On April 2nd we get the next Japanese title, as Makoto Kawasaki (12-8-1, 2) and Koki Koshikawa (9-3, 6) clash in a bout for the Japanese Light Middleweight title, which was vacated by Hironobu Matsunaga who seems to have his eyes on bigger and better things.
Sadly for both men they are better known for losing in the biggest fights of their career, and to date the men are win-less in title bouts, but have had opportunities in the past. For the 37 year old Kawasaki this will be his 4th bout for a title, and he has to know it's now or never. Aged 31 Koshikawa may get another chance, but his last two bouts have seen him come up short in title bouts, suffering a stoppage loss to Matsunaga in 2019 and a wide decision loss to Yuki Nonaka last year. Although neither really deserves another title opportunity at this point in time, it's fair to say that neither man will get a better chance to win a title than here, with this bout.
Aged 37 Kawasaki is certainly winding down his career. He debuted in 2012, fighting to a draw with Koki Tyson, and was 2-1-1 after 4 bouts, with his first loss coming to Hironobu Matsunaga, who would also give him his second loss. After 12 bouts he was 7-4-1 but not long after that he managed to land his first title bout, a shot at the Japanese interim Welterweight title, which he lost. He later went on to lose a bout for the WBA Asia Welterweight title and the Japanese Welterweight title. Sadly him getting a shot, at this point in time, says a lot about the Japanese domestic scene at 154lbs. He's a natural Welterweight, who has had very mixed results, and is getting this shot due to the lack of interest in the domestic title. However he's experienced and a capable fighter, though nothing special.
In the ring Kawasaki is a hard worker. He's gritty, he's determined and he sets a good work rate whilst making for fun fights. Sadly though he's not quick, he's not sharp, he's not powerful, or particularly skilled and he's more of a battler than a boxer. He has slow feet, slow hand speed, and his punches are incredibly wide. He leaves himself open and whilst his style can make for fun fights he does seem like he's there to be stopped at times, especially at title level. He's been lucky to not face many decent punchers, but when he did face a good domestic puncher in Yuki Nagano he was stopped in 2 rounds.
Koshikawa turned professional in 2014, following a very solid amateur career that had seen him go 46-25 (23), and there was pretty high expectations for him under the guidance of Celes Kobayashi. Sadly for him his time at the Celes Gym was a frustrating one. He won his first 4 bouts before losing a wide decision to veteran Koshinmaru Saito in 2015 and then took a break from the ring, of more than 2 years. On his he was matched softly to begin with, before stopping former Japanese Welterweight champion Daisuke Sakamoto in July 2018. He built on that win with a victory over former OPBF champion Ratchasi Sithsaithong and moved towards a Japanese title fight. Sadly for him his first title fight saw him having moments of success, before the press of Matsunaga broke him down in 4 rounds. He was then out of the ring for close to 2 years, before losing a wide decision to WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka in 2021.
In the ring Koshikawa shows some of his amateur skills. He knows his way around the ring, has a nice jab and looks relaxed and composed. Sadly for him however his hooks are wide and wild, his stamina is questionable, his defense is flawed and he's still very much an amateur fighting in the professional ranks, with a style that style doesn't look like ever really been able to adapt to the professional style. That means when he's under intense pressure he often struggles, and as we saw against Nonaka, he can can be out boxed by accurate and busy fighters who just do the basics really well. He is clear talented, but his talent has never really been developed and as a result he still struggles to show why there was some hype early on.
Coming in to this bout we are looking at two flawed fighters, albeit two very different fighters. Of the two Kawasaki is the one who will look to dictate the tempo early on, and will bring the fight to Koshikawa, who will look to box and move. Sadly for Kawasaki we think a younger, fresher, version of him would have the tools to beat Koshikawa. In 2022 however the 37 year old inactive Kawasaki will struggle to force the tempo for long, and will struggle a lot later on. When that happens we see Koshikawa letting his hands go and forcing a late stoppage on a tired and exhausted Kawasaki.
Prediction - TKO9 Koshikawa
On July 23rd we get a genuinely interesting WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title bout, as veteran champion Yuki Nonaka (34-10-3, 10) takes on the once touted Koki Koshikawa (9-2, 6). Although the bout isn't a big one, and won't get much international attention, it is a really interesting one with a lot of sub-stories around it and different threads that need unpicking before the bout comes around.
For those unaware Nonaka is one of the real stalwarts of Japanese boxing. The now 43 year old began his career way back in 1999, and did so with some very mixed results going 2-3 in his first 5. Unlikely many fighters that have great longevity Nonaka really struggle early on. In fact at the age of 31 he was 19-7-2 (7), though by that point he had unified the Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight titles. Amazingly since then Nonaka has gone 15-3-1 (3), reclaiming the Japanese title at 154lbs, and later winning the unified WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles at 160lbs whilst having a sensational late run to his career. Not only has he been getting good results, but also beating solid fighters, like Charles Bellamy, Yuto Shimizu, Ryosuke Maruki and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, all of whom were younger than Nonaka.
What has really been the key to Nonaka's success is his boxing brain and his fitness. He's never been a man with much power, or much speed, but he's a physical fit fighter with a really good boxing brain, in fact he almost beat Takeshi Inoue, by just keeping things simple, using good movement and countering the bull like Inoue. Not only is he smart, and does the little things really well, but he's also a tall, rangy southpaw, giving opponents even more problems in landing clean on him. It's also worth noting that his defense is, usually, very good and in his 47 professional bouts he has only been stopped once, and that was way back in 2002.
However with all that said it now needs noting that Nonaka hasn't fought in almost 2 years, with his last bout coming in September 2019 when he was run surprisingly close by Korean Hyun Min Yang, who was aggressive, busy and came to fight. Nonaka was cut in that fight, around the nose, and it was a really messy, tough bout that seemed to suggest father time was getting to him. And that was 2 years ago. We really need to wonder how's he going to look with the ring rusty at the age of 43. Can he still dig deep and can he still show the same skills and timing he did earlier in his career?
Koki Koshikawa made his professional debut in 2014 following an solid amateur background that saw him going 46-25 (23). He was expected to be moved quickly by the Celes gym, and debuted in 6 rounders before quickly moving into 8 rounders. Sadly however a loss in his 5th bout, to Koshinmaru Saito, slowed his ascent and he was out of the ring for more than 2 years afterwards. When he returned to the ring he scored 5 straight wins, but the most notable of those were a stoppage over former Japanese interim champion Daisuke Sakamoto and a close decision over Ratchasi Sithsaithong, with neither being a real headline grabbing win. Despite his competition he managed to get a shot at the Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga in 2019, and despite looking good in the first round Koshikawa was broken down in 4 as Matsunaga retained his belt.
Sadly since losing to Matsunaga, in November 2019, we've not seen Koshikawa in the ring, and overall his career has fallen a long way short of expectations. He was supposed to be a domestic force, but lost to the two most notable domestic fighters he's faced. He has been outboxed by one and stopped by another, and coming in to this fight he's also moving up in weight.
Koshikawa is inactive, he's failed in his biggest fights, and he's moving up to Middleweight for the first time. However he can't be written off here. He was a good amateur, he has a decent boxing brain, at 30 years old he's pretty much in his prime and he will know this is his last chance to shine following the loss to Matsunaga. He has the boxing skills to be a problem, he has speed and decent movement, he lets his hands go well but he's also someone who has struggled on the bigger stages, and has come apart under pressure.
In their primes, there is no doubt that we'd strongly favour Nonaka. His skills, boxing brain, punch picking, timing and ring control of distance would be too much. He would catch Koshikawa coming in and rely on his straight shots, getting Koshikawa's respect, and racking up the rounds. Koshikawa would likely see out the schedule, but would look a bruised, beaten, battered man by the end of 12 rounds.
In their current guise however we really wouldn't be shocked by father time catching up with Nonaka. The veteran struggling to pull the trigger at times, falling short, being under pressure and missing when he does through. His body breaking down in front of us.
We're huge fans of Nonaka, and his career has been truly remarkable, but we actually suspect Koshikawa's youth and hunger will be a major issue, and he will manage to break down the veteran.
Prediction - TKO9 Koshikawa
The 154lb division in Japan hasn't really been a particularly strong one, but it can still be a very interesting one, and the rare times it is relatively strong we do get some great fights. In 2018 we had an amazing example of that as Akinori Watanabe and Nobuyuki Shindo knocked lumps out of each other in a brilliant 10 round draw. Not all fights for the title are that good but when they are good, they tend to really be sensational.
On November 2nd we'll see bout between once beaten fighters, in what could be another instant classic for the title.
In one corner we will have new champion Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9), who won the title in May when he stopped Shindo, and in the other corner will be the once touted Koki Koshikawa (9-1, 6), who is getting his first shot at the title.
Aged 32 Matsunaga is an example of what hard work, determination and a refusal to buckle after your first loss can do. In 2014 he reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, losing to Yuki Beppu in 2 rounds. That was at Welterweight. He then moved up in weight and has gone 9-0 (6) whilst notching notable victories over the likes of Hisao Narita, Sanosuke Sasaku, Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito and most recently Shindo. Despite the loss to Beppu in 2014 Matsunaga's career has easily over-shadowed the "Kyushu Tyson's" so far.
Matsunaga's success is impressive but he's had that success is telling. He's developed into a very good fighter, and gone about his work without too much fuss. He typically keeps things simple, and makes the most of his southpaw jab. There's nothing complicated about him, but he's persistent, has under-rated power and comes to fight. His left hand is solid and he always looks to get on the front foot and make opponents work to create their space. His head movement is smart and when he puts his foot on the gas he can go through the gears very quickly. The telling thing about him going through the gears is his style doesn't really change, he just does more and speeds things up, rather than taking significantly more risks.
Matsunaga's persistent front foot pressure, constant search for gaps and accurate output is a nightmare to go up against, and to beat him you really need to get his respect. He's not faced many punchers, and it will be interesting to see him in with one, but against opponents unable to hurt him he is a nasty fighter and is often all over his opponents.
At 28 years old Koshikawa is in the middle of his physical prime. Sadly though many had expected much more of him, much earlier in his career due to a solid reputation from his days in the amateur ranks. He turned pro more than 5 years ago and the hope was that Celes Kobayashi would guide him quickly through the ranks. Instead Koshikawa took more than 24 months out of the ring following a 2015 loss to Koshinmaru Saito, in what was Koshikawa's 5th bout and came just 15 months after his debut. Since his return to the ring he has scored notable wins over Daisuke Sakamoto and former OPBF champion Ratchasai Sithsaithong, whilst stringing together 5 wins, 4 by stoppage.
Sadly not a lot of Koshikawa footage is out there, though his win over Sakamoto was a good example of what he can do. Like Matsunaga he keeps things simple. He looks at his best when he's on the back foot, luring opponents in and setting the distance with his jab, however he can come forward and pressure pretty well when he feels in control. His right hand is a solid weapon and although he's not a 1-punch KO artist, he does chip away with his big shots and wears opponents down. He's still a bit reckless and rough around the edges, but physically strong and not an easy out at this level.
Given the fact that both men like to come forward we're expecting this to be a very fan friendly bout. Both are confident fighters, both are aggressive and both are pretty basic, which should give us a lot of trading and exchanges. The key issue is a question over who is the stronger man physically. If that's Matsunaga, which we suspect, then the fight could be a very close quarters war, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Koshikawa fighting off the ropes in a real under-rated war. If Koshikawa can force Matsunaga back, the fight really does change and we suspect his longer reach will come into play, and he will take a hard fought decision with his right hand really being used as a barge pole on the southpaw champion.
Prediction - UD10 Matsunaga
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.