Internationally the Light Flyweight division is one of the very best, with a very stacked top 8 or so and a brilliant mix of champions and challengers. In recent weeks we've had the pleasure of watching Hiroto Kyoguchi, Felix Alvarado, Kenshiro, Carlos Canizales and Edwin Soto showing what they can do, in a mix of impressive performances and exciting battles.
Below the world level the division continues to give compelling match ups at regional level and the rising crop of Japanese hopefuls in the division is amazing, with a handful of youngsters looking like future world champions. One of the few real veterans hanging around is Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13), the current Japanese Light Flyweight champion. The 56 fight veteran, now aged 39, has been a professional for more than 19 years, and is enjoying his second reign as the Japanese champion, having won the belt back in February. This coming Thursday he looks to make his third defense, as he takes on the much younger Ryuto Oho (12-5-1, 4), in what will be his first senior title fight.
The veteran has fought fought a who's who and has really managed to build a career by battling through set backs. After a career of ups and downs he won his first title in 2015, stopping Shin Ono for the belt. He lost it in his first defense, to Kenshiro, but bounced back winning the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017 and then becoming a 2-time Japanese champion earlier this year. This will be his 13th title bout and his experience, at least at this level, cannot be doubted.
With so much experience under his belt Horikawa knows his way around the ring and inside it he's a very under-rated fighter. At heart he's a boxer-brawler, able to do either but wanting to turn bouts into brawls. A lot of his work comes from behind a good jab, he looks to back opponents up and force them into a fight. Even at 39 he has solid handspeed, good movement and an aggressive mentality with a high work rate. Technically he's not the sharpest, he's not the quickest and he lacks lights out power, but he does break fighters down and his will to win is very impressive.
Aged just 24 Oho is a relative novice. He was just 5 when Horikawa made his debut, despite his youth he has actually been around for quite a while, , debuting in late 2012. The following year he went on to win the Japanese Rookie of the Year crown, at Flyweight. His Rookie triumph was supposed to be a starting point to some solid success, but instead he went 0-2-1 in 2014 as he rise hit brick wall. He would then go 3-2 over his following 5 fights, falling from 6-0 when he won the Rookie crown to 9-4-1 (2) by the summer of 2017. Thankfully for Oho he has managed to rebuild a bit from all his set backs, winning 3 of his last 4, including the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title last year and is actually unbeaten at 108lbs.
In the ring Oho is a smart, quick boxer-mover. He lacks in terms of power, despite scoring stoppages in 2 of his last 3, but does look very tidy in the ring and does a lot of pleasing things. Sadly Oho's lack of power isn't his only downfall and he also lacks in terms of durability and has been stopped twice in his 5 losses, albeit to heavy handed fighters like Seigo Yuri Akui and Masamichi Yabuki. He also has has a bit of a fragile, lightweight look to him, a look that doesn't bode well for a man fighting someone like Horikawa.
With Oho being the younger man, and the faster man, there will be opportunities for him, to stick and move and make Horikawa chase shadows. Sooner or later though the experience of the champion will kick in, and he will begin to grind down the challenger. When that happens we'll really see what Oho is made of. Our guess is that he comes undone under the pressure of Horikawa in the later stages, though he certainly won't go down without giving his all. He will look to do all he can to survive, before finally succumbing to the pressure of the grizzled veteran.
Prediction - Horikawa TKO10
On November 19th we'll see Ryuto Oho (11-4-1, 3) make his first defense of the Japanse Youth Light Flyweight title, as he takes on once beaten challenger Yuta Nakayama (6-1-1, 3) at the Korakuen Hall. For the champion it's a chance to build on recent wins over Hideyuki Watanabe and Tetsuya Tomioka, as well as recording his first defense, whilst Nakayama will be getting his first title fight and a chance to claim his first career silverware of any kind.
The 23 year old champion has been around the Japanese scene for a while already, having debuted more than 6 years ago. His early career was full of promise and in 2013 he went on to claim the Japanese Rookie of the Year crown at Flyweight, picking up impressive wins against the then 6-0 Yuji Okinori in the East Japan final and the then 5-1-1 Yukiya Hanabusa in the All Japan final. Sadly that early promise faltered in 2014 when he suffered defeats to Joe Tanooka and Katsunori Nagamine, with a draw to Shuji Hamada being sandwiched between those two losses. A string of wins in 2015 and 2016 ended when he was out pointed by Yuta Matsuo and then, in 2017, he was stopped in a round by Seigo Yuri Akui. Thankfully his career has gotten back on track with his last two bouts both being wins, including his Youth title triumph.
Oho is an aggressive fighter, who comes forward, looks to attack behind his jab and moves well. Sadly when he lets his bigger shots go he looks very open and wild, dropping his left hand when he throws his looping right over the top. Although he's quick he does look easy to time and his power doesn't look like it's hugely intimidating at this level. Whilst not massively powerful his aggression is exciting and he will break fighters down, though will need to hope he doesn't get caught before they wilt to his pressure.
Nakayama turns 23 just days before this fight, but he'll know that this is a great chance to make his mark on the domestic scene at such an early stage in his career. He debuted in July 201 and went 1-1-1 through his first 3 bouts, but has rebuilt brilliantly with 5 straight wins. Those wins include a decision victory over Tatsuhiro Toguchi and a stoppage victory over Filipino Powell Balaba. Not only has he reeled off a string of wins, but he has stopped 3 of those 5 opponents, suggesting that he's finding some power in his shots too, and it's likely that he's starting to develop his man strength and correct his punching technique. This is however a step up in class, and we'll have to see how he copes with a fighter as talented and as skilled as Oho.
Nakayama is a good mover, who is light on his feet, protects himself well and is able to make opponents miss, and make them pay. He is a little loopy with some of his punches but they still have a crispness to them that look like they would pick holes in a defensively flawed fighter, or a fighter who falls short when attacking him. His movement is really his key strength and impressively he appears to be able to stay on his toes pretty well, even if an opponent is pressing him hard.
Oho is the more well known fighter but stylistically we suspect he will be in trouble here. His pressure is made to order for Nakayama, who we suspect will pick him apart when he comes forward and will counter him regularly before forcing a stoppage in the later stages. Oho will have some real moments early on, but we see him tiring and being stopped, with Nakayama taking control as soon as Oho slows down a touch.
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.