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
On May 18th the boxing world goes a little bit crazy, with a huge card in the UK, for the WBSS, as well as a big card in New York, which will feature WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, a second notable UK card, this time in Stevenage, a decent card in Russia and a very good looking domestic card in Japan.
Although the Japanese show will, clearly, be overshadowed by the international action the card does promise fire works, and the main event could end up being one of the best bouts of the day. That bout is a Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout, pitting newly crowned champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) against former champion Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 12), in a rematch of a great bout from 2017.
In their first bout Kuga entered as the champion, making his first defense. He would narrowly win a tough battle with Tamura but lost the belt a year later to Shingo Wake. Wake vacated the belt, with Tamura winning it this past January, with a clear decision against Mugicha Nakagawa. The rematch seemed to be something both men wanted and something that fans were also clamouring for.
The reason that fans, and us, are looking forward to this fight so much is the styles and mentality of the two men. They are both very, very similar. They are both aggressive, strong, powerful men. They have difference, which we'll get on to in a minute, but they have enough similarities to knew they are going to give us some insane action. The best thing is that their aggressive mindsets are shown every time they are in the ring, neither likes to back off, or back up. Both come to meet in the centre of the ring and both look to unload with shots.
The big difference between the two is their offensive work. For Kuga his offensive work is power based. His shots are heavy and hard, they are a touch slow, and he doesn't fight with 10 rounds of intensity, but every shot he lands is thrown with bad intentions. He's a puncher-brawler if you will, and as a result he knows he needs some distance to work with, trying to get full extension on his shots.
Tamura on the other hand is more a volume guy, with intense pressure. His shots are hard, but not thundering, instead he throws a lot of leather, and is a bit of a perpetual punching man. He has an incredible gas tank and refuses to slow down, knowing he has the toughness to take shots whilst throwing his own. If he had Kuga's power he would be a truly frightening fighter, combining power with work rate and toughness, but as it is he's still a nightmare even if he can't take fighters out with a single shot.
What both men really rely on is their toughness, and both take a great shot. Or at least they did. Kuga's yet to show any decline, but Kuga has currently got some question marks over his chin following his stoppage loss to Wake. Kuga was dropped from a huge left hand in that bout, then took some serious punishment late on, with Wake tagging Kuga with clean left hands until the towel came in. Although it's not proven, there is a chance that loss has done damage to his durability.
Although Kuga won the first fight between these two, we feel like the men have headed in a different direction since then. Kuga's loss suggests he might be on the slide, whilst Tamura's last performance was his best to date and showed that he's adding more wrinkles and more intensity. With that in mind we see this as being a likely case of revenge, and not repeat. We're expecting the fire of Tamura, seeking to avenge his loss, and the boost in confidence a fighter gets when they are champion, to be the difference maker.
Prediction UD10 Tamura
On March 25th fight fans in the Philippines will be able to see a WBO Asia Pacific title fight, as once beaten Filipino Juan Miguel Elorde (27-1, 15), the WBO #2 word ranked contender, defends his Super Bantamweight title against Japanese challenger Shohei Kawashima (17-2-2, 4). For the champion this will be his 4th defense, and would likely be one of his final bouts before a potential world title fight, whilst Kawashima would be getting a huge chance to gate crash the WBO world rankings, and claim his biggest win to date.
The 32 year old champion is the grandson of the legendary Flash Elorde, one of the most iconic names in Filipino boxing. His career, which began in 2008, has been a slow steady climb through the rankings. He would win his first 10 bouts, before suffering an upset loss to Jerry Guevara in 2011. Since that early career set back he has gone 17-0 (11). On paper that sounds really impressive, but in reality there are very few wins of note on his record with his best wins being against the likes of Yodsingdaeng Jor Chaijinda and Waldo Sabu.
Despite his competition being limited, especially for a now highly ranked fighter, Elorde is a talented fighter, with a lovely crisp jab, an educated boxing brain and a good straight right hand. Sadly watching him he just sort of ticks all the boxes for "good" and has nothing outstanding about him. He's pretty basic, not very rounded and doesn't really impress when watching him. The most impressive traits of Elorde is his jab, which is crisp and sharp, but that's perhaps not as impressive as it seems, and he may struggle to land it against fighters who above regional journeyman level.
Aged 27 Kawashima is a Japanese fighter who debuted in 2012 and rose through the ranks well, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014 before travelling in 2016, beating Jin Wook Lim in Korea and losing a razor thin decision to Cristian Mijares in 2016. Since losing to Mijares, in Mexico, Kawashima has gone 3-1 (1) suffering a surprise 6th round KO loss to Gaku Aikawa in 2017. The loss to Aikawa was a genuine surprise, and came from a truly brutal shot from Aikawa, in what was probably the shot of his career.
In the ring Kawashima is a talented boxer with good timing, good movement and solid stamina. He lacks power but is a very skilled fighter who uses range well, is smart and sharp. Sadly his lack of power will be a major issue when he steps up and he will struggle too get respect from opponents. He also has a few defensive flaws, often dropping his hands or having them too close together. Rarely do we see Kawashima actually have a solid guard to box behind, and although Aikawa's KO was a surprise it wouldn't be a huge shock if he was stopped by any top domestic foe.
On paper Elorde will be the favourite. He's got the better record, he's the bigger puncher, has the home advantage, will be fighting at home and has the title. He will however be forces to battle for the win and we wouldn't be surprised at all
One of the best looking bouts in February is set for February 16th and will see former world champion Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) take on Mexican brawler Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17) in what is a must win for both men. The bout, an IBF Super Bantamweight world title eliminator, will be Iwasa's first bout since losing the IBF title last year to TJ Doheny whilst Juarez will be looking to score his 4th win since losing to Isaac Dogboe in January 2018.
The 29 year old Iwasa was tipped as one to watch from the moment he turned professional, back in August 2008. He raced towards a title fight and less than 3 after his debut he fought for the Japanese Bantamweight title, losing in the 10th round to Shinsuke Yamanaka. He would win the title 8 months later, beating Jerope Mercado for the then vacant title. He would defend that belt until winning the OPFB Bantamweight title and moving onto a world fight. Sadly for Iwasa he would lose in his first world title fight, being stopped in 6 rounds by Lee Haskins. That loss saw Iwasa move up in weight and in 2017 he claimed the IBF Super Bantamweight title in impressive fashion, stopping Yukinori Oguni in 6 rounds.
Holding a title usually brings out the best in a fighter, but that wasn't the case for Iwasa, who defended the belt once, in a poor performance against Ernesto Saulong, before losing the title to Doheny in August 2018.
At his best Iwasa is a hard hitting boxer-puncher, with a venomous straight left hand. Sadly however he is one paced, inconsistent and really struggles with fellow southpaws, with all 3 of his losses coming against other lefties. We've rarely seen Iwasa at his best, and that's a shame. He's also lacking in terms of speed and rarely shows full intensity in the ring. Whe things click however he is fantastic and we'd love to see more of Iwasa at his best.
Aged 27 Juarez is a Mexican warrior who should be in his physical prime. Sadly however he has had a very hard career and he may well be on the slide just a touch earlier than he should be. He won 12 of his first 13, 11 by stoppage, with his sole early defeat being a disqualification to Edgar Lozano. A close loss to Hugo Partida hardly slowed him down and in 2015 he would score back to back wins over Cesar Seda and Juan Carlos Sanchez to earn a shot at the vacant WBO Super Bantamweight title. At the time only in Mexico knew who Juarez was but his title fight, against Nonito Donaire, opened the boxing world to the stubborn, aggressive, tough and rugged Juarez. The Mexican was dropped twice in round 4, but went on to push Donaire all the way in what ended up being a really tough test for the Filipino.
The loss to Donaire was followed by a surprise decision loss to Giovanni Delgado before he strung together 3 notable wins over Filipino fighters, including an 8th round KO over Albert Pagara and a thrilling decision win over Richard Pumicpic. That winning run lead to a fight with Isaac Dogboe, who stopped Juarez in 5 rounds, and since then he has scored 3 wins.
In the ring Juarez is a rugged, heavy handed, come forward fighter. He's not the most highly skilled, or physically imposing, but he is an exciting and aggressive fighter, who really does take a great shot and has real grit. He also seems to get stronger in the later rounds of the fight, which is a worry for most fighters, as Donaire found out.
If Iwasa can put it on, fight to his best, and make the most of his damaging left hand, he can win this, and make a success US debut. He is however 0-1 outside of Japan, and 1-1 outside of Tokyo, and will be coming into this after 6 months away and with question marks about whether he even wants to box any more. Juarez's style is a nightmare for a puncher, unless they can really take him out. Sadly for Iwasa we actually see Juarez being in his face, crushing the distance and breaking him down up close.
We'd love to see Iwasa win and earn another world title fight, but we see this as an horrific style match up for Iwasa, who will need to land, and land hard, when Juarez comes in. It's not impossible for Iwasa to take the victory, but it will be a very big ask of the Japanese fighter, who should be considered the under-dog here.
On February 14th we'll get the chance to see OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) battle against Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4), in what will be Teshigawara's first defense of the title that he won in October 2018. The bout could, potentially, push Teshigawara into a world title shot, following the likes of Ryohei Takahashi who lost recently to TJ Doheny, or could put Iriguchi on the boxing map. Incidentally Iriguchi does actually hold a win over the aforementioned Takahashi.
Over the last 2 years we've seen Teshigawara become one of the must watch Japanese fighters at 122lbs. In late 2016 he gave Ryo Akaho a really close bout, putting himself on the map, and since then he has gone 6-0 (5), claiming the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title and the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. On paper that's pretty impressive, but when you consider that his wins have come against the likes of Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita you see it's more than just record padding from Teshigawara. In fact he has been facing top domestic and regional talent and showing that he's an excellent, exciting and aggressive fighter.
In the ring Teshigawara is more a brawler than a boxer. There are boxing fundamentals there but he does seem to enjoy a war, believing in his power and toughness to break opponents down. That has been working, against power puncher, speedy fighters and tough fighters, though it didn't against Canoy who managed to survive Teshigawara's power to give us a brilliant 12 round war. He's tough, strong and powerful, a real nightmare for most at this level, though he will need to develop his boxing skills if he's to beat top 10 competition.
At 21 years old Iriguchi is a relative boxing baby, and is 7 years younger than the champion, though debuted just weeks after his 17th birthday. He would win his first 6 bouts before suffering back to back setbacks with a loss to Hibiki Jogo and a draw against Noboru Osato. Since then he has proven to be a thorn in the side of more highly regarded domestic opponents. He would be the touted Kenshin Oshima in 2016, add Takahashi's scalp in 2017 and defeat Takafumi Nakajima in 2018. His only loss, other than the one to Jogo, was a razor thin split decision to the big hitting Takuya Mizuno in late 2017 in what was a Japanese Youth title fight in Mizuno's backyard.
Iriguchi is much less of a puncher than Teshigawara and is much more a boxer, with a volume punching style. He's got a solid right hand, a good work rate and applies good pressure. Sadly though he is defensively very open, not the quickest fighter out there and he looks pretty 1-handed, often launching right hands without setting things up with a jab.
Watching what is available of Iriguchi shows him to be almost the sort of fighter that a fan would want to see Teshigawara to face off with. He's aggressive, flawed and comes forward. Against Teshigawara that should make for a very exciting, back and forth brawl. Sadly for Iriguchi however it seems like the significant edge in power will be the difference and Teshigawara will eventually break down the challenger, likely in the later rounds of an all out thriller!
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.