The Flyweight scene in Asia is a rather weird one right now. There are some amazing fighters there, like Kosei Tanaka, and some really fast rising hopefuls, like Junto Nakatani. Sadly though there is a really awkward gap between some of the regional level fighters and the world class fighters.
Among those stuck between the Oriental scene and world level is current OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7), who travels to Japan later this month to make his second defense of the title. In the opposite corner to the champion is former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13), who appears to have slipped significantly from his prime.
Aged 22 Raquinel has a lot of potential to make a mark at world level, much like the aforementioned Nakatani and fellow rising youngster Ryota Yamauchi, though his has a lot of questions over his head. He showed his ability to perform on the road in early 2018, when he stopped Keisuke Nakayama to claim the title and then again just months later when he stopped Shun Kosaka in his first defense. Sadly his rise hit the skids last year when he lost a competitive decision to Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi, in China, and he's not fought since that bout. Whilst his title wasn't on the line against Tuolehazi the bout did cost him momentum and his unbeaten record and it's almost a year since he last stepped in the ring.
At his best Raquinel is a solid boxer-puncher. He's got a hard hitting southpaw left, a good right hook, and smart movement. Sadly for all the positives about him he can often look lazy in the ring, too reserved and unwilling to let his shots go. Against Tuolehazi he looked great, when he threw his punches, but all too often looked happy to not do much, cruising and waiting, often waiting too long and letting Tuolehazi do enough to take the win. Given his age that loss could be a great learning experience, or could be a setback that he struggles to ever really rebuild from.
The 34 year old Kogawa has long been one of the most fun to watch fighters on the planet. Having debuted 14 years ago Kogawa has been one of the staples on the Flyweight scene much of that time. He began his career with a 17-1 (10) record, and won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, before getting a world title fight against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Kogawa lost to Wonjongkam but bounced back and won the Japanese Flyweight title just 6 months later. It's been the Japanese Flyweight title that has really been the focus for much of Kogawa's career over the last 8 years with title bouts against the likes of Shigetaka Ikehara, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Kudaka and Masayuki Kuroda.
Through his career Kogawa has been in some amazing bouts, his fights with Muranaka, Kudaka and Kuroda stand out.He has had a career from being a boxer-brawler, with a high tempo style, that has seen him take a lot of punishment. Sadly in the last few years Kogawa has started to show the damage of those battles, and looks to have slowed significantly from the star he was. Whilst some of that could be put down to lingering effect from a serious ear injury, which he suffered in 2016, it's fair to say that his warrior mentality, hard fights and really hard rounds, along with his age, has simply caught up with him.
At his best Kogawa would be strongly favoured over Raquinel, sadly though he's a long way removed from his best. This version of Kogawa has struggled with the likes of Naoto Fujimoto and Hideyuki Watanabe, limited domestic foes. Even with Raquinel having been out of the ring for a year we suspect his youth, freshness and speed will be the key. With Kogawa being aggressive we see Raquinel getting chances to sit back and counter, rather than in the Tuolehazi fight where the Chinese fighter didn't give Raquinel opportunities to counter.
We suspect Raquinel will come out on top here, and Kogawa will then end his long, and thrilling career.
Prediction- Raquinel UD12
Earlier this year Filipino youngster Jayr Raquinel (9-0-1, 6) announced himself as one to watch, ripping the OPBF Flyweight title from Keisuke Nakayama at the Korakuen Hall. This week the 21 year old southpaw returns to Japan to defend that title against Shun Kosaka (15-3, 4) in another bout that could help Raquinel enhance his reputation as Filipino prospect with the potential to go all the way.
In his title win Raquinel showed no fear of Nakayama, or of fighting in Tokyo. Instead he went about his business with the intention of scoring the biggest win of his career, stopping Nakayama in the 9th round of their bout, whilst up on all 3 cards. Other than his win over Nakayama there wasn't too much else on his record, a DQ win over Jimboy Haya, a split decision draw with Glenne Calacar and a majority decision win over Richard Rosales being the only things were even mentioning. Despite his thin record he has impressed, and he has risen to the challenges put in front of him and for such a youngster he looks like he has the ability to go a very long way.
As with many Filipino youngsters, though obviously not all with Mark Anthony Barriga being a notable exception, Rqauinel is a bit crude, a rough around the edges fighter who has heavy hands, a good engine and a second of toughness. He looks like he's a fighter who really could be moulded into an excellent fighter if he got the right training. There is a lot of natural gifts that he appears to have, and really just needs the right training to develop the skills to go with those gifts.
The challenger made his debut back in 2012 and reached the Flyweight Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing a decision to the then unbeaten Kenya Yamashita. In 2015 he would suffer his second loss, being stopped by Tetsuya Hisada, who has since gone on the claim the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Since losing to Hisada we've seen Kosaka rebuild his career, going 6-1 (4) with a notable win against Yota Hori last time out, and a very close loss to Akinori Hoshino. Sadly the other wins were against most limited opponents, and it's hard to know how good he really is. A win over Hori is decent, but given that Hori had lost 3 of his previous 4, and was stopped last time out by Ryota Yamauchi, it's hard to put too much value on the win.
At 23 years old there is potential for Kosaka to become a really good fighter. He has got some skills and appears to be developing in terms of his power and physical strength. Sadly, though similarly to Raquinel, he really needs to be taken under the guidance of a top trainer if he's to reach his potential, which is likely to be below that of Raquinel. He doesn't seem to hard, have the speed or the experience to cope at title level, and has yet to go beyond 8 rounds. He might see this bout as a chance to prove himself, but it would take a career best performance to even test the challenger.
Given that Kosaka looks to lack in terms of power and top tier experience we are expecting to see him being stopped by the champion. Kosaka has got a chance of springing the upset, but needs to put everything together to defeat the impressive Filipino, and we'd be very surprised to see Kosaka see the final bell, never mind spring the upset win.
The Flyweight division is an Asian dominated one right now, with two world champions from Japan and one from the Philippines, with the other actually being a Ukrainian based fighter born in Azerbaijan. Despite the Asian domination at the top it does seem like the OPBF title scene is a little bit disappointing Keisuke Nakayama (10-2-2, 4) being viewed as a weak champion as he goes into his second defense this coming Tuesday, against Filipino Jayr Raquinel (8-0-1, 5).
Nakayama is regarded as a weak champion because of his career so far. He was 6-2-1 (3) after his first 9 bouts, and since then he has gone 4-0-1 (1) with 3 razor decision wins and he could easily have gone 1-4 in that recent 5 fight run. In another world his record could easily read 6-6-1 (4), and whilst close fights aren't a bad thing by themselves, the consistency of close for Nakayama, at the level he's fighting at, does suggest he's not a world beater in the making. In fact he's a somewhat lucky Oriental champion.
In his title win Nakayama took a split decision over Richard Claveras whilst his first defense saw him take a controversial split decision draw over Joebert Alvarez. In both of those fights Nakayama was unconvincing and had they not both taken place in Tokyo he would have likely lost both. He lacks power, he lacks world class speed and although he can grit his teeth and fight there is little really that stands out about Nakayama, or his future and given he's 30 this year it's hard to imagine him even holding this title for long.
It seems weird to say of an OPBF champion, but Nakayama likely isn't even in the top 5 Japanese fighters at his own weight. He's clearly some distance behind Daigo Higa and Sho Kimura, we'd fancy Masayuki Kuroda and Katsunori Nagamine to beat him, Junto Nakatani would likely be favoured over him, and we'd not be surprised if Ryota Yamauchi, Seigo Yuri Akui or Akinori Hoshino would dethrone him, if they got a shot at him.
Aged 21 Raquinel is a bit of a boxing baby, but already has close to 4 years of experience under his belt. Sadly so far Raquinel has only fought at the domestic level, though has gone unbeaten and last time out claimed the OPBF interim title by out pointing Richard Rosales. That win over Rosales is the best win for Raquinel, but he also has a victory over Jimboy Haya, a very good win for such a novice.
Sadly there isn't a huge amount of footage of Raquinel, though from the footage available he does look a very promising young southpaw. He has a very sharp straight left hand, a snappy jab and looks to go to the body with his left hand. There's power there and great speed, as well as a very confident bounce in his step. Of course his competition hasn't been the best, and he has never fought away from home before, but he does look like a talent, and if managed well there is a lot of upside for Raquinel.
The big question here isn't whether ot not Raquinel is a better boxer, he certainly appears to be better, but more whether he's ready for a fight at this level. The bout might be a touch too early for him, and he may have been better off waiting a year to physically mature and develop more experience. However he is certainly a very under-dog here, and we'd not be surprised by his youthfulness and speed being too much for the flawed and uninspiring Nakayama. However with it being so early in Raquinel's career we do feel that Nakayama's experience, especially in longer bouts, will be the difference as he records another razor thin and debatable defense.
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.