Whilst fans outside of Asia may not follow it too much the Minimumweight division has been one of the most interesting in recent years with top fighters facing off in bouts like the unification contest between Katsunari Takayama and Francisco Rodriguez Jr, the WBA unification bout between Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Byron Rojas and the WBC mandatory title bout between Wanheng Menayothin Vs Saul Jaurez. Whilst only one of them was a unification bout all of them featured top 5 guys facing off in really good bouts.
It's not only had great world title bouts but also has promising fighters breaking through the ranks and enough veterans for the novices to really test themselves against. That's going to be seen this coming Friday as Japanese youngster Ryuya Yamanaka (12-2, 3) takes on former world champion Merlito Sabillo (25-3-1, 12) in a bout for the OPBF title.
Aged 21 Yamanaka is one of a rising number of Japanese youngsters looking to carve out a place at 105lbs, along with the likes of Riku Kano, Hiroto Kyoguchi, Reiya Konishi, Tsubasa Koura and Masataka Taniguchi. Despite his age he's a 4 year professional who is at the well regarded Shinsei Gym and has rebuilt wonderfully after a 142 second loss to Kenta Shimizu in April 2013. Although he's rebuilt well, winning 7 of his 8 bouts, there is still a lot that he needs to prove if he's to become a major force on the world scene.
Coming in to this bout Yamanaka has won his last 5 bouts, though the competition hans't been geat with his most notable victory being a decision over Ronelle Ferreras. Unfortunately though his losses really stand out, with the opening round stoppage to Shimizu, who was 2-3-1 entering that bout, and a decision loss to Roque Lauro, who was 10-16-4 entering their bout. Whilst he has certainly improved from those defeats questions are to be asked about just how much improvement has been made by him. Worrying, given his competition, he holds several world rankings and there is talk of him potentially getting a world title fight in 2017.
Whilst the Japanese fighter is seen as an emerging hopeful the same cannot be said of Sabillo, who some feel is actually on the final stages of his career, despite only being 32 years old. The Filipino is being written off as a shot fight due to a 2-3-1 run in his last 6, however things aren't as simple as the numbers may suggest and the former WBO world champion isn't yet proven to be “washed up”. His during during that 2-3-1 run came to the brilliant Carlos Buitrago, in a bout many felt he deserved to lose, the first of the losses came to Francisco Rodriguez Jr who later proved his value in unifying the WBO and IBF titles, the second loss was a freak stoppage loss to Ellias Nggenggo whilst the third was a decision loss to Riku Kano. He might be done, but we can't say for sure.
At his best Sabillo was a fighter with respectable power, a crude but offensive style and although nothing outstanding he was a handful, as seen in his win over Luis de la Rosa. Sadly though it's hard to say how good he really is as so many of his bouts have been at Filipino domestic level or against top drawer opponents, like Buitrago and Rodriguez Jr. There are very few fringe contenders on Sabillo's record for us to know just how good he is, despite 29 career bouts.
On paper the bout is supposed to be the next step on the ladder for Yamanaka, as he moves towards a world title bout, but the reality is that this is much more of a cross roads bout. Yamanaka is certainly stepping up, and a win would be the best of his career, but Sabillo isn't a pushover and is looking to give fire to a career that is currently dwindling away. Unfortunately for Yamanaka there is nothing to suggest he's ready to face a guy like Sabillo, and we're thinking the visitor comes out with the win here to claim the OPBF title, and actually become a 2-time OPBF champion.
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.