On October 19th we are expecting fireworks at Korakuen Hall thanks to a mouth watering OPBF Bantamweight title bout between the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima (10-0-1, 8) and former champion Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13). On paper this might not look like a special bout, or something worth getting too excited about but, as we've learned over the years, records don't do the fighting and instead that's the job of the fighters. In this case we have two men who are both happy to have a war, both have fight changing power, and both have a lot of flaws that the other will look to target.
The 28 year old champion won the belt back in May when he took a competitive decision over Kai Chiba to claim the title, the first of his career. That was only the third time Nakajima had seen the final bell since debuting in 2017, and it was his most polished performance to date. In fact given how he had looked in the past he seemingly re-invented himself for the bout and showed that he was more than a basic puncher, which he had looked at times. He still looked flawed, tense, slow and tight, but there was more polish there and he has clearly been developing over the last year or two at the Ohashi Gym.
In the ring Nakajima is very basic, he's flat footed, he's not the most fluid of fighters, but he is a legitimate puncher, who has frightening power and has a very textbook-like style. He fights as a southpaw, making him awkward, but due to his lack of speed he can be out boxed, out moved and out though, as we saw in 2020 when he was very lucky to get a draw against Seiya Tsutsumi. The power of Nakajima is particularly potent early on, with 5 of his wins coming in the opening round, but his shots continue to be thudding much deeper in bouts, as we saw in his win against Yoshihiro Utsumi in 2018, where he broke Utsumi up in 7 rounds. If you can keep him moving, and not allow him to set himself, Nakajima looks very basic and poor, but if you stand at range and don't use lateral movement, or even worse engage him in a mid distance war, Nakajima's power will almost certainly be a difference maker.
The challenger, also aged 28, is a very different type of fighter to Nakajima, but shares some of the same strengths, and weaknesses. Kurihara is less of a flat footed puncher, and more of an aggressive, puncher-fighter, who looks to take the fight to an opponent, and get into range for his bombs. Technically he's very flawed, but very tough, exciting and heavy handed. Unlike Nakajima, who needs to be set to land his power, he can throw bombs from any where, and seems at his best coming forward. He's open to counter shots, and doesn't have the quickest of feet, but is very much a fighter at heart wanting to cause chaos in the ring and force a war up close, beating the fight out of opponents. Sadly for him, though similarly to Nakajima, it's boxer-movers that give him problems and we saw that earlier this year when he lost the OPBF title to Takuma Inoue, who used basic boxing fundamentals to make Kurihara look very limited. Against fighters looking for a fight however, Kurihara is a real threat to anyone.
Although his record might suggest he's limited Kurihara is not a typical 15-6 (13) fighter. He lost 4 of his first 7 and has gone 12-2 (10) since then with his only defeats in recent years coming against Hiroaki Teshigawara and Takuma Inoue, two world title contenders. In his last 14 bouts he has proven to be a top domestic level, and regional level, fighter who has managed to beat the likes of Ryan Lumacad, Kazuki Tanaka, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. He has looked like a devastating fighter, and whilst we have seen him out boxed, in both the loss to Inoue and his controversial win over Kobayashi, he is very, very dangerous in the ring.
Given the styles, and mentalities, of the two men we can't see this one being dull. Instead we expect the fight to be tense early on, with Nakajima looking to take center ring quickly, setting his feet and trying to catch Kurihara coming in. Kurihara on the other hand will look to get a feel for Nakajima's power, speed and timing. After 3 or 4 rounds we expect to see Kurihara begin to feel comfortable and up his tempo, trying to take the fight to Nakajima. When that happens we'll start to see a fire fight, and we wouldn't be surprised to see both men being dropped.
We know this is a fire fight in the making, and when we get bouts like that it's hard to pick a winner. We will however be edging to Kurihara, thanks to his higher level experience. Though can just as easily see the more polished Nakajima winning with his straighter, more accurate punches.
Prediction - Kurihara TKO6
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.