Earlier this year fans at the Korakuen Hall were treat to a special bout between former Japanese Welterweight champion Koji Numata (21-7-2, 16) and the hard working Takehiro Shimokawara (19-8-3, 6). The contest, which by all accounts was thrilling and action packed, saw no winner crowned with the men needing to accept that their heart and effort could only score them a split decision draw. Unfortunately whilst the men both received plaudits we didn't end up fill a title vacancy for the OPBF Light Middleweight.
The bout, which we unfortunately can't find a video for, was described in all the the same terms as any great fight. Unfortunately however the disappointment of not winning seemed to get to Numata who soon announced his retirement and left us all feeling a little disappointed in not getting a rematch like everyone else seemed to want. Thankfully Numata thought twice about retirement and quickly agreed to face Shimokawara for a second time with the two men now meeting just 5 months after their first bout.
For Numata this will be his third shot at the OPBF crown and could well be his last. He's not "old" by any stretch at just 30, but he's taken a lot of damage and from his reaction from the first fight his heart is probably not in boxing to just compete, he probably thinks it's about winning or walking away.
At his best Numata was never a practitioner of the "sweet science". He's also been more of a fan of rough destruction and watching him you see a man who comes to fight not to box, you see a man who feels his power is more telling than that of his foes. In fact Numata's power is pretty impressive and has seen him stop the likes of Tadashi Yuba, Yuichi Ideta, Fukutaro Ujiie, Yoshihisa Tonimura, Go Nakahori and most recently Ryo Okayama. Sadly when he's not been able to blow foes away he has really struggled to pick up wins, in fact he has gone 5-4-2 in distance bouts.
Dangerous but crude really does sum Numata who is popular on the Japanese domestic scene due to his style but is probably stuck between the domestic level and the OPBF level due to his relative lack of boxing ability.
Whilst Numata is well known to fans who follow the Japanese domestic scene the same cannot be said for Shimokawara who is difficult to find footage of and very hard to get a real read on. What we know that he has shard the ring with some decent fighters, such as Akio Shibata, Akinori Watanabe, Numata obviously, Sanosuke Sasaki and Daisuke Nakagawa . Unfortunately for Shimokawara he does tend to come up short against those better fighters.
Whilst he's not managed to get many notable wins Shimokawara has shown that he's very hard to stop, in fact only the very heavy handed Watanabe has stopped him, and Shimokawara was still on his feet when that was waved off. The fact Shimokawara is a tough, tough guy is a problem for Numata and the reason why Numata wasn't able to blow him away in their first meeting.
As well as being tough we also know that Shimokawara is tall, rangy and difficult to get to. Yet more issues for Numata who will be giving away notable size going into this one. Though at 32 years old and with almost 200 rounds under his belt he has likely taken quite a bit of accumulative damage of his career.
Going in to this bout we expect a bout very similar to the first contest between the two men. Numata will, as he always does, look for the stoppage, bring a lot of action and go for the KO and we think Shimokawara will meet him centre ring as we get 12 more rounds of none stop action between two warirors who have contrasting styles but styles that work well together to give fans a great fight.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
(Video below courtesy of fukumen11)
In a number of boxing's lower weights we look at OPBF champions as future world champions. It's a regular stepping stone title that sees a title progressing from national champion to Asian champion and then on to fight for world titles.
As we go through the divisions however we tend to find fewer and fewer OPBF champions managing to progress on to the world stage. The cut off, if we can use such a term, appears to be the Lightweight division from there up the best in Asia simply can't compete with the best in the world.
Whilst the significance of the OPBF belt above Lightweight does seem to fade on the world scene it is still a title that coveted through out Asia as it allows a fighter to declare that they are the best in Asia, the Asian champion if you will.
It's that honour that will drive Japanese Koji Numata (21-7-1, 16) and Takehiro Shimokawara (19-8-2, 6) when they meet on March 11th in a battle for the OPBF Light Middleweight title, a title recently vacated by Charlie Ota.
Of the two men it's Shimokawara who is venturing into new territory. Although he's had 29 fights, just like Numata, he has never before fought for a title, of any type. Unfortunately for him his lack of title fights has seen him never take part in a 10 rounder and he's only been scheduled to go 10 rounds twice, reaching the final bell in just one of those bouts.
With the same amount of fights Numata has become a fixture on the title scene. He has already been involved in 5 title fights, winning the Japanese Welterweight title in he process and has featured in 11 bouts scheduled for 10 or more rounds. Although Numata did lose his sole 12 rounder, being stopped by former OPBF Light Middleweight champion Ota, he has fought at that level.
This level of experience is arguably the key for Numata. He has shared the ring not only with Ota but also Tadashi Yuba and Daisuke Nakagawa and actually managed to stop Yuba almost 6 years ago. When comparing like for like Shimokawara's most notable opponents have been Akio Shibata, twice early in his career, Akinori Watanabe and Daisuke Nakagawa, with Shimokawara losing all 4 of those bouts.
As well as having an edge in quality of experience Numata also holds the edge in power having stopped significantly more opponents than Shimokawara and he's also younger.
As for Shimokawara he does himself have some notable advantages in his favour. He's notable taller than Numata, in fact he has a 4" height advantage, and he's also tougher. The only stoppage on Shimokawara's record was against the monstrously hard hitting Akinori Watanabe. He may have lost 8 bouts but he has 2 less stoppage losses than Numata who was stopped by Ota was also stopped by both Dan Nazareno Jr and Tomoyuki Shiotani in what must go down as major blips.
We're happy to put Numata's stoppages to both Nazareno and Shiotani down to his struggles with weight and with that in mind we do favour Numata to win. He has the experience at going 10 rounds and he has the experience of winning championship fight. We don't imagine Numata will manage to stop Shimokawara but we expect him to do enough to take home the OPBF title and to call himself the best Light Middleweight in Asia.
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.