Back in October we saw Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7) [板垣幸司] come up short in a Japanese title eliminator, suffering a 7th round TKO loss to fellow veteran Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) [堀川 謙一]. It seemed like that would be the end for the 35 year old Itagaki. Given his age, the loss and the fact he was stopped.
Today however he Itagaki announced that he would be back in the ring early next year, challenging unbeaten OPBF Light Flyweight champion Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), who will be making his third defense.
The bout will take place February 11th at the NTT Cred Hall in Hiroshima, and even Itagaki seemed to suggest that it's going to be his final chance at a title, after having previously com up short in bouts for the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles.
Heno notably won the title in Japan last year, stopping Seita Ogido in what was their second bout, following a very controversial draw. Since then he defended the title against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. He's now edging towards a world title fight, and may well see a win over Itagaki as a chance to secure a shot at a champion, potentially Japanese fighter, and WBC champion, Kenshiro (14-0, 8) [拳四朗].
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Earlier today the WBC announced a number of world title bouts and world title eliminators. On paper one of the most interesting match ups was a WBC Light Flyweight world title eliminator between former IBF Minimumweight world champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) [京口 紘人] and former 2-time world title challenger Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22). The winner of this would be getting a shot at the winner of this weekend's match up between Kenshiro (13-0, 7) [拳四朗] and Milan Melindo (37-3, 13).
Whilst a a bout between Taconing and Kyoguchi would be mouth watering, especially if it leads to the winner facing the winner of Kenshiro's bout with Melindo. Sadly however it does seem a bout with some doubt as Kyoguchi is expected to chase any other title, whether it's the WBO belt held by Angel Acosta or the IBF title, which will be contested later this month between Felix Alvarado and Randy Petalcorin.
There could, potentially, be TV issues for a bout between Kyoguchi and Kenshiro which is likely to turn Kyoguchi off this bout. However a win for Melindo this weekend would remove that potential TV conflict and may actually lead to Kyoguchi following through with the WBC's order and take on Taconing later in the year.
Notably if Kyoguchi does, as expected, look else where if Kenshiro wins on Sunday if could lead to Taconing facing either Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也] or Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5)
It's going to be a very interesting situation here and how it develops could really shape the division for the coming 12-18 months.
Earlier today in Laguna fight fans were able to see OPBF Light Flyweight champion champion Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5) successfully make his second defense, and turn back the challenge of fellow Filipino Jesse Espinas (19-3, 11). Not only was it a bout fans in Laguna, at the venue, could see but so too could fans on the the Games and Amusements Board facebook group.
The bout started somewhat slowly with Heno looking to see what his challenger had in his arsenal. An early head clash did cause a slight delay in the action but from then on Heno seemed to always be a touch too quick and too sharp for Espinas, who had moments but rarely managed to really get the respect of the champion.
Heno seemed happy for the most part on the back foot, counter and pick holes in Espinas, and whilst it wasn't hugely exciting it was a tactic that worked well, and neutralised the power of Espinas pretty well. Even when Espinas did have success Heno slowed him in his tracks and gained his respect.
The boxing of Heno saw him take the win comfortably on the scorecards, with scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112, to build on his previous defense against Merlito Sabillo.
Sadly for those wanting to watch the fight the video on the GAB facebook is less than stellar.
(Image of the score card due to the Games and Amusements Board facebook)
According to multiple Thai sources WBC Minimumweigth champion Wanheng Menayothin (50-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] will return to the ring on August 28th to make his 10th defense of the world title, and attempt to improve his record to 51-0.
At the moment few details have been provided, though our understanding is that he will be up against a Japanese opponent in a bout to be held in Nakhon Sawan. The opponents hasn't been named, though there are several Japanese options in the WBC rankings, and as we all know the rankings can change on a whim depending on how much the title body want their sanctioning fee.
Although there has been talk about a unification bout between Wanheng and IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人] it would seem unlikely that that will be the bout, with that bout likely to do better financially in Japan at the end of the year. On paper the more likely bout would be between Wanheng and OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) [小浦 翼], who has made it clear he's happy to travel to Thailand to take on the unbeaten world champion.
On the same card we also expect to see Palangpol CP Freshmart (14-2, 8) [คู่เอก พลังพล ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] fight for an OPBF title. It's likely his title bout will come at 108lbs, though it's unclear if it will be for the regular title, held by Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5), or whether it will be for an interim title, which have began to crop up in Thailand in recent months.
We expect more details on this card to emerge in the coming days, with opponents for both of the Thai's to be announced in the very near future.
Last year Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) travelled to Nakagami twice to face Seita Ogido for the OPBF Light Flyweight title, having a very controversial draw in the first bout before stopping Ogido in the second bout to claim the title. Today he returned to a Filipino ring to take on former WBO Minimumweight champion Merlito Sabillo (27-5-1, 13), who was looking to make his first defense of the ABF Light Flyweight title.
The bout, which took place Bacolod City, was a huge step up in clss for Heno though he managed tocome out on top, taking a split decision over Sabillo. The scores for the bout were 119-109 and 118-110 to Heno whilst the third judge managed to have the contest 116-112 to Sabillo, going massively against the other two judges.
For Heno the win boosts his chance of moving towards a world title fight, and even prior to today's contesthe was ranked in the top 15 of all 4 major world title bodies, with the WBO actually placing Sabillo higher than Heno who will likely move into the top 10 when their rankings are next updated.
As for Sabillo the future is pretty bleak, even if the result was "only" a split decision loss. The 34 year old has scored just 4 wins in the last 4 years, going 4-5 during that time, and has failed in 3 shots at OPBF titles during that run. At the age of 34 it's hard to see where Sabillo will go next.
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!