There are some fighters we watch because they are world class fighters and have skills that few can match. There are also fighters we watch because we know they will provide an excite contest, no matter what. One fighter from that second group is in action on December 1st in what is supposedly a world title prelude, and his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title.
That man is Reiya Konishi (16-1, 6), who faces off with Filipino foe Richard Rosales (13-7-2, 7) in a bout that we suspect will be a lot more interesting than the records of the men suggest. In fact we're expecting this to be a thrilling, fun and somewhat competitive bout between men who are likely to match each other well.
So far in 2018 Konishi has been involved in a couple of great bouts. The first saw him losing in a bout for the WBA "regular" Light Flyweight title against Carlos Canizales whilst the second saw him claim his WBO regional title, stopping Orlie Silvestre in the final round. For those who haven't seen Konishi before, those bouts are well worth a watch. They show Konishi's flaws, which are that he's easy to hit, doesn't hit particularly hard and gets involved in gruelling wars, along with his strengths, which are his great work rate, high levels of stamina, great heart, and fantastic body attack.
We don't see Konishi having a long career near the top, or even at the top if he can go all the way, but we do expect to always enjoy his bouts, which are fought at a thrilling intensity. They can get messy, due to head clashes and some mauling, but they are really dull and often both men know they have been in a fight, and fans know they've seen something a bit brutal.
Rosales on the other hand has had a year to forget, suffering losses to Vietnam's Tran Van Thao in January and to Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in August, both in Thailand. Those losses have sandwiched a low key win against Delfin de Asis from May. Sadly for Roales his form on the road has been poor, going 0-3 in fights outside of the Philippines, and 13-4-2 (7) at home. Whether at home or away he lacks in terms of notable wins, and has suffered losses to every notable fighter he has faced, including Fahlan, Jayr Raquinel, Kwanpichit OngsongChaigym and Jake Bornea, likely explaining why Konishi's team have brought him to Japan for this bout.
At his best Rosales can be a nightmare, and he did legitimately make Fahlan and Raquinel earn their wins, but he's not a fighter who gets over the winning line against decent competition. We're expecting to see him come to fight, but lack the fire power to get Konishi's respect. Instead we think Konishi will drag Rosales into a war and come out with a clear win, likely a wide decision or late stoppage. Konishi will likely end up cut, he usually does, but will well deserving of the win.
On Monday we get Christmas, and it's fair to say we're in for some treats away from the world of boxing. Just a day later however action returns to the ring and our attention turns to Kobe for a Japanese Minimumweight title fight. On paper the match up, between defending champion Reiya Konishi (14-0, 5) and challenger Kenta Matsui (8-6, 1), looks likes a mismatch but the reality is that it could very well be an incredibly competitive contest between two men looking to prove themselves.
The unbeaten champion won the belt in April, with a razor thin decision win over Masataka Taniguchi, and made his only defense in September, when he took a majority decision over Shin Ono. Together those two wins are less than amazing and suggest that Konishi, whilst unbeaten, isn't an elite fighter in the making. Instead the 24 year old looks like a talented fighter who could mix at world level, but is unlikely to become a long term champion.
In the ring Konishi is a decent boxer-fighter who has a good engine, nice technique but really lacks power, even at this domestic level. He doesn't mind having a war but no one is going to be afraid of his power, and he has scored just 1 stoppage in his last 9 bouts, and that came against a very limited Thai. Whilst going the distance with Ono and Taniguchi isn't a bad thing there is just a general feeling that he doesn't have the physicality to go to the top, or the power to make domestic type of fighters really respect him.
Aged 22 Matsui is a proverbial boxing baby but is also a man who has had more than 5 years professional experience and has also mixed with good company. His early career saw him having very mixed results, including a close loss to Jun Takigawa in November 2013 and a loss in a rematch in 2015. That mixed form would later lead to Matsui fighting Riku Kano in 2015, losing to the then fast rising Kano. In his last 3 bouts he has gone 2-1, with his only loss coming to current Japanese Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada and scoring wins over Rikito Hattori and Genki Hanai.
Having scored big upsets over Hattori and Hanai we've seen that Matsui is a very upset minded fighter, who fights with the intention of beating better fighters. It's a nice mentality and one that needs to be applauded, rather than seeing him come in to pick up more losses. He'll be fully aware that no one is giving him a chance, given his record, but he'll know that he has the ability to shock opponents, and will also know that Konishi isn't as good as his record suggests.
On paper it's easy to feel like Konishi will win, with little problems. The reality however is that whilst we do believe that Konishi will win, we think he'll be forced to work very hard for the victory. Matsui will be there to win, he's tough enough to take the shots of Konishi and will be in his face. Matsui's ability will make things very tough for Konishi, but we think Konishi will again retain his title.
The Minimumweight division right now is quite a frustrating one with the title picture being a fractured one where unification doesn't look like any time soon and where the top contenders really are struggling to break out from the crowd. It's not a bad division as such, but one that is certainly not as exciting as it was a few years ago, and that's despite having 3 unbeaten world champions with fan friendly and hugely different styles.
This coming Sunday we see another unbeaten fighter look to put themselves into the mix for a world title fight as they take on a veteran, who has challenged for world titles on multiple occasions. For the unbeaten Reiya Konishi (13-0, 5) the bout serves not only as a bout against a recognisable challenger, and a chance to put his name into the mix, but also as his first defense of the Japanese title, and a way to legitimise his standing domestically. For his foe, Shin Ono (28-8-3, 4), the bout essentially a chance for him to prove that he deserves another chance and that at the age of 34 there is still life in the old dog.
Of the two men it is the challenger that is the more well known. He's a former OPBF Light Flyweight champion and is a 16 year veteran of the ring who has been in there with a string of notable foes. They have included Yu Kimura, Masayuki Kuroda, Yuki Sano, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Katsunari Takayama, Kenichi Horikawa, Tatsuya Fukuhara and Knockout CP Freshmart. Unfortunately for Ono his best wins are over Kimura, back in 2008, and Zhong, back in 2012, with most of his other recent bouts against notable foes being losses.
At his best Ono was a tough, skilled but very light punching fighting who could fight and move for for distance with a lot of energy. At the age of 34 however he's not going to have that same level of incredible fitness and he has been given some serious punishment in recent years, with Takayama, Horikawa and Knockout all giving him some real miles on the clock. It also needs to be noted that Ono's last 3 wins have been over limited Thai's and have been spread out over the last 3 years!
Aged 24 Konishi is one of the rising breed of young Japanese fighters looking to make a mark at 105lbs, along with IBF champion Hiroto Kyoguchi and OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura. Unlike those two Konishi doesn't have fight changing power, but with Shinsei gym behind him he has the support of Hyogo and a great team, who are currently having a small boom period thanks to Shun Kubo and Ryuya Yamanaka. Like many youngsters in Japan Konishi first made his mark on the Rookie of the Year scene, claiming the 2014 Minimumweight crown with wins over the likes of Jun Takigawa and Yuki Kubo, before spending 2015 and 2016 gaining valuable in ring experience. That experience paid off earlier this year when he took a razor thin win over former amateur stand out Masataka Taniguchi to claim the Japanese title.
In the ring Konishi has shown a lack of power, with only one stoppage since he won the Rookie of the year, and that came against a very poor Thai foe, but he's shown a gritty toughness, an impressive work rate and a refusal to lose, which was shown against Taniguchi.
With Ono having so many miles on the clock, and with Konishi looking at this bout as a chance to make himself a world title contender it's hard to see anything but a stirring performance from the champion. He may not stop Ono, who is tough, but with his energy and work rate Konishi should be too young and too hungry for the challenger, who will likely be considering retirement in the near future.
The Minimumweight division has been one of the most interesting in Japan in recent times. It has not only seen the country develop world champions, like Katsunari Takayama and Tatsuya Fukuhara, but also top contenders like Riku Kano and Go Odaira. At the moment the country also boasts a huge number of prospects in the division, such as OPBF champion Hiroto Kyoguchi and Tsubasa Koura.
This coming Sunday we see a new fighter being crowned as the national champion, as unbeaten youngsters collide for a title previously held by Fukuhara. In one corner will be Masataka Taniguchi (6-0, 4) whilst in the other will be Reiya Konishi (12-0, 5). Both men are 23 years old, unbeaten fighters and fighters who are not only fighting for the Japanese title, but also looking to take a huge step towards a world title fight.
Having been a professional for just over a year Taniguchi has been a fast riser. He was touted as a top prospect when he turned professional and raced away to a 4-0 (4) record between April and June last year. His KO run came to an end in October when he scored a statement making win over Dexter Alimento, taking a razor thin 8 round split decision over the then 11-0 Filipino prospect. In his most recent bout Taniguchi defeated Vincent Bautista, claiming a 6 round decision.
At the start of his career Taniguchi looked like a wrecking ball, much like stable mate Kyoguchi. He showed free flowing combinations and an aggressive in ring style. In more recent bouts however his power hasn't carried up, and instead he has been relying more on his boxing ability. That's not to say he doesn't have solid power, as he showed when he dropped Alimento, just not the vicious power that Kyoguchi seems to have.
Taniguchi may only have 22 rounds to his name as a professional but he has had top sparring at the Watanabe gym, which has been fire this year, and was a former amateur stand out running up a 55-19 (16) record in the unpaid ranks. He is more experienced than his record suggests and as a southpaw he is also naturally a tricky proposition than an orthodox fight. The one flaw her perhaps has is that he's never been beyond 8 rounds, and this is likely to be his second toughest bout to date.
Hailing from the Shinsei gym Konishi is the far more experienced fighter as a professional. He debuted back in mid 2013 but really came to the attention of fans in 2014, when he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown. That marked Konishi was one to watch going forward, but sadly his career has since been a bit of a slow burner. He picked up 3 wins in 2015 against domestic foes, and two more wins last year against limited opposition. Although many of his opponents have been limited, with his 2011 win over Jun Takigawa being arguably his best, he has been racking up ring time with 55 professional rounds under his belt, and 4 complete 8 rounders.
Unlike Taniguchi there isn't much information available on Konishi's amateur credentials, but given he competed in the Rookie of the Year it's safe to say he didn't have much of an amateur pedigree. Despite that he looks to have learned his trade on the job and does look like a solid fighter who uses a lot of upper body movement and physical strength. He might not be a big puncher but he is a strong fighter who uses a lot of pressure. Sadly whilst he is strong he is flawed, his defense is lacking and he's not particularly quick compared to other fighters in the division.
Coming in to this bout there are a lot of questions to be asked about both men. Can they both go12 rounds? What happens when Taniguchi is under pressure? Can Konishi take the combinations of Taniguchi?
Sadly for Konishi we think that he'll come up short here. He'll certainly have moments, and will likely be the naturally stronger fighter, but in the end the more complete skills, power and speed of Taniguchi will be the difference with the Watanabe man taking a clear, yet competitive, 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.