The Welterweight division in Japan isn't the best, and sadly at the moment the one genuine stand out in the division, Keita Obara, is injured and was forced to pull out of a Japanese title defense earlier this year against Yuki Nagano (19-3, 15). Rather than letting the title scene sit until Obara returns the JBC have allowed Nagano to fight for the interim title this coming Monday, where he will face Takeru Kobata (11-5-1, 4) at Korakuen Hall in the main event of the latest Dynamic Glove show.
Of the two fighters Nagano is the very clear favourite. The 32 year old is a former Japanese national champion, who holds wins over a number of notable domestic fighters, such as Riku Nagahama, Yuki Beppu, Ryota Yada, Makoto Kawasaki and Yuki Beppu. In fairness he possibly has the best resume in the division of any Japanese fighter, even better than Obara's, with only fellow Teiken stable mate Ryota Toyoshima giving him a run for his money. Sadly though at the age of 32 and having taken a fair bit of punish through his career, it's hard to know just how much he has left to offer the sport, though.
In the ring Nagano is heavy handed southpaw boxer-puncher. He's got a stiff jab, a very heavy straight left hand and like many Teiken fighters in recent years, likes to box at mid-range whilst drawing mistakes and hammering with straight shots. He has a nice array of of short punches, but does tend to only use them to close the show against opponents who are hurt. He's clearly talented but he's not flawless, and he's certainly not the quickest, the sharpest or the toughest, having been stopped in 2 of his 3 losses. Sadly for Nagano his defensive skills are lacking and against Obara in 2020 he was simply made to look second best in every dimension. Obara simply did what Nagano wanted to do, far better than Nagano could.
Kobata on the other hand is something of an unknown, even for those who actively follow the Japanese scene. The 23 year old is a southpaw from Oita who has typically fought outside of the main Japanese boxing markets, of Toyko, Osaka, Kobe and Hyogo, and he's not yet found something of a boxing home. Instead his career has sene him fight across Japan, travelling for fights and being willing to take on fights in their home towns regularly. Thankfully that has began to pay off for him, and recently he has been getting more and more fights in Tokyo against notable names, and scoring some solid domestic wins along the way. In fact his last 5 bouts have come against Change Hamashima, Shoki Sakai, Rikuto Adachi, Tetsuya Kondo and Fumisake Kimura. Not only that but he's also been picking up wins, stopping Adachi in a round and beating both Kondo and Kimura to climb up the Japanese rankings.
Rather sadly footage of Kobata is rather had to come by, but there some of his recent fights available. What is freely available show Kobata to be a pressure fighter, who comes forward looking to draw his opponents into a fight, without taking too many risks. He comes forward behind a somewhat cautious stands, edging towards an opponent looking to draw a mistake which he can counter with his crisp left hand. Up close he's physical, aggressive, and likes to impose himself, pushing opponents around. His style is somewhat frustrating to watch, and it feels like he could do much more with it, but it's getting results for him, and making him a very hard man to beat. He also had the advantage of being genuinely tough, despite having 2 stoppage losses to his name. He has shown he's rugged, and he can stand and fight when he needs to. He also has sneaky power, as Adachi found out.
For Nagano the key here is to fight his fight. He needs to keep it at range. He needs to box and move, create space, and use his reach. If he lets Kobata back him up and dictate the tempo and range here, he will be dragged into something tough and testing. Instead if he can establish a busy jab, keep Kobata at range and land huge left hands of his own he should have the tools to break down Kobata.Nagano does need to be wary of Kobata getting close and turning this into a rougher and tougher bout than he wants, but Nagano should have the tools to win break down his younger foe.
Prediction - TKO8 Nagano
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