The final Japanese show this month takes place at Korakuen Hall and has a really solid looking main event as Yoshimitsu Kimura (13-2-1, 8) faces former foe Kanehiro Nakagawa (11-6, 5), in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight, and a contest that has the potential to be something of a sleeper classic. One that is easy to over-look, but should deliver something a little special. The bout not only has two guys who are often over-looked, but two guys who have very fun styles, and also have a bit of history, with this being the second bout between the men.
Before we look at where we are today, we need to discuss the fact the two men faced off way back in 2017. That bout saw Kimura take a very hard fought decision over Nakagawa, who at the time didn't look like someone we'd be talking about 5 years later. The bout saw Kimura move to 8-0 and continue his ascent through the ranks, whilst Nakagawa fell to 4-5, and seemed to be heading towards total obscurity. Since then Kimura has gone 5-2-1, and proven to be one of the most fan friendly fighters in Japan, with notable bouts against the likes of Hironori Mishiro, Shuma Nakazato and Kosuke Saka, with his win over Saka landing him his regional title. As for Nakagawa he has totally turned his career around, going 8-1 and scoring notable domestic wins over Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Ken Osato, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa.
With the short history lesson out of the way, lets talk about the two men, and who they are today, and how that could also play a major role in this bout.
The 25 year old Yoshimitsu Kimura is one of the most fun to watch fighters in Japan. He debuted in 2015 and would go on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016, fighting as a Featherweight. He ran up a 9 fight unbeaten record, including the aforementioned win of Nakagawa, before challenging Richard Pumicpic for the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title and coming up short, in a really competitive bout. That fight, at the age of 21, showed there was real potential with Kimura. He bounced back from that loss by by moving up in weight and scoring 3 solid wins before challemging OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro, and losing a very close, incredibly competitive bout by split decision, in what was one of the best fights of 2019. That loss was followed by another set back as he suffered a draw, in another thriller, with Shuma Nakazato. In his bout following that draw Kimura scored the biggest win of his career, stopping Kosuke Saka in 3 rounds to win the OPBF Super Featherweight title.
One this to note coming into this bout regarding Kimura is that earlier this year he was scheduled to face Samir Ziani. That bout was cancelled at short notice, and coming in to this bout it's going to be interesting to see if that cancelation effects Kimura or not, as he did admit he had lost motivation due to that fight falling through.
In the ring a driven Kimura is a nightmare to fight. He's gritty, determined and as we saw against Mishiro and Nakazato, he simply doesn't know when he's beaten. That has made him a fan favourite and a must watch fighter in Japan. He can be hurt, he can dropped, but it's going to take something very special to stop him and stop his desire. In terms of his style he's someone who can box and move, and is a very solid boxer, however what makes him so much fun to watch is that he has real dog inside him. When things are tough he often forgets his boxing skills and goes all out, setting a high tempo, applying a lot of pressure and simply try to grind down opponents. Although his best offense is his volume he is also a solid puncher, and that was shown in his bout with Saka, when big head shots from Kimura left Saka stumbling around the ring. At 130lbs, and now in his physical prime, Kimura looks like a nasty fighter, as he develops his power, his strength and his confidence, making him even tougher to beat. He can box, he can fight, he can punch, and although he's not world class in any area he is a very, very solid all round.
On paper Nakagawa is very limited, and his 11-6 (5) record includes not just 6 losses, but also 2 stoppage losses. Despite that the 27 year old is regarded as one of the top Super Featherweights in Japan and in Asia. He is highly regarded not due to a padded record, like some fighters out there, but due to his current form, and the way he has totally turned his career around. He debuted in 2014, losing in 2 rounds, and was 4-5 after 9 bouts with losses to the likes of Toru Kiyota, Kimihiro Nakagawa and, of course, Yoshimitsu Kimura. Since then however he has developed in so many ways, and taken those losses as a sign to improve, to develop and to grow as a fighter. He has gone 7-1 since that start, and really should have been 8-0 with the loss to Ren Sasaki in 2018 being a very debatable one. He now fights like a man determined to never lose again, and victories over the likes of Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa have certainly helped in still a real confidence in him.
Sadly it's not all been plain ailing for Nakagawa, despite his great form, and he, like Kimura, has had a bout cancelled this year. For him it was a planned bout against Kosuke Saka, that had to be scrapped when Nakagawa suffered an injury. That means he has been out of the ring since October 2021.
In the ring Nakagawa doesn't do anything amazingly well. He's not got lights out power, or lightning speed, or incredible movement. Much like Kimura however he's become a very, very hard man to beat, with a great sense of will and desire in his in ring work. He comes forward, is determined and sets and odd rhythm to things, which upsets fighters. He does a lot of things wrong, isn't technical, but is tough, has plenty of pop on his shots and throws from some really awkward and peculiar angles. His footwork is odd, his punches are weird and yet he still managed to use his really odd style to great success. Trying to prepare for Nakagawa and his really odd style, that looks amateurish as hell at times, must be a nightmare and few will be able to replicate it in sparring, making him even tough to fight.
Sadly for Nakagawa we do feel that Kimura is genuinely a special fighter. Maybe not a future world champion, but special enough to compete at that level even if he does fall short. As for Nakagawa he's awkward, clumsy and hard to beat, but we do feel that, over 12 rounds, his style will be tiring to himself, and after 4 or 5 rounds Kimura will begin to read him better, time him more consistently, and take over the fight. We see Nakagawa having some really good success early on, but as the rounds fly by Kimura will begin to take over, and do enough to win a clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Kimura
On April 23rd fight fans in Osaka are set for a treat as Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (21-6, 18) defends his title against mandatory challenger Kanehiro Nakagawa (11-6, 5). On paper the bout is certainly not one which will grab the attention of international fans, especially given the records of the challenger, but for those following the Japanese scene this is a very interesting match up, and one that has the potential to be very, very exciting.
Of the two men the champion is the much more well known. The hard hitting Saka is someone who has really, really heavy hands, but is also incredibly flawed in the ring making his bouts great fun, action packed, unpredictable, and always worth tuning in for. When he's on song he's a destructive and violent force, but he's also a bully and when a fighter fires back he can be in all sorts of problems. Despite his flaws he has had a very solid career so far with highlights including being a 2-weight Japanese champion, having previously held the Japanese Featherweight title, and beaten the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Shota Hayashi, Masanori Rikiishi, Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe. Sadly for him he has also suffered some 3 stoppage losses in his last 8 bouts, and has proven that his chin isn't made out of the same material as his hands.
As a fighter Saka is very much a rock handed boxer-puncher. He comes forward, he presses the action, and uses his physical strength and power to back opponents up. We saw him dominate Sueyoshi with his straight shots, activity and power, before breaking him down to claim the title. Notable we've also seen him box and move, something he did to great affect against the tough Takuya Watanabe, who he broke down whilst mostly fighting off the back foot. When he is on form and focused, he's a deadly fighter, who comes to break opponents up. Sadly though he has over-looked fighters in the past, and switched off mentally during fights, most notably against Takenori Ohashi who knocked him out when he turned away thinking the bell had gone, when it was the 10 second clacker. Losses to Joe Noynay and Yoshimitsu Kimura have also been by stoppage, early in bouts, when they've made him pay for his poor defensive skills.
On paper Nakagawa doesn't look like much of a challenger, given his rather un-pleasing looking record. That however doesn't look at what he's done, and the forms he's in, and in fairness to him, he is in some of the best form of any fighter on the Japanese domestic scene. The reason his record is so underwhelming was a nightmare start to his professional career, with Nakagawa going He started his career 4-5 (3) in his first 9 bouts, before turning things around and going 7-1 (2) since then, with wins in his last 6 fights, and in fair the "1" in that 7-1 was a very controversial loss. Whilst numbers alone don't tell much of a story, it needs to be said that Nakagawa's wins have been fairly notable, with victories over former Japanese champions Seiichi Okada and Taiki Minamoto, wins over highly ranked contenders Shinnosuke Hasegawa and Ken Osato and one over former OPBF title challenger Ryuto Araya. The 26 year old, has had to do things the hard way, and has genuinely earned a shot with his current string of wins.
Despite his winning run Nakagawa will enter as the under-dog, something he's now accustomed to given his recent competition. Nakagawa has proven himself in those wins as a tough cookie, willing to wage war when he needs to. At his best however he's a rather technical fighter, who presses forward, has a rather awkward looking style but is some how hard to catch clean, and surprisingly accurate, with good timing, and gritty toughness. He's a pressure fighter with under-rated defensive skills and he looks like the sort of fighter who is hard to back up and hard to dissuade from coming forward. Technically he looks off, yet it's his technical skills and unusual rhythm that gets him success, and he's one of the few Japanese fighters at 130lbs who is less orthodox than Saka.
Coming Saka should be favoured. He's more proven, more dangerous, fighting at home, and the man who enters as the champion. And we fully suspect Saka to win. However the style of Nakagawa will potentially give Saka fits at times, especially early on, as Nakagawa uses his under rated defense, and awkward strength to make Saka miss. Sooner or later Saka will land, and will make Nakagawa feel his power, but we wouldn't be surprised at all if that was in the second half of the bout, after Saka has been frustrated, tagged and made to look very ordinary. We suspect Saka will have to show some mental resolve, but will eventually get to his man.
Prediction - TKO8 Saka
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.