The Super Bantamweight division in Japan has given us some brilliant fights already this year. Two of which have featured JB Sport's Ryoichi Tamura (12-4-1, 6), who won the Japanese title in January with a great performance against Mugicha Nakawagawa before losing the belt in May to Yusaku Kuga. This coming Friday we see Tamura fighting for the third time in 2019 as he takes on the always fun to watch Gakuya Furuhashi (25-8-1, 14) in a Japanese title eliminator. The winner will get a shot at either Kuga or Yosuke Fujihara, who clash on September 21st.
Of the two men it's Tamura who has really impressed us more, at least in recent years. The hard nosed warrior, who has been dubbed a "zombie" due to his ability to soak up punishment, is a truly thrilling fighter to watch. He began his career in 2013, losing on debut to Wataru Miyasaka, and would actually fall to 3-2-1 after 6 bouts, though was fighting as a Bantamweight. Since then he has risen in weight, to Super Bantamweight, and become a nightmare to face going 9-2 in his last 11, with both losses coming to Kuga.
Tamura's form only tells us half the story, of course, but with wins over the likes of Yusuke Suzuki, Yuki Matsuda, Robert Udtohan and Mugicha Nakagawa he's not been padding his record to look good. Instead he's been mixing in good competition and has been beating people down by sheer determination, work rate and desire. He's not particularly heavy handed, but fights as a swarming and throws a lot. He comes forward with a high out put and really refuses to back off. Through his career he has been hurt, and was hurt badly by Kuga in May, but has recovered brilliantly and reset himself before turning up the heat again, making him a total nightmare to fight. The one big flaw is that he's a bit of a slow starter at times, and can find himself in a hole before his engine gets up and running and this could give opponents chance to get in the lead. Once he hits top gear however he simply can't be discouraged, and having him in your face, win or lose, will not do your career any favours.
Furuhashi has been on the pro-scene for well over a decade, debuting in 2007, but is still only 31 and is a proper veteran of the sport. His 33 fight career has been a rollercoaster of sorts but he has proven, more than once, that he belongs in the domestic title mix. He would first make his name in 2008, winning the Rookie of the Year, and moving to 8-0 (1) though his career would take a stumble as he quickly dropped to 10-3 (2) and then 13-5 (4). By the age of 25 his career looked to be in the skids and his early promise didn't seem like it would be fulfilled, however since then he has gone 12-3-1 with the black marks coming at a pretty good level. Of his last 3 defeats 2 have come to Yasutaka Ishimoto, with the other coming to Daisuke Watanabe, and the draw has come against Yukinori Oguni. They have seen him twice come up short in Japanese title fights, and once in a Japanese title eliminator, and bar the second loss to Ishimoto they were razor thin defeats. It's also worth noting that he was scheduled to get a shot, at Hidenori Otake in 2014, before Otake got the call to fight Scott Quigg and Furuhashi missed out.
In the ring Furushashi isn't a big puncher, or the strongest fighter but he's a battler, who makes for fun fights and he throws a lot of leather. Although he some times to take the boxer-fighter role he often happily gets dragged into a fight, and we get absolute barn burners as a result. He has got a really good jab when he uses it, but all to often uses the jab to get close before fighting on the inside, rather than keeping the bout at range and controlling the tempo of the fight. Against Tamura coming inside will likely be an issues.
When it comes to looking at the result of this bout it really depends on what recent wars have taken out of both men. The Tamura who beat Nakagawa, and ran Kuga close, will be favoured over Furuhashi. The aggression, pressure and incessant punching will rack up the points against Furuhashi who will be all happy to have a high tempo fight. If however those wars have taken something from the former champion and if Furuhashi can maintain some distance between the two men he should be able to eke out a close win. It really does depend on Furuhashi keeping the distance, which he can do, but often chooses not to.
We're expecting this to be a slow starter, but by round 3 it'll become a war, and we'll end up having a thrilling 8 rounder with Tamura's pressure and higher work rate being the difference in the end. We imagine Furuhashi will take the early lead but end up being over-taken just before the finish line in a bout we'll wish was a 10 rounder.
Prediction- MD8 Tamura
On May 18th the boxing world goes a little bit crazy, with a huge card in the UK, for the WBSS, as well as a big card in New York, which will feature WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, a second notable UK card, this time in Stevenage, a decent card in Russia and a very good looking domestic card in Japan.
Although the Japanese show will, clearly, be overshadowed by the international action the card does promise fire works, and the main event could end up being one of the best bouts of the day. That bout is a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout, pitting newly crowned champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) against former champion Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 12), in a rematch of a great bout from 2017.
In their first bout Kuga entered as the champion, making his first defense. He would narrowly win a tough battle with Tamura but lost the belt a year later to Shingo Wake. Wake vacated the belt, with Tamura winning it this past January, with a clear decision against Mugicha Nakagawa. The rematch seemed to be something both men wanted and something that fans were also clamouring for.
The reason that fans, and us, are looking forward to this fight so much is the styles and mentality of the two men. They are both very, very similar. They are both aggressive, strong, powerful men. They have difference, which we'll get on to in a minute, but they have enough similarities to knew they are going to give us some insane action. The best thing is that their aggressive mindsets are shown every time they are in the ring, neither likes to back off, or back up. Both come to meet in the centre of the ring and both look to unload with shots.
The big difference between the two is their offensive work. For Kuga his offensive work is power based. His shots are heavy and hard, they are a touch slow, and he doesn't fight with 10 rounds of intensity, but every shot he lands is thrown with bad intentions. He's a puncher-brawler if you will, and as a result he knows he needs some distance to work with, trying to get full extension on his shots.
Tamura on the other hand is more a volume guy, with intense pressure. His shots are hard, but not thundering, instead he throws a lot of leather, and is a bit of a perpetual punching man. He has an incredible gas tank and refuses to slow down, knowing he has the toughness to take shots whilst throwing his own. If he had Kuga's power he would be a truly frightening fighter, combining power with work rate and toughness, but as it is he's still a nightmare even if he can't take fighters out with a single shot.
What both men really rely on is their toughness, and both take a great shot. Or at least they did. Kuga's yet to show any decline, but Kuga has currently got some question marks over his chin following his stoppage loss to Wake. Kuga was dropped from a huge left hand in that bout, then took some serious punishment late on, with Wake tagging Kuga with clean left hands until the towel came in. Although it's not proven, there is a chance that loss has done damage to his durability.
Although Kuga won the first fight between these two, we feel like the men have headed in a different direction since then. Kuga's loss suggests he might be on the slide, whilst Tamura's last performance was his best to date and showed that he's adding more wrinkles and more intensity. With that in mind we see this as being a likely case of revenge, and not repeat. We're expecting the fire of Tamura, seeking to avenge his loss, and the boost in confidence a fighter gets when they are champion, to be the difference maker.
Prediction UD10 Tamura
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most top heavy division's in Japan, with a number of world class fighters, such as Tomoki Kameda, Ryosuke Iwasa, Yukinori Oguni and Shingo Wake all looking to make their mark at the very top level. Sadly with such a top heavy division is leaves the domestic level looking a little bit thin, and with Wake vacating the Japanese title late in 2018 it leaves us without a clear domestic divisional #1. On January 12th we'll see Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) and Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) battle for the vacant title, and to fill the hole left by Wake.
Nakagawa earned his shot at the title back in Otober, when he defeated Naoya Okamoto in a Japanese title challenger decision bout. That was a close win but a well earned one for Nakagawa who had narrowly missed out on a mandatory title shot in 2018, when he lost in a Japanese title decider bout to Yasutaka Ishimoto in later 2017. His record looks a good one on paper, even more so when you consider he is 14-1-1 (8) in his last 16 bouts, but his competition hasn't been sensational during that run, sadly.
In the ring the 29 year old Nakagawa is good boxer, with good basic skills, a long winding jab and nice movement. There's nothing spectacular about him, but he does a lot of things really well, boxing off the jab, moving calmly around the ring and showing patience when he needs to. When he needs to pick up the pace he has shown that he can, and that he can also take a good shot when he needs to, as he did against Ishimoto. One thing that is perhaps under-rated about Nakagawa is his ability to find unusual angles for his shots, and he can can't people from unusual places due to his long reach, but again for the most part he pretty straight forward.
For Tamura this will be a second title fight, after having come up short against Yusaku Kuga last year. Since that loss Tamura has scored 3 wins, shown an improvement in his technical boxing but remains a crude, strong, forward foot fighter. In fact much of Tamura's success is based on his physicality. He began his career 3-2-1 (1) but has since gone 8-1 (5), with the sole being to Kuga last year. On paper his record doesn't look amazing but he does hold notable wins against the likes of Yusuke Suzuki, Renji Ichimura, Robert Udtohan and Jestoni Autida.
Tamura is defensively flawed, he's particularly quick or elusive. He is however a very heavy handed, his jab is incredibly hurtful, his right hand is dynamite and his willingness to take one to land one makes him very dangerous. He's one of the very few fighters who has made the aforementioned Kuga back up, and he managed to apply pretty effective pressure on Kuga in fact. Sadly for Tamura a lot of what he does is pretty predictable, pretty basic and there's little thought really put behind his pressure. He's powerful but doesn't really know how to use his power properly.
On paper this is a match up between the skills of Nakagawa and the power of Tamura. If Nakagawa can keep things basic, box and move and use his brains he should be able to rack up plenty of rounds. However, Tamura will be dangerous through the full fight and if Nakagawa slows down we could see the pressure and power of Tamura undo all Nakagawa's good work.
We're expecting Nakagawa to win, by decision, though it's far from a foregone conclusion, and Tamura only needs to land one or two clean shots to turn the bout on it's head.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting around Asia, with Japan in particular having a very strong base for fighters. At the moment the country boasts two world champions, Shun Kubo and Yukinori Oguni, along with a host of contenders, like Ryosuke Iwasa, Tomoki Kameda, Hidenori Otake and Shingo Wake. Below those men are a number of rising fighters, looking to make their mark and move themselves into global contention.
Among those rising fighters is heavy handed Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) who looks to make his first defense of the title this coming Saturday, as he takes on the under-rated Ryoichi Tamura (8-2-1, 5). On paper the bout is “just” a Japanese title defense for Kuga, but an impressive win could see him jumping into the fringes of the world rankings, whilst Tamura will be looking to score a career best win and get his career rolling with a big win.
Earlier this year Kuga won the Japanese title stopping the popular Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2 rounds, announcing himself as a real dangerman. Prior to that he had been on the radar for a while. For most that was due to a loss to Ishimoto in 2015, though for others it was back in 2013 that he started to capture the imagination with a good win over former amateur standout Yusuke Suzuki and an unfortunate draw against Naoto Uebayashi. Those bouts began a run of solid performances that lead to Kuga getting his first bout with Ishimoto, which he lost narrowly.
The rematch with Ishimoto came after an impressive stoppage win over Jonathan Baat in 2016 and saw a more mature and more aggressive Kuga fight with the intention of taking Ishimoto out early, and he did drop him very quickly. With that aggression and power Kuga is a handful for many, and although he's flawed, with rough edges, he's a really dangerous fighter and not someone to have a war with.
Tamura made his debut back in May 2013 and lost to Wataru Miyasaka in a very competitive debut bout. That loss could have been it but instead Tamura's team showed their belief in him and kept putting him in hard fights. That resulted in a few early set backs, with Tamura being 3-2-1 (1) after 6 bouts, but developing massively into a solid professional during those early set backs. The tough love and hard development paid off and in 2015 Tamura beat Yusuke Suzuki, before following it up with stoppages against domestic foes like Yuki Matsuda, Ryoji Okahata, and Renji Ichimura. Those wins saw Tamura shoot up the rankings, and earn a shot at the title.
Although not the smoothest fighter Tamura is a strong and powerful fighter, with a very heavy right hand which he constantly looks to set up. Like Kuga he's more on the “crude” side of the spectrum, more so than Kuga in fact, and he can certainly be out boxed, but he does have some nice boxing skills and knows how to use his jab well, even if he under utilises it. Although he can jab and move he does seem to prefer fighting at close to mid range, and often looks like a fighter looking for a war.
With both fighters being crude, heavy handed sluggers this really could be a fire fight, and we'll admit that's what we're hoping for. If it is a fire fight we do suspect that Kuga will come out on top, making the most of his edge in speed and better accuracy and timing, , but with Tamura's power there is danger there that Kuga himself will be hurt. We don't see anyway this one can go the scheduled 10 rounds, but we also have no idea how this one can be anything but explosive given the two men involved.
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.