Kato takes on Saito, another big punching challenger, as he attempts to defence the Japanese title once again
It's hard to think of a title level fighter with a busier scheduled than Japanese Lightweight champion Yoshitaka Kato (27-5-1, 8). The shaven Kato has already fought twice this year and has actually fought thrice in the last 10 months but that isn't stopping him for looking another fight, and on July 23rd he returns to defend his national title for the 7th time in less than 3 years.
In the opposite corner to the tough and exciting Kato will be the big punching Tsukasa Saito (19-2, 14) who will be looking to score his most notable win to date and claim his second professional title, having previously been a WBC Youth champion.
Although the men are very different they do each share some trains, notably the excitement they bring to the ring. In Saito's case it's from his power and slight recklessness whilst with Kato the excitement comes from his toughness and his willingness to get into a war despite lacking single punch power. With that in mind the two men seem almost certain to deliver a thriller as they clash in the ring.
Kato is, by far, the more proven man having been a unified Japanese and OPBF champion, prior to losing the OPBF title to Masayoshi Nakatani, and having shared the ring with a relative who's who of Japanese opponents including Nihito Arakawa and Akihiro Honda, who fight in the main event on the same show, Shoji Kawase, Yuhei Suzuki, Motoko Sasaki and the aforementioned Nakatani. In his 33 fight career he has only been stopped once and has tested himself against the best Japan has to offer, often giving a fantastic account of himself.
As for Saito his competition has been much less testing though at just 24 years old he is younger, fresher, less damaged and slightly taller than Kato which could well neutralise the clear disadvantage in lack of experience.
Of the two men we're expecting Kato to be the more comfortable in the ring come fight night. He has proven that he enjoys fighting "punchers" and that they don't intimidate him, in fact if anything he shown an innate ability to turn their aggression back on them with clever counter-punching and timing. We're expecting to see him do just that on Saito who will come out, like so many others, with the intention of taking Kato out but finding him to be a very stubborn foe. The more Saito tries the more he'll get hit before eventually being broken down in the middle-to-late rounds. If the bout goes as we think it will we wouldn't be shocked to see Kato scoring a second successive 7th round TKO.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
At the beginning of 2014 Yoshitaka Kato (26-5-1, 7) was the unified Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion. He went in to the year on an unbeaten run of 9 fights over the previous 3 years, a run that saw him not just unifying the titles but beating the likes of Akihiro Kondo-avenging an old defeat, Motoki Sasai and Rey Labao. He was in the form of his life.
Kato's solid run came to an end in January when he lost the OPBF title the very highly regarded Masayoshi Nakatani who really came of age in that bout. Although Kato lost his OPBF belt he managed to keep a hold of the Japanese title which wasn't on the line for the contest, though it will be on April 30th as he defends the nation title against former rival Yuhei Suzuki (14-3, 11).
The men first fought just over a year ago with Kato taking a very hard fought decision to defend the Japanese title. Since then the champion has gone 2-1 with the loss to Nakatani being the most recent. For Suzuki things have been a little bit better with the challenger going 3-0 (3), albeit against limited opposition.
On paper Kato holds a lot of advantages. He is more experienced than Suzuki, he has fought almost twice as many bouts, three times as many rounds and has mixed it in OPBF title bouts. For Suzuki, who lost to Kato in his only previous title fight of any kinda, this is a step back up from what he has been fighting in recent bouts.
Although Kato has the obvious edge in experience the power certainly lies with Suzuki who has stopped 4 of his last 5, the only man to see out the distance in that time is the defending champion. At 24 Suzuki is also younger than the 29 year old champion and is just beginning to mature fully, of course Kato isn't an old man but he is arguably getting to the point where a hard career can catch up with him.
Just as interestingly for Suzuki is the fact that, the loss to Kato aside, he hasn't been beaten since his was 21. His career since then has been 7-1 and he's certainly become a better fighter than he was.
Although an improved fighter Suzuki is still flawed and depends a lot on his power. If Kato, as he did last time, can take it then we see the champion taking another very tough decision victory. If however the miles on his clock are catching up with him, and he has plenty of miles having been in with Nakatani, Nihito Arakawa and Suzuki in the past, then Suzuki's punches might just have that bit of an extra effect and take their toll.
From where we're sat we think Kato retains, though has to dig very deep to keep his title on a bout that effectively serves as the co-feature to the very interest Heavyweight fight between Nobuhiro Ishida and Kyotaro Fujimoto, a bout that we think is a much more interesting contest. The Heavyweight bout may not have a title on the line but it certainly seems to have attracted the attention of fans around the world, something we can't imagine this national title fight managing to do despite it being a very interesting contest in it's own right.
(Image courtesy of www.kadoebi.com/boxing/)
The first big Asian fight of 2014 is penciled in for January 11th as Yoshitaka Kato (26-4-1, 7), the Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion, attempts to defend his OPBF title.
Kato, ranked #10 by the WBC and WBO, is a fringe world level fighter. He's not a name known in the west but he does hold a notable 1-1 record against Nihito Arakawa and is a man who has been impressing on the Japanese domestic scene.
Not only has Kato been one of the rising domestic forces but he's a man who has been on a solid winning run. His last loss came via a shock stoppage to Mitsuya Omura back in April 2010 and since then he has won 9 straight. Those 9 fights have included 5 successful defenses of the Japanese title and of course him winning both the Japanese and OPBF titles.
Those victories, on the whole, have come by decision with Kato needing to show his boxing skills to over come the likes of Rey Labao, Akihiro Kondo and Takashi Inagaki. He has scored the odd stoppage, including a 91 second TKO over the very limited Kota Koike, but they have been rare and haven't come against any sort of quality.
Aged 29 Kato will have his eyes on a world title fight at some point. That however is dependent on him keeping his world ranking and also the OPBF title title that he claimed last year with a decision over Motoki Sasaki.
Although Kato has already defended the OPBF title once, defeating Rey Labao, he's now set to defend against one of the most promising fighters in Japan, Masayoshi Nakatani (6-0, 5).
For many Nakatani is a real obscurity. He's not a fighter who has climbed into any world rankings, he's not even ranked in the top 100 by the IBO but he is a man who has probably flown under-the-radar a bit more than he should have. He's not only a member of the Ioka Gym alongside world champions Kazuto Ioka and Ryo Miyazaki, but he's widely regarded as the "third" best fighter at the gym.
What Nakatani has done as a professional is look exceptionally promising and highly dangerous. His most impressive performance to date was a stoppage over the very dangerous Shuhei Tsuchiya. It was that fight more than any other that really showed what Nakatani was about and in fact some described him as showing glimpses of Tommy Hearns about him.
Aged 24 and stood at 5'11" Nakatani is a Lightweight giant. He has long arms which he has used to great effect, he has genuine power and with the Ioka training you know he is well skilled.
Of the two fighters it's clear that Kato is the more experienced man. He has an impressive 31 fights behind him with 206 professional rounds. These have included numerous bouts that have gone the scheduled 12 rounds. Nakatani has just 6 bouts and a mere 21 rounds under him with the longest fight of his career going just 6 rounds.
Despite the experience edge we think the most telling edge will be in power and size. Kato isn't a big puncher at all. He's only managed 2 stoppages in his last 12 bouts dating back to 2009. Nakatani though is a monstrous puncher and we have seen Kato stopped once before, by Mitsuya Omura. We're expecting a repeat of that and will be calling the apparent upset.
As well as the main event we're expecting to see 5 other bouts on the show. These will include former OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (11-1, 2) fighting against Yuki Fujimoto (7-2-1, 2) in the chief support bout. This contest is scheduled for 10 round.
The other bouts on the card will include Kenji Kubo (3-2, 1) and Yusuke Sakashita (10-4-2, 6).
The card, put on by Kadoebihoseki, will be held at the Korakuen Hall and will be expected to feature some really great action.
Although far from a super card we expect the show to be very interesting, most notably because of the main event which bares a lot of importance on the domestic scene and the world scene.
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.