This coming Saturday Korakuen Hall plays host to a really good looking OPBF Welterweight title fight, as defending champion Ryota Toyoshima (14-2-1, 9) makes his second defense of the title and takes on the teak tough Shoki Sakai (26-12-2, 14) in what should be an exciting all action bout.
Toyoshima made his professional debut in 2014, as an 18 year old, and despite struggling early in his career he has developed into a very solid boxer-puncher. He drew on debut and was 7-2-1 (5) after 10 bouts, with two losses to Masaharu Kaito, and despite winning the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year the expectations on him were quite low at that point. Since the start of 2018 however he has gone 7-0 (4) and been on a solid run with wins against the likes of Moon Hyun Yun, Woo Min Won, Riku Nagahama and Yuki Beppu. He won the OPBF title with a 12 round decision win over Nagahama and unified it a fighter later with a dominant 10th round KO win against Beppu.
In the ring Toyoshima has proven himself to be aggressive, heavy handed, exciting and yet patient. He comes forward, applying educated pressure, looks to keep busy with his hard right hands and uses his jab well to set the tempo. He's not the most polished, or rounded fighter out there, and he's also not quick, but he is strong, heavy handed, has good stamina and does a lot of things well. He's never going to be a threat to the top guys internationally, but there's not too many regional level fighters that would be fancied above him, and with a few more wins he could end up moving up the world rankings towards a more significant international fight. Sadly his flaws would limit him at that level, but at this level he's going to be a hard man to dethrone.
With 40 bouts to his name Shoki Sakai is not a typical Japanese fighters. In fact "EL PV" has had one of the most unique careers of any active Japanese fighters. He started his career in 2010, in Mexico, and his first 36 bouts were all outside of Japan as he picked up fights in Mexico, Nicaragua and the USA. He also managed to fight some pretty notable fighters during those years of his career such as Ashley Theophan, Eddie Gomez, Alexis Rocha and Gor Yeritsyan, and was often matched with promising prospects. In 2020 he finally fought in Japan beating Hironori Shigeta, and since then has fought twice more in the Land of the Rising Sung, including a great fight with Japanese Welterweight champion Keita Obara this past April.
Whilst Sakai's career is unique for a Japanese fighter, he does have a lot of stereotypical Japanese traits. He's strong, rugged, tough, and comes forward, applying pressure. His toughness made him so valuable over in the West, where he would always come to fight and take the fight to prospects, but it's also quickly endeared him to local fans back in Japan, who were awed by his will to win against Keita Obara, who was pushed all the way. His style lends it's self to fan friendly fights, and given his under-rated skills and work rate, it also means he has a chance against very solid regional and domestic fighters. Such as a Toyoshima. He's predictable, and has slow feet, but his pressure is incessant, and he will be looking to press Toyoshima, using his high guard to put Toyoshima on the back foot and look to break him down with body shots.
Coming in to this we feel Sakai is the perfect opponent to test Toyoshima, like he was for prospects in the west. He will come forward, he will pressure, and he will march towards Toyoshima like a man possessed. Sadly for him however the difference in foot speed will be the key, with Toyoshima lighter on his feet, a better mover and the man who wants to fight at a longer range. Sakai will certainly have moments, and a lot of them, but we feel the cleaner, more eye catching shots will be from Toyoshima, who will just about manage to do enough and take the decision. He'll have to work hard for it, but the youth, speed and the fact he has fewer miles on the clock should help him over the line in a potentially thrilling battle.
Prediction - UD12 Toyoshima
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.