Over the last 12 months or so things have really began to change in Chinese boxing. The Major League Boxing cards have become less a fixture and instead we've been having more and more good, solid, all round cards with tough match ups between locals and visitors.
Today we got one such card with a China Vs Japan theme, that ended with two amazing bouts to close the show.
The first of those saw world ranked local Wulan Tuolehazi (11-3-1, 5) record a narrow win over highly regarded Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) [山内涼太] in what may end up being one of the best bouts on Chinese soil in the entire of 2019. The bout was thrilling from the off, and got even more explosive when Tuolehazi dropped Yamauchi in round 3 with a huge right hand. The power of Tuolehazi seemed to shake Yamauchi again later in the round as the Chinese fighter, who had started well, needed to show a lot more respect to the Chinese fighter.
Yamauchi would himself score a knockdown, from a gorgeous left hook to the body, later in the right and it seemed like he had done enough to just edge a razor thin decision after 12 rounds. The judges however gave it to the local, in what appeared to have been a split decision, given the crowd reactions to the scores as they were read out. Despite the loss Yamauchi showed a lot here to like, whilst Tuolehazi scored his 6th straight win, and extended his current unbeaten run to 10, including other notable wins over Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym and Jayr Rquinel. The win nets Tuolehazi a WBA regional title at Flyweight.
The second bout went Japan's way, as the often over-looked Yusuke Konno (15-4, 8) [今野裕介] surprisingly stopped Chinese fighter Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-3-1, 6) [拜山波] in the 11th round. Konno managed to make his power pay early on, dropping Baishanbo in the opening round, but the Chinese fighter fought back well, and was likely in the lead as we entered the championship rounds. The good effort from Baishanbo always came with a risk and in round 11 he was dropped, hard, by a Konno right hand. The Chinese fight would get up, but do so just after the 10 count, to give Konno a huge win.
For Baishanbo this is his first stoppage loss, but his third loss in 6 bouts. For Konno it sees him extending his current winning run to 4 fights and claim the WBA Asia Light Welterweight title.
Lats month we reported that former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔] was planning to return to the ring in Spring in China. We have bow seen the OPBF confirmed that news, and also confirm the opponent and title status of the bout.
The OPBF revealed that the exciting Japanese fighter, who is hugely popular in China following his 2017 upset win over Zou Shiming, will be battling for the OPBF Silver Flyweight on March 30th in Shanghai. His opponent will be Thai veteran Pigmy Kokietgym (60-10-2, 24), aka Wicha Phulaikhao, a 37 year old who has been around the block a few times.
For Kimura the bout will be his first since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成] in September. His career was in doubt following that loss, but recently announced that he would be returning, and if we're honest few will complain about him having an easier bout. It's also worth noting that this will be his third bout on the Chinese mainland, and he's also fought once in Hong Kong.
For Pigmy this will be his first contest in almost a year, last being seen losing in 6 rounds to Masahiro Sakamoto last April. He's been a professional since 1999 and has twice fought for world titles, losing in both of those world title bouts.
It's a disappointing bout if you're a Kimura fan, but an understandable one, an easy comeback contest for the former world champion.
Interestingly this bout will take place on the same show as a number of Japan Vs China bouts, including the very interesting Flyweight contest between Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) [山内涼太] and Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5)
Earlier today the Kadoebi Gym took to twitter to announce 2 international bouts that their fighters would be involved in on March 30th in Shanghai, China. And if we're being honest both bouts like like they could be very interesting.
The "lesser" of the bouts will see Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) [今野裕介] take on Chinese fighter Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) [拜山波] in a 12 round bout at Light Welterweight.
Coming in to that one Konno, the Kaoebi promoted fighter and the under-dog, is riding a 3 fight winning run including upset wins over Kazuya Maruki and Vladimir Baez. Baishanbo on the other hand is entering the contest on the back of his technical decision win against Venezuelan Ernesto Espana. The bout will see Baishanbo risking his WBA International title, and his #14 WBA world ranking, a single place ahead of Uzbek Shakhram Giyasov at the time of writing.
Despite that bout being an interesting one it's the other bout that interests us more, and that will see the very highly regarded Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) [山内涼太] take on Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5), who will be risking his WBC and WBO world rankings. This Flyweight bout will also be over 12 rounds, and according to the tweet will also be for a WBA International title which hasn't been fought for since Artem Dalakian defended it in August 2013.
For those unaware Yamauchi is one of the best prospects in Japan and is a 24 year old with insane talent, who already holds wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori. This is however a huge step up in class for the fantastic boxer-puncher. Tuolehazi on the other hand is a world ranked Chinese fighter with wins over Kwanthai Sithmorseng and OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel. He's a cruder fighter, but more proven at this point than the Japanese prospect.
It should be noted that there is at least one other notable bout expected to be announced for this card in the coming days, and could be bigger than both of these contests.
Below- The tweet from Kadoebi confirming these two bouts.
Earlier today in China fight fans had the chance to catch a WBC Silver Flyweight title bout, as under-rated Filipino Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7) took on Chinese local Wulan Tuolehazi (9-3-1, 4).
For the Filipino this was a third straight bout on the road, following back-to-back wins in Japan, and he showed no fear of being on the road once again.
For the local the bout saw him riding a 7 fight unbeaten run, including notable wins over Noldi Manakane and Kwanthai Sithmorseng and he knew that another win here would open the door to a potential WBC world title bout.
The fight started with Raquinel on the front foot and it seemed clear he was the more naturally aggressive fighter, something we'd seen from his bouts in Japan. Tuolehazi seemed to feel his best chance to win was to pick his spots, fight off the back foot and look to counter the Filipino. At times that worked for the Chinese fighter, but he struggled to get the respect of the Filipino who knew how to catch the eye.
As the rounds went on we slowly saw Tuolehazi try to become more aggressive, taking a few more risks and build his confidence. That however saw him being punished by the sharp, hard shots of Raquinel and when he started to take more punishment the Chinese fighter looked like a man who began to question himself. Against Raquinel that's not a good thing to do, and the Filipino southpaw began to land with more consistency, chipping away at Tuolehazi, especially in round 5 as the Chinese fight took a real shellacking.
To his credit Tuolehazi took his knocks and continually looked to try and strike back against the Filipino youngster, with round 6 being a better round for the local, with the crowd regularly getting behind him and roaring his successes. This began a solid fight back from the Chinese fighter, who seemed to have a solid seventh round, with Raquinel simply not letting his hands go enough, something we had seen from his when he defeated Keisuke Nakayama for the OPBF title. Sadly this proved to be the start of real problems for Raquinel who seemed to completely turn off, not letting his hands go enough and allowing Tuolehazi back into the bout. Round after round the Filipino waited for something to happen rather than making things happen and this really turned the momentum, without Raquinel ever taking much punishment, or exerting himself.
Going into the later rounds it felt like Raquinel's early control of the contest was a distant memory. He wasn't being outclassed at any point, but he was giving judges a chance to score rounds in favour of Tuolehazi, something that didn't happen early on. It seemed that even Raquinel began to realise it and in round 10 he showed some flashes of his ability, landing some combinations as he had earlier on, and retaking the center of the ring. Having had a good round 10 Raquinel let Tuolehazi back into the fight in round 11, with the Chinese fighter landing quite a few right hands, without taking much in return. One of those right hands from the Chinese fighter seemed to wobble Raquinel late in the round and made things really interesting as we entered the final round.
With both men likely knowing the contest was close we saw a new found energy from both, with Tuolehazi looking to land his straight right hand and Raquinel looking for his own straight left hand. It was to be the power of the Chinese fighter that would be the more telling as he dropped Raquinel with just over a minute of the round left. That seemed to spur the Filipino on, whilst Tuolehazi looked to protect a 10-8 round, that was until the final 10 seconds when they traded, giving the fans a grandstand finish.
In the end the judges saw the bout as a relative clear win for Tuolehazi, the final round really didn't make a difference. Sadly for Raquinel he only has himself to blame. He was the more skilled man, he looked the better fighter, but mentally he seemed to turn off for much of the second half of the fight, and away from home that was always going to be a big mistake. At 21 this is a learning experience for the Filipino, but it leaves serious questions over his head. For Tuolehazi it was a relatively fortunate win, and proved he isn't ready for a world title fight.
Unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhang Zhilei (19-0, 15) [张志磊] will return to the ring on September 28th in Changsha, China, as he looks make his first defense of the WBO Oriental Heavyweight title and continue a 6 fight run of opening round victories.
The 2008 Olympic Silver medal winner will be up against fellow puncher Don Haynesworth (15-2-1, 13), from New York, USA, who will be having his first bout outside of the US.
Zhilei comes into this bout following and impressive 8 fight stoppage run, but has got a lot of questions to answer in regards to his competition, and on paper this is a credible step up in class for "Big Bang".
Although no world beater Haynesworth is likely to be a good test to see how legitimate Zhilei is. To date Haynesworth has been stopped once, by the world class Bryant Jennings, and this bout will give Zhilei a chance to be compared with the former world title challenger.
Another excellent bout on this card will see China's Wulan Tuolehazi (8-3-1, 4) take on OPBF Flyweight champion Jayr Raquinel (10-0-1, 7) in a bout for the vacant WBC Silver Flyweight title. The 25 year old Tuolehazi lost 3 of his first 5, but has since gone 6-0-1 (4) with notable wins overs Noldi Manakane, Takeshi Kaneko, Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Yokthong KKP, showing that he has got something about him. Raquinel has also impressed, with recent wins in Japan over Keisuke Nakayama and Shun Kosaka, and is a legitimate puncher on the Oriental level. The winner of this one will find themselves pushed way up into the WBC rankings and will close in on a potential world title fight.
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!