Since suffering an opening round TKO loss in 2013 we've seen Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12) go on a fantastic run of 14 straight wins, against some of the most notable Welterweights in Japan. the latest of those wins as in April when he travelled to Osaka and defeated Ryota Yada to become the Japanese Welterweight champion. This coming Saturday he returns to the ring seeking his first defense of the title, as he takes on veteran foe Makoto Kawasaki (11-7-1, 2).
The talented Nagano really has turned his career around after a 2-2 start to life in the professional ring and wins over the likes of Giraffe Kirin Kanda, in the 2015 Rookie of the Year final, Riku Nagahama, Yuki Beppu and most recently Ryota Yada really have been impressive. Now aged 30 he has a great combination of experience, skill, power and is still young enough to have not really lost any of the physical traits. He's also helped out by being a southpaw, and being backed by one of the most notable Japanese promoters, Teiken.
Although on a great domestic run it's hard to imagine Nagano mixing on the world level. There's a fair argument to suggest he's one of the best fighters at Welterweight in the Asia Pacific region, but he's a long, long way behind the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford. He's pretty basic, but heavy handed, patient, accurate and has good time. He has also shown a real will to win, though of course he has question marks about his chin and after winning the title does he still have the desire that lead him there?
Kawasaki is a proper veteran, he's 35 years old and has been a professional for over 7 years, yet hasn't really managed to have consistency in his biggest fights, despite facing several notable names. His debut came against Koki Tyson, and ended in a draw, and since then he has been a win some lose some fighter through his career, losing to the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Ryota Yada, Daisuke Sakamoto and Xingxin Yang. Although he has picked up losses he has shown an ability to score upsets, beating the likes of Kazuya Murata and Yuichi Ideta. During his 19 fight career he has only been stopped once, being taken out in 7 rounds by Yada back in 2016.
In the ring Kawasaki is a pretty tough fighter, but lacks real power, and boxes mostly off the jab. He has struggled to get respect of fighters in the past and, when he's been backed up, he has been unable to force opponents to respect him. His first 3 losses, all in 4 or 5 round bouts, were close, but his last 4 have all been much clearer defeats and it really does seem like he's struggled as he's stepped up in levels and has had his jab neutralised.
We're struggling to see how Kawasaki can pull it off here. He's the big under-dog and although a veteran appears to have been selected as an easy first defense for Nagano, who we see taking a dominant and clear win. The winner isn't in much doubt, here, and it would be a huge surprise to see Kawasaki upset the in form, younger, stronger, hard hitting champion.
Prediction - TKO9 Nagano
To begin 2017 we had expected to see Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa (14-4, 12) to defend his title at the Champion Carnival against mandatory challenger Daisuke Sakamoto (13-8-3, 8). Sadly in the run up to that fight the champion suffered a training injury, breaking his jaw, and forced that bout to be cancelled. Rather than leaving the title on ice the JBC ordered Sakamoto to face off with Makoto Kawasaki (9-4-1, 2) in a bout for the interim title. That bout closes out the relatively quiet month of June and gives fans at the Korakuen Hall another potentially thrilling contest.
On paper the bout might not look great. After all between them they have a combined record of 22-12-4 (10) and neither has made an impact above domestic level. The reality however is that they are are well matched, both are hungry and both men are looking to make the most of their opportunity here. It's a bout that has real intrigue and has a genuine reward for the winner.
Of the two fighters it's Sakamoto who comes in to the bout with genuine form. The 35 year old veteran has gone 6-0-2 since losing a very narrow decision to Nobuyuki Shindo back in December 2013. That 8 fight unbeaten run has seen him score a now huge opening round win over Toshio Arikawa, a little more than 3 years ago,claim a decision over Ryoji Tanaka and fight to a technical draw with Takashi Inagaki. Whilst his last 3 wins have been against poor Thai's he hasn't been allowing ring rust to build up, and has instead been keeping his eyes focused on the Japanese title.
Although Sakamoto is in the form of his career, and has turned a 7-8-1 (3) record around, he is much better than the numbers suggest. He has lost close ones to the likes of Shindo, Kazuyoshi Kumano, Yasuhiro Okawa, and Yoshitaka Katabami and has been matched hard on the domestic level, fighting the likes of Yuji Wauke and Daichi Sakoda very early in his career. Like many he has been matched hard and had to develop the hard way, which is why he is now reaping the rewards of such a poor looking record.
Aged 33 Kawasaki is a man who is really a bit of an unknown outside of the most hardcore of Japanese fans, and really doesn't have the time to suffer another set back. His most notable result is a draw, on debut, with Koki Tyson, who was also debuting. Since then he has fought some notable names, but has come up short against the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Noriaki Sato and Ryota Yada. That's not to say he doesn't have any good wins, but victories over Mazuya Murata, Takeshi Goda and Koji Iida are scarcely amazing.
With a lack of power Kawasaki will depend on his work rate and stamina here. He has shown both at at the 5 and 6 round distance but has only gone beyond 6 rounds twice, being stopped in one of those bouts and taking a decision in the other. He has never shown that he can comfortable go 8, never mind more, and he lacks the experience to really know what to do when fatigue sets in.
The bout probably won't be a memorable bout that transcends Japanese boxing, but we do expect the bout to be a lot of fun, and high octane and we expect to see Sakamoto just being that bit too good, too experienced and too hungry for his long awaited rematch with Arikawa to come up short here.
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.