On February 28th we'll see a new unified regional Super Flyweight champion as the unbeaten Masayoshi Hashizume (18-0-2, 11) takes on Akio Furutani (9-4, 3) in a bout for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title and the vacant OPBF title. The match up might not look the most interesting on paper, but it promises to be a lot more interesting than it looks, and shouldn't be the mismatch the records suggest. In fact the records are hilariously misleading here.
Of the two men Hashizume will, obviously, be the favourite. The unbeaten 28 year old is a talented and smooth looking southpaw, who debuted in 2013 and quickly made a name for himself, winning the All Japan Rookie and taking the unbeaten records of Ryusuke Tanaka, Dynamic Kenji, Takeshi Kajikawa and Eita Sakurai along the way. Aged 21 at the time he seemed destined for big things under the guidance of Kazunori Ioka. Sadly however the years that followed his Rookie of the Year triumph saw him facing over-matched opponents from Thailand, rather than developing his skills and experience. It wasn't until late 2017 that he would face another domestic opponent, and then he was surprisingly held to a draw by Kato Fujimoto. Despite that setback he would have some testing bouts in 2018 before facing the then Japanese champion Takayuki Okumoto and earning an unfortunate draw with Okumoto. That result showed he belonged at title level, but he had wasted a lot of time and sadly his career would again see him "waste" time as he only fought once in 2019 and has only fought once since the start of the pandemic.
Hashizume is a wonderful talent. He has sharp punching, lovely combinations, good movement and eye catching speed. He's also technically well polished. Sadly however he has wasted years of his development, he might have 20 bouts to his name, but only about half of them were legitimately meaningful, and his development wasn't really what it should have been under Ioka. He's now fighting out of the Kadoebi Boxing Gym, and did look really good last time out against Yoshiki Minato, but we do wonder if he's a case of "what could have been?" As for his actual talent, he's wonderfully gifted, but does lack genuine power, and his 55% KO ratio is very misleading. A total of 6 stoppages, from his 11, have come against horribly over-matched Thai's, and he only has one stoppage in his last 7 bouts, which is a worry at the level he's now fighting at.
On paper Furutani shouldn't be considered a real challenger at regional level. He's lost 4 of his first 13 bouts and that record can make it seem like he's simply not very good. Aged 24 however Furutani has had to develop the hard way, and learn from his losses. In fact he would lose 3 of his first 6 bouts, including one to recent Hashizume foe Yoshiki Minato. Since then however he had gone 6-1, with his sole loss during that run coming in a very hard fought and competitive rematch with Minato, and has recent scored back to back wins over Keisuke Nakayama and Takayuki Okumoto, both of whom have won titles. In fact that's the same Okumoto who has held Hashizume to a draw, and the same Keisuke Nakayama who held the OPBF Flyweight title. Those two wins are better than any wins Hashizume has, and going 5 fights unbeaten, dating back to December 2018, is a great sign of just how misleading his record is and the sort of form he is now is.
In the ring Furutani is a patient fighter, who looks create space, fight behind a slippery and accurate jab, and neutralise opponents with his good timing, accurate punches and frustrating counter style. He's not the most fun to watch or the biggest puncher, but he finds gaps, lands clean shots and doesn't take too much himself, making him something of a nightmare for fighters who let him dictate the pace. He won't take risks, he rarely needs to, but he will rely on basic boxing skills to have success. When things get messy he can hold his own, and he's not against spoiling up close when he needs to and holding when he has to. He's very much the type of boxer who wants to dictate the tempo, via any means necessary, making him a very hard opponent to beat. Despite his record suggesting he's not a puncher, he hits cleanly enough to get opponents respect and that is something that he'll need to do here.
Coming in to this fight it's hard to look at the record and not feel Hashizume will win. In fact we feel Hashizume will take home the victory, however we expect this to be a very, very, very tough bout for him. Hashizume will look to set a higher tempo than Furutani wants, he will use his crisp, clean punches to get in and out and although Furutani will land plenty of shots of his own, we suspect Hashizume will out work him, especially in the later rounds.
Expect this to be ugly at times, and not one to remember, but it will be compelling, with Hashizume doing enough to take home a close and hotly contest decision.
Prediction - UD12 Hashizume
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.