This coming weekend we'll see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Masanori Rikiishi (11-1, 6) look to record his first defense of the title, as he takes on exciting and aggressive Filipino challenger Tomjune Mangubat (15-3-1, 12). The bout doesn't feature a huge name in the sport, but does feature two men with the potential to compete at world level over the coming years, and the OPBF title could well be the key to either man unlocking a shot at world honours.
The 28 year old Rikiishi, the brother for former world champion Masamichi Yabuki, was put on the fast track from the moment he turned professional in 2007. His first two bouts came against fighters with a combined 10-4 record and he easily won both of those bouts before his team rushed him too quickly, and he ran into the hard hitting Kosuke Saka, with Saka stopping him in 2 rounds. Since then however he has bounced back excellently, and strung together good wins, beating the likes of Freddy Fonseca, Yuichiro Kasuya, Soreike Taichi and most recently Takuya Watanabe, with that win netting him the OPBF title. He has tested the water at Super Featherweight and Lightweight, and has seemingly decided that his future, for now, lies at 130lbs which suits his frame well.
Fighting out of the southpaw stance Rikiishi is a clever boxer, who uses the ring well, has something of a relaxed textbook style. He uses a stiff and accurate jab, to control the action, uses his footwork well to control range and chips away at fighters with his jabs early on. As rounds go by he looks to unleash heavier shots with his left hand, but is a very patient fighter, who bides his time, looks for the openings and makes the most of them. He's a frustrating fighter to watch, as he doesn't give many chances to his opponents, and takes the ones he gets, as we saw in impressive fashion against Taichi. By fighting in such a relaxed and calm manner he doesn't ever over exert himself, but when he wants to pick up the tempo he can. We saw last time out, against Watanabe, we saw him prove he can easily go 12 rounds when he needs to and mix more into his arsenal than we typically see from him. He's certainly not a 1-punch artist, or a slippery defensive genius, or someone with a titanium chin, but he is someone who understands the sport and knows what he's doing in the ring.
Aged 24 Tomjune Mungubat, aka the War Dog, is one of the many Filipino fighters who has gained a reputation for putting in sensational and exciting performances, regardless of results. He is a fighter who makes for fan friendly wars and will put on a show. He's not the most polished, or the most skilled, but he has very solid power, a good engine and the sorts of flaws that make for highly engaging battles with opponents, whether he's better than them or note. He first came to our attention in 2019, when he engaged in a 10 round thriller with Jong Seon Kang, losing a split decision to the Young Korean, and since then has gone 4-1 (3) with his only losing coming to the highly regarded Charly Suarez. Sadly his style does have its issues, especially against the more technically sound fighters, but given his power he will always be dangerous.
Mangubat is a tall, ranger fighter who doesn't have the most polished style, but he is aggressive, heavy handed, uses a lot energy, throws with bad intentions and loves coming forward. From the first bell to the final moments he will come forward, doing so behind a high guard and pressing the action. He can picked and prodded at, as we saw Charly Suarez do back in March, and he can be hurt, having been stopped in 2 of his 3 losses, but it takes a lot to stop him, and even Suarez had to unload barrage after barrage in the later rounds of their fight. Defensively he can look a bit rigid, especially when he's tired, but even then he is still dangerous and still throws enough to hurt fighters and keep them honest.
On paper this should a really good fight and a hard one to predict. Rikiishi is, easily, the more skilled of the two and the better pure boxer, but the tenacity, power, aggression and willingness to take risks will make Mangubat dangerous. Especially early on. Rikiishi will need to be cautious in the early going, following the gameplan set forth by Suarez of picking, poking, and neutralising the aggression of Mangubat. If he can do that early on and then start to press more himself, landing his spiteful left hand, then there is a real chance he stops Mangubat quicker than Suarez did. If he can't land those hard, well timed, left hands however he is in for a very, very tough night.
We feel Rikiishi has the tools to land his clean shots, hurting and stopping Mangubat, be he will have to take some punishment to see off the Filipino challenger.
Prediction - TKO7 Rikiishi
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.