The Japanese Welterweight scene isn't the most interesting or notable at the moment but that doesn't mean the division doesn't have some intrigue involved in it, with several interesting fighters rising through the ranks and numerous small stories running through the division. Over the last few years one of the most interesting stories is the rise of the heavy handed Toshio Arikawa (13-4, 11), who has gone from an 8-4 (7) struggling puncher to the Japanese national champion who is set to make his first defense of the title. Another is the story of Arikawa's upcoming challenger Yasuhiro Okawa (14-12-3, 5), who turned a 9-11-3 (3) career around to get a second shot a Japanese title this year. Amazingly this will be the second time the two men have had their stories cross, with Okawa having beaten Arikawa back in 2013.
Since his loss to Okawa back in 2013 we've seen Arikawa 5-1 (4), bouncing back from a 69 second blow out to Daisuke Sakamoto to claim notable wins over Yoshihisa Tonimura, Akinori Watanabe and Nobuyuki Shindo. In those bouts Arikawa has been pretty basic, but he's also shown scary power, with every shot being a thudding, damaging shot. He's not the most skills, or the quickest but what he hits he hurts and that was seen particularly well against Shindo, where a bloodied and beaten Shindo was saved by his corner.
Whilst it's hard to say how much Arikawa has developed in recent years he is certainly a better fighter than he once was, and with the power he has he will always be able to hurt opponents. The big question however is how he copes with being hurt, and he has been stopped 3 times in his 17 fight career. This possibly suggests he's a glass cannon, like former foe Akinori Watanabe, however it could also mean that he's a much improved fighter and the title may well fill his with extra confidence.
Although not an amazing fighter Arikawa has the air of a man who feels unbeatable, and that sort of air can carry a fighter far. That is likely to be seen again here and it's going to take an excellent performance from anyone at Japanese domestic level to beat him
Okawa's win over Arikawa kick started his rise through the ranks with 4 subsequent wins leading to his first title shot, a narrow and competitive loss to Nobuyuki Shindo in a bout for the then vacant title. That was Okawa's first loss in almost 5 years and ended a 5 fight unbeaten run, that also included a win over Tomoyuki Omura.
In the ring Okawa isn't a special fighter, but he is better than his record suggests and he holds notable results on his record, like wins over Daisuke Sakamoto and Hidekazu Matsunobu, along with a draw against Hayato Hokazono, as well as the win over Arikawa. Unfortunately for Okawa he has been inconsistent, losing to fighters like Shinta Kintamura and Tomoyuki Shiotani. There is no shame in some of his losses, such as defeats to Takehiro Shimokawara, Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo, but the inconsistency has been an issue until recently.
Although not the biggest puncher, or the most physically strong Okawa is a hard working fighter with good stamina and a willingness to fight up in an opponents face. It's not always done him well but he's significantly better than his record suggests and knows that he can beat Arikawa.
Although Okawa has scored a win over Arikawa, we can't help but think the champion, who had an injury earlier this year, will avenge that loss and claim his first defense whilst looking to make a mark on the wider boxing scene, possibly moving towards an OPBF title fight in 2017.
On January 16th we saw the first Japanese title fight of the year, with that bout seeing a regular and interim title being unified. On January 20th we see, barring a draw, a new champion being crowed as the vacant Welterweight title is on the line for a bout between the top two ranked Japanese fighters, the #1 ranked Yasuhiro Okawa (14-11-3, 5) [大川 泰弘] and the #2 ranked Nobuyuki Shindo (16-3-1, 6) [新藤 寛之].
Of the two men the one is better known is Shindo, despite his lower ranking with the JBC. The Miyata gym fighter is a former Japanese title challenger, losing a close decision to former champion Suyon Takayama, who vacated the title recently after 6 defenses. In that bout Shindo dropped Takayama before being out worked in the second half for Takayama to retain the title.
Although not a bit name Shindo is a huge Welterweight, stood at 6'1”. He will tower over most other fighters in the division, as will be seen when he fights the 5'8” Okawa, and of course he knows how to use that height, and reach advantages, to great effect. He has also shown a grit and determination as well as solid work rate and the ability to go 10 rounds.
Whilst clearly the favourite it does need to be noted that Shindo has has come up short in his most notable bouts. That has included two very competitive losses to Takayama and a loss and draw against Moon Hyun Yun. Whilst he has failed in his 4 bouts with Takayama and Yun he has scored notable wins over the likes of Tetsuya Suzuki, Toru Chiba and Yuichi Ideta, all solid wins on the Japanese domestic scene.
Aged 31 Okawa is a 13 year pro but has never fought at title level before, in fact this will be the first time that he's been scheduled in a bout longer than 8 rounds. His career has seen him going 8 rounds on 6 occasions, as well going into round 8 in two other bouts. On the whole he has been fighting on the fringes of the Japanese scene during his 28 fight career though has managed to face Hayato Hokazono, Takehiro Shimokawara, Hidekazu Matsunobu, Koshinmaru Saito and Toshio Arikawa, with a win over Arikawa being very notable now given that Arikawa will now be tha mandatory for the winner of this one.
Whilst we've never been that impressed by Okawa he is riding a 5 fight winning streak, including the win over Arikawa. That run is, by far, the best of Okawa's career and sees him coming into this one full of confidence. For us however the worry is really about him fighting over the 10 round distance and about his step back up in class.
Although Okawa is clearly in good form we can't see him claiming the win here, instead we see Shindo's extra experience over 10 rounds, and at a higher level, just being enough to take him the win, via a decision.
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.