The final Japanese show this month takes place at Korakuen Hall and has a really solid looking main event as Yoshimitsu Kimura (13-2-1, 8) faces former foe Kanehiro Nakagawa (11-6, 5), in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight, and a contest that has the potential to be something of a sleeper classic. One that is easy to over-look, but should deliver something a little special. The bout not only has two guys who are often over-looked, but two guys who have very fun styles, and also have a bit of history, with this being the second bout between the men.
Before we look at where we are today, we need to discuss the fact the two men faced off way back in 2017. That bout saw Kimura take a very hard fought decision over Nakagawa, who at the time didn't look like someone we'd be talking about 5 years later. The bout saw Kimura move to 8-0 and continue his ascent through the ranks, whilst Nakagawa fell to 4-5, and seemed to be heading towards total obscurity. Since then Kimura has gone 5-2-1, and proven to be one of the most fan friendly fighters in Japan, with notable bouts against the likes of Hironori Mishiro, Shuma Nakazato and Kosuke Saka, with his win over Saka landing him his regional title. As for Nakagawa he has totally turned his career around, going 8-1 and scoring notable domestic wins over Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Ken Osato, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa.
With the short history lesson out of the way, lets talk about the two men, and who they are today, and how that could also play a major role in this bout.
The 25 year old Yoshimitsu Kimura is one of the most fun to watch fighters in Japan. He debuted in 2015 and would go on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016, fighting as a Featherweight. He ran up a 9 fight unbeaten record, including the aforementioned win of Nakagawa, before challenging Richard Pumicpic for the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title and coming up short, in a really competitive bout. That fight, at the age of 21, showed there was real potential with Kimura. He bounced back from that loss by by moving up in weight and scoring 3 solid wins before challemging OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro, and losing a very close, incredibly competitive bout by split decision, in what was one of the best fights of 2019. That loss was followed by another set back as he suffered a draw, in another thriller, with Shuma Nakazato. In his bout following that draw Kimura scored the biggest win of his career, stopping Kosuke Saka in 3 rounds to win the OPBF Super Featherweight title.
One this to note coming into this bout regarding Kimura is that earlier this year he was scheduled to face Samir Ziani. That bout was cancelled at short notice, and coming in to this bout it's going to be interesting to see if that cancelation effects Kimura or not, as he did admit he had lost motivation due to that fight falling through.
In the ring a driven Kimura is a nightmare to fight. He's gritty, determined and as we saw against Mishiro and Nakazato, he simply doesn't know when he's beaten. That has made him a fan favourite and a must watch fighter in Japan. He can be hurt, he can dropped, but it's going to take something very special to stop him and stop his desire. In terms of his style he's someone who can box and move, and is a very solid boxer, however what makes him so much fun to watch is that he has real dog inside him. When things are tough he often forgets his boxing skills and goes all out, setting a high tempo, applying a lot of pressure and simply try to grind down opponents. Although his best offense is his volume he is also a solid puncher, and that was shown in his bout with Saka, when big head shots from Kimura left Saka stumbling around the ring. At 130lbs, and now in his physical prime, Kimura looks like a nasty fighter, as he develops his power, his strength and his confidence, making him even tougher to beat. He can box, he can fight, he can punch, and although he's not world class in any area he is a very, very solid all round.
On paper Nakagawa is very limited, and his 11-6 (5) record includes not just 6 losses, but also 2 stoppage losses. Despite that the 27 year old is regarded as one of the top Super Featherweights in Japan and in Asia. He is highly regarded not due to a padded record, like some fighters out there, but due to his current form, and the way he has totally turned his career around. He debuted in 2014, losing in 2 rounds, and was 4-5 after 9 bouts with losses to the likes of Toru Kiyota, Kimihiro Nakagawa and, of course, Yoshimitsu Kimura. Since then however he has developed in so many ways, and taken those losses as a sign to improve, to develop and to grow as a fighter. He has gone 7-1 since that start, and really should have been 8-0 with the loss to Ren Sasaki in 2018 being a very debatable one. He now fights like a man determined to never lose again, and victories over the likes of Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa have certainly helped in still a real confidence in him.
Sadly it's not all been plain ailing for Nakagawa, despite his great form, and he, like Kimura, has had a bout cancelled this year. For him it was a planned bout against Kosuke Saka, that had to be scrapped when Nakagawa suffered an injury. That means he has been out of the ring since October 2021.
In the ring Nakagawa doesn't do anything amazingly well. He's not got lights out power, or lightning speed, or incredible movement. Much like Kimura however he's become a very, very hard man to beat, with a great sense of will and desire in his in ring work. He comes forward, is determined and sets and odd rhythm to things, which upsets fighters. He does a lot of things wrong, isn't technical, but is tough, has plenty of pop on his shots and throws from some really awkward and peculiar angles. His footwork is odd, his punches are weird and yet he still managed to use his really odd style to great success. Trying to prepare for Nakagawa and his really odd style, that looks amateurish as hell at times, must be a nightmare and few will be able to replicate it in sparring, making him even tough to fight.
Sadly for Nakagawa we do feel that Kimura is genuinely a special fighter. Maybe not a future world champion, but special enough to compete at that level even if he does fall short. As for Nakagawa he's awkward, clumsy and hard to beat, but we do feel that, over 12 rounds, his style will be tiring to himself, and after 4 or 5 rounds Kimura will begin to read him better, time him more consistently, and take over the fight. We see Nakagawa having some really good success early on, but as the rounds fly by Kimura will begin to take over, and do enough to win a clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Kimura
On December 14th fight fans will have their attention on Japan, with a major show at the with Western fans focus in on Kokugikan, in Tokyo. That show however, with two world title bouts, isn't the only Japanese show show this coming Tuesdays, with a smaller card set to take place at Korakuen Hall. That Korakuen Hall show is much smaller, but it promises to deliver so amazing action with two OPBF title bouts.
For us one of the OPBF title bouts looks like a potential hidden for the month, and that is the OPBF Super Featherweight title bout between Kosuke Saka (21-5, 18) and Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-2-1, 7), who battle for the currently vacant title, which was vacated by Hironori Mishiro. The bout certainly doesn't have the star power of the bouts at the Kokugikan, but may well end up being the most explosive bout of the day.
Of the two men the much more proven is Saka. The heavy handed fighter from Osaka is a bit of an unknown outside of Japan, but has already won both the Japanese Feather and Super Featherweight title, and came runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year, all the way back in 2012 where he lost to Masayuki Ito in the final. He is a very aggressive, heavy handed monster who often goes over-looked when we talk about exciting Japanese fighters, in part due to having 5 losses. The first of those was to Ito in 2012 and by the summer of 2014 he was 8-3 (5). Since then however he has gone 13-2 with his only losses in that run coming in a freak ending against Takenori Ohashi and to the criminally under-rated Joe Noynay. As for his wins during that 15 fight run, he has beaten the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Takafumi Nakajima, Shoita Hayashi, Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe. (For those curious, Ryuto Kyoguchi is indeed Hiroto Kyoguchi's brother).
In the ring Saka, when he's on song, is a nightmare. He's very heavy handed, his shots hurt every time they land, and he combines his break like fist with a style that bring constant, intelligent pressure. In just a few years he has developed from a crude, but powerful puncher, into an intelligent, heavy handed pressure-puncher, who comes forward, puts opponents on the back foot and hurts them, time and time again, breaking them down physically and mentally. That was seen to great effect against Masaru Sueyoshi, who he beat for the title, and against the incredibly tough Takuya Watanabe, who had his incredible resistance broken. His current run has seen him climb into the WBO world rankings, and a win here would help him earn a place into the WBC rankings, and help him move towards a world title fight.
Whilst Saka is a proven force on the domestic scene Kimura isn't, at least not quite. The 25 has come close to making a mark a couple of times, but hasn't yet managed to win the big fights that he needs to win to put down a mark on the scene. Despite that he has shown he has the skills, the desire and the ability to mix it on domestic and regional level, though perhaps lacks the experience and maturity at the moment. He turned professional in 2015, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016 and was 9-0 when he faced off with the always tricky Richard Pumicpic, suffering a competitive loss to the Filipino. He bounced back from that loss with 3 wins, before losing a razor close bout to Hironori Mishiro in late 2019, in a legitimately fantastic 12 round battle for the OPBF title Super Featherweight title. Sadly since that loss he's only fought once, fighting to a thrilling draw with Shuma Nakazato late last year.
In the ring Kimura is a technically well schooled fighter who can either fight as a pressure fighter or a boxer, but does tend to prefer a high tempo bout up close, with shots being thrown on the inside. He's shown fantastic determination, getting up in his last two bouts, impressive stamina, having already been 12 rounds twice, a great work rate and smart movement. He has decent power, but it's not destructive, and will get respect of fighters, but it's not fight changing at the high levels, and the likes of Mishiro and Pumicpic weren't too affected by it. Sadly he does, at times, look just a touch fragile, and whilst there's no doubting his heart and determination, we do have to wonder whether he'll be able to with stand the power and physicality of Saka.
We expect this to be a really fun, explosive fight. The styles should gel really, really well and we should see the two men getting close and exchanging heavy leather. Sadly for Kimura it does feel like his style will pay into the hands of Saka, who hits hard, is physically more imposing, and has that killer instinct. We see Kimura having moments in the first couple of rounds, before being backed up in rounds 3 and 4, and then finally being broken down in the middle rounds. The sheer power and of Saka will be the difference maker, and whilst this will be a great fight, we don't see Kimura have what he needs to take home the victory.
Prediction - TKO6 Saka
On December 10th fight fans at Korakuen Hall get a really interesting card featuring some of the top fighters from the Watanabe Gym, including the unbeaten OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (8-0-1, 3) defending his title against the once beaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-1, 7). For fans outside of Japan this bout won't really set pulses racing, but for those in Japan, and those who follow the Japanese scene, this is a really interesting match up and one worthy of attention.
Mishiro was a former amateur standout who has been on the fast track under the Watanabe gym since he turned professional. In just his 5th bout he went in with the touted Shuya Masaki and in his 6th bout, just 15 months after his debut, he became the OPBF champion, out pointing Carlo Magali. Whilst he failed to unify the OPBF and Japanese titles, just a fight later, when he fought to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi, he has come on and gone from strength to strength. His last two bouts have seen him defeat the teak tough Takuya Watanabe and former OPBF champion Ryo Takenaka, and he's on the verge of a world ranking after just 9 fights.
Despite having so little experience Mishiro has shown he can box, he can brawl and he can fight. He originally looked like more of a boxer early on, and the fight with Magali was an interesting match up due to Mishiro boxing rather than fighting. As he's developed however he has shown a willingness to really fight, and that was on show against Sueyoshi, with Mishiro falling behind when he was boxing, then becoming a fighter to claw back the bout in an excellent contest. He's still got areas to work on and we still don't know how sturdy his chin is, but he has ticked a lot of boxes, and has proven his stamina can take him 12 rounds and that he can bite down and adapt.
At 23 years old Kimura is a young gun looking to make his mark on the sport and continue the momentum he has began to building following his sole career loss, back in Spring 2018 to Richard Pumicpic. He first broke through back in 2016 as a fresh faced youngster, winning Rookie of the Year, and on paper seemed ill-prepared for Pumicpic, but still managed to give the talented Filipino a real fight. That loss has really brought him on, and since then he has stopped 3 decent fighters, including Filipino Allen Vallespin.
In the ring Kimura is a talented fighter with a nice jab, good movement and a good boxing brain. Sadly however he does have the look of a kid in their at times, and although really talented there is a feeling that he might be someone who matures a little later than some other fighters. That could be a major question mark when faces a strong Super Featherweight, and it seemed like Pumicpic managed to rough him up in their fight, albeit with a few accidental headclashes early on. We've always been impressed by Kimura's composure in the ring, but the lack of real physicality has lingered as a potential issue in our mind for the youngster. That is despite the fact Kimura looks great when he works up close and applies pressure.
We see this being a really interesting fight, but one that Mishiro should win whatever happens. If Mishiro decides to box we feel he'll be just a touch too polished for Kimura, and will take a clear, but well fought, decision over the younger man. If Mishiro wishes to make life more fun for fans however he could look to make this into a fight, and try to drag Kimura into a tear up. If that happens we'll have a high intensity fight, fan friendly war. Either way we're expecting this to be a clear decision win for Mishiro in a fun and exciting late contender for Japanese fight of the year.
Prediction - UD12 Mishiro
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.