This coming week is an interesting one with several notable shows taking place in the space of just a few days. Whilst not all the bouts are huge, some are certainly notable and this weeks one to watch we want to direct your attention to the Korakuen Hall for a Japanese bout at Featherweight between two men who are world ranked and in need of a big win after a few frustrating years.
The One to Watch?
Kenichi Ogawa (24-1-1-1, 18) vs Kazuhiro Nishitani (21-4-1, 12)
October 2nd (Friday) - Being televised on delay on October 5th (Monday)
We don't get two world ranked Japanese fighters facing off too often, sadly, but here we have just that as Kenichi Ogawa, who is ranked by the IBF, WBA and WBO takes on Kazuhiro Nishitani, who is ranked by the IBF. Essentially this is a world title eliminator, and although it's not a final eliminator the winner will move towards a shot, whilst the loser is likely to be removed from the rankings, or at least from the top 10. Not only is it two world ranked guys, but it's also a pretty interesting match up from a style perspective, and a bout that neither man can afford to lose.
Of the two men Kenichi Ogawa is the more well known. The Teiken gym man is best known for his controversial 2017 bout with Tevin Farmer, which he originally won by decision but the result was later over turned due to a drug test failure. Due to the drug test result he was suspended by the JBC for a year. Prior to that bout he had been the Japanese national Super Featherweight champion and had scored notable wins over the likes of Ribo Takahata, Deivi Julio Bassa and Rikki Naito. Since returning from his ban he has fought three times, taking two low level wins and fighting to a technical draw with Joe Noynay.
In the ring Ogawa is quite a basic boxer-puncher. His right hand is solid, hurtful and damaging, and he uses his left hook and jab well. Like many punchers however he wants the bout to be fought at range, getting full extension on his shots. Physically he's strong, with heavy hands, and good straight punching. He is however quite slow, his inside game is relatively limited and at times he can be a bit too patient. He can be out worked, and he can be out boxed, though he's always dangerous, as Kyohei Tamakoshi learned in 2016 when he was knocked out in the dying seconds of their Japanese title bout.
Sadly Kazuhiro Nishitani has not really made much of a mark for himself, despite being in the IBF rankings for a few years now. The 33 year old won his first 7 bouts before back to back losses slowed his climb through the rankings. He went on a good run again but was 14-3-1 (7) after 18 bouts and his career seemed to be going nowhere. Despite that he was able to get a Japanese Lightweight title fight in 2015 and put in a solid effort, en route to a close decision loss to Kota Tokunaga. In 2017 he got a second shot at the title and upset Shuhei Tsuchiya to claim the title, scoring an 8th round TKO win over Tsuchiya. Sadly he never defended the belt, instead choosing to vacate and move down in weight, with 4 tick over wins since that career defining victory.
Against Tsuchiya we saw Nishitani look relaxed but slow, basic, a bit clumsy, but tough, brave and determined. He was dropped by Tsuchiya but fought back, gritted out some hard times and broke down the then defending champion. He looked big and strong against Tsuchiya, and looks even bigger at Super Featherweight, but will also look slower at 130lbs than he did at 135lbs. Unlike Ogawa we do see Nishitani as more of a counter-puncher come boxer. He will look to draw mistakes out of opponents, counter them, frustrate them and look after himself.
What to expect?
We expect to see Ogawa having scouted Nishitani really well, and not make the same mistake Tsuchiya did. Tsuchiya had success at range, had success with single shots, but struggled when Nishitani dragged him into a war. Although not a big puncher Nishitani's physical strength, toughness and sustained success wore down Tsuchiya, and that will be what Ogawa is looking to avoid.
We see Ogawa fighting at range, using his jab and straight shots well and using his under-rated footwork to keep things at range. The power and footwork of Ogawa should allow him to pick off Nishitani at range.
For Nishitani the key to success is to get inside, prevent Ogawa from getting full extension on his straight right hand. He needs to smother and grind down Ogawa, working away on the inside and pushing and pulling Ogawa around. If he can do that there's a real chance he could grind down the Teiken man. Sadly though he's not had a win of note since his 2017 win over Tsuchiya.
The bad news?
Obviously the bad news here is the tape delay aspect of the bout. It was originally planned for September 5th though was delayed due to Teiken having to close for a while due to a positive PCR test. As a result it lost a live TV slow and will be on delay a few days after the bout takes place. For those who want to watch without knowing the result this does suck, but at least we are still getting it shown on G+, and it's not a long wait for the bout, just a few short days.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.