One of the best things in Asian boxing right now is the development of streaming service Boxingraise, which have given fighters a bigger window to show their talent to a wider audience. In the past if a fight wasn't televised we had to hope that fan cam footage would be released, whilst we now have Boxingraise to show fights.
Sadly Boxingraise does keep many of it's fights behind a paywall, including the 2018 Asian Boxing female fight of the Year.
The bout in question was the third meeting between Saemi Hanagata and Yuko Kuroki, which was a bout for the IBF Atomweight title. It was an exceptional 10 round, high tempo and exciting war, with Hanagata narrowly out working and out punching the more technical Kuroki, who was hurt badly before fighting back. It was an amazingly competitive bout, and although it was fought at a lower skill level to Sho Kimura's FOTY with Kosei Tanaka it had a similar back and forth, with neither managing to establish themselves as the dominant fighter for long.
If you have boxingraise we suggest you give this one a watch.
A close contender in this category was the December 1st bout between Kayoko Ebata and Etsuko Tada for the WBO Female Minimumweight title. That bout is also available on boxingraise.
Whilst female boxing in the West has often been of predictable mismatches, doing little more than promoting one fighter as something special whilst essentially sharing the ring with someone far beneath them, we have seen several interesting upsets in Asian boxing. For example Mika Iwakawa over-coming Nao Ikeyama for the WBO Atomweight title and Shione Ogata out pointing Erika Hanawa.
For us though the upset that stood out the most was a win for Thai fighter Jutamas Jitpong, who over-came Casey Morton on December 15th in Yubei, China, for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title
Going in to the bout Morton was 7-0-3(1), she had won the Flyweight version of the title 9 months earlier and was facing a Thai 20 year old who was 4-2 (2) who had lost in February to the then 1-0 Olga Gurova. Through Jutamas's career, prior to facing Morton, she had gone 1-2 when fighting outside of Thailand.
Against Morton we saw Jutamas out box, out punch and out move Morton.
The only one blotch on this upset was that it was later revealed that Morton had been ill in the build up to the fight and wasn't 100%, that however was not Jutamas' fault.
It's a shame to say that female boxing in Asia had a pretty forgetable year, afterall we've seen so much attention given to female fighters in the west thanks to the likes of Katie Taylor and Claressa Shields. In Asia many of the premier female fighters, like Naoko Fujioka, Cai Zong Ju, Firuza Sharipova and Hyun Mi Choi fought only once.
There were exceptions to that rule, but many of those scored only a single win of note. The one major exception was Tenkai Tsunami [天海 ツナミ], who became a 2-weight world champion in March, when she stopped the previously unbeaten and highly touted Chaoz Minowa, to claim the WBO female Light Flyweight title. A title she defended against veteran Gretchen Abaniel in July, stopping Abaniel in 4 rounds.
The 34 year old Tsunami not only gave Minowa her first defeat, which was followed 8 months later by Minowa losing a decision to Ibeth Zamora Silva, but was just the second person to stop Abaniel, who's only other stoppage loss came back in 2011 to Katie Gutierrez.
It's a shame that Asian boxing didn't have a real standout female fighter at the top this year, but fingers crossed 2019 will be a better year, especially given the fact that there so many interesting female fights out there at the lower weights, which are packed with Asian female fighters.
The comeback of the year, in the men's category, was an interesting category with various fighters in the mix, some of which were completely over-looked just due to the sheer number of comebacks we had. In female boxing however it was a category that really only had a single contender.
That was Ayaka Miyao [宮尾 綾香], who suffered an horrific knee injury in 2016, during her second bout with Nao Ikeyama. That injury saw her leave the ring on a stretcher, in tears, with her career almost looking like it was over. It was a terrible injury for the then 33 year old, who relied so much on her movement and speed that it seemed hard to believe she would ever look the same fighter.
Almost 18 months after the injury she returned to the ring and took a 4th round stoppage over the out classed Aisah Alico, a win she was supposed to get without any issues. Then came the big one, her 3rd bout with Ikeyama, the woman she had gotten so badly injured against.
Miyao showed no signs of fear or distrust in her leg. Instead she simply out boxed, out moved, out sped, out punched and clearly won against Ikeyama, who had scored 2 stoppages over her. The win saw Miyao become the "interim" WBA Atomweight champion and set up a potentially career defining bout in 2019, and a chance to become a 2-time world champion!
In 2018 we managed to see a lot of fighters essentially come out of nowhere to make a name for themselves, grab attention and make the most of opportunities put their way. These have included fighters like Shohjahon Ergashev, who grabbed the attention of the American boxing fans by stopping Sonny Fredrickson on January 12th in an eye-catching and exciting performance, and Masayuki Ito, who made his US debut and upset Christopher Diaz in a WBO Super Featherweight title bout. Others have come out and made a mark in 2018 included people who stunned us on debut, like Israil Madrimov, Masahiro Suzuki, Apichet Petchmanee and Ginjiro Shigeoka.
The biggest revelation this year was someone who didn't just make his debut in 2018, but also raced out to being the #1 ranked WBA Super Bantamweight contender, after just 5 fight!
That man is Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the 24 year old Uzbek hopeful who has turned heads in a big way since his debut back in March.
As an amateur Akhmadaliev had a reported 300-15 (80) record, competed at the very highest level, reaching the semi-finals of the 2016 Olympics and winning the 2017 Asian Games. Rather than see the move from amateur boxing to professional boxing as being a time to adapt to a new code the youngster took to the professional ranks like a duck to water. On his stopping David Michel Paz in 68 seconds. He would go on to capture the WBA Inter-Continental title just over 5 months later, in his 4th bout, before stopping the world ranked Isaac Zarate in 9 rounds.
Whilst world rankings aren't always indicative of someones ability or credentials it's hard to doubt how good Akhmadaliev has looked, and there's a great chance that by the end of 2019 he'll be holding a world title. His 2018 has put him firmly on the map, and we expect to see a lot more fans talking about him after his next fight.
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