In 2020 the boxing calendar got completely screwed up with Covid19 forcing bouts to be postponed and cancelled on a regular basis. One of the bouts that was postponed was a mandatory title fight for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. That bout has now been rearranged for January 22nd and will see defending champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) taking on mandatory challenger Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14), in what could be something a little bit special and very brutal.
Those who have been following the Japanese scene over the last few years will know all about the 30 year old Kuga who is now enjoying his second reign as the Japanese Super Bantamweight champion. For those who haven’t been following the scene Kuga is a very fan friendly fighter, who’s a puncher first, with an aggressive style and warmonger mentality in the ring. He came up short in his first title fight, back in 2015 when he lost a razor thin decision to Yasutaka Ishimoto but has gone 8-2 (6) since then, and managed to avenge his loss to Ishimoto in 2017 to claim the title, for the first time. In his first reign he made 2 defenses of the title before losing in 2018 to Shingo Wake, in what was really an undressing for Kuga, who had no answer to Wake’s movement and jab.
Despite losing to Wake it wasn’t long until Kuga reclaimed the title, winning it back from Ryoichi Tamura in 2019, in what was the second bout between the men and an all out war, one of the genuine hidden gems of 2019. After reclaiming the title he made a single defense before taking on Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019, and being brutally taken out after just 84 seconds, in a genuine upset.
At his best Kuga is a really brutal fighter to go up against. For much of his career he has been a heavy handed, teak tough warrior, with a great engine and a really physical style. He can box, though often seems happier to have a war, and his two battles with Ryoichi Tamura were both brutal, punishing affairs for both men. Sadly though his toughness has been questioned in recent losses, with Shingo Wake breaking him down in 10 rounds and the loss to Ramonal being a clean KO. As well as those losses we do wonder what he’s like mentally coming into this bout. Had he been able to get a confidence easy win after his loss to Ramonal we’d feel better about his chance, but we do wonder if that loss is still playing on his mind more than a year after it. We also wonder if the wars with Tamura have taken something from him.
At his best Kuga is a nightmare. His power is destructive at this level, he’s very physical, his right cross is a concussion maker and his pressure and work rate is incessant. He’s not the quickest, the sharpest, and his jab is somewhat limited, but he’s a real bully in the ring. The most obvious way to beat him is to out box him, out maneuver him and refuse to have a tear up with him. Saying that however we do, genuinely, wonder what the Ramonal loss has done to him, and what shape his chin is going to be in, and what his confidence is going to be like.
Furuhashi is a 33 year old who fights out of the Nitta Gym in Kawasaki, and has been one of their most notable fighters for years. Sadly though he has had a long career and this will be his third, and potentially last, shot at a Japanese title. His desire is to become the first fighter born, raised and from a gym in Kawasaki, and it’s really been a driving force for him in recent months. He was supposed to get this shot, as previously mentioned, in 2020 but has had to wait a long time to get it, and will now know that this could be now or never for him.
Furuhashi, unlike Kuga, isn’t really a name we expect too many fight fans outside of Japan to be familiar with, even those that follow the Japanese scene from around the globe. Despite that he is a really fun fighter to watch and has been in and around the title scene since 2014, when he was supposed to fight Hidenori Otake who pulled out of the bout due to a rib injury. Following that he got a show at Yukinori Oguni in 2015, fighting to a draw with the future IBF world champion and then lost 3 of his following 4 bouts, including a title bout in 2016 to Yasutaka Ishimoto. That run, which saw him going 1-3-1 including the draw with Oguni, seemed to spell the end for him as he slipped to 18-8-1 (8). Surprisingly however he has rebuilt brilliantly, going 8-0 (6) since then, including wins against Yuta Horiika and Ryoichi Tamura, with the win over Tamura in September 2019 earning him this belated third title fight.
In the ring Furuhashi’s strength is his tenacity, work rate, energy and willingness to press forward. Technically he’s nothing special, he’s not quick, he’s not got massive amounts of power, but he’s got an abundance of energy, he’s physically strong and is sneaky on the inside, with some excellent hooks and uppercuts. When backed up he responds with solid combinations and makes an opponent walk through a lot of leather to get to him, and he knows how to make things scrappy. Like Kuga he’s tough, but he’s more of a gritty tough than an iron chinned tough guy. Sadly for him however he has taken a lot of punishment during his long career, and his willingness to have a war with anyone has almost certainly taken something of a toll on his body.
As mentioned, to beat Kuga a fighter needs to use their brain and out box him. Getting into a war with him is a painful gameplan, for anyone unless they have lights out power, like Ramonal. Furuhashi doesn’t have that, and if Kuga is half the fighter he was before the Ramonal loss he should be able to force his will against Furuhashi. If that happens the heavier shots of Kuga will be the difference maker, and will, sooner or later, break down the gutsy and determined Furuhashi.
For Furuhashi to win he needs to totally change his gameplan. He can’t try to go to war with Kuga. He can’t hold his feet and try to out-battle Kuga. Instead he needs to move, lure Kuga in, reel off some shoe shining combinations and get out of dodge. He has the energy for that, and his legs can certainly do it, but we’re not sure he has the mentality to do it. He’s one of those fighters who takes a shot and wants to respond immediately, rather than thinking “I’ll get you next time”.
Whilst Kuga’s confidence could be shot, and a quick start from Furuhashi would give Kuga a lot of questions to answer, we suspect his chin hasn’t become cracked from the losses to Wake and Ramonal. Instead we suspect he’ll be back to his usual rampaging self. We expect Furuhashi to try and respond, punch for punch, with Kuga, giving us a thrill a minute war, until Furuhashi comes undone from the repeated heavy shots of Kuga and the referee is forced to step in and save stop in the second half of a sensational fight.
Expect blood, bombs, thrilling exchanges and incredible action here!
Prediction - TKO8 Kuga
For fans wanting to watch this one, it will be shown live on streaming service Boxing Raise.
On December 27th we'll see Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) make his final defense of the title, win or lose, as he takes on Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2), a man he previously faced over 3 years ago. On paper this is an intriguing match up, with out being a big one, and a great chance for the two men to end the year on a high, after what has been a frustrating 12 months for both the talented youngsters.
Of the two men it's Shimomachi that has really impressed us over the last few years and has quickly become one of the most under-rated prospects in all of Japan. He's also someone who has developed a style we don't see too much of in Japan, but is bringing him great success, and could, very easily, take him all the way in the coming years.
The 24 year old champion debuted all the way back in December 2015 and started his career 2-1-1 (1). That was his record at the end of 2016 before he kicked on and won the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, beating Ryosei Hamaguchi, Satoru Hoshiba, yes the man he'll be facing again here, and Arashi Iimi en route to the All Japan crown. He then followed that up in 2018 with wins against Kiyohei Endo and Renan Portes before ending the year with a draw against Daisuke Watanabe, a draw that has aged very well.
It was in 2019 that Shimomachi won his title, stopping Kenta Nomura in August, but sadly it took more than a year for him to defend the belt, doing so this August against Hiroki Hanabusa in a very impressive performance.
Unlike most in Japan Shimomachi's style is much more like that of an American counter-puncher than a typical Japanese fighter. He dictates range and distance with smart, well educated feet, he uses the ring well, lines up his counters, and when an opponent makes a mistake he punishes them with sharp, powerful straight left hands. Not only is his straight left a potent weapon but so too is his right hook, and his control of distance, which really is brilliant, makes him an incredibly awkward opponent. Unlike many counter punchers Shimomachi actually tries to lure mistakes, his fighters with his hands low, and uses slippery movements to make opponents miss. He wants opponents to try to hit him, and this makes him an exciting fighter to watch, rather than someone who is overly negative.
Aged 23 Satoru Hoshiba is a bit of an unknown, and he hasn't had the same level of bouts or publicity as Shimomachi since they fought in 2017. In fact footage of Hoshiba is hard to find and, as a result, it's somewhat tricky to get a read on his style, however we do know plenty about his career.
He debuted in 2015 and was stopped in the opening round, he then returned to the ring 4 months later and was again stopped early, making it to round 2. Then he managed find something of a groove, winning 4 in a row to reach the penultimate stage of the 2017 Rookie of the Year, where he lost a majority decision to Shimomachi. That bout, one of the very few we have got footage of involving Hoshiba, saw him applying real pressure and taking the fight on the inside, where he managed to have genuine success.
Despite losing to Shimomachi we have seen Hoshiba bouncing back well winning 3 of his 4 subsequent bouts. The one loss during that stretch was another bout we've been lucky to get footage of, and saw Hoshiba being stopped in 2 rounds by Tom Mizokoshi. In that bout Hoshiba again showed a willingness to come forward, marching down Mizokoshi with intense pressure and even seemed to have rocked him at one point. That was until he was rocked himself, and Mizokoshi fired off bombs until the referee stepped in.
Given what we have seen of Hoshiba we suspect this to be a fun bout, with the challenging show casing his intense, pressure, pushing forward incessantly and showing no fear of Shimomachi's power and defensively skills. Sadly for Hoshiba however his lack of power, and the heavier hands of Shimomachi, are likely to be the difference here. We suspect that Hoshiba will come forward, and will make mistakes that Shimomachi will capitalise on, breaking down Hoshiba and stopping a tiring challenger in the later rounds.
Prediction - Shimomachi TKO7
On October 8th attention returns to Korakuen Hall for the next bout featuring the under-rated Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14), who looks to extend his reign as the OPBF Super Bantamweight champion as he takes on Shingo Kawamura (16-5-4, 8).
For Teshigawara the bout serves as his 4th defense of the title, which he has held since October 2018, and should move him one step closer to a potential world title bout.
For those those who haven't seen Teshigawara he's a talented, awkward boxer-puncher who is very much knocking on the door of a world title shot. He's ranked in the top 10 by both the WBC and the IBF, and has won his last 9 in a row, with 8 of those wins coming by T/KO. Of course it's not the numbers that matter but the opposition and he holds stoppage wins over the world ranked Keita Kurihara, and world title challengers Jetro Pabustan, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori.
In the ring Teshigawara is tough, heavy handed and can box or fight. When he needs to dig in and fight he can, and we've seen him do it more than once, but at his best he's a tricky, awkward boxer-puncher who sets an unusual rhythm, draws leads, counters them well and fights with a rather unique style. His hands are often down and he relies on herky jerky movement, applies pressure with his movement and is patient enough to wait for a mistake when he needs to. Although not a 1-punch KO artists he's heavy handed, every shot he lands has a good dose of pepper. Although he's not an elite level fighter he's the sort of fighter who will give anyone problems, and could, if he gets the right opportunity, win a world title.
Notably this will be Teshigawara's first bout since leaving the Koichi Wajima gym and joining the Misako Gym. Although a gym move like this can be an issue for some we suspect this will not be a problem at all for Teshigawara, who has long worked alongside Misako, who are expected to help open doors for the talented "Crush Boy".
As for Kawamura this is essentially him in the last chance saloon, after going win-less in his last 5 bouts. Those 5 bouts include 3 successive draws and losses to Satoshi Shimizu and Ryo Sagawa. He's dropping down in weight for this bout, and really does need a win. A good performance won't be enough to keep him relevant.
As a fighter Kawamura is an aggressive fighter but quite a limited one without much bang and without too much speed. He's not terrible, by any stretch, but he is very basic and at Featherweight fighters like Satoshi Shimizu and Ryo Sagawa have been able to walk through his shots and and manage to break him down. He's always been happy to let his hands go, but has never been a hard man to find, and to tag.
Although it's easy to write off Kawamura he has scored several wins of note. These include victories over Kyohei Tonomoto, Shingo Kusano, Kota Fukuoka and Tae Il Atsumi. They are however lower level fighters than Teshigawara, who we suspect will be too hard hitting, too smart, too strong and too good for Kawamura.
We expect to see Kawamura taking the fight to Teshigawara, and be made to pay as Teshigawara lands solid counters, and breaks down the challenger. Kawamura's toughness will see him survive a few rounds, but eventually he'll be broken down, and suffer his 5th stoppage loss.
Prediction - TKO6 Teshigawara
On August 9th we'll see Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi (11-1-2, 7) make his first defense of the title title over a year after winning it. In the opposite corner to the champion will be fellow youngster Hiroki Hanabusa (8-0-3, 3), in what looks like a brilliant match up. We know not many fans will be aware of who these two are, but fans who do follow the Japanese Youth Scene will know that this is a bout to be very excited about.
The once beaten champion is a 23 year old who made his debut back in December 2015. His first 12 months or so were a struggle, as he went 2-1-1 (1) but since then he has rebuilt well, winning the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Super Bantamweight and won the Japanese Youth title in 2019. Whilst he hasn't made too much noise he has notched decent wins over the likes of Arashi Iimi, Renan Portes and Kenta Nomura, and also has a very credible draw with Daisuke Watanabe to his name.
In the ring Shimomachi is a very talented southpaw boxer who creates space well, lines up his quick left hand but can increase the tempo when he needs to. His overall style is really relaxed, but he's also really sharp and accurate and when he lets his shots go they are thrown with bad intent. One big complaint is that he is too relaxed, and doesn't pick up the pace very often. He can look lazy, and too negative, but is very good at avoiding shots even in the middle of the ring. If, or maybe when, he can find his extra gear he looks like a man with the potential to go very far and his skills can't be questioned.
At 21 years old Hanabusa is the younger man and, on paper, he's also the man stepping up. Despite that he's actually been really impressive, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2018 showing what he could on foreign soil, with a draw against Ayati Sailike in China last year. He impressed last December when he beat Baolin Kang and looks like a real prospect for the future. Despite that he is still a youngster and a real boxing baby.
Early in his career Hanabusa looked rather awkward, his balance was poor, his threw wild shots and was rather lucky at times that fellow novices didn't make him pay. In 2019 however he rounded off his skill set pretty impressively and now seems a much more rounded, polished fighter. There are areas to work on but the 21 year old has improved so much from his early bouts. He's still not totally polished, but is becoming a much better boxer-mover and has looked very good in recent bouts.
Whilst we do see Hanabusa as being an improving fighter, he's still not as polished, smooth or natural in the ring as Shimomachi. We could see Hanabusa out working Shimomachi at times, but we expect to see the champion's natural skills and class prove to be too much over the 8 round distance. There will be moments where Shimomachi makes life difficult for himself, by virtue of his low activity, but as the bout goes on and he settles down he will end up landing more and more accurate, eye catching, blows and take a clear decision over his compatriot.
Prediction - UD8 Shimomachi
The year is set to end with a bang thanks to a bumper show from Watanabe. Whilst much of the focus will be on the two main world title fights the card is an interesting one through out, and potentially the most explosive of the bouts will be at regional title level.
The bout in question will see Japan's Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13) clash with Filipino Jhunriel Ramonal (16-8-6, 9) for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. It's not a bout that will get much attention, or looks particularly competitive, but is one that could be very brutal, and very explosive.
The favourite going in will be Kuga, a big punching Japanese fighter who is the current Japanese national champion. Kuga is fairly basic, but very heavy handed, exciting and aggressive. He's someone who can be out boxed, as we saw last year when he was stopped by Shingo Wake, but is extremely dangerous and is able to have a toe to toe war with pretty much anyone in and around the regional scene, as we saw against Ryoichi Tamura.
After starting his career 6-1-1 (4) Kuga has gone 13-2 (9), avenging one of those losses and notching wins over the likes of Sukkasem Kietyongyuth, Yasutaka Ishimoto, Jonathan Baat and Ryoichi Tamura. Not only has he proven his ability against good domestic and regional level opponents he has also been scoring those wins early on, taking 10 of his wins in the first 4 rounds.
On paper Ramonal looks like a very limited fighter, with 8 losses in his 30 career bouts. In reality however he's a much better fighter than his record suggests. He's not a world beater, a long way from it, but given genuine preparation time, he's a dangerous opponent. Going through his record it is a real mess, an inconsistent mess. He has shown he can mix at the top of the regional scene, fighting to a narrow loss in an OPBF title fight in 2011, but then has lost to a number of domestic level fighters. When he's on point he's talented, but he can be made to look slow, sloppy and can be easily out boxed.
Coming in to this Ramonal is unbeaten in 4 bouts, going back to a 2014 decision loss to Sho Nakazawa. Since then he has fought to a draw with Jenel Lausa and most recently scored a stunning TKO in over Shingo Wake, a win that has essentially put him into this title fight. In that win over Wake Ramonal was cut, being out boxed, but remained a hungry and dangerous fighter, with that danger being realised in frighteningly graphic fashion.
Given that both fighters are heavy handed, both get in the ring to win and both are happy to fire off bombs, this has the potential to be very explosive. It's easy to back Kuga, and he is rightfully the favourite, but given how Ramonal's power took out Wake, it's clear that Kuga can't take a win for granted here. Instead Kuga will need fight smartly, but should manage to break down Ramonal, likely busting him up with his heavy hands and forcing the referee to step in.
We're anticipating a bout with a lot of tension here, some fun exchanges, but eventually the fight will be beat out of Ramonal.
Prediction TKO5 Kuga
One of the fighters who has really impressed in recent years is OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (20-2-2, 13) who has won his 8 in a row since losing a very close split decision to Ryo Akaho more than 3 years ago. On December 12th he looks to add another win as he takes on the talented Shohei Kawashima (18-3-2, 4). For Teshigawara the bout will serve as his third defense, as he looks to move one step closer to a world title fight, whilst Kawashima looks to claim his first title, after coming up short in a couple of previous title bouts.
Teshigawara wasn't really on the radar until October 2016 when he battled 2-time world title challenger Akaho and gave him a real run for his money, losing a close split decision. At that point Teshigawara had fallen to 12-2-1 (6) and despite how good his performance was few would have expected his current run, a run that has seen him Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. He has moved from Bantamweight, where he won the WBO Asia Pacific title, to Super Bantamweight where he has claimed the OPBF title. He has looked destructively heavy handed, technically solid, with an impressive ability to take a shot, and fights with a lot of usual movement, putting fighters on the back foot and unable to time him.
Although Teshigawara is certainly not unbeatable, and we wouldn't fancy his chance against any of the top 10 in the world, he's an awkward nights work for most. He takes a shot so well that no on will blow through him, and offers enough power in his shots to make them pay if they over-look him and see him an easy out. The way he uses feints is also really smart, and despite being an aggressive fighter he's also a very cerebral one, who seems to have learned a lot from mentor Koichi Wajima, another man who was rather unpredictable at times.
The 27 year old Kawashima has been a professional since 2012 and made his first big mark in 2014, when he won the Rookie of the Year. He was unbeaten in his first 16 fights before travelling to Mexico and losing a razor thin decision to Cristian Mijares in October 2016, during an interesting run of wins for Mijares. Sadly since then Kawashima has struggled to get much momentum in his career. He suffered an upset loss in 2017, when he was surprisingly stopped in 6 rounds by Gaku Aikawa, who took him out with a single straight right hand on the button. Another loss, earlier this year, to Juan Miguel Elorde was another set back, though like the Mijares the bout was a close one on the road.
Had Kawashima been managed differently he would likely have been a fixture on the regional title scene. He's incredible skilled, a pure boxer with a good jab, nice movement and good shot selection. Where he really fails is his power, and he really struggles to get respect of opponents, despite how skilled he is. The loss to Aikawa wasn't a sign of a weak chin, far from it, but he was caught by a bomb. Still that doesn't fill us with confidence that he can handle a shot, and he hasn't faced any top punchers, though Teshigawara is certainly a banger.
Whilst Kawashima is a talent we see him being broken down and beaten up by Teshigawara here. Kawashima's movement and counter-punching may cause Teshigawara some problems, but the lack of power on Kawashima's shots is unlike to stop the champion in his tracks and instead we see Teshigawara walking him down in the middle rounds. Anyone who can box with Mijares is good, but we feel Kawashima lacks the tools to cope with physicality of Teshigawara.
Prediction - TKO7 Teshigawara
The past year or two we've seen the Super Bantamweight division in Japan being one of the highlights delivering great fighter after great fight. Those great fights included May's rematch between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga (18-3-1, 12), which saw Kuga become a 2-time Japanese Super Bantamweight champion thanks to an all 10 round war.
Kuga returns to the ring on September 21st to defend his title against 32 year old veteran Yosuke Fujihara (18-6, 5), who gets his second Japanese title fight just over 12 years after his professional debut. On paper this looks like an easy defense for Kuga, though in fairness he does deserve an easy one after May's war with Tamura, which really was a damaging bout for both men.
For those who haven't seen Kuga he is a nasty, nasty fighter in the ring. He's heavy handed, aggressive, incredibly strong and tough. Offensively he's a monster but he's also technically quite crude, defensively flawed and can be out boxed. We saw Shingo Wake really pick him apart last year, when he stopped Kuga in the 10th round, but it took a fighter of Wake's high skill level to clearly beat Kuga. Kuga's only other losses were a 2012 loss to Nobuhiro Hisano and a razor thin 2015 loss to Yasutaka Ishimoto, a loss that was avenged in 2018. Since his 2015 loss to Ishimoto Wake has gone 7-1 (5), with both of the decision wins coming in close fights with Tamura and the loss being the one to Wake.
At 28 years old Kuga is still improving, developing and adding to his experience. Though the tough bouts will catch up with him soon or later and wars against the likes of Tamura, Wake and Ishimoto, and we hope he gets a big bout before those wars take the best out of him. His aggressive style makes for wars, and his power, strength and toughness, means he tends to win them, but it's still not a style which will lead to a long and fruitful career.
The 32 year old Fujihara showed a lot of promise early in his career, following his 2007 debut. He won his first 13 bouts, and notable won the 2008 Rookie of the Year. He was unbeaten for more than 3 years before losing in May 2011 to Kentaro Masuda. He quickly went from 13-0 to 14-3 as his career began to fall apart, including stoppage losses to Mugicha Nakagawa and Ryuta Otsuka. In 2016 he got his first Japanese title fight, losing a wide decision to Yasutaka Ishimoto, and since then he has gone 2-2. To suggest that Fujihara is a limited challenger really doesn't say as much as stating he is 5-6 in the last 6 years.
At his best Fujihara was a legitimate domestic title challenger. Problem is that his best really didn't last very long, and is very much in the past. Even recent wins over Naoya Okamoto and Keita Nakano really don't suggest things are turning around for Fujihara. The biggest problem for Fujihara is the fact that he lacks anything that makes him really stand out as a threat. He lacks lighting speed, thunderous power, he's not physically imposing or able to set a high work rate.
Given that Kuga will impose himself, will set a high pace and will look to take Fujihara out early on, it's hard to see anything but an early win for the champion. Fujihara will have to rely on his toughness early on, and sooner or later that toughness will way and Kuga will break him down.
The Super Bantamweight division in Japan has given us some brilliant fights already this year. Two of which have featured JB Sport's Ryoichi Tamura (12-4-1, 6), who won the Japanese title in January with a great performance against Mugicha Nakawagawa before losing the belt in May to Yusaku Kuga. This coming Friday we see Tamura fighting for the third time in 2019 as he takes on the always fun to watch Gakuya Furuhashi (25-8-1, 14) in a Japanese title eliminator. The winner will get a shot at either Kuga or Yosuke Fujihara, who clash on September 21st.
Of the two men it's Tamura who has really impressed us more, at least in recent years. The hard nosed warrior, who has been dubbed a "zombie" due to his ability to soak up punishment, is a truly thrilling fighter to watch. He began his career in 2013, losing on debut to Wataru Miyasaka, and would actually fall to 3-2-1 after 6 bouts, though was fighting as a Bantamweight. Since then he has risen in weight, to Super Bantamweight, and become a nightmare to face going 9-2 in his last 11, with both losses coming to Kuga.
Tamura's form only tells us half the story, of course, but with wins over the likes of Yusuke Suzuki, Yuki Matsuda, Robert Udtohan and Mugicha Nakagawa he's not been padding his record to look good. Instead he's been mixing in good competition and has been beating people down by sheer determination, work rate and desire. He's not particularly heavy handed, but fights as a swarming and throws a lot. He comes forward with a high out put and really refuses to back off. Through his career he has been hurt, and was hurt badly by Kuga in May, but has recovered brilliantly and reset himself before turning up the heat again, making him a total nightmare to fight. The one big flaw is that he's a bit of a slow starter at times, and can find himself in a hole before his engine gets up and running and this could give opponents chance to get in the lead. Once he hits top gear however he simply can't be discouraged, and having him in your face, win or lose, will not do your career any favours.
Furuhashi has been on the pro-scene for well over a decade, debuting in 2007, but is still only 31 and is a proper veteran of the sport. His 33 fight career has been a rollercoaster of sorts but he has proven, more than once, that he belongs in the domestic title mix. He would first make his name in 2008, winning the Rookie of the Year, and moving to 8-0 (1) though his career would take a stumble as he quickly dropped to 10-3 (2) and then 13-5 (4). By the age of 25 his career looked to be in the skids and his early promise didn't seem like it would be fulfilled, however since then he has gone 12-3-1 with the black marks coming at a pretty good level. Of his last 3 defeats 2 have come to Yasutaka Ishimoto, with the other coming to Daisuke Watanabe, and the draw has come against Yukinori Oguni. They have seen him twice come up short in Japanese title fights, and once in a Japanese title eliminator, and bar the second loss to Ishimoto they were razor thin defeats. It's also worth noting that he was scheduled to get a shot, at Hidenori Otake in 2014, before Otake got the call to fight Scott Quigg and Furuhashi missed out.
In the ring Furushashi isn't a big puncher, or the strongest fighter but he's a battler, who makes for fun fights and he throws a lot of leather. Although he some times to take the boxer-fighter role he often happily gets dragged into a fight, and we get absolute barn burners as a result. He has got a really good jab when he uses it, but all to often uses the jab to get close before fighting on the inside, rather than keeping the bout at range and controlling the tempo of the fight. Against Tamura coming inside will likely be an issues.
When it comes to looking at the result of this bout it really depends on what recent wars have taken out of both men. The Tamura who beat Nakagawa, and ran Kuga close, will be favoured over Furuhashi. The aggression, pressure and incessant punching will rack up the points against Furuhashi who will be all happy to have a high tempo fight. If however those wars have taken something from the former champion and if Furuhashi can maintain some distance between the two men he should be able to eke out a close win. It really does depend on Furuhashi keeping the distance, which he can do, but often chooses not to.
We're expecting this to be a slow starter, but by round 3 it'll become a war, and we'll end up having a thrilling 8 rounder with Tamura's pressure and higher work rate being the difference in the end. We imagine Furuhashi will take the early lead but end up being over-taken just before the finish line in a bout we'll wish was a 10 rounder.
Prediction- MD8 Tamura
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 8th, at the legendary Korakuen Hall, 2 of the most exciting Japanese boxers today will engage in a highly entertaining battle, as top ranked Super Bantamweight contender Hiroaki Teshigawara defends his OPBF championship against Shohei Omori.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (19-2 / 12 KOs) began boxing professionally at the age of 21, and for the next few years he would test himself against local competition, gaining some much needed experience.
His first real big match took place in October of 2016, when he met 2 time world title challenger Ryo Akaho (34-2). A former National, OPBF & WBO International champion, Akaho was clearly the favorite here, with Teshigawara coming in with only 12 wins under his belt, 1 decision loss and 2 draws. Surprisingly enough, this turned out to be an extremely competitive match. Teshigawara went toe to toe with the much more experienced Akaho, giving him a lot of trouble in almost every round. His power and aggressiveness stunned the veteran, throwing him out of his game and even out of the ring at one point. In the end, Akaho narrowly won a split decision, which only made the younger fighter look like a true warrior.
Teshigawara kicked off 2017 with a bang, making short work of Junny Salogaol (14-17) in April and then in June picking up another victory against Keita Kurihara (14-5) after a rather exciting brawl. The Japanese fighter would go on to challenge Jetro Pabustan (29-6) before the year was over, for the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight championship. Teshigawara overwhelmed the former world title contender with his wild offense, eventually scoring a knockdown in round 9 and finishing the job in the 10th.
After marking his inaugural title defense over Jason Canoy (27-10) in February of 2018, he made his second one against 2 time world title challenger Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) 4 months later. Pretty much like the Pabustan fight, Teshigawara had his way with his opponent. The “Golden Yasha” kept landing one punch after the other, having him on the run from the opening bell. He finally dropped Kinoshita in the 3rd and again in the 5th, to get the TKO win. Teshigawara would then move up to Super Bantamweight, claiming the vacant OPBF crown after stopping Glenn Suminguit (21-4) and defended it once against Yuki Iriguchi (10-3). He now will lock horns yet again with another tough opponent this coming August.
Shohei Omori (20-2 / 15 KOs) took up the sport at an early age, since his father was also a boxer, and even competed at the 65th National Boxing Tournament during his high school years, reaching second place. He made his pro debut in 2011, amassing 11 consecutive victories, before facing former WBC Silver champion and world title contender Christian Esquivel (30-19). Omori controlled the fight from the beginning and eventually dropped the Mexican fighter with a perfectly timed uppercut in the 4th round, before scoring 2 more knockdowns to earn the stoppage.
In 2015, he fought for the Japanese Bantamweight title, taking on the reigning champion Kentaro Masuda (27-9). Omori quickly established himself as the dominant boxer, putting the champion down twice in the 1st. Masuda found himself defending against the challenger’s nonstop offense, offering almost no resistance. The beating continued for two rounds, until the referee decided to step in and stop the fight.
Omori successfully defended his crown 5 months later, against 2 time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (16-6), to continue climbing the rankings. However, that momentum came to an abrupt ending when he suffered his first loss at the hands of Marlon Tapales (33-2) in a WBO final eliminator. The following year, he picked up 3 back to back wins, all finishes, over Indonesian journeyman Espinos Sabu (16-14), Edgar Jimenez (23-15) and 2 time world title contender Rocky Fuentes (36-9), whom he slept with a vicious uppercut, putting himself back on track.
As fate would have it, Omori challenged the former champion Tapales for the vacant WBO World Bantamweight title in 2017. Unlike their first encounter, which was a one sided beatdown, this turned out quite differently. The bout started with both fighters going back and forth, with no one really gaining any advantage over the other. Business was about to pick up though, as Omori hurt the Filipino in the 5th with a series of body shots, much to the delight of the Japanese audience. Tapales woke up in the 6th, fighting more aggressively. In the beginning of round 7, Omori rocked him again, and while it looked like the match was almost over, Tapales fired back, gaining some much needed ground. Both warriors went on to have an exciting FOTYC, trading blows within the next rounds, with no man backing down. In the end, Tapales managed to score a knocked down during the last minute of the 10th, dazing Omori, and then again in the 11th, causing the referee to put an end to this contest. Even in defeat, Omori looked strong, putting on a valiant effort, earning the respect of his opponent as well as of the fans. It’s worth mentioning that Tapales entered the fight overweight by 900g.
After 15 months of inactivity, he finally returned to action, this time as a Super Bantamweight, scoring 2 early TKOs over Brian Lobetania (13-7) and Takahiro Yamamoto (21-6), looking as good as ever, with no signs of ring rust. Omori will look to continue his winning streak next week and possibly add another title to his collection.
The clash between Teshigawara and Omori has the potential of being the best pure Japanese boxing bout of 2019. Their styles are pretty similar. Teshigawara is a volume fighter. He likes to swing for the fences and possesses incredible hand speed.
He’s also quite aggressive, maybe even to a fault. The same can be said about Omori. An explosive competitor, who prefers to get things done as fast as possible. It’s no surprise that most of his matches have ended in less than 5 rounds. Omori throws fast and strong combinations, attacking both the head and the body, always looking for that knockout. A win here will bring Teshigawara closer to a world championship opportunity, while for Omori it’s a chance to put his name back in the top 10. It’s not easy to pick the victor here. Teshigawara might have the edge, given he has been undefeated since losing to Akaho in 2017, but you cannot disregard Omori’s toughness and willingness to prove himself worthy for another crack at the big one. All in all, this is a 50-50 situation with only one thing certain: No way this goes the distance.
The Japanese Youth title scene has been throwing up some wonderful, weird and great fights in recent years. Whilst the aim of the title seemed to be giving youngster somethings to fight for early in their career the reality seems to be more about the titles being used to identify prospects on their way up. We've seen fighters likes Junto Nakatani and Andy Hiraoka being two great examples of this.
This coming weekend we see another Japanese youth title fight, and although neither man will be tipped a future world champion the winner will likely find themselves being pushed hard towards a national title fight.
The match up in question will see the once beaten Toshiki Shimomachi (9-1-2, 5) take on Kenta Nomura (6-2, 3) for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, and the winner will find themselves just outside the mix for the domestic title in one of the best divisions in the country.
Of the two men it's the 22 year old Shimomachi who is going to be the favourite heading in. The talented southpaw has been a professional since December 2015 and started his career with a couple of wins before falling to 2-1-1, suffering a close loss to Yusuke Hiranuma and a draw to Yuna Hara. Since then however he has gone on a very impressive 7-0-1 run, winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year and earning a very good draw with Daisuke Watanabe last December.
We've been lucky to see a fair bit of Shimomachi's rise through the ranks and although he's still a total unknown outside of Japan the youngster is certainly a tasty fighter. He's defensively quite smart, really big at Super Bantamweight, and a good inside fighter. Technically he is a bit basic, often relying on a high guard to defend himself and make up for his sloppy foot work. For all his basic flaws he is a strong kid, he can he fires hard shots and really lets his hands go when he has an opponent in trouble, as we saw in his Rookie of the Year final. He's flawed, but fun, exciting, full of confidence and very good to watch.
Nomura is also 22 years old, though actually over a year earlier than Shimomachi, back in November 2014. Nomura would win his first 4 bouts before back to back losses, to Kota Fujimoto and Yuto Nakamura. Since those losses he has strung together back to back early wins, including an excellent KO win over Shimomoachi's Rookie of the Year foe Arashi Iimi. Those two recent wins have seen Nomura showing a bit more sting than he had earlier in his career, though the telling thing about both is that they were at Super Bantamweight, when he had mostly fought at Super Flyweight. He isn't huge at 122lbs, but it certainly seems the more natural weight for him than 115lbs.
Sadly footage of Nomura isn't as easily available as that of Shimomachi, though what is available, despite a bit older, show him to be a relaxed looking fighter, though one has a bit of an unpolished look to his work. He can throw a lovely uppercut, but his right hand is often a touch sloppy, his jab lacks snap, his defense isn't particularly tight and his movement isn't all that sharp, in fact he can look rather flat footed at times.
From what we've seen of both, which against isn't a lot for Nomura, we've got to feel that Shimomachi's aggression and finisher's instinct will be the key. At some point we believe Shimomachi will hurt Nomura and will go for the finish. He might be caught on his way in but still feel he's got to be the favourite.
Prediction - TKO5 Shimomachi
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.