This coming weekend we'll see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Masanori Rikiishi (11-1, 6) look to record his first defense of the title, as he takes on exciting and aggressive Filipino challenger Tomjune Mangubat (15-3-1, 12). The bout doesn't feature a huge name in the sport, but does feature two men with the potential to compete at world level over the coming years, and the OPBF title could well be the key to either man unlocking a shot at world honours.
The 28 year old Rikiishi, the brother for former world champion Masamichi Yabuki, was put on the fast track from the moment he turned professional in 2007. His first two bouts came against fighters with a combined 10-4 record and he easily won both of those bouts before his team rushed him too quickly, and he ran into the hard hitting Kosuke Saka, with Saka stopping him in 2 rounds. Since then however he has bounced back excellently, and strung together good wins, beating the likes of Freddy Fonseca, Yuichiro Kasuya, Soreike Taichi and most recently Takuya Watanabe, with that win netting him the OPBF title. He has tested the water at Super Featherweight and Lightweight, and has seemingly decided that his future, for now, lies at 130lbs which suits his frame well.
Fighting out of the southpaw stance Rikiishi is a clever boxer, who uses the ring well, has something of a relaxed textbook style. He uses a stiff and accurate jab, to control the action, uses his footwork well to control range and chips away at fighters with his jabs early on. As rounds go by he looks to unleash heavier shots with his left hand, but is a very patient fighter, who bides his time, looks for the openings and makes the most of them. He's a frustrating fighter to watch, as he doesn't give many chances to his opponents, and takes the ones he gets, as we saw in impressive fashion against Taichi. By fighting in such a relaxed and calm manner he doesn't ever over exert himself, but when he wants to pick up the tempo he can. We saw last time out, against Watanabe, we saw him prove he can easily go 12 rounds when he needs to and mix more into his arsenal than we typically see from him. He's certainly not a 1-punch artist, or a slippery defensive genius, or someone with a titanium chin, but he is someone who understands the sport and knows what he's doing in the ring.
Aged 24 Tomjune Mungubat, aka the War Dog, is one of the many Filipino fighters who has gained a reputation for putting in sensational and exciting performances, regardless of results. He is a fighter who makes for fan friendly wars and will put on a show. He's not the most polished, or the most skilled, but he has very solid power, a good engine and the sorts of flaws that make for highly engaging battles with opponents, whether he's better than them or note. He first came to our attention in 2019, when he engaged in a 10 round thriller with Jong Seon Kang, losing a split decision to the Young Korean, and since then has gone 4-1 (3) with his only losing coming to the highly regarded Charly Suarez. Sadly his style does have its issues, especially against the more technically sound fighters, but given his power he will always be dangerous.
Mangubat is a tall, ranger fighter who doesn't have the most polished style, but he is aggressive, heavy handed, uses a lot energy, throws with bad intentions and loves coming forward. From the first bell to the final moments he will come forward, doing so behind a high guard and pressing the action. He can picked and prodded at, as we saw Charly Suarez do back in March, and he can be hurt, having been stopped in 2 of his 3 losses, but it takes a lot to stop him, and even Suarez had to unload barrage after barrage in the later rounds of their fight. Defensively he can look a bit rigid, especially when he's tired, but even then he is still dangerous and still throws enough to hurt fighters and keep them honest.
On paper this should a really good fight and a hard one to predict. Rikiishi is, easily, the more skilled of the two and the better pure boxer, but the tenacity, power, aggression and willingness to take risks will make Mangubat dangerous. Especially early on. Rikiishi will need to be cautious in the early going, following the gameplan set forth by Suarez of picking, poking, and neutralising the aggression of Mangubat. If he can do that early on and then start to press more himself, landing his spiteful left hand, then there is a real chance he stops Mangubat quicker than Suarez did. If he can't land those hard, well timed, left hands however he is in for a very, very tough night.
We feel Rikiishi has the tools to land his clean shots, hurting and stopping Mangubat, be he will have to take some punishment to see off the Filipino challenger.
Prediction - TKO7 Rikiishi
This coming Sunday fight fans in Sumida City are set for a festival of boxing, with Dangan at the helm. Not only does the day involve an actual festival of the sport, with special events being held in the city to help promote and celebrate the sport, but there will also be a stacked card at the Sumida City Gymnasium, with 3 title bouts on the show.
One of those 3 title bouts will see Masanori Rikiishi (10-1, 6) clash with Takuya Watanabe (38-10-1, 22), in a bout for the vacant OPBF Super Featherweight title. The bout really is a must win for both men with the 33 year old Watanabe fighting in his 50th professional bout, and the clock is ticking on his career, and Rikiishi knowing another set back at this point could leave him in the "who needs him?" Club.
Of the two men the well known is Watanabe, who debuted in 2007 and has been a fixture on the Oriental scene for years. He is one of the few Japanese fighters to regularly travel for fights, and has notched up bouts in South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, as well as Japan. He has also faced legitimate who's who of the Japanese scene, with bouts against the likes of Masayuki Ito, Hisashi Amagasa, Satoshi Hosono, Hironori Mishiro, Kosuke Saka and Taiki Minamoto. Whilst he has lost the bigger bouts of his career, he has repeatedly shown good technical fundamentals, an incredible will to win, under-rated boxing IQ and a sturdy chin, with the monstrously hard hitting Saka being the only man to stop him in 49 bouts. Sadly though Watanabe has shown himself to not be the hardest man to hit, nor quickest, nor a particularly heavy handed fighter, especially at 130lbs. He hits hard enough to get respect, and throws enough to keep that respect, but there is a feeling that a bit more pop in his punches or a slightly higher work rate would have resulted in a lot more success over his career.
In the ring Watanabe is a well schooled, though some what basic, fighter. He comes forward behind a tight guard, likes to set things up behind the jab and apply pressure, wanting to keep opponents on the back foot and establish a fight at mid-range at his tempo. Sadly he has struggled against fighters who are crisper, sharper and faster than he is, as we saw against the likes of Ito and Mishiro, and as we saw against Saka, he does seem to be slowly showing some cracks in his incredibly toughness. Also given his age and long career, one of the longest in terms of fights of any active Japanese fighter, it's little wonder that he is starting to show the signs of slowdown.
Aged 27 Rikiishi is coming in to his prime, but is still a fighter lacking a break out win, and is the second most famous fighter in his family, behind his brother and former world champion Masamichi Yabuki. Despite that he is a fighter who has the potential to leave a big mark on the Japanese and Oriental scene over the coming years. He's talented, he's big and strong at the weight, has a good boxing brain and a good team behind him. He is also a fighter who has tasted a defeat early in his career, been humbled somewhat by that loss, and developed as a fighter since then. He has learned from his defeat to become a better, more rounded, fighter. Also despite his loss, he's not been wasting time padding his record, instead he had a single easy comeback fight, before climbing his way through the rankings and moving to this title fight, with good wins against the likes of Freddy Fonseca, Yuichiro Kasuya and Soreike Tacihi.
In the ring Rikiishi is a talented boxer-mover, who keeps things long when he's getting himself set, but steps in when he's confident, and has solid sting in his shots, a lovely smooth style, and he fights to his physical advantages, of being a well sized Southpaw. He fight looked set to make a mark at 135lbs, but dropped down a few fights ago, and looks even stronger at Super Featherweight, where his long and rangy frame makes him an incredibly tough guy to get close to, especially with his clean straight punches and intelligent footwork. The big worry, remains, his chin and he was taken out early in his career by Kosuke Saka, but we suspect he knows how to protect his chin better now, and Saka, for all his flaws, is a huge puncher on the Japanese scene.
In many ways this bout contains two similar fighters in terms of styles. Both like to get their jabs out, use straight punches, and keep bouts at mid range until they feel their opponent wearing down. For us however it just feels like Rikiishi is the more polished fighter, the more natural boxer, and the more intelligent, with a smoothness to him that Watanabe doesn't have. At mid range Rikiishi will have notable success. For Watanabe the key is to mix up the fight, close the distance and grind down Rikiishi. That has to be his focus, but we're not sure he'll manage it. Instead we see Rikiishi getting a large lead early on, and surviving a late charge to take a clear but competitive decision win.
Prediction - UD12 Rikiishi
On December 14th fight fans will have their attention on Japan, with a major show at the with Western fans focus in on Kokugikan, in Tokyo. That show however, with two world title bouts, isn't the only Japanese show show this coming Tuesdays, with a smaller card set to take place at Korakuen Hall. That Korakuen Hall show is much smaller, but it promises to deliver so amazing action with two OPBF title bouts.
For us one of the OPBF title bouts looks like a potential hidden for the month, and that is the OPBF Super Featherweight title bout between Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) and Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7), who battle for the currently vacant title, which was vacated by Hironori Mishiro. The bout certainly doesn't have the star power of the bouts at the Kokugikan, but may well end up being the most explosive bout of the day.
Of the two men the much more proven is Saka. The heavy handed fighter from Osaka is a bit of an unknown outside of Japan, but has already won both the Japanese Feather and Super Featherweight title, and came runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year, all the way back in 2012 where he lost to Masayuki Ito in the final. He is a very aggressive, heavy handed monster who often goes over-looked when we talk about exciting Japanese fighters, in part due to having 5 losses. The first of those was to Ito in 2012 and by the summer of 2014 he was 8-3 (5). Since then however he has gone 13-2 with his only losses in that run coming in a freak ending against Takenori Ohashi and to the criminally under-rated Joe Noynay. As for his wins during that 15 fight run, he has beaten the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima, Shoita Hayashi, Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe. (For those curious, Ryuto Kyoguchi is indeed Hiroto Kyoguchi's brother).
In the ring Saka, when he's on song, is a nightmare. He's very heavy handed, his shots hurt every time they land, and he combines his break like fist with a style that bring constant, intelligent pressure. In just a few years he has developed from a crude, but powerful puncher, into an intelligent, heavy handed pressure-puncher, who comes forward, puts opponents on the back foot and hurts them, time and time again, breaking them down physically and mentally. That was seen to great effect against Masaru Sueyoshi, who he beat for the title, and against the incredibly tough Takuya Watanabe, who had his incredible resistance broken. His current run has seen him climb into the WBO world rankings, and a win here would help him earn a place into the WBC rankings, and help him move towards a world title fight.
Whilst Saka is a proven force on the domestic scene Kimura isn't, at least not quite. The 25 has come close to making a mark a couple of times, but hasn't yet managed to win the big fights that he needs to win to put down a mark on the scene. Despite that he has shown he has the skills, the desire and the ability to mix it on domestic and regional level, though perhaps lacks the experience and maturity at the moment. He turned professional in 2015, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016 and was 9-0 when he faced off with the always tricky Richard Pumicpic, suffering a competitive loss to the Filipino. He bounced back from that loss with 3 wins, before losing a razor close bout to Hironori Mishiro in late 2019, in a legitimately fantastic 12 round battle for the OPBF title Super Featherweight title. Sadly since that loss he's only fought once, fighting to a thrilling draw with Shuma Nakazato late last year.
In the ring Kimura is a technically well schooled fighter who can either fight as a pressure fighter or a boxer, but does tend to prefer a high tempo bout up close, with shots being thrown on the inside. He's shown fantastic determination, getting up in his last two bouts, impressive stamina, having already been 12 rounds twice, a great work rate and smart movement. He has decent power, but it's not destructive, and will get respect of fighters, but it's not fight changing at the high levels, and the likes of Mishiro and Pumicpic weren't too affected by it. Sadly he does, at times, look just a touch fragile, and whilst there's no doubting his heart and determination, we do have to wonder whether he'll be able to with stand the power and physicality of Saka.
We expect this to be a really fun, explosive fight. The styles should gel really, really well and we should see the two men getting close and exchanging heavy leather. Sadly for Kimura it does feel like his style will pay into the hands of Saka, who hits hard, is physically more imposing, and has that killer instinct. We see Kimura having moments in the first couple of rounds, before being backed up in rounds 3 and 4, and then finally being broken down in the middle rounds. The sheer power and of Saka will be the difference maker, and whilst this will be a great fight, we don't see Kimura have what he needs to take home the victory.
Prediction - TKO6 Saka
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
On July 27th Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall hey a stacked card that really is worth getting excited about. The main event of the card is an excellent match up for the OPBF Super Featherweight title, as unbeaten champion Hironori Mishiro (7-0-1, 2) looks to make his third defense, and over-come veteran Ryo Takenaka (18-5-1, 11), who is himself looking to become a 2-weight OPBF champion.
The 24 year old Mishiro debuted in early 2017, after a notable stint in the amateur ranks, and raced quickly into good bouts. In just his 5th bout he faced off with the then 9-0 Shuya Masaki, taking a competitive decision, before defeating Carlo Magali for the OPBF title, after just 15 months in the pro-ranks. He failed to take home a win in a unification bout with Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi, though retained his title with a draw and has since notched a win over veteran tough guy Takuya Watanabe.
In the ring Mishiro has shown himself to be an excellent boxer, with sharp punching, a good boxing brain and smart movement. He has also shown an ability to adapt, turning into a pressure fighter against Sueyoshi when he was behind and needed to drag the bout out. There are issues that Mishiro has shown, a lack of power for example and suspect defense, but he's only had 7 bouts and already looks to be a real hopeful for the 130lbs division. He's a hopeful, but one who clearly needs seasoning, and developing, and that's obviously part of why he's facing Takenaka here.
At the age of 34 Takenaka has seen better days. His early career promises a lot, and he turned professional in 2008 with pretty big expectations on his shoulders. In just his third bout he was fighting in 8 rounders. Sadly for all his early promise he didn't get a chance to fight for a title until 2014, when he challenged Hisashi Amagasa for the OPBF Featherweight title. Takenaka would box out of his skin to be in the lead going in to the final round, but was stopped with less than 2 minutes left to suffer his 3rd loss in 15 bouts. The following year however Takenaka won the OPBF title in his second shot, stopping Vinvin Rufino.
Sadly for Takenaka his reign wasn't a hugely memorable one, until his loss in 2017 against Sa Myung Noh, which was most memorable due to the fact Takenaka's lip was a bloody mess. Since then he has gone 2-1 (2) but his competition has most been poor, with a loss to Heorhii Lashko earlier this year being his most notable result since losing the title.
In the ring Takenaka is a solid boxer-puncher but at 34, fighting above his natural and with real question marks about his durability it's hard to see him coming out on top here. At Featherweight he had good stopping power, to go with his skills. At 130lbs however we haven't seen that power carry up
The Super Featherweight division isn't the best out there at the moment, but is one where there is a nice amount of talent across the various levels of the sport, meaning there are some fantastic fights out there, even if they aren't at the very top level. The Oriental scene has a handful of fighters who could all share the ring and put on great fights. We get one such fight on March 27th when the unbeaten OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) takes on OPBF Silver champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) in a really mouth watering match up.
The champion is a former amateur stand out who made his pro debut in 2017 and was hotly tipped as a star in the making straight away. He would score 3 straight forward wins before going up against the then unbeaten Shuma Nakazato, taking a hard fought win over Nakazato. He would then add an upset win over Shuya Masaki before challenging OPBF champion Carlo Magali. The bout over Magali was a massive step up, but one that Mishiro made, just doing enough to take a split decision win over the Filipino veteran. Since then he has defended the belt once, fighting to a draw against Masaru Sueyoshi in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. The Sueyoshi bout was Mishiro's most impressive performance, despite only earning a draw.
In the ring the 24 year old Mishiro is a very fluid fighter, able to box on the back foot, using his size and reach, or on the front foot, bringing the pressure and cutting the distance. He's strong, very quick, and looks incredibly relaxed in the ring. Although he has solid power, he's not a concussive puncher and despite being able to fight on the front foot, he does lack real killer instinct, something has shown it's self in the past. One thing that has really impressed about Mishiro is his stamina, and despite only having 7 fights he has already done 12 rounds twice. He's not a non-stop punching machine, but for someone so early in their career he has impressed, and he certainly paced himself better in his second 12 rounder than his first one.
The challenger isn't the natural boxer that Mishiro is, but is instead a 30 year old veteran who has been a professional for over 12 years and despite having 8 losses is a very good boxer-puncher with a gritty determination that makes him a hard man to beat. His career has also been different to most of his fellow Japanese fights. Not only has he been active, with 44 bouts in just over 12 years, but many of those have been on the road. He has right through South East Asia, with bouts in Thailand, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taipei. On the road he has had some of his most memorable bouts, including his blood bath with Jaesung Lee in Korea his KO win against Leshan Li in Hong Kong and a very hard fought loss to Yongqiang Yang in China. As for bouts in Japan he has faced some pretty stiff competition, including Hisashi Amagasa, Satoshi Hosono and Masayuki Ito.
Watanabe is a tough, solid guy with solid power, solid all round skills, an incredible will to win, and brilliant stamina. Although a boxer-puncher he can get involved in a brawl and is pretty solid in every facet of his game. He's a touch slow, which Ito made the most of, and is slightly limited in terms of skill and timing, but very few will have an easy time with Watanabe, especially now he's a fully mature and experienced fighter.
This is clearly a bout that is designed to give Mishiro a tough defense, and further prepare him for the big time. It's a risk from him and his team, but a calculated one, and one we think they're confident of him passing. It's going to be a tough, 12 round test, but we do favour Mishiro to take the decision, albeit a close decision. If he does then we wouldn't be surprised at all to see his next bout come against a world ranked foe, possibly a rematch with Sueyoshi.
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.