The Minimumweight division has been one where Asian fighters have been the kingpins and in recent years we've seen fighters like Katsunari Takayama, Wanheng Menayothin, and Knockout CP Freshmart all ruling the roost at world level. Below the elite level are other Asian fighters looking to leave their mark and on November 3rd we see two of those face off in a bout for the Japanese title, as defending champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (17-4-6, 6) looks to defend his title against the fast rising Genki Hanai (7-0, 5). The bout won't immediately send the winner into a world title fight, but it will help prepare them for a bout at the top level.
Of the two men Fukuhara is the more distinguished. He's the current Japanese champion and has made 2 defenses since winning the title last November, over-coming Hiroya Yamamoto for the then vacant title. Those defenses have seen him take a win over the previously unbeaten Takumi Sakae and fight to a technical draw with former world title challenger Shin Ono, with that Ono bout coming in mid-September.
Whilst his 3 fights at Japanese title level have brought Fukuhara some fame he has got other notable bouts on his record. Those include a win over the then 5-0 Koki Ono, losses to Takuma Inoue and Yu Kimura as well as a draw with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
Tough with intelligent movement, a solid toughness, a southpaw stance, a good engine, and sharp punching Fukuhara is a bit of a nightmare to get into a fight with. He can be out boxed, and probably out fought, but not many will win beat him at a domestic level, and he's a very capable boxer, despite lacking real power. Not only is he tricky to beat but he's also generated a big following in Kumamoto and will be fighting at the Foodpal Kumamoto, which has become a boxing home for him with 8 previous bouts there including his last 3 contests.
Whilst Fukuhara is well established on the domestic scene it's fair to say that the guy who has gotten the more attention coming into this bout is actually the unbeaten challenger, with Hanai being tipped as a potential star from the off. In fact since his debut in March 2014 many have tipped him to follow the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Ken Shiro and be fast tracked into title bouts. That expectation was obviously something his team believed in 2014 when he beat Crison Omayao in just his third bout.
Sadly after the win over Omayao we saw a huge change in Hanai's trajectory, which went from “mega fast rise” to “develop him a bit”, and since then he's had 4 bouts, including a surprisingly competitive one with Il Che earlier this year. Those 4 bouts have lasted just a combined 15 round, with the last of those bouts being a 32 second blow out against hapless Thai Poomsak Saknarong at the start of October.
In the ring Hanai has shown some variation. At time he's been an aggressive pressure fighter, bringing calculated and intelligent pressure into the ring. At other times however he looks more like a boxer, looking to use his skills to control and opponent. Sadly whilst he is touted there are numerous question marks still over his head, including how he'll manage to box over 10 rounds, how he'll fair in an opponents back yard and how he'll look against a capable southpaw.
On paper we think Hanai will win, he is after all the fast rising prospect ear marked for success and with an unbeaten record, in reality however this is a huge step up for him against a guy who looks to have improved significantly in recent years, and will have home advantage. If Hanai is as good as we first thought then he should claim the title, come through a really serious test and prove he is a diamond in the rough. If however Hanai's isn't quite what we thought then Fukuhara will retain the gold, and could well see his career move towards world title fights in 2017.
This coming Monday fight fans in Kumamoto get the chance to see burgeoning local star Tatsuya Fukuhara (17-4-5, 6) return to the ring to seek the second defense of his Japanese Minimumweight title. In his ring return he will also be looking to secure his career best win as he shares the ring with former OPBF champion Shin Ono (19-7-2, 3), a former world title challenger.
Despite being the Japanese champion and a genuine emerging fighter at 105lbs, not many people will know much about Fukuhara. The 27 year old from Kumamoto first made a mark in 2009 when he came runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year, losing to future Japanese champion Takuya Mitamura. In 2012 he scored a notable win over Koki Ono though suffered back to back losses in 2013, losing to future world champion Yu Kimura and a then debuting Takuma Inoue.
Since the losses to Kimura and Inoue we've seen Fukuhara really make a name for himself with a 5-0-2 run. That run has seen him hold Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr to a draw in Thailand and score notable wins over Hiroya Yamamoto, to claim the title last November, and a then unbeaten Takumi Sakae, to record his first defense.
In the ring Fukuhara is a hard working fighter. He's not the quickest or the most powerful but he's tough, comes to fight and knows when to bite down on the gum shield. That attitude helped him earn the draw with Fahlan and saw him defeat a spirited Yamamoto. He can however be out boxed, as Inoue and Kimura did so with relative ease, and if a fighter can avoid trading with him the odds are they will be able to have real success against him.
Whilst Fukuhara is a relatively little known fighter, outside of Kumamoto, Ono is much more well known. The 33 year old Watanabe gym fighter has really been around the block and then some. He suffered a couple of losses early in his career before stringing together a number of wins and over-coming the likes of Toshimasa Ouchi and Yu Kimura, inflicting the first to the future world champion. He has also scored notable wins over the likes of Xiong Chao Zhong and Omari Kimweri. Despite those wins he suffered notable losses losing to Masayuki Kuroda, Myung Ho Lee, Katsunari Takayama and, most recently, Kenichi Horikawa.
At his best he's an outside fighter and can look a little bit skittish with a lot of movement. He makes the most of his southpaw stance and avoided a tear up. In recent bouts however his legs have started to show their age and Horikawa managed to drag him into a war and drown him in a tempo war that eventually saw Ono being stopped. At 33 he can't use his legs like he used to and may not be able to avoid a tear up with Fukuhara.
Although Ono is a former OPBF Light Flyweight champion he has seemed more suited to the Minimumweight class, where he returns here. Sadly even with this bout at his better weight he's facing a guy who always seems bigger than he is and we suspect that Ono will be broken down, likely after making a good start.
With Ono turning 34 later this year we can under-stand him putting it all on the line here but we suspect he'll come up short against a hungry Fukuhara who will be wanting to leave an impression and move himself towards a world title fight in 2017
The Minimumweight division has been one of the most over-looked in recent years with a number of really good fights, with fighters like Katusnari Takayama involved in a number of thrillers. The next possible thriller in the division comes on March 26th when Japanese Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (16-4-5, 6) [福原 辰弥] defends his title against the unbeaten Takumi Sakae (13-0, 8) [榮 拓海].
The champion won the title late last year, when he narrowly beat Hiroya Yamamoto. That was Fukuhara's first “big” win though he had mixed with good company in the past losing to the likes of Yu Kimura, Takuma Inoue and Takuya Mitamura and drawing with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, in Thailand.
Although Fukuhara doesn't have the best record he is going through a rich vein of form with a 6 fight unbeaten run, including 4 wins and 2 draws. The competition during that run may not be exceptional but they did include the win over Yamamoto and the draw with Fahlan the best results on Fukuhara's record.
In the ring Fukuhara is a gutsy fighter who has his limitations but has a great engine, a fantastic work rate and a fantastic will to win. He can certainly be out boxed, and isn't the most powerful or quickest, but he is a fighter who has the engine to really push people on the domestic scene. In fact he has taken a round from both Kimura and Inoue and must have taken 4 from Fahlan to earn the draw in their bout.
The unbeaten challenger is tipped by some as “one to watch” and is highly ranked by the world title bodies, with the WBO having him particularly high.
Sakae first made his mark on the sport in 2013, when he won the Rookie of the Year and advanced his record to a promising 7-0 (4). At the point he was 20 years old and had shown real promise beating the likes of Kenta Shimizu and Yoshinori Wakahara. Sadly since then his career has been mostly spent against limited opponents with a trio of poor Thai's and a pair of limited Indonesian's padding out his record. In fact the best wins since he won the Rookie of the Year have been decision victories over Boy Tanto and Japan's Munehito Kijima.
Watching Sakae it's clear he has a lot of potential and the 22 year old does appear to have respectable power, nice skills and a fun style. He has however been down, dropped in his last fight, and hasn't been able to really show how good he is. There is more promise here than perhaps proven ability. His team though do seem confident in their man and have already taken him on the road, for a bout last
On paper this is a huge step up for Sakae whilst Fukuhara is just going in again. Whilst that doesn't always tell the full story we suspect it will tell us a lot here with Sakae's youth and inexperience being both and advantage and a problem. We suspect that Sakae will start fast before Fukuhara comes back, with the big question being just how much of a lead Sakae builds up before the fight turns around.
One of two title fights taking place in Japan this weekend will come at the Japanese domestic level where Tatsuya Fukuhara (15-4-5, 6) takes on Hiroya Yamamoto (9-3, 3) in a bout for the currently vacant Japanese Minimumweight title, which was recently given up by Go Odaira.
Of the two fights it's fair to say that Fukuhara is the more well known. He has faced the better competition, achieved more and been involved in the more notable bouts. Those bouts have included the 2009 Rookie of the Year final, an 8 round bout with future world title challenger Yu Kimura, the then debuting Takuma Inoue and a contest with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, in fact he held Fahlan to a draw. Notably since losing to Inoue, almost 2 years ago, Fukuhara has gone 3-0-2.
In the ring Fukuhara is a solid fighter. He's not a sensational one but he's certainly a capable one and has shown that with his draw against Fahlan, a draw with Koji Itagaki and a win over Koki Ono.
Although Fukuhara is probably the more well known it's certainly fair to say that Yamamoto isn't a “nobody”, in fact he will be fighting in his second Japanese title fight and his third title fight overall. In his previous Japanese title fight he was widely beaten by Go Odaira whilst he has also lost in a WBC International title fight against Xiong Zhao Zhong. Despite those losses he has actually shown enough talent to prove he can go places and at 24 years old he is improving drastically and now seems to believe in his himself. Although best known for his two high profile losses, he has also won the Rookie of the Year back in 2012.
For both fighters this is a great opportunity to claim their first title and should be a great fight. Although neither is a big name, and neither is viewed as a potential world champion, it is a well matched bout.
From what we've seen both men are well matched. Neither is world class, but neither has shamed themselves when they have stepped up in class and against each other we're expecting a very close one, in fact don't be surprised if this ends in a draw.
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.