On September 3rd the EDION Arena Osaka, in Osaka will play host to a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title fight, as the world ranked Riku Kano (19-4-1, 10) faces Yuga Inoue (13-2-1, 2) for the vacant belt. The bout will push the winner to the verges of a WBO world title fight, against fellow Japanese fighter Junto Nakatani, whilst the loser will begin the arduous climb back to where they are, a task that could be a rather tricky one in a division with the emerging talent that Flyweight currently has.
Of the two men the more well known is 24 year old Kano, who debuted way back in 2013,as a 16 year old, and quickly earned attention by winning the WBA Asia Minimumweight title in 2014. At that point Kano was just 17 and wasn't old enough to even debut in Japan despite having a 5-1-1 (3) record. He made his long awaited Japanese debut the following year, winning the OPBF "interim" title in 2016 before fighting for the WBO title in an attempt to become the youngest ever Japanese world champion, a dream ended by Katsunari Takayama. Since that loss to Takayama we've seen Kano go 9-2 and show real development. He looked like an immature youngster against Shin Ono in 2018, boxing well until being cut and then bullied into submission, but has developed into a brave, tough young man, showing real determination and guts to defeat Tetsuya Mimura, Ryoki Hirai and Takuma Sakae in recent bouts. He's not longer the frail child who looks like he could be broken mentally, but instead looks like a genuine fighter, who has learned from his set backs, and physically matured as he's moved from Minimumweight, to Light Flyweight and now to Flyweight.
In the ring Kano has always been a rather technical fighter, who has a lot of speed, with hand and feet. He's never been a big puncher, but he's a clean accurate puncher, who lands and gets in and out. In his Flyweight debut we so a more physical side to him, as he stopped Sanchai Yotboon in 2 rounds, but that bout really doesn't tell us what he's going to be like as a Flyweight, given Yotboon's limitations and the fact he's a natural Miniumweight himself. We expect a Flyweight Kano to focus on his speed, his accuracy and his skills and movement, and not massively change his style, especially not here as he takes on a legitimate test at the weight. Sadly at 5'4" he's not a physical match for the top guys at the weight, and will struggle with the heavier handed fighters at 112lbs, though to his credit he is a tricky southpaw and he is genuinely talented, even if he's yet to live up to the potential he clearly has.
As for Inoue, no relation to Naoya, the 23 year old debuted in 2016 and got a lot of attention in 2017 when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Minmumweight. Sadly for Inoue his unbeaten record came to an end less than 11 months after his Rookie of the Year triumph as he was broken down in a 6 round thriller against Kai Ishizawa, in what was a brilliant bout for the Japanese Youth Minimumweight title. Since then Inoue's body has filled out as he's matured and gone 6-1 (1) winning the Japanese Youth title along the way. He has, notably, faced solid domestic foes, including the likes of Daiki Kameyama, Katsuya Murakami, Daiki Tomita and Aoba Mori, but unfortunately for him his form belies a man who has regularly struggled at this level. Whilst his 6-1 record since the Ishizawa fight looks good, it should be noted that it includes 4 controversial decision wins and there is a feeling that he has had the benefit of the doubt in a number of bouts.
In the ring Inoue is a technically well polished fighter, with a lovely jab, good balance and quick feet. He moves around the ring well, he looks poised and polished, and his jab really is the key to his work. There are other weapons in his arsenal, but there's no denying his best work is either the jab it's self, or comes off the jab. Sadly though the lack of variation in what he does is really against him, and whilst his jab is polished his other punches don't look very natural to him and they seem like they need real work. The lack of power is also something that's against him, and although he's still young, at 23, it does appear that he isn't going to develop much in terms of punching power. A double issue given how forced and pushed his shots in general are. It's due to his lack of power and lack of variation that many of his bouts end up being really close, as fighters figure him out, work out his jab and then begin to rack up points. Here that will be a massive issue against someone as well rounded as Kano.
To beat Kano the main tactic has been to bully him, either with physicality or work rate. Set a tempo he doesn't like, keep it up and watch him crumble. Sadly for Inoue he doesn't look to be the type of fighter who can either set a high output for 12 rounds, which he'd need to given his lack of power, or hurt him with any single shot and get his respect that way. Instead we expect the rather back approach of Inoue, and the lack of pop in his shots, in general, to work to Kano's advantage. Kano will show his speed early on, maybe losing a battle of jabs for the first few rounds, but then begin to show more variation, changing things up, and simply out work and out fight Inoue en route to a clear decision win over 12 rounds.
Prediction - UD Kano
This coming Thursday we'll see world ranked Japanese Flyweight Ryota Yamauchi (7-1, 6) look to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title as he takes on domestic challenger Yuta Nakayama (8-3-1, 5), in what is a step up in class for Nakayama. On paper this looks a bit of a mismatch, but on the other hand it is good to see Yamauchi staying busy, after a rather frustrating 2019 and 2020 and it does give his second shot at a professional title.
Of the two men the star here is the champion. The Kadoebi promoted 26 year old is among the most exciting young fighters in Japan, with an aggressive mentality, heavy hands and flawed defense. Those things together make him a must watch fighter and unlike many youngsters in the sport he hasn't tried to pad out his record. In fact in his first 8 bouts he has faced 6 fighters with winning records, and has fought on foreign soil, and has picked up several very, very good wins. They include victories over Lester Abutan, Yota Hori, Alphoe Dagayloan and Satoru Todaka. Sadly he does have a loss on his record, but it was a controversial one in China to Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi, in a bout that saw both men hit the canvas.
In the ring Yamauchi is aggressive, he has some brilliant body shots in his arsenal, but sadly he's some defensively naive, and Wulan landed big straight head shots on him time and time again. Also he has been cut in bouts, notable against Alphoe Dagayloan, and it's fair to say that there is a lot of work he can do defensively. Despite that he's big, he's strong, he's powerful and he comes to fight. He might take a shot, but he'll look to land some himself in return, and applies consistent, calculated pressure coming forward, which means his fights will, typically, be fun to watch.
Nakayama on the other hand has been a professional since 2016 and hasn't really managed to shine. He began his career going 1-1-1 before reeling off 5 straigth wins, building some moment against some some poor opposition. Since then however he has gone 2-2, before stopped twice, and hasn't looked like he belongs at title level. His most notable bouts so far are losses to Ryuto Oho, who beat him in a JBC Youth title fight, and Yuto Takahashi, who stopped him in a round before going on to win the Japanese Light Flyweight title. Although Oho and Takahashi are, or in Takahashi's case was, decent neither man is a big puncher, and neither man is a naturally strong and powerful fighter yet both stopped him. In regards to his best win, it's probably his TKO win over MJ Bo, a man that Yamauchi has also beaten.
Although not a bad fighter, by any stretch, Nakayama is also not a great fighter. He lacks fight changing power, his defensive is open and when he throws shots they are often very wide, leaving him even more open. He has a nice jab, his best punch, but it's hard enough to get respect from opponents and he seems to struggle with pressure, as we saw against Oho. There's a good boxer there, or at least the potential for him to be a good boxer, but in reality, he's very, very much a work in progress and it's a shame in many ways that he's so early in his development. With some polish he has got the potential to make a mark on the domestic scene, but as he is he's the sort of fighter who is made to order for Yamauchi.
We expect to see the champion pressing from the opening bell, getting inside and breaking down Nakayama with body shots. They will take the legs away from the challenger, who will struggle to get his own shows off. After 2 or 3 rounds Nakayama will be feeling the pressure and will either be broken down to the point of the referee stopping it after a knockdown or his corner pulling him out accepting the bout is a lost cause.
Prediction - TKO3 Yamauchi.
The WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title has become one of the more important titles regional titles in recent years with a host of it's title holders moving on from the regional belt to a world title fight. Since 2010 we have seen holders include Tepparith Kokietgym, Froilan Saludar, Sho Kimura, Masahiro Sakamoto and Wulan Tuolehazi all go on to fight for a world title, with Tepparith and Kimura both going on to claim global honours.
With that in mind the August 19th WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title bout between Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5) and Satoru Todaka (10-3-4, 4) is a pretty significant one, and will likely see the winner taking a huge step towards a future world title shot of their own. With that said the bout is one worthy of genuine attention and makes for a great main event on the upcoming "Slugfest" show.
Coming in to the bout the big favourite will be once beaten 25 year old Yamauchi, a Kadoebi promoted fighter who has long been tipped as a star of the future. He made his debut in 2017 and quickly scored notable wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori, wins that instantly got us excited about the trajectory he was on. Sadly his career hit a bump in 2019 when he travelled to China and lost a decision to Wulan Tuolehazi, in what was a truly brilliant fight. The loss was a debatable one, but it did, clearly, slow Yamauchi's rise.
Thankfully since that loss Yamauchi has bounced back, scoring wins against Alphoe Dagayloan and MJ Bo.
In the ring Yamauchi is a boxer-puncher, though he can employee a pressure style and a brawling style pretty effectively when he needs to up the tempo. Sadly for him he is still some defensively naive and was consistently tagged by Tuolehazi in their bout last year. He was dropped, and hurt several times, in that bout, and it's clear he does need to work on his defense. He is however a real talent and given he's only had 7 bouts he has shown a lot of potential and a lot of ability that suggests he could go on to win a world title sooner rather than later. With that in mind he's certainly wanting a regional title, to help open the door to a world title fight down the line.
In the opposite corner to Yamauchi will be 30 year old foe Satoru Todaka, who turned professional way back in 2012. He actually began his career with a loss, to Yukiya Hanabusa, before reeling off a 9 fight unbeaten run, taking his record to a rather peculiar looking 5-1-4 (1). Since then his he's gone 5-2 (3) though has notably been stopped in both of those losses, and has failed to get a top level domestic win.
In his biggest bout to date Todaka lost in a bout for Japanese Light Flyweight title against Kenichi Horikawa, just last year. In that bout he was out boxed, out fought and and forced to retire at the end of the 8th round.
Sadly, given how long his career has been, there isn't much footage on Todaka available, however he's shown little in terms of power, which we suspect a fighter will need to get Yamauchi's respect, and he's also going to be under-sized against the surprisingly imposing Yamauchi.
For Todaka it's the bout against Horikawa that we suspect tells us what we need to about this one. He wasn't really competitive at all with Horikawa, who was too good, too skilled and too experienced. Whilst Yamauchi lacks the experience of Horikawa he's is a very talented young man and a naturally bigger fighter than Horikawa.
We suspect that Todaka will struggle with the size, speed, aggression and power of Yamauchi who will break him down in the middle rounds, to claim his first professional title.
Prediction - TKO5 Yamauchi
On October 21st we see an intriguing rematch between Yusuke Sakashita (18-8-3, 13) and Naoki Mochizuki (16-4, 8), as Sakashita looks to avenge a prior loss to Mochizuki and record his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title. Whilst neither are world class hopefuls, both are solid fighters and interesting their careers look like they are heading in different directions.
In their first bout Mochizuki took a clear and wide win over Sakashita. The loss was Sakashita's 4th loss in 6 bouts, which had also included a brutal 1-punch KO loss to Suguru Muranaka, and it appeared his career was on a rapid decline. At that point Mochizuki was riding a 5 winning streak and the win over Sakashita seemed to be hint that he had a bright future.
Since their first bout Mochizuki's career has rebounded, with a 5 unbeaten run which has seen him go 4-0-1 (4), including wins over Keisuke Nakayama and Masahiro Sakamoto and a draw with Takuya Kogawa. On the other hand Mochizuki is now struggling, and has gone 5-3 since the win over Sakashita. Those 8 bouts for Mochizuka has seen him score 2 very close wins, and suffer his only stoppage loss, which was a really punishing defeat to Junto Nakatani.
In the ring Sakashita is a pretty basic fighter, but he's tough has solid power and appears to be believing more in his power. His jab is a genuinely hurtful shot and he managed to mess up Masahiro Sakamoto's face with it earlier this year. When he lets his hands go it's clear there is plenty of pepper on his shots, and he is a very strong fighter with good range. Watching him he doesn't do anything spectacular, but he's consistent, picks his spots well and is tough enough at this level to take one to land one. One thing that is notable about Sakashita is how he goes at an opponent he's got hurt, and this could be a key here if Mochizuki is still feeling the ill effects of his loss to Nakatani.
Having just described Sakashita as being strong but basic, it's genuinely a fair description of Mochizuki too. Mochizuki took a real beating against Nakatani and stood up to a lot of punishment in a bout that got progressively more one-sided as Nakatani went through the gears. There's been nothing in other Mochizuki fights, such as the one with Seiya Fujikita for example, to suggest that there's another great with him. Instead he is very much what you see it what you get. He's a tried, he gives his all, he comes to fight and will let his hands go in range. Unlike Sakashita however he doesn't have that bang on shots, and his win over Sakashita back in 2016 seems to have been partly due to circumstance as well as everything else.
Whilst neither guy is spectacular in any way, we do see this as a pretty interesting fight all the same. We suspect that the damage done to Mochizuki by Nakatani will be an issue, and Sakashita will look to make the most of it, but Mochizuki won't go down without a fight and that should make this a fun one to watch.
We're expecting Mochizuki to make a good start, but as the bout goes on the power of Sakashita will take it's toll on Mochizuki's face and the challenger will be a swollen, if not bloody, mess when the bout comes to an early conclusion.
Prediction TKO10 Sakashita
On May 26th we'll see former world title challenger Masahiro Sakamoto (13-2, 9) return to the ring following his 2018 loss to IBF Flyweight king Moruti Mthalane. The 28 year old Osakan will be dropping down from world level, but will look to remain a title level fighter, and will be up against fellow Japanese fighter Yusuke Sakashita (17-8-3, 12) in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title. A win for either man should secure them a WBO world ranking and potentially move them into the mix for a potential world title fight down the line.
The bout, as mentioned, will be Sakamoto's first since losing to Mthalane in an IBF title fight at the very end of 2018 That bout was Sakamoto's first shot at the big time, though he had had a decent career prior to fighting for a world title. He had won the Rookie of the Year in 2015, had given Sho Kimura problems in 2016 and won the WBO Asia Pacific title in 2017, stopping Kwanthai Sithmoreseng for the title. Sadly whilst he did win the regional title in 2017 he only defended it once, stopping veteran Pigmy Kokietgym in a less than taxing bout. He gave up the regional title to challenge Mthalane and will be looking to recapture it here, in what is set to be one of his toughest bouts.
Although Sakashita has more bouts to his name he is less notable than Sakamoto. He would struggle badly early in his career, falling to 2-2-1 after 5 bouts, though rebuilt by winning the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Some mixed success at domestic level eventually saw him getting a shot at Suguru Muranaka for the Japanese Flyweight title in 2014, and being knocked out by Muranaka, who landed a thunderbolt right hand to take out Sakashita in round 8. Since the loss to Muranaka Sakashita has been inconsistent to say the least, going 5-3-1, though is riding a 4 fight unbeaten rung including a TKO win last time out against former OPBF champion Keisuke Nakayama.
Whilst we did see Sakamoto look really limited against Mthalane one that we couldn't fault was his effort, his hunger and his drive. Technically he was poor, though in fairness Mthalane makes very good fighters look poor, but his work rate was impressive and his toughness also shone through. That will often be enough to win at this level, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him mixing at regional level for the rest of his career. It is worth noting however that Sakamoto is a smart guy and is, or at least was, studying at a high level suggesting he has an exit for the sport. Another damaging loss and it could well be the end of his career, walking away to participate in a safer occupation.
Sakamoto is open, aggressive, exciting and hard working. He's not got masses of power, he's not slick or particularly sharp, but at this type of level being able to bring a fight for 12 rounds is often enough.
Sakashita is also quite limited, but also makes for good fights. He's very much a a puncher, and in recent years has shown more and more belief in his power. He's never going to have the power to take him up to world level, but at domestic and regional level he hits hard enough really ask questions of opponents. Defensively he is open and he will take shots. He drops his guard a lot and is open to a good straight right hand, a solid left cross due to his defensive flaws. However he will also look to take opponents out and does have fun domestic fighters, win or lose.
When we have technically flawed but aggressive fighters facing off we do tend to expect fun action and we're expecting these two to put on a low key thriller. Both guys have edges they will look to make the most of, Sakamoto has the work rate and engine whilst Sakashita has the power. With that in mind we expect to see Sakamoto press the action, and eat counters as a result, but eventually break down Sakashita in the later rounds of a nail biting contest.
Peduction - Sakamoto TKO11
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.