The Welterweight scene in Japan is one of the weakest domestic scenes in the country, with very little depth in the division. Despite the lack of depth there are interesting match ups to be made, such as the recent Japanese title fight that saw Ryota Yada (16-4, 13) defeat Toshio Arikawa. This coming Saturday will make his first defence of the title as he takes on Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-5, 4) in Hirakata. For Yada the bout sees him getting a home coming coming defense, as he returns to the city of his birth whilst Okamoto gets a surprise opportunity following a loss last time out to Vladimir Baez.
The champion has has a bit of an up-and-down career, though is certainly in the form of his career with 4 solid wins coming into this bout, including a career defining win over Arikawa. Whilst the first two of those wins were relatively meaningless the last two have seen him over-come the teak tough Moon Hyon Yun and score the win over Arikawa. Those wins have seen him bounce back brilliantly from a painful defeat to under-rated Filipino Jayar Inson as he's got his career back on track. Those recent wins help shore up a record which does lack other wins of major note, with Yada's next best wins coming over Makoto Kawasaki and Yuta Maruoka. What is notable however about Yada's record is that he's turned a 3-3 start around to a 16-4 record by going 13-1 and really putting those early losses behind him.
In the ring Yada is a rough around the edges boxer-puncher, or rather more a puncher-boxer. He's not smooth, he's not fluent and he's not the most relaxed fighter, but he does have surprising speed, very decent size and reach and when he gets his full weight behind a shot fighters at this level really feel it, as Arikawa did. He doesn't seem to cope with pressure well, and fighters who can get inside can give him real issues, and his chin isn't the most solid, but his heart isn't to be questioned and he had to dig deep against Arikawa.
Okamoto first came to the attention of Japanese fight fans back in 2010, when he reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing in the final to the more experienced Tomoya Yamada. Following the to Yamada it seemed like Okamoto's career struggled a little, as he went 3-3 in his next 6 bouts, including losses to So Takenaka and a stoppage loss to Kazuya Murata. That bad run was then followed by Okamoto's best career run of 5 straight wins before Vladimir Baez stopped him in 8 rounds to secure himself a Japanese title fight at 140lbs.
To date Okamoto has only fought twice as a fully fledged Welterweight, going 1-1 in those two bouts. He's pretty tall for a Light Welterweight, but he'll be shorter than Yada here and hasn't shown the power or durability to live with Yada. That however shouldn't take away from the fact that Okamoto likes to press the fight, force a bout to be fought up close and bring a lot of pressure. It gave him real moments against Baez and we expect to see him rush Yada as well, especially given that that was something that worked for Inson against Yada.
Sadly for Okamoto we think his lack of power will be a major issue and Yada has the power to hurt him coming in. Okamoto could cause some problems for the champion but we expect to see Yada land clean too often and take him out in in the second half of the fight, after Okamoto's feet start to slow and begins to struggle to cut the distance.
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