This coming Tuesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall could be in for something of a hidden gem, as Koichi Aso (25-9-1, 16) defends his OPBF Light Welterweight title against Akihiro Kondo (33-10-2, 18), in what will be Aso's first defense of the title that he won in a major upset against Rikki Naito. The bout might not be pitting two prime stars against each other, but it does pit two men who's styles should gel to give us something a little bit special. In fact the styles of the two men could, genuinely, give us a Japanese fight of the Year contender.
The champion is a 36 year old who really is an unknown outside of Asia, in fact you could make a good argument that he's unknown out side of Japan's main island of Honshu. All 35 of his bouts have taken place in Japan, with 32 taking place in Korakuen Hall, where he has built a reputation as someone to watch. Fans who have followed the Japanese scene, and Aso's career in particular, will know that he's not only been a servant to the local boxing scene, but has also been one of the region's most fun and exciting fighters to watch over the last 16 years. Win or lose his bouts have typically been thrilling battles, even as he's gotten older and began to slow, notably.
Aso debuted in 2006 and first began to make some buzz in 2008, when he reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, fighting to a draw with Valentine Hosokawa. Over the years that followed he became a must watch fighter with his aggressive pressure style, all out aggression and physically imposing, high risk-high reward style being amazing to watch. It was a risky style, as we saw against the likes of Shinya Iwabuchi, but it was also one that made him a main stay at the top of the domestic scene. Sadly he did come up short in two Japanese title fights against Hiroki Okada, in 2014 and 2016, but in 2017 he made the most of his third shot at the title, stopping Kazuki Matsuyama for the title. His reign was a short one, but was an exciting one with a single successful defense coming against Yusuke Konno before he lost to Valentine Hoskawa for the second time. By 2019 it seemed his career was coming to a close, but last December he stopped Rikki Naito in arguably his best win to date. Aso is all about aggression, coming forward and looking to make every fight into a war. He's not the biggest puncher, or the quickest fighter, but his aggression, pressure and work rate make him great to watch.
Whilst Aso is unknown outside of Japan the same can't be said of Akihiro Kondo who is somewhat known internationally for his 2017 battle with Sergey Lipinets, when the two fought for the IBF 140lb title. He's also somewhat well known for his brutal KO at the hands of Apinun Khongsong. Aside from those two bouts he is, like Aso, very much a Korakuen Hall icon with 43 of his professional bouts taking place at the venue. Like Aso we've seen Kondo making his name on the Japanese since 2006, and he's very much a stalwart of the Japanese scene. Like Aso he began making a name for himself in the Rookie of the Year, winning it in 2007, an he would win the Japanese Lightweight title in 2009, though lost it in his second defense against Nihito Arakawa. He failed in an attempt to recapture the Japanese title in 2012 but had something of a resurgence in the years that followed. After beating Komsan Polsan in 2015 we saw Kondo reel off a run of wins that saw him win the WBO Asia Pacific title and fight in that aforementioned bout with Lipinets, which saw Kondo giving the hard hitting Russian a very competitive and tough bout. Sadly though since facing Lipinets he has gone 4-3-1 and has career has been heading to the end, despite a notable win last time out against Aso Ishiwaki.
At the age of 37 Kondo isn't the fighter he once was, but he's still an incredibly tough guy, who tries to serve the role as the immoveable object. He's got a tough defense, he's rugged, and he presses forward behind his tight guard, whilst looking to land great counter shots. Sadly for Kondo he has never been particularly quick, and as he's aged he has lost pretty much all his foot speed, which has allowed younger fighters like Andy Hiraoka to out box him and by simply using their feet and moving around the ring. For fighters wanting to go to war with him however, Kondo is a nightmare, thanks to his timing, his accuracy and his ability to press the action, as we saw in 2020 when he faced Daishi Nagata. He's smart and his career has seen him develop a lot of experience ring IQ.
When we see these to in the ring we expect to see both men wanting to establish themselves as the boss in the centre of the ring. With that in mind we're expecting to see both men standing toe to toe with Aso looking to set the tempo, with the higher work rate, and Kondo catching and countering shots up close, in a bout that could well be fought in a phone booth. The bout, for the most part, will be a case of intense action, with shots going back and forth up close. We suspect the energy of Aso will be the difference maker over 10 rounds, but we wouldn't be surprised at all by Kondo rocking Aso at least once, in what should be a sensational 10 rounds.
We think this will be close, thrilling, exciting, with Aso narrowly taking home the victory on the scorecards, in what could be the final bout for both men.
Prediction - MD10 Aso
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.