Every so often a match up comes around where the first impression isn’t a guess at who’s going to win, or how, but is instead a feeling that “that’s gonna be awesome”, and that was the case in December 2019 when Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) won the Japanese Super Featherweight title knowing that Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21) was waiting in the wings as the mandatory challenger. Following Saka’s win the bout was supposed to take place in April 2020, as part of the Champion Carnival, though was sadly postponed due to the ongoing pandemic, which ended up postponing almost all of the Champion Carnival bouts from last year.
Despite the delay to the fight it is still a bout that seems almost certain to be something special. Really, really special. And really brutal.
For those who don’t follow the Japanese scene, the easiest way to sum this up is “aggressive monster with brutal power, up against insanely tough blood and guts warrior”. That sort of combination always makes for spine tingling action, thrilling back and forth exchanges and the sort of fight that reminds you why you love this sport. And that’s exactly what we are expecting here. Neither man is world class. Neither man will be expected to use the Japanese title and leapfrog into a world title bout. But that doesn’t really matter, this is going to be an hellacious fight deserving of your time, attention, and eyes.
The 28 year old Kosuke Saka doesn’t have a record of a champion, with 5 losses in 25 bouts. He is however much better than his record suggests and his losses have, for the most part, not been embarrassing ones. His first loss was in 2012, in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final against Masayuki Ito. That was quickly followed by him losing 2 of his next 4, including a TKO loss to Hiroshige Osawa. The loss to Osawa was followed up by Saka reeling off 8 T/KO wins, including victories over Ryuto Kyoguchi - Hiroto Kyoguchi’s older brother, Takafumi Nakajima and Shota Hayashi. Winning the Japanese the Japanese Featherweight title with his win over Hayashi. Sadly though his reign was an embarrassing one, losing the title in his first defense, against Takenori Ohashi, when he misheard the 10 second clacker and confused it for the bell, giving Ohashi a free shot, which he took, knocking Saka out cold.
Saka bounced back from his title loss by moving up in weight, stopping touted prospect Masanori Rikiishi in 2 rounds and then taking out the limited Gusti Elnino, before being brutalised by under-rated Filipino Joe Noynay in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. That looked like a bad loss, until Noynay followed it up and battered Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu a few months later. Since the loss to Noynay we’ve seen Saka fight twice, a nothing win against Isack Junior and then a sensational win against Masaru Sueyoshi last December to win the Japanese Super Featherweight title. That win over Sueyoshi was Saka at his best. He was marauding throughout, bullying Sueyoshi, taking the space away from the technically well schooled Teiken man, and breaking him down round by round, until Sueyoshi was left a ruined man midway through round 6.
In the ring Saka is a monstrously hard hitting bully. He has brutal power, in both hands, he presses forward with one thing in mind, destruction, and he fights like every punch he throws is designed to break bones. He loves coming forward, applying pressure behind a stiff jab, pushing opponents on to the ropes and going to work. He’s all about heavy shots, coming forward and not taking a backwards step. His mentality is to break his opponents. Offensively he is a brutal monster. Where he is flawed however is defensively. He can be countered, he can be caught clean, and he can regularly over-commit. His footwork isn’t the sharpest out there, crossing his feet much more often than he should, and when hurt he can be slow to recover, as we saw against Noynay where he never regained his composure after the first of several knockdowns.
Saka’s biggest issue however is his mental state. It was a mental lapse against Ohashi that cost him and it was his lack of composure after being hurt that was his downfall against Noynay. If he can be locked in, as he was against the likes of Hayashi and Sueyoshi, he is very hard to beat. But his two recent stoppage losses does leave us wondering about how consistent he is, and where his mind is focused coming into this bout with Watanabe.
The 31 year old Takuya Watanabe is a true veteran of the ring, having debuted almost 14 years ago to the day. He is one of the most experienced men currently fighting in Japan, with 47 bouts and 289 rounds to his name, and he is also a surprisingly well travelled fighter with bouts in Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Taipei. In fact 14 of his 47 bouts have been fought outside of Japan, including his infamous 2014 blood bath with Jae Sung Lee in South Korea. A bout that really did see Watanabe leaving his blood all over the Gwanakgu Hall, in Seoul.
Of course there is much more to Watanabe than just being a road warrior, in fact there’s a teak tough competitor, with a hugely under-rated skill set, an amazing will to win, and a real hunger to win a Japanese title before he hangs them up. A title he wants to add to a collection that includes a WBC Youth world title, an IBF Asia title, a WBO Asia Pacific title, a WBO Oriental title and an OPBF “silver” title. Despite his collection of silverware he has been eluded by a Japanese title, losing in previous bouts for the title against Hisashi Amagasa and Satoshi Hosono.
Through Watanabe’s career he has really built his reputation and has had nothing handed to him. He turned in 2007, as a teenager and won his first 6 before losing to the mysterious Saengachit Kiatkamthorngym, in what appears to have been Saengachit only professional bout. He quickly fell from 6-0 to 10-3-1 (3) and struggled to find his identity in the ring. By 2012, when he fought Hisashi Amagasa, he had advanced his record to 15-3-1 (4) but had no idea how to deal with Amagasa and the “Slimming Assassin’s” unique physical features. Rather than biting down and fighting hard, like he would now, he looked lost and confused. But then Watanabe started to find himself, and built a reputation as a legitimate warrior on the back of his 2014 bout with Jae Sung Lee, where he spent much of the bout painting the canvas red, but refused to back down, and ran Lee close. By then he was a 25 year old fighter boasting a 20-5-1 (8), but also a man building a reputation as a warrior.
In 2015 Wayanabe got his second Japanese title fight and ran Satoshi all the way in a loss that helped solidify him as a solid, upper domestic level boxer. He wasn’t a fighter, he was a boxer. A tough as nails boxer, with a busy work rate and the ability to hold his own in exchanges with Hosono. In fact he was unlucky not to get the nod in a bit of a forgotten classic. Since then he has been really busy, facing a mix of lower level talent, to tick over and get experience on the road, and upper level talent, with losses to Masayuki Ito and Hironori Mishiro, where they simply out boxed him. In 2019 however he earned another Japanese title fight, this one, on the back of winning a brutal 8 round decision against Taiki Minamoto in a Japanese title eliminator. That was supposed to secure Watanabe in 2020 but due to Covid19 the bout, as mentioned, got postponed and will not be taking place this coming Friday.
In terms of his style Watanabe is probably quite fairly described as a fighter-boxer. He can box, and is a solid boxer, with a solid and busy jab, and he likes to use his footwork, setting shots up at midrange and using some very underrated skills. However he’s at his best when he turns into a fighter, taking a fight into the trenches with his educated uppercuts, hooks, crosses and lovely flowing combinations. When he gets the fight at mid to close range he covers up a lot of his flaws, such as his slow feet and his almost trudging pressure. At range he can be out boxed, as Amagasa, Ito and Mishiro showed. In the trenches however he will hold his own with anyone at domestic level. What helps there is his incredible chin, his amazing hunger and his willingness to take a bomb to land his own shots. If a fighter wants to go to war, Watanabe will go to war.
It’s the willingness of Watanabe to go to war, and his eagerness to fight fire with fire that makes us so excited here. It’s Saka’s power, pressure and aggression, against Watanabe’s toughness, sneaky combinations and inclination to respond when he’s hit that should make for something special here.
Saka is certainly the heavier puncher, the more destructive fighter, and the man who, if he lands clean, can genuinely do damage. But what happens when the irresistible force hits the immovable object? Watanabe is certainly the better boxer, but can he withstand the tenacity of Saka? Likewise can Saka mentally stay strong when shots that have been forcing men to crumble have no effect on Watanabe?
Predicting this one is tough, though predicting any Saka fight is tough, with the only sure thing being that this will be something truly captivating.
If pushed to select a winner, we’ll be going with Watanabe to weather out the storm from Saka, make him question himself and crumble late. Despite that the reality is that any outcome here is possible and that the journey to the final result is going to be thoroughly engrossing, beautifully brutal and fantastically physical.
If you’re a Boxing Raise subscriber you will not want to miss this one. And if you don’t subscribe to Boxing Raise, you should, even if it’s just to watch this bout! It may have taken over a year of waiting for this one, but we are just as excited as we were when we went into 2020
Prediction - TKO9 Watanabe
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
Top 10 world ranked Super Featherweights clash on March 7th, as the undefeated Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu challenges Mark Urvanov for the WBO International championship in Ekaterinburg.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0 / 8 KOs) before entering the professional ring, he had a good amateur background behind him. A participant in the Asian Games and a 2 time finalist of the Kyrgyz Championships, Uulu finally made his pro debut in 2016, winning 8 fights within 13 months and also gained the WBC Asia Continental title.
His first serious opponent was former IBF Intercontinental & WBO Asia Pacific champion Andrei Isayeu (30-15). Uulu looked like the veteran in this one, controlling the pace from the get go, peppering Isayeu repeatedly with jabs and body shots to earn a clean unanimous decision.
He then took on another experienced fighter in Devis Perez (34-19). Even though the match was back and forth for the first 2 rounds, the pace changed quickly with Uulu rocking him on multiple occasions in the 3rd with the left straight. When the round ended, Perez seemed to have been in great pain and couldn’t continue.
Uulu would go on to win the vacant WBA Asia title in 2018 at the expense of Leonardo Padilla (18-3), who was also undefeated at the time. The Kyrgyz displayed excellent head movement, while also kept countering every big shot and other than suffering a knockdown, which was basically him losing his footing, Padilla couldn’t follow Uulu’s pace and eventually succumbed to his foe’s fast offense.
One of his most dominant victories was over 1x world title challenger Aristides Perez (31-13), with the referee stopping the fight in the 4th round, after Perez offered no offense of his own and was just taking punches repeatedly. 6 months later, he faced Thai knockout artist Pipat Chaiporn (47-13) in what was the toughest battle of his career so far. Both men were trading inside the pocket, with neither one gaining an advantage over the other. The former IBF Pan Pacific champion started losing ground near the end of the 6th, after taking 2 heavy blows to the jaw and got blasted for the entirety of the next round as well. Uulu would then drop him thrice with the straight left to the body during the 8th to finish the fight and retain his WBA Asia crown.
After making short work of Milner Marcano (21-9) last summer, stopping him with a perfectly placed liver shot, Uulu will now go toe to toe with a hungry young prospect that has quickly risen in the world’s rankings.
At the age of 23, Mark Urvanov (17-2 / 9 KOs) has already been in the game for almost a decade. His amateur career expanded from 2011 to 2014, winning multiple regional championships and also earned the rank of candidate for national Master of Sports.
Despite coming up short on his debut, he made a quick turn around and went on a 12 fight winning streak, before losing to fellow amateur star and past rival Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0). During that time, he fought and beat the afformentioned Andrei Isayeu (30-15) in a close contest as well as Rauf Aghayev (28-7) for the WBC Asia & Eurasia titles. In that second match, Urvanov was fighting with an injured right hand. The Russian did a great job of predicting Aghayev’s moves and countering his attacks, dropping him twice during the last round.
Urvanov piled up a couple more victories, during which he showcased a much more aggressive style. His latest and most important one thus far was against former WBO European & Intercontinental champion and 1x world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov (21-2). Urvanov stunned his opponent with a left hook to the chin and followed it up with a barrage of punches, attacking the head and the body, overwhelming him with his power and speed to capture the vacant WBO International title. He is now set to make his inaugural defense against an unbeaten fighter, who could very well be his hardest challenge yet.
Looking at the styles of both boxers, this promises to be a fast paced, action packed match. Uulu is a skilled and smart fighter that loves to push the pace and throw rapid combinations, especially to the body. Urvanov’s mean streak began after losing to Yaqubov. Since then, he has been relentless in the ring, finishing 3 of his last 4 fights in less than 10 minutes. His physical prowess gives him the edge over most of his opponents, “bullying” them around while looking for the knockout.
On the other hand, when it comes to their careers, even though both guys have been in the ring with experienced fighters, Uulu has had overall better competition and the more impressive performances. The best example is the way Uulu outclassed Andrei Isayeu, whereas Urvanov had a much tougher time dealing with him. Moreover, Urvanov’s inability to properly defend himself, especially when he’s moving backwards, is the reason he has been knocked down a couple of times, as he lets his guard down. Good thing is that we didn’t see him repeat that mistake in his bout with Chuprakov, so hopefully he has learned his lesson.
To sum this up, what the fans should expect is a crowd pleasing encounter between 2 strong boxers that are always on the attack and don’t like to slow down. On paper, Uulu has the best chances of walking away the winner but the “Russian Canelo” surprised many people with his latest performance, looking like a completely different fighter, more focused and more aggressive than ever before. So who will prevail and bring himself closer to a World championship opportunity? We will find out this coming weekend in Russia!
The second Dynamic Glove card of 2020 takes place on February 1st and features two title bouts. The lesser of those is a very interesting Japanese Youth Super Featherweight title bout between Ryusei Ishii (8-5-1, 5) and the hard hitting Yamato Hata (9-1, 9). Neither of these men are big names, but both are looking to make a mark in 2020, and a win here would be a great chance to claim their first title and build momentum before the year really kicks off.
Of the two men it's the 22 year old Hata who is the more exciting and promising fighter. The man from the Teiken Gym has been a professional since 2015, and prior to that he had been a solid amateur, running up a 39-9 record. His power was obvious early on, as he stopped his first 3 opponents, but in bout #4 the then 20 year old was upset by Takuya Hashimoto, who stopped him in round 4. Hata was dropped and although he fought on he couldn't clear his head and his team threw in the towel soon afterwards. Since that loss he has gone 6-0 (6), and scored decent wins over Shingo Kusano and Ryuku Oho, with the win over Oho netting Hata his shot at the Japanese Youth title.
In the ring Hata is a talented and heavy handed boxer-puncher, who fights out of the southpaw stance. His jab is sharp, hard and hurtful, he moves around the ring well and looks to create openings with his movement. His variety of shots is a delight to see and when he lets his shots fly he looks a natural, capable of striking fight ending shots to head or body. Defensively he's a touch open when he lets his shots go, but it's so exciting to see him in full flow offensively, and every shot seems to be very, very hard. If you can't catch him when he's firing off shots it's going to be very tough to beat Hata.
Ishii is someone has had some very mixed success during his 14 fight career. He's managed to score some upsets, notably a 2017 win over Sho Nagata, but also lose a lot of his bouts, in fact coming in to this he has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 bouts. His win last time out, against Masashi Wakita saw him earn this title fight, his second Japanese Youth title fight. In his first shot at a Japanese Youth title he was narrowly out pointed by Kazuma Sanpei in 2017, but since then he has gained valuable experience, even if he's not really shined in his last few bouts.
In the ring Ishii is a boxer-mover but one with very low hands, who fires in wild and wide shots and looks like the sort of fighter who could find themselves in all sorts of problems against an aggressive fighter. Given he drops his hands a lot Ishii is, understandably, a slick mover, he uses upper body movement well, and does have a sharp jab, and long reach. Sadly though his does seem to struggle with pressure and doesn't have the sort of power to scare opponents away from coming forward.
Ishii has the skills to make Hata look poor at times, but we suspect Hata's aggression, heavy hands, and fierce in ring mentality will break down Ishii in the middle rounds. It'll be an exciting fight until then but sooner or later Hata's power will be the difference maker.
Prediction - TKO6 Hata
On December 10th fight fans at Korakuen Hall get a really interesting card featuring some of the top fighters from the Watanabe Gym, including the unbeaten OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (8-0-1, 3) defending his title against the once beaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-1, 7). For fans outside of Japan this bout won't really set pulses racing, but for those in Japan, and those who follow the Japanese scene, this is a really interesting match up and one worthy of attention.
Mishiro was a former amateur standout who has been on the fast track under the Watanabe gym since he turned professional. In just his 5th bout he went in with the touted Shuya Masaki and in his 6th bout, just 15 months after his debut, he became the OPBF champion, out pointing Carlo Magali. Whilst he failed to unify the OPBF and Japanese titles, just a fight later, when he fought to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi, he has come on and gone from strength to strength. His last two bouts have seen him defeat the teak tough Takuya Watanabe and former OPBF champion Ryo Takenaka, and he's on the verge of a world ranking after just 9 fights.
Despite having so little experience Mishiro has shown he can box, he can brawl and he can fight. He originally looked like more of a boxer early on, and the fight with Magali was an interesting match up due to Mishiro boxing rather than fighting. As he's developed however he has shown a willingness to really fight, and that was on show against Sueyoshi, with Mishiro falling behind when he was boxing, then becoming a fighter to claw back the bout in an excellent contest. He's still got areas to work on and we still don't know how sturdy his chin is, but he has ticked a lot of boxes, and has proven his stamina can take him 12 rounds and that he can bite down and adapt.
At 23 years old Kimura is a young gun looking to make his mark on the sport and continue the momentum he has began to building following his sole career loss, back in Spring 2018 to Richard Pumicpic. He first broke through back in 2016 as a fresh faced youngster, winning Rookie of the Year, and on paper seemed ill-prepared for Pumicpic, but still managed to give the talented Filipino a real fight. That loss has really brought him on, and since then he has stopped 3 decent fighters, including Filipino Allen Vallespin.
In the ring Kimura is a talented fighter with a nice jab, good movement and a good boxing brain. Sadly however he does have the look of a kid in their at times, and although really talented there is a feeling that he might be someone who matures a little later than some other fighters. That could be a major question mark when faces a strong Super Featherweight, and it seemed like Pumicpic managed to rough him up in their fight, albeit with a few accidental headclashes early on. We've always been impressed by Kimura's composure in the ring, but the lack of real physicality has lingered as a potential issue in our mind for the youngster. That is despite the fact Kimura looks great when he works up close and applies pressure.
We see this being a really interesting fight, but one that Mishiro should win whatever happens. If Mishiro decides to box we feel he'll be just a touch too polished for Kimura, and will take a clear, but well fought, decision over the younger man. If Mishiro wishes to make life more fun for fans however he could look to make this into a fight, and try to drag Kimura into a tear up. If that happens we'll have a high intensity fight, fan friendly war. Either way we're expecting this to be a clear decision win for Mishiro in a fun and exciting late contender for Japanese fight of the year.
Prediction - UD12 Mishiro
The first Saturday of December is set to be a huge one at Super Featherweight for Japanese fans who get a Japanese title fight and a WBO Asia Pacific title fight, both on the same show. For us the most interesting of those bouts is the regional title one, which will see WBO Asia Pacific champion Joe Noynay (18-2-1, 7) look to continue his run in Japan as he takes on former Japanese champion Kenichi Ogawa (24-1, 18). On paper this good, and with Noynay's recent momentum we are expecting something very exciting.
The 24 year Noynay made his debut as a baby faced youngster in 2013 and had a nice winning run to begin his career, before a draw with Alie Laurel and a loss to Richard Pumicpic saw him fall from 10-0 to 10-1-1. A loss a few fights later to Reiya Abe showed how good he was, but ended up with him dropping to 12-2-1. Since then however he has gone 6-0 (4) with the biggest struggle being a tough 10 round win over Hector Garcia in 2018. That win over Garcia was a hard win, but seemed to inspire real belief in Noynay, and his power, and he has subsequently stopped Kosuke Saka and Satoshi Shimizu, both in upset wins in Osaka.
In the ring Noynay is a very talented boxer, who picks the right shots at the right time. Despite his recent run of stoppages he's not a "big hitter", but he's a very, very clean hitter, and his shots have more than just a bit of spite on them. He can be dragged into a brawl at times, but tends to get back behind his boxing before taking too much punishment. His current run of form is fantastic and the way he has become a Japanese-Killer this year has been incredibly impressive, and suggests he won't care too much about Ogawa and his reputation.
The 31 year old Ogawa is best known for his 2017 bout with Tevin Farmer, which he won by decision before having the result over turned due to a drug test. After serving a ban of a year he returned in February and has scored two relatively low profile wins over Filipino fighters. This bout is is however a huge step up from those wins, and on paper may actually be the toughest bout of Ogawa's career. At his core Ogawa is a boxer-puncher. He has shown plenty of basic boxing skills, though was made to miss a lot against Farmer, and has got heavy hands. It's really his boxing skills that are his biggest issue though, and he can be out boxed, as we've seen at domestic level against the likes of Kento Matsushita and Satoru Sugita.
At the moment Ogawa can ill afford a loss, and whilst he hasn't been beaten since having his jaw broken way back in August 2012 this is a bout where he needs to put on a great performance to take a win. He's up against a man who can out box him, who can hurt him, and who fights from the southpaw stance. Ogawa needs to be careful, he needs to fight smart and he needs to avoid a tear up. He really needs to be disciplined, use his 1-2 and avoid the power shots from Noynay. If Ogawa believes he can take the power of Noynay he will almost certainly find himself in problems here.
We suspect that Noyany's boxing skills, his control of distance, and movement will be key early on. He'll get on his toes, box, make Ogawa look silly and slow. Noynay's power may not have the effect on Ogawa that it had on Saka and Shimizu, but it will still be enough to shake Ogawa, a natural Super Featherweight. For Ogawa the key is to get through the early rounds, hope that Noynay slows down a bit, and try to land the big right hand in the later rounds. Ogawa certainly has the power to take Noynay out, but will need to see off the early storm.
Sadly for Ogawa his recent performances don't make us believe he has what it takes to see out the early part of the bout, especially not against the clean left hands of Noynay. Ogawa is tough, but his technical limitations and openness to counters will be a major issue here.
Prediction - TKO8 Noynay
On December 7th we'll see a really interesting Japanese Super Featherweight title fight, as the defending champion Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) takes on former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (19-5, 16). On paper this is a bout that, if Sueyoshi wins, will likely see him begin an ascent towards a world title fight, whilst Saka will know that a win brings him a second Japanese divisional title, and set up a very interesting first defense at the 2020 Champion Carnival against Takuya Watanabe.
The once beaten champion is on a 17 unbeaten run, going 16-0-1 (8) with 4 defenses already under his belt. Whilst he hasn't always shone as the champion, and certainly doesn't appear to have found that new level that title holders often find, he has shown enough to suggest that he can get beyond this level, though may well need to see the stakes rise to get the best out of him. He is a smart boxer-moved, with a very odd and unique sense of distance and range. He looks talented, is a sharp puncher, but often a bit too negative to really enjoy watching, no matter how skilled he is.
At his best Sueyoshi is a brilliant counter puncher. His 2017 KO win over Allan Vallespin is one of the best KO's we've seen in years, but at his worst he struggles to make opponents make mistakes and can't always force the fight himself. We've seen him twice fail to shine against Ken Osato, winning the first in 8 rounds against a tired Osato and struggling to a majority decision in a rematch. He very much needs the right type of dance partner to look great against, but is a genuine talent and if given an aggressive foe he can look sensational.
In Kosuke Saka we'll Sueyoshi take on a legitimate puncher, but a flawed puncher and someone who hasn't looked great in recent performances. Saka has been a professional since 2012 and suffered his first loss to Masayuki Ito in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, incidentally Sueyoshi suffered loss to Ito in the same tournament, and his career really struggled afterwards with Saka losing 2 of his 4 bouts following the Ito bout. Those losses were however followed by a strong run of results as Saka beat the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima and Shota Hayashi, to become the Japanese Featherweight champion. As the time it seemed his career was going places, and he had stopped 8 in a row, but then he lost the title when he mentally switched off and lost to Takenori Ohashi. Since the loss to Ohashi we've seen Saka going 3-1 but a loss in 2 rounds to Joe Noynay certainly suggested that he'd become a bit of a glass cannon.
Saka, at his best, is a wrecking machine, but we've not really seen that in recent bouts, with losses to Ohashi and Noynay leaving us with more questions about Saka, his concentration levels and his willingness to dig deep.
Given how Saka is a naturally smaller, aggressive, slugger, he has the style that Sueyoshi should be very happy facing. Yes Saka is dangerous, he's a legitimate brute of a puncher, but Sueyoshi should get a lot of chances to counter him, and catch him with some very clean shots as Saka comes forward. There's a chance Sueyoshi gets caught, and we do have doubts over Sueyoshi's chin, but we suspect this will end up being a bit of a showcase performance from the champion who will take out Saka with a perfect counter right hand in the middle rounds.
Predictions - TKO7 Sueyoshi
The Champion Carnival in 2020 is still having it's eliminators and title bouts being fought for through November and December. Among the bouts that are left are a Japanese title fighter, between Masaru Sueyoshi and Kosuke Saka, which is set to take place in December, and an eliminator between Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) and Takuya Watanabe (36-9-1, 21), with the winners fighting next year. Whilst the title bout is an excellent match up, we wouldn't be surprised by the eliminator actually being the better bout, pitting a true puncher against one of the most insanely tough guys in the sport.
The 28 year old Minamoto is a former Japanese Featherweight champion, and is someone who left his previous division due to issues making weight. Hisreign was a short one, beginning in April 2018 and ending after just 2 defenses, when he vacated following a draw with Reiya Abe. Despite the short reign reign he left an impression, winning the title in an excellent performance against Takenori Ohashi and pulling himself off the canvas to stop Tatsuya Otsubo and then twice dropping Abe to earn a draw. Prior to winning the Featherweight title he had challenged for the Super Bantamweight belt, but been beaten by Yukinori Oguni, before moving up.
As a fighter Minamoto is a very good boxer-puncher. He's got real venom in every shot he throws, he sets a good work rate and has under-rated speed. He's good at getting behind his jab and working at range, boxing and moving. Where he lacks, is just touches of polish, and if he had that polish there's a good chance he'd have taken the win over Abe. He's defensively a little bit open, though usually his offensive work keeps opponents from taking advantage of those flaws. To date his chin has proven to be generally good, and it's unlikely the extra 4lbs will be a major issue in how he takes a punch, but he has been down in the past, and can get dragged into a toe-to-toe brawl. Something that is not good for him.
Watanabe has been around or years, and it's genuinely hard to believe that he's only 30 years old. The teak tough Watanabe has been around, and around, and actually debuted way back in 2007. His career has been a road less travelled, and he has legitimately fought through much of Asia with bouts not only in Japan but also Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Given he such a road warrior it's worth noting he's actually had success on his travels, though is best known for his bloody and brave effort against Jae Sung Lee than any road win. His bout with Lee was a genuine blood bath with Watanabe bleeding profusely from very early on. Despite his long career he's never been stopped, and has gone the distance in all of his losses, including defeats to Satoshi Hosono, Masayuki Ito and most recently Hironori Mishiro.
Watanabe is a very capable boxer. He's got solid size, power, speed and very impressive toughness. Sadly though being solid in all areas doesn't make you great in them, and his toughness alone won't win all fights. He can be out boxed, as Ito and Mishiro did, and he can be out fought, though fighters will have to go through hell to outfight him. Like Watanabe he prefer to box than fight, though perhaps he would have had more career success if he had been a fighter and swarmed opponents bringing them into a war and testing his toughness against theirs. Sadly it does appear that Watnaabe is slowing down, and although he was competitive, at times, with Mishiro he lacked the foot speed to really push Mishiro all the way when the two men fought back in March.
At his best Watanabe is a nightmare for anyone at domestic level, and we would love to see him to go up against either Sueyoshi or Saka, though unfortunately we do think he's slipped a little. Against a fighter like Minamoto, who can box at range and land sharp shots, we see Watanabe struggling for sustained success. We do see Watanabe having moments, but not enough of them to convince the judges that he's doing enough to win. Up close Watanabe has the ability to out work and slow Minamoto's foot work down, but we don't imagine that happening early enough for Watanabe to ever be in control of the bout. Instead we see Minamoto as a little bit too good, too light on his feet and too quick.
Prediction - UD8 Minamoto
The Super Featherweight division is an interesting state right now. It lacks a real star, especially with Gervonta Davis leaving the division, but has a lot of interesting contenders chasing world title bouts. Among those contenders are Tajik born Russian based Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (14-0, 11) and South African Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8), who will face off in an IBF world title eliminator on September 29th in South Africa. Although both men are risking their unbeaten records the reward is big, as the winner will get a shot at the IBF title, currently held by Tevin Farmer.
Originally Fuzile had been scheduled to face Kenichi Ogawa earlier in the year, though visa issues derailed that fight and the IBF then ordered Fuzile to face Rakhimov, whilst Ogawa went a different route. On paper Fuzile Vs Ogawa was a really good fight, however we actually prefer the look of this one, which looks more even on paper, and should be a more intriguing bout in terms of styles.
For those who have seen Rakhimov they will know what to expect. He's a technically solid, heavy handed and aggressive boxer-puncher. In some way's he's comparable to Sergey Kovalev, with naturally heavy hands and a very solid boxing mentality, though he's more willing to work on the inside than Kovalev and obviously smaller and quicker. There's nothing amazingly flashy with Rakhimov, but he's very solid, finds gaps and uses his straight power shots to back opponents up. When he has his man hurt he goes for the finish, and has very combinations and upper body movement.
Although very promising so far Rakhimov has fought his entire career his entire career in Russia and this could prove to be his biggest issues here. He's having to enter enemy territory for the first time, with the bout taking place in East London, South Africa. Of course there's a worry that being the away fighter will be an issue here, however if he can put the location and fans to the back of his mind, it would a big positive for him.
Watching Fuzile we see a talented and big looking Super Featherweight with really nice handspeed sharp punching and impressive composure. He's a defensively smart fighter, but also a very sharp punching one, and his jab is a great table setter, backing up opponents and allowing him to apply his pressure. He's the type of fighter who looks like he has fun in the ring, and enjoys fighting, showing off his skills and out thinking opponents. Despite the obvious talent we do wonder how his style will hold up when he's under real pressure from a puncher.
We see a real talent in Fuzile, be we also see a young man who needs time to develop the experience needed to get the most from his skills. His competition so far hasn't been the best, and wins over Macolm Klassen and Romulo Koasicha really are his most notable wins. Maybe this fight is coming a touch too soon for him, and he could have done with another couple of decent tests before facing a guy like Rakhimov.
We always worry when a fighter travels to South Africa, it's a really hard country to get a decision in. Saying that however we don't see Rakhimov leaving this in the hands of the judges. Fuzile needs to keep the bout in the center of the ring, he needs to avoid being backed up by Rakhimov's jab and needs to move, a lot. If Fuzile can keep range, dictate behind his jab and avoid being backed up, he should win. Sadly for him however Rakhimov isn't going to be a willing dancer partner, and instead the Tajik visitor will be applying pressure, and sooner or later he will trap Fuzile, bang him to the body and begin to take his wheels away.
We see Fuzile posing Rakhimov real questions, but we suspect the power difference will prove to be too much.
Prediction - TKO9 Rakhimov
On July 27th Japanese fight fans at Korakuen Hall hey a stacked card that really is worth getting excited about. The main event of the card is an excellent match up for the OPBF Super Featherweight title, as unbeaten champion Hironori Mishiro (7-0-1, 2) looks to make his third defense, and over-come veteran Ryo Takenaka (18-5-1, 11), who is himself looking to become a 2-weight OPBF champion.
The 24 year old Mishiro debuted in early 2017, after a notable stint in the amateur ranks, and raced quickly into good bouts. In just his 5th bout he faced off with the then 9-0 Shuya Masaki, taking a competitive decision, before defeating Carlo Magali for the OPBF title, after just 15 months in the pro-ranks. He failed to take home a win in a unification bout with Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi, though retained his title with a draw and has since notched a win over veteran tough guy Takuya Watanabe.
In the ring Mishiro has shown himself to be an excellent boxer, with sharp punching, a good boxing brain and smart movement. He has also shown an ability to adapt, turning into a pressure fighter against Sueyoshi when he was behind and needed to drag the bout out. There are issues that Mishiro has shown, a lack of power for example and suspect defense, but he's only had 7 bouts and already looks to be a real hopeful for the 130lbs division. He's a hopeful, but one who clearly needs seasoning, and developing, and that's obviously part of why he's facing Takenaka here.
At the age of 34 Takenaka has seen better days. His early career promises a lot, and he turned professional in 2008 with pretty big expectations on his shoulders. In just his third bout he was fighting in 8 rounders. Sadly for all his early promise he didn't get a chance to fight for a title until 2014, when he challenged Hisashi Amagasa for the OPBF Featherweight title. Takenaka would box out of his skin to be in the lead going in to the final round, but was stopped with less than 2 minutes left to suffer his 3rd loss in 15 bouts. The following year however Takenaka won the OPBF title in his second shot, stopping Vinvin Rufino.
Sadly for Takenaka his reign wasn't a hugely memorable one, until his loss in 2017 against Sa Myung Noh, which was most memorable due to the fact Takenaka's lip was a bloody mess. Since then he has gone 2-1 (2) but his competition has most been poor, with a loss to Heorhii Lashko earlier this year being his most notable result since losing the title.
In the ring Takenaka is a solid boxer-puncher but at 34, fighting above his natural and with real question marks about his durability it's hard to see him coming out on top here. At Featherweight he had good stopping power, to go with his skills. At 130lbs however we haven't seen that power carry up
On July 12th Asian fight fans have a packed day with several notable cards, including 2 big ones in Japan. With so many notable fights taking place it's easy for some to get forgotten in the shuffle, and one possible bout that could get lost is a very interesting match up between Joe Noynay (17-2-1, 6) and Satoshi Shimizu (8-0, 8). The bout will see Noynay attempting to make his first defense WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title whilst Shimizu will be flirting with the Super Featherweight division for his first bout at 130lbs.
Noynay won the belt last time out, when he surprisingly stopped Kosuke Saka in 2 rounds, to record his 6th straight win. That win was his first in Japan, following a 2017 loss in Tokyo to Reiya Abe, and his second win on foreign soil, coming after a decision win against Jinxiang Pan in December 2017. Other than the win over Saka last time out Noynay holds no other wins of major note, but the 23 year old has shown great skills, pushing Abe close and losing a razor thin technical decision to Richard Pumicpic.
The talented Filipino is improving fight on fight and is maturing into a really good fighter. As we saw against Saka he can punch, much harder than his record suggests, and he combines that with a very good boxing brain, good movement and good rounded skills, picking the right punches at the right time. Sadly his competition hasn't really allowed him to show what he can do, but it's clear that he is a very good hopeful, and one of the many hidden gems of the Filipino boxing scene. There is still work he needs to do, but in his biggest fights to date he has shown a lot of potential and the foundation to develop into a fantastic young fighter.
The unbeaten Shimizu is the OPBF Featherweight champion and is a former amateur standout, who famously won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. As a professional Shimizu hasn't really shown much of the skills he developed in the amateur ranks, but has proven himself to be a very heavy handed southpaw slugger. During his short career he has already won a regional title and recorded 4 defenses, scoring stoppages over the likes of Shingo Kawamura and Takuya Uehara, but at the age of 33 he can't waste any more time with meaningless bouts.
Shimizu's move to Super Featherweight for this bout is seen as being a one off, with the fighter expected to drop back to Featherweight for a world title shot next time out. Despite that their are questions for him to answer here, like whether his power holds up at 130lbs, or whether eh can take a shot, whether he's physically imposing or whether he still has the size advantages he's enjoyed at Featherweight .At 126lbs he's a physical freak, with a huge frame and a massive wingspan. Add those physical traits to his bludgeoning power and he's an awkward yet effective fighter and now we can see whether he's as effective at the new weight.
Technically Noynay is the better boxer, but he hasn't shown the power to turn many fights around, despite his blow out of Saka. If Noynay can box, use his technical ability, and his boxing brain he could well upset the Japanese fighter, and make Shimizu pay for his wild and open style. On the other hand Shimizu certainly has the power to hurt regional level guys, and if he tags Noynay clean he will look to go for the finish, and undo any early success that Noynay may have had.
This is a compelling match up, and a hard on to call, though we believe that sooner of later Shimizu's "Diamond Left" will land, and that he will get to, and stop, Noynay.
Prediction - TKO9 Shimizu
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.