The Flyweight scene in Asia is a rather weird one right now. There are some amazing fighters there, like Kosei Tanaka, and some really fast rising hopefuls, like Junto Nakatani. Sadly though there is a really awkward gap between some of the regional level fighters and the world class fighters.
Among those stuck between the Oriental scene and world level is current OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7), who travels to Japan later this month to make his second defense of the title. In the opposite corner to the champion is former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13), who appears to have slipped significantly from his prime.
Aged 22 Raquinel has a lot of potential to make a mark at world level, much like the aforementioned Nakatani and fellow rising youngster Ryota Yamauchi, though his has a lot of questions over his head. He showed his ability to perform on the road in early 2018, when he stopped Keisuke Nakayama to claim the title and then again just months later when he stopped Shun Kosaka in his first defense. Sadly his rise hit the skids last year when he lost a competitive decision to Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi, in China, and he's not fought since that bout. Whilst his title wasn't on the line against Tuolehazi the bout did cost him momentum and his unbeaten record and it's almost a year since he last stepped in the ring.
At his best Raquinel is a solid boxer-puncher. He's got a hard hitting southpaw left, a good right hook, and smart movement. Sadly for all the positives about him he can often look lazy in the ring, too reserved and unwilling to let his shots go. Against Tuolehazi he looked great, when he threw his punches, but all too often looked happy to not do much, cruising and waiting, often waiting too long and letting Tuolehazi do enough to take the win. Given his age that loss could be a great learning experience, or could be a setback that he struggles to ever really rebuild from.
The 34 year old Kogawa has long been one of the most fun to watch fighters on the planet. Having debuted 14 years ago Kogawa has been one of the staples on the Flyweight scene much of that time. He began his career with a 17-1 (10) record, and won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, before getting a world title fight against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Kogawa lost to Wonjongkam but bounced back and won the Japanese Flyweight title just 6 months later. It's been the Japanese Flyweight title that has really been the focus for much of Kogawa's career over the last 8 years with title bouts against the likes of Shigetaka Ikehara, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Kudaka and Masayuki Kuroda.
Through his career Kogawa has been in some amazing bouts, his fights with Muranaka, Kudaka and Kuroda stand out.He has had a career from being a boxer-brawler, with a high tempo style, that has seen him take a lot of punishment. Sadly in the last few years Kogawa has started to show the damage of those battles, and looks to have slowed significantly from the star he was. Whilst some of that could be put down to lingering effect from a serious ear injury, which he suffered in 2016, it's fair to say that his warrior mentality, hard fights and really hard rounds, along with his age, has simply caught up with him.
At his best Kogawa would be strongly favoured over Raquinel, sadly though he's a long way removed from his best. This version of Kogawa has struggled with the likes of Naoto Fujimoto and Hideyuki Watanabe, limited domestic foes. Even with Raquinel having been out of the ring for a year we suspect his youth, freshness and speed will be the key. With Kogawa being aggressive we see Raquinel getting chances to sit back and counter, rather than in the Tuolehazi fight where the Chinese fighter didn't give Raquinel opportunities to counter.
We suspect Raquinel will come out on top here, and Kogawa will then end his long, and thrilling career.
Prediction- Raquinel UD12
The Flyweight division in Japan is red hot right now with WBA champion Kazuto Ioka leading a group of fighters that also includes WBC champion Daigo Higa. Below those two world champions are the likes of Japanese champion Takuya Kogawa (28-4, 13) and interim Japanese champion Masayuki Kuroda (26-7-3, 15), who will meet this coming Tuesday in a potential FOTY contender, to unify the titles. Not only is the bout a potential thriller, but it will be a rematch of a bout fought in early 2016 and will see one man looking to avenge a loss, and the other looking to prove domestic dominance over their foe.
In their first bout, in March 2016, Kogawa came out on top, defending the Japanese title in a mandatory defense. That was the the exciting veteran's first defense of his second reign and saw him over-come Kuroda with a clear decision, but an exciting one with both men really letting their shots go in some thrilling back and force action.
Although relatively unknown outside of Asia Kogawa has been a staple on the regional since 2010. He won the OPBF Super Flyweight title in 2010 and then moved down in weight to take on the then WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Although Kogawa came up short against Wonjongkam he has since stuck around, for the most part, at Flyweight where he is now a 2-time Japanese champion and has also fought for the WBA interim title, losing a close decision to Yogmondkol Vor Saengthep.
During his career Kogawa has faced a relative who's who. As mentioned he has faced Wongjonkam and Yodmongkol, he's also fought Zhao Zhong Xiong, Shigetaka Ikehara, Tetsuma Hayashi, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Hisataka, Kuroda. Through those bouts Kogawa has shown a warrior mentality, willing to have a tear up, he has shown a gritty toughness, under-rated power and a fantastic engine. Sadly however he comes into this bout on the back of a nasty ear injury and an 8 month lay off. He is also a fighter who has gone the distance in his last 8 bouts, coming for 80 rounds!
We've long been Kogawa fans, but the reality is that the 32 year old has had an incredibly tough career, with 210 rounds, many of which have been damaging and action packed, which are partly to blame for his injury last time out, and subsequent lay off.
Interestingly the 30 year old Kuroda has had a similar career to Kogawa, and has slightly more rounds under his belt at 217 career rounds. His career saw him really come to the fore at Light Flyweight, where he claimed a Japanese title back in 2011. As a champion he defended the belt 4 times, including notable defenses against Yuki Sano and current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi. His reign ended when he vacated, choosing to challenge WBA Flyweight champion Juan Carlos Reveco in 2013. Sadly Kuroda came up short against Reveco and the suffered a stoppage loss to Muranaka just a couple of fights later. Since then he has gone 5-2 and got his career back on track.
Although Kuroda's record is blotchy he has, like Kogawa,mixed with good company. He's fought Shigetaka Ikehara, Shin Ono, Taguchi, Reveco, Muranaka, and Kogawa. He was last seen scoring an exciting decision win over Yuta Matsuo for the Japanese interim title, and will be seeing this bout as a chance to become a 2-weight Japanese champion.
In the ring Kuroda is a tough and gutsy fighter, he's flawed, and is naturally smaller than Kogawa, but appears to have found the second wind of his career, after a bizarre 0-2-3 run in 2012-2014. He's still going to be the under-dog here, but he's hungry, he's going to be looking to make a statement and likely knows this will be his last chance at a Japanese title, and it's going to be now or never.
In the ring we're expecting a real war. The styles of both men is aggressive, energetic and exciting. Both men are tough, defensively flawed and open, but aggressive, exciting and most importantly well matched.
Although we think Kogawa is on he slide, we do favour him here, but only just in a close, competitive, exciting brawl between two fighter who will look to give fans a treat. We wouldn't be hugely surprised by a Kuroda win, but we do think Kogawa will come out on top.
One of most exciting fighters on the planet is Japanese Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (27-4, 13), who rarely has a bad fight and makes even the easy fights look hard, thrilling and fun. We saw that earlier this yea, when he defeated the limited but game Masafumi Otake and we suspect to see that again next week when he faces the relatively unknown Yudai Arai (8-3-3, 4). The bout will be Arai's first title fight, whilst Kogawa will be looking for his 4th defense of his current reign as Japanese champion.
Fight fans who have followed the lower weights over the years might be aware of Kogawa. The little man from Tokyo is the embodiment of the Japanese fighting spirit, he likes to really fight. When he gets in the ring there are limitations to what he does, he's not puncher, he's not lightning quick, he can be hurt and he's not elusive. He is however a complete and utter warrior who makes fights into wars, and wars in to epics.
Kogawa came to the attention of many lower weight fans back in 2011 when he challenged WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in Thailand. He came up short there but refused to fade away, winning the Japanese title for the first time in his very next fight, and holding it until late 2013 when he lost an incredible contest with Suguru Muranaka. That loss to Muranaka was followed by a hugely controversial defeat in Thailand to Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. Since that loss we'vee see Kogawa have a resurgence with 5 victories, over-come the likes of Hiroyuki Hisataka, Tetsuma Hayashi and Masayuki Kuroda, whilst edging towards another world tile bout.
Aged 31 and with an 11 year career behind him Kogawa is on the back end of his career, especially given he has fought 200 rounds, but he's not looking like a fighter who is fading quickly and he could be around for another few years with his body holding up well for such a grinding battler.
The 24 year old challenger is certainly a major under-dog coming into this bout, but he'd be stupid to turn down the opportunity of a life time, and this really is the most significant bout of his career, by some margin. He turned professional in 2010 and began his career with a draw, before falling to 1-1-2. A 7 unbeaten run saw Arai advance his record to 6-1-3 (3) before back-to-back stoppage losses in 2015 put the brakes on his career. Since those losses he has scored back-to-back wins but has never competed near the top of the Japanese domestic scene.
Although footage of Arai is scarce it's fair to say that he's not a huge puncher, with 4 stoppages in 14 bouts, and with 3 stoppage losses against him he's also not the toughest of fighters. He is however a man being given a career changing opportunity and will have trained like a demon for this fight, and a potential chance to claim the Japanese title and a possible world ranking.
Although he'll be training hard Arai can't put muscles on his chin, or become a dynamite puncher suddenly. As a result we suspect he'll suffer a mid-to-late round stoppage, though put up a fun fight and probably go down swinging against Kogawa, who is looking to become the first fight to retain a title on two separate shows aired on boxingraise.com.
Earlier this month we saw Japan's Daigo Higa destroy Filipino veteran Ardin Diale to claim the OPBF Flyweight title. Higa however isn't the only notable Flyweight contender from Japan in action this month, and this coming Friday fans will see world ranked Japanese champion Takuya Kogawa (26-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] defending his title against Masafumi Otake (15-14-3, 7) [大嶽 正史].
Kogawa is probably best known for his two world title challenges, both in Thailand. The first of those saw the all action fighter lose a wide decision to Thai great Pongsaklek Wonjongkam whilst the second saw him lose a very controversial one to Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, in a bout for the WBA “interim” title. Although known outside of Japan for those losses he is known at home for being a genuinely thrilling fighter, who is rarely in a bad fight.
The champion has been in thrilling wars with not only with Yodmongkol but also the likes of Suguru Muranaka, Masayuki Kuroda, Tetsuma Hayashi and Hiroyuki Hisataka. What makes him exciting is a combination of his weaknesses, including porous defense and limited power, along with his strengths, a great will to win, a lot of energy and a very solid chin. Given those traits it is little wonder that fans fans who have seen him describe him as being a true warrior.
Although very flawed Kogawa is a hard man to beat, and through his career he has only really been beaten clearly once, the loss to Wonjongkam way back in 2011.
When it comes to the challenger Otake's record does speak for it's self in many ways and as a result he is the clear under-dog. With just 15 wins in 32 bouts he has a sub 50% winning record and is actually 1-4 in his last 5 bouts, dating back more than 3 years. Saying that however the 37 year old is a man who knows this will be the end if he loses and will know that he needs to give this bout 100%, there is no point leaving anything in the locker.
Otake was, almost a decade ago, 11-4 (6) but since then has gone 4-10-3 with his career effectively imploding in the last decade. The losses, in some cases, have been to limited opponents however he has also faced some very good fighters such as Suguru Muranaka, Ryuichi Funai and Go Onaga, who all beat him.
We have, already this year in fact, seen upsets where we didn't expect the under-dog to put up much of an effort at all. On paper this is another massive mismatch, but it's hard to see what Otake has to lose and if he goes all out he could trouble Kogawa, if Kogawa has over-looked him. Saying that however the 37 year old shouldn't be much of a test if Kogawa has prepared properly.
Whilst the bout is, in all honesty, a mismatch it does serve a notable purpose. It will be the headline bout of the first Dangan card to be streamed live on www.boxingraise.com it's fair to say that is actually likely to be a bigger talking point than the actual bout, which we suspect will be a clear win for Kogawa, possibly by late stoppage.
When the 2016 Champion Carnival bouts were announced a number of bouts stood out as being particularly exciting. One of those bouts was the Flyweight title bout which will take place on March 18th and see reigning champion Takuya Kogawa (25-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] battle former world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (24-6-3, 14) [黒田 雅之]. On paper the bout is brilliantly well matched and when the men get into the ring we're expecting something very special.
For those who haven't seen Kogawa he's really a fight fans dream. He's an all-action fighter who throws an insane amount of leather and is teak tough. There are plenty of flaws in his boxing, particularly his defense, but the reality is that he's so much fun to watch that those flaws are easy to forgive.
The 30 year old champion, from the Miyata gym, has been a professional since 2005 and has shared the ring with a number of notable opponents. This has seen Kogawa over-come Xiong Zhao Zhong, Shigetaka Ikehara, twice, Tetsuma Hayashi, twice, and Hiroyuki Hisataka. It has also seen him come up short against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Suguru Muranaka and Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep. In those losses only Wonjongkam managed to take a clear win over Kogawa.
Kogawa can certainly be out boxed, and he can be hurt, and perhaps lacks real power, but with his toughness, work rate, aggression, and will to win he's a genuine handful and a joy to watch.
Kuroda, the younger man at 29, is another exciting fighter though one who has seen better days. In fact much of Kuroda's most notable success came in the Light Flyweight division. He won the Japanese national title in 2011 and recorded 4 defenses of the title, included defenses against Yuki Sano and Ryoichi Taguchi. He only gave that title up in 2013 when he moved up to Flyweight to challenge Juan Carlos Reveco, the then WBA Flyweight champion.
Sadly since the loss to Reveco we've not seen Kuroda really shine, in fact he has since gone 3-2-1, and suffered his first stoppage loss to the aforementioned Suguru Muranaka in a Japanese Flyweight title bout.
At his best Kuroda was a gutsy fighter at 108lbs where he had enough power to keep opponents honest, enough skill to push them technically and the physical strength to engage in a war if needed. At 112lbs he's not had notable success, but he may well have grown into the weight now, with his last bout being a win over Yusuku Sakashita, a decent Japanese level contender.
Coming in to this one we are expecting a lot of intense action, we're expecting a fan friendly bout and one that could be described as a war. Sadly for Kuroda we don't see that style of fight doing him many favours here with Kogawa likely to be too strong and too powerful for Kuroda, who may have the edge in speed but won't be able to avoid a tear up.
Kuroda is tough be we suspect he'll be worn down in the later rounds with Kogawa scoring a very late stoppage of Kuroda in a brilliant fight.
For those who haven't seen the two men in action, we have featured both of their bouts with Muranaka below.
Exciting fighters make for exciting fights, especially when we get two exciting and aggressively minded fighters in there together. One of the sports most exciting fighters is Japanese Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (24-4, 13), Although a very unheralded fighter he is as action as they come and combines fantastic work rate, desire and toughness to make a fighter who is rarely in a bad fight.
Earlier this year Kogawa became a 2-time Japanese champion and in November he will make the first defense of his second reign as he takes on former toe, and fellow exciting fighter, Tetsuma Hayashi (25-3-2, 9), himself a former Japanese title challenger.
For those who recognise Kogawa's name he has really been in some great fights. His most notable bout was a loss to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam back in 2011. Since then he has been regularly involved in thrillers, including a 2012 win over Hayashi to defend the Japanese Flyweight title, a loss to Suguru Muranaka in 2013, a loss to Yodmongkol Vor Seanghtep for the WBA interim Flyweight title and a win over Hiroyuki Hisataka, also late last year.
In the ring Kogawa lacks power and in some ways defense. He is however a perpetual punching machine who seems to feel his best defense is his offense and more often than not that makes for great action. When he needs to however Kogawa can fight on the retreat, though he seems to prefer to be an offensive windmill.
Whilst Kogawa is a 2-time Japanese champion, a former OPBF champion and a former world title challenger he's yet to have the international respect that his talent and style deserve. In fact very few international fans will really know too much about him. They will however know more than they know about Hayashi.
In many ways Hayashi's most notable bout was his loss to Kogawa. Prior to that he had gone 18-1-1 (6) with his sole loss being a split decision to the more experienced Takayasu Kobayashi. Against Kogawa we saw Hayashi really push the more established man close, though his lack of experience against quality opponents did show at times.
Since that loss Hayashi has gone 7-1-1 with his best win coming over Junichi Ebisuoka and his sole loss coming to Suguru Muranaka, in a Japanese title fight that saw Muranaka lose his belt on the scales. In many ways that bout, which was actually his most recent, was his most impressive despite losing. It say Hayashi really give Muranaka all he could handle with the former champion pulling out a very narrow win. Whilst it was a great performance by Hayashi it was one that seemed to again show his lack of 10 round experience.
Coming in to this one we're expecting to see Hayashi at his very best, we're expecting a better performance than he had first time around against Kogawa. Likewise however we're expecting to see Kogawa at his best, knowing that another loss will kill any chance of him getting another title shot. Unfortunately for the challenger he hasn't yet shown the type of ability a fighter needs to beat Kogawa, he will however run him very close in another enthralling encounter, bout that will leave the Korakuen Hall in raptures of cheers once again.
For those wanting to see the first bout between the two men, we've included that below.
For us the most exciting and interesting division in boxing today is the Flyweight division. It's got everything we could ask for. From the super talented Roman Gonzalez to the exciting Koki Eto, from the over-hyped Zou Shiming to the under-rated Suguru Muranaka. The division really has it all despite being over-looked by many fans, especially in the west.
Whilst it is our favourite division there are still some disappointments in it. One such disappointment came earlier this year when the aforementioned Muranaka failed to make weight for a scheduled defence against Tesuma Hayashi. Muranaka's failure to over-come the scales saw him being stripped of the belt, though Hayashi failed to make the most of his opportunity losing a very competitive decision to the former champion.
The vacant title will be up for grabs again on July 17th as another of the division's really exciting fighters takes on an under-rated foe in what looks, on paper, like a mismatch, though in reality we're expecting a really good match up.
The exciting fighter, and clear favourite going in to the bout, is former champion Takuya Kogawa (23-4, 13) who has been one of the sports most over-looked action fighters over the last few years. He's been a former world title challenger, a former OPBF Super Flyweight champion and a former Japanese Flyweight champion. Over the last 5 years or so he has shared the ring with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Shigetaka Ikehara, Tesuma Hayashi, Suguru Muranaka, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep and Hiroyuki Hisataka.
Whilst Kogawa has been matched hard he has more than held his own, and been involved in some hard and exciting bouts. His loss to Muranaka was a late contender to be the 2013 Asian FOTY whilst his 2014 loss to Yodmongkol was massively controversial, with Kogawa very unlucky not to claim the win. Those exciting fights have shown Kogawa's toughness, bravery and his incredible stamina which sees him throwing hundreds of punches, even in the later rounds.
Kogawa is battle hardened, experienced, hard working and a fantastic fighter in, and around, the domestic scene. His lack of power is an issue but his toughness and energy make him a handful for everyone in the division, except for the truly elite.
The other fighter involved in this bout is the lesser known Hiroki Saito (9-4, 5) who's record suggests he will be dominated here, but in reality he's a criminally under-rated fighter, especially on the Japanese domestic scene.
On paper Saito has won just over 66% of his bouts. Notably however his opposition to date has been tough and has seen him never face a fighter with a losing record. In fact his 13 opponents to date have had a combined record of 130-34-11. Not only has his opposition had good records but they have included good fighters as well, including Muranaka, Tetsuma Hayashi, Yuki Fukumoto, and the promising Jo Tanoka.
Footage of Saito isn't too easy to find though against Muranaka he looked very strong and tough as he came forward time and time again trying to impose his will and strength. Technically he's not the most proficient, or the fastest or the hardest working but he has the toughness and desire to really be a problem for more skilled fighters, as he showed at times against Muranaka.
Whilst the records suggest “mismatch” we do actually expect this to be very compelling and incredibly exciting. We do however suspect that Kogawa will know too much and out work Saito in what will go down and another instant classic in the Flyweight division. Saito's toughness and “in your face” style will compliment Kogawa's swarming assault and as a result we're expecting to see something very special.
Although a loss for Saito would look bad on his record it's fair to say his style will help him get more opportunities and at 28 he still has time on his hands. A loss for Kogawa however would be rather bad news given his long career already and the fact he's now 30, not an old man in terms of time but an old man in terms of ring years and another loss in a hard fight with Saito would certainly add to those ring years.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.