This preview was originally posted for the bout's first scheduled date, March 1st. Rather than re-writing it we'll be using it for the new date of July 26th. This was posted before their was a huge hiatus in Japanese boxing due to the global situation that essentially put boxing, and life for most of us, on hold. As a result there are some fairly obvious issues, but we have tried to make it clear that we are aware of the issues.
The reason it's being reused is it's still essentially our view on the fight, despite the changes in date, and the fighters both aging since the original March date for the bout.
After a couple of relatively quiet months things really amp up through the month of March, with a whole host of notable fights taking place all over the place. The first of those will see Japanese youngster Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) take on veteran Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. The bout, which takes place on March 1st at the City Plaza Yayoinokaze Hall, in Izumi City.
The one clear thing to note is the experience between the two fighters.
The 22 year old Tomita has fought 15 times as a professional since making his debut in 2015, as a fresh faced teenager. He would win the 2016 Rookie of the Year, at Minimumweight, and moved up the professional boxing ladder to an OPBF Minimumweight title fight with Tsubasa Koura in 2018, losing that bout but putting in a performance that showed the 20 year old had real potential. Since then he has moved up in weight and won the WBO Asia Pacific title. He is, for all intents, a man with a very bright future ahead of him, and not someone to be written off for a single loss, that he learned a lot from.
Horikawa on the other hand is a 39 year old, in fact he turns 40 later in March, who has been a professional since 2000 and will be competing in his 58th professional bout. During his long career he has faced off with a genuine who's who of the lower weights, including Akira Yaegashi, Florente Condes, Edgar Sosa, Tetsuya Hisada, Yu Kimura and Kenshiro Teraji. Whilst he's not often been able to over-come his toughest opponents few have got past him without working incredibly hard for victory. At his age, and with wear and tear, we do wonder what he has left in the tank.
So with Horikawa having the edge in experience, and Tomita having the edge in youth, lets look at other areas of the two men.
Tomita is very much a boxer. The 5'4" fighter is someone who looks to create space and use his jab to control the tempo and range of the bout. It's a sharp jab, he doubles it up well and he does follow it up with the right hand pretty well. Since moving up in weight, to Light Flyweight he's looked stronger and has began to show a more proficient body attack, and it does seem like he really has learned a lot from the loss to Koura. Just last time out he looked much more rounded as he took a win over Hayato Yamaguchi, and showed a much more varied attack on the inside. He still seemed happier at range, but was able to do more than just hang with Yamaguchi up close.
Horikawa on the other hand is an aggressive, in your face type of warrior. He gets up close, wants to fight, and likes to get close where he can dictate the tempo of the bout. Given his age it'll be no surprise to learn that his tempo, speed, energy and reactions are much reduced from what they once were. As a result he is more conservative than he used to be and approaches opponents with less intensity than he once did. In his late 30's however he is more technically solid than he's ever been and will look to counter to get inside rather than rush in like he used to.
In Horikawa's prime his energy, aggression, and willingness to pursue and harass opponents would have been a huge benefit here. Sadly though Horikawa looked like an old man last time out, losing a clear decision to Yuto Takahashi, who was too quick, too sharp and too mobile.
We expect the youth factor of Tomita to a massive factor here, and for him to essentially out youth the now faded Horikawa. There will certainly be moments where Tomita is backed up, tagged and on the receiving end of flurry's from Horikawa. Those flurry's will win Horikawa a round or two, but not be enough to take the decision.
Prediction - UD12 Tomita
On February 11th fight fans in Hiroshima will get the chance to see a popular local fighter challenger for an OPBF title, in what is a real must win for the local, and the next stepping stone in the career of the champion.
The champion in question is 26 year old Filipino Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), the current OPBF Light Flyweight champion who will be taking on 35 year old challenger Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7). Another loss for Itagaki almost certainly ends his career, which began in 2005, whilst a win would be his defining achievement, and a huge upset. A win for Heno however would enhance his reputation and move him one more step towards a world title fight, in one of the sports most packed divisions.
Heno won the title in September 2017, travelling to Japan and stopping Seita Ogido. Prior to winning the belt he had stopped the then 12-0 Cris Ganoza and been held to a very controversial draw with Ogido, having originally been announced as the winner before a scoring error was discovered. Since winning the title he has defended it against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas.
In recent years Heno has proven to be a very talented boxer, with underrated power, a lot of confidence and a willingness to travel to prove himself, having travelled for both the bouts with Ogido and the bout with Sabillo. In the ring he's an accurate, sharp puncher, with smart defense and the ability to pick some fantastic counters. There's definitely areas to improve and work, but on the whole he's a fantastic young fighter who is hungry to prove himself, before getting a world title fight. It's clear he doesn't just expect a title shot, but feels the need to earn it.
Itagaki has had a number of notable chances in the last few years. In 2017 he lost to Kenichi Horikawa, in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title, and in 2018 he lost to the then Japanese champion Tetsuya Hisada, before at the end of the year to Horikawa in a Japanese title eliminator. In fact coming into this bout he is 2-4-1 in his last 7, going back more than 3 years. Unfortunately for Itagaki his record is reflective of his career, and he is a "win some lose some" fighter, who has mixed with good fighters, losing to the likes of Horikawa, Hisada, Rey Loreto, Suguru Munraka, and Warlito Parrenas, but unfortunately come up short against almost everyone of note.
Despite his failings against decent fighters Itagaki isn't actually a bad fighter. For an older fighter he's light on his feet and has good a lovely quick jab. Sadly though he's a light puncher, he has to work incredibly hard for success and struggles to get respect from opponents. He certainly has the skills to make life difficult for opponents, but if a fighter can cut the ring off, they can really get to him. Likewise against a young, talented fighter, like Heno, we suspect that Itagaki's lack of physicality will be his down fall.
We rate Heno incredibly highly and we're expecting him to show why he is so well regarded in the sport. We're expecting to see him show his speed,timing and variety to neutralise the movement of Itagaki, and force a late stoppage over the veteran. Yes Itagaki will be awkward early on, but as the pressure comes from Heno he'll slow down, and eventually be broken down.
We don't expect to see Heno just look win, but instead we expect him to win in a way that makes a statement and begins to open the door to potential world title fights in Japan against WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi or WBC champion Kenshiro.
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.