The Featherweight division is Asia is incredibly interesting right now, both at the domestic levels and on the Oriental level. Fighters like Satoshi Shimizu, the OPBF champion, and Reiya Abe, the in form future Japanese title challenger, have really impressed recently with excellent performances. Another Japanese fighter who is emerging as one to watch is teenage prospect Musashi Mori (8-0, 5), who faces off with Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) this coming Sunday. The bout will be a second meeting between the two, who fought last year, and will be the first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title for Mori.
As mentioned this is the second meeting between the two men. They fought last November with Mori taking a split technical decision win over Pumicpic to take the WBO regional title. The bout ended in the 5th round, giving us a very inconclusive and disappointing conclusion, but one that has certainly left us all looking forward to their rematch.
At 19 years old Mori is one of the most accomplished teenagers in the sport. He made his debut in 2016, as a 17 year old and would win the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. He build on that success in 2018 with 3 more wins, including the one over Pumicpic as he dropped down in weight. Notable Mori looked like a puncher to begin his career, stopping his first 4 opponents in a combined 6 rounds and 5 of his first 6 opponents. He has however struggled to make an impact with his power at a higher level, going 8 very close rounds with Allan Vallespin last Summer. There are also question marks about Mori's defense and stamina.
Mori impressed early in his career, when he seemed to take opponents out. As he's stepped up it's become clear that there are areas for improvement. He showed some of those against Pumicpic in their first bout, showing more to his defense than he had against Vallespin. That is however still an area for him to work on. Where he is strong is with his sharp punching, he has a very good jab, a quick straight left hand, an educated hook and he is physically strong. Although only 19 he is a strong fighter at Featherweight, and doesn't look like a fighter who is draining to make the weight. Given how their first fight went, with it being a rough and tough battle on the inside, that physical strength will likely be a key asset here for the youngster.
On paper Pumicpic has the record of a fringe regional contender, in reality however he is a genuine nightmare to fight. The 28 year old has been a professional since 2008 and has proven his ability to compete at a high level, giving fits to Ryosuke Iwasa and Cesar Juarez as well as defeating the likes of Hisashi Amagasa, Roli Gasca, Joe Noynay and Yoshimitsu Kimura. He has also claimed various titles through his career, often winning them as the under-dog.
Stylistically Pumicpic is a handful. He's in the face of his opponents, applying pressure and is happy to go to war. Despite not being heavy handed, he is accurate, and refuses to let fighters use their size or speed against him. He's also a very under-rated fighter defensively, slipping and sliding shots with smart movement whilst cutting the distance. Sadly there are two things holding him back from the top level. One is his lack of power, and he'll never get respect from the top fighters with his clean but relatively weak shots, and the other is his lack of size, even at Super Bantamweight he was relatively small. He's very talented, tough and has good stamina, but is on the small side for the division.
Given how messy and sloppy their first fight was we're not expecting a pretty fight here. We're expecting another messy battle. As with their first bout we're expecting the natural strength of Mori to be a key factor, especially early on. We're expecting to see Mori take an early lead though as the bout goes on we expect Pumicpic to claw back the difference. Unless headclashes again force an early conclusion we see this being a very close decision bout, with Mori again taking the decision.
We love fighters misleading records, and we love fighters who want to be fast tracked and chase glory earlier in their career. This coming Sunday we see those two things clash, as Richard Pumicpic (21-8-2, 6) defends his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against unbeaten 18 year old Musashi Mori (7-0, 5) at Aioi Hall in Kariya. Pumicpic boasts one of the most misleading records in the sport today whilst Mori is looking to punch himself into the fringes of the world rankings in a bout that looks nothing short of brilliant on paper.
The 28 year old champion seems like he's been around for an eternity, having debuted back in March 2008 as a fresh faced 17 year old. He would lose on his debut and would pick up quite a few early career set backs, falling to 9-5-1 (3) after 16 bouts on the Filipino domestic scene. Since then however he has gone 12-2-1 (3) and proven to be a total nightmare on the regional scene with a draw against Yohei Tobe, a razor thin loss to Ryosuke Iwasa, a win over Joe Noynay, a competitive loss to Cesar Juarez, and recent wins over Hisashi Amagasa and Yoshimitsu Kimura. The win over Amagasa, in 2017 saw Pumicpic claim the title and send Amagasa into retirement, whilst his win over Kimura saw him notch his first defense of the title.
In the ring Pumicpic has made a reputation for being a nightmare to fight. He's aggressive, tough, surprisingly intelligent in terms of his defense, brings a lot of smart pressure and although not a puncher he hits hard enough to get the respect of his opponents. He finds a way to make his lack of stature, he's 5'4", work for well for him and there's very few fighters who will enjoy getting in the ring with him, even if he's not likely to knock people out.
The exciting Mori began his career in late 2016, stopping Kazuya Fukai in just 41 seconds. The follow year he rose to prominence by winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight, stopping all of his opponents on route to the final, before taking a decision win over fellow puncher Zirolian Riku in the final in December. So far in 2018 he has faced two international opponents, stopping a Thai novice inside a round in April before stepping up in class and taking a narrow decision win over Filipino Allan Vallespin, back in July. The struggles with Vallespin seemed to show that Mori was a work in prospect, and perhaps also not a natural Super Featherweight, hence him dropping down in weight for this bout with Pumicpic.
When you watch Mori it's easy to forget he's an 18 year old who debuted back in late 2016. He looks composed, quick, sharp and really confident in the ring. Fighting out of the southpaw stance he's quick with his jab, gets in and out of range well and has a nice variety of shots. From his career so far however it does seem like he has questionable stamina, and against Vallespin he spend the last few rounds looking worn out and tired. He showed maturity, in spoiling, holding and making life difficult in the later rounds, whilst he tried to get his second wind.
We do think that Mori has a really bright future ahead of, sadly though we suspect this will be too much too soon and he'll come up short against Pumicpic. The Filipino will apply pressure through out and will prove to be too active, too aggressive and too experienced for the Japanese youngster. A loss at this point however is not the end of Mori and we'd expect to see the talented Southpaw comeback in the future. For Pumicpic a win here is expected and will continue his run in Japan, potentially leading to more good bouts on the road. For example a potential WBO Asia Pacific / OPBF unification bout with Satoshi Shimizu would certainly be a great bout and a world title eliminator, and we'd love to see that in the new year.
When it comes to Japanese fighters on the verge of a world title fight few are closer than "Eagle Eye" Ryosuke Iwasa (16-1, 10). Iwasa, who could well be favoured to beat some of the current champions, is a man who the WBC view as the #1 contender, the WBO have him at #3 and the IBF have him at #12.
Despite his high rankings Iwasa's next bout won't be for a world title though it will be a title bout as he attempts to make the first defence of his OPBF Bantamweight title in a bout that seems likely to be one of his last bouts before stepping up to fighting for a world championship.
Blessed with toughness, heart, power, speed and skill Iwasa is one of the most complete fighters to have not yet fought for a world title. Unfortunately for Iwasa he probably would have fought for a world title some time back had he not had the misfortune to run in to Shinsuke Yamanaka in a Japanese title fight back in 2011. Prior to that fight, the only loss on Iwasa's record, he seemed to be heading straight to the top.
The loss to Yamanaka really delayed the progress of Iwasa who went from being on the fast track to the top to being a man in need of rebuilding. Thankfully though the rebuilding process was a quick one with Iwasa claiming the Japanese title just 8 months later as he bounced back in style.
Since losing to Yamanaka some 3 years ago Iwasa has gone on an 8 fight winning streak claimed both the Japanese and OPBF titles and scored a hugely impressive victory over 2-time title challenger David De La Mora. He'll be hoping to extend that winning run to 9 fights on March 25th when he defends the OPBF belt for the first time and battles the criminally under-rated Filipino Richard Pumicpic (14-5-2, 4).
Whilst Iwasa is one of the rising stars of Japanese boxing Pumicpic is a man who has been over-looked and under-sold through out his career. Unfortunately for the Filipino he began his career 5-3-1 (1) after 3 close and somewhat debatable decision losses as well as a technical draw. From then on he was always fighting an up hill battle with people looking at his record and claiming he wasn't a fighter to really make a note of.
Those early losses on Pumicpic's record did seem to haunt him somewhat and although he moved to 9-3-1 more losses were on the way with the Filipino dropping hard fought decisions to more experienced fighters to drop to 9-5-1.
Since those last 2 losses Pumicpic has really developed in to a much better fighter and gone 6-0-1 whilst claiming the WBC Youth Silver and Philippines Boxing Federation (PBF) Bantamweight titles. He has turned his career around excellently and proven to be much better than one would have imagined. So impressive has Pumicpic been recently that he came incredibly close to upsetting the highly regarded Yohei Tobe just over a year ago, needing to settle for a draw in that particular bout.
Although Pumicpic is less proven than Iwasa we have been impressed by the little Filipino who has looked tough in his bouts to date, through some lovely combinations, seems defensively capable and hits harder than his record indicates. That's not to suggest he's world class, he has too many issues to be considered that highly, but he is very capable and upset minded, as he showed against Thailand's Ratchasak Kkg back in February 2012.
Although we do think highly of Pumicpic we're not as high on him as the OPBF who have him as the #1 ranked challenger, We do however agree that he is a very credible opponent for Iwasa and should bring the best out of the Japanese fighter who will be hoping that a victory here will move him on to world title fights in the first half of 2014.
From what we've seen of both men we do favour Iwasa who is a lot more clinical and well rounded than most of the men that Pumicpic has fought so far. Pumicpic isn't likely to fold under Iwasa's power but is likely to be widely out boxed by the Japanese fighter who can do it all when he's switched on. If Iwasa tries to make it a brawl and tries to take Pumicpic out he could find himself making life very difficult for himself, though he should still manage to come out on top in a brawl with Pumicpic's lack of power limiting him against the talented Japanese fighter.
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.