On February 5th we'll, hopefully, see a new Japanese Bantamweight champion being crowned as Kyosuke Sawada (14-2-2, 6) and Kenshin Oshima (7-1-1, 3) battle for the title which has been vacant since Yusuke Suzuki retired in January 2021 due to injuries. Since then we have seen one fight take place for the title, with Sawada having a technical draw with Ikuro Sadatsune, before a scheduled rematch was cancelled with Sadatsune unable to compete, continuing what has been a rather cursed run for the title over the last few years, with cancellations, injuries and weight issues cancelling a surprising number of bouts for the belt. Despite the "curse" the belt still has real meaning, it's been held by some Japanese legends and is a title both men will be desperate to win. For Sawada the bout is, as mentioned, his second crack at the belt whilst Oshima will be getting his first title bout, and his first real chance to show just how good he is, after something of an underwhelming start to his professional career, so far.
Sawada is a very well schooled pure boxer, with lovely hand speed, textbook skills and a lot of amateur experience, having scored over 60 wins in the unpaid ranks. That amateur experience was supposed to help him race through the ranks, though unfortunately he came up against Yusuke Suzuki and Hiroaki Teshigawara in his first two bouts, and a lot of the expectations that were on his shoulders were quickly forgotten, with some then wondering whether he was going to ever make a mark on the sport. As it turned out however his losses weren't actually bad ones and both Suzuki and Teshigawara went on to achieve plenty themselves, with both winning titles, it was just unfortunate that Sawada had come up against them so early in his career, and theirs.
Since his bad start to the pro ranks Sawada has gone unbeaten and managed to show genuine improvement along the way. He has adapted his amateur style without throwing all the amateurs away. As a result he's a wonderfully skilled boxer, who sticks to the text for the most part, but can switch things up when he needs to. He's most comfortable range, his punches are very crisp and he's light on his feet with excellent shot selection. Sadly he can be made to look a little bit lost up close, but in fairness to him he has the tools, typically, to avoid an inside battle, and the composure to see things out, tie up when he needs to, and create space. Notably he also has solid power, much more so than his record suggests, and he gets opponents respect due to how cleanly he lands, especially with his counter shots as we saw against Sadatsune. His speed, timing and placement are all excellent, and make him a very tough opponent, no matter who he's against, and helps explain how he's turned his career around in such an impressive fashion after back-to-back losses to start his days as a professional.
Oshima turned professional with some buzz, and was regarded by some as a potential face of the future of the Teiken Gym. Prior to turning professional he had gone 27-13 in the unpaid ranks and seemed to have the potential to make a mark in the professional ranks, especially given his style was rather "pro-ready". Sadly however he would lose his second professional bout, to Yuki Iriguchi. he would then suffer another set back when he fought to a draw with the then win-less Nobuaki Kanazawa. With a 3-1-1 record after 5 fights it seemed like Oshima's amateur promise wasn't going to be realised in the professional ranks, but just like Sawada he has turned things around, winning his last 4 bouts. Not only has he won 4 in a row but they have included some solid wins too, including decision victories over Joe Tanooka, Ikuro Sadatsune and Wilbert Berondo. Sadly though the most win on his record did come more than 2 years ago, way back in November 2019.
Whilst it has been a while since we last saw Oshima in the ring, and by a while we really mean "too long!", one thing is undeniable. He's a talented boxer. He's very much a boxer-come counter puncher, with a nice array of punches, a very impressive sense of composure and good timing and distance control. He's never going to make for the most fun of bouts, and he does rely on his movement and jab a little too much at times rather than using the rest of his arsenal, but there is clearly a lot of skill there. He times fighters well, he picks good counter shots, and creates distance forcing opponents into errors. His style is awkward, he's a nightmare to fight and although he lacks the speed, power and explosiveness of top prospects, there is no denying his boxing brain and his ring IQ, he's just a little big unlucky to lack the physical traits to go with his brain.
Sadly for Oshima whilst his run was nice, this is a notable step up especially after such a long break, and in many ways he's the type of fighter that Sawada would have loved to face. Oshima lacks fight changing power, something that Sawada would perhaps be wary of, and Oshima is also not a high tempo guy, allowing Sawada to out work him. Sawada is also the quicker, sharper, fighter and the more polished boxer.
We suspect that the early portion of this bout will be a good technical chess match, with Sawada getting the better of things. As it goes on however Sawada will begin to take total control, and the bigger question isn't going to be who wins, but rather whether or not Sawada will manage to stop Oshima late on. We don't think so, but we do think Oshima will be in trouble in the final few rounds.
Prediction - UD10 Sawada
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.