This coming Sunday we'll see Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (16-2-1, 11) look to score his third defense of that national title as he takes on popular veteran Takuya Kogawa (32-6-1, 14) at the Suntopia in Okayama. The bout will be headlining a rather small card, and although the show isn't a big one, this bout is an incredibly important one, for both men. Both will know that they can ill afford a loss at this point in time. If Akui loses his dreams of a world title fight would be delayed, if not killed all together, whilst Kogawa isn't just fighting for the title but also, potentially, his career.
Of the two men it's actually the challenger who is more well known, and with good reason. The 36 year old Kogawa has been a stalwart of the Japanese scene since the 00's, and is a multi-time world title challenger who has, genuinely, faced a who's who of the lower weights. Not only that but he has also made for some brilliant fights over the years and has been one of the most fan friendly fighters out there. Reading through the opponents he's faced we see wins against the likes of Xiong Zhao Zhong, Shigetaka Ikehara, Hiroyuki Kudaka, Masayuki Kuroda, and losses to the likes of Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Yodmongkol CP Freshmart, Suguru Muranaka, Masayuki Kuroda and most recently Jayr Raquinel.
In his prime Kogawa was a pure warrior. His bouts with Pongsaklek, Ikehara, Kuroda, Muranaka, Yodmongkol were wars. He was a man who could box, but often elected to fight, getting in to brawls far too regularly for his own good. It was his willingness to have a firefight that helped make him so popular in Japan, and why he has featured in more than 30 bouts at Korakuen Hall. Sadly though in recent years he has began to look his age. He has looked progressively worse since suffering an ear injury against Yudai Arai in 2016 and since then he's gone 4-2-1, and suffered his sole stoppage loss, which came in 2019 to Jay Raquinel. He has also struggled against opponents many, including ourselves, would have heavily favoured him in. At 36, and with the style he has, it's not a surprise that he's showing signs of aging, but sadly we do need to worry about him, as he's often been too tough for his own good.
Aged 26 Seigo Yuri Akui is just coming into his prime, and is already a scary fighter. He made his debut as an 18 year old, back in 2014, fighting at Light Flyweight. The following year he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year and would run off an 11-0-1 (7) record to open up his career before moving up in weight. Sadly though his move from Light Flyweight to Flyweight didn't go perfectly and after a few bouts at the new weight he came un-done against Junto Nakatani, who stopped him in 6 rounds. That was a huge win for Nakatani at the time, who has since gone on to win the WBO Flyweight title. Akui bounced back from that loss by stopping Masamichi Yabuki, who has also gone on to win a world title, before suffering a disappointing TKO loss to Jaysever Abcede, when he damaged his hand. Since that loss however he has gone 4-0 (3), winning the Japanese title in 2019, when he stopped Shun Kosaka, and has since defended it twice, beating Seiya Fujikita and Taku Kuwahara.
In the ring Akui is deadly. His hands are like rocks and worrying for many opponents he's also a quick starter who doesn't let opponents off the hook when he has them hurt. From his 11 stoppages a staggering 9 have come in the first round, including his wins over Kenji Ono, Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshiki Minato and Shun Kosaka. Not only is he dangerous early however, but in recent bouts he has shown he can box as well, taking a 10 round decision over Seiya Fujikita and showing power late to stop Taku Kuwahara, with those two wins answering a lot of questions about his potential. Worryingly for opponents he's dangerous early, dangerous late, and bludgeons guys with power. Thankfully for some he can be out outboxed, he's not the quickest, the sharpest or the biggest at 112lbs, but he's not a guy many will want to take on in a fire fight.
In his prime Kogawa's work rate, toughness, grit and determination would have made him a real nightmare for Akui. He might have walked into a few too many, but his attitude was going to be to go to war and whilst smothering Akui and not letting him get full extension on his shots. It would have been a risky game plan, but one that has worked numerous times for Kogawa. Sadly this version of Kogawa isn't going to have the same work rate, energy or toughness as he had a decade ago, and rather than smothering Akui and winning a decision in a war, we, sadly, see him being on the receiving end of a brutal beating and eventual stoppage. He will struggle to cut the distance, he will take big shots on the way in and will be out worked, out fought and out punched. Expect Akui to have to dig deep here, but we can't see anything but a stoppage for the champion.
Prediction - Akui TKO6
On July 21st we get the chance to see a fantastic main event at Korakuen Hall as Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui (15-2-1, 10) takes on the unbeaten Taku Kuwahara (8-0, 4). The bout may not have feature some huge name, but it's a match up between two men who have often been over-looked, and are quietly moving towards bigger and better things than the Japanese national title.
Given that neither man is a big name it's worth learning a little bit about both men before we look at how we think the bout will go.
The champion is a 25 year old from Okayama, a place not known as a boxing hotspot. Despite not having a big team behind him Akui has managed to make quite a lot of noise in his 18 bout career. He turned profession in 2014 and the following year he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight, aged 20. At that point in time he was 6-0-1 (2) and someone who looked promising, but not too much fuss was made about him, even with his Rookie of the Year triumph. He then went on a destructive run, stopping his following 5 opponents in a combined 7 rounds before losing to Junto Nakatani in August 2017. That bout said more about Nakatani than Akui, with Nakatani being too big and too good, but soon afterwards Akui bounced back with a blow out win over Masamichi Yabuki, the man who will challenge world champion Kenshiro Teraji later in the year. That win was followed by an unfortunate TKO loss to Jaysever Abcede in late 2018, when Akui suffered an injury and fought on with it until being stopped with just over 40 seconds left.
Since suffering his second loss Akui has been on a tear again, blasting out Yoshiki Minato and Shun Kosaka, both within a round with the win over Kosaka netting Akui the Japanese Flyweight title. He has also made a single defense of that belt, beating Seiya Fujikita last October, via 10 round decision.
With a 10 stoppages in 18 bouts it's easy to assume that Akui isn't a dangerous fighter. In reality however he's a vicious puncher, and a fast starter. From 15 professional wins he has managed to score 9 opening round stoppages, 10 stoppages in the first 3 rounds and has one got one decision win since the start of 2016. He is a brute of a puncher, a fast starter and a very, very dangerous man in the ring. Sadly though when fighters do see out the early stages of bouts with Akui he can be out boxed, out fought and can give him real problems. In saying that however he did impress with his engine and boxing skills against the tough Fujikita and that win did show there was more to him than his early power.
The 26 year old Taku Kuwahara was a very good amateur, with international experience, and despite originally being from Osaka he is now based in Kanagawa, fighting out of the Ohashi Gym, where he gets top quality training and sparring. There was some excitement about his debut in 2018, and he quickly built some buzz, but sadly it wasn't until 2019 that he managed to notch a couple of wins of real note, beating Jonathan Refugio and Ricardo Sueno. Those wins saw him build some real momentum, but that momentum, like with many fighters, was stopped in 2020 and he didn't fight at all during the the year. Thankfully however he returned to the ring this past March with a solid win, in a very exciting fight, with Yoshiki Minato. Notably Kuwahara went 8 rounds with Minato, a man blown out in a round by Akui.
Early in his career Kuwahara looked like a man with plenty of pop, stopping 4 of his first 5 opponents, but he's gone the distance in his last 3 and there are question marks about his punching power. However he is a high skilled boxer, with some lovely tricks up his sleeve, he's quick, he's sharp, and we've seen him go 8 rounds on 4 occasions, answering plenty of questions about his stamina. He also fights at a good tempo and keeps a high work rate whilst looking very relaxed in the ring.
Coming in to the bout it really is a compelling match up. Will Akui manage to launch himself to the next level with a big win in Tokyo? Will Kuwahara manage to make the most of his chance and take his first title? Will the power of Akui be too much for Kuwahara to handle? Will Kuwahara have the skills and experience to cope with the power and aggression of his foe?
The first thing we need to think about is whether Kuwahara can see out the early storm. We suspect that someone with the experience, amateur and professional, of Kuwahara should be able to fight smartly, being cautious early on, and then moving through the gears as the bout goes on. The second thing is whether or not Akui can change things when he's being out boxed, something we expect to see Kuwahara do. That's where we're less confident and we suspect that Akui will end up starting fast, being neutralised, and then really struggle to catch up with the quicker, sharper, smoother Kuwahara.
As the rounds go on we see Kuwahara getting more and more comfortable, and whilst he might end up eating a shot or two later in the bout, and we've seen him take some shots he's not needed to in the past, we don't see Akui managing to have any sustained success later in the bout. Instead we see Kuwahara having a scare or two, from single shots, but seeing them out and taking a clear unanimous decision over Akui, and becoming the new champion.
Prediction - UD10 Kuwahara
The next of the Champion Carnival bouts sees our attention turn to the Flyweight division, where heavy handed champion Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) defends against mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6). The bout, set to take place on October 18th in Okayama will be Akui's first defense of the title and will be Fujikita's first title bout. For Akui it serves as a chance to build on last October's title win, when he beat Shun Kosaka inside a round, whilst Fujikita will be getting his first title fight, and gets it almost by default.
For those who haven't seen Akui he is a very fast starter. From his 14 career wins 9 having come in the first round, and all 10 of his stoppages have come in the first 3 rounds. What's more notable than being a fast start is the type of competition he has been blasting away, with wins already over the likes of Kenji Ono, Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki, Yoshiki Minato and Shun Kosaka, all of those have come in the opening round. He does however seem to struggle when he can't blast though opponents, and he found himself unable to blow out Junto Nakatani and Jaysever Abcede, both of whom went on to stop Akui.
For those who haven't seen Akui he's someone who is incredibly fun to see go to work. He's aggressive, powerful and lets his hands fly early. Defensively he is open, he can be tagged, and against fighters who can take his power he does appear to struggle, though at domestic level not many can take his power. Notably his 4 decision wins came in his first 7 bouts, with the final one being his win over Hiroki Hosoya in the 2015 All Japan Rookie of the Year, and since then he hasn't heard the final bell.
Interesting Fujikita has gotten this bout, as the mandatory challenger, for essentially making weight last year. The original plan had been for him and Ryota Yamauchi to face off in an eliminator, but Yamauchi was forced out of the bout due to an injury, leaving the door open to Fujikita, as long as he could make weight on the day of the planned weigh in. Which he did. That allowed him to become mandatory for his first title bout, and make up for the disappointment of losing in a title eliminator in 2018, when he lost a narrow decision to Naoki Mochizuki.
On paper the 32 year old Fujikita doesn't look much of a challenger. He has 4 losses in 17 bouts, and has got a single win of note of real note, a 2016 TKO over Yusuke Sakashita. His record is however one full of misfortune, with 3 split decisions and one technical majority decision. All of those close decisions have come to good domestic fighters, including Mochizuki, Yuta Matsuo and Hayato Yamaguchi.
Although he's without many wins of real significance Fujikita looks like one of those types of fighters who could score the upset over a decent guy. He looks solid, takes a shot well, applies smart pressure, and can fight on the back foot when he needs to. He's certainly more comfortable going forwards than backwards, and looks physically strong. When he is on the backfoot he moves very well and avoid shots really well, but seems to struggle to fire off counters.
Coming in to this we see Fujikita as the better boxer, the way he moves and the way he looks after himself in the ring makes it look like he could genuinely give Akui issues. If Akui fights the way he usually does, trying to steam roll Fujikita, things will be interesting. We suspect we'll either see Fujikita taken out early, in what would be a very impressive result for Akui, or we'll see Fujikita seeing out the storm, and then slowly picking Akui apart as the bout goes on. Fujikita looks like a tough guy, takes a shot really well when he needs to.
We expect Akui's aggression and power to be too much, and for Fujikita to be taken out early, maybe not the opening round but still early. Fujikita might be tough, but Akui is the most dangerous fighter he's faced so far. If Fujikita sees out the storm we could be in for a bit of a classic, but that's a huge "if".
Prediction - TKO3 Akui
Earlier this year we saw Junto Nakatani win, and then vacate, the Japanese Flyweight title. On October 27th we'll see that vacancy filled as, two former Nakatani foes battle for the belt.
In one corner is the heavy handed Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9), who has proven to be very dangerous early on, whilst the other corner will have in tough guy Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4). On paper it's not the most amazing of fights, but in reality it is an interesting looking one.
Of the two fighters it's Akui who has been the much more fun to watch fighter. The 24 year old from Okayama first made his mark in 2015, when he won Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight. At the time Akui was just 20 years old and following his win he was 6-0-1 (2). He didn't seem like much of a puncher. Since then however he has gone 7-2 (7) with his only losses coming to Nakatani and the criminally under-rated Jaysever Abcede. The Nakatani bout saw Akui just beaten down in an action packed fight whilst the Abcede fight was a very competitive one that saw him being stopped in the final round.
Rather than focusing on Akui's losses it's more interesting to look at his success, and since the Rookie of the Year he has scored 7 T/KO wins, with 6 of them coming in the first round. Not only has he been destructive but he's been scoring them against decent opponents, like Kenji Ono, Ryuto Oho, Masamichi Yabuki and Yoshiki Minato. Although a flawed fighter he is a quick starter, pressing the fight early and looking to land big right hands and huge left hooks. He has got question marks about his chin, defense and toughness, but it's his own fire power and aggression that has made him a must watch fighter in Okayama. Everything is thrown with bad intentions from a very wide and open stance. Technically he's very flawed, but so much damn fun to watch!
Kosaka, who is also 24, began his career in 2012 and reached the Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing to Kenya Yamashita over the 5 round distance. In his very next bout Kosaka was stopped by Tetsuya Hisada, who of course fought for a world title just a few weeks ago. He went from 9-0 to 9-2 in the space of 6 months but rebuilt with 4 straight wins. Those wins lead him to a bout with Akinori Hoshino, which he lost. Since then he is 3-2, including a loss in an OPBF title fight against Jayr Raquinel and a loss in a Japanese title eliminator to Junto Nakatani.
Kosaka looks a well skilled fighter, but seems a bit lightweight, lacking power and physical strength. He was unable to ever enforce his game plan against Raquinel, and was given a beating by Nakatani, though lasted the distance with the unbeaten Japanese fighter. He's tough but lacks the ability to compete at that level and doesn't have the fire power in his arsenal to get the respect of title level fighters. What doesn't help is the fact he has taken a lot of punishment in some fights, particularly the Nakatani fight, and punishing losses do add up.
Given the fast start of Akui there is a risk he will take Kosaka out early. His aggression is dangerous. In reality however we expect Akui to pay for his aggression and feel the toughness of Kosaka could prove a real issue. We're expecting a fast start for Akui, but counters from Kosaka will land clean and we wouldn't be surprised at all if Kosaka sees off the early storm and drops Akui at some point with a counter. We think as the bout goes on Kosaka will build in confidence, and come on strong as Akui tires. That could make this very close, and very competitive.
Prediction SD10 Kosaka
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.