Over the last decade or so the Light Flyweight division has been dominated by Japanese fighters at world level such as Naoya Inoue (WBC), Kazuto Ioka (WBA), Yu Kimura (WBC), Akira Yaegashi (IBF), Kosei Tanaka (WBO), Ryoichi Taguchi (IBF and WBA), and Kenshiro Teraji (WBC), along with current world champions Hiroto Kyoguchi (WBA) and Masamichi Yabuki (WBC). The conveyor belt of great Japanese fighters at 108lbs looks set to continue with the emergence of current Japanese national champion Shokichi Iwata (7-0, 5), who makes his first title defense, as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi (22-11-3, 8) this coming Saturday, in what is the second bout between the two men.
Whilst Iwata is still early in his career, he is a notable hopeful for Japanese boxing. He had a stellar amateur career, including notable wins over the likes of Kosei Tanaka, before beginning his professional boxing campaign in 2018 with a win, in the US, against Joel Bermudez. Since that win he has been moved quickly, and won the Japanese title last year when he stopped Rikito Shiba in 9 rounds. In just his 7th professional bout. On route to his title he showed progress every fight, he showed development between fights, and matured as both a fighter and as a man. That was show cased in 2021 when he out pointed Ouchi over 8 rounds, showing that he could do 8 rounds, and when he stopped Shiba for the title.
Early in his career Shiba appeared to have a lack of power, and his first 4 bouts all went a little bit longer than expected. Notably however it appears, on reflection, that he was being smart, getting ring time, and closing the show, when he could, late in the bout, testing things along the way. It's now clear that he's a solid puncher, not a KO artist, or a massive puncher, akin to Yabuki, but a solid, puncher, who's power carries late into bouts. Not that but he's also an aggressive, technical fighter, who sets a good work rate and tempo, and is well schooled, a given from his amateur background. He has all the tools to go a very, very long way, and the type of style to turn heads when he's in the ring. He also has the intention, for this fight, to not just beat Ouchi but to stop him, and continue his improvements with a man he previously went the distance with.
As for Ouchi he is a true veteran of the sport and is fighting in his 37th professional bout, in a career that stretches back all the way to 2003. Now aged 36 this is probably Ouchi's last chance to claim a Japanese title, having previously come up short in 3 other title bouts. With a record that consists of 11 losses it's easy to write Ouchi off as some sort of loser, but his competition, has typically been high with losses to the likes of Taguchi, Yabuki, Kenshiro, and Shin Ono. He has also proven his toughness, with just 3 stoppage losses during his 36 fight career, and the most recent of those came against Atsushi Aburada. Notably he is the only fighter to have ever lost a decision to current world champion Masamichi Yabuki, showing his toughness.
The most notable thing about Ouchi is he knows how to look after himself. You don't have a long career, like he has, without knowing how to protect yourself. He is defensively tight, uses a very high tight guard, and uses a pretty crafty jab. Sadly though he is now 36, and understandably he has slow feet, slow handspeed and doesn't have the quickest reflexes. Earlier in his career he did have enough speed, but in recent years that speed has gone and he often looks like he's pushing shots, which is an issue against quicker, younger, fresher guys. Not only is he somewhat slow, but he's also happy to have a low work rate, and whilst we might see bursts of activity from him, he's not going to set a high tempo, which is another issue against the younger guys.
Coming in to this bout there really isn't too much of a doubt over who should win, but more the method of victory. It's incredibly hard to see Ouchi beating Iwata, or even coming close. Instead the question really is whether Iwata can break down Ouchi or not. Sadly for Ouchi, we do actually see Iwata doing just that. Chipping away with body and combinations round by round to force the brave Ouchi to be stopped late, likely with his corner throwing in the towel after Ouchi gets dropped in one of the later rounds. He'll be brave, he'll be determined, but sadly for him, father time and Iwata will be too much here.
Prediction - Iwata TKO9
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.