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
It's not often that you'll see a national champion, who is making their second defense and on a 6 fight unbeaten run being regarded at the under-dog in a mandatory Japanese title defense. This coming Wednesday however we see just that, as Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) defends his title against Reiya Abe (19-2, 9) in a truly mouth watering clash at Korakuen Hall. On one hand you have an explosive, and hard hitting champion, who has lost just once in the last 4 years, on the other a challenger who has won his last 11 and at times has looked untouchable.
This is one of the most interesting looking Japanese title bouts of 2019.
The 28 year old Minamoto is promoted by the Watanabe gym and has been a pro for a little over 8 years.His career showed early promise, though also showed him to be a bit of a glass cannon, going 9-3 (8) in his first 12 bouts. From his 3 early losses 3 were stoppages, whilst the other came to future world champion Masayuki Ito. Since that start he has gone 7-2 (5), beating the likes of Eita Kikuchi, Seizo Kono, Dai Iwai, Takenori Ohashi and Tatsuya Otsubo, whilst his last loss came in 2015 to Yukinori Oguni. It was the win over Iwai that set up his rise to the title, which he took from Ohashi and defended against Osubo. During those bouts we saw the best of Minamoto, who looked amazing against Ohashi, using his boxing skills, speed, accurate punching and heavy hands to dismantle, beat up and stop the then defending champion. Against Otsubo however we saw Minamoto struggling, and needing to dig incredibly deep to over-come the then challenger.
At his best Minamoto is a real talent. He's an excellent boxer-puncher, and his performance against Ohashi saw everything click for him, he dominated the then champion, using movement, speed, skills, power, and ring IQ. It was a relative mismatch with Minamoto never looking in any trouble and Ohahsi being made to look like a rank novice. When he fights like that he is going to be a very, very, very hard man to beat at domestic level. Sadly though his performance after the winning the title saw him ignoring his boxing skills and becoming more of a brawler, fighting Otsubo's fight. It was a stupid tactical move and showed a bit of arrogance in a bout where he was strongly favoured to win. If he fights like that against Abe he'll be made to look silly, and he'll know he needs to stick rigidly to a game plan, and not make errors.
In Abe we have a 26 year old who has really come into his own and improved so much from his early days in the ring. Had he been with a big promoter he may well have a 21-0 record, with both of his losses being razor thin decision, though his losses have helped shaped the fighter he is today. His first loss came in his second professional bout, when he was 20, he would bounce back the following year to win the Rookie of the Year before a loss in 2015 to Shingo Kusano. That loss saw Abe's record fall to 8-1 (4) but since then he has gone on a tear. Look at Abe's record since his second loss is impressive, taking the unbeaten records of Ryo Hino, Hikaru Marugame and Daisuke Sugita, whilst adding notable wins over Shingo Kusano, avenging his loss, Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. His record is as good as anyone who hasn't yet fought for some form of a title.
In terms of his style Abe is a relaxed counter punching southpaw. He looked to establish a long distance on his bouts, pecking away with accurate clean punching, landing solid straight left hands and using his right jab and footwork to neutralise opponents. It's not always an exciting style to watch, but it is almost always very effective, and fighters are finding it very hard to cut him off, to change the fight or even have success against him. He has hardly lost a round in his last 5 bouts, and no one, since Noynay more than 2 years ago, has managed to run him close. He's slippery, skilled and will make opponents pay for rushing in. He is, arguably, the best counter puncher on the Japanese domestic scene right now.
Whilst we think Minamoto will need to box to win, he will also have to be smart about it. Boxing with Abe holds a lot of risks, most obvious of which is the fact Abe is the better pure boxer. Brawling and coming out swinging would cost Minamoto heavily, with Abe being given serious countering chances. If Minamoto can box smartly, not give Abe chances and control the fight with his harder punching, he has a chance. Otherwise we see Abe continuing his surge and taking a relatively clear decision, and the Japan title.
Prediction UD10 Abe.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On the undercard of the upcoming Obara x Lagumbay “Revenge Fight”, Taiki Minamoto defends his Japanese Featherweight championship against Tatsuya Otsubo.
Taiki Minamoto (15-5/12 KOs) began his pro-career in 2011, just 2 weeks after turning 20. Unlike most fighters who face opponents with losing records, in order to gain experience in their early years, Minamoto’s road was different, a path that led to a few losses, including one to future world champion Masayuki Ito. However, these encounters only made him more determined to come back stronger and defeat well-versed boxers like Eita Kikuchi (14-3*) and Seizo Kono (14-5*), even earning an opportunity at the Japanese Super Bantamweight champion and future IBF world title holder Yukinori Oguni (14-1*), a match that went the distance. Since then, Minamoto is on a 5 fight winning streak, with wins over the likes of Ryota Kajiki (28-9*) and Dai Iwai (21-4*) as well as Takenori Ohashi (15-4*), who he TKOed in order to become the Japanese Featherweight champion for the first time.
Tatsuya Otsubo (12-8/4 KOs) will be Minamoto’s inaugural title defense. Otsubo, despite struggling through out his 11-year career, has won all of his last 4 bouts, since resurfacing from his hiatus in 2015, including victories over Ryuto Araya (twice) and Indonesian champion Musa Andy Letding. It’s worth mentioning that Otsubo holds a win over Akihiko Katagiri, the man who knocked Minamoto out on his 9th pro fight.
On paper, Minamoto is the favourite to leave Korakuen Hall with the strap, as he’s currently ranked the #1 featherweight in Japan and has bested better fighters than his opponent. On the other hand, Otsubo seems to have turned a new page of his career and has vastly improved over the course of these last 2 years, so it wouldn’t be unthinkable if he can pull off the upset once again, this time with the gold on the line.
*Fighter’s record before the fight.
One of the most bizarre endings to a bout last year saw Takenori Ohashi (15-4-2, 10) score a 5th round KO against Kosuke Saka to claim the Japanese Featherweight title. The finish to that bout came as Saka misheard the 10 second clacker, dropped his hands and turned away, giving Ohashi the chance to finish his man off, which he took. This coming Saturday Ohashi returns to the ring to make his first defense of the title, as he takes on mandatory challenger Taiki Minamoto (15-4, 11) in a really good bout on paper, between evenly matched but flawed fighters who can both bang and can both be hurt.
Like many fighters in Japan Ohashi began his career in 4 rounds and would move into competing in the Rookie of the Year, fighting in the East Japan Rookie of the year in 2010. It was in the Rookie competition that he suffered his first loss, being stopped in the East Japan semi-final by Coach Hiroto inside a round. The loss slowed Ohashi's rise but he bounced back and scored 3 straight wins before suffering back to back losses, including a defeat to Tatsuya Takahashi. Since then however he has gone 7-1-2 (4), with his only loss during that 10 fight run coming to the big punching Tsuyoshi Tameda.
In the ring Ohashi is pretty crude, but is very heavy handed, and he has stopped 3 of his last 4 foes. He can certainly be out boxed, out moved and blown away, as Tameda did just over 3 years ago, but if you let him get going he's a nightmare who will bring heavy hard hitting pressure, and be pretty unrelenting unless you can some how get his respect. Which isn't as easy as it sounds, and even the hard hitting Saka failed to get much respect from Ohashi before his mental lapse and subsequent stoppage loss.
The 27 year old challenger will be getting his second Japanese title fight, having previously challenged for the Japanese Super Bantamweight title where he came up short against Yukinori Oguni. His career has been very frustrating as he's really struggled to generate any career moment. He won his first 4 bouts, before losing inside a round to Yuki Iwasaki, a 3 fight winning run was then stopped by a pair of losses and he then struggled to string together any wins. That was until 2016, and he's now riding a 4 fight winning streak, the equal longest of his career.
Not only is Minamoto enjoying a winning run but he's also notched his 2 biggest wins recent, out pointing both Ryota Kajiki and Dai Iwai, with the win over Iwai earning him this title fight. Those wins showed he can do 8 rounds and win a decision, something he had never previously done. He's certainly showing signs of development, turning from a pure puncher to a more rounded boxer-puncher and adapting well. He will still have question marks over his chin, but recent results are really promising for the challenger..
Coming in to this both men are beatable, both men have questionable chins but both men are in good form. We're expecting a really explosive contest here and we can't imagine it going the distance, both men hit too hard and too questionable to last 10 rounds together. The edge in power and experience sides with Ohashi,but Minamoto looks to be the better boxer and the man with the slightly better durability. In bouts like this it's not always about who hits harder, but who sets their shots up better, and with that in mind we're going with Minamoto, who we suspect will create the distance counter more effectively than Ohashi,eventually stopping the champion to claim the title, and continue his good run of recent results.
To end the month of September Japanese fans get a title double header at the Korakuen Hall. One of those is a Japanese Welterweight title bout that really is uninspiring to say the least, the other is a Super Bantamweight title bout that has actually caught our eye in anticipation of a potentially intriguing fight.
The champion, defending his title for the second time, is Yukinori Oguni (14-1-1, 4), a former OPBF champion who suffered his sole loss to the excellent Shingo Wake. His challenger is the heavy handed Taiki Minamoto (10-4, 9), who may lack in skills but is a danger at the domestic level. It's a puncher vs a boxer contest and could well provide a bout that either sees skills blunting brute force or brute force over-coming the more skilled man.
In the ring Oguni is a boxer. He's a quick fight who likes to use his sharp jab, his quick movement and establish a comfortable range whilst he prevents an opponent from getting into rhythm. Early on he had great success by doing that and won his first 10 bouts. It was during that run that he won the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, upsetting Roli Gasca, and defended it 3 times. Back then it seemed like he was on his way to the top.
Unfortunately for Oguni his winning run came to an end against Wake who did everything better than Oguni, and hit harder, eventually breaking down Oguni in 10 rounds with Oguni's corner team then stopping their man. Since then he has bounced back with 4 wins and a draw, though did look less than outstanding in his last couple of bouts, a razor thin win over Yasutaka Ishimoto and a draw with Gakuya Furuhashi.
Although Oguni hasn't looked great recently he's also not looked terrible, and he has been facing solid competition. We know Ishimoto and Furuhashi aren't world class, but both are very good fighters who will mix in, and around, the top of the domestic level for the foreseeable future.
Whilst Oguni has had notable success we're about to see Minamoto step up to title level for the first time. Whilst this will be his first title fight he's certainly not facing his first notable opponent, in fact over the last 3 years he has faced the likes of Akihiko Katagri, Masayuki Ito, Eita Kikuchi, Seizo Kono and Yukinori Hisanaga. He has lost to Katagiri, Ito and Hisanaga but he did score botable stoppages over Kikuchi and Kono over the last 2 years.
Minamoto isn't the most skilled but with 9 T/KO's in his 10 wins it's clear he can punch and it's obvious that he will try to use that power to unsettle Oguni. It will be a case of whether or not he gets the chance to land on the slippery champion. If he does then this will be interesting.
Although we do give Minamoto a chance, given his power, we suspect that Oguni will be too good, too quick and too skilled for the challenger, who will never give up looking for that KO punch but will never quite land it.
(Image courtesy of Kadoebi.com)
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.