One of the disappointing things about boxing is the lack of long term narratives, with many fights having little to no back ground behind them, and seemingly thrown together by a match maker, to give a promoter's fighter a straight forward win. This weekend however we have a bout with a story that goes back more than two years, and has seen several twists and turns along the way.
In 2019 Kenichi Ogawa (25-1-1-1, 18) was ordered to face Azinga Fuzile (15-1, 9) in an IBF Super Featherweight world title eliminator. That bout looked a good one back then, but the two fighters couldn't agree terms and instead of the bout taking place we ended up seeing the two men go in different directions. Ogawa moved on to a fight with Joe Noynay, for WBO Asia Pacific title, whilst Fuzile faced off with Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, and controversially lost to the Tajik fighter. As a result neither man ended up getting a shot, with Rakhimov getting the shot at the title instead and fighting to a draw with Jo Jo Diaz, who missed weight.
Interestingly Ogawa was later ordered to fight Rakhimov for the vacant IBF title, which Diaz had lost on the scales, only to have Rakhimov pull out due to injury with Fuzile taking his place, and now, finally getting a chance to clash with Ogawa, more than 2 years after the bout was first spoke about.
One final twist, before we look at the fighters, is the location for the bout. Originally it seemed almost certain that it would be hosted in either Japan, where Ogawa is a native, or South Africa, where Fuzile is from. Instead however the bout will be in the US, where both fighters have had one previous bout. The neutral territory is certainly an interesting factor coming in to this, but we're not too sure it will make any difference to the out come of the contest. We actually think that the outcome will be decided by the styles of the two men, and they each have very different styles.
The 33 year old Ogawa is a boxer-puncher who made his debut in 2010 and quickly earned attention in Japan, by winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2011. He would suffer his first loss the following year, when he had his jaw broken by Yuki Miyoshi, but bounced back well, avenging the loss in 2013 and has gone unbeaten since. During that unbeaten run he has won the Japanese Super Featherweight toitle, picked up two wins against Rikki Naito, beat top domestic challenger Satoru Sugita, fought Tevin Farmer, fought to a draw with Noynay and won a barn burning 10 rounds with Kazuhiro Nishitani.
Of his bouts so far it's the bout with Farmer that stands out. It was his US debut and his only fight against a really slick fighter. It was for the IBF Super Featherweight title, and had three American judges, with two of them awarding Ogawa the victory via split decision, before Ogawa was stripped of the IBF title, and the win, due to a positive drug test. That drug test found Androstanediol in his system, which was put down to a skin cream, and saw Ogawa then being suspended for a year by the JBC. Many felt Ogawa had been lucky with the judges, but the drug test resulted in the bout becoming a no contest, neutralising the decision of the ringside officials.
In the ring Ogawa is a heavy handed boxer-puncher. He used to be pretty crude, and rely on his power and strength, but in more recent bouts be has polished off his boxing a bit and he was out boxing Joe Noynay until a head clash ended the bout. He not the most textbook of fighters, despite improving over the years, but he knows his strengths, and he knows his power is his key weapon, especially from his right hand. That his game change, and that what he's always looking to set up from mid range. A heavy, booming, destructive, straight right hand. Sadly for Ogawa he's not the quickest, he's not the sharpest, and he's quite predictable, with very little variation in what he does. He's good at what he does, but there's no smoke and mirrors, and instead he can look incredibly predictable and basic.
Aged 25 Azinga Fuzile is a young South African fighter just starting to come into his prime. Prior to turning professional he did have some international experience, and was moved quickly as a professional. In just his 5th bout he beat veteran Macbute Sinyabi, to claim the South African Featherweight title, and would add several other titles to his collection. In 2017 he scored a second notable win, stopping Tshifhiwa Munyai and in 2018 he added a win over former 2-time world champion Malcolm Klassen. That win over Klassen made hardcore fans sit up and take note, and was followed soon afterwards by another notable win, this time over Romulo Koasicha. That should had lead to him facing Ogawa in 2019, but as mentioned already Ogawa went in a different direction and instead Fuzile faced Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, giving Rakhimov a boxing lesson for 7 rounds, before being brutally stopped in round 8.
Sadly for Fuzile the loss to Rakhimov was a hard one to take and he was prevented from getting straight back in the ring as Covid19 shut the boxing world down in 2020. As a result of Covid it would be more than 18 months before Fuzile returned to the ring. When he did return it was in his US debut, against Martin Ward, and it was a chance for Fuzile to make a statement and show the world what he could do. He took that chance with both hands and stopped Ward in 7 rounds, to make international fans sit up and take notice.
In the ring Fuzile is a brilliantly smart boxer-mover. He's slippery, quick, sharp, accurate and a very clean puncher who controls the tempo of the action with his smart movement, busy output and accuracy. He's not a big puncher, in fact his shots really don't have much stopping power on them at all in a typical fashion, but he lands them so clean and so accurately that they take a toll on fighters, and due to how often he lands he can really hurt people. As we saw against Ward. We do wonder if his power can hold up at world level, but we're also not that sure it really needs to, given how good of a boxer he is.
Sadly for Ogawa a big edge in punching power isn't likely to be enough for him here. Instead we see his slow feet and basic boxing being a downfall, with Fuzile picking him apart with his speed, making Ogawa miss and countering him. Ogawa won't quit coming forward, we saw that against Farmer, but he will take a lot of punishment, and are expecting him to be hurt at times late on, but manage to make it to the final bell en route to a wide and clear decision loss.
Prediction - UD12 Fuzile
This coming Friday in Manchester, New Hampshire, we'll see unified Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7) defending his WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles, as he takes on late replacement Jose Velasquez (29-6-2, 19), who has gotten the bout after Ronny Rios (33-3, 16) contracted Covid19 around a week before the bout.
The bout will be Akhmadaliev's second defense of the title he won in 2020, when he beat Danny Roman in a sensational bout, and will serve as a break for Velasquez, who was supposed to fight Reymart Gaballo for the WBA interim Bantamweight title in 2020 before Nonito Donaire was pulled out of a different fight and he was lost in the shuffle.
Aged 27 Akhamdaliev has been moved through the ranks like very few others. He turned professional after an impressive amateur and was world ranked within a year of his professional debut. By late 2019 he was knocking on the door of a world title fight, and were it not for an injury to Danny Roman there's a good chance that "MJ" would have won a world title in September 2019. Instead he had to wait for Roman to recover, with the two men clashing in January 2020, with Akhmadlaiev taking a split decision, and the the unified IBA/WBA "super" titles. That was in just his 8th professional bout. Sadly Covid has stopped his rise to stardom, and since winning the titles he has fought just once, beating the then IBF mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa.
In the ring Akhmadaliev can pretty much do it all. At his best he's a patient, but aggressive, pressure-puncher. He's naturally heavy handed, puts his shots together well, picks his moments and applies mentally draining and consistent front foot pressure. When he needs to box he can, as we saw against Roman, he can also change the tempo of bouts, and it a very complete all rounder. At times he can fight the wrong fight, an unfortunate consequence of being such a brilliant all rounder, but he's able to adapt and take control when he needs to. For a man with just 9 bouts to his name he has already proven he has world class power, hurting Danny Roman and stopping Ryosuke Iwasa, he has great stamina, going 12 rounds and picking up the pace in some of the later rounds against Roman, and he's proven he can take a shot, as he showed against Roman. The one question mark about him, is whether he can come out on top in an intense inside war, and that's hopefully something we'll see next year in a potential clash with Stephon Fulton or Brandon Figueroa.
The relatively unknown Velasquez is a 32 year old from Chile who really well known at all, despite having had a couple of bouts in the US. He began his career in 2013, and struggled to get going early in his career, going 4-5-2 (1) in his first 11 bouts. Since then however he has really turned things around going 21-1 in his last 22 bouts, with 14 straight wins dating back more than 5 years. Whilst that run looks good on paper his winning run does lack noteworthy wins, with his best victories coming against the likes of Melvin Lopez and Ariel Lopez, who were both unbeaten prior to facing Velasquez.
From the footage of Velasquez he looks like a strong, physical fighter, who could be a handful against some top 20 guys at Bantamweight. He's got solid stopping power, he's physical, but he's not particularly skilled, quick or sharp and instead has relied on his physical traits, rather than his technical ones. He's proven his toughness in recent bouts and his tenacity. He has never been stopped and has taken solid blows. Sadly for him however this is a major step up in class, a move up in weight from Bantamweight to Super Bantamweight and it's a bout he has taken at very short notice.
With a good notice period Velasquez has the ability to be a test for a decent fighter. This however is him against an excellent fighter, up a weight and on a weeks notice. This is not going to go well for him, and he will be beaten, broken down and stopped. The only thing prolonging his beating will be his own toughness, but that won't last forever and when "MJ" feels like ending this he will.
Prediction TKO4 Akhmadaliev
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.