On December 19th we'll get the last title fight to take place in Japan this year, as Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) makes his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he takes on Tetsuro Ohashi (8-2-1, 2) [大橋哲朗] at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka. On paper this isn't a big bout, in fact the contest actually seems like a notable backwards step for the champion, but it is good to see the champion return to the ring before 2021 is over, and before all the momentum of his last two wins has been lost. As for the challenger, the bout is a big chance for him to claim a title and to put his name on the boxing map.
Aged 25 Nishida is one of the many rising young prospects in Japan that has been making waves over the last few years. Like many of the top Japanese youngsters he has been moved incredibly quickly, beating former world title challenger Shohei Omori in his third bout and then upsetting Daigo Higa earlier this year, in a career defining best performance, to take the WBO Asia Pacific title. That win over Higa took Nishida from Japanese prospect to regional champion and fringe world title contender, and shows he was very much a legitimate talent, with a lot of potential, skills, and boxing IQ.
In the ring Nishida is a brilliant boxer-mover, he uses angles well, has excellent footwork and puts his shots together really well. Technically he is an excellent boxer, and does everything really well. Within just 4 bouts he has two very good wins, he has managed to prove his stamina, going 12 rounds with Higa and getting stronger in the later rounds, shown his boxing skills, and looked every bit a future world champion in the making. There is however a few areas where improvements could be made. Notably he's not a physically imposing fighter, and whilst he hits hard enough to get respect from the likes of Omori and Higa, he's not got concussive power. We know he can hurt fighters, but he doesn't seem to have the belief to finish them off, yet. We also wonder what his chin is like, with Higa having been an excellent Flyweight but not really showing the same power at Bantamweight, and we do wonder what he can do against naturally strong really Bantamweight physical fighters. Thankfully we think he can answer all the questions left for him to answer, and only merely needs the competition to prove it, rather than lacking the tools to answer them questions.
Sadly Ohashi won't be the type of opponent to get the best from Nishida. In fact it's hard to see what Ohashi really brings to the ring to test the champion.
Aged 23 Ohashi, like Nishida, is a skilled southpaw. He turned professional in 2017, won Rookie of the Year in 2018, but is 2-2 since his Rookie of the Year win, with a KO8 loss to Suzumi Tkayama in a Japanese Youth title bout and a 2020 decision loss to Hiroyuki Kudaka. What makes this worse is that his only notable win since his Rookie of the Year triumph was a decision win over Isao Aoyama this past July. Whilst his competition hasn't been great it's hard to deny his skill, and Ohashi is genuinely a very talented fighter. Like Nishida however he lacks power, physicality and with 2 losses in his last 3 we do wonder about his confidence and ambition.
In the ring Ohashi is a very solid boxer. He has nice movement, good boxing skills, and nice quick hands. Sadly though he is very negative in a lot of what he does, and whilst he does do a lot of things really well, he's not very aggressive, physical or demanding. Despite only 2 KO's he does have enough pop to keep fighters honest, but he's not going to really hurt them, and we saw that against Suzumi Takayama when he landed the best shot of his career and put Takayama down without really hurting his man.
In many ways Ohashi is the perfect foil for Nishida. He's like a smaller, weaker, but similar, fighter to Nishida. A B grade Nishida if you will. With that in mind it's hard to imagine Nishida losing, but the focus will be on honing his skills in the fight, answering new questions, and showing how he deals with a fellow boxer-mover, and how he neutralises a man with good speed.
We expect this to be a very technical bout early on, both men getting their jabs into play, a lot of movement, and looking to set up and range. As the bout goes on however Nishida's size, strength and more rounded abilities should prove to be the difference makers.
We don't see Nishida going for the finish, but if he does he should get it, but instead we see him getting good, competitive rounds under his belt here, en route to a wide decision win.
Prediction - UD12 Nishida
This coming Sunday a lot of attention will be focused on Osaka, as we get the long awaited WBC Light Flyweight world title bout between Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) and Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20), around 4 years after they were first supposed to fight. That however isn't the only bout of note in Japan this weekend, in fact over in Okinawa around the same time we get the chance to see a very notable WBO Asia Pacific title fight between a former world champion and youngster looking to secure a a massive win, in just his 4th professional bout.
That bout is the one between former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17), the current WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion, and highly touted prospect Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1), who is looking to build on a huge win from late 2020. The bout lacks the allure of the world title fight in Osaka, but is certainly not a bout that should be ignored, and could end up actually being the more compelling bout when all is said and done.
It's needless to say that Diago Higa is the more well known fighter. In fact there was a time, not too long ago, that he was among the most spoken about Japanese fighters in the sport. He was a steam train early in his career, blowing away fighters in quick fashion and winning his first 15 bouts by stoppage. Along the way he took notable scalps, including Kongfah CP Freshmart, who he beat in Thailand for the WBC Youth title, Ardin Diale, who he beat for the OPF title, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, who he beat for the WBC title and Moises Fuentes. In many ways he looked like the Japanese Roman Gonzalez, with the Japanese press dubbing him "The Romagon of Okinawa" after Gonzalez.
Sadly Higa's stoppage run came to an end in 2018 when he lost in 9 rounds to Cristofer Rosales after coming in overweight for a defense of the WBC Flyweight title. That loss, and the subsequent suspension for missing weight from the JBC, saw Higa stay away from the ring for almost 2 years, before returning in early 2020 and beating Jason Buenabora in 6 rounds. That bout was followed by Higa soon leaving the Shirai Gushiken Sports Gym, who had guided his entire career, and signing up with the newly established Ambition gym. It was thought a new gym would reinvigorate Higa, who had admitted his motivation for the sport was waning. Sadly for him his first bout as an Ambition gym fighter didn't end well, with Higa only managing a draw as he met former amateur rival, and close personal friend, Seiya Tsutsumi. It seemed that a forced move from Flyweight to Bantamweight was going to be a problem for Higa, with the new weight not playing well with his style. At least that's what we though until the very end of 2020 when he demolished Yuki Strong Kobayashi in 5 rounds to claim the WBO Asia Pacific title and looked like the Higa of old.
At the moment it's still unclear how the forced move up in weight for Higa will work longer term. He looked brilliant against Kobayashi, not quite his best but still a brilliant and destructive performance, but he looked poor against Buenaobra and certainly didn't look his best against Tsutsumi. He also didn't look great when he took part in an exhibition against Naoya Inoue, when Inoue seemed to want to teach Higa a bit of a lesson at times. It's going to be interesting to see how he develops at the weight, and whether he has the tools, and size, needed to be a success here. If he does he'll be a brilliant addition to an already fantastic weight class.
Whilst Higa is a big name, a well established fighter and someone who fans will have heard of if they follow the lower weights, the same cannot be said of Ryosuke Nishida. In fact Nishida is one that only hardcore fans of the Japanese scene will know anything about. Though they will likely tell you, as we will, that's a hidden gem of a fighter who has already been hugely impressive in his 3 fight, 15 round, professional career.
Nishida turned professional in 2019, following a strong amateur career, and his team did the usual big talk, claiming that no one in Japan wanted to fight him and he had to debut in Thailand as a result, where he blew out Sakol Ketkul. Around 10 weeks after his professional debut he made his Japanese debut and dominated Filipino journeyman Pablito Canada, taking a very wide decision win over 6 rounds. Sadly his rise through the ranks was slowed in 2020 due to Covid19, which decimated the Japanese boxing calendar for the year, but in December he squeezed in a fight and put on a brilliant performance against former world title challenger Shohei Omori. He entered that bout as a big under-dog but put in a performance not befitting a then 2-0 (1) prospect. In fact if anything he looked every bit as good as his team had told us he was.
In the ring Nishida couldn't be much different to Higa if he tried. Whilst Higa is a short, powerful, pressure fighter, with a major offensive mindset, who has had to move from 112lbs to 118lbs Nishida really is the opposite. He is a tall, southpaw, who is moving in down in weight, and focuses on boxing and moving, using his educated feet, his amateur pedigree being clear every time he steps in the ring. He has quick hands, good movement and he boxes with his brain, not his brawn.
Although there is only limited footage of Nishida to get a read on him as a fighter, with his debut not surfacing and being pretty pointless to scout him off regardless, it's hard to say how good he really is, but it's clear that he is, at the least, very good. He's patient, has good timing, he's composed, smart and a sharp fighter. His jab and footwork are really good and in the bout with Omori he looked like a man with much, much more to offer. In fact in the later rounds, when he already had a comfortable lead, he seemed to want to put the cherry on the top of his performance and stop Omori. With that in mind we suspect his stamina is going to be good, he had energy to burn late on. One worry about him however, is how his body reacts to moving down to 118lbs, having fought all of his bouts at, or around, 122lbs so far. If he can make the weight with no issues he could be a real handful. Not just for Higa, but for a lot of very good fighters.
If Nishida makes the 118lb limit without taking much out of himself, and there's a good chance he can, then this is going to be a real test of character for Higa. Nishida is the type of fighter who we feel has the footwork, jab and timing to frustrate Higa, round after round. We've not seen his chin really being tested, though he was caught a few times by Omori and took them well, but if he can take a good shot from Higa he has a real chance off scoring an upset. That will be an even bigger chance if Hishida, moving down, has some more pop on his shots.
Higa will, obviously, be strongly favoured, and many who haven't seen Nishida will feel he's being thrown to the wolves. In reality however he's the latest Japanese fighter to show a willingness to take risks early and want to advance his career quickly. He will come into this bout as a very live underdog. It's a huge step up for him, but it's certainly one he has a chance in.
In regards to how the bout will be. We see Higa barrelling forward, it's how Nishida deals with that that will decide the bout. Higa is what he is. A strong, pressure fighter with lovely combinations, but a poor defense, and a significant size disadvantage at Bantamweight. If Nishida can cope with the pressure he'll win here however that's a huge if, and many will suspect he'll fold under the Higa pressure.
We are believers that a good big guys beats a good little guy, and with that in mind we're going with the surprise upset here. We feel Nishida will struggle at times, but manage to, just, do enough to take the win, using his size as a major tool.
Prediction - UD12 Nishida
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.