By Joe Koizumi
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
A world title doubleheader will take place today (Wednesday) in Osaka, Japan. IBF junior featherweight champ Yukinori Oguni (19-1-1, 7 KOs) will make his initial defense against mandatory challenger, compatriot Ryosuke Iwasa (23-2, 15 KOs) at the Edion Arena Osaka. Also, WBO junior flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (9-0, 5 KOs) will take on #13 Palangpol CP Freshmart (24-7, 10 KOs), from Thailand, with his belt on the line.
The weigh-in ceremony took place yesterday. Both Oguni and Iwasa scaled in at 121.75, a quarter pound lighter than the limit. Tanaka weighed in at the 108-pound class limit, and Palangpol 107.5.
The officials are as follows:
IBF 122-pound title bout: referee Wayne Hedgepath (US); judges Alan Davis (US), Takeshi Shimakawa (Japan), Katsuhiro Nakamura (Japan); supervisor Ben Keilty (Australia).
WBO 108-pound title bout: referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. (Puerto Rico); judges William Lerch (US), Gerard White (US), Jose Roberto Torres (Puerto Rico); supervisor Tsuyoshi Yasukochi (Japan).
The IBF titleholder Oguni dethroned Jonathan Guzman by an upset decision on New Year’s Eve last year, but sustained such a serious hand injury that he had to take a nine-month hiatus prior to this first defense. When they were both amateurs, Iwasa, a puzzling southpaw, lopsidedly defeated Oguni, and for the newly crowned champ, it will be a grudge fight.
Iwasa, formerly national high school champ, previously lost just twice—to Shinsuke Yamanaka for the Japanese bantam belt via tenth-round stoppage in 2011 and to Lee Haskins for the vacant IBF bantam diadem via sixth-round TKO in Bristol, UK in 2015. After his last setback Iwasa moved up to the 122-pound category and scored four victories in a row to show a good form.
It will be so competitive a fight that either may be victorious. Though Oguni is said to be not so good at coping with southpaw opposition, the champ reportedly improved well through strenuous sparring sessions with southpaw sparring partners employed from the Philippines.
In the first title bout, the unbeaten enfant terrible Tanaka, a 22-year-old speedster, acquired his second world belt in his eighth pro bout as early as Naoya “Monster” Inoue. In his first defense, he floored mandatory challenger Angel Acosta of Puerto Rico and unanimously defeated him on points last May. He will cope with the ambitious Thailander who scored fourteen wins straight in three years and a half. Tanaka is favored to successfully defend his belt, but had better be cautious against Palangpol’s desperate challenge.