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
The first big bout in Japan this year will be a mouth watering Middleweight bout as OPBF champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) takes on Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11). On paper this should be a unification bout, but politics has seen the Japanese title not being on the line, and instead only Hosokawa's OPBF title will be up for grabs.
Despite the title situation this is still a mouth watering clash between two heavy handed fighters who get into the ring with the intention of stopping their opponents, every time they fight. Neither is the most technically accomplished, but both are destructive, hard hitters who throw with bad intentions.
Aged 35 Hosokawa is a man who has had a strange career. He debuted at the age of 29, losing a decision and was 2-2 (1) after 4 bouts. He then began to build a reputation as a fearsome fighter, scoring 4 straight stoppages before losing a close decision to Yasuyuki Akiyama, and falling to 6-3 (5) From there he has gone 6-1-1 (6), gained revenge over Akiyama, to become the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion, lost to Yuki Nonaka than gone 1-0-1 (1) with Koki Tyson, becoming a 2-time OPBF champion in the process.
In the ring Hosokawa is an aggressive volume puncher. He's very much the type of fighter who comes forward and throws a lot, often happy to take one to land one. He sets a high pace and although he's heavy handed he's very much a fighter who grinds down opponents, rather than blasts them out. His last 4 stoppages have all come after the 6th round, and he's the sort of fighter who could find himself down on the cards before a strong finish. Technically he's crude and he can be outboxed, especially early on, but he's rugged, and his incredible output is a nightmare to fight against and does break opponents down.
Takesako is the younger man, at 28, and is the more powerful single punch hitter. In many ways he's the opposite of Hosokawa. He turned professional following an a notable amateur career and raced through to a title fight, winning the Japanese Middleweight title in his 8th bout when he almost gutted Hikaru Nishida. None of his first 8 bouts went beyond 3 rounds as he destroyed fighters like Nishida, Shoma Fukumoto and Elfelos Vega in impressive fashion. More recently however we have learned that Takesako can box, and can go longer in bouts. He took 7 rounds to stop Chaiwat Mueanphong, went 10 in a bout against the slippery Shuji Kato, in a bout that ended in a draw, before adapting for a rematch and forcing Kato to retire in the corner after 8 rounds.
Technically Takesako is the better boxer, and the bigger puncher, but he lacks the volume of Hosokawa and we have more question marks about Takesako's chin, which hasn't looked the best, than we do with Hosokawa's, which has looked solid. Although Takesako is unbeaten he has been shaken by Kato and seemed to really dislike being put under pressure by Sanonsuke Sasaki in their 2018 bout. He looks destructive, but like he could have a questionable chin of his own.
This has the hall marks of a special fight. Two guys who can punch, two guys who are aggressive and two guys with differing mentalities. Hosokawa tends to impose himself behind his bullish strength and high work rate. If he can land clean there's a genuine chance he could break down Takesako, and do so early if Takesako's chin is as suspect as it looks. On the other hand Takesako could just as easily land a counter as Hosokawa presses forward and shake him, before stopping him with a follow up.
This is a hard one to call, the only thing we're sure about is it will not go the distance!
With Takesako being more dangerous early we'll be going with him, but could just as easily see Hosokawa breaking him down.
Prediction - TKO7 Takesako
Over the last few years Kadoebi have been putting on some fantastic shows under their Slugfest banner, and having their fighters take risks. They have regularly shown a belief in their fighters and have pushed them to be tested, delivering some excellent bouts in the process. On December 16th however we see a blip in that form, as OPBF Light Middleweight champion Akinori Watanabe (38-7-1, 32) gets an ultra-rare gimmie, and defends his belt against Thai foe Sitthidet Banti (12-5, 6).
We're not fans of easy bouts for anyone, but if someone deserves it probably is the 34 year old Watanabe, who has had more wars than most and taken real punishment in bouts against the likes of Toshio Arikawa, Takeshi Inoue, Magomed Kurbanov and Nobuyuki Shindo in the last few years. The hard exciting Watanabe had to travel to Korea to win the title, stopping Jung Kyoung Lee in August, and appears to be having what is very much a straight forward homecoming defense.
For those who haven't followed Watanabe's career it has long been a case of ups and downs. He has been stopped in 6 of his 7 losses, and with 32 wins inside the distance it's often been a case of someone being taken out. In fact only 1 of Watanabe's first 21 bouts required the judges, and that was his debut! He's fun, exciting, aggressive and although he has tempered that aggression as he's matured, but is still very much a front foot fighter who doesn't want to let opponents off the hook when he hurts them. The tempering of his aggressive tendencies have helped him make up for a questionable chin, but even now, almost 16 years after his debut, he's not a hard man to catch, he has just learned to ride shots better.
The 28 year old challenger, who turns 29 less than a week after this bout, made his pro debut back in 2014, losing a decision to the talented Atchariya Tor Chantaroj and since then has lost to every notable opponent he's faced, other than a shot Saddam Kietyongyuth who he squeaked a 4 round decision against last year. Notably those losses have included a 10 round shut out, at Lightweight, to Xiangxiang Sun and more recently a KO loss in Japan to Takuma Takahashi, who was 3-0 at the time.
It's the loss to Takahashi that really stands out, as it came in Sitthidet's only previous bout in Japan and was on a few months ago. Technically Takahashi is a better boxer than Watanabe, he's more patient, sets things up properly and applies his pressure in a more text book manner than the marauding Watanabe. The reality however is that the slow and careful style of Takahashi allowed that fight to go 6 rounds despite the Thai offering little, and looking to just shoot back counters. When Takahashi put his foot on the gas the Thai had no answers.
We expect this to be a short and brutally quick win for Watanabe, who shouldn't need more than 3 rounds to see Sitthidet and retain his belt.
It Watanabe loses this will genuinely go down as one of the biggest upsets in a Japanese ring this year, and that's despite Watanabe being known as a big of a glass cannon.
Prediction- TKO2 Watanabe
One of the fighters who has really impressed in recent years is OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (20-2-2, 13) who has won his 8 in a row since losing a very close split decision to Ryo Akaho more than 3 years ago. On December 12th he looks to add another win as he takes on the talented Shohei Kawashima (18-3-2, 4). For Teshigawara the bout will serve as his third defense, as he looks to move one step closer to a world title fight, whilst Kawashima looks to claim his first title, after coming up short in a couple of previous title bouts.
Teshigawara wasn't really on the radar until October 2016 when he battled 2-time world title challenger Akaho and gave him a real run for his money, losing a close split decision. At that point Teshigawara had fallen to 12-2-1 (6) and despite how good his performance was few would have expected his current run, a run that has seen him Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. He has moved from Bantamweight, where he won the WBO Asia Pacific title, to Super Bantamweight where he has claimed the OPBF title. He has looked destructively heavy handed, technically solid, with an impressive ability to take a shot, and fights with a lot of usual movement, putting fighters on the back foot and unable to time him.
Although Teshigawara is certainly not unbeatable, and we wouldn't fancy his chance against any of the top 10 in the world, he's an awkward nights work for most. He takes a shot so well that no on will blow through him, and offers enough power in his shots to make them pay if they over-look him and see him an easy out. The way he uses feints is also really smart, and despite being an aggressive fighter he's also a very cerebral one, who seems to have learned a lot from mentor Koichi Wajima, another man who was rather unpredictable at times.
The 27 year old Kawashima has been a professional since 2012 and made his first big mark in 2014, when he won the Rookie of the Year. He was unbeaten in his first 16 fights before travelling to Mexico and losing a razor thin decision to Cristian Mijares in October 2016, during an interesting run of wins for Mijares. Sadly since then Kawashima has struggled to get much momentum in his career. He suffered an upset loss in 2017, when he was surprisingly stopped in 6 rounds by Gaku Aikawa, who took him out with a single straight right hand on the button. Another loss, earlier this year, to Juan Miguel Elorde was another set back, though like the Mijares the bout was a close one on the road.
Had Kawashima been managed differently he would likely have been a fixture on the regional title scene. He's incredible skilled, a pure boxer with a good jab, nice movement and good shot selection. Where he really fails is his power, and he really struggles to get respect of opponents, despite how skilled he is. The loss to Aikawa wasn't a sign of a weak chin, far from it, but he was caught by a bomb. Still that doesn't fill us with confidence that he can handle a shot, and he hasn't faced any top punchers, though Teshigawara is certainly a banger.
Whilst Kawashima is a talent we see him being broken down and beaten up by Teshigawara here. Kawashima's movement and counter-punching may cause Teshigawara some problems, but the lack of power on Kawashima's shots is unlike to stop the champion in his tracks and instead we see Teshigawara walking him down in the middle rounds. Anyone who can box with Mijares is good, but we feel Kawashima lacks the tools to cope with physicality of Teshigawara.
Prediction - TKO7 Teshigawara
On December 10th fight fans at Korakuen Hall get a really interesting card featuring some of the top fighters from the Watanabe Gym, including the unbeaten OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (8-0-1, 3) defending his title against the once beaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-1, 7). For fans outside of Japan this bout won't really set pulses racing, but for those in Japan, and those who follow the Japanese scene, this is a really interesting match up and one worthy of attention.
Mishiro was a former amateur standout who has been on the fast track under the Watanabe gym since he turned professional. In just his 5th bout he went in with the touted Shuya Masaki and in his 6th bout, just 15 months after his debut, he became the OPBF champion, out pointing Carlo Magali. Whilst he failed to unify the OPBF and Japanese titles, just a fight later, when he fought to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi, he has come on and gone from strength to strength. His last two bouts have seen him defeat the teak tough Takuya Watanabe and former OPBF champion Ryo Takenaka, and he's on the verge of a world ranking after just 9 fights.
Despite having so little experience Mishiro has shown he can box, he can brawl and he can fight. He originally looked like more of a boxer early on, and the fight with Magali was an interesting match up due to Mishiro boxing rather than fighting. As he's developed however he has shown a willingness to really fight, and that was on show against Sueyoshi, with Mishiro falling behind when he was boxing, then becoming a fighter to claw back the bout in an excellent contest. He's still got areas to work on and we still don't know how sturdy his chin is, but he has ticked a lot of boxes, and has proven his stamina can take him 12 rounds and that he can bite down and adapt.
At 23 years old Kimura is a young gun looking to make his mark on the sport and continue the momentum he has began to building following his sole career loss, back in Spring 2018 to Richard Pumicpic. He first broke through back in 2016 as a fresh faced youngster, winning Rookie of the Year, and on paper seemed ill-prepared for Pumicpic, but still managed to give the talented Filipino a real fight. That loss has really brought him on, and since then he has stopped 3 decent fighters, including Filipino Allen Vallespin.
In the ring Kimura is a talented fighter with a nice jab, good movement and a good boxing brain. Sadly however he does have the look of a kid in their at times, and although really talented there is a feeling that he might be someone who matures a little later than some other fighters. That could be a major question mark when faces a strong Super Featherweight, and it seemed like Pumicpic managed to rough him up in their fight, albeit with a few accidental headclashes early on. We've always been impressed by Kimura's composure in the ring, but the lack of real physicality has lingered as a potential issue in our mind for the youngster. That is despite the fact Kimura looks great when he works up close and applies pressure.
We see this being a really interesting fight, but one that Mishiro should win whatever happens. If Mishiro decides to box we feel he'll be just a touch too polished for Kimura, and will take a clear, but well fought, decision over the younger man. If Mishiro wishes to make life more fun for fans however he could look to make this into a fight, and try to drag Kimura into a tear up. If that happens we'll have a high intensity fight, fan friendly war. Either way we're expecting this to be a clear decision win for Mishiro in a fun and exciting late contender for Japanese fight of the year.
Prediction - UD12 Mishiro
Earlier this year we saw Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-4-1, 10) and Koki Tyson (14-3-3, 12) fight to an entertaining, if some what frustrating, draw in a bout for the OPBF Middleweight title, a title that both men have previously held. The belt had been vacated by Yuki Nonaka, who was hoping to get a high profile bout that failed to materialise, and as a result of the draw remained vacant. On October 11th we'll against see Hosokawa and Tyson battle, as they rematch for the belt, and this time it seems like it could be better bout than their first.
The first time the men faced off Tyson took the bout at relatively short notice, something that seemed to hinder both men. Tyson wasn't in great shape, and seemed to struggle in the final few rounds, whilst Hosokawa had been training to face a very different stylistic challenge to Tyson. This time around both men have had time to work on a game plan for the other, they know what they are getting involved in and we're expecting a more explosive and exciting bout than their first.
Aged 35 Hosokawa, the brother of former Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa, is likely coming to the end of his career. He only turned professional in 2014 though and hasn't had a long career, but it has been a tough one. He's an all action, in your face fighter, who lacks in technique but brings a lot of pressure, power and aggression. It's that aggression and power which has made him worth paying serious interest in. He's a nightmare to fight, and although he can be out boxed, as we saw Yuki Nonaka do to him in February, his whole style is very hard to deal with, and he remains heavy handed late into bouts, as we saw in his 2018 win over Yasuyuki Akiyama.
At 26 years old Tyson is coming into his prime years, physically at least, yet is already a 7 year pro who has been in the title mix for around 4 years. Before getting to the title scene he had won the 2013 Rookie of the Year and was proving to be a big puncher, having amassed a 9-1-1 (9) record by the time of his first title fight. Whilst few doubted his power his lack of boxing IQ and maturity were shown up in his first title fight when Akio Shibata stopped him in 7 rounds. Since then Tyson has gone from being a wild puncher into a much more refined boxer-puncher, as seen in his wins over the likes of Dwight Ritchie and Brandon Lockhart Shane. Despite being a better boxer than he was earlier in his career there are still question marks about his chin, his mental toughness and stamina, but he's clearly been working on his flaws.
In their first bout Tyson fought smartly through out. He started off behind his jab and when he tired he tied up and smothered Hosokawa. Sadly though his lack of fitness showed and whilst he was smothering he was losing rounds, not doing enough to win them. Here we expect to see a fitter Tyson fight with a bit more aggression, take a few more risks and, as a result, engage more with the aggressive Hosokawa. Sadly for Hosokawa he's just getting older and he seemed in great shape for their first bout. The feeling we get is that Hosokawa's career will begin to wind down soon whilst Tyson's is set to take off in a big way.
We might be wrong and the pressure and power of Hosokawa could have the break through he was looking for in their first bout, but we actually expect the boxing of Tyson to be the difference between the two men.
Prediction UD12 Tyson.
On October 10th we'll see a new regional unified champion being crowned, as unbeaten Japanese fighter Shuichiro Yoshino (10-0, 8) and twice beaten Filipino Harmonito Dela Torre (20-2, 12) battle for the vacant OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight titles. If Yoshino wins he will not only hold the titles he's fighting for here, but will actually become a triple title holder, adding them to the Japanese title he already holds, whilst the Filipino will be looking to get his career back on track after some recent set backs.
The unbeaten Yoshino has been on a fast track since he began his professional career. As an amateur he was a stand out, though took his time to begin his professional. When he turned pro, in 2015, he wasted no time in rising through the ranks, and in just his 4th bout he defeated former Japanese and OPBF champion Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds to become the Japanese Lightweight champion, just 20 months after his debut. Since then he has defended the title 4 times, all by stoppage, and scored some frightening KO's, such as his 3rd round win over Kazumasa Kobayashi.
In the ring Yoshino is a confident boxer-puncher. He's aggressive but also defensively smart, with a good tight guard, he applies pressure but does so intelligently, and he can fight on both the inside and outside. He's not untouchable, but for an aggressive fighter he is much smarter than he is given credit for. Whilst technically he's solid it's power that is scary and every shot he lands is thrown with the intention of hurting an opponent. He is a very, very solid puncher, and this has been shown time and time again recently, with 6 straight stoppages, but does still have some question marks to answer going forward. The big question mark for Yoshino is his chin, and how he manages to cope with a 12 round bout, things we may find out here.
At 25 years old Harmonito Dela Torre should be hitting his stride now, especially given that he debuted more than 7 years ago. Sadly however his once promising career has began faltering. He began with 19 straight wins, getting those victories in the Philippines, Macau and the US. He looked on route for major success, and looking like someone to get excited about. In 2017 he suffered his first loss, but he was competitive through out an 8 round contest with Tugstsogt Nyambayar, dropping the Mongolian before losing a clear decision. That was his first loss but there no issue. Sadly though he would suffered his second loss in his very next bout, being stopped in 2 rounds by China's Yongqiang Yang. Since he he has only fought once, scoring a domestic win against Richard Betos.
In the ring Dela Torre is a pretty solid but basic fighter. There's nothing that jumps out as being spectacular about him, but lots of areas where he can improve. He applies pressure, but often throws shots from out of range, comes forward in relatively straight lines, and paws his jab from his hip. Given he's not amazingly quick or sharp his style really isn't great. He gave Nyambayar issues, but that was more down to the fact he is naturally 2 division's bigger than the Mongolian.
Dela Torre once promised so much, but really failed to develop. Had he developed as many had assumed he'd have made for an solid OPBF level fighter. Sadly however he's too open, too limited and too slow. Against Yoshino he will be made to pay for his flaws, with the his chin there to be hit. Given Yoshino's power and the limitations of Dela Torre we expect this one will finish early, and will be another brutal finish for the Japanese fighter.
Prediction KO4 Yoshino
The Light Welterweight scene in and around Asia isn't all that strong right now, despite some interesting fighters and fights that could take place in the division. One of the more notable fighters in the division is current OPBF champion Rikki Naito (21-2,7), who will be defending his title for the third time as he travels to Korea and takes on Gyu Beom Jeon (9-3-1, 4).
On paper this doesn't look like a great bout, but there's a lot of underlying sub stories here which are worth being aware of.
Firstly the bout has been rescheduled a number of times this year. The rescheduling has meant that Naito has been out of the ring for close to a year, with his last bout coming last October, when he struggled past Daishi Nagata in a barn burner. Not only has he been out of the ring for a while, but his last 2 bouts both saw him being dropped late, and left a lot of questions about his stamina. More tellingly however is the story about Naito's father and his bouts in Korea.
Cassius Naito, Rikki's father, fought in Korea 5 times, and lost all 5 bouts. Notably 4 of those losses came to Jae-Doo Yuh and the other one to Chong Pal Park. For Rikki this is personal and this is for his father, just as much as being for himself.
In the ring Rikki is a solid boxer, with nice speed and movement, good ring craft and he fights to his strengths. Sadly however he has always felt like an under-sized Light Welterweight, he's not got much stopping power at the weight, he's run on fumes in the final rounds of his last 2 bouts and as mentioned he's been dropped in his last 2 matches. There is a feeling that whilst he's talented, he's not going to go far at 140lbs due to his own failings. If he could make 135lbs safely he would likely fair better than he will at Light Welterweight.
Whilst Naito is an experienced fighter and is well known in the region, having won the Japanese Super Featherweight title before moving up to Light Welterweight, a lot less is known about Jeon. The Korean 27 year old debuted in 2016 losing on debut. He was 2-2-1 after 5 bouts and 4-3-1 after 8, but he has rebuilt well with 5 straight wins, including 3 by stoppage. On paper he hasn't been fighting at a high level, but a 2018 win against Dong Hee Kim was solid and saw him claim the South Korean title.
Like many Korean fighters Jeon is aggressive, a bit raw defensively but he has a fan friendly style. He puts some pepper on his right hand, likes to fight at mid to close range and fires in body shots. Sadly for Jeon he doesn't set a typically high work rate, and although he does seem to have some promise this is a huge step up in class for him.
We have seen Naito struggle in recent bouts, he has been inactive and his father did fail to win in any of his Korean bouts. Despite that he should have the skills in his locker to take home a clear win against Jeon who isn't ready for a bout at this level. Jeon will come to win, but be out worked, out sped and out thought, before being broken down and stopped.
Prediction - TKO9 Naito
The Flyweight scene in Asia is a rather weird one right now. There are some amazing fighters there, like Kosei Tanaka, and some really fast rising hopefuls, like Junto Nakatani. Sadly though there is a really awkward gap between some of the regional level fighters and the world class fighters.
Among those stuck between the Oriental scene and world level is current OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7), who travels to Japan later this month to make his second defense of the title. In the opposite corner to the champion is former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13), who appears to have slipped significantly from his prime.
Aged 22 Raquinel has a lot of potential to make a mark at world level, much like the aforementioned Nakatani and fellow rising youngster Ryota Yamauchi, though his has a lot of questions over his head. He showed his ability to perform on the road in early 2018, when he stopped Keisuke Nakayama to claim the title and then again just months later when he stopped Shun Kosaka in his first defense. Sadly his rise hit the skids last year when he lost a competitive decision to Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi, in China, and he's not fought since that bout. Whilst his title wasn't on the line against Tuolehazi the bout did cost him momentum and his unbeaten record and it's almost a year since he last stepped in the ring.
At his best Raquinel is a solid boxer-puncher. He's got a hard hitting southpaw left, a good right hook, and smart movement. Sadly for all the positives about him he can often look lazy in the ring, too reserved and unwilling to let his shots go. Against Tuolehazi he looked great, when he threw his punches, but all too often looked happy to not do much, cruising and waiting, often waiting too long and letting Tuolehazi do enough to take the win. Given his age that loss could be a great learning experience, or could be a setback that he struggles to ever really rebuild from.
The 34 year old Kogawa has long been one of the most fun to watch fighters on the planet. Having debuted 14 years ago Kogawa has been one of the staples on the Flyweight scene much of that time. He began his career with a 17-1 (10) record, and won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, before getting a world title fight against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Kogawa lost to Wonjongkam but bounced back and won the Japanese Flyweight title just 6 months later. It's been the Japanese Flyweight title that has really been the focus for much of Kogawa's career over the last 8 years with title bouts against the likes of Shigetaka Ikehara, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Kudaka and Masayuki Kuroda.
Through his career Kogawa has been in some amazing bouts, his fights with Muranaka, Kudaka and Kuroda stand out.He has had a career from being a boxer-brawler, with a high tempo style, that has seen him take a lot of punishment. Sadly in the last few years Kogawa has started to show the damage of those battles, and looks to have slowed significantly from the star he was. Whilst some of that could be put down to lingering effect from a serious ear injury, which he suffered in 2016, it's fair to say that his warrior mentality, hard fights and really hard rounds, along with his age, has simply caught up with him.
At his best Kogawa would be strongly favoured over Raquinel, sadly though he's a long way removed from his best. This version of Kogawa has struggled with the likes of Naoto Fujimoto and Hideyuki Watanabe, limited domestic foes. Even with Raquinel having been out of the ring for a year we suspect his youth, freshness and speed will be the key. With Kogawa being aggressive we see Raquinel getting chances to sit back and counter, rather than in the Tuolehazi fight where the Chinese fighter didn't give Raquinel opportunities to counter.
We suspect Raquinel will come out on top here, and Kogawa will then end his long, and thrilling career.
Prediction- Raquinel UD12
Earlier this year Korean fighter Jung Kyoung Lee (7-2-1, 3) scored a career best win, stopping Samuel Colomban to claim the OPBF Light Middleweight title. He returns to the ring later this month to make his first defense of that title, as he takes on Japanese veteran slugger Akinori Watanabe (37-7-1, 31) in what could be a really fan friendly contest, and the next step on the rebuilding process of Korean boxing.
Lee was a former martial artist who turned to boxing in 2017 and despite suffering a couple of early career setbacks, stumbling to 3-2-1 after 6 bouts, he has really come into his own with a 4 fight winning run. That winning run hasn't just had 1 good win over Colomban, but also includes a notable decision win over Tonghui Li, in what was a very oddly scored bout. Those two wins are two of the best of any active Korean boxer and shows that the man from Seoul is getting better.
Although improving Lee does still have a lot of areas that he needs to iron out. He's not the quickest, the biggest hitter or a particularly smooth fighter. He is improving, and rounding off, but there is a lot of work left for him to do. What he does have is a good tank, good physical strength and a gritty toughness. He'll never been a naturally smooth fighter, but he appears to be a hard worker, and as far as the Korean scene is concerned he actually comes across as a bit more intelligent than many Korean fighters, countering and using a bit of lateral movement. Whilst he does have some intelligent aspects he is very much a left hand happy type of fighter, who doesn't make the most of his southpaw stance.
Whilst Lee is on the way up it's hard to really know where Watanabe's career currently stands. The heavy handed Japanese fighters was long regarded as a glass cannon, but in recent years has shored up his defense and began to show some more durability, to go along with his attacking prowess. The 34 year old southpaw has been a professional for over 15 years and has gone on to achieve notable success. He has not only won the Japanese, OPBF and PABA titles at Welterweight but also claimed the Japanese "interim" title at Light Middleweight, a title he vacated to pursue this title bout.
Watanabe is a somewhat crude, but powerful, hard hitting and exciting fighter, willing to take one to land one. That mentality saw him suffering 3 straight stoppage losses in 2007-2008, but since then and another stoppage loss in 2010. Since then he has only really been stopped in wars, losing to Toshio Arikawa and Magomed Kurbanov, with that stoppage coming from facial swelling. His biggest issue is still his defense,
and in recent years his face has had a reputation for swelling badly, but seems to feel his offense is his best defense. Not always an effective tactic, as we saw when Takehi Inoue bullied him around the ring, but something that does see him playing to his strengths.
The experience and power edges both sit firmly with Watanabe, though he is the older man and is certainly the more damaged fighter. He's also on the road, fighting in Korea and the naturally smaller man. Although Watanabe is a live under-dog we do see him coming up short against the younger and hungrier Korean hopeful.
One thing to add is that this bout is taking place a rescheduled date. Originally it was supposed to take place much earlier in the year but Lee suffered a training injury forcing it be rescheduled for August 11th. This has seen Watanabe age a bit more, though we suspect there is still plenty of life in the veteran.
Prediction - UD12 Lee
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.