It's fair to say that the Light Middleweight division is one of the more notable in the West right now, with interesting possible match ups involving the likes of Erislandy Lara, Jermell Charlo, Jarrett Hurd, Brian Castano, Vanes Martirosyan and even Kell Brook. In Asia there is also an interesting scene developing, even if it is on a much lower level.
This coming Friday we get the chance to see the scene in Asia really tidy it's self up with the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles being unified, potentially with the Japanese title also becoming unified. Not only is there a lot of silver ware up for grabs but also a lot of career momentum for both men, who have both had sensational 2017's already and will want to end the year on a big time high.
In one corner will be current OPBF champion Ratchasi Sithsaithong (9-3, 7) who has already travelled to Japan twice this year. In his first bout of the year he scored an amazing come from behind victory over Yutaka Oishi to claim the OPBF title, with the win coming in round 12 when the Thai was 3 points, 5 points and 11 down on the cards. He then followed up with an 11th round TKO over Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine to retain his title. In the other corner will be unbeaten Japanese champion Takeshi Inoue (11-0-1, 6) who has gone 3-0 (2) already this year with wins over Akinori Watanabe, Konshinmaru Saito, for the Japanese title, and Riku Nagahama, in his first defense of the title. Inoue, no relation to the Inoue clan lead by Naoya Inoue, has shown an ability to box, brawl or fight and has a good claim to being Japan's domestic break out fighter of 2017.
The Thai began his career in 2011 and faltered early, losing his 4th bout and then losing again just 2 fights later, to current Japanese Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida. Since then however he has gone 5-1 (4), avenging his sole loss during that run to Cobra Suwa, and scoring the aforementioned wins in the OPBF title bouts. It's unclear what has really began his improvements but he now looks like a solid, heavy handed fighter, with a steely determination and great energy. He is technically flawed, hence why he was so far behind Oishi in their bout, but his will to win is incredible and his power really does appear to last in to the championship rounds.
Inoue was a former amateur stand out with a 39-16 (21) record, and he had captained his University due to his amateur talent. He turned professional in 2014 and fought to a draw with Daishi Nagata on debut. Since then however he has developed significantly and this year he has really broken away from the domestic pack with the wins over Watanabe and Saito. His amateur pedigree is obvious but he has been shown to be happy to have a fight, as he did against the big hitting Watanabe where he essentially out worked and brawled through Watanabe.
Given the styles of the two men we're expecting a hard hitting, exciting and action packed fight. We're expecting to see both men prove their toughness, but we're expecting the youth and hungry of Inoue to be too much. There's going to be a risk if the Japanese fighter goes to war straight away, especially if Ratchasi can see out the early storm and come on strong, but we favour Inoue to become a triple crown winner with a very hard fought decision over the under-rated Thai.
The Oriental Light Middleweight scene is a bit of a mess at the moment, with the Oriental title being passed around as it looks for a steady champion to take the belt forward. Since Charles Bellamy vacated the title more than 4 years ago it has had 5 champions, and only a single successful defense. It has been vacated by Koji Numata and lost by Dennis Laurente, Takayuki Hosokawa and Yutaka Oishi.
Now that's not to say there's no good Oriental fighters at 154lbs, but no one seems to be chasing the Oriental title, which is currently held by limited Thai Ratchasi Sithsaithong (8-3, 6). The Thai will be making his first defense this coming Sunday as he takes on the biggest name in Japanese boxing, well actually the longest, Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine (10-4, 8). The bout will be Petagine's first title bout and could see the title change hands, once again.
The Thai won the title earlier this year, when completed one of the biggest comebacks in recent memory and stopped Oishi in the 12th round whilst 11, 5 and 3 points behind. That win was a second successive one for Ratchasi who beat Cobra Suwa last December, avenging his most recent loss. Interestingly the Thai's only other losses are a decision to the unbeaten Atchariya Virotesunobon and Japanese Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida.
Ratchasi is limited, no one would suggest other wise. However he showed last time out that there is no quit in him and he's a long way removed from the fighter who was 4-2 (3). He can hit, he can take a shot, and he keeps coming, refusing to give up until the final bell. Oishi out boxed him with relative ease, but in the end the Thai's stamina and will to win were too much, and it's clear that if a fighter can't get him out of there early, he's going to be on the front foot in the later stages looking ti turn a bout around, and he hits hard enough to do just that.
Aged 29 Petagine is coming in to his prime though he's a real unknown in many ways. He claimed his most significant win almost 4 years ago, winning the 2013 “Rookie of the Year” crown at 140lbs. That win saw Petagine move to 8-1 (7) and look like he was set for an interesting career. Sadly however he has gone 2-3 (1) since then, split a series of close decisions with Shohei Kanemoto, losing to Valentine Hosokawa, being stopped by Jay Solmiano and beating a Thai novice. Hardly the form of an Oriental title contender.
Through his career Petagine has fought mostly at Light Welterweight, a genuine achievement given that he's more than 6'0” tall. His body shouldn't struggle to fill into a Light Middleweight, but his power is unlikely to carry up, and against Solmiano it was clear that he didn't like taking shots from a big punching Welterweight, though he did get stopped standing after taking some huge bombs. His body may have filled out a bit more, and he may be more physically developed than he was against Solmiano but it's still going to take a career best performance to win here.
With so many title changes in recent years it's almost like we'd expect Ratchasi to lose the belt here. The reality though is that he should be favoured here, and he should have the power to stop Petagine. Saying that Petagine does have power himself, and if he's got some self belief he may well score the upset.
Our prediction a stoppage for the Thai, but the bout is a hard one to call with neither man being hugely proven, or particularly consistent.
The Light Middleweight division in Asia is, sadly, a bit under-whelming despite some notable fighters in the region. Sadly that means that we have had some under-whelming title fights in recent times, and it looks likely that we are in for another less than great title fight later this week, as OPBF champion Yutaka Oishi (14-5, 7) defends his belt against Thai challenger Ratchasi Sithsaithong (7-3, 5). Without trying to sound too annoyed, the match up does little for the Oriental title and does little to move the winner on in their career.
For Oishi the bout will be his first defense of the title, a title that he won last year when he upset Takayuki Hosokawa. The win was a huge one for Oishi, but seemed to be just as much about Hosokawa being a spent force as Oishi being something special. The win saw Oishi work hard, and earn the victory, but really not look like a great fighter coming of age.
At 32 years old Oishi is a veteran, and one whom debuted back in 2008. He suffered a number of early career set backs and had a 7-3 (4) record after 10 fights, with a notable loss in the 2011 All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Since then he has gone 7-2 (3) suffering a notable loss to Zac Dunn and scoring his career defining win over Hosokawa. That win over Hosokawa was Oishi's third straight win and interestingly it was the 7th straight win whilst actually fighting at Light Middleweight for Oishi, who is 7-1 at the weight!
Thai challenger Ratchasi, also known as Niwat Kongkan, is a 31 year old who debuted back in 2011 and has had miced success, losing by stoppage to Hikaru Nishida and Cobra Suwa, before defeating Suwa in a rematch last year. The win over Suwa is the most notable win on his record, but with two stoppages on his record, and a 0-1 record outside of Thailand, it's unclear what he really has to offer.
Footage of the Thai is scarce though from what we under-stand he was a hard working but limited fighter who is unlikely to score a stoppage at this level but could make for a good fun bout with a limited foe, such as Oishi. The styles should gel well, but it's hard to see the bout being fun, or exciting, with the Thai unlikely to over-come the Japanese local.
Although we struggle to defend this bout an as OPBF title fight, it should be a fun fight all the same, pitching two limited and beatable fighters against each other,
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.