Earlier today the South African website www.sowetanlive.co.za revealed that two word bouts had organised between South African world champions and Japanese challengers. Not only that but that the bouts were taking place on New Years Eve, as the card finally seems to come together.
One of the bouts was a bit of a mild surprise, with IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) set to make his first defense against the relatively unknown Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) [坂本真宏].
Mthalane won the title in Malaysia, when he narrowly defeated Muhammad Waseem back in July to become a 2-time champion. That was Mthalane's 13th straight win since a 2008 loss to Nonito Donaire and showed that even in his mid 30's still a top Flyweight.
During his long career Mthalane has beaten the likes of Hussein Hussein, Julio Cesar Miranda, Zolani Tete, John Riel Casimero and Ricardo Nunez and proven to be a real boogeyman of the Flyweight division.
Sakamoto, from the Mutoh gym in Osaka, is genuinely a fighter that you'd have had to follow the Japanese scene to much about. The 27 year old won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2015 before losing in a WBO Asia Pacific title fight against a then unknown Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] in November 2016. He had wanted to have a rematch with Kimura when he won a world title and has reeled off 5 stoppage wins since that defeat. Despite not being a buig name Sakamoto does hold stoppage wins over both Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Pigmy Kokietgym. He's technically solid, but this is a serious step up in class for him.
The second bout is a bout we already knew about, and will see Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) [京口 紘人] challenge WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10). Budler had been targeted by both Kyoguchi and stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一], who Budler beat for the belt earlier this year. It now seems almost certain that Taguchi is moving up in weight to pursue the long awaited showdown with Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成].
At the moment Kyoguchi, along with a number of Watanabe gym fighters, is in Thailand and this bout is expected to be officially announced next week with Watanabe holding a press conference after their man returns back to Japan. He will be looking to become a 2-weight champion and avenge Taguchi's loss to Budler from earlier this year.
For Budler this bout is a tough first defense, but one we suspect he is being paid well for and one he has a really good chance of winning, in what could a late contender for Fight of the Year. His style should give Taguchi fits, and could make for a real all action war.
The South African report does seem to confuse a few fact mentioning Hong Kong, Japan and Macau as the venue. Our understanding is that the bouts will both be in Macau as part of the under-card for Kazuto Ioka's (23-1, 13) [井岡一翔] WBO Super Flyweight title bout with Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23).
It's worth noting that South African Colin Nathan is quoted in the South article seemingly confirming that the bouts will all take place in Macau, "I am very excited about this opportunity which is not only great for my camp but also for local boxing. Macau has become a hot bed for boxing." Not Japan or Hong Kong.
From what we understand talks are taking place this week to try and secure a fourth world title fight for this Macau show, though it may slip to early 2019.
(Image courtesy of 610gym and Watanabe Gym, a big thanks to Bongani Magasela for the article on Sowetanlive)
of those rare fights where the two fighters give their all.
It was won by Tanaka, with a narrow decision, and had several Round of the Year contenders. In fact we suspect the bout will do more than just receive the WBO's fight of the Year award, but also that of several major boxing publications, as it really was a treat. Despite taking place on a Monday when most fans were unable to stream live it through the official source, or even watch it live, with the bout only being available in Nagoya in Japan, it was something to remember.
Well done to both men for picking up this great honour.
In 2017 we saw Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] come to the attention of boxing fans due to a massive win in China over Zou Shiming, to claim the WBO Flyweight title. Following that win Kimura defended the belt twice, before losing in September to Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成].
Going into that bout with Tanaka, Kimura had only been beaten once, being stopped in 75 seconds way back on his debut in 2013 to Shosuke Oji (1-0, 1) [王子 翔介] who surprisingly hadn't fought since stopping Kimura. That will however change tomorrow, when he fights for the first time in over 5 and a half years.
Oji, fighting out of the E&J Cassius gym, will be up against 19 year old Haruki Usui (1-0-2) [臼井春樹] at the Korakuen Hall tomorrow, with the fighters taking part in their weigh in today.
The 27 year old Oji explained that there had been various reasons why he couldn't fight, and due to inactivity he had lost his license, but not his fire to fight. He stated that he had continued training but it wasn't until this past May that he took part in a pro-test and regained his license. He seemed encouraged by Kimura's success and it's obvious that there is time to carve out a career in the sport, if that's what he wishes to do.
Union Boxing Promotions recently revealed that they were talking to teams from Japan, Thailand and the Dominican republic in regards to challenging their man Artem Dalakian (17-0, 12).
Dalakian, an Azeri-born Ukrainian, is the current WBA Flyweight champion and is planning to make a voluntary defense of his title in December.
We have long seen Thai fighter Dennapa Kiatniwat(20-1, 15) [เด่นนภา ตราใบห่อ], aka Sarawut Thawornkham, being linked to a bout with champion, with Thai sources suggesting he was close to a deal. His compatriot Noknoi Sitthiprasert (68-5, 42) [นกน้อย ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] is also thought to be in the running for a shot.
The Dominican fighter is almost certainly Gregorio Lebron (21-4, 16), who twice fought Stamp Kiatniwat for the interim title.
Things are a little less clear when it comes to the Japanese fighter, as there are no Japanese fighters currently ranked by the WBA at Flyweight. This could mean that a fighter is considering moving up, or down, in weight too face Dalakian, or that someone is set to find themselves in the next round of WBA rankings, such as recent WBO champion Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] .
With the bout planned for December we're expecting to see an announcement made in the coming weeks, and it's going to be interesting to speculate on which fighter may be next to face off with the unbeaten champion.
(Image courtesy of Union Boxing)
On Monday we saw 23 year old Japanese wunderkind Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成] claim the WBO Flyweight title, to tie the record for the fewest fights to become a 3-weight champion.
Following the the fighter, with a badly swollen right eye and a damaged jaw, took part in a press conference with his team.
The press conference saw his promoter speak about the future for his young charge, and it appears that more big things are planned for the youngster.
His promoter, former fighter Kiyoshi Hatanaka, suggested that his fighter would be looking to make his first defense towards the end of this year. Although it wasn't explicitly stated it does seem likely that it will be a potential New Year's Eve bout, with Tanaka having fought on the date several times during his career.
Following that the plan is to make his US debut, something they are looking to do in 2019, along with fighting for a 4th divisional world title. This would suggest that Tanaka is looking to join the ever growing list of fighters who are attaching themselves to the Superfly series. That does look some way off, for now given how badly swollen Tanaka's eye was, but is clearly something he and Mr Hatanaka are pursuing going forward.
For those, outside of Japan, who missed the fight with Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] we've included it below, starting at 6:20,and it really is a FOTY contender.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
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