This coming Thursday Japanese fight fans get an early Christmas present with a potentially thrilling bout at Light Welterweight, as domestic champion Koichi Aso (22-7-1, 15) makes his second defense of the title, and takes on the exciting Valentine Hosokawa (21-6-3, 9). The bout combines two aggressive and exciting fighters with both looking to make a statement, and both going in to the ring with a point to prove. It may not make marks on the international stage, but domestically this bout is sure to be an all-out fire-fight and comes between men with some history.
The history between the two men is now 9 years old, with the two men having fought to a split decision draw back in 2008. That draw was in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, and saw Hosokawa advance to the final on the “Dominant Point” rule. That result was followed by Hosokawa winning in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, claiming the crown as the Lightweight Rookie of the Year. It's fair to say that Aso will be seeking revenge here.
Aged 31 Aso won the title in his third shot at it, following two losses in title fights against Hiroki Okada. Those losses to Okada are the most recent ones Aso has suffered, but he has also come up short against the likes of Shinya Iwabuchi and Jung Hoon Yang. Along with those losses are wins over the likes of Kazuyoshi Kumano, Moon Hyun Yun, Kazuki Matsuyama and Yusuke Konno. Through his career he has proven to be an ultra-aggressive and exciting pressure fighter fighter, who brings the action behind a tight guard and looks for a fight. Although Aso can be out fought, and out boxed, he does tend to make fights exciting and his title defense against Konno is a front runner for the best Japanese fight of 2017.
Aso's style has taken atoll on his body, and with 4 stoppage losses against his name he isn't the most durable. Despite that he seems to fight like a man who believes he can take bombs and that's part of what makes him dangerous. He heavy handed, aggressive and willing to take risks to stop opponents. He's not going to just back off because he gets caught and will instead fight fire with fire, and can be very hard to time when he's hurt.
Whilst Aso is a fighter with a tight guard and hurtful power the same cannot be said of Hosokawa, despite the fact he too is an aggressive fighter who enjoys fighting off the front foot. Hosokawa will instead march forward and let his hands fly, with a very high work rate, a great energy and a belief in simply out working and swarming his opponents. He can certainly be out boxed, and and he has been stopped in previous title bouts by the heavy handed pairing of Shinya Iwabuchi and Min Wook Kim, but even in his losses he has given opponents absolute hell. In recent years he has notched up notable wins against the likes of Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine, Cristiano Aoqui and Quaye Peter and no one will begrudge him his 4th title bout here.
Aged 36 Hosokawa's huge energy reserves don't last much longer and he is certainly in the latter stages of his career. Having come up short in previous title bouts he probably knows that this will be his final shot, and it's hard to imagine him leaving anything in the tank. He may not have the power to hurt Aso, but he has the work rate to defeat him and the will to win to really give Aso hell.
What we're expecting is for the men to meet in center ring and for a 10 round, balls to the wall war. The guard of Aso will be hard for Hosokawa to break through, but he could end up handcuffing the champion with his out put. Aso's power could be the difference, and he may be able to make Hosokawa think twice about wildly working up close. Either way this is going to be a nail biting, violent and brutal contest that will have fans captivated from start to end.
Earlier this year Japanese warrior Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) claimed the biggest win of his career, stopping Kazuki Matsuyama in a bout for the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight title. It was Aso's third shot the title, and saw him finally win a big one. He returns this coming Friday to make his first defense of the title, as he takes on little known challenger Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5), who will be fighting in his first title bout, and looking to end Aso's reign.
For those who haven't seen Aso his style is the typical Japanese warrior style. He comes to fight, presses the action and always looks to have a fight. Sometimes that costs him, such as in his 2011 bout with Shinya Iwabuchi, but other times it sees him out battling and breaking fighters down, as he did against Matsuyama. It's a style, and mentality, that makes for fun action fights but has taken it's toll on him and his body isn't as tough and durable as it perhaps needs to be if he's to have a long career.
Although not a huge puncher Aso can bang, but often finds himself being dragged into wars of attrition, which is partly why he has been such a popular fixture at the Korakuen Hall over the last 11 years or so. During that 11 year career he really has faced almost everyone of note at the domestic level, including Valentine Hosokawa, Taisho Ozawa, Shinya Iwabuchi, Jung Hoon Yang, Moon Hyun Yun and Hiroki Okada, twice. He's generally struggled against the best domestic level foes, but has shown he belongs in there, and he has developed with experience.
Although Aso is well known and experienced at the top of the domestic tree the same cannot be said of Konno. In fact Konno's most notable bouts to date have all resulted in losses, with defeats coming to the likes of Hisao Narita and Kazuyoshi Kumano. To date his best wins have been over the likes of Kazuya Soma and Shusaku Fujinaka, which are decent wins but nothing outstanding.
Footage of Konno as easy to get as it is for Aso, and as a result it's harder to get a read on his style, but he's yet to be stopped, and has shown an ability to fight over 8 rounds at a good rate. This will however be a marked step up in class, and be his first over 10 rounds. Those two things alone will be a huge challenge for the 32 year old Kanagawa born fighter.
It's likely going to be a fun fight, and one fought at a high pace, but we suspect that Aso's extra experience will be the difference, with the champion coming out on top with a late stoppage, in a very fun and competitive bout.
On February 9th Japanese fight fans get a title double at the Korakuen Hall, as part of a Diamond Glove card to be televised on delay on Fuji TV. The lesser of those two fights is a Japanese title fight at 140lbs, and it will see the top two ranked Japanese fighters trade blows for the currently vacant title.
The match up will see former 2-time title challenger Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13), the #1 ranked contender, take on first time title challenger Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7), the #2 ranked fighter.
Of the two men it's Aso who is more well known. He's been a professional since June 2006 and has shared the ring with a who's who of domestic talent. He has fought to a draw with Valentine Hosokawa, suffered loss to Taisho Ozawa, twice, Shinya Iwabuchi and Hiroki Okada, twice, and holds wins over Yusuke Kikuchi, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yoshitaka Katabami and Moon Hyun Yun.
Although those names might not resonate globally they do feature almost every notable Japanese Light Welterweight of the last decade, barring Yoshihiro Kamegai and Aso's Misako gym stablemate mate Keita Obara.
In the ring Aso is a rough around the edges pressure fighter, who brings the heat from early on and always looks to engage in a fan friendly battle. Sometimes that has cost him, as it in the opening round against Iwabuchi, other times it's kept him competitive in fights against more talented fighters, such as in the first Okada fight. Although not the most skilled, or the biggest puncher, few will double Aso's fighting mentality and he always comes to win whilst having a style that will always excite fans.
As for Matsuyama he's been a professional for a little over 7 years and has a very mixed record. He began with back-to-back losses before stringing together 6 wins to get his career off the ground. Sadly Matsuyama had another slide as he ended that run and suffered a trio of losses, including a notable set back to Masanobu Nakazawa in 2012. The streaky fighter bounced back again, winning 6 in a row, including a win over Masayoshi Kotake. That run ended in late 2015, when he was stopped by Shuhei Tsuchiya and he has since gone 1-1-1 with a loss to Daishi Nagata and a draw with Kentaro Endo.
At his best Matsuyama is quite limited. His poor recent form, with just 1 win in his last 4, would suggest he shouldn't be getting a title fight here, and although he can spring an upset it does seem like he's getting this fight more because no one else is seen as being quite ready for a title fight at the moment.
Aso might not be a huge puncher but with his style you'd have to favour him to over-whelm and break down Matsuyama. The style of Aso will give Matsuyama chances, but we don't think Matsuyama will be good enough to make the most of the openings he will be given, and will instead be stopped in the middle rounds.
Over the last few years we have seen a lot of attention in Japanese boxing focus on the very lowest weights, and with good reason given their wealth of talent at the lower weights. The domestic scene has however been interesting in some of the heavier weights with the 140lb Light Welterweight division being a particularly interesting one.
The star is, of course, Keita Obara who looks set to fight for a world title this summer. Below him however is a really fascinating division with numerous notable, exciting, talented and promising fighters, such as the promising trio of Koki Inoue, Shuichiro Yoshino and Yuki Konami, the exciting but flawed contenders like Shinya Iwabuchi and Shuhei Tsuchiya and the heavy handed Yoshimichi Matsumoto.
On April 19th we see two of the most notable Japanese domestic fighters at the weight collide, for the second time, in a mandatory title defense that could, potentially, be the fight of the week.
The bout in question sees unbeaten champion Hiroki Okada (11-0, 9) [岡田 博喜] defend his belt against the ultra-aggressive Koichi Aso (20-6-1, 13) [麻生 興一], with the bout being Okada's 4th defense of the title and Aso's second shot at the belt.
In their first bout Okada narrowly over-came Aso, with a 10 round decision that saw all 3 judges score the bout 96-94 to the champion. Since then both fighters hack racked up a pair of stoppage wins, with Okada defending his title twice and looking like a fighter who is making great strides in his development.
Aged 26 the champion really is a fighter with a lot of potential. That potential has helped him gain a WBO world ranking and score several wins of note, including his first win over Aso and recent stoppages over Hayato Nakazano and Masanobu Nakazawa. He may not have major wins on the international stage but we suspect that that's where he will be heading later in the year with an OPBF title shot likely to come in the next 12-18 months. Sadly his development was slowed last year, due to a hand injury, but he looked better than ever when he stopped Nakazawa back in January.
Okada is heavy handed but appears to be a fighter who simply has heavy hands, rather than a fighter who throws with bad intentions. As a result he has shown he can box, he move and looks to be a natural counter puncher, making him even more dangerous than just his power.
In Aso we have a man who really is flawed but yet has a box office style with a lot of aggression, plenty of power and a somewhat questionable chin. He has been stopped in half of his losses, including an opening round defeat to Shinya Iwabuchi though strangely suffered all 3 of those stoppages in his first 3 defeats. Since then it appears his defense, as opposed to his chin, has improved yet he is still an “in your face” fighter with an aggressive, pressure style that is incredibly fun to watch.
Since the loss to Okada back in 2014 Aso hasn't been massively active, with 15 combined rounds, but at 30 years old, and with his style, the inactivity has likely helped him rather than hindered him coming in to this bout. He's not been taking damage, he's been giving his body time to relax and he's been able to plan for another big fight.
Given the styles of the men we are expecting this one to be very fun. Aso will, as always, come forward and whilst we suspect he will have some success we can't help but think that Okada's clean counters, especially from his uppercutts, will take their toll on the challenger who will eventually succumb to the champion. We could see Aso grinding down Okada but we suspect Okada will retain his title in style and score a more impressive win over Aso than he did in their first meeting.
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.