HATAKEYAMA RISKS WBA LIGHT TITLE AGAINST RICK
Takanori Hatakeyama, the WBA lightweight champ, will risk his belt against a previously Japan-based US military worker named Rick Yoshimura Roberts in Tokyo on February 17.
Hatakeyama, 24-1-2, 19 KOs, captured his second world title when he dropped Venezuelan Gilberto Serrano five times, finishing him in 8 upset rounds here in Tokyo last June. He impressively kept it once by demolishing hard-punching compatriot Hiroyuki Sakamoto in 10 hard-fought rounds in October.
Rick, 38-5-1, 20 KOs, is a 35-year-old soldier that kept his Japanese light title on 22 occasions and established the record of most consecutive defenses by the national champ. He is a stylish boxer-puncher loved by our aficionados though he recently left for Miami due to a US governmental order.
Hatakeyama, 25, will be a prefight favorite thanks to his youth and latest achievement, but Rick is such a skillful technician that he may befuddle the game and flashy Japanese champ. It will be a good fight.
VENEZUELAN GAMEZ PUT WBA SUPER-FLY BELT ON LINE AGAINST KOBAYASHI
The "Little Giant" Leo Gamez, standing just 5 feet one inch, will put his 4th world title, WBA super-fly throne, on the line against Japanese southpaw Celes Kobayashi in Yokohama on March 11.
Gamez amazingly upset Hideki Todaka via a seventh-round KO to wrest the WBA belt in Nagoya last October. Gamez, 37, may show his superior experience against Kobayashi, a game and durable lefty who failed to win the WBC fly title on a split draw with Malcolm Tunacao here last August. Kobayashi, 22-4-3, 13 KOs, will have his vaunted durability and toughness tested by Gamez's power-punching. Gamez, 33-7-1, 25 KOs, reportedly has a plan to attempt to win his 5th world diadem in the bantam division in the near future, whether it may be true or not. Kobayashi, 27, may not an easy stepping stone for the Venezuelanfs big dream, since his tremendous durability was already displayed against the WBC champ Tunacao. If it becomes a long battle, Kobayashi may have a chance to beat Gamez due to his vaunted stamina.
Promoter Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions will present three more title bouts on this card. The OPBF light fly champ Koki Tanaka will engage in a rematch with ex-Korean champ Pilkoo Kang after their controversial first encounter. Toshikage Kimura will risk his Japanese feather belt against unbeaten Puerto Rican KO artist Yuji Eugenio Gomez, 12-0, 11 KOs including 8 consecutive first round knockouts. Satoru Suzuki will face veteran ex-champ Minoru Horiuchi with his national middle title at stake. Many fight fans will gather at Yokohama Arena.
OHIGASHI HAS AMBITIOUS CRACK AT CASTILLEJO IN SPAIN
Akira Ohigashi, a 30-year-old Japanese, will have an ambitious crack at the WBC super-welter title against Javier Castillejos in the champfs home-turf Madrid, Spain, on February 16.
Ohigashi kept his national 154-pound title 10 times, and scored an upset 9th round KO of then world-rated OPBF champ Kookyul Song in a non-title go in April, 1999. The rugged puncher also beat future OPBF welter boss Sukhyun Yun, Korea, on points in December that year.
Castillejo captured the WBC throne via upset verdict over Keith Mullings in Spain in January, 1999, and retained it five times to his credit. The Spaniard showed his steady improvement and defeated the top contender Tony Marshall by a decision last July. His last performance was seen in Mexico, where he easily disposed of compatriot ex-Olympian Javier Martinez in 4 lopsided rounds last October.
Ohigashi will experience a very tough fight against Castillejo, since the Japanese has no experience of fighting abroad and has not fought internationally name opponents except world-rated Koreans Song and Yun. Castillejo will outbox and outpunch Ohigashi, whose durability may have it go the distance, hopefully.
OPBF TITLE BOUTS SCHEDULED
Fleet-footed southpaw Masakazu Satake will defend his OPBF super-light belt against compatriot Masaaki Morooka in Akashi, Japan, on Feburary 12. Satake is a fast-rising speedster that impressively finished top OPBF contender Steven Marks in 10 onesided rounds last April. Satake, 10-2-4, 5 KOs, will outspeed the game but slower Morooka, if he properly keeps his distance.
WBC #4 ranked veteran Tiger Ari will square off against unbeaten but limited Ryuhei Sugita in Nagoya, Japan, on February 25. Ari displayed his power punching in lopsidedly whipping Atsushi Tamaki on December 23 to enjoy an easy payday. The Filipino southpaw will be too ringwise and hard-hitting against Sugita, whose lack of good defense will pay off.
OPBF welter champ Sukhyun Yun, Korea, will go and defend his regional belt against top contender and Filipino champ Rev Santillan in Cebu, Philippines, on January 26. Yun is a very busy puncher, if not a hard-pncher, but Santillan, 10-0, 10 KOs, is a taller and younger southpaw puncher. It will be such a competitive fight that we cannot pick up a winner.
OPBF super-welter champ Kookyul Song, Korea, will put his title on the line against Nobuhiro Ishida, ex-amateur champ with a 5-0, 2 KOs mark, in Osaka on March 1. Ishida, a tall and stylish boxer, is a prospect, but Song seems much more experienced and crafty for the upcoming newcover.
PACQUIAO DEFENDS WBC INTERNATIONAL 122-POUND TITLE AGAINST SENRIMA
WBC #3 ranked super-bantam Manny Pacquiao, ex-WBC fly champ now fighting in the 122-pound division, will defend his title against Japanese-based North Korean Tetsutora gChulhoh Senrima, 19-4-3, 10 KOs, in Manila, Philippines, on February 17. Gabriel Elorde Jr., the promoter, selected a very dangerous challenger against hard-hitting southpaw Pacquiao. Senrima, a go-for-broke stylist, had been a perennial top contender in Japan until he failed to win the national title from cagey veteran Setsuo Segawa by a close but unanimous nod last November. Senrima, an iron-chinned banger, always shows a give-and-take battle and wear down his opponent with his persistent attack, no matter how much punishment he may absorb. Pacquiao, of course, will be a prohibitive favorite, but he may experience a crisis if Senrima can withstand the Filipino's vaunted power and display his tremendous stamina in later rounds.
RANDY SUICO IS BACK
The WBC's thirteenth-ranked 130-pounder, Filipino "Golden Boy" Randy Suico, will return to the ring warfare after his surgery on both hands. Suico, 11-0, 9 KOs, was a very excellent national amateur champ prior to his entry into the paid ranks. He acqauired the Philippine national title with fewer than 10 fights, and then executed a promotional agreement with most influential Asian promoter Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions. Suico will defend his national super-feather belt against Dante Chawking Paulino on the semi-final of the OPBF welter title bout between Suhkyun Yun and Rev Santillan in Cebu, Philippines, on January 26. Suico is already booked by Honda in Tokyo on March 3, when he will cope with ex-Thai feather and super-feather champ Singhnum Yamakigym, 42-5, 40 KOs. If Suico passes these two bouts, he will fight in May. Suico, a tall and very hard-hitting prospect, will welcome a very busy year in 2001.