Whilst the most notable member of the Inoue family, Naoya Inoue, won't be in action until later in the year he's not the only member of the clan with a belt at the moment. The other is his cousin Koki Inoue (15-0, 12), who returns to the ring on July 16th to make a mandatory defense of the Japanese Light Welterweight title. The unbeaten champion will be taking on Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5) as part of the Champion Carnival, in what looks like a genuinely fantastic looking match up, though one the champion will enter as the clear favourite in.
Originally this bout was scheduled for a March date, which was originally delayed due to Inoue being injured in training. It was then rescheduled for May before being delayed again due to the out break of the on going issues that have had global impacts. As a result this bout will actually be the first Japanese title fight in months, after boxing was put on a hiatus in Japan.
The champion, who not only holds the Japanese title but also the WBO Asia Pacific title, turned professional with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. By the time he made his debut in late 2015 Naoya had already become a 2-weight world champion whilst Naoya's brother Takuma was the OPBF champion, winning that title in just his 4th professional bout. Sadly it did take Koki a bit longer to make an impact than either of his cousins, as domestic fighters seemed to give him a pretty wide berth at times. Despite some frustrations Inoue managed to secure himself a mandatory title in 2019, which he won by out boxing Valentine Hosokawa, to win his first title in his 13th professional bout.
Since winning the Japanese title in April 2019 Inoue has defended it once, beating Ryuji Ikeda in 5 rounds, and unified it with the WBO Asia Pacific title, by stopping Jheritz Chavez in 7 rounds.
In the ring Inoue is a southpaw boxer puncher. He's not quite as heavy handed, relative to his weight class, as Naoya, but he holds plenty of pop. He likes to move, use the ring and lure opponents into his shots, whilst calmly boxing on the back foot. It's not always the most exciting to watch him do his thing, but when he goes through the gears and lets his hands go he looks sensational, with quick, hard, free flowing combinations. Sadly he does often seem too cautious, which is a shame given that he's such a great fighter to watch when he does turn up the tempo.
Aged 30 this is Daishi Nagata's second shot at a title, following a very close loss in an OPBF title fight against Rikki Naito. The challenger is a very fun fighter to see in action, pressing fighter and looking to force opponents to break, mentally and physically. He's not unbeatable, and was taken out in 7 rounds back in 2017 by Vladimir Baez, but he's a real tough out at this level with his pressure and aggression. He used that pressure to out work and out point Cristiano Aoqui last October, to earn his title fight, and build on previous wins over Yusuka Tsukada and Min Ho Jung. He's not the biggest puncher, but he's physically strong and does enough power on his shots to get the results of opponents.
Nagata, like Inoue, is a southpaw and stylistically he very different to the champion. Whilst the champion likes to uses his legs, establish range and chip away before moving through the gears Nagata would prefer a tear up, and will press from the off. That pressure is a tactic that could beat Inoue, but will need to be amped up and sped up from Nagata, who will need to find a bit more zip in his footwork compared to what we've seen from him in the past.
Although we think Nagata has the style to cause problems at domestic level we do see Inoue as being too quick, too sharp, and too good. The pressure Nagata brings will, like Chavez's, be used against him and he will walk into shots, with Inoue chipping away against someone who appears to be a willing participant in their own beating. Nagata will be looking to try and walk down Inoue but it will not a successful idea and by the middle rounds Inoue will begin to come forward more and take out the gutsy, but over-matched, challenger.
Prediction - TKO8 Inoue
As part of an Ohashi card on July 16th we'll see OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) defending his title against former Japanese Youth champion Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4). On paper this doesn't look the best of bouts, but there is a lot that makes this bout really interesting, and something that could be, potentially, a slippery match up for the defending champion.
The 34 year old Shimizu turned professional in 2016, with many thinking he turned pro far too late to make the most of his ability. Prior to that he had been a very successful amateur, fighting at 2-Olympics and winning bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London. Had he turned professional then we would likely be talking about Shimizu having made an impact at world level. Sadly he wanted to battle for a place at the 2016 Olympics, falling short and turning professional afterwards.
In the ring Shimizu is a crude, but awkward, gangly southpaw puncher. Despite a very strong amateur background he's very unorthodox and throws shots from weird angles, often with his chin exposed. Typically he's gotten away with it in the professional ranks due to his freakish power and absolutely bizarre dimensions for a Featherweight. Last time out however he was punished with Joe Noynay stopping him in 6 rounds in a Super Featherweight bout. That loss not only scuppered Shimizu's unbeaten record but also left him injured and requiring a lengthy break from the ring to recover. As a result Shimizu is now 11 months removed from his last bout and 18 months removed from his last win, which was also his last defense of the OPBF Featherweight title.
With the inactivity, injuries, age, and potentially low confidence Shimizu may well be there for the taking.
In Tonomoto we have a challenger who is just starting to come into his physical prime. He turns 25 in July and appears to finally have some momentum in his career. He made his debut in 2013, reached the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2014, losing to Reiya Abe, and then vanished from the sport in late 2015 for over 3 years. Since returning to boxing in December 2018 Tonomoto has gone unbeaten in 3 fights, including winning the Japanese Youth Featherweight title in May 2019, and defending it 7 months later.
Sadly footage of Tonomoto is relatively scarce, though in his Japanese Youth title win he did show a lot to like. He moved around the ring well, was accurate and smartly neutralised Hikaru Matsuoka early on before finding his range and boxing well behind his clean and effective jab. It wasn't the most exciting or explosive of performances but it was a smart and efficient stuff from the youngster who was well deserving of the win. He looked like he had the ability to go further in the sport than the Japanese Youth title, but also looked like there was areas holding him back, including his lack of power and lack of intensity.
We do believe this is the perfect time to face Shimizu. If he was in with a dangerous fighter, someone with some bang, or a high work rate, he could be in a lot of trouble. In reality however he's in with a light puncher who he should, really, be able to walk through.
We suspect Shimizu will start slowly, ease his way into the bout, and then begin to step up on the gas in the middle rounds and break down the game challenger. Tonomoto will be there to win, but will, sadly, lack the ability, strength and power to cope with the champion.
Prediction - TKO6 Shimizu
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
Top 10 world ranked Super Featherweights clash on March 7th, as the undefeated Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu challenges Mark Urvanov for the WBO International championship in Ekaterinburg.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0 / 8 KOs) before entering the professional ring, he had a good amateur background behind him. A participant in the Asian Games and a 2 time finalist of the Kyrgyz Championships, Uulu finally made his pro debut in 2016, winning 8 fights within 13 months and also gained the WBC Asia Continental title.
His first serious opponent was former IBF Intercontinental & WBO Asia Pacific champion Andrei Isayeu (30-15). Uulu looked like the veteran in this one, controlling the pace from the get go, peppering Isayeu repeatedly with jabs and body shots to earn a clean unanimous decision.
He then took on another experienced fighter in Devis Perez (34-19). Even though the match was back and forth for the first 2 rounds, the pace changed quickly with Uulu rocking him on multiple occasions in the 3rd with the left straight. When the round ended, Perez seemed to have been in great pain and couldn’t continue.
Uulu would go on to win the vacant WBA Asia title in 2018 at the expense of Leonardo Padilla (18-3), who was also undefeated at the time. The Kyrgyz displayed excellent head movement, while also kept countering every big shot and other than suffering a knockdown, which was basically him losing his footing, Padilla couldn’t follow Uulu’s pace and eventually succumbed to his foe’s fast offense.
One of his most dominant victories was over 1x world title challenger Aristides Perez (31-13), with the referee stopping the fight in the 4th round, after Perez offered no offense of his own and was just taking punches repeatedly. 6 months later, he faced Thai knockout artist Pipat Chaiporn (47-13) in what was the toughest battle of his career so far. Both men were trading inside the pocket, with neither one gaining an advantage over the other. The former IBF Pan Pacific champion started losing ground near the end of the 6th, after taking 2 heavy blows to the jaw and got blasted for the entirety of the next round as well. Uulu would then drop him thrice with the straight left to the body during the 8th to finish the fight and retain his WBA Asia crown.
After making short work of Milner Marcano (21-9) last summer, stopping him with a perfectly placed liver shot, Uulu will now go toe to toe with a hungry young prospect that has quickly risen in the world’s rankings.
At the age of 23, Mark Urvanov (17-2 / 9 KOs) has already been in the game for almost a decade. His amateur career expanded from 2011 to 2014, winning multiple regional championships and also earned the rank of candidate for national Master of Sports.
Despite coming up short on his debut, he made a quick turn around and went on a 12 fight winning streak, before losing to fellow amateur star and past rival Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0). During that time, he fought and beat the afformentioned Andrei Isayeu (30-15) in a close contest as well as Rauf Aghayev (28-7) for the WBC Asia & Eurasia titles. In that second match, Urvanov was fighting with an injured right hand. The Russian did a great job of predicting Aghayev’s moves and countering his attacks, dropping him twice during the last round.
Urvanov piled up a couple more victories, during which he showcased a much more aggressive style. His latest and most important one thus far was against former WBO European & Intercontinental champion and 1x world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov (21-2). Urvanov stunned his opponent with a left hook to the chin and followed it up with a barrage of punches, attacking the head and the body, overwhelming him with his power and speed to capture the vacant WBO International title. He is now set to make his inaugural defense against an unbeaten fighter, who could very well be his hardest challenge yet.
Looking at the styles of both boxers, this promises to be a fast paced, action packed match. Uulu is a skilled and smart fighter that loves to push the pace and throw rapid combinations, especially to the body. Urvanov’s mean streak began after losing to Yaqubov. Since then, he has been relentless in the ring, finishing 3 of his last 4 fights in less than 10 minutes. His physical prowess gives him the edge over most of his opponents, “bullying” them around while looking for the knockout.
On the other hand, when it comes to their careers, even though both guys have been in the ring with experienced fighters, Uulu has had overall better competition and the more impressive performances. The best example is the way Uulu outclassed Andrei Isayeu, whereas Urvanov had a much tougher time dealing with him. Moreover, Urvanov’s inability to properly defend himself, especially when he’s moving backwards, is the reason he has been knocked down a couple of times, as he lets his guard down. Good thing is that we didn’t see him repeat that mistake in his bout with Chuprakov, so hopefully he has learned his lesson.
To sum this up, what the fans should expect is a crowd pleasing encounter between 2 strong boxers that are always on the attack and don’t like to slow down. On paper, Uulu has the best chances of walking away the winner but the “Russian Canelo” surprised many people with his latest performance, looking like a completely different fighter, more focused and more aggressive than ever before. So who will prevail and bring himself closer to a World championship opportunity? We will find out this coming weekend in Russia!
The Welterweight division in Asia hasn't been the most amazing to follow, despite some entertaining bouts such as 2019's fantastic bout between Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada. Despite not being the best it does give us some interesting match ups on paper, such as the one at the start of between Keita Obara and Yuki Nagano, and the one we're going to focus on in this preview. That's the February 27th bout for the the OPBF title between Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) and Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8). On paper this looks good and in the ring we expect it to be even better than it looks.
Ranked #3 by the OPBF Kaneko is getting his first shot a major title, having previously won the Japanese Youth Welterweight title. The Japanese based Afghan born 22 year old is someone who has quietly been making a name for himself without too much attention on him. Since debuting in 2015, as a teenager, Kaneko has developed himself a reputation as a very talented boxer-puncher. He claimed the Youth title in 2018, when he beat Change Hamashima in their second bout, then scored a trio of solid domestic wins over Toshio Arikawa, Rikuto Adachi and Moon Hyun Yun. Those 3 wins have helped secure him this title fight, and have seen him get a title on merit, something we don't always see.
Although not well known outside of Japan Kaneko is a very physically strong fighter. He's not the quickest or the sharpest, but he's certainly not slow and sloppy and is instead more of a deliberate fighter, with heavy hands. There's power in both hands and for a fighter who isn't lighting quick with his hands he does move well, especially with his upper body. One other thing to note about Kaneko is that he finds the target well and varies his shots smartly. Defensively there is work to do for Kaneko going forward but at the moment no ones really been able to make him pay for the little flaws with see. Instead he tends to be the one making opponents pay, and make them pay rather quickly with 7 of his wins coming within 3 rounds.
Aged 28 Nagahama is a man who is now starting to fight for his career. He's not shot, or past his best, but he is in desperate need for a notable win, following stoppage losses in 2017, to Takeshi Inoue, and 2018, to Yuki Nagano. This will be his second title fight, following a loss in a Japanese title fight at 154lbs to Inoue, but isn't an easy one. In fact on paper this is his third toughest bout on paper, and he has lost his two toughest bouts to date. Looking through his record his biggest wins so far were 2015 Rookie of the Year win, at Middleweight, against Brandon Lockhart Shane and his 2019 win over Masaya Tamayama. The win over Tamayama was good, but that wasn't a win that really showed Nagahama was ready to mix it at regional title level.
Watching Nagahama we see a solid fighter, but one who doesn't blow us away, in any area. He's technically decent, but lacks speed, lacks power, and doesn't appear physically imposing. He lets good combinations go, but the never appears to have any sort of fight ending power on them. If you let him dictate the pace it'll be a slow, controlled fight and a win for him. To beat him, you need to dictate the pace, and for most fighters at regional title level that won't be a problem.
We expect this to start pretty slowly, with the two men looking to stand off and box against each other. It won't take long however until Kaneko puts his foot on the gas and lands something heavy, and begin to break down Nagahama, who will feel the need to respond and that will only speed up his demise.
Prediction - TKO5 Kaneko
On February 14th we'll see Filipino slugger Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) make his first defense of WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title as he takes on fellow puncher Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11) at the Korakuen Hall. On paper this isn't a bout that we expect to see a lot of international attention, but with both men possessing serious power there is a real chance this could end up being a bit of a sleeper classic.
Saludar's career has been an odd one. He was once tipped as a future star of the Filipino scene, before suffering a loss in his 21st bout, when he was taken out by McWilliams Arroyo in a world title eliminator. He would later come up short against Takuma Inoue and then lose in a world title fight in 2018 against Sho Kimura. Those losses essentially saw him being written off, and he'd gone from 19-0-1 (12) to 28-3-1 (19). Since then however he has quietly rebuilt, with 3 T/KO wins, including a spectacular one of unbeaten Japanese hopeful Tsubasa Murachi last September to win the WBO Asia Pacific title.
Early in his career many in the Philippines touted Saludar as a future star. So far his career has fallen short, a long way short, but at 30 years old his career is certainly not over. He's now more mature than he was younger, a little less bouncy and less wasteful in terms of energy, though there does still seem to be a bit too much wasteful movement in his work. He's never had the greatest of engine, but seems to use his experience more to hide that, moving more intelligently and occasionally "old manning" his way through rounds. It's not the most exciting thing to see, but given how exciting he is when he lets his hands go it's certainly not a bad game plan for the "Sniper", who has shown he can strike at any moment. It's that experience that also helps Saludar defensively and he's certainly looking like a man who rides shot better now than he did just a few years ago.
The 33 year old Fukunaga is a bit of an unknown if we're being honest. His record suggests he's a monster puncher with 11T/KO's from 11 wins but the quality of those wins is relatively low. His best win to date came in the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year, against Kota Fujimoto, and since then he has really not done anything of note. In fact since his triumph in the All Japan Rookie of the Year Fujimoto is 3-2 (2), though the two losses have come to good competition in the form of Yuta Matsuo and Kongfah CP Freshmart, both in competitive bouts.
Despite his relatively weak wins Fukunaga does actually look to be a pretty solid boxer-puncher, albeit one with questionable defense. He moves forward looking to fire off his stiff jab and uncork his thunderbolt of a southpaw left hand. Defensively his hands are lower than they should be, but he seems to be trying to draw mistakes out of his opponents, and opening them up for counter shots with his head movement. Against the low level opponents he's been taking out it's a tactic that has worked, but against the better fights, such as the ones that have beaten him in recent years, it's not been as effective.
We certainly believe that Fukunaga has the power to hurt Saludar if he lands clean. Sadly for Fukunaga we don't see him landing too much clean, and would expect Sauldar to have the tools to out box him. In fact we wouldn't be surprised if Saludar saw how 1-dimensional Fukunaga was and started lining him up for big counters of his own by the middle rounds, and stopping the challenger.
Fukunaga has a puncher's chance, of course he does, but that is pretty much all he has, from what we've seen. Our prediction is a Saludar win, inside the distance, likely from a big overhand right in the middle rounds.
Prediction - TKO6 Saludar
The Japanese Lightweight scene is a frustrating one at times. On paper it should be interesting, there's plenty of talent there, and lot of interesting match ups that could be made there in the coming years, but sadly we seem to be between waves of fighters. At the moment Japanese national champion Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) looks to be head and shoulders above the rest, having unified the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles. Despite the fact Yoshino looks to be well ahead of the others he hasn't yet vacated, and will instead defend the national title on February 13th against mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) as part of the 2020 Champion Carnival.
The 28 year old Yoshino has really been on a relative fast track right from the start of his professional career. The talented boxer-puncher had been an excellent amateur on the Japanese scene, going 104-20 (55), before beginning his professional career in late 2015. In just his 4th professional bout Yoshino had beaten Yoshitaka Kato. Just 6 months after that he had won the Japanese title, which he has now defended 4 times, and last year Yoshino unified the national title with the 2 regional thrones.
In the ring Yoshino is a real talent. He can box, he can brawl and boy can he punch, with his last 7 wins all coming inside the distance. We actually need to go all the way back to his Japanese title win to see the last time someone was even semi-competitive with him, and even then Yoshino stopped Spicy Matsushita in 7 rounds. The power of Yoshino really is brutal and his KO's against Kazumasa Kobayashi and Harmonito Dela Torre have shown that it takes only a single left hook for Yoshino to finish someone off. The fact he has scored 2 awesome KO's whilst on the back foot shows how dangerous he is and how brutal his left hook is.
The 22 year Tomioka has been a professional since late 2016, and has shown some promise and also been in some frustrating fights. He's a talent, but a frustrating one who is perhaps getting this shot a little too early in his career. He won his first 5 bouts, winning the Japanese Youth Lightweight title in just his 4th bout way back in August 2017. He would defend the belt twice, beating Taiju Shiratori and fighting to a technical draw against Kaiki Yuba. He then faced the then OPBF Lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani and was stopped in 11 rounds by Naktani, following a very close bout. Another loss to Shuya Masaki followed up and really frustrated as Tomioka refused to really let his hands go. Since then however he has picked up 2 straight wins and earned this title fight, thanks to a win over Kazuki Saito.
At his worst Tomioka is a frustrating mover who looks unconvinced by himself, moving more than puncher and ultra-negative, as we saw against Masaki. At his best however he is brilliant boxer, with a sharp jab, excellent speed, great ring IQ and a fantastic judge of distance and timing. He's tall and rangy, and dictates things really well whilst picking great shots. It was these traits that were all on show last time out, when he schooled Kazuki Saito in a career best win. Despite schooling Saito the youngster still showed touched of negativity, and also a lack of physical strength and punching power. He's skilled, but we do wonder about his physical maturity.
We think Tomioka has future national champion written all over him. He's such a natural talent and a pure outside boxer. A truly fantastic young boxer. Sadly for him however he's up against a strong, powerful, heavy handed fighter who can hold his own when boxing, and bang. We see Tomioka having success, but Yoshino's pressure will build and he will begin to find a home for his left hook and straight right hand. Sooner or later we see Tomioka being stopped, and having his good early work being undone.
If Yoshino is successful here, fingers crossed he moves on and begin to face fringe world class guys and move towards a world title fight. There is, after all, no point wasting time at domestic level. As for Tomioka he will come again, and will find himself in an interesting era of Japanese Lightweight fighters, along with Shu Utsuki, Masahiro Suzuki and Katsuya Yasuda.
Prediction - TKO8 Yoshino
After almost 2 years out of the ring we finally see the return of former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-1, 15), as he competes in an 8 round bout at 119lbs against Filipino Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3). On paper this is a very, very, easy bout for Higa but given his long lay off, 22 months, and the move up in weight it's still a very interesting fight and a great chance to see how Higa looks as he begins a new chapter of his career with a new trainer. It also gives Buenaobra a great chance to make a name for himself.
For those who haven't seen Higa you've missed out! The Yoko Gushiken protege is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. He's very much a fighter who has taken clear influence from Roman Gonzalez. Like Gonzalez the once beaten Higa is a heavy handed, exciting pressure fighter, who cuts the ring off well, lets combinations go on the inside and has under-rated defense. He is all action, and a thrill a minute fighter to watch who is now being trained by former world champion Tadashi Tomori.
Sadly Higa's career was curtailed in 2018 when he failed to make weight for a WBC Flyweight title defense, losing the belt on the scales, losing his unbeaten record the following day and later having his Japanese license. That almost lead to him retiring from the sport. Thankfully last year he decided to return to the Shirai Gushiken Gym and since then has decided to return to the ring, which gets us to where we are now.
At his best Higa was a steam roller. His first 15 bouts all ended with Higa stopping his opponents, and taking out the likes of Kongfah CP Freshmart, Ardin Diale, Juan Hernandez Navarrete, Thomas Masson and Moises Fuentes. In his last bout however he looked a shadow of his usual self before his team threw in the towel ending his effort against Cristofer Rosales. Aged just 24 he has a lot of time to rebuild his reputation and with Gushiken and Tomori behind him the plan is for him to be back in the title mix by the end of the year.
Aged 25 Buenaobra is a relative unknown, even among the typical Filipino fans. Despite that the southpaw has faced some fighters of note, and had somewhat mixed results. He's the only fighter to have taken the all action Carl Jammes Martin the distance, lasting 8 rounds with Martin 2017, he also beat the then unbeaten Jerry Pabila and upset Robin Langres, before losing last time out to Joseph Ambo. Although he's a "win some, lose some, draw some" fighter he's not yet suffered a stoppage loss.
Sadly there is very, very little footage of Buenaobra available, so we can't say too much about his style. He is however a southpaw and he'll have a clear height, and likely reach, advantage of Higa. Notably his last 2 bouts both ended early due to headclashes, and 3 of his last 5 have been technical decisions. With that in mind we wouldn't be surprised to see Buenaobra being a tough clumsy when he comes in. Also his suggests a genuine lack of power, and you need to go back to his 5th bout for his last win inside the distance.
Although it's always hard to predict a bout where footage of only 1 man is available it's hard to see anything but a win for Higa. The real question is just how long can Buenaobra last when Higa goes through the gears. We expect Higa to start slowly, take a round or two to ease his way into the bout then increase his pace. Breaking down and stopping the Filipino in the middle of the 8 round contest.
Prediction - TKO5 Higa
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On February 1st, the world ranked Keita Obara challenges Yuki Nagano for the Japanese championship, at the legendary Korakuen Hall.
Keita Obara (22-4 / 20 KOs) began his amateur boxing career back in high school, before joining Tokyo University. During that time, he won the National Sports Festival, which is considered to be Japan’s premier sporting event, twice. Despite losing on his pro debut, to the 9 year veteran Kazuyoshi Kumano (26-12), Obara went on to win 16 fights in a row, 15 of them being finishes.
Specifically, after capturing the Japanese Super Lightweight title, he squared off with former WBO Asia Pacific champion Jay Solmiano (19-3) for the vacant OPBF crown. Obara scored a knockdown, courtesy of a counter left, and finished him off seconds later with a right straight to the chin. He then defended his new belt against heavy hitter Shinya Iwabuchi (26-6), in an exciting affair, where he ended things in the very last round, after connecting with the powerful overhand left hook.
In a clash of top world title contenders, Obara took Walter Castillo (26-5) to the limit, delivering the punishment for 12 rounds, while leaving the Nicaraguan bloodied and bruised. Even though the contest was unfairly declared a draw, since Castillo refused the rematch, Obara eventually challenged the unified IBF & IBO World champion Eduard Troyanovsky (28-2), but was completely dominated in less than 5 minutes.
The Japanese star decided to move up to Welterweight and almost a year removed from this crashing defeat, he faced former WBC International champion Narong Bunchan (28-7) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. Obara put together an excellent combination, dropping his Thai rival in the 2nd round and kept throwing big shots until the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. He made a successful defense against Shusaku Fujinaka (16-12), whom he knocked out with a thunderous right hook.
In a surprising turn of event, Obara lost to the unheralded Alvin Lagumbay (11-5) in April of 2018, after a double knockdown occurred, from which only the Filipino managed to answer the 10 count, thus earning the biggest win of his young career. Obara would exact his revenge that summer, beating Lagumbay with ease and regaining the strap.
His second trip to America last year proved to be unfruitful, as he fought Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0), for one more chance at the big one, in yet again another losing effort. Obara bounced back, when he scored his 20th knockout this past October over Toshiro Tarumi (12-4), showcasing his superiority in the ring, and becoming the number 1 contender for the Japanese Welterweight title.
Yuki Nagano (17-2 / 13 KOs) had also faced a few shortcomings early on his career but has been unstoppable since then, currently riding an impressive 15 fight winning streak for the past 6 years.
His first big match was against the then undefeated Yuki Beppu (21-1). Nagano displayed incredible power and hand speed from the get go, even dropping Beppu with a left straight in just the 2nd round, wining a clear unanimous decision. This victory gave him the opportunity to challenge the Japanese champion Ryota Yada (19-6) on April of 2019. It was a wild brawl that saw both men exchange punches nonstop as well as knockdowns. Finally in the 7th, Nagano overwhelmed Yada with a plethora of hooks in order to capture his first ever professional title. After demolishing Makoto Kawasaki (11-8) in his inaugural title defense, he will now be involved in the most important fight of his career.
Obara and Nagano are very similar, in the sense that they are quite relentless in the ring. Defense isn’t their strongest suit as they rather take a punch just so they can give one back. This strategy is always a recipe for an action packed match but has resulted in both men getting dropped on multiple occasions throughout their careers. Nagano’s favorite weapon is the left straight punch, which he uses in every single one of his outings, clubbing his opponents repeatedly like a caveman, until they go down. Obara also possesses KO power in his left hand, despite being an orthodox, as well as in his right, making him even more dangerous.
This will be a test of endurance and strength. Who can take the most and inflict the maximum damage at the same time. For Obara, who’s already at the top 5 of the IBF rankings, could be the win he needs to put himself closer to another world title opportunity, whereas for Nagano is the chance to finally burst into the world scene. So will Obara’s experience prove to be the difference maker or will Nagano’s unbeaten streak continue? One thing’s for sure. With 33 KOs between these 2 warriors, someone’s going down….hard!
The second Dynamic Glove card of 2020 takes place on February 1st and features two title bouts. The lesser of those is a very interesting Japanese Youth Super Featherweight title bout between Ryusei Ishii (8-5-1, 5) and the hard hitting Yamato Hata (9-1, 9). Neither of these men are big names, but both are looking to make a mark in 2020, and a win here would be a great chance to claim their first title and build momentum before the year really kicks off.
Of the two men it's the 22 year old Hata who is the more exciting and promising fighter. The man from the Teiken Gym has been a professional since 2015, and prior to that he had been a solid amateur, running up a 39-9 record. His power was obvious early on, as he stopped his first 3 opponents, but in bout #4 the then 20 year old was upset by Takuya Hashimoto, who stopped him in round 4. Hata was dropped and although he fought on he couldn't clear his head and his team threw in the towel soon afterwards. Since that loss he has gone 6-0 (6), and scored decent wins over Shingo Kusano and Ryuku Oho, with the win over Oho netting Hata his shot at the Japanese Youth title.
In the ring Hata is a talented and heavy handed boxer-puncher, who fights out of the southpaw stance. His jab is sharp, hard and hurtful, he moves around the ring well and looks to create openings with his movement. His variety of shots is a delight to see and when he lets his shots fly he looks a natural, capable of striking fight ending shots to head or body. Defensively he's a touch open when he lets his shots go, but it's so exciting to see him in full flow offensively, and every shot seems to be very, very hard. If you can't catch him when he's firing off shots it's going to be very tough to beat Hata.
Ishii is someone has had some very mixed success during his 14 fight career. He's managed to score some upsets, notably a 2017 win over Sho Nagata, but also lose a lot of his bouts, in fact coming in to this he has gone 3-4-1 in his last 8 bouts. His win last time out, against Masashi Wakita saw him earn this title fight, his second Japanese Youth title fight. In his first shot at a Japanese Youth title he was narrowly out pointed by Kazuma Sanpei in 2017, but since then he has gained valuable experience, even if he's not really shined in his last few bouts.
In the ring Ishii is a boxer-mover but one with very low hands, who fires in wild and wide shots and looks like the sort of fighter who could find themselves in all sorts of problems against an aggressive fighter. Given he drops his hands a lot Ishii is, understandably, a slick mover, he uses upper body movement well, and does have a sharp jab, and long reach. Sadly though his does seem to struggle with pressure and doesn't have the sort of power to scare opponents away from coming forward.
Ishii has the skills to make Hata look poor at times, but we suspect Hata's aggression, heavy hands, and fierce in ring mentality will break down Ishii in the middle rounds. It'll be an exciting fight until then but sooner or later Hata's power will be the difference maker.
Prediction - TKO6 Hata
We expect 2020 to he a year where young fighters really shine, as they look to kick off the decade and make their mark in a big way. One of the many young fighters who will be looking to shine through 2020 is is the unbeaten Kaiki Yuba (6-0-2, 4) who kicks off his year in late January as he battles Kanta Takenaka (7-4-1, 2) for the Japanese Youth Lightweight title, on January 28th. For Yuba this is a second at the title whilst Takenaka will be getting his most meaningful bout to date.
Of the two fighters it is Yuba who has the bigger expectations on his shoulders. Kaiki is the son of former Japanese domestic legend Tadashi Yuba, a 5-weight national champion, and has been earmarked for professional success from when he made the decision to turn pro. He looked good early in his career, following his 2017 debut, but his ascent was slowed in 2018 when he had a Youth title bout with Izuki Tomioka end in a technical draw. A second technical draw, just 14 months later, again slowed Yuba's rise but since then he has blown out two opponents and rebuilt momentum ahead of his second shot at a Japanese youth title.
In the ring Yuba is a talented boxer-puncher. The 21 year old Southpaw can box really well behind his jab, and knows that when he has his man hurt he can take them out. He lacks his father's truly frightening power, but when he puts his weight into a shot they are hurtful blows, and he's proven he can fire them off on the back and front foot. In reality he's better going forward, but when he is under pressure he has shown good composure and a sharp ability to counter.
The 23 year old Takenaka is much less well known than Yuba. He has been a professional since 2015 and had very mixed results, with the best of them being an opening round win over a then debuting Aso Ishiwaki who has since really impressed us. Despite mostly mixed results he has gone 4-1 (1) in his last 5 and seems to be finding his feet after once being 3-3-1 (1), despite that however there isn't really much buzz about him, and he did suffer his sole stoppage loss just under a year ago.
Watching Takenaka in action he doesn't really impress us. He's rather straight up, defensively quite open and wild with his offensive work. Worryingly he leaves his chin in the air and doesn't appear to be able to cope with southpaw very well, as seen when he was beaten last year by Masashi Wakita. Although technically flawed Takenaka does appear to a trier, and looks like he takes a good shot and gives a effort every time. Sadly though his stamina is questionable and whilst he does give a solid effort that doesn't make up for the defensive issues that we think will be a big problem here.
We expect to see Takenaka come to win, but the power, skills and speed of Yuba will be too much. Yuba will look to pick him apart with his jab, and have success with it, until he hurts Takenaka. When that happens we expect to see Yuba finish off Takenaka, forcing the referee to jump in and save the limited, but tough, Takenaka.
Prediction - TKO5 Yuba
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.