The Welterweight division in Asia hasn't been the most amazing to follow, despite some entertaining bouts such as 2019's fantastic bout between Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada. Despite not being the best it does give us some interesting match ups on paper, such as the one at the start of between Keita Obara and Yuki Nagano, and the one we're going to focus on in this preview. That's the February 27th bout for the the OPBF title between Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) and Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8). On paper this looks good and in the ring we expect it to be even better than it looks.
Ranked #3 by the OPBF Kaneko is getting his first shot a major title, having previously won the Japanese Youth Welterweight title. The Japanese based Afghan born 22 year old is someone who has quietly been making a name for himself without too much attention on him. Since debuting in 2015, as a teenager, Kaneko has developed himself a reputation as a very talented boxer-puncher. He claimed the Youth title in 2018, when he beat Change Hamashima in their second bout, then scored a trio of solid domestic wins over Toshio Arikawa, Rikuto Adachi and Moon Hyun Yun. Those 3 wins have helped secure him this title fight, and have seen him get a title on merit, something we don't always see.
Although not well known outside of Japan Kaneko is a very physically strong fighter. He's not the quickest or the sharpest, but he's certainly not slow and sloppy and is instead more of a deliberate fighter, with heavy hands. There's power in both hands and for a fighter who isn't lighting quick with his hands he does move well, especially with his upper body. One other thing to note about Kaneko is that he finds the target well and varies his shots smartly. Defensively there is work to do for Kaneko going forward but at the moment no ones really been able to make him pay for the little flaws with see. Instead he tends to be the one making opponents pay, and make them pay rather quickly with 7 of his wins coming within 3 rounds.
Aged 28 Nagahama is a man who is now starting to fight for his career. He's not shot, or past his best, but he is in desperate need for a notable win, following stoppage losses in 2017, to Takeshi Inoue, and 2018, to Yuki Nagano. This will be his second title fight, following a loss in a Japanese title fight at 154lbs to Inoue, but isn't an easy one. In fact on paper this is his third toughest bout on paper, and he has lost his two toughest bouts to date. Looking through his record his biggest wins so far were 2015 Rookie of the Year win, at Middleweight, against Brandon Lockhart Shane and his 2019 win over Masaya Tamayama. The win over Tamayama was good, but that wasn't a win that really showed Nagahama was ready to mix it at regional title level.
Watching Nagahama we see a solid fighter, but one who doesn't blow us away, in any area. He's technically decent, but lacks speed, lacks power, and doesn't appear physically imposing. He lets good combinations go, but the never appears to have any sort of fight ending power on them. If you let him dictate the pace it'll be a slow, controlled fight and a win for him. To beat him, you need to dictate the pace, and for most fighters at regional title level that won't be a problem.
We expect this to start pretty slowly, with the two men looking to stand off and box against each other. It won't take long however until Kaneko puts his foot on the gas and lands something heavy, and begin to break down Nagahama, who will feel the need to respond and that will only speed up his demise.
Prediction - TKO5 Kaneko
Despite a number of interesting fighters, and a lot of potentially intriguing match ups, the Japanese Welterweight division doesn't get much attention. That's despite fighters like Ryota Yada, Yuki Beppu, Yuki Nagano and Giraffe Kirin Kanda all being worthy contenders on the domestic scene.
Arguably the most interesting Japanese Welterweight bout we'll see this year isn't actually at the top of the table, so to speak, but will instead be this Sunday's Japanese Youth title fight. The bout will pit unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) against once beaten Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9). Both men have just turned 21, and could have waited years to face each other, but instead want to face off, knowing a win will instantly put them on the verge of a bout for the full version of the Japanese title.
Kaneko is a Japanese based Afghan born boxer-puncher. He left Afghanistan as a child and has really built himself a life in Japan whilst getting plaudits for his attitude, and his dreams are certainly positive ones, with the fighter hoping to help get things built back in Afghanistan. Whilst his backstory is genuinely amazingly amazing, we can't help but be impressed by his actual boxing career as well.
Kaneko made his debut all the way back in 2015, as a 17 year old, and showed real ability early on as a punching, scoring stoppages in 4 of his first 5. Since then he has gone 5-0 (3) and shown more and more to his. He has taken 2 decision wins over Change Hamashima, claiming the Japanese youth title in the second win. The biggest win of his career however came last November, when he stopped former Japanese champion Toshio Arikawain 3 rounds. That was a performance to be proud of, neutralising the power of Arikawa and then taking him out in very impressive fashion. Whilst Arikawa is no world beater, he's a very dangerous fighter and for Kaneko to take him out this early in his career was a huge statement. He's shown he can box, he can punch, he can bang. He's not the quickest, but he is very, very talented and very promising.
Adachi, like Kaneko, debuted in 2015 as a 17 year old but has gone a very different route to Kaneko. He would actually take decisions wins in his first 3 bouts, before growing into his strength and reeling off 5 straight stoppages to advance to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017. He would lose in the Rookie of the Year final to Hironori Shigeta, a very talented fighter himself, by a single round on 2 cards, and many felt he deserved the win. Since then he has reeled off 3 more stoppages, including a stoppage over Jonel Dapidran. Impressively he went 4-0 (4) in 2018, showing great activity, and has gone 9-1 (9) in his last 10 bouts, impressive given his first 3 went the distance.
In the ring Adachi is a fighter who looks naturally big, yet doesn't look like he fills out his frame, in fact it looks clear that he will be fighting at Light Middleweight, if not Middleweight, in the future. He's got decent hand speed and good movement, but is a little bit naive defensively. He doesn't have much of an inside game, though given his freakish looking size that's not much of a surprise. His jab is a razor sharp, a really nice punch that he varies, from snapping opponents with it, to touching them and controlling range. Watching him there's a lot to like, but a lot of areas where clear improvements can be made. If he added some boxing on the inside and tweaked his defense than there would be a lot to get very excited by.
If Kaneko hadn't impressed so much against Arikawa this would be a fight that Adachi would be the favourite. Problem us that Kaneko looked fantastic against Arikawa, and that maybe enough to swing the odds in his favour. Adachi looks like he's going to be very good, with some key areas to work on. If he uses his brain, fights to a gameplan that focuses on his speed, he should come out on top.
Kaneko is no push over, and is a more rounded fighter. He lacks the speed of Adachi, but looks to be the more natural fighter. If he can make this a fight we suspect he'll win.
This is a hard one to call, and a very, very interesting match up. If pushed for a prediction, we suspect Adachi gets the win in a very close decision. The bout is in Osaka, and he's the local prospect. We wouldn't be surprised by any result at all here though. It's one of those bouts that really could go any which way.
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.