This coming weekend we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (35-10-3, 10) make his 3rd defense as he takes on the relatively unknown Hiroya Nojima (9-1, 4). The bout, on paper, looks like a massive mismatch in favour of the talented veteran, however Nonaka is now 44, has fought just once in 3 years, and is a man coming to the end of a long, and successful, career, whilst Nojima is just 26 and hungry to make an impact on the sport as he heads into his prime years.
Having turned professional back in late 1990's few would have expected Nonaka to have had the career he's had. Born in Hyogo, a place that isn't really a hot bed for Japanese boxing talent, and debuting in 1999, at the wonderfully Chicken George in Kobe, there was no real expectation on Nonaka to have a successful career. What little expectations were on his shoulders were pretty much destroyed from the off, as he lost 2 of his first 3 bouts, 3 of his first 5, and 4 of his first 9, leaving him with a 5-4 (2) record. That poor start has however been put behind him and since then he has gone a very impressive 30-6-3 (9). That stat looks pretty impressive, but is even more impressive when put into some context, with Nonaka becoming a 2-time Japanese champion at 154lbs, claiming the OPBF title at 154lbs, and winning both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles at 160lbs. He has also notched notable wins against the likes of Akihiro Furukawa, Kazuhiko Kudaka, Charles Bellamy and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, and has done so without having any exceptional physical trait. He has done it by simply under-standing boxing, and being good at it.
In the ring Nonaka is a very, very well schooled boxer who really under-stands the sport. Watching him we see a fighter who isn't fast, powerful, explosive or physically imposing. He's also not someone who sets a high work rate. Instead he simply lands clean, makes opponents miss, and dictates the action behind intelligent boxing, clean accurate sharp punches, and really good footwork. He is very much the sort of boxer who every fighter in the sport needs to watch. He lands clean shots at range, ties up up close, and simply dictates the action behind constant, steady, basic boxing. He has really gotten a lot from just simply understanding how to box, and not relying on physical tools. As a result of being a good boxer, he has had great success into his 40's, and continues to be one of the leading Japanese fighters in and around the Middleweight division.
The 26 year old Nojima is a baby in comparison to Nonaka, and only made his debut in 2019. He would start his career at Welterweigth and would score 3 straight wins before suffering his sole lose in November 2019, in a Rookie of the Year bout. Since then he has reeled off 6 straight wins and won Rookie of the Year himself, in the delayed 2020 Rookie of the Year. Sadly since his Rookie of the Year triumph he has not really shone, despite facing progressively better opponents, including a win over Masatery Hatagami in April, in an 8 round bout at 154lbs. Notably this bout will be his first as a Middleweight and his first over 10 rounds, both of which will be challenges for him, though not as much of a challenge as stepping up to face someone as talented, accomplished and experienced as Nonaka.
In the ring Nojima is a rather slow, awkward looking fighter who is defensively open, lacks snap, power and crispness, and he doesn't appear to have too much going for him. He is young, and he can certainly improve, but in many ways he looks like a novice, who needs a lot of work, in every area of his game. At Welterweight he had some size advantages over opponents, but at Middleweight that size advantage will not be there and although he might technically be quicker than a 44 year old Nonaka, there isn't the snap and crispness to him that there is with the veteran.
Coming in to this bout the feeling is that this is very much a stay busy and easy defense of Nonaka, who still hopes to land a major international fight before ending his career. From watching Nojima footage this really should little more than a showcase from Nonaka, who's crisp counter punching, accurate jab, and smart footwork should see him winning round, after round, after round to take either a clear decision, or a late stoppage, depending on whether Nonaka wants to score a somewhat rare, for him, stoppage. We suspect the constant, steady, stream of shots will eventually break down the challenger.
Prediction - TKO10 Nonaka
On July 23rd we get a genuinely interesting WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title bout, as veteran champion Yuki Nonaka (34-10-3, 10) takes on the once touted Koki Koshikawa (9-2, 6). Although the bout isn't a big one, and won't get much international attention, it is a really interesting one with a lot of sub-stories around it and different threads that need unpicking before the bout comes around.
For those unaware Nonaka is one of the real stalwarts of Japanese boxing. The now 43 year old began his career way back in 1999, and did so with some very mixed results going 2-3 in his first 5. Unlikely many fighters that have great longevity Nonaka really struggle early on. In fact at the age of 31 he was 19-7-2 (7), though by that point he had unified the Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight titles. Amazingly since then Nonaka has gone 15-3-1 (3), reclaiming the Japanese title at 154lbs, and later winning the unified WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles at 160lbs whilst having a sensational late run to his career. Not only has he been getting good results, but also beating solid fighters, like Charles Bellamy, Yuto Shimizu, Ryosuke Maruki and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, all of whom were younger than Nonaka.
What has really been the key to Nonaka's success is his boxing brain and his fitness. He's never been a man with much power, or much speed, but he's a physical fit fighter with a really good boxing brain, in fact he almost beat Takeshi Inoue, by just keeping things simple, using good movement and countering the bull like Inoue. Not only is he smart, and does the little things really well, but he's also a tall, rangy southpaw, giving opponents even more problems in landing clean on him. It's also worth noting that his defense is, usually, very good and in his 47 professional bouts he has only been stopped once, and that was way back in 2002.
However with all that said it now needs noting that Nonaka hasn't fought in almost 2 years, with his last bout coming in September 2019 when he was run surprisingly close by Korean Hyun Min Yang, who was aggressive, busy and came to fight. Nonaka was cut in that fight, around the nose, and it was a really messy, tough bout that seemed to suggest father time was getting to him. And that was 2 years ago. We really need to wonder how's he going to look with the ring rusty at the age of 43. Can he still dig deep and can he still show the same skills and timing he did earlier in his career?
Koki Koshikawa made his professional debut in 2014 following an solid amateur background that saw him going 46-25 (23). He was expected to be moved quickly by the Celes gym, and debuted in 6 rounders before quickly moving into 8 rounders. Sadly however a loss in his 5th bout, to Koshinmaru Saito, slowed his ascent and he was out of the ring for more than 2 years afterwards. When he returned to the ring he scored 5 straight wins, but the most notable of those were a stoppage over former Japanese interim champion Daisuke Sakamoto and a close decision over Ratchasi Sithsaithong, with neither being a real headline grabbing win. Despite his competition he managed to get a shot at the Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga in 2019, and despite looking good in the first round Koshikawa was broken down in 4 as Matsunaga retained his belt.
Sadly since losing to Matsunaga, in November 2019, we've not seen Koshikawa in the ring, and overall his career has fallen a long way short of expectations. He was supposed to be a domestic force, but lost to the two most notable domestic fighters he's faced. He has been outboxed by one and stopped by another, and coming in to this fight he's also moving up in weight.
Koshikawa is inactive, he's failed in his biggest fights, and he's moving up to Middleweight for the first time. However he can't be written off here. He was a good amateur, he has a decent boxing brain, at 30 years old he's pretty much in his prime and he will know this is his last chance to shine following the loss to Matsunaga. He has the boxing skills to be a problem, he has speed and decent movement, he lets his hands go well but he's also someone who has struggled on the bigger stages, and has come apart under pressure.
In their primes, there is no doubt that we'd strongly favour Nonaka. His skills, boxing brain, punch picking, timing and ring control of distance would be too much. He would catch Koshikawa coming in and rely on his straight shots, getting Koshikawa's respect, and racking up the rounds. Koshikawa would likely see out the schedule, but would look a bruised, beaten, battered man by the end of 12 rounds.
In their current guise however we really wouldn't be shocked by father time catching up with Nonaka. The veteran struggling to pull the trigger at times, falling short, being under pressure and missing when he does through. His body breaking down in front of us.
We're huge fans of Nonaka, and his career has been truly remarkable, but we actually suspect Koshikawa's youth and hunger will be a major issue, and he will manage to break down the veteran.
Prediction - TKO9 Koshikawa
This coming Monday we'll see the ageless Yuki Nonaka (33-10-3, 10) hunt his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title, as he goes up against Korean puncher Yang Hyun Min (8-2, 7). At first glance this is a highly skilled veteran taking on a young and hungry fighter, but how do we see this one going? Does Min have a chance or will Nonaka continue picking up wins his 40's?
Of the two fighters the lesser known is Min, a 26 year old Korean who has fought his entire career in Korea so far. He made his debut in 2016 and won his first 3 bouts, all by stoppage. Following the promising start Min was out boxed by Jae Hyuk Shin in early 2017 and just 2 months later Min was stopped by Heuk San Lee, down at Welterweight. Since losing to Lee, a Korean based Cameroonian fighter, Min has gone 4-0 (3) and won both the Korean and WBA Asia Middleweight titles.
Whilst Min is a double champion his competition has been incredibly poor with his best win, on paper at least, coming against China's Yihao Wang back in June. That competition explains he looks like a puncher on paper, though in reality it's almost impossible to take anything from the numbers on his record. His loss to Lee shows that Lee can punch a bit, and that Min didn't take a good shot at Welterweight, but tells us nothing about Min or his potential. Sometimes, when it comes to Koreans and Thai's, that can be a bit misleading and they can turn out to be better than their records suggest. From the footage available of him he's aggressive and powerful looking, but clumsy, not particularly quick or sharp and throws wide hooks. He's fun to watch, but very much what an American fan would describe as a club fighter.
Nonaka on the other hand is very well respected in Japan, and even the wider Asian boxing regions. The 41 year old southpaw has been a professional for close to 20 years, debuting in November 1999, and despite losing 3 of his first 5 he has carved out an excellent career. He managed to unify the Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight titles in 2009, reclaimed the Japanese title in 2014 and won the unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Middleweights titles earlier this year. Although he has lost 2 of his last 4 they both came to fighter who went on to fight in world title fights, Dennis Hogan and Takeshi Inoue, with those losses being his only 2 losses since 2010!
In the ring Nonaka is a pure boxer and the sort of fighter that every emerging fighter should watch. He's incredibly smart, and at the age of 41 he has the ring craft to beat younger and stronger fighters. His style is relaxed, he fights behind his jab, moves when he needs to and doesn't waste much of anything, as he limits his movement and punch out put. Despite being conservative in his approach he can step it up as, and when, he needs to and is very tricky to beat. for those looking to beat him they need to use speed and output, which Hogan used well, and out land him at range, but those trying to pressure him really need to consider a different gameplan.
Given the styles of the two men, as well as their experience, it's really, really hard to see how Min wins. He'll be pressing the fight, looking to land bombs, but eating a steady stream of counter shots. Barring a freak shot from Min we really don't give him any chance at all. Instead we see either a very wide decision win for Nonaka, or a stoppage from accumulation in the middle to late rounds.
Prediction - TKO8 Nonaka
The Middleweight scene is not one that we tend to think of too much when we discuss Japanese fighters, even with the recent success of Ryota Murata. Strangely however the Japanese scene at 160lbs is probably as good as it's ever been, with several exciting fighters making their mark. Those include Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako as well as the unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-3, 10).
Hosokawa won the unified title last year in a Japanese Fight of the Year candidate against Yasuyuki Akiyama, avenging one of his losses in the process, and will be making his first defense this coming Sunday against skilled veteran Yuki Nonaka (32-10-3, 10), on February 24th. The bout will be pitting Hosokawa's aggression, power and tenacity, against Nonaka's skills, experience and toughness, in what could be the surprise bout of the week.
Aged 34 the hard hitting Hosokawa, who is the brother of Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa, made his debut in 2014, at the age of 29. He would lose on his debut and would actually lose 2 of his first 4 bout, both by razor thin decisions. Following those set backs he reeled off 4 straight stoppage wins before losing another close contest, that time to Yasuyuki Akiyama, the man he would later rip the two regional titles from. Following the loss to Akiyama we saw Hosokawa improve, showing his stamina with an 8th round TKO over Kazuyuki Fukuyama and a 7th round TKO over Hisao Narita, and earn a second bout with Akiyama last September.
After beating Hososkawa, by majority decision, Akiyama had shocked the regional scene with a TKO win over Koki Tyson for the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Hosokawa would end that reign by winning a war with Akiyama last year, stopping Akiyama in the 11th round. The fight started slowly but warmed into a real action packed contest, as Hosokawa began to march Akiyama down and broke him down with powerful shots. The performance showed the good, and the bad, of Hosokawa. He's aggressive, heavy handed, has a high work rate and is a very powerful and strong fighter. Defensively however he is open, he is predictable and he's not quick. He often marches forward looking to cut the distance usually comes forward in straight lines, something that someone with the skills and experience of Nonaka may be able to expose. Despite being predictable he doesn't seem to know how to take a backwards step and has proven to be almost impossible to dissuade from coming forward.
The 41 year old Nonaka is an old school veteran, having made his debut way back in 1999 as a Welterweight. He would fight as low as Light Welterweight before really settling on Light Middleweight. Early in his career he struggled to find his place and his style in the sport, losing 2 of his first 3, 3 of his first 5 and 4 of his first 9, including a KO loss to Masahiro Muroya. Amazingly after that stoppage loss, back in 2002, Nonaka has never been stopped in 36 subsequent contests!
Despite settling at Light Middleweight Nonaka would struggle to have major success, losing in his first title fight in 20078, when he was out pointed by Kazuhiko Hidaka in an OPBF Light Middleweight title fight. The following year he would take the Japanese Light Middleweight title with a win over Akihiro Furukawa. He would later go on to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles before losing both belts to Akio Shibata in 2009. That loss was a temporary set back and in 2014 he would become a 2-time Japanese champion, schooling Kengo Nagashima for the national title, which he held until 2017 and made 6 defenses of. Sadly since vacating the belt Nonaka has gone 1-2, with losses to Dennis Hogan and Takeshi Inoue in world title eliminators.
Despite his age Nonaka is a criminally under-rated fighter. He lacks power but is surprisingly quick, an ultra sharp fighter who uses his jab to spear fighters, at range, lays traps with intelligent footwork and varies his shots amazingly well. His uppercut seems to find the target far too easily at times and he always looks so comfortable and relaxed in the ring. He's the sort of fighter that any young kid picking up the sport should take a look at. Sadly, for him, his lack of work rate, and his counter punching tendencies can see him fail to get the respect of fighters and being out worked by hungrier fighters. Also, notably for this fight, he will be in with a dangerous and natural Middleweight, something he hasn't typically faced, having fought mostly at Light Middleweight. He has dipped his toe at Middleweight, but not against someone with the power and physicality of Hosokawa.
Whilst we know this bout will go under the radar, especially coming just days before the mouth watering WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi, this has the potentially to be brilliant. Hosokawa's head first aggression should play into Nonaka's hands, and give the veteran a lot of openings. Nonaka however won't have the power to get Hosokawa's respect and we'd expect him to be willing to take 3 to land 1 as a result. This should result in a brilliant, mid range war with Nonaka easily out landing his man but being tagged by the bigger shots. If Nonaka's chin can hold up he probably takes the win, but that is a huge if, and we wouldn't be surprised by Hosokawa getting to him late to force a stoppage. Either way we are in for a treat!
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.