This coming weekend we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (35-10-3, 10) make his 3rd defense as he takes on the relatively unknown Hiroya Nojima (9-1, 4). The bout, on paper, looks like a massive mismatch in favour of the talented veteran, however Nonaka is now 44, has fought just once in 3 years, and is a man coming to the end of a long, and successful, career, whilst Nojima is just 26 and hungry to make an impact on the sport as he heads into his prime years.
Having turned professional back in late 1990's few would have expected Nonaka to have had the career he's had. Born in Hyogo, a place that isn't really a hot bed for Japanese boxing talent, and debuting in 1999, at the wonderfully Chicken George in Kobe, there was no real expectation on Nonaka to have a successful career. What little expectations were on his shoulders were pretty much destroyed from the off, as he lost 2 of his first 3 bouts, 3 of his first 5, and 4 of his first 9, leaving him with a 5-4 (2) record. That poor start has however been put behind him and since then he has gone a very impressive 30-6-3 (9). That stat looks pretty impressive, but is even more impressive when put into some context, with Nonaka becoming a 2-time Japanese champion at 154lbs, claiming the OPBF title at 154lbs, and winning both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles at 160lbs. He has also notched notable wins against the likes of Akihiro Furukawa, Kazuhiko Kudaka, Charles Bellamy and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, and has done so without having any exceptional physical trait. He has done it by simply under-standing boxing, and being good at it.
In the ring Nonaka is a very, very well schooled boxer who really under-stands the sport. Watching him we see a fighter who isn't fast, powerful, explosive or physically imposing. He's also not someone who sets a high work rate. Instead he simply lands clean, makes opponents miss, and dictates the action behind intelligent boxing, clean accurate sharp punches, and really good footwork. He is very much the sort of boxer who every fighter in the sport needs to watch. He lands clean shots at range, ties up up close, and simply dictates the action behind constant, steady, basic boxing. He has really gotten a lot from just simply understanding how to box, and not relying on physical tools. As a result of being a good boxer, he has had great success into his 40's, and continues to be one of the leading Japanese fighters in and around the Middleweight division.
The 26 year old Nojima is a baby in comparison to Nonaka, and only made his debut in 2019. He would start his career at Welterweigth and would score 3 straight wins before suffering his sole lose in November 2019, in a Rookie of the Year bout. Since then he has reeled off 6 straight wins and won Rookie of the Year himself, in the delayed 2020 Rookie of the Year. Sadly since his Rookie of the Year triumph he has not really shone, despite facing progressively better opponents, including a win over Masatery Hatagami in April, in an 8 round bout at 154lbs. Notably this bout will be his first as a Middleweight and his first over 10 rounds, both of which will be challenges for him, though not as much of a challenge as stepping up to face someone as talented, accomplished and experienced as Nonaka.
In the ring Nojima is a rather slow, awkward looking fighter who is defensively open, lacks snap, power and crispness, and he doesn't appear to have too much going for him. He is young, and he can certainly improve, but in many ways he looks like a novice, who needs a lot of work, in every area of his game. At Welterweight he had some size advantages over opponents, but at Middleweight that size advantage will not be there and although he might technically be quicker than a 44 year old Nonaka, there isn't the snap and crispness to him that there is with the veteran.
Coming in to this bout the feeling is that this is very much a stay busy and easy defense of Nonaka, who still hopes to land a major international fight before ending his career. From watching Nojima footage this really should little more than a showcase from Nonaka, who's crisp counter punching, accurate jab, and smart footwork should see him winning round, after round, after round to take either a clear decision, or a late stoppage, depending on whether Nonaka wants to score a somewhat rare, for him, stoppage. We suspect the constant, steady, stream of shots will eventually break down the challenger.
Prediction - TKO10 Nonaka
On July 23rd we get a genuinely interesting WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title bout, as veteran champion Yuki Nonaka (34-10-3, 10) takes on the once touted Koki Koshikawa (9-2, 6). Although the bout isn't a big one, and won't get much international attention, it is a really interesting one with a lot of sub-stories around it and different threads that need unpicking before the bout comes around.
For those unaware Nonaka is one of the real stalwarts of Japanese boxing. The now 43 year old began his career way back in 1999, and did so with some very mixed results going 2-3 in his first 5. Unlikely many fighters that have great longevity Nonaka really struggle early on. In fact at the age of 31 he was 19-7-2 (7), though by that point he had unified the Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight titles. Amazingly since then Nonaka has gone 15-3-1 (3), reclaiming the Japanese title at 154lbs, and later winning the unified WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles at 160lbs whilst having a sensational late run to his career. Not only has he been getting good results, but also beating solid fighters, like Charles Bellamy, Yuto Shimizu, Ryosuke Maruki and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, all of whom were younger than Nonaka.
What has really been the key to Nonaka's success is his boxing brain and his fitness. He's never been a man with much power, or much speed, but he's a physical fit fighter with a really good boxing brain, in fact he almost beat Takeshi Inoue, by just keeping things simple, using good movement and countering the bull like Inoue. Not only is he smart, and does the little things really well, but he's also a tall, rangy southpaw, giving opponents even more problems in landing clean on him. It's also worth noting that his defense is, usually, very good and in his 47 professional bouts he has only been stopped once, and that was way back in 2002.
However with all that said it now needs noting that Nonaka hasn't fought in almost 2 years, with his last bout coming in September 2019 when he was run surprisingly close by Korean Hyun Min Yang, who was aggressive, busy and came to fight. Nonaka was cut in that fight, around the nose, and it was a really messy, tough bout that seemed to suggest father time was getting to him. And that was 2 years ago. We really need to wonder how's he going to look with the ring rusty at the age of 43. Can he still dig deep and can he still show the same skills and timing he did earlier in his career?
Koki Koshikawa made his professional debut in 2014 following an solid amateur background that saw him going 46-25 (23). He was expected to be moved quickly by the Celes gym, and debuted in 6 rounders before quickly moving into 8 rounders. Sadly however a loss in his 5th bout, to Koshinmaru Saito, slowed his ascent and he was out of the ring for more than 2 years afterwards. When he returned to the ring he scored 5 straight wins, but the most notable of those were a stoppage over former Japanese interim champion Daisuke Sakamoto and a close decision over Ratchasi Sithsaithong, with neither being a real headline grabbing win. Despite his competition he managed to get a shot at the Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga in 2019, and despite looking good in the first round Koshikawa was broken down in 4 as Matsunaga retained his belt.
Sadly since losing to Matsunaga, in November 2019, we've not seen Koshikawa in the ring, and overall his career has fallen a long way short of expectations. He was supposed to be a domestic force, but lost to the two most notable domestic fighters he's faced. He has been outboxed by one and stopped by another, and coming in to this fight he's also moving up in weight.
Koshikawa is inactive, he's failed in his biggest fights, and he's moving up to Middleweight for the first time. However he can't be written off here. He was a good amateur, he has a decent boxing brain, at 30 years old he's pretty much in his prime and he will know this is his last chance to shine following the loss to Matsunaga. He has the boxing skills to be a problem, he has speed and decent movement, he lets his hands go well but he's also someone who has struggled on the bigger stages, and has come apart under pressure.
In their primes, there is no doubt that we'd strongly favour Nonaka. His skills, boxing brain, punch picking, timing and ring control of distance would be too much. He would catch Koshikawa coming in and rely on his straight shots, getting Koshikawa's respect, and racking up the rounds. Koshikawa would likely see out the schedule, but would look a bruised, beaten, battered man by the end of 12 rounds.
In their current guise however we really wouldn't be shocked by father time catching up with Nonaka. The veteran struggling to pull the trigger at times, falling short, being under pressure and missing when he does through. His body breaking down in front of us.
We're huge fans of Nonaka, and his career has been truly remarkable, but we actually suspect Koshikawa's youth and hunger will be a major issue, and he will manage to break down the veteran.
Prediction - TKO9 Koshikawa
This coming Monday we'll see the ageless Yuki Nonaka (33-10-3, 10) hunt his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title, as he goes up against Korean puncher Yang Hyun Min (8-2, 7). At first glance this is a highly skilled veteran taking on a young and hungry fighter, but how do we see this one going? Does Min have a chance or will Nonaka continue picking up wins his 40's?
Of the two fighters the lesser known is Min, a 26 year old Korean who has fought his entire career in Korea so far. He made his debut in 2016 and won his first 3 bouts, all by stoppage. Following the promising start Min was out boxed by Jae Hyuk Shin in early 2017 and just 2 months later Min was stopped by Heuk San Lee, down at Welterweight. Since losing to Lee, a Korean based Cameroonian fighter, Min has gone 4-0 (3) and won both the Korean and WBA Asia Middleweight titles.
Whilst Min is a double champion his competition has been incredibly poor with his best win, on paper at least, coming against China's Yihao Wang back in June. That competition explains he looks like a puncher on paper, though in reality it's almost impossible to take anything from the numbers on his record. His loss to Lee shows that Lee can punch a bit, and that Min didn't take a good shot at Welterweight, but tells us nothing about Min or his potential. Sometimes, when it comes to Koreans and Thai's, that can be a bit misleading and they can turn out to be better than their records suggest. From the footage available of him he's aggressive and powerful looking, but clumsy, not particularly quick or sharp and throws wide hooks. He's fun to watch, but very much what an American fan would describe as a club fighter.
Nonaka on the other hand is very well respected in Japan, and even the wider Asian boxing regions. The 41 year old southpaw has been a professional for close to 20 years, debuting in November 1999, and despite losing 3 of his first 5 he has carved out an excellent career. He managed to unify the Japanese and OPBF Light Middleweight titles in 2009, reclaimed the Japanese title in 2014 and won the unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Middleweights titles earlier this year. Although he has lost 2 of his last 4 they both came to fighter who went on to fight in world title fights, Dennis Hogan and Takeshi Inoue, with those losses being his only 2 losses since 2010!
In the ring Nonaka is a pure boxer and the sort of fighter that every emerging fighter should watch. He's incredibly smart, and at the age of 41 he has the ring craft to beat younger and stronger fighters. His style is relaxed, he fights behind his jab, moves when he needs to and doesn't waste much of anything, as he limits his movement and punch out put. Despite being conservative in his approach he can step it up as, and when, he needs to and is very tricky to beat. for those looking to beat him they need to use speed and output, which Hogan used well, and out land him at range, but those trying to pressure him really need to consider a different gameplan.
Given the styles of the two men, as well as their experience, it's really, really hard to see how Min wins. He'll be pressing the fight, looking to land bombs, but eating a steady stream of counter shots. Barring a freak shot from Min we really don't give him any chance at all. Instead we see either a very wide decision win for Nonaka, or a stoppage from accumulation in the middle to late rounds.
Prediction - TKO8 Nonaka
The Middleweight scene is not one that we tend to think of too much when we discuss Japanese fighters, even with the recent success of Ryota Murata. Strangely however the Japanese scene at 160lbs is probably as good as it's ever been, with several exciting fighters making their mark. Those include Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako as well as the unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-3, 10).
Hosokawa won the unified title last year in a Japanese Fight of the Year candidate against Yasuyuki Akiyama, avenging one of his losses in the process, and will be making his first defense this coming Sunday against skilled veteran Yuki Nonaka (32-10-3, 10), on February 24th. The bout will be pitting Hosokawa's aggression, power and tenacity, against Nonaka's skills, experience and toughness, in what could be the surprise bout of the week.
Aged 34 the hard hitting Hosokawa, who is the brother of Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa, made his debut in 2014, at the age of 29. He would lose on his debut and would actually lose 2 of his first 4 bout, both by razor thin decisions. Following those set backs he reeled off 4 straight stoppage wins before losing another close contest, that time to Yasuyuki Akiyama, the man he would later rip the two regional titles from. Following the loss to Akiyama we saw Hosokawa improve, showing his stamina with an 8th round TKO over Kazuyuki Fukuyama and a 7th round TKO over Hisao Narita, and earn a second bout with Akiyama last September.
After beating Hososkawa, by majority decision, Akiyama had shocked the regional scene with a TKO win over Koki Tyson for the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Hosokawa would end that reign by winning a war with Akiyama last year, stopping Akiyama in the 11th round. The fight started slowly but warmed into a real action packed contest, as Hosokawa began to march Akiyama down and broke him down with powerful shots. The performance showed the good, and the bad, of Hosokawa. He's aggressive, heavy handed, has a high work rate and is a very powerful and strong fighter. Defensively however he is open, he is predictable and he's not quick. He often marches forward looking to cut the distance usually comes forward in straight lines, something that someone with the skills and experience of Nonaka may be able to expose. Despite being predictable he doesn't seem to know how to take a backwards step and has proven to be almost impossible to dissuade from coming forward.
The 41 year old Nonaka is an old school veteran, having made his debut way back in 1999 as a Welterweight. He would fight as low as Light Welterweight before really settling on Light Middleweight. Early in his career he struggled to find his place and his style in the sport, losing 2 of his first 3, 3 of his first 5 and 4 of his first 9, including a KO loss to Masahiro Muroya. Amazingly after that stoppage loss, back in 2002, Nonaka has never been stopped in 36 subsequent contests!
Despite settling at Light Middleweight Nonaka would struggle to have major success, losing in his first title fight in 20078, when he was out pointed by Kazuhiko Hidaka in an OPBF Light Middleweight title fight. The following year he would take the Japanese Light Middleweight title with a win over Akihiro Furukawa. He would later go on to unify the Japanese and OPBF titles before losing both belts to Akio Shibata in 2009. That loss was a temporary set back and in 2014 he would become a 2-time Japanese champion, schooling Kengo Nagashima for the national title, which he held until 2017 and made 6 defenses of. Sadly since vacating the belt Nonaka has gone 1-2, with losses to Dennis Hogan and Takeshi Inoue in world title eliminators.
Despite his age Nonaka is a criminally under-rated fighter. He lacks power but is surprisingly quick, an ultra sharp fighter who uses his jab to spear fighters, at range, lays traps with intelligent footwork and varies his shots amazingly well. His uppercut seems to find the target far too easily at times and he always looks so comfortable and relaxed in the ring. He's the sort of fighter that any young kid picking up the sport should take a look at. Sadly, for him, his lack of work rate, and his counter punching tendencies can see him fail to get the respect of fighters and being out worked by hungrier fighters. Also, notably for this fight, he will be in with a dangerous and natural Middleweight, something he hasn't typically faced, having fought mostly at Light Middleweight. He has dipped his toe at Middleweight, but not against someone with the power and physicality of Hosokawa.
Whilst we know this bout will go under the radar, especially coming just days before the mouth watering WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi, this has the potentially to be brilliant. Hosokawa's head first aggression should play into Nonaka's hands, and give the veteran a lot of openings. Nonaka however won't have the power to get Hosokawa's respect and we'd expect him to be willing to take 3 to land 1 as a result. This should result in a brilliant, mid range war with Nonaka easily out landing his man but being tagged by the bigger shots. If Nonaka's chin can hold up he probably takes the win, but that is a huge if, and we wouldn't be surprised by Hosokawa getting to him late to force a stoppage. Either way we are in for a treat!
So we've all had a bit of a break for Christmas but this coming Thursday sees title action return to Japan as Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (30-8-3, 9) defend his title against veteran challenger Yosuke Kirima (23-6-2, 16). For the champion this will be a 6th defense of the title he won around 30 months ago whilst Kirima will be hoping it's third time lucky having come up short in two previous title bouts, back in 2012 and 2013.
The world ranked Nonaka is a lovely boxer to watch, who uses skills at mid-range to get his shots off, block shots thrown in his direction and get away when he needs to. He's not the fighter he once was, but at 39 he's a very capable fighter. During his career he has twice been the Japanese champion and has scored notable wins over the likes of Kazuhiko Hidaka, Dmytro Nikulin, Charles Bellamy, Koshinmaru Saito, Yuto Shimizu and Ryosuke Maruki. Despite those wins he has shown his years recent and was fortunate against both Saito and Maruki, with both having legitimate claims to feel aggrieved.
At his best Nonaka was a really solid fighter but given age, and a career that goes back 17 years as a professional, he is slowing, his out put has lessened and his reactions aren't what they were. His career, although not over, seems to be getting progressively tougher and it's clear that he hasn't got long left in the sport.
Whilst Nonaka is a 2-time champion Kirima's career has been one of failure at title level. He has twice challenged for the Japanese title, being stopped in both of those bouts, and has also come up short in a regional title fight losing in an IBF Pan Pacific Middleweight title fight to Michael Zerafa earlier this year. Whilst he has come up short in his major bouts he has bounced around the rankings and had consistent wins to keep him in the domestic mix. Unfortunately whilst he has done enough to remain in the title picture through his career has shown durability issues and been stopped by Daisuke Nakagawa and Tadashi Yuba as well being dropped hard by Arnel Tinampay in a 2012 loss.
At 32 years old the challenger is pretty much in last chance saloon with 2 losses in his last 4 bouts. He's still a capable fighter on the lower end of the Japanese domestic scene but he's certainly not someone who can turn any domestic success into something international. In fact it's probably fair to say that he's one loss away from having his career written off.
We think Nonaka has slowed down, a lot, from his prime, but it's still hard to see the limited and fragile Kirima being too much for him. Father time might have taken the best from Nonaka, but unless Nonaka has slipped a lot he should still be too good for Kirima.
On July 20th Japanese fans get a pair of world title fights, they also get an OPBF title fight and a Japanese title fight. Of those bouts it's fair to say the least attention will be given to the domestic title bout, not only because it's a domestic title bout, but also because it's the least interesting of the bouts on the show.
The bout in question will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (29-8-3, 9) defending his title against Ryosuke Maruki (12-3-1, 7). It's a veteran against a rising young contender, a wonderful to watch boxer against a fighter.
Nonaka really is a veteran. He's 38 years old and has been a professional since 1999. He may “only have” 40 bouts to his name but he's had close to 300 rounds and has been in 12 title bouts, with the first taking place in October 2007.
The veteran is one of the most pleasing to watch fighters out there. He's a man who fights like a boxer, and is totally dependent on skills. He's not particularly quick, he's not a massive puncher, he's not flashy but he's a wonderful fighter to watch and can either move or hold his feet, defend himself, and fight with a wonderful array of pure shots. There is nothing spectacular about Nonaka but there is very little wrong with him. That's why at the age of 38 he looks as good as he ever has.
Like many in Japan Nonaka learned his trade in the ring. He suffered 3 losses in his first 5 bouts, beginning 2-3, and was once 14-7-2 (5). In recent times however he has gone 15-1-1 losing only to Akio Shibata during that 17 fight run, dating back over 8 years. Not only do the numbers look good but so do the actual results which have included wins over Kazuhiko Hidaka, avenging a loss, Lee Ota, Charles Bellamy, Koshinmaru Saito and Yuto Shimizu. There was also a draw last year with current OPBF champion Takayuki Hosokawa.
Given how Nonaka has turned his career around it's hard to rule out any challenger, and the 25 year old Maruki shouldn't be ruled out because his own record. At one point he was 7-3-1 (5), with losses to the likes of Jaypee Ignacio and Petchsuriya Singwancha, but has bounced back well with 5 straight wins, including avenging the loss to Petchsuriya. Notable the two bouts with the Thai were WBC Youth title bouts and have helped give Maruki some title fight experience over the 10 round distance.
Once touted as an aggressive puncher, and at one point having 7 stoppages from 9 wins, Maruki has gone the distance in his last 3 bouts and has scored just 2 stoppages in his last 7 contests. Suggesting that he's not a puncher. He is however an aggressive and strong fighter and looks like there is potentially a very good fighter there, but one that needs a lot of polishing if he's to reach the heady heights expected of him.
Despite being flawed Maruki is young, hungry and a fighter who will be looking to prove himself. He'll need to have a career best performance to really give Nonaka problems, but there is certainly a lot that he could improve on, and if he uses his youthful energy, physical strength and power he could Nonaka serious problems, at least at times.
Although we think Maruki has the potential to cause problems for Nonaka we don't see him bringing anything to the table that Nonaka hasn't faced before and we suspect that'll show with Nonaka adapting when things get tricky. That adaptive quality will allow the champion to retain via clear, but competitive, decision.
When we think of the most exciting weights on the Japanese scene we typically think of the lower weights, the weights where the top Japanese fighters rise through the ranks quickly and move towards world title fights in the space of just a few years. Strangely though the weights around Middleweight have started to become fascinating domestically with a wave of young fighters looking to make a name for themselves. We saw that earlier this year with Hikaru Nishida upsetting Akio Shibata to claim the JBC and OPBF Middleweight titles, and we may well see it again on April 17th, when the little known Yuto Shimizu (11-2-2, 4) [清水 優人] challenges Japanese 154lb champion Yuki Nonaka (28-8-3, 9) [野中 悠樹].
Of the two Nonaka is the more well known. Of course he's the current champion, but he's also a man who has edged his way into the world rankings, been a 2-time Japanese champion, an OPBF champion and has scored notable wins over the likes of Charlie Ota, Kazuhiko Hidaka and Koshinmaru Saito.
In the ring Nonaka is a joy to watch. He's not the quickest, or the more powerful but he's a joyful boxer to see in action, as he throws wonderful combinations, judges distance and timing excellently and uses the southpaw stance very well. At 38 however his career is coming to an end and any fight could be his last. That's not to say he's had a hard career, but he is physically on the slide, much like Shibata was in his loss to Nishida.
In Shimizu we have a relatively obscure fighter who has only really been making a name for himself the last 2 or 3 years, despite debuting way back in 2007. In all honesty we doubt anyone thought Shimizu was going to become a contender when he began his career, and quickly slipped to 3-2-2 (1) after 7 fights, all at the 4 round stage. Since then however he has racked up 8 wins, defeating the likes of Hikaru Nishida, Toru Chiba, Takehiro Shimokawara and Yosuke Kirima.
Footage of Shimizu has been hard to come by though from we can see he has began to show more power in recent bouts, stopping 3 of his last 4 opponents, including Shomokawara who was proven to be tough at this level. We're not going to suggest he's a big puncher, but he's certainly got power to trouble fighters and could well be the type of fighter who holds his power late into a fight. What's key however is that at 28 he's not only much younger than the champion, but he's also a fighter coming into his prime.
It can seem odd to pick the challenger, who haven't seen much of, over the recongised champion but here we will be picking Shimizu to upset Nonaka, and maybe even force a late stoppage. We suspect that youth will play a big part in this but the key will be hunger and Shimizu's string of very good domestic wins have shown that hunger, which will continue to grow. For Nonaka however we think this could well be the end of his career, win or lose.
Nonaka returns against Saito, but will he continue his reign, or will the challenger finally win the big one?
On December 27th Japanese fans get two national title fights. In our eyes the lesser of the two comes at 154lbs where Yuki Nonaka (27-8-3, 9) defends his title, for the 3rd time, an takes on multi-time title challenger Koshinmaru Saito (22-7-1, 12), who has regularly challenged at Welterweight.
The talented Nonaka is one of Japan's rare fighters of note above 130lbs. He's a talented pure boxer who uses a lovely selection of punches, movement, timing and skills to win bouts. Watching him is actually a joy, despite his lack of power, and although he is just a stereotypical boxer he is a very solid boxer. Or rather, he was.
The champion is now an old fighter, he's a 38 year old who has been showing signs of ageing recently. His work rate and speed have started to show slight decline and his last bout, a draw against Takayuki Hosokawa, could easily have gone against him, whilst a win last December Charlie Ota was very close.
Well liked in Osaka the champion, a 16 year veteran southpaw, has had a career to remember. He turned pro 1999 and lost 3 of his first 5 bouts, before going 24-4-3. Among those early losses was a defeat by future OPBF Welterweight champion Taisei Marumoto and a loss that was avenge to Tsunamasa Hagari. When he finally found his stride however he did rack up some notable wins, including victories against Akihiro Furukawa, for the Japanese title in 2008 to begin his first as national champion, and Kazuhiko Hidaka, in 2009 to claim the OPBF title. His current reign however began last year, when he beat Kengo Nagashima by wide decision in what may turn out to be his final impressive performance.
Old and inactive in recent times, this is just his second bout of the year, Nonaka may find himself unable to rely on the skills and, movement and energy that has brought him his success so far.
Whilst Nonaka is certainly showing some signs of ageing it's fair to say that his opponent, Saito, is no Spring chicken himself at 36, and is actually just a few weeks away from being 37. It's is a “youth advantage” but only a minor one and that is likely to be neutralised by the fact he's a natural Welterweight and is some 4” shorter than Nonaka.
Like the champion, the challenger has had a long career. He debuted back in 2001 and lost to just one fighter in his first 14 bouts, running up an 11-2-1 (6) record with both losses coming to Keiichi Arai. He got his first tit,e bout in 2009, at 147lbs, and was stopped in 7 rounds by Daisuke Nakagawa. Since that loss he has come up short in 3 subsequent title bouts, being stopped by Akinori Watanabe in a JBC/OPBF title fight and twice being out pointed by Suyon Takayama. His only other recent loss was a surprising 2nd round TKO defeat to the criminally under-rated Arnel Tinampay, who dominated Saito for 195 seconds.
Although a beatable fighter Saito has actually had a very solid time over the last 3 years. He has scored wins over Shusake Fujinaka, Yuichi Ideta, Koki Koshikawa and Takehiro Shimokawara, whilst his only losses were to Takayama and Tinampay. Though of course the loss to Tinampay was by far the most “blip” like result on his record.
In good form, full of confidence and with an aggressive mentality Saito could well be on his way to topping his career with a title, at long last, or alternatively becoming one of the nearly on the Japanese domestic scene.
Given recent results it's easy to favour Nonaka. He's taller and has gone on a 8-0-1 run in the last 6 years, and is actually 13-1-1 in the last 8 years, whilst Saito is 2-2 in his last 4. However we sort of think that Saito is finally going to win a big one. We suspect he gets inside Nonaka and simply out works him, with the champion looking just a tiny bit lethargic in the second half of the fight as Saito's desire to get a major title shines through, leading to a very close but fair win for the challenger.
It's not too often that we can get excited about a Japanese title clash at Light Middleweight but on April 19th we have a genuinely significant clash between two Japanese fighters who are both eyeing up potential world title clashes later in the year. One of those is current Japanese national champion Yuki Nonaka (27-8-2, 8) whilst the other, Takayuki Hosokawa (26-10-3, 9), is a man who held the title a year ago but vacated it when he was ill. Together they are both world ranked by the IBF and both are likely eyeing up this fight as being not just a Japanese title bout but a potential world title eliminator.
Coming into the bout Nonaka is really riding the crest of wave. Aged 37 he is on an 8 fight winning run dating back more than 5 years and includes wins over Dmytro Nikulin, Lee Oti, Ryo Okayama, Kengo Nagashima and Charlie Ota. We won't say he's looked sensational in all of those wins, with the Ota fight in particular being close, but he has shown glimpses of being a wonderfully talented boxer. He has shown a lovely variety of punches, sharp and accurate shots, and impressive speed though at for the most part is a very basic but polished boxer.
The "one hole" in Nonaka's game is his lack of power which has been an issue in finishing opponents off. That lack of power however hasn't stopped him from having success and it's clear that his skills and sharpness are a level above many Asian rivals in the division.
In the ring Nonaka likes to box off his southpaw jab, uses straight punches wonderful and has found ways to neutralise a number of opponents with those sharp straight shots and his movement. Those skills neutralised the aggressive Charlie Ota, who had success of his own but not enough to break down Nonaka over the 10 round distance. Watching him we tend to notice that he is basic, but that is the beauty of Nonaka, he's got fundamentals down to a tee.
Unbeaten since suffering a narrow decision loss to Akio Shibata in November 2009 it takes a genuinely good fighter to beat Nonaka. These have included Shibata, Kazuhiko Hidaka, Nobuhiro Ishida and Taisei Marumoto.
At 30 years old Hosokawa is the significantly younger man coming into this bout and is in solid form himself with 4 straight wins, including victories over Patomsuk Pathompothong and Tadashi Yuba, which he have helped him claim the Japanese and IBF Asia titles at Light Middleweight. In turn those titles have helped him move into the world rankings and focus on getting a world title shot, somewhere down the line.
In the ring Hosokawa is a flawed fighter but is riding high on confidence and stacking up notable wins which have helped to to more success. In fact with 8 wins in his last 9 bouts he has genuinely turned his career around following a 2011 stoppage loss to Makoto Fuchigami in a Japanese Middleweight title bout. Those wins have seen him develop more belief in his ability and power and also make a permanent move to Light Middleweight which really does suit him a lot more than 160lbs.
As with Nonaka we've seen Hosokawa come up short against many of his most notable opponents. That has seen him suffer losses to the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Charlie Ota, Tadashi Yuba, Fuchigami and, most recently, Shibata in a Japanese title fight and he was also fortunate to over-come Patomsuk. He is however a much improved fighter to the one who was blasted out in the second round by Watanabe back in 2005 in fact he's nothing like the fighter who began his career 11-6-3.
Coming into this bout it's a real must win for both men. Neither can afford a loss at this moment in time. The pressure to perform couldn't be much higher. Of the two however it's Nonaka who has shown a more complete ability to perform under-pressure, as seen in his bout with Ota. Nonaka may be 37 but he's a fighter who has matured and is arguably at his best now. For Hosokawa it's hard to say how good he really is under-pressure, the win over Patomsuk was close, likewise the win over a very faded Yuba and his 2012 win over Randy Suico was razor thin to say the least. The challenger hasn't had that stand out performance despite taking a number of solid scalps.
With that said we need to favour Nonaka who appears to be a much better, more rounded and more intelligent fighter. His boxing, which is genuinely eye pleasing, is basic but very effective and we suspect that he'll use that to over-come Hosokawa. The southpaw jab, the simple movement and technical proficiency will be his keys to victory.
Unfortunately for the winner, which we suspect will be Nonaka, they are several levels from a real world champion. They do however have a chance at picking up a paper strap, if they are lucky.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The Light Middleweight division in Japan has given us some very interesting domestic champions over the years. Those champions have included Koichi Wajima, Tadashi Mihara and, more recently, Nobuhiro Ishida. It's fair to say it's not the title with the greatest history but it certainly hasn't been one of the worst titles to hold wit several fighters going on to bigger and better things.
This coming Sunday sees the Japanese Light Middleweight title up for grabs again as current champion Yuki Nonaka (26-8-2, 9) attempts to defend the belt against former champion Charlie Ota (24-2-1, 16). The bout may not have intentional fans foaming at the mouth in excitement though the bout is a really good one and one that could have world level implications with both men currently holding world rankings, albeit low ones.
Of the two men it's the challenger, Ota, who is better known. Originally from the US he has had carved out a successful career in Japan winning OPBF and Japanese Light Middleweight titles. Internationally Ota has fought in Canada, losing to Jermell Charlo, and in the US, beating both Gundrick King and Mike Ruiz and in Japan he is popularly known simple as “Charlie”.
Whilst Ota is known internationally by boxing fans it's what he's done in Japan that has been impressive and his record reads like a who's who of Japanese boxing in the Middle and Light Middleweight divisions. Among those Japanese fighters that he has beaten are Takayuki Hosokawa, Akio Shibata, Tadashi Yuba, Taisei Marumoto and Koji Numata, all of whom have held titles themselves.
When comparing Ota with top international fighters he is relatively crude and is rather short for the weight, at 5'7” he does however have hurtful power, as seen when he dropped Charlo, and an explosive style that sees him unloading heavy shots. At home however most fighters in the division are similar in stature to him and he's simply more power and tougher than they are. If he chooses to go to war he tends to win even if things aren't the prettiest in terms of boxing. This warrior attitude was seen spectacularly in his bout with King Davidson. In that bout Ota was down in the opening round before showing his fighting spirit and taking the bout to the touted Davidson and shutting down his foe with intense aggression. Like a wounded animal Ota fights back when hurt and that may be when he's at his most dangerous.
Although we are big fans of Ota we also like Yuki Nonaka who is one of the most pleasant boxers to watch anywhere on the planet. Nonaka lacks major power and speed but is technically so sharp with an accurate southpaw jab, razor like left hand and surgical uppercuts, all of which he showed recently to regain the title. He combines very intelligent offensive work with smart defense that sees him slipping shots wonderfully, controlling beautifully and neutralising when he needs. He's not untouchable by any means but he's become very difficult to tag clean with anything of note and is tough enough to shots when they come back.
Internationally Nonaka, who at the time of writing is the WBO #15 ranked fighter, is an unknown domestically however the 37 year old manages to draw in sizeable crowds in Osaka. Whilst we won't pretend he's known for taking on the most dangerous opponents out there he does have a few solid win over the likes of Kazuhiko Hidaka, Dmytro Nikulin, Lee Oti, Ryo Okayama and Kengo Nagashima. He has also only lost 3 bouts in the last decade with 2 of those coming at title level.
If boxing was an art form Nonaka would be highly regarded however boxing is often a fight and we're not certain how a 37 year old Nonaka will perform in a fight against a very good opponent. Against flawed foes he has looked exceptionally talented and he has been able to fight to his strengths. When forced to fight opponents fights however we feel Nonaka can be out worked and a lot of his losses have only been by a couple of rounds.
Going into this bout we suspect we're going to see the boxer against the brawler. Nonaka's sweet science against Ota's street fighting warrior attitude. Sadly for Nonaka we suspect that being rushed and pressured by a guy like Ota won't end well for him and will draw him into a fight that he can't win. Stylistically it's a bout that is all wrong for the champion and although he's fighting at home in Osaka, his 18th fight in the City, we don't think he'll be able to retain his title in one of the most interesting national title fights this year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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.