The Welterweight division in Asia hasn't been the most amazing to follow, despite some entertaining bouts such as 2019's fantastic bout between Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada. Despite not being the best it does give us some interesting match ups on paper, such as the one at the start of between Keita Obara and Yuki Nagano, and the one we're going to focus on in this preview. That's the February 27th bout for the the OPBF title between Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) and Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8). On paper this looks good and in the ring we expect it to be even better than it looks.
Ranked #3 by the OPBF Kaneko is getting his first shot a major title, having previously won the Japanese Youth Welterweight title. The Japanese based Afghan born 22 year old is someone who has quietly been making a name for himself without too much attention on him. Since debuting in 2015, as a teenager, Kaneko has developed himself a reputation as a very talented boxer-puncher. He claimed the Youth title in 2018, when he beat Change Hamashima in their second bout, then scored a trio of solid domestic wins over Toshio Arikawa, Rikuto Adachi and Moon Hyun Yun. Those 3 wins have helped secure him this title fight, and have seen him get a title on merit, something we don't always see.
Although not well known outside of Japan Kaneko is a very physically strong fighter. He's not the quickest or the sharpest, but he's certainly not slow and sloppy and is instead more of a deliberate fighter, with heavy hands. There's power in both hands and for a fighter who isn't lighting quick with his hands he does move well, especially with his upper body. One other thing to note about Kaneko is that he finds the target well and varies his shots smartly. Defensively there is work to do for Kaneko going forward but at the moment no ones really been able to make him pay for the little flaws with see. Instead he tends to be the one making opponents pay, and make them pay rather quickly with 7 of his wins coming within 3 rounds.
Aged 28 Nagahama is a man who is now starting to fight for his career. He's not shot, or past his best, but he is in desperate need for a notable win, following stoppage losses in 2017, to Takeshi Inoue, and 2018, to Yuki Nagano. This will be his second title fight, following a loss in a Japanese title fight at 154lbs to Inoue, but isn't an easy one. In fact on paper this is his third toughest bout on paper, and he has lost his two toughest bouts to date. Looking through his record his biggest wins so far were 2015 Rookie of the Year win, at Middleweight, against Brandon Lockhart Shane and his 2019 win over Masaya Tamayama. The win over Tamayama was good, but that wasn't a win that really showed Nagahama was ready to mix it at regional title level.
Watching Nagahama we see a solid fighter, but one who doesn't blow us away, in any area. He's technically decent, but lacks speed, lacks power, and doesn't appear physically imposing. He lets good combinations go, but the never appears to have any sort of fight ending power on them. If you let him dictate the pace it'll be a slow, controlled fight and a win for him. To beat him, you need to dictate the pace, and for most fighters at regional title level that won't be a problem.
We expect this to start pretty slowly, with the two men looking to stand off and box against each other. It won't take long however until Kaneko puts his foot on the gas and lands something heavy, and begin to break down Nagahama, who will feel the need to respond and that will only speed up his demise.
Prediction - TKO5 Kaneko
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On February 1st, the world ranked Keita Obara challenges Yuki Nagano for the Japanese championship, at the legendary Korakuen Hall.
Keita Obara (22-4 / 20 KOs) began his amateur boxing career back in high school, before joining Tokyo University. During that time, he won the National Sports Festival, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event, twice. Despite losing on his pro debut, to the 9 year veteran Kazuyoshi Kumano (26-12), Obara went on to win 16 fights in a row, 15 of them being finishes.
Specifically, after capturing the Japanese Super Lightweight title, he squared off with former WBO Asia Pacific champion Jay Solmiano (19-3) for the vacant OPBF crown. Obara scored a knockdown, courtesy of a counter left, and finished him off seconds later with a right straight to the chin. He then defended his new belt against heavy hitter Shinya Iwabuchi (26-6), in an exciting affair, where he ended things in the very last round, after connecting with the powerful overhand left hook.
In a clash of top world title contenders, Obara took Walter Castillo (26-5) to the limit, delivering the punishment for 12 rounds, while leaving the Nicaraguan bloodied and bruised. Even though the contest was unfairly declared a draw, since Castillo refused the rematch, Obara eventually challenged the unified IBF & IBO World champion Eduard Troyanovsky (28-2), but was completely dominated in less than 5 minutes.
The Japanese star decided to move up to Welterweight and almost a year removed from this crashing defeat, he faced former WBC International champion Narong Bunchan (28-7) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. Obara put together an excellent combination, dropping his Thai rival in the 2nd round and kept throwing big shots until the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. He made a successful defense against Shusaku Fujinaka (16-12), whom he knocked out with a thunderous right hook.
In a surprising turn of event, Obara lost to the unheralded Alvin Lagumbay (11-5) in April of 2018, after a double knockdown occurred, from which only the Filipino managed to answer the 10 count, thus earning the biggest win of his young career. Obara would exact his revenge that summer, beating Lagumbay with ease and regaining the strap.
His second trip to America last year proved to be unfruitful, as he fought Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0), for one more chance at the big one, in yet again another losing effort. Obara bounced back, when he scored his 20th knockout this past October over Toshiro Tarumi (12-4), showcasing his superiority in the ring, and becoming the number 1 contender for the Japanese Welterweight title.
Yuki Nagano (17-2 / 13 KOs) had also faced a few shortcomings early on his career but has been unstoppable since then, currently riding an impressive 15 fight winning streak for the past 6 years.
His first big match was against the then undefeated Yuki Beppu (21-1). Nagano displayed incredible power and hand speed from the get go, even dropping Beppu with a left straight in just the 2nd round, wining a clear unanimous decision. This victory gave him the opportunity to challenge the Japanese champion Ryota Yada (19-6) on April of 2019. It was a wild brawl that saw both men exchange punches nonstop as well as knockdowns. Finally in the 7th, Nagano overwhelmed Yada with a plethora of hooks in order to capture his first ever professional title. After demolishing Makoto Kawasaki (11-8) in his inaugural title defense, he will now be involved in the most important fight of his career.
Obara and Nagano are very similar, in the sense that they are quite relentless in the ring. Defense isn’t their strongest suit as they rather take a punch just so they can give one back. This strategy is always a recipe for an action packed match but has resulted in both men getting dropped on multiple occasions throughout their careers. Nagano’s favorite weapon is the left straight punch, which he uses in every single one of his outings, clubbing his opponents repeatedly like a caveman, until they go down. Obara also possesses KO power in his left hand, despite being an orthodox, as well as in his right, making him even more dangerous.
This will be a test of endurance and strength. Who can take the most and inflict the maximum damage at the same time. For Obara, who’s already at the top 5 of the IBF rankings, could be the win he needs to put himself closer to another world title opportunity, whereas for Nagano is the chance to finally burst into the world scene. So will Obara’s experience prove to be the difference maker or will Nagano’s unbeaten streak continue? One thing’s for sure. With 33 KOs between these 2 warriors, someone’s going down….hard!
The Welterweight division, on the international stage, has long been the money division with a host of the best fighters on the planet competing there. We've obviously had the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. In Asia, on the regional scene, the bouts have been far less high profile, but we've regularly had action packed bouts, where the limitations of the fighters involved have made for fun contests. Be it for the Japanese, OPBF or WBO Asia Pacific title we've had some brilliant Welterweight title bouts. On December 8th we're expecting another, as the once beaten Yuki Beppu (20-1-1, 19), dubbed the "Kyushu Tyson", takes on former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada (19-5, 16), in a WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title bout that looks very explosive on paper.
Of the two fighters it's Yada who is the more well known. He is a former Japanese champion who is now competing in his second WBO Asia Pacific title fight. The 30 year old Osakan, dubbed the "Terminator of Naniwa", is no world beater but he is a heavy handed, aggressive and exciting fighter. In 2018 he claimed the Japanese Welterweight title with an excellent win over Toshio Arikawa and made 2 defense before losing the belt this past April to Yuki Nagano. Since then he scored just a single win, stopping Robert Kopa in 4 rounds, in what was little more than a confidence building following the loss to Nagano.
Yada is an aggressive and exciting fighter who has heavy hands, an impressive work rate but some very flawed technical issues and questions about his durability. Not only was he stopped by Nagano this year but in 2016 he was stopped by Filipino fighter Jayar Inson in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific title, and really just got beaten up in that bout before the bout was finally stopped. He can certainly punch, but his ability to take punishment doesn't match up with his own power and he can be hurt, rocked, and stopped.
The 28 year old Beppu has been banging on the verges of a title fight for a while, and now finally gets his first shot as a belt. He made his name originally by winning the Rookie of the Year in 2014, stopping Hironobu Matsunaga in the final, but then decided to string together wins over terrible opposition. Thoise wins saw him race his record to 14-0 (14) before he was even tested, though showed he was capable by earning a draw with Charles Bellamy in 2017. Another string of low level early wins followed until he lost a competitive decision to Yuki Nagano in a Japanese title eliminator in 2018. Since then he scored 2 wins and earned this shot at a regional title.
Although Beppu has frustrated at times, and his career would have been further along had he not faced so many terrible opponents from Thailand, he is a very credible fighter on the domestic and regional title picture. He's incredibly heavy handed, tough and knows when to bite down on his gum shield. However he's technically not very sharp or quick and his competition, overall has been appalling.
Coming in to this we have two legitimate punchers. One is a more single shot puncher, Beppu, whilst the the other wears people down with heavy hands hands. We know both can bang, but we're actually more interested here in who can take the most punishment, and we suspect that is Beppu. With that in mind we suspect he'll come out on top here, in a war. We think both will land bombs, but in the end Yada will wear down and be stopped in the second half of a total thriller.
Prediction - TKO 9 Beppu
Whilst many of the Japanese title eliminator bouts this year look like good bouts, even if few look great, the odd one does look like a mismatch, where we feel confident who know who will be the challenger for the Champion Carnival next year. One bout that looks like a mismatch is the Welterweight bout, which will see former world title challenger Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) taking on Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6).
Obara is, of course, the more well known fighter. He is a former Japanese Light Welterweight champion, a former OPBF Light Welterweight champion and a former WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight champion. He has fought outside of Japan 3 times, fighting to a controversial draw in 2015 with Walter Castillo, being knocked out of the ring in a world title fight against Eduard Troyanovsky and being beaten by Kudratillo Abdukakhorov earlier this year. He also went somewhat viral thanks to his first bout with Alvin Lagumbay, which featured a dramatic double knockdown.
In the ring Obara is a talented fighter. He's a good boxer puncher, and although he's not world class he is a very capable fighter. He's really solid in terms of his boxing and his power is nasty at the regional level. Sadly his issue is his chin, and 3 of his 4 losses have seen him being stopped, including dramatic and very visual losses to Troyanovsky and Lagumbay. He's also not the quickest, which allowed Abdukakhorov to out box him relatively easily back in March. Despite his flaws it does take a good fighter to over-come him, and the general feeling is that he's still the best Welterweight in Japan, despite the recent rise of domestic champion Yuki Nagano.
At 25 years old Tarumi is someone who is relatively unknown outside of those who actively follow the Japanese scene, and even then he's still got a relatively limited profile. He debuted in 2014 and fought to 3 draws in his first 4 bouts. Worse yet he was 3-2-3 after 8 fights, an odd record to say the least. Since then however he has gone 9-1, with his only loss coming to the current national champion Yuki Nagano, as part of Nagano's current 15 fight winning run. In those 9 wins he has scored some solid domestic victories, with wins over the likes of Noriaki Sato, Takashi Inagaki and Shusaku Fujinaka, twice.
From the footage of Tarumi that's out there he looks a genuinely capable fighter, who has has plenty to like about him. He moves well around the ring, has a decent jab and throws some solid combinations. Where he lacks though is in terms of that extra something. He's not the most aggressive, he's not razor sharp with his punches and he's not got serious power. He's good, and he's likely to be a future fixture on the domestic title picture, but there's little there to really challenge someone like Obara.
We expect to see Tarumi coming out to fight, but lacking the tools needed to really test Obara who will get behind his jab, dial in his straights and slowly, but surely, break down Tarumi. Tarumi will be there to win, but will be broken down and stopped in the later rounds from the heavy hands of Obara.
Prediction - TKO7 Obara
The Welterweight scene is a rather frustrating one right now with the top fighters in the division being split by promotional divides. Whilst the PBC certainly have most of the big names in the division Top Rank has arguably the best boxer in the division, Terence Crawford. Sadly for Crawford he's lacking noteworthy challengers and Top Rank will need to provide better for him than the likes of Amir Khan if they intend to test their man.
One potential future foe for Crawford is talented Uzbek fighter Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9), who returns to the ring on October 18th to take on former WBA world champion Luis Collazo (39-7, 20). The two fighters will both be looking to put in an impressive performance and secure themselves a big fight, but just how do we see this going? Can the Uzbek continue his unbeaten run or will the veteran of Collazo prove to be to much for him?
For those who haven't seen Abdukakhorov the 26 year old Uzbek is a genuine talent, who has mostly fought outside of the eye of the Western fans. His early bouts were mostly in Uzbekitan before he started moving around, picking up wins in Singapore, Malaysia and Russia before making his US debut this past March. During his unbeaten run he has scored a lot of solid, though unspectacular, wins, beating the likes of Charles Manyuchi, Dmitry Mikhaylenko, Laszlo Toth and Keita Obara, with the win over Obara coming in his US debut earlier this year.
In recent years we've seen a number of explosive Uzbek fighters turning professional with really exciting and powerful styles. Abdukakhorov however isn't that style of fighter. He's not the Welterweight version of Bektemir Melikuziev or Israil Madrimov, instead he's a solid technical boxer, with good work rate and smart ring control. He's not exciting, he's not explosive and he's spectacular to watch, but he's solid, accurate, consistent and smart. He can vary his output and tempo well, but in reality he's not a fighter to take undue risks, and will instead look to simply win the rounds rather than to destroy his opponents. Given his hard to spell, and pronounce, name, and his uninspiring style Abdukakhorov is unlikely to ever become a fan favourite, but he's a fighter who will never be easy to beat and has the tools to give anyone, outside of the very best in the division, a very, very tough night.
Collazo is a true veteran, who debuted back in 2000, and with 46 pro bouts under his belt it's fair to say he's seen a lot during his career. He's faced a genuine who's who, including Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Andre Berto, Victor Ortiz, Amir Khan and Keith Thuman. On paper Collazo's record doesn't look great, but given his competition there was always going to be losses, and several of those were rather unfortunate, including his losses to Hatton and Berto. Through his career Collazo has always been a very smart southpaw fighter, with slippery movement, under-rated power and very smart ring IQ. He's never been the busiest fighter, but he's a crafty one who is defensively smart and lands good counter shots, and even as he's gotten older he's remained a composed and smart fighter who controls the tempo of fights well.
Although a very good fighter, still, Collazo is notably behind the top fighters in the division. and loses to Khan, in 204, and Thurman, in 2015, did show he was on the slide. He's prolonged his career by not being hugely active, and he's fought only 5 bouts in the last 5 years, but he is still 38 with almost 300 pro rounds under his belt, and a lot of his bouts have been gruelling, hard ones, win or lose.
We expect Collazo to ask genuine questions of Abdukakhorov, he has the skills to really test the Uzbek. The difference however will be the stage of the career's the two men are in. Collazo is coming to the end whilst Abdukakhorov is just about hitting his prime. We suspect that that will the difference, and in the later stages of the fight Abdukakhorov's youth will win out, and he'll take the decision in a hard fought but fair win.
We have a feeling that Collazo is the perfect opponent to test Abdukakhorov, and to make the Uzbek earn a win, but it will be a well earned win for Abdukakhorov.
Prediction UD10 Abdukakhorov
Since suffering an opening round TKO loss in 2013 we've seen Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12) go on a fantastic run of 14 straight wins, against some of the most notable Welterweights in Japan. the latest of those wins as in April when he travelled to Osaka and defeated Ryota Yada to become the Japanese Welterweight champion. This coming Saturday he returns to the ring seeking his first defense of the title, as he takes on veteran foe Makoto Kawasaki (11-7-1, 2).
The talented Nagano really has turned his career around after a 2-2 start to life in the professional ring and wins over the likes of Giraffe Kirin Kanda, in the 2015 Rookie of the Year final, Riku Nagahama, Yuki Beppu and most recently Ryota Yada really have been impressive. Now aged 30 he has a great combination of experience, skill, power and is still young enough to have not really lost any of the physical traits. He's also helped out by being a southpaw, and being backed by one of the most notable Japanese promoters, Teiken.
Although on a great domestic run it's hard to imagine Nagano mixing on the world level. There's a fair argument to suggest he's one of the best fighters at Welterweight in the Asia Pacific region, but he's a long, long way behind the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford. He's pretty basic, but heavy handed, patient, accurate and has good time. He has also shown a real will to win, though of course he has question marks about his chin and after winning the title does he still have the desire that lead him there?
Kawasaki is a proper veteran, he's 35 years old and has been a professional for over 7 years, yet hasn't really managed to have consistency in his biggest fights, despite facing several notable names. His debut came against Koki Tyson, and ended in a draw, and since then he has been a win some lose some fighter through his career, losing to the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Ryota Yada, Daisuke Sakamoto and Xingxin Yang. Although he has picked up losses he has shown an ability to score upsets, beating the likes of Kazuya Murata and Yuichi Ideta. During his 19 fight career he has only been stopped once, being taken out in 7 rounds by Yada back in 2016.
In the ring Kawasaki is a pretty tough fighter, but lacks real power, and boxes mostly off the jab. He has struggled to get respect of fighters in the past and, when he's been backed up, he has been unable to force opponents to respect him. His first 3 losses, all in 4 or 5 round bouts, were close, but his last 4 have all been much clearer defeats and it really does seem like he's struggled as he's stepped up in levels and has had his jab neutralised.
We're struggling to see how Kawasaki can pull it off here. He's the big under-dog and although a veteran appears to have been selected as an easy first defense for Nagano, who we see taking a dominant and clear win. The winner isn't in much doubt, here, and it would be a huge surprise to see Kawasaki upset the in form, younger, stronger, hard hitting champion.
Prediction - TKO9 Nagano
Despite a number of interesting fighters, and a lot of potentially intriguing match ups, the Japanese Welterweight division doesn't get much attention. That's despite fighters like Ryota Yada, Yuki Beppu, Yuki Nagano and Giraffe Kirin Kanda all being worthy contenders on the domestic scene.
Arguably the most interesting Japanese Welterweight bout we'll see this year isn't actually at the top of the table, so to speak, but will instead be this Sunday's Japanese Youth title fight. The bout will pit unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) against once beaten Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9). Both men have just turned 21, and could have waited years to face each other, but instead want to face off, knowing a win will instantly put them on the verge of a bout for the full version of the Japanese title.
Kaneko is a Japanese based Afghan born boxer-puncher. He left Afghanistan as a child and has really built himself a life in Japan whilst getting plaudits for his attitude, and his dreams are certainly positive ones, with the fighter hoping to help get things built back in Afghanistan. Whilst his backstory is genuinely amazingly amazing, we can't help but be impressed by his actual boxing career as well.
Kaneko made his debut all the way back in 2015, as a 17 year old, and showed real ability early on as a punching, scoring stoppages in 4 of his first 5. Since then he has gone 5-0 (3) and shown more and more to his. He has taken 2 decision wins over Change Hamashima, claiming the Japanese youth title in the second win. The biggest win of his career however came last November, when he stopped former Japanese champion Toshio Arikawain 3 rounds. That was a performance to be proud of, neutralising the power of Arikawa and then taking him out in very impressive fashion. Whilst Arikawa is no world beater, he's a very dangerous fighter and for Kaneko to take him out this early in his career was a huge statement. He's shown he can box, he can punch, he can bang. He's not the quickest, but he is very, very talented and very promising.
Adachi, like Kaneko, debuted in 2015 as a 17 year old but has gone a very different route to Kaneko. He would actually take decisions wins in his first 3 bouts, before growing into his strength and reeling off 5 straight stoppages to advance to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017. He would lose in the Rookie of the Year final to Hironori Shigeta, a very talented fighter himself, by a single round on 2 cards, and many felt he deserved the win. Since then he has reeled off 3 more stoppages, including a stoppage over Jonel Dapidran. Impressively he went 4-0 (4) in 2018, showing great activity, and has gone 9-1 (9) in his last 10 bouts, impressive given his first 3 went the distance.
In the ring Adachi is a fighter who looks naturally big, yet doesn't look like he fills out his frame, in fact it looks clear that he will be fighting at Light Middleweight, if not Middleweight, in the future. He's got decent hand speed and good movement, but is a little bit naive defensively. He doesn't have much of an inside game, though given his freakish looking size that's not much of a surprise. His jab is a razor sharp, a really nice punch that he varies, from snapping opponents with it, to touching them and controlling range. Watching him there's a lot to like, but a lot of areas where clear improvements can be made. If he added some boxing on the inside and tweaked his defense than there would be a lot to get very excited by.
If Kaneko hadn't impressed so much against Arikawa this would be a fight that Adachi would be the favourite. Problem us that Kaneko looked fantastic against Arikawa, and that maybe enough to swing the odds in his favour. Adachi looks like he's going to be very good, with some key areas to work on. If he uses his brain, fights to a gameplan that focuses on his speed, he should come out on top.
Kaneko is no push over, and is a more rounded fighter. He lacks the speed of Adachi, but looks to be the more natural fighter. If he can make this a fight we suspect he'll win.
This is a hard one to call, and a very, very interesting match up. If pushed for a prediction, we suspect Adachi gets the win in a very close decision. The bout is in Osaka, and he's the local prospect. We wouldn't be surprised by any result at all here though. It's one of those bouts that really could go any which way.
The Japanese Welterweight scene is a pretty interesting one right now, without being one that gets much attention. The domestic scene features not only Keita Obara, who has progressed beyond Japanese title level, but up and comers like Kudura Kaneko and Rikuto Adachi as well as established fighters like Giraffe Kirin Kanda and Toshiro Tarumi. It's not a scene bustling with world class talent, but enough talent to make things interesting.
We get a great example of how interesting the division is this coming Sunday when Japanese national champion Ryota Yada (18-4, 15) defends his belt against mandatory challenger Yuki Nagano (15-2, 11). On paper this looks pretty evenly matched, pretty explosive and very exciting.
Yada won the title just over a year ago, stopping Toshio Arikawa in 8 rounds. Since then he has defended the belt twice, stopping Kazuyasu Okamoto and Shusaku Fujinaka. Those wins have seen Yada create a 6 fight winning run, since he was stopped in December 2016 by Jayar Inson and the 29 year old Osakan certainly seems to have developed since his last loss. He has not only developed his skills, but also his mentality, and he's seemingly become a lot more driven since that loss, with his win over Arikawa being an excellent performance based on desire, fitness and will to win.
Blessed with power Yada is a real dangerman on the domestic scene and it will take a tough fighter to see out the distance with him. He has good energy to go with his power, and as mentioned a real will to win. He does fall short in technical aspects but seems to be fully aware that his offense is his best defense and that he is much better off taking the fight to his opponents, or fighting as a controlled counter puncher at range, and chipping away at opponents. He's not going to out box many in a pure boxing sense, but he can hurt people and that is his key.
Nagano secured his shot at the title when he beat Yuki Beppu in October, in a title eliminator. That was the 29 year old southpaw's first bout outside of Tokyo and he rose to the occasion in Kurume to score his 13th straight professional victory. It wasn't just his biggest win to date, but one that saw him build on the early potential that had guided him to the 2015 Rookie of the Year crown. As a fighter the win over Beppu stands out along with his wins in the Rookie tournament against Giraffe Kirin Kanda, Toshio Tarumi, Masaharu Kaito and his 2018 win over Riku Nagahama.
In the ring Nagano is a pretty patient fighter, who is a very heavyhanded southpaw left hand, which he fires out with a real sense of purpose. Despite it being a dangerous punch he is patient with it, timing opponents, countering with it and draw them on to it well. He also had a very frustrating lead hand, that keeps opponents guessing, without actually being a potent weapon, more a neutralising tool. It should be noted he doesn't have a high work rate, but does have power.
Coming into this we see the fight as likely to be a cagey affair early, with both trying to feel out the other. We then expect Yada, the more accomplished and heavy handed fighter, to come on stronger when both settle, and go on to force a stoppage in the second half of the fight to retain his title. It wouldn't be a massive surprise if Nagano scored the win, especially when you consider that 2 of Yada's 4 losses have come to Southpaws, but it would be an upset.
On March 30th we'll see an IBF Welterweight title eliminator take place in the US featuring two Asian fighters, with unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) taking on Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18). On paper this is a mouth watering match up, and we're genuinely excited to see the two men clashing.
Of the two men the more naturally talented boxer, by far, is the 25 year old Abdukakhorov. He's a fantastic boxer with good clean punching, a good work rate, lovely accuracy and ring craft. There is a lack of real power, despite a very notable stoppage win over Charles Manyuchi, but he hits solidly with every punch and fighters will certainly his shots even if they aren't concussive blows.
The Uzbek was a solid amateur before turning professional in 2015. His first few fights were at home in Uzbekistan but before long he had began fighting through Asia with bouts in Malaysia and Singapore. It was those bouts that really saw him building his reputation, scoring solid wins over Larry Siwu, Adones Cabalquinto and the aforementioned Manyuchi. As well as those wins he has also travelled to Russia, where he clearly out pointed Dmitry Mikhaylenko, in what is arguably his most impressive win to date. For the most part it's been his sharp technical boxing which has won him fights, and allowed him to become a top, if often over-looked, contender.
Whilst the Uzbek is the better boxer Obara is the bigger puncher, by far. In fact the Tokyo based 32 year old is one of the best pure punchers in Asia. Sadly he's a bit of a glass cannon and all 3 of his losses have come by stoppage. Whilst his first loss, on debut against Kazuyoshi Kumano, was down to stamina and pacing, subsequent losses to Eduard Troyanovsky and Alvin Lagumbay were KO losses and spectacular ones at that. We're not going to suggest he has no chin, but it does seem like he doesn't react well when caught cleanly.
Whilst Obara does have a questionable chin he is a solid boxer-puncher and clearly will know that another loss will be the end of his world title dreams. He can't afford another set back, he will be fully focused and sometimes that's not the best thing. That can cause extra tension and take a fighter out of their natural gameplan. We don't think that'll be the case here, it's a still possible.
What we're expecting here is a tactical contest, with Abdukakhorov looking to get in and out, controlling the tempo and distance, making the most of his footwork, his jab and his boxing brain. He'll be wanting to set the higher pace and stop Obara from getting behind his jab. Although not as good a boxer, Obara's skills shouldn't be under-rated and he can box to a high level, so the Uzbek will want to be the one setting the pace, and not let Obara get relaxed.
We suspect that Abdukakhorov will set a high pace and will outbox Obara, but will have some hairy moments along the way, when he does get caught, does feel the power of Obara and does get forced to retreat and recover. The Uzbek might get staggered, or even dropped, but we does feel he'll do more than enough to take home the win, by decision and move onto a world title fight later in the year.
On December 9th fight fans in Osaka will see Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada (17-4, 14) make his second defense as he takes on Shusaku Fujinaka (16-9-2, 10) in what looks set to be a really fun and exciting contest.
Yada won the title this past April, when he stopped Toshio Arikawa in a war at the Champion Carnival. Yada's win was a really excellent performance against a dangerous and feared champion, who he neutralised well for the most part and broke down. The bout was his second at title level, following a loss to Jayar Inson in a WBO Asia Pacific title bout, and he really did look like a totally different fighter against Arikawa. Between those bouts he learned a lot, especially from an hellacious Japanese title eliminator against Moon Hyun Yun in 2017. That win over Yun seemed to change how Yada fought and committed himself, and that was again seen in Yada's recent defense against Kazuyasu Okamoto, who was stopped in the 7th round.
Yada is a boxer-puncher, blessed with genuinely nasty power at this level. He seems to struggle with fighters who use distance well, and make him over-commit and also against southpaws, like Inson. Despite the struggles he is an improving fighter and certainly has added a lot more polish to his boxing in recent bouts. He's still not a razor sharp fighter, but is a lot more accurate and crisp than he once was. It's going to take a very good domestic fighter to dethrone him, and we're not sure really is there's anyone, Keita Obara aside, we'd favour over him in Japan right now.
For Fujinaka this will be his third shot at a title, having been stopped by Randall Bailey and Keita Obara in bouts for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. Sadly for Fujinaka those losses been among the bout that have shown his limitations and he is 7-7 in his last 14 bouts, dating back more than 5 years. Not only has he lost at title level, but also domestic level, losing to the likes of Koshinmaru Saito, Kengo Nagashima, Moon Hyon Yun and Toshio Tarumi. He tends to put in a good effort in his losses, but still comes up short and now, at the age of 32 and with a hard career behind him we do wonder what his body has left ot give.
Fujinaka's style is that of a high tempo, grinding fighter, who comes to fight. He can struggle to judge the distance, and can rush in wildly at times, but on the inside he loves letting his shots go in volume. It makes him an exciting fighter to watch, but he's a man who is open to eating counter shots, something we saw in spectacular fashion in his bout with Randall Bailey. His openess will be a major issue here against Yada, who is a very solid puncher and will eventually land a clean show as Fujinaka rushes in.
We love watching Fujinaka, who does fight like someone who wants to give fans value for money. Sadly that style will take a toll on a fighter, and we suspect that toll has already been taken and that Yada will catch him, and finish him at some point here.
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.