This coming Saturday we'll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (26-1-1-1, 18) seek his first defense, as he travels to Wales and takes on unbeaten Welsh challenger Joe Cordina (14-0, 8). The bout will see Ogawa making his European debut, having twice fought in the US along with 27 bouts in Japan, whilst Cordina will be getting his first world title bout. The contest will also be a really interesting one, as one of the top hopes of the UK steps up from European level to face a dangerous puncher with true world class power.
Of the two men Ogawa is, as a world champion, the more established in the professional ranks. He debuted in 2010 and slowly built himself on the Japanese scene before winning the IBF title last year. His route to the top is somewhat a traditional route in Japan, winning the Rookie of the Year, which he did in 2011, before winning a Japanese title, which he did in 2015, climbing up the world rankings, and finally winning a world when he beat Azinga Fuzile last November. Despite following something of a traditional Japanese route, he's not always followed Japanese tradition. He was once stripped of the IBF title for a failed drug test, becoming the first Japanese fighter to be stripped for such a reason, and he is also one of the few Japanese fighters to have won a world title in the US. In fact if he wins this bout he will also become the first ever Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title in Europe*.
In the ring Ogawa doesn't do a lot amazingly well and watching him we don't see a fighter with incredible reflexes, or amazing speed. Instead however he fights to his strengths, which include a destructive right hand, patience, a good chin and great focus. We have seen him out boxed in the past, and we have seen fighters prove that he struggles with movement, as Satoru Sugita showed twice, but with his power, his determination and his controlled aggression he is a real danger man who keeps his power late in bouts. His right hand is his main weapon, especially against southpaws, but he also has solid power in his jab and hook, which he does mix into his attacks when he needs to. If anything he can be made to look lazy, but at the same time he is very much controlled in his aggress. With wins against the likes of Deivi Julio Bassa, who was unbeaten at the time, Rikki Naito, Kazuhiro Nishitani and Azinga Fuzile, he has a solid resume, but one that is very much under-rated.
Aged 30 Joe Cordina is regarded as one of the big hopes of British boxing, specifically Welsh boxing. Cordina turned professional in 2017, and did so with a lot of expectations on his shoulders following an excellent amateur career. His time as an amateur saw him winning a gold medal at the European Championships in 2015 and a Bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He also competed at the 2016 Olympics, beating Filipino Charly Suarez before losing to Hurshid Tojibaez in the second round. When he turned professional he started fact and stopped his first 4 opponents in the first round, in less than 5 months whilst fighting at both Super Featherweight and Lightweight. Within a year of his debut he won his first title, a WBA International title, before adding the Commonwealth title a few months later and then the British title a few months after that. By the end of 2019 he seemed to have some momentum building in his career, but sadly that momentum was derailed in 2020 when the pandemic kept him out of the ring for a full year. Thankfully for him he did bounce back in 2021 with 3 wins, with the most notable of those being a razor thin majority decision over Faroukh Kourbanov, but it does feel like this is a notable step up for him, from European level to world level.
During his career Cordina has been both praised for his skills, speed and slickness. And criticised for his lack of finishing and questionable power. He's a fighter who is clearly skilled, and the Welshman is a brilliantly talented southpaw boxer-puncher, with crisp clean punches, a nice sharp jab, good feints and really nice speed, both with his hand and upper body. He can be a little flat footed and although a fighter who looks relaxed and composed we do wonder whether he can still be composed and calm when he's facing someone with genuine fight changing power. In fact if we're being honest Cordina, since turning professional, hasn't really faced someone who's a puncher. Saying that he does appear to have good defense, though few fighters he has faced have ever really had the tools to even come close to unpicking him.
Historically Japanese fighters have not had great results in Europe. There are only a handful of wins by Japanese fighters in Europe, with the most notable being a win by Naoya Inoue against Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2019 for the IBF Bantamweight title. And it's fair to say that Ogawa will be the under-dog here. Despite that Ogawa has shown his ability on the road, as seen in his win over Fuzile, and he has typically enjoyed fighting southpaws, with his "Crush Right" being a devastating weapon against lefties. If Cordina can either avoid that right hand, or neutralise it all together, he has a really good chance of out boxing and out skilling Ogawa. If he gets caught however this could be a painful night for him. We suspect, over 12 rounds, Ogawa will land, and will land something big, even against someone with the defensive skills of Cordina.
Prediction - TKO11 Ogawa
*Naoya Inoue's WBA "Regular" Bantamweight title wasn't being defended when he fought Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF title in 2019 as part of World Boxing Super Series.
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 Saturday in Indio, California we’ll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) make his first defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) in what looks like a really exciting match up. This is not just a step up for the challenger, who gets a great chance to compete in front of a global audience for the first time, but also a match up that stylistically, should be something very exciting due to the mentality of the two men involved, who can both put on a show.
Diaz, the champion, is the much, much more well known fighter and was a US Olmypian in 2012, where he was beaten by Cuban star Lazaro Alvarez. After turning professional there was huge expectations on Diaz and he would begin his career with 26 straight wins before taking on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr in 2018, in Diaz's first world title fight. Sadly against Russell Jr we saw Diaz suffer his first loss, losing a competitive but clear decision to the speedy and slick Russell Jr. Following that loss Diaz attempted to win the WBA Featherweight title, but failed to make weight leading to him moving up in weight and fighting at Super Featherweight. Since moving up in weight he has looked impressive, and scored noteworthy wins against Charles Huerta, Freddy Fonseca and, most notably, Tevin Farmer, with that win over Farmer netting him the IBF world title.
Diaz isn’t the quickest, the smoothest, the most powerful or the best fighter out there. He is however, a fighter. He comes for a fight, he likes to dictate the action, let his hands go and be responsible for the way the fight is going. He is, at heart, a pressure fighter, and a physically strong one at that. Despite moving up in weight recently he is physically imposing at 130lbs, and will bully and push people around. Against a speedy boxer, who uses their feet, he can be left chasing shadows, but against a fighter who stands and fights, or tries to slip and side in the pocket, he can end up out working and out fighting them. That’s where he’s most dangerous, and where fighters need to try and avoid him, his work rate, energy and will to win are incredible, and it showed against Farmer when he fought much of the bout with a brutal cut.
Whilst Diaz is a well known fighter in the US, and is someone who has been in and around the world level for a few years now, it’s fair to say that few, outside of those who watch Russian shows held by RCC Promotions, will have seen him. If we’re being honest that’s actually a shame as the Russian based Tajik is a very fun fighter to watch and someone who fans should be more aware of before this coming weekend.
The Tajik was a solid amateur before beginning his professional career back in 2015, fighting in low key Russian shows whilst slowly building his experience and his record. In 2016 he began to step up, and scored a number of decent wins over well known Filipino fighters. Soon afterwards he began to face progressively better opponents, beating the likes of Emanuel Lopez, Malcolm Klassen and Robinson Castellano to build his name. In 2019 he finally got a chance to move towards a world title fight as he travelled to South Africa and took on Azinge Fuzile in an IBF world title eliminator. The bout saw Rakhimov struggle with the move, speed and skills of Fuzile early in the bout, but as the bout went on, and as Fuzile began to slow down, we finally saw the power of Rakhimov, who scored a great come from behind stoppage win.
Rakhimov, much like Diaz, is an aggressive fighter who wants to come forward, he’s a bit more basic than Diaz, and doesn’t apply a busy pressure style like the American, but does have a very brutal body attack and he is a bigger puncher than the American. Sadly though he is also someone with a questionable chin, and he has been dropped several times in his career, at a much lower. At his best Rakhimov is an aggressive boxer-puncher, and if he can maintain range he is very good. Sadly for him that won’t be an easy task here, and there is a very real chance he’ll struggle to create the space he needs to work with against Diaz. If he can create that space however, he does have a real chance here.
If we’re being honest Rakhimov is a good fighter. He’s a dangerous fighter, with solid power, a nice strong base and good fundamentals. He’s genuinely heavy handed and someone who can hold their own in a genuine firefight. Sadly though his suspect chin, added to his lower work rate will be an issue here. Diaz can be out boxed, he can be out manouvered and out skilled, however if a fighter isn’t too quick and too sharp for him, he will grind a result out against them. That’s exactly what we expect to see here. We suspect that Rakhimov will have success at times, especially when he can create range and land some solid body work, however we suspect that the pressure, work rate and energy of Diaz will be too much. We’re expecting Diaz to simply out work and out land Rakhimov, to end up taking a clear, but hard fought, decision win.
Although we do favour Diaz, we are expecting this to be a fantastic fight. Diaz’s pressure and work rate will make the fight fun and exciting to watch, with Rakhimov’s power potentially adding some drama to the bout. Despite thinking Rakhimov will lose we do think he’ll connect with fans and fans will want to see him again afterwards, and he will do enough to be competitive at times. He’ll lose, but put in a very good effort.
Prediction - UD12 Diaz
One of the best things about boxing is the variety of styles that fighters have, from the ultra-aggressive swarmers, to the intelligent counter punchers, the fighters who can bang and those who are more feather fisted. This coming Saturday we'll see an IBF Super Featherweight title fight between two men with remarkably different styles, matching a boxer-puncher with a slick defensive master, and it's going to be really interesting to see who will win the title, and be crowned the new champion.
The bout in question will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (22-1, 17) take on elusive American Southpaw Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5). It will be offense against defense, power against movement.
Of the two the one we have followed more is Ogawa and he's a man who's had an interesting career. Despite only losing once he has had some ups and downs and at times has failed to shine, whilst at others he has looked like a potential star for the Teiken gym. Aged 29 he's a fighter who is in his physical prime and has gotten to this level without any notable amateur background. Instead he's worked hard in the gym, worked with his natural talent and made the most of his physical attributes, including heavy hands.
Ogawa debuted back in 2010 and would go on to claim the All Japan Rookie of the Year title the following year, whilst running his record to 7-0 (5). His sole loss came the following year, when Yuki Miyoshi stopped him in 5 rounds due to an injury to the jaw of Ogawa. Since that loss the Teiken man has gone 14-0 (11), avenged the loss to Miyoshi and claimed the Japanese title, courtesy of a technical decision over Rikki Naito.
As the national champion Ogawa defended the title 5 times, going 5-0 (3) during his reign, but had question marks asked in two wins over Satoru Sugita, as well as defenses against Kento Matsushita and Rikki Naito. In some ways the performances as champion seemed to suggest that Ogawa had maybe plateaued as a fighter and had holes in his game, especially defensively, that weren't being fixed. Against Sugita and Matsushita it seemed like Ogawa struggled with movement, a busy jab and fighters who weren't trying to exchange with him. Those who exchanged with him felt his power, and tended to be stopped, with Ogawa having a vicious left hook and a spiteful straight right hand, but those who moved gave him fits.
Whilst Ogawa is a big puncher with some defensively and technical flaws it's fair to saw that Farmer is the total opposite. He's a very light puncher, but he's razor sharp, with incredible defensive instincts and some of the best upper body movement in boxing today. Not only that but he also has one of the sports more misleading records, with 4 defeats to his name and a draw. Those setbacks all came in his first 12 bouts, when he was 7-4-1 (1), and included losses to very good fighters like Kamil Laszczyk and Jose Pedraza.
Since suffering his last loss Ogawa has gone 18-0 (4), stringing together wins over notable opponents like Daulis Prescott, Gamaliel Diaz and Ivan Redkach, and proving his ability as a very intelligent defensive fighter, who uses reflexes and movement very well. Although not a big puncher he hits harder than his record suggests, and his clean, as he showed against Prescott and Diaz, who were both down a number of times against him. In the ring he looks a natural, his understanding of range is brilliant and he uses some very unorthodox skills to catch his opponents in unusual ways.
Whilst we could rave about Farmer's skills all day he does look under-sized at 130lbs, and although very elusive in terms of his defense it does seem like a fighter could physically rough him up, bully him around and generally hold and wrestle him. He'll be giving away several inches to Ogawa and when hydrated Ogawa will likely have a significant weight advantage as well.
We'd love to see Ogawa win, and become the new Japanese face at 130lbs, but the reality is his last few performances have shown a lot of flaws, and those flaws will be exploited massively but Farmer. There is a chance Ogawa catches the American with something big, or has a game plan based bullying Farmer, but we suspect the American will frustrate, out box, out move and out point Ogawa to a 12 round decision.
Courtesy of Boxrec.com
Not all Asian born fighters fight in Asia and one such case is the Afghan born Canadian Arash Usmanee (20-1, 10).
Although Usmanee was born in in the war torn country of Afghanistan in the west of Asia he and his family would move to Canada when he was just a child.
It was in Canada that Usmanee would become a fighter and his talent was obvious as he won 5 national titles.
Usmanee now looks to become the first Afghan born fighter to claim a professional boxing world title* as he takes on talented Dominican Argenis Mendez (21-2, 11) for the IBF Super Featherweight title.
Although this is a big step up for Usmanee he's a fighter than many feel should have an unbeaten record and be viewed as a genuine contender. His run of recent bouts have been against a string of fringe contenders and his most recent contest, albeit a controversial loss, with Rances Barthelemy was a performance that showed Usmanee to be a fighter capable of fighting at the highest level.
So far in his career Usmanee has, aside from the Barthelemy fight, been a bit under-the radar. Despite this he's proven to be a tough, determined fighter, and although not a huge hitter he is technically sound and able to switch from head to body very easily. In fact it's fair to say his body attack is one of his most notable qualities.
The twice beaten Mendez is widely regarded as one of the world's premier Super Featherweights with most independent rankings rating him as the #2 guy in the division with only Takashi Uchiyama ahead of him.
Mendez is a technically gifted fighter who, at his best, looks like a very special boxer. He poses quick hands which have more sting on them than his record would indicate and of course he's very well schooled.
The schooling of Mendez has been a long and arduous task . He was, prior to turning professional in 2006, a stand out amateur with a reported 250 contests under his belt, including bouts at the Olympics, World Amateur Championships and Pan American championships. Although he often came up short, his losses were, on the whole, to tremendous fighters like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Aleksei Tishchenko and Juan Manuel Lopez.
Since turning professional Mendez has blown a bit hot and cold. At his best he'd give Japanese fighter Uchiyama a very hard night, at his worst he struggles over gatekeepers like Martin Honorio.
Although Mendez has got 2 losses on his record both were controversial. The first came via split decision to Jaime Sandoval in a bout where Mendez was certainly not at his best and the second came to Juan Carlos Salgado in Mexico, a man he has since stopped in very impressive fashion.
If Mendez looks like the fighter who stopped Salgado in 4 rounds back in March this is going to be a very hard contest for Usmanee. If Mendez blows cold and over-looks Usmanee then the Afghan born fighter could well score the upset and become the first man born in Afghanistan to claim a recognised world title.
With the fight being in Mendez's adoptive state of New York we expect him to have on his game face and put on a show. Unfortunately this doesn't bode well for Usmanee who will have to find an extra gear if he's to hold his own with an "on form" Mendez.
*Hamid Rahimi won lightly regarded the World Boxing Union interim Middleweight title in February 2012. It's fair however to ignore the WBU from being a "genuine world title".
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.