On April 23rd fight fans in Osaka are set for a treat as Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka (21-6, 18) defends his title against mandatory challenger Kanehiro Nakagawa (11-6, 5). On paper the bout is certainly not one which will grab the attention of international fans, especially given the records of the challenger, but for those following the Japanese scene this is a very interesting match up, and one that has the potential to be very, very exciting.
Of the two men the champion is the much more well known. The hard hitting Saka is someone who has really, really heavy hands, but is also incredibly flawed in the ring making his bouts great fun, action packed, unpredictable, and always worth tuning in for. When he's on song he's a destructive and violent force, but he's also a bully and when a fighter fires back he can be in all sorts of problems. Despite his flaws he has had a very solid career so far with highlights including being a 2-weight Japanese champion, having previously held the Japanese Featherweight title, and beaten the likes of Ryuto Kyoguchi, Shota Hayashi, Masanori Rikiishi, Masaru Sueyoshi and Takuya Watanabe. Sadly for him he has also suffered some 3 stoppage losses in his last 8 bouts, and has proven that his chin isn't made out of the same material as his hands.
As a fighter Saka is very much a rock handed boxer-puncher. He comes forward, he presses the action, and uses his physical strength and power to back opponents up. We saw him dominate Sueyoshi with his straight shots, activity and power, before breaking him down to claim the title. Notable we've also seen him box and move, something he did to great affect against the tough Takuya Watanabe, who he broke down whilst mostly fighting off the back foot. When he is on form and focused, he's a deadly fighter, who comes to break opponents up. Sadly though he has over-looked fighters in the past, and switched off mentally during fights, most notably against Takenori Ohashi who knocked him out when he turned away thinking the bell had gone, when it was the 10 second clacker. Losses to Joe Noynay and Yoshimitsu Kimura have also been by stoppage, early in bouts, when they've made him pay for his poor defensive skills.
On paper Nakagawa doesn't look like much of a challenger, given his rather un-pleasing looking record. That however doesn't look at what he's done, and the forms he's in, and in fairness to him, he is in some of the best form of any fighter on the Japanese domestic scene. The reason his record is so underwhelming was a nightmare start to his professional career, with Nakagawa going He started his career 4-5 (3) in his first 9 bouts, before turning things around and going 7-1 (2) since then, with wins in his last 6 fights, and in fair the "1" in that 7-1 was a very controversial loss. Whilst numbers alone don't tell much of a story, it needs to be said that Nakagawa's wins have been fairly notable, with victories over former Japanese champions Seiichi Okada and Taiki Minamoto, wins over highly ranked contenders Shinnosuke Hasegawa and Ken Osato and one over former OPBF title challenger Ryuto Araya. The 26 year old, has had to do things the hard way, and has genuinely earned a shot with his current string of wins.
Despite his winning run Nakagawa will enter as the under-dog, something he's now accustomed to given his recent competition. Nakagawa has proven himself in those wins as a tough cookie, willing to wage war when he needs to. At his best however he's a rather technical fighter, who presses forward, has a rather awkward looking style but is some how hard to catch clean, and surprisingly accurate, with good timing, and gritty toughness. He's a pressure fighter with under-rated defensive skills and he looks like the sort of fighter who is hard to back up and hard to dissuade from coming forward. Technically he looks off, yet it's his technical skills and unusual rhythm that gets him success, and he's one of the few Japanese fighters at 130lbs who is less orthodox than Saka.
Coming Saka should be favoured. He's more proven, more dangerous, fighting at home, and the man who enters as the champion. And we fully suspect Saka to win. However the style of Nakagawa will potentially give Saka fits at times, especially early on, as Nakagawa uses his under rated defense, and awkward strength to make Saka miss. Sooner or later Saka will land, and will make Nakagawa feel his power, but we wouldn't be surprised at all if that was in the second half of the bout, after Saka has been frustrated, tagged and made to look very ordinary. We suspect Saka will have to show some mental resolve, but will eventually get to his man.
Prediction - TKO8 Saka
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.