Over the last decade or so the Light Flyweight division has been dominated by Japanese fighters at world level such as Naoya Inoue (WBC), Kazuto Ioka (WBA), Yu Kimura (WBC), Akira Yaegashi (IBF), Kosei Tanaka (WBO), Ryoichi Taguchi (IBF and WBA), and Kenshiro Teraji (WBC), along with current world champions Hiroto Kyoguchi (WBA) and Masamichi Yabuki (WBC). The conveyor belt of great Japanese fighters at 108lbs looks set to continue with the emergence of current Japanese national champion Shokichi Iwata (7-0, 5), who makes his first title defense, as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi (22-11-3, 8) this coming Saturday, in what is the second bout between the two men.
Whilst Iwata is still early in his career, he is a notable hopeful for Japanese boxing. He had a stellar amateur career, including notable wins over the likes of Kosei Tanaka, before beginning his professional boxing campaign in 2018 with a win, in the US, against Joel Bermudez. Since that win he has been moved quickly, and won the Japanese title last year when he stopped Rikito Shiba in 9 rounds. In just his 7th professional bout. On route to his title he showed progress every fight, he showed development between fights, and matured as both a fighter and as a man. That was show cased in 2021 when he out pointed Ouchi over 8 rounds, showing that he could do 8 rounds, and when he stopped Shiba for the title.
Early in his career Shiba appeared to have a lack of power, and his first 4 bouts all went a little bit longer than expected. Notably however it appears, on reflection, that he was being smart, getting ring time, and closing the show, when he could, late in the bout, testing things along the way. It's now clear that he's a solid puncher, not a KO artist, or a massive puncher, akin to Yabuki, but a solid, puncher, who's power carries late into bouts. Not that but he's also an aggressive, technical fighter, who sets a good work rate and tempo, and is well schooled, a given from his amateur background. He has all the tools to go a very, very long way, and the type of style to turn heads when he's in the ring. He also has the intention, for this fight, to not just beat Ouchi but to stop him, and continue his improvements with a man he previously went the distance with.
As for Ouchi he is a true veteran of the sport and is fighting in his 37th professional bout, in a career that stretches back all the way to 2003. Now aged 36 this is probably Ouchi's last chance to claim a Japanese title, having previously come up short in 3 other title bouts. With a record that consists of 11 losses it's easy to write Ouchi off as some sort of loser, but his competition, has typically been high with losses to the likes of Taguchi, Yabuki, Kenshiro, and Shin Ono. He has also proven his toughness, with just 3 stoppage losses during his 36 fight career, and the most recent of those came against Atsushi Aburada. Notably he is the only fighter to have ever lost a decision to current world champion Masamichi Yabuki, showing his toughness.
The most notable thing about Ouchi is he knows how to look after himself. You don't have a long career, like he has, without knowing how to protect yourself. He is defensively tight, uses a very high tight guard, and uses a pretty crafty jab. Sadly though he is now 36, and understandably he has slow feet, slow handspeed and doesn't have the quickest reflexes. Earlier in his career he did have enough speed, but in recent years that speed has gone and he often looks like he's pushing shots, which is an issue against quicker, younger, fresher guys. Not only is he somewhat slow, but he's also happy to have a low work rate, and whilst we might see bursts of activity from him, he's not going to set a high tempo, which is another issue against the younger guys.
Coming in to this bout there really isn't too much of a doubt over who should win, but more the method of victory. It's incredibly hard to see Ouchi beating Iwata, or even coming close. Instead the question really is whether Iwata can break down Ouchi or not. Sadly for Ouchi, we do actually see Iwata doing just that. Chipping away with body and combinations round by round to force the brave Ouchi to be stopped late, likely with his corner throwing in the towel after Ouchi gets dropped in one of the later rounds. He'll be brave, he'll be determined, but sadly for him, father time and Iwata will be too much here.
Prediction - Iwata TKO9
The final Japanese title fight for 2020 comes on December 26th when Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) makes his first defense, taking on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8) at the Aioi Hall in Kariya. The bout is likely to be over-shadowed by other action during the run in to the end of the year, though is still a very interesting bout, and a real test of Yabuki's power against a sturdy and highly experienced veteran.
For those who don't follow the Japanese domestic scene the Light Flyweight division is one of the most interesting in the country right now. Not only does the country have two of the biggest names in the division, in WBA champion Hiroto Kyoguchi and WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji, but it also has depth and intrigue. Veterans like Tetsuya Hisada and Kenichi Horikawa are still hanging with the youngsters, Reiya Konishi is banging on the door of a third world title fight, Shokichi Iwata, Yudai Shigeoka and Ryu Horikawa are all looking to have a big break out in the next year or two.
Yabuki is someone who wants to see his name in the mix at the top level, alongside Kenshiro, Kyoguchi and even Hisada, who is expected to get a second world title fight next year. With that in mind he knows the Japanese title is vital for him right now, and he needs to look impressive with it. And impressive he has been in recent bouts.
The 28 year old champion, from the Midori Gym, began his career in 2016 and he reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Flyweight, where he lost a competitive decision to Junto Nakatani. Prior to reaching the final Yabuki had already racked up a 3-0 (3) record with all of is wins coming in the opening round. Following his first loss he reeled off 3 more quick wins, including a blow out over Masashi Tada in 2017, to move to 6-1 (6) before suffering his second loss, a blow out at the hands of Seigo Yuri Akui in early 2018. That loss seemed to suggest that Yabuki perhaps didn't have the power, size or strength to compete at Flyweight and he began to dip his toes into moving down in weight, losing later that same yeah to Cuban Daniel Mattellon, who has since won the WBA "interim" title.
In 2019 Yabuki finally committed to the move down in weight, and dominated Rikito Shiba in a Japanese title eliminator, stopping him in 4 rounds, to earn a shot at the title. That shot came this past July when he brushed aside Tsuyoshi Sato inside a round to become the latest Japanese Light Flyweight champion.
Blessed with heavy, heavy hands, Yabuki is a real dangerman. He's a boxer-puncher at heart, with decent counter punching skills, though he often seems to be happier fighting as a counter puncher rather than as a fighter. When he comes forward he's terrifying, and with his power, size and strength he would potentially have more success than he has so far. Especially at 108lbs where his punches really are destructive.
In Ouchi we have a 35 year old challenger who began his career all the way back in 2003, and has had some real mixed success. After 6 fights he was 3-2-1 and it took him a really long time to get going, as he ran into other fighters on their way up, such as Shin Ono, Ryoichi Taguchi, Yasutaka Kuroki, Masayuki Kuroda and Kenichi Horikawa. Despite all the slips up he managed to get a shot at the Japanese title back in 2012, fighting to a draw with Kuroda, and again in 2016, losing to Kenshiro.
After his 2016 loss to Kenshiro it seemed that was the end for Ouchi, who was out of the ring for almost 3 years before picking up 2 wins last year. Those wins helped him into the Japanese rankings and with no one able to take the fight with Yabuki here he has found himself being advanced quickly up the rankings to essentially being the mandatory challenger for Yabuki.
In the ring Ouchi is a tough fighter who struggled with his power early on, in fact in in his first 28 bouts he had just 4 stoppages to his name. As he's aged however he has began to hold his feet more, put more on his shots, and shown more self belief, as a result he has score 4 KO's in his last 5 wins, and some against decent domestic fighters, like Takeru Kamikubo and Akiyoshi Kanazawa. He has also been showing that power later in bouts, with 3 of his last 4 stoppages coming in round 7. Impressively he has only been stopped 3 times in his long career with the last of those coming way back in 2014, by Atsushi Aburada, and with that in mind we suspect he could be a genuine test of Yabuki's power.
Coming in to this we've not seen what Yabuki's stamina is like at Light Flyweight, though we have seen him look like a terrifying puncher and we expect to see that again here. Ouchi might be tough but at 35 and with slowing reactions we wonder if he has the reflexes to avoid the power shots of Yabuki for long. If not Yabuki will get to him sooner or later.
We expect Ouchi to survive a few rounds, but eventually Yabuki's heavy hands will chip away at him, break him down, and go on to stop him in the middle rounds, after a brave and valiant effort from the challenger.
If he gets the win as expected, don't be surprised to hear Yabuki call out the world champions at 108lbs in a post fight interview for a bout in 2021.
Prediction - Yabuki TKO6
One of the things we like about the Japanese boxing scene is the way the promoters don't hold back the young and hungry prospects. Instead of fighters wasting 4 or 5 years building up their reputation, record and name with mismatches they instead jump in to swim with sharks. We've seen it so often in the last few years with the likes of former WBO Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka and current WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue, along with the newly crowned WBC Youth Bantamweight champion Hinata Maruta. It's almost a given now, that if you're hyped as a potential champion in Japan before your debut, you will be pushed hard.
Another such fighter is Ken Shiro (7-0, 4). He was thrown in with a veteran on his debut, put in with an unbeaten, and naturally bigger, fighter in his third bout, fought for his first title in his 5th bout, claimed the Japanese title in his 6th bout and took on a former world title challenger in his 7th bout. In bout number 8 he will be looking to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles as he faces Toshimasa Ouchi (20-8-3, 6).
For those who haven't followed Ken Shiro's career he's really shown a bit of every thing so far. He's looked like a controlled boxer against Katsunari Nagamine, a thinker against Rolly Sumalpong, a battler against Kenichi Horikawa and a street fighter against Atsushi Kakutani. It my be that he's not sure what type of fighter he is, or it may well be that he's just incredibly versatile. One thing is clear however, there is a lot of ability with the youngster who has already proven he can go out 8 and can physically bully more mature fighters.
Ken Shiro has been fast tracked, and is already talking about potential world title bouts before the end of 2016. The reason for that speed is partial his ability, which is genuine impressive, his amateur background, which again was impressive, and the team behind him, headed by former fighter Hisashi Teraji, Ken Shiro's father. As a fighter Teraji Sr went 20-1-3 (11) and claimed the JBC Middleweight and OPBF Light Heavyweight titles. It's fair to say his father know the game and knows how talented his son is.
Aged 30 and with more than 13 years or professional ring experience Ouchi has never been on the fast track to the top, in fact this is only his second title bout in a career that has already had more than 30 bouts. Like many fighters he began his career fighting in 4 rounders, with out the expectation of becoming a champion. Early in his career he suffered setbacks and was 3-2-1 (1) early on, and later 10-5-1 (2). Since then however he has rebuilt his career, matured into a man and became a solid, though unspectacular, fighter.
His only title bout so far came in 2012, when he fought to a split decision with the then Japanese national champion Masayuki Kuroda. That was a close bout but unfortunately Ouchi couldn't secure a rematch and subsequent defeats to Kenichi Horikawa and Atsushi Aburada slowed down his rise to a second shot at a belt.
Although Ouch does lack a big win he has been in with genuinely notable fighters. He has suffered loss to world title challengers like Shin Ono and Yasutaka Kuroki and another loss to current world champion Ryoichi Taguchi.
Unfortunately for Ouchi we see this as being another test that he simply isn't good enough for. Whilst he has lost to big names he has also suffered set backs to some very limited fighters and with 3 stoppage losses we wouldn't be surprised to see Ken Shiro go into the ring and man handle Ouchi, who will be one of the few Light Flyweights who makes Ken Shiro look big at the weight. If Ken Shiro does indeed win, he'll have claimed his third career title and will likely be a ring side viewer at the upcoming WBA world title fight between Ryoichi Taguchi and Ryo Miyazaki on August 31st.
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.