On October 26th at the Korakuen Hall we'll get a host of Japanese title eliminators, included in those is an excellent Featherweight bout between rising youngster Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) and former Japanese champion Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11), who will be clashing to decide who challenges for the title next year at during the Champion Carnival.
Of the two men it's certainly Maruta who is the more talented and has the more upside. He's a 22 year old who turned professional with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. The expectation hasn't been fulfilled yet, but he has shown a lot of ability and already holds notable wins against the likes of Jason Canoy, Wilbert Berondo, Joe Tejones, Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. His one loss came in an OPBF title fight to Hidenori Otake, in a bout that came a little bit too early, whilst his draw was a controversial one in the Philippines against Ben Mananquil.
In the ring Maruta is a real talent, and is incredibly skilled. He's a long, lean fighter, with nasty power in his shots, fantastic speed and a developing professional style. Early in his career there was question marks about his in ring mentality, often waiting too long and being a touch lazy, not getting on the front foot enough or letting his hands go. More recently he has been letting shots go, using his jab to keep opponents at range and showing an extra gear to his in ring work. There is still a slightly over cautious approach to what he does, but it is changing and he has shown an ability to force the fight more than reacting to it. Naturally he's a counter punching outside fighter, waiting for mistakes, but there is a fighter in there, even if it's not been on show often enough. If, or when, he unlocks his aggressive side he will be a very hard man to beat.
At 30 years old Ohashi is pretty much in the "must win" stage of his career. He is, as mentioned, a former Japanese champion though won the title in a weird circumstances after Kosuke Saka misheard the bell and got knocked out back in 2017. In his first defense Ohashi was given a genuine beating by Taiki Minamoto, and stopped whilst well down on the cards. Since then he has picked up a couple of wins, but looked poor in both performance, especially last time out when he was being outboxed by Shun Wakabayashi, before scoring one of the best KO's of 2019.
In the ring Ohashi is slow, cumbersome and deliberate. He can be hit, he can be out boxed, and he's really basic. He does however have a real equaliser in his mitts and his punching power makes him a genuine danger, to the very end of the bout. His KO of Wakabayashi completely bailed him out against a fighter who showed an easy way to beat him. Box, move, use your feet and keep it simple. If you can avoid the power of Ohashi you can beat him.
Given the styles of the two men involved this really doesn't look like it will be competitive. We suspect that Maruta will be too quick, too smart, too sharp and too good. As long as he can avoid the right hand of Ohashi he should make this look very, very easy. On paper it would be his biggest win, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was also one of his easiest, and will look like a sparring session almost.
Prediction - Maruta UD8
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.
It's fair to suggest that December is set to be an incredibly busy and action packed month for Japanese fight fans, with a huge amount of notable fights right across the month. The month is littered with title fights, right through to the end of the year, the first of which is a domestic title bout takes place this coming Friday at the Korakuen Hall and sees Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (16-3, 13) make his first defense of the title, as he takes on first time challenger Takenori Ohashi (14-4-2, 9).
The heavy handed champion won the title earlier this year, when he blasted through Shota Hayashi in 3 rounds. Sadly though he has been inactive since that win, which came all the way back in April, he has been out of the ring and not managed to really build on that win. Although the momentum has cooled a little it should be noted that the win over Hayashi was Saka's 8th straight stoppage and continued a run that also included wins over Ryuto Kyoguchi, Burning Ishii and Takafumi Nakajima. That run has seen Saka go from 8-3 (5) to 16-3 (13) and break into the world rankings as well as become the Japanese champion.
Technically Saka is a bit “rough around the edges” as much pure punchers are, but his brute power is a real threat to everyone on the domestic scene, as his win over Hayashi showed. He's aggressive from the word go and looks to take opponents out early, with 10 stoppage in the first 3 rounds. In bouts that have gone beyond 3 he is 6-3 (3) and arguably the biggest question mark about him is his stamina, thanks in part to a 9th round TKO loss to Hiroshige Osawa.
Whilst Saka has been in great form and genuinely impressed with recent results the same can't really be said of Ohashi, who is a bit of an unknown with mixed results and no out and out standout win. He stated his career with 5 straight wins before being blown out in a round by Coach Hiroto in 2010 A second short winning run was ended by another stoppage, as Tatsuya Takahashi stopped him in 3 rounds in 2012. Since the start of 2013 Ohashi has gone 5-1-2 (3) but suffered his third stoppage loss, to Tsuyoshi Tameda, and draws with Yosuke Kawano and Mikihito Seto, two fights some distance removed from a domestic title fight.
In the ring Ohashi is a rather basic fighter, he's slow and clumsy and looks like a fighter who lacks any form of snap. He must have naturally heavy hands, but there is little to really be impressed by. Despite 3 stoppages he can take a decent shot, at least at the lower domestic level, and there is a bit of an awkwardness about him, but the reality is that he's a weak challenger for Saka.
Given Saka's break from the ring it was clear he wasn't going to be tossed in with a really good fighter, but the reality is that this should be little more than another blow out win for one of Japanese boxing most exciting domestic champions.
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.