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
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
We get the first OPBF title fight of the year on January 19th with Korea playing host to an OPBF Light Middleweight title bout, fill the void left by Takeshi Inoue, who fights Jamie Mungia for the WBO title a week later. The match up will see little known Korean fighter Jung Kyoung Lee (6-2-1, 2) [이중경] battling against Australian based Cameroonian fighter Samuel Colomban (25-10-1, 11), in the first ever event held under the "Annihilation" banner.
The Korean fighter has been a professional since early 2017 and has risen through the ranks rather quickly, a surprise given he lost on debut and was 3-2 when he had his first bout of note. His first big bout came in December 2017 when he fought to a technical draw with In Duck Seo, in a bout for the Korean Light Middleweight title. Prior to the bout with Seo being stopped we did get a chance to see Lee as an aggressive, exciting southpaw, who was technically crude but looked confident and like a solid puncher. Sadly for Lee that bout was stopped following a pretty brutal clash of heads, but since then he has won the Korean title, thanks to a very late stoppage over Se Ho Joo in April 2014.
Since beating Joo for the title Lee has fought twice, scoring a huge win over Chinese fighter Tonghui Li in October and Nakhon Muensa in November. In those bouts he did look more patient, less reckless and less open than he did against Seo. He was lucky to get the decision against the Chinese fighter, but showed his toughness and desire, taking the fight to Hui. He had developed his lead hand since the earlier fights, but was still pretty crude.
The 34 year old Colomban has been a professional since 2006 and has had a long and hard career, but has proven to be a genuinely tough fighter. He first made his mark in the amateurs, competing at the 2006 Commonwealth games, and would go on to face a who's who of the Australian scene, facing the likes of Ryan Waters, Wale Omotoso and Jeff Horn, who is the only man to have stopped him. His career has seen him travel to the UK, where he fought the then unbeaten Denton Vassell, and proved to be a handful at his very best. Sadly Colomban hasn't looked close to his best recently, and has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 bouts.
Rugged, aggressive and powerful Colomban was a solid Welterweight and a decent regional Light Middleweight. With over a year-gone since his last bout however it's unclear what he has left in the tank. If he's half the fighter he once was it's hard to see anything but a win for Colomban, but he's clearly not the fighter he used to be, it's just unclear how much he has slipped.
We're guessing that the Korean and his team know that Colomban isn't the fighter he used to be, and that their man is the younger, fresher figfhter. They will assume that will be anough to take the win, and the OPBF title, and we think they are right...but Lee will certainly have to earn his victory and Colomban won't just give him it for free. This will be an interesting test of Lee's toughness, but a test we're expecting to see him pass en route to a wide decision win.
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.