On November 21st at Korakuen Hall we are being treat to a very, very good card thanks to Dangan. The main event of the show is up at 140lbs and will see the winner walking away as the OPBF champion. Not only is there a notable title on the line for the bout but it is also a very, very interesting match up in terms of the fighters involved, their styles, weaknesses and the type of bout we're expecting to see. In fact we dare that the strengths of each fighter match the weaknesses of the other man, making this an incredibly interesting bout.
Coming in to the contest Rikki Naito (22-2, 7) is the reigning OPBF champion Light Welterweight champion, having won the belt in 2018 with a victory against Jeffrey Arienza. Since winning the belt he has recorded 3 defenses but in all 3 bouts he has had trouble, being dropped in two of those defenses, and really running on fumes in the other. In the other corner is the often under-rated Yusuke Konno (16-4, 9), who comes into the bout with little fanfare, but at 31 he'll know he can ill afford another set back.
Of the two men we suspect Rikki Naito is the much, much more well known. The second generation fighter is the son of former Japanese and OPBF Middleweight champion Cassius Naito. As a fighter Rikki managed to create some buzz in 2011, when he turned professional, but really broke through into the wider consciousness of Japanese fans in 2014, when he claimed the Japanese Super Featherweight title. After making 3 defenses he dipped his toes at Lightweight, beating Nihito Arakawa, before losing a technical decision in 2015 to Kenichi Ogawa. A second loss to Ogawa in 2016 saw Naito abandon the Super Featherweight division and later settle at 140lbs.
At 130lbs Naito was a talented boxer, with respectable power, good speed, good stamina and he looked like he was going to find himself being one of the next notable Japanese fighters at the weight. He was young, naturally talented and ticked a lot of boxes needed to be a solid fighter. The one thing he seemed to miss was physicality, instead relying on his movement and counter punching to get an opponents respect. We suspect the move to 140lbs was going to be a fail, but Naito surprised us, bulking up well, and maintaining his speed and timing really well. Sadly though his lack of physicality has proven to be an issue, and so to has his relative lack of punching power. He has also struggled with stamina at the weight and the bigger men have been able to lose early rounds before making a late charge. This has been seen particularly in his last 3 bouts, and he has been some what lucky to have built up the lead in the first 8 or 9 rounds to rely on when going to the judges.
The 31 year old Yusuke Konno has never really had much acclaim from fight fans, but he's certainly better than his record suggests. Like Naito he debuted in 2011, doing so at Welterweight, and in 2016 he competed in the Rookie of the Year, losing in the East Japan final to eventual All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Ryota Itoyama. By the end of 2015 he was 9-3 (3) and seemed to be toiling badly among the Japanese ranks. In 2016 he moved down in weight and quickly settled at 140lbs, where he got his first title fight. Sadly Konno lost that bout, but was in the lead before being stopped in the 10th, and final, round by Koichi Aso. It was a coming out performance, despite the loss, and since then Konno has has gone 5-0 (4), scoring notable wins against Kazuya Maruki, Takashi Inagaki, Vladimir Baez and Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, a win that netted him the WBA Asia title.
In the ring Konno is slow, he's a little bit on the clumsy side, and he can be out manoeuvred. His feet look somewhat clumsy, and his hand speed leaves much to be desired. He looks like he's there to be hit, and he is relatively open defensively. Watching him it looks hard to see how he's managed to have much success. However although looking bad he fights to his strengths. He has a heavy, deliberate, jab, he has criminally under-rated power, especially at 140lbs, he's tough, rugged, strong and big at the weight. Physically he's imposing, he can push folk around, he can take a shot and in a shoot out he can hold his own, as we saw again Baishanbo. Although his hands aren't quick, he does have sneaky speed, and seems to find a home for his shots with surprisingly success. He's also the sort of fighter who doesn't get discouraged, even when he's struggling for success.
In terms of pure boxing skills Naito is head and shoulders above Konno, but that's not always the key to victory. Naito's issues with stamina and getting a fighters respect could be a real problem here. We have no doubt that Naito will take the lead early on, using his speed and movement to rack up the rounds early on. We think Konno and his team are expecting that to happen too. Though where this becomes an interesting fight is the final 4 or 5 rounds. When Naito slows down. The question will be whether or not Konno will be able to get to Naito in those later rounds, or do enough early on to take the legs out of Naito a few rounds earlier.
If Konno can take the legs away from Naito a little sooner than others have been able to, and really push him down the stretch, we see this one being a razor thin decision either way. Konno's strength, size, and determination will be a handful for Naito in those final rounds.
Sadly we see the early lead of Naito being too much for Konno to reel in, but this will be much, much closer than many expect.
Prediction - Naito SD12
The Light Welterweight scene in and around Asia isn't all that strong right now, despite some interesting fighters and fights that could take place in the division. One of the more notable fighters in the division is current OPBF champion Rikki Naito (21-2,7), who will be defending his title for the third time as he travels to Korea and takes on Gyu Beom Jeon (9-3-1, 4).
On paper this doesn't look like a great bout, but there's a lot of underlying sub stories here which are worth being aware of.
Firstly the bout has been rescheduled a number of times this year. The rescheduling has meant that Naito has been out of the ring for close to a year, with his last bout coming last October, when he struggled past Daishi Nagata in a barn burner. Not only has he been out of the ring for a while, but his last 2 bouts both saw him being dropped late, and left a lot of questions about his stamina. More tellingly however is the story about Naito's father and his bouts in Korea.
Cassius Naito, Rikki's father, fought in Korea 5 times, and lost all 5 bouts. Notably 4 of those losses came to Jae-Doo Yuh and the other one to Chong Pal Park. For Rikki this is personal and this is for his father, just as much as being for himself.
In the ring Rikki is a solid boxer, with nice speed and movement, good ring craft and he fights to his strengths. Sadly however he has always felt like an under-sized Light Welterweight, he's not got much stopping power at the weight, he's run on fumes in the final rounds of his last 2 bouts and as mentioned he's been dropped in his last 2 matches. There is a feeling that whilst he's talented, he's not going to go far at 140lbs due to his own failings. If he could make 135lbs safely he would likely fair better than he will at Light Welterweight.
Whilst Naito is an experienced fighter and is well known in the region, having won the Japanese Super Featherweight title before moving up to Light Welterweight, a lot less is known about Jeon. The Korean 27 year old debuted in 2016 losing on debut. He was 2-2-1 after 5 bouts and 4-3-1 after 8, but he has rebuilt well with 5 straight wins, including 3 by stoppage. On paper he hasn't been fighting at a high level, but a 2018 win against Dong Hee Kim was solid and saw him claim the South Korean title.
Like many Korean fighters Jeon is aggressive, a bit raw defensively but he has a fan friendly style. He puts some pepper on his right hand, likes to fight at mid to close range and fires in body shots. Sadly for Jeon he doesn't set a typically high work rate, and although he does seem to have some promise this is a huge step up in class for him.
We have seen Naito struggle in recent bouts, he has been inactive and his father did fail to win in any of his Korean bouts. Despite that he should have the skills in his locker to take home a clear win against Jeon who isn't ready for a bout at this level. Jeon will come to win, but be out worked, out sped and out thought, before being broken down and stopped.
Prediction - TKO9 Naito
On October 11th fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will get the chance to see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (20-2, 7) make his second defense, as he faces off with Daishi Nagata (11-1-1, 5). On paper this looks really competitive, though some in Japan have downplayed the bout feeling that Nagata has next to no chance. We however like the bout, a lot, and feel it could be a hotly contested tactical bout between two men in need of a big performance and two men who will be looking to shine.
The 27 year old champion has long been in the eye of the press due to being the son of Cassius Naito, a former OPBF and Japanese champion. Sadly that pressure, and his father's name, has over-shadowed the man from Yokohama who has already had an accomplished career on the domestic and regional scene. He debuted a little over 7 years ago and would win his first 13 bouts whilst fighting primarily as a Super Featherweight. That unbeaten start would see him claim the Japanese Super Featherweight title in 2014, when he stopped Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and make 3 defenses, including a notable win over Masayuki Ito. It would also include a win over Nihito Arakawa. Sadly for Naito his unbeaten run would come to an end in 2015, when he lost the title to Kenichi Ogawa and in 2016 he would lose again to Ogawa. Since then Naito has moved up in weight and settled at Light Welterweight, where he has won and defended the OPBF title.
At 140lbs Naito has already scored noteworthy wins over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula, Jeffrey Arienza and Jhertiz Chavez. On paper that's pretty solid, but the reality is that he got pushed all the way by both Baishanbo and Chavez, with Naito lucky to make it to the final bell against Chavez. He has proven that whilst talented and swift at 140lbs he's not much of a puncher, he's not physically imposing and he'll struggle to get fighters to back off. He can out box people, but will struggle to out fight them. Despite being OPBF champion there's a good argument to make that he might only be the fourth or fifth best fighter at the weight in Japan right now.
At 28 years old Nagata is 18 months older than Naito, and is also a natural Light Welterweight, having fought at the weight through much of his career. Like Naito he did have some attention when he turned professional, though that was from hardcore fans who knew that Nagata was an accomplished amateur, who went 41-21 (11) and won a major national title in 2012. On debut he was matched hard, fighting to a draw with Takeshi Inoue, and has hardly had an easy fight since. In fact he has already shared the ring with the likes of Jeffrey Arienza, Kazuki Matsuyama, Vladimir Baez and Takashi Inagaki. He's not gone through murderers row, but he hasn't had an easy career either. Sadly he has come undone in one of those bouts, losing in 7 rounds to Baez last year, but since then has strung together 3 wins to secure this fight.
In the ring Nagata is a well schooled fighter, he's a rather quick and accurate boxer who fights out of the southpaw stance, knows his way around the ring and manages to lure opponents to lung at him before he counters. He's a technically solid, smart fighter. Unfortunately he's a small Light Welterweight and that was shown when he was beaten by the crude but powerful Baez. He couldn't get Baez's respect and the Japanese based Dominican ended up walking him down and forcing his corner to save him in 7 rounds. The fear of being stopped by Naito is less than it was against Baez and instead we'd expected both men to put their skills to the test, and not their physicality.
We're not anticipating a classic brawl here. Instead we're suspect high speed chess, from the opening round to the final bell. Both men will take a round or two to try and figure the other out, and from then on we're going to see speed, skills and traps a plenty, with each man looking to lure the other in to range, slip and counter. This could be a complex, yet dull affair between well matched fighters, or it could be action packed with both pitching their ring IQ's against each other.
We're expecting action, counters, speed and we're going to actually pick against the grain and go with Nagata, albeit in a razor thin 12 round decision. There won't be much to pick between them, but we favour Nagata's extra physical strength to take him over the finishing line.
Earlier this year Japan's Rikki Naito (19-2, 7) became a 2-weight champion, adding the OPBF Light Welterweight title to a previous reign as the Japanese Super Featherweight king courtesy of a 9th round TKO win against Jeffrey Arienza. This coming Tuesday Naito looks to make his first defense of that title as he faces off with the tough and hard hitting Jheritz Chavez (8-2-2, 6). It's a tough first defense for Naito and a great chance for Chavez to pick up a major regional title, to add to some minor title reigns and a GAB title.
For those who haven't seen Naito the Japanese fighter began his career as a somewhat hyped hopeful, courtesy of being the son of Cassius Naito. The potential was quickly shown and in just 29 months Naito had gone from debutant to Japanese Super Featherweight champion. At that point he was just 22, tipped for huge things and looking like a real one to watch, despite only being 9-0 (5). Sadly since then things have never really come together like Naito would have wanted, despite scoring 3 defenses of the title and notching wins against Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa.
In December 2015 Naito lost the Japanese Super Featherweight title, via technical decision, to Kenichi Ogawa, and would lose a rematch a year later before deciding to abandon the division and has since grown into a solid Light Welterweight and gone 3-0 (2) with a notable win over Baishanbo Nasiyiwula.
In the ring Naito is a speedy fighter, though has began to slow down more in the ring as he's gone up in weight and become more physical. He's not a brawler but certainly holds his feet more at 140lbs than he typically did at 130lbs. On paper that sounds like it could be a problem, however in his case it really does simply seem like a case of maturing into a bigger and stronger fighter. Rather than peaking early he has developed into a strong young man, and become a potential fixture in the fringes of the world rankings.
Aged 27 Chavez has been a man who has made marks domestically but failed to come out on top when he's gone outside of the Philippines, losing to Vage Sarukhanyan in Russia and Hiroki Okada in Japan. Despite those losses he has looked very comfortable in and around the Filipino domestic following a 2-0-2 start to his professional career. That faltering start has been followed by notable wins over Tatsuya Yanagi, Al Sabaupan and Reymond Yanong. Not only has he been notching up wins but also been flipping between divisions, picking up regional titles at Lightweight and Welterweight and a domestic title at Light Welterweight.
Chavez looks like a fighter who is powerful, tough and strong, but fights like a man who wants to use his skills, his jab and his footwork to win bouts. Sadly that seems to leave him looking like he's a fighter who is just half a step behind the likes of Okada and Sarukhanyan, who took advantage of Chavez's slow feet and unwillingness to truly commit to an attack. Chavez does have a nice jab, but lacks the speed to really fight the way he does against a higher level of competition, who will stick their jab in his face as he trudges forward.
Given Naito's edge in speed we strongly favour him here on a stylistic basis. Chavez won't go away, and will follow Naito round after round, but Naito will always be a step or two ahead of the Filipino. Given that Okada couldn't stop Chavez we don't image Naito will, but we would be surprised if this was particularly competitive as a bout.
This coming Saturday fight fans at the Korakeun Hall will get the chance to see 2 OPBF title fights. One of those will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (18-2, 6) take on Filipino Jeffrey Arienza (16-6-1, 10) for the vacant Light Welterweight title. For Naito the bout will be his first OPBF title bout, whilst Arienza will be getting his second shot at the title, having come up short against Darragh Foley last year.
Of the two men it's been Naito who has been on our radar the longest. In 2014 he became the Japanese champion at 130lbs, stopping Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and at the time it seemed like the then 22 year old was on his way to huge success. His title reign would see him successfully defending the title against talented fighters, like Kento Mastushita, Shingo Eto and most notably Masayuki Ito. He would also score a win at Lightweight against Nihito Arakawa.
In late 2015 Naito's reign came to an end, as he was beaten by Kenichi Ogawa and since then his career hasn't really gotten going again. He scored a clear win over Chaiyong Sithsaithong, struggled past Argie Toquero and then suffered a second loss to Kenichi Ogawa. He seemed to put that loss down to making weight and has since dipped his toes at Lightweight before finally moving up to Light Welterweight, where he scored a notable split decision win over China's Baishanbo Nasiyiwula.
At his best Naito is a talented boxer-mover. At times he's ignored his strengths to fight as a brawler, and he can hold his own at brawling, but does lack some of the physicality that he may need to make a real mark at 140lbs. He doesn't hard, and has scored just 2 stoppages in his last 15 fights! When he boxes however he can look very good, as he did when he comfortably out boxed Nihito Arakawa and Chaiyong Sitsaithong.
Filipino fighter Arienza has been a professional since 2008 and went 9-0-1 to begin his career. Sadly though he would then suffer back to back losses, including one to future Naito opponent Masayuki Ito. A short run of stoppages was then ended back back to back losses to Daishi Nagata and Dante Jardon. Another small run of wins followed before he losses in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout to Akihiro Kondo and since then he has gone 1-1 with the loss coming to Foley.
Interestingly coming in to this bout Arienza has gone 0-3 in Japan, 0-5 outside of the Philippines. He's a decent fighter on the domestic level, but the reality is that his record is a very padded one with very few wins of any real worth. That's not to say he couldn't score a decent win, but he hasn't yet, and in fact he's often shown to be relatively easy to out box. He has struggled to even win rounds against the likes of Ito and Kondo and despite pushing Nagata hard it was just Nagata's 2nd bout at the time.
There are much better 140lb fighters in both Japan and the Philippines than these two. Out of these two however it's hard to see anything but a clear win for Naito, who should be able to take either a very wide decision or a late stoppage to claim the title. Unfortunately for Naito however a win here will put a huge bullseye on his back for fighters like Koki Inoue, who are going to be actively chasing titles through the rest of the year.
The Super Featherweight division is one of the most interesting in Japanese boxing right now with world class fighters, like former world champions Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura, along with contenders like Masayuki Ito and Daiki Kaneko. The depth in the country is huge, and varied with rising prospect Takuya Uehara looking to make a mark in the division in the years to come.
The next major Super Featherweight bout to feature Japanese fighters will take place this coming Saturday and see Japanese national champion Kenichi Ogawa (19-1, 16) take on former champion Rikki Naito (15-1, 5), in a rematch of the bout that saw Ogawa originally winning the title back in 2015.
When the two men first met Ogawa dropped Naito before securing a 5th round technical decision. That saw Naito suffer his first loss, ending a 13 fight winning streak, and saw Ogawa score an 8th straight win as he began to surge. Sadly though neither man has looked particularly good since that bout.
Ogawa, a boxer-puncher, has twice defended his title but looked poor in wins over Satoru Sugita and Kento Matsushito. He stopped both of those men in the later rounds but showed limited boxing ability and left some to wonder whether he had peaked and was now on the downside of his career. As for Naito, a speedy boxer, he has won two bouts at Lightweight, though was very fortunate against Filipino domestic fighter Argie Toquero.
At his best Ogawa is a heavy handed boxer who is strong, powerful and can steam roll opponents. Sadly we've not seen that Ogawa recently, instead we've seen Ogawa the boxer, who is a limited fighter who is very lucky to have extremely heavy hands. When he boxes he looks like a fighter who is caught between thoughts and can easily be outboxed, as Sugita did despite the judges not agreeing.
Naito on the other hand is a really solid boxer, but one who lacks power to get the respect of his opponents and has struggled against every decent fighter he has faced. That's included a tough struggle with Shingo Eto, controversial wins over Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa and a loss to Ogawa. When he uses his speed he is talented, but there is question marks now about his toughness, his power and his confidence.
Whilst Ogawa can be out boxed we can't help but think he bullies Naito again here to retain his title and record his third defense. A second loss for Naito will likely end his dreams of becoming a world champion, and that sort of issue could get the best out of him here, however we still can't see him holding his own with Ogawa and the Teiken fighter's physicality and power.
If you follow the Japanese boxing scene it's hard to not be at least a little bit excited about the Super Featherweight division. The country boasts current world champion Takashi Uchiyama, former champion Takashi Miura, rising contenders like Masayuki Ito and action fighters like Masao Nakamura. It also features some great match ups.
On December 14th we get two such match ups. One of those sees Ito defending his OPBF title against Shingo Eto whilst another sees Japanese national champion Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defending his belt against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). The bout will help shape the domestic scene for 2016 with the winner expected to face either Nakamura or the winner of the Ito/Eto bout.
On paper the favourite will be the champion. He's an unbeaten fighter who has risen quickly through the ranks under the guidance of his father, Cassius Naito. Cassius, a former champion himself, has helped developed the ability of his son and draw attention to Rikki's ability as the youngster has forged a solid career of his own. Not only is Naito the unbeaten Japanese champion but he's a man who has compiled a genuinely impressive list of names on his record, including Shingo Eto, Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa, who has he beaten in back-to-back fights.
Despite the good string of wins Naito has looked somewhat fortunate with the win over Ito being razor thin and the decisions against Arakawa and Eto being closer than the cards suggested. Saying that however he has proven he can do enough in a close fight to impress the judges and get the win.
At his best Naito is a talented and technically sound boxer with great speed, both foot and hand, a sharp hook and a good understanding of the ring. Whilst those are positive traits he has shown issues with stamina in longer bouts and has got a clear lack of power, with his last stoppage coming in his Japanese title victory against Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, 5 fights back. That wasn't a hugely impressive stoppage given that Matsuzaki had been stopped in 3 previous losses. Although his power won't stop many his movement, timing and speed will trouble many fighters and will need to be neutralised by anyone looking to beat him.
Ogawa, the challenger, is the older man at 27 years old and although he's more experienced in terms of fights he hasn't actually got a lot of experienced with his bouts rarely lasting more than 4 rounds. That has been due to his biggest weapon, his striking and hurtful power. That power has stopped 14 opponents in total with 11 stoppages coming in 4 or fewer rounds. Notable however he has proven that his power does stay later in fights as well, scoring a 7th round stoppage of Ribo Takahata late last year and a 10th round stoppage of Deivi Julio Bassa back in September.
Although Ogawa has a loss, a 5th round TKO loss to Yuki Miyoshi, he has since avenged iut, taking out Miyoshi in a rematch in just 134 seconds. Since the loss he has gone 8-0 (8) and taken just a combined 35 rounds. It's fair to say that his competition hasn't been incredible but wins over Takahata, Raymond Sermona and Bassa are solid wins and will have prepared him well for a title bout.
In the ring Ogawa's power is his key, though like a number of more notable power punchers he's actually got some skills to go with his power and can boxer as well punch. That was shown to good effect against Bassa, who he boxed and broke down, and it seems clear that every punch he throws is solid in terms of his power, even his jabs. He has also shown a development in terms of how he fights and seems to understand how to use the ring to his advantage.
On paper it is hard to go against Naito however we're actually picking the upset here with Ogawa having the power to really trouble Naito and having the over-looked traits to make the most of his power. We don't think the challenger will have things all his own way, but will take home the title with a late stoppage of the unbeaten man.
The Super Featherweight division in Japan is red hot right now. The country boasts two of the divisions best fighters in the former of WBA champion Takashi Uchiyama and WBC champion Takashi Miuira, as well as the highly regarded contender Daiki Kaneko. At the world level it's fair to say the country's talent is the best however the country also boasts a very strong domestic scene.
Currently at the top of the domestic ladder is the unbeaten Rikki Naito (11-0, 5) who really broke in Japan last year. It was in 2014 that Naito won the Japanese last year, when he stopped Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, and has since defended it twice, out pointing both Keno Matsushita and Shingo Eto. Naito looks for his third defence of his title later this week when he battles against fellow unbeaten fighter Masayuki Ito (16-0-1, 7). Like Naito we saw Ito break out last year with 3 wins, including a notable decision over Masao Nakamura and an opening round stoppage victory over Ryan Sermona.
The obvious thing, from looking at the records of both men, is that they are unbeaten and lack concussive power. It may seem harsh but it's true. What is also true is that both men are very highly skilled, both are very fast and both can box brilliantly on the move. Their ability and speed make up for their lack of power and although neither is tested at world level we suspect either of them, if not both, will eventually get to the top.
Where the fighters differ is in their experiences, the expectations on their shoulders and their development.
Naito turned professional aged 20 and although he was a child he was a man marked for success. His father, Cassius Naito, was a former OPBF and Japanese Middleweight champion and Rikki turned professional with the expectation of reaching a similar level of success. The expectation on Naito's shoulders saw him debut in 6 rounders and in just his 3rd bout he was already fighting in 8 round bouts. The fast tracking worked and in his 9th bout Naito completely outboxed Hiroyasu Matsuzaki, forcing his foe to retire after 8 rounds, to win the national title.
Whilst Naito was fast tracked the same cannot be said of Ito who turned professional with no expectation but has ground out a brilliant start to his career and become a man on the verges of genuine success. He turned professional at just 18 years old and began by fighting 4 rounders, in fact his first 8 bouts were all 4 rounders. Despite the slow start to his career he made a mark in 2012 by winning the Featherweight Rookie of the Year. Less than a year after winning the Rookie of the Year Ito would would claim the WBC Youth Lightweight title and began to make a small mark internationally. At the beginning of 2014, more than 5 years his debut, Ito was beginning to bubble and over the following year he really broke out with wins Kazuya Nakano, Masao Nakamura and Ryan Sermona. By the end of 2014 he had become a national contender and a man on he verges of a world ranking, a remarkable achievement considering where he was at the start of the year.
Although both men have got to where they are in very different ways the truth is that they are very similar in terms of style, total rounds, strengths, weaknesses and even size. What it'll come down to here which man can adapt to the other and which man can raise to the occasion better. So far both have risen when they have needed to, both have answered the questions which have been asked of them and both have managed to improve fight after fight.
What we're expecting to see is the best version of both men putting on a back-and-forth display of brilliant high speed boxing, the proverbial high speed chess with gloves. Due the the back and forth nature nobody will be able to call a winner until after the scores and even then we expect fans disputing the result. With that said we'd not be shocked if this one ended in a draw.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kadoebi.com)
Boxing is one of the most individualistic sports going. No matter who you are it you versus an opponent. You can't ask a team mate for help, you can't rely on someone else to bail you out when you make a mistake and you certainly can't hope someone will cover for you on a bad day on the field.
Although boxing is a solo sport it's also a sport that has been a sport dominated by families such as the Mayweather's, the Kameda's, the Marquez's and the Klitschko's. Two other families worth noting are the Naito's and the Eto's.
The boxing name has been linked to the Naito family since the late 1960's when Cassius Naito began his climb through the ranks and later became a Japanese and OPBF Middleweight champion. Earlier this year Cassius son Rikki Naito (10-0, 5) followed in his father's footsteps and became a Japanese champion at Super Featherweight. In the eyes of many Rikki Naito has the potential to not only surpass his father but to also be one of the outstanding Japanese fighters for the next decade as long as he continues to improve as he has done recently
As for the Eto name it's shared by 3 brothers. There is Taiki Eto-a Japanese domestic contender at 115lbs, Koki Eto-the current OPBF Flyweight champion, and Shingo Eto (14-2-1, 9)-a Super Featherweight hopeful on the verge of his biggest bout to date. Of the three Eto's it's Koki who is best known thanks to his numerous all-action wars though some do feel that it's Shingo with the most potential and the most complete all round skill set.
On October 13th we will see the families collide as Rikki Naito makes the second defense of his national title and against battles Shingo Eto, the only Eto brother yet to fight in a title bout.
As a fighter Shingo Eto didn't look great early on. He scored a draw with Ribo Takahata and was blasted out inside a round just a fight later by Kentaro Maimuangkorn Promotion. Since then however he has found his form and gone 9-1 with a win over Ryan Sermona being particularly notable. He's looked good recently, shown nice punch selection and solid respectable skills. It's not that he's a world beater but he's certainly very competent and is still improving fight after fight.
Unlike Koki and Taiki, who are twins, Shingo does seem to exhibit some under-standing of defense. We wouldn't describe him as a defensive master but he does seem to know that taking a lot of shots won't prolong his career. He also knows the value of a good body shot. These are both traits his brother's seem to neglect much to their own detriment.
Whilst Shingo looks the more complete of the Eto's we dare say that Naito looks the most complete of the emerging Japanese guys at 130lbs. He may not have the power of Masao Nakamura, he may not have the speed of Masayuki Ito and he may not have the physical strength of Daiki Kaneko but he does look like he's the most rounded with very little to complain about considering the fact he's still only a novice professional and he's still improving drastically.
Although a long way from a world title fight Naito has started to show world class ability. His title victory over Hiroyasu Matsuzaki was a coming of age performance whilst his first defense, a dominant win over Kyohei Tamakoshi, was a performance that suggested Naito might be something a little bit special. He showed off very intelligent movement and handspeed and although he didn't get the stoppage he was in total control of the bout.
Going into this fight it's a good one on paper and one we are a little bit excited about. Sadly though we can only see a win for Naito who really just seems to have a bit too much of everything for Eto, who looks good but not good enough to over come Naito. Eto will attempt to stick to his boxing early on but finds that he lacks the speed to match Naito, he'll then try to make the bout a fight and find out that Naito packs a real punch himself. Sadly for Eto it'll be a case of nothing he does can really trouble Naito who we think will take either a clear decision or a late stoppage to retain his title.
If we're right this will be another big win for the Naito family and another serious set back for the Eto's.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Over the last year or so we've seen a number of very exciting prospects emerge through the Japanese ranks. One of those is current Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (9-0, 5) who, at just 22 years old, looks like being one of the genuine stars of the future.
Although still a novice Naito dominated veteran Hiroyasu Matsuzaki in February to win the national title and really come of age with a performance that demonstrated why he is so highly regarded by the Japanese boxing press. It was this performance that caused fans to sit up and take not and accept that Naito was more than just the son of Cassius Naito, a former champion himself.
Naito will be making the first defence of that title this coming Monday as he battled one of the nearly men of the Japanese title scene, Kyohei Tamakoshi (32-8-6, 12).
With 46 fights on his ledger Tamakoshi has fought in more than 5 times as many professional bouts as Naito, he has more than 6 times as many rounds as the champion and has fallen short in 5 previous Japanese of OPBF title fights. Yet the 33 year old challenger knows that this could be not only his last chance at a major title but also his hardest with many tipping Naito as not just a future world champion but a future dominant force at 130lbs.
What makes Naito so highly regarded is his overall package. He's not a dynamite fisted fighter like compatriot Takashi Uchiyama, he's not an out-and-out aggressive machine like Takashi Miura and he's also not a physical monster like Daiki Kaneko. Instead he's a man who combines speed, stinging power and skills. He's never going to just through fighters but he's going to box them, use fast but powerful counters and break them both physically and mentally. Most worryingly for the boxing world isn't how good Naito is, but how quickly he's improving and we'd not be shocked by him continuing to get better for another few years whilst also maturing physically. To be bluntly honest he's only going to get better.
For Tamakoshi this really is his last chance and amazingly it falls almost 10 years to the day of his first title fight, a draw with the then Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yoshikane Nakajima. Since then Tamakoshi has lost to a handful of of very good fighters, including the aforementioned Daiki Kaneko as well as Masaaki Serie and Mikihito Seto. Despite the losses he has proven to be tough with only Kaneko stopping him in recent years. Interestingly whilst Tamakoshi is best known for his losses he does actually hold a huge win over Dante Jardon in a fight that proved not only Tamakoshi's toughness but also his power as he dropped Jardon 4 times. Tamakoshi may not have the record of a banger but he certainly can hurt fighters when he lands solidly.
What Tamakoshi has is not just experience and toughness but he is also rather awkward. A lot of what he does doesn't look all that great but he makes life difficult for fighters who come at him. For this fight however we don't expect to see Naito going after Tamakoshi, instead we're expecting to see Naito the counter puncher in action, forcing Tamakoshi to lead off then using the speed to counter the challenger. It was a tactic that worked excellently when Naito won the title and we expect it to work again here.
Whilst we view Naito as the 4th best Super Featherweight in Japan we have no doubts that he's a future world champion and for us Tamakoshi is merely step on the journey of one of Japanese boxing's most exciting young talents. Depending on how much of a show Naito wants to put on we actually can see him looking for a stoppage late on if he intends to prove a point. Other wise this will be a clear decision for the champion.
At the moment the only men in Japan that Naito needs to avoid are the two Takashi's and Kaneko, they would all be too much for the youngster at this point. By the time Naito reaches his peak however Uchiyama will have retired and Kaneko will likely have moved to pastures new at Lightweight giving a huge opening to Naito to become a real national star. Thankfully for the youngster he combines talent with charisma, a natural story due to his father's success and a unique look that helps to make him very memorable. Those will all help him become one of the top names of the next 10 years in Japanese boxing.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.