So, 2016 has finally come to an end and we are now at the start of 2017. At last. With the new year now here it's time for us to look back over some of most notable parts of 2016 and do our annual awards. As is usually the case with this site these awards are only encompassing bouts that took place in Asia, or featured an Asian fighter
Fighter of the Year -Manny Pacquiao
Whilst Pacquaio didn't set the world on fire this year he did score two really notable wins over Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas. Although he announced his retirement part way through the year he did end that retirement relatively quickly and second yet another world title,as he reclaimed the WBO Welterweight crown.
Knockout CP Freshmart – Knockout went 3-0 during the year and scored big wins over Carlos Buitrago and Byron Rojas as well as a year ending win over Shin Ono.
Shinsuke Yamanaka – Yamanaka scored notable wins over Liborio Solis and Anselmo Moreno to secure his place as the top Bantamweight on the planet.
Prospect of the Year – Hinata Maruta
One of the toughest categories this year was the Prospect of the Year category with some many brilliant contenders. For us though Hinata Maruta was the fighter than stood out that little bit more than the others. The teenager went 3-0 (3), claimed the WBC Youth title at Bantamweight, was crowned WBC Youth Fighter of the Year. Although he didn't “break out” in 2016 we do expect him to next year.
Azizbek Abdugofurov-Uzbek destroyer Abdugofurov fought only 8 rounds during the year but went 3-0 (3) and scored wins over fighters with a combined 52-14-1 record. He's expected to be fast tracked next year too and could be in some major bouts very soon.
Nursultan Zhanabayev-Debuting in October in a 10 rounder Zhanabayev really impressed taking a win over Xing Xin Yang, he then added a stoppage over the experienced Joel Dela Cruza and finished the year as a man to watch,
Move improved fighter of the Year - Tatsuya Fukuhara
In December 2013 Fukuhara lost to a then debuting Takuma Inoue and it seemed like a good debut win for Inoue. Since then however Fukuhara has gone from strength to strength and 2016 was a break out year for the Kumamoto man, who scores notable wins over Takumi Sakae and Genki Hanai whilst recording 3 defenses of his Japanese title. A really outstanding year!
Ricky Sismundo-Filipino fighter Sismundo went 1-1-1 for the year but could easily have gone 3-0 for the year. Those numbers aren't impressive but when you consider those bouts all came on the road against world level fighters with a combined 79-5-1 record things are a little more impressive.
Fight of the Year – Kenji Ono Vs Jun Takigawa
For us the fight of the year was a category that was full of great contenders, though one rather obscure fight stands out as the best of the year. That was the February 6th bout between Kenji Ono and Jun Takigawa that saw the two men trade multiple knockdowns in a bout that will last long in the memory of those that saw it. Sadly it seems this bout has been lost with no video being available at the time of writing, but it really was a special fight.
Dexter Alimento Vs Chanachai CP Freshmart
Marlon Tapales Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Anselmo Moreno II
Tomohiro Ebisu Vs Makoto Fuchigami
Upset of the Year-Yukunori Oguni Vs Jonathan Guzman
One of the final bouts of the year also gave us the Upset of the Year as little known Oguni dropped IBF Super Bantamweight champion Jonthan Guzman en route to a decision victory. Guzman had been unbeaten with a 22-0 (22) record and was almost unbackable going into the bout but Oguni gave him, and pretty much everyone else, a genuine shock.
Takashi Uchiyama Vs Jezreel Corrales – The first bout between Uchiyama and Corrales was a shock both in terms of the under-dog, Corrales, winning and the manner of the victory, Corrales blasting out Uchiyama early doors.
Jerwin Ancajas Vs McJoe Arroyo- Little known Filipino Ancajas was supposed to be a straight forward mandatory for Arroyo but proved to be a hungry young lion dropping Arroyo in round 8 and claiming a wide decision to claim the IBF Super Flyweight title.
Robbery of the Year-Evgeny Tishchenko Vs Vasily Levit
The 2016 Olympics was full of questionable judging but few decisions were as outright wrong as the one that decided the Heavyweight final and saw Kazakh Vasily Levit being robbed of a Gold medal. The Kazakh dominated the Russian and everyone seemingly saw it but the judges who gave the Russian the gold medal. The decision lead to worldwide criticism and rightfully so.
Hiroki Okada Vs Valentine Hosokawa- Probably the worst decision in Japan this year saw Light Welterweight champion Okada retain his title in a bout that he scarce won a round in. Hosokawa out fought and out worked Okada in pretty much every rounds yet came up widely short on the score-cards. A terrible injustice.
Junior Granados Vs Aston Palicte- Mexico saw several Asian fighters being robbed. One of those was Filipino slugger Palicte who seemed to out work Granados through much of their March bout only to come out on the wrong side of a split decision.
Jessica Chavez V Naoko Fujioka- Another Mexican robbery saw Chavez defeat Fujioka in a out that saw Chavez continually hold, spoil and even score a knockdown from a headclash. The bout had high expectations but Chavez's negativity prevented any kind of a fight.
Comeback of the Year- Marlon Tapales Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu
Fighters rarely come back from a 10-7 round but that's exactly what Marlon Tapales did in July when he won a sensational bout with Pungluang Sor Singyu. The Filipino was dropped twice in round 5 and looked done as Pungluang battered him to the bell. It seemed almost a given that Tapales would be stopped but instead he gutted out the storm and eventually stopped Pungluang in round 11. At the time of the stoppage Tapales was officially losing a split decision with scores of 94-93 and 96-91 in favour of the Thai, and 95-92 in his favour.
Comeback Fighter of the Year-Hozumi Hasegawa
In 2014 Hozumi Hasegawa was battered into defeat by Kiko Martinez, in December 2015 he was dropped twice as he narrowly over-came Carlos Ruiz. When he stepped foot into the ring with Hugo Ruiz most expected the 35 year old veteran to be dropped, battered and beaten. Instead he rolled the clock back and stopped Ruiz, who retired after a brutally brilliant 9th round. Sadly Hasegawa would retire later in 2017 but few can argue with the value of his win over Ruiz.
Shohei Omori-In December 2015 Shohei Omori was dropped for fun by Marlon Tapales on route to a 2nd round TKO loss. Since then however he has bounced back with a trio of stoppages, including a win over former world title challenger Rocky Fuentes. Whilst he didn't claim a world title during the year he is expected to get a world title fight in 2016.
Earlier today saw the Champion Carnival match ups for 2016 being announced.
The bouts, which see the Japanese champions taking on their mandatory challengers, will take place in 13 weigh classes between March 11th and April 28th with a huge bonus awarded to the MVP of event.
At Minimumweight the match up will see defending champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (16-4-5, 6) [福原 辰弥] defending his belt, for the first time, against world ranked foe Takumi Sakae (13-0, 8) [榮 拓海]. That match up a brilliant one, despite the contrasting records, and really should tell us a lot about both men going forward.
At Light Flyweight the fast rising Ken Shiro (6-0, 3) [拳 四朗] will face off against former world title challenger Atsuhsi Kakutani (17-4-1, 10) [角谷 淳志]. This is one of the tru stand out bouts and is likely to be another tough test for the 24 year old champion, who seems unlikely to ever have another easy one, whilst Kakutani has been awaiting a title fight for over a year now.
At Flyweight we expected fireworks as as former world title challengers collide in what should be a genuine war. The champion going in is the all action Takuya Kogawa (25-4, 13) [粉川 拓也] whilst his mandatory challenger is the gutsy Masayuki Kuroda (24-6-3, 14) [黒田 雅之].
The Super Flyweight bout will see unbeaten champion Sho Ishida (21-0, 11) [石田 匠] defending his belt against former OPBF title challenger Ryuichi Funai (24-6, 16) [船井 龍一]. For Ishida this will be his 5th defense of the title whilst Funai will have to make the Super Flyweight limit for the first time in more than 8 years.
In the Bantamweight division we see a vacant title up for grabs as former champion Kentaro Masuda (23-7, 12) [益田 健太郎] battles the unbeaten Yushi Tanaka (16-0-3, 10) [田中 裕士]. The title was vacated in late 2015 by Shohei Omori, ahead of Omori's WBO world title eliminator against Marlon Tapales, and we've managed to end up with a genuinely excellent match up between a veteran and a rising hopeful.
The Super Bantamweight bout appears to be one of the least interesting as Yasutaka Ishimoto (27-8, 7) [石本 康隆] defends his title against the little known Yosuke Fujihara (16-3, 4) [藤原 陽介]. Sadly this bout says more about the state of the division domestically than much else with Shingo Wake and Yukinori Oguni both progressing beyond the Japanese domestic scene and Ishimoto has recently scored wins over both Gakuya Furuhashi and Yusaku Kuga. Whilst Shun Kubo has won the OPBF title and Sho Nakazawa and Hinata Maruta are too low down the domestic rankings. It's a great division in Japan but this isn't a mouth watering match up.
The Featherweight bout will see old adversaries collide as Satoshi Hosono (30-2-1, 20) [細野 悟] battles Rikiya Fukuhara (31-8-1, 23) [福原 力也] for the third time in less than 4 years. In their first meeting Hosono stopped Fukuhara, back in 2012, whilst last year Hosono took a well earned, but relatively unimpressive, decision over his rival. We're expecting Hosono to go 3-0 against Fukuhara but the bout certainly won't lack excitement given the styles of the two men involved.
The super Featherweight bout will see heavy handed champion Kenichi Ogawa (17-1, 14) [尾川 堅一] defending his title against Satoru Sugita (11-2-1, 7) [杉田 聖]. This will be Ogawa's first defense of the title and it's hard to see him losing to Sugita, despite the fact Sugita is enjoying a rich vein of form with 5 straight wins coming into this one.
On paper one of the best bouts is he Lightweight contest between current champion Kota Tokunaga (17-2, 11) [徳永 幸大] and former champion Nihito Arakawa (26-6-1, 16) [荒川 仁人] in what could, potentially, be Arakawa's last shot at a title. Both will give their all here and this could end up being a bit of a war given the challenger's toughness and the champion's advantage in size.
In the Light Welterweight/Super Lightweight division we get another rematch as the unbeaten Hiroki Okada (11-0, 9) [岡田 博喜] defends his title against former foe Koichi Aso (20-6-1, 13) [麻生 興一]. Their first bout was a lot of fun and we're expecting this one to be just as fun, though it does need to be said that Okada has developed notably in recent fights and will still be fancied over the exciting Aso.
At Welterweight we'll see newly crowned champion Nobuyuki Shindo (17-3-1, 6) [新藤 寛之] defending his title against the heavy handed Toshio Arikawa (12-4, 10) [有川 稔男]. This bout was one we knew about before it was announced and really does look like a potentially exciting contest, with Arikawa having genuine fight ending power.
The Light Middleweight bout will see veteran Yuki Nonaka (28-8-3, 9) [野中 悠樹] defending his title against the really under-rated Yuto Shimizu (11-2-2, 4) [清水 優人], who has won his last 8 including victories over Hikaru Nishida, Toru Chiba, Takehrio Shimokawara and Yosuke Kirima. This could be a very tough test for the defending champion.
And finally, the Middleweight bout, which has already been announced and is another rematch, will see Akio Shibata (27-8-1, 13) [柴田 明雄] defending his title against the "better than his record suggests" Hikaru Nishida (14-7-1, 6) [西田 光], in a bout now set for March 11th.
With all 26 fighters being at the announcements earlier today it does seem likely that all 13 bouts will go ahead as planned, however the champions may decide to vacate their belts if a world title opportunity rears it's head.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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