to keep opponents at range and showing an extra gear to his in ring work. There is still a slightly over cautious approach to what he does, but it is changing and he has shown an ability to force the fight more than reacting to it. Naturally he's a counter punching outside fighter, waiting for mistakes, but there is a fighter in there, even if it's not been on show often enough. If, or when, he unlocks his aggressive side he will be a very hard man to beat.
At 30 years old Ohashi is pretty much in the "must win" stage of his career. He is, as mentioned, a former Japanese champion though won the title in a weird circumstances after Kosuke Saka misheard the bell and got knocked out back in 2017. In his first defense Ohashi was given a genuine beating by Taiki Minamoto, and stopped whilst well down on the cards. Since then he has picked up a couple of wins, but looked poor in both performance, especially last time out when he was being outboxed by Shun Wakabayashi, before scoring one of the best KO's of 2019.
In the ring Ohashi is slow, cumbersome and deliberate. He can be hit, he can be out boxed, and he's really basic. He does however have a real equaliser in his mitts and his punching power makes him a genuine danger, to the very end of the bout. His KO of Wakabayashi completely bailed him out against a fighter who showed an easy way to beat him. Box, move, use your feet and keep it simple. If you can avoid the power of Ohashi you can beat him.
Given the styles of the two men involved this really doesn't look like it will be competitive. We suspect that Maruta will be too quick, too smart, too sharp and too good. As long as he can avoid the right hand of Ohashi he should make this look very, very easy. On paper it would be his biggest win, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was also one of his easiest, and will look like a sparring session almost.
Prediction - Maruta UD8
The 2020 edition of the Japanese boxing Champion Carnival is slowly coming together with Gakuya Furuhashi and Masataka Taniguchi already booking themselves Japanese title shots in the new year. This coming Saturday we'll see 4 more fighters claiming mandatory positions for Japanese title fights, with a host of eliminators taking place at the Korakuen Hall. One of those eliminators will be at Bantamweight and will see an interesting match up between Kyosuke Sawada (13-2-1, 6) and Kazuki Tanaka (11-2, 8).
On paper this isn't one of the most appealing bouts, given that both have already suffered a couple of losses and neither is a "big" name in regards to being an emerging force on the Japanese scene. The reality however is that the bout is set to be an excellent, hotly contested and very exciting one between two well matched, yet flawed, fighters with good amateur backgrounds.
Of the two Sawada is there more experienced professional, with 16 bouts since his 2013 debut, he is also the one who has had the bigger turn around with his career and the more peculiar record. He debuted in 2013 and lost to Yusuke Suzuki, the current Japanese Bantamweight champion, and lost in his second professional bout to Hiroaki Teshigawara, who currently holds the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. Since then he has gone 13-0-1 and beaten everyone he has faced, beating Keita Nakano in their second clash. Not only has he been on a good run after a very rocky start but he's picking up wins against solid domestic opponents, such as Kenta Okumura, Yuta Horiike, Kinshiro Usui and recent Japanese title challenger Yosuke Fujihara.
In the ring Sawada is a usually a technically sound fighter, with nice speed, clever footwork and a good jab who looks to fight at mid range. He's not usually the most exciting of fighters to watch, but he does gauge distance well and, with the right dance partner, he can be in some very fun bouts. Although Sawada does lack power he does land clean shots, and does so regularly, with an excellent work rate. It's also worth noting that while he is usually an outside fighter Sawada can hold his own on the inside, as we saw against Usui, with sharp clean punching and intelligent upper body movement. It's not something we often see from him, but it is something that's in his arsenal.
Tanaka is a 26 year old who made his debut in late 2014 and was tipped as a major star for the Green Tsuda gym, following a 63-14 amateur record. Sadly he has failed to live up to the early expectations, but has shown enough to remain a contender on the domestic scene. His career began with 7 straight wins, though alarm bells did ring a little bit when he struggled to get past Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. Since then he has gone 5-2, suffering stoppage losses to Ryohei Takahashi and Keita Kurihara with both losses showing he's not someone who can cope with being put under genuine pressure and isn't particularly durable.
Although not the toughest fighter out there Tanaka isn't actually a bad fighter. Technically he's solid, his amateur background shows when he's in the ring with a nice sharp jab, light feet and heavy hands. His right hand is a damaging and has got good understanding of distance. If you let him dictate the tempo he can look very good, and very strong with good balance. Sadly for Tanaka his competition in recent bouts has been poor, and since losing to Keita Kurihara in 2018 he has only scored 2 low level wins as he's looked to rebuild his confidence.
We believe that Tanaka has got the power to cause Sawada issues, but given recent form and how the fighters have bounced back from their setbacks it's hard not to imagine Sawada being the favourite. Sawada's all-round game seems better, his speed and ring craft are just a touch better. Tanaka certainly has the edge in power, but Sawada had the edge in tougness and we suspect that'll get him through some rough patches on route to a clear, but competitive, decision win.
Prediction - UD8 Sawada
Over the next few weeks we get a lot of Japanese title eliminators, as we find out who will be challenging for Japanese titles at the Champion Carnival in 2020. Whilst some of those are more attractive match ups than others one that looks like it could be a lot of fun is the Light Welterweight bout between Cristiano Aoqui (14-7-2, 10) and Daishi Nagata (13-2-1, 5). On paper this might not look like a great bout, but in reality we are expecting this to be one of the best eliminators this year, with the styles of the two men expected to gel perfectly.
Of the two men it's the Aoqui who is the more experienced professional. He turned professional back in 2006 and with 23 pro bouts under his belt the 30 year old puncher is a bit of a veteran. His record is certainly not great on paper, but losses to the likes of Valentine Hosokawa (SD8), Hiroki Okada (TD9) and Koki Inoue (RTD 2) are certainly nothing particularly shameful. Instead that show the level he has been competing at the last few years and there's certainly one or two of his career defeats that could easily have gone his way.
In the ring Aoqui isn't the most skilled, or the smoothest, but he is an entertaining fighter, with explosive power, an exciting and aggressive style. When he gets opponents hurt he goes for the kill with quick, heavy hitting combinations looking to take them out without giving them a chance to recover. Whilst it is the exciting combinations from Aoqui that catch the eye he does box well, using a good jab to open the door for his power shots, moving well and setting a solid tempo from start to end. He's always looking to get on the front foot and set the pace of the bout. As well as being aggressive Aoqui is quite flawed, he can be hit, and he can also been caught coming forward. Those defensive flaws, alongside his aggression, is why he makes for such good fights, and is a very TV friendly fighter.
Although less experienced as a professional Nagata was a solid amateur, running up a solid 41-21 (11) record, and he won the 2012 All Japan champion. He turned professional with pretty loft expectations on his shoulders, and those expectations didn't fade despite a draw on his debut, to Takeshi Inoue no less. Since then Nagata has been consistently matched tough, struggling with some opponents that he perhaps faced a little bit too early in his career. Those tough bouts have however toughened him up and last year we saw him give Rikki Naito all he could handle in an excellent bout for the OPBF Light Welterweight title, losing a split decision to Naito. In the bout with Naito we saw Nagata answer a lot of questions and prove what a good boxer he was, and show his will to win.
In the ring Nagata is a smart pressure fighter, he brings the pressure behind intelligent footwork and good jabs, pressing for openings, looking for gaps to strike in and mentally challenging his opponents. It's not the all action pressure of some other fighters, but it's a very clear style that is based around making opponents work hard for their space and their opportunities. Defensively he's relatively tight with his guard, but he can be hit through it and around it, and he is open to over hand rights, as we saw against Naito. He seems to be able to take a decent shot, but there are question marks about his overall durability given how he was essentially bullied and battered by Vladimir Baez in his first defeat.
Given that Aoqui likes to box at a high tempo, and unleash combinations, and Nagata applies a lot of forward movement, we're expecting to see the two men in range a lot, and trading blows in some thrilling sequences. If the power of Aoqui can trouble Nagata then this could be a short but thrilling action bout, but we're not expecting Aoqui to blow through his foe. Instead we suspect the jab of Nagata will offset Aoqui's power early on and we'll end up with a very exciting back and forth, in a bout that is very, very hard to call.
Prediction SD8 Nagata
The 2020 Champion Carnival is slowly starting to come together and at the end of August we saw the Japanese title challenger decision bouts being announced. Before that announcement there was several already on the docket, including a Minimumweight eliminator between former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) and hard hitting youngster Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6), with the winner to get a shot in early 2020.
Of the two fighters Taniguchi is the much more proven and established. He's a former Japanese, OPBF and world title challenger and a former WBO Asia Pacific champion and has mixed with the likes of Reiya Konishi, Vic Saludar, Tsubasa Koura and Joel Lino. Before turning professional he was a solid amateur and was tipped for major success, but that success hasn't yet come. Notably he is still only 25, and despite the set backs through his career he still has time on his side, if he's still hungry enough to make the most of his talent. That hunger is however a big question and there is a chance that his losses have killed some of that desire to be a champion.
In terms of skill and style Taniguchi is an highly skilled boxer-puncher. Fighting out of southpaw stance Taniguchi is an aggressive fighter who judges distance well, fights behind a sharp jab and has under-rated speed and movement. His work rate isn't the highest and he's not a KO puncher but he is a solid puncher with a decent work rate. In fact when we think about Taniguchi, he's solid in every area, without being excellent in any, which is what was shown when he faced off with Saludar earlier this year. He's never going to be one of the truly top fighters in the division, but will remain a constant threat in and around the regional title scene.
Ishizawa is a 22 year old who turned professional in 2017 without too much fan fare, following a rather uninspired 28-14 amateur record. Since turning professional however he has impressed, thanks to his heavy hands, aggressive styles and pressure fighting mentality. Early in his career there was questions about how he'd look when he stepped up, but he answered those questions with stoppage wins over Tatsuro Nakashima and Yuga Inoue in 2018. Those bouts both saw Ishizawa needing to answer questions about what happens when a fighter can take his power, and the Inoue bout in particular was a huge test against a stylistic nightmare, that he eventually broke down.
Despite impressive performances against the likes of Nakashima and Inoue this is still a massive step up for Ishizawa. He's a hard puncher with an exciting pressure style, but he's up against someone who is more experienced, has more to his game, hits hard himself and moves well. The key for Ishizawa is to get close and work inside, but against someone who controls distance like Taniguchi that is much easier said than done and he will have to take punishment to get inside.
We'd love to see Ishizawa win, due to loving his style and youth, but in reality we feel this bout may be coming a touch too early for him and his inexperience will be exposed. Taniguchi may have come up short in his biggest bouts but he is talented, and even in defeat he has shown a real gritty toughness and determination. We suspect that grit will see him through some tough moments against Ishizawa, before taking a clear win, possibly even a late stoppage.
Prediction - TKO8 Taniguchi
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.