Last week we saw WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] score his 11th defense, as he took a technical decision win over former WBO king Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) [福原 辰弥].
That bout was supposed to be Wanheng's final defense before making a mandatory defense against South African challenger Simpiwe Konkco (19-5-0-1, 7), though Thai sources are now reporting that a deal may be in the works for the mandatory defense to be pushed back.
The sources, including SiamSport, have reported that a member of the Watanabe Gym was at ringside for the Menayothin Vs Fukuhara bout last week, and looking at getting Wanheng to fight in Japan in October in a voluntary defense, pushing back the mandatory. It also appears that Konkco's team are likely to allow the bout, for a step aside fee.
Whilst Wanehng fighting outside of Thailand would be big, it does leave to two different lines of thought. Firstly who would he be fighting? And secondly haven't we heard this before?
The Watanabe gym does have a number of Minimumweights, including world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) [谷口 将隆], former multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono (23-11-3, 6) [小野 心] and fast rising youngster Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2) [重岡銀次朗], none of whom would be suitable for an October bout with Wanheng. In theory the gym could be looking to work on behalf of another promoter, and perhaps looking to secure a shot for someone like Norihito Tanaka (18-7, 10) [田中教仁] or Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9) [小浦 翼], but it would be a rather strange plan from the gym.
What needs to be remembered is that Wanheng was repeatedly linked to a fight in Japan last year, and nothing ever came of it. This could be the same as that, where plans don't come to fruition, or it could be a sign that Watanabe gym have some huge plans between now and October, and we may hear more about the in the coming weeks.
It should also be noted that Watanabe gym's Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) [京口 紘人], the current WBA "super" Light Flyweight champion, will be defending his title against unbeaten Thai fighter Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5), aka Tanawat Nakoon, on June 19th and we may hear more about these plans around there.
It's fair to say that 2019 has been a year of upsets, and just moments ago we got another, as highly touted Japanese hopeful Tsubasa Koura (14-1, 9) [小浦 翼] was dethroned of the OPBF Minimumweight title by determined and rugged Filipino challenger Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8).
On paper this looked like a stay busy defense for Koura, who was ranked #3 by the WBC, and was likely expected to be an easy work out for a man many, including ourselves, had tipped as a future world champion. Instead however the bout was a rough, hard, war from the opening moments.
The fight started with Dante applying pressure. In the opening round Koura countered that pressure well, relying on his movement, speed and skills. After that opening round however Dante began to force his fight, forcing Koura into exchanges on the inside and creating a war. Koura had moments, using his more rounded boxing skills, but all too often it felt like Dante was the man forcing the style of fight, making Koura fight his fight.
Through 4 rounds there was little to split the men on the scores cards, with scores of 38-38, 38-38 and 37-39, in favour of the challenger. Knowing he was behind it seemed like Koura decided to try and hurt his man, a tactic that seemed foolish given Dante's reputation as a granite chinned warrior. It was a tactic that proved to be futile when Dante began to land an ever increasing number of shots to the head of Koura. What also didn't help the champion was a couple of cuts caused by head clashes. He tried to fight back, rather than box, and it was the wrong gameplan.
By the end of the 8th round the momentum seemed to be firmly with the challenger, who was leading on all 3 cards, 75-77, 75-77 and 74-78. It was Koura who needed to make big changes, but he was tiring, getting caught by bigger shots and his own moments were few and far between, and becoming less regular. Instead of being able to fight back Koura was seemingly caught in two minds, whether he was going to counter Dante or press the Filipino. Neither tactic seemed to work, he was too tired and damaged to use either gameplan effectively and took eye catching combinations from Dante.
Going into the final round it was clear that Koura was going to need a knockout to win, but he was looking a weary man and Dante was hungry. That hunger showed when the challenger hurt the unbeaten Japanese fighter, following up with a series of unanswered shots in Koura's own corner until the referee called a halt to the action at the 1:18 mark of round 12.
With the win Dante, despite his record, puts himself in the mix for a world title fight, and potentially a third shown down with Vic Saludar, whilst Koura will have to go back to the drawing board. Figure out what he is as a boxer and maybe even move up in weight. This wasn't the flowing Koura we'd seen in recent bouts. Maybe he had over-looked Dante, not trained properly, struggled to make weight or something else. Whatever the reason this was poor from Koura and Dante took his opportunity to score one of the biggest upsets of 2019!
Tomorrow we'll see Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼] defending the OPBF Minimumweight title against Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7), live on Boxing Raise. Today the two men took part in their weigh in, and both fighters made weight.
The unbeaten champion was around 104.72lbs, at the weigh in whilst the tough challenger, who has never been stopped, was well under the limit at 103.6lbs.
Koura, who looked the bigger man, seemed confident in winning based on his boxing skills, accepting that Dante was a durable guy. As for the challenger he seemed to be pretty confident himself, stating "I will show a good fight tomorrow. I will be myself to win."
As mentioned previously this bout will be shown live on Boxing Raise and it will be the main event of a special card for boxing in Yokohama and is expected to be a show where at least one notable future announcement for a local fighter is made.
Related-Koura takes on teak tough Filipino challenge!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Just over a week ago we reported that Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼] would be making his next defense of the OPBF Minimumweight title against Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) on March 31st in Kanagawa. At the time details on specifics weren't available though now we have seen more information come out about the show.
The bout will indeed be held on a Dangan card, but it's a Dangan and E&J Cassius Gym joint promoted show, with the event being held to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the E&J Cassius Gym, run by Cassius Naito. The venue of the show in Yokohama has also been selected due to it being an historical place of for Japanese boxing, with one of the first gyms being there and other events being held in and around Yokohama back then.
As well Koura's bout it has also been announced that Mirai Naito (6-1, 2) [内藤 未来] will feature in the main supporting bout whilst his older brother Rikki Naito (23-2, 7) [内藤 律樹] will participate in a sparring session. Both Naito and Rikki are son's of promoter Cassius.
A more complete look at the show is expected in the coming weeks, with Mirai Naito's opponent being named and Rikki Naito's sparring partner.
Earlier today the OPBF twitter account revealed that Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼] would be making his next defense of the OPBF Minimumweight title on March 31st in Kanagawa, against Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7).
On paper this looks like an horrific mismatch, an unbeaten and destructive youngster taking on someone who looks to be little more than a journeyman. The reality however is that, at the very least, Koura should be able to get some good rounds under his belt.
The unbeaten champion, 24, hasn't been in the ring since beating Daiki Tomita last September and fought just 17 rounds last year. He also only fought 18 rounds in 2017 and clearly needs some more ring time.
Dante, 28, has lost a significant number of bouts but has never been stopped, and has shown real durability. He has lost decisions to the likes of Vic Saludar, twice, Simpiwe Koncko and Jesse Espinas. Although often a clear loser he is a handful.
For fans interesting this bout will take place at the Osanbashi Hall, Yokohama, Kanagawa, with an under-card expected to be announced shortly. At the moment however the promoter hasn't been announced, though we suspect it could be a Dangan card, which will likely mean it'll be available on the Boxingraise service.
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