Before the year was out many fans, websites and organisations were talking about their 2014 boxing awards. We have no problem with doing awards though do wish that people would wait until the year was over. Last year, for example, everyone missed out on the huge upset on New Years Eve when Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr upset Ryo Miyazaki. We need to hope in future people will follow our lead and wait until the year is over before publishing their awards for the year.
This year, 2014, things were even more complicated with 2 days of top quality action featuring a potential upset of the year and a potential fighter of the year, among others. To put it into perspective, those who decided to jump ahead may have gotten numerous awards very wrong and almost certainly 1 award wrong by simply being a little bit too impatient.
We'll start with that award, the Fight of the Year award for 2014. Going into the final week of the year there were 4 men in the running with one of those men having a fighter in the finals days of the year. It was that man who literally grab the award at the last minute and made a statement that saw boxing fans around the world sit up, take notice and began talking about both him and the super Flyweight division.
Firstly the runners up:
Manny Pacquiao- The Filipino congressman had a somewhat quiet year but yet one that really was worth making a note of as he beat two unbeaten world champions with a combined record of 51-0-0-1. They were Timothy Bradley, who he beat back in April, and Chris Algieri, who he beat in November. On paper the wins, both by decision, look great though in reality they were expected wins.
Gennady Golovkin- The Kazakh power puncher scored 3 wins this year, all by stoppage, including a an eye catching 3rd round KO against former unified champion Daniel Geale and opening round stoppage over tough Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio. Sadly Golovkin's issue for the year is that he is simply too good for the other Middleweights out there and even the top guys in the division don't really make for appealing fights with him. He, like Pacquiao, beat men he was supposed and although he did quickly, a combined 12 rounds, it does feel like he is treading water in the hope of finding a suitable challenge.
Amnat Ruenroeng- This Thai was a relative unknown when the year began though he quickly became one of the 2014 break out fighters and a genuine Fighter of the the Year with 3 notable scalps. The first of those was tough Filipino Rocky Fuentes in January for the IBF Flyweight title, in what was Amnat's 12th professional bout, just 4 months later he was in Japan where he out pointed the then unbeaten Kazuto Ioka in a genuine upset. He ended the year with a very narrow win over McWilliams Arroyo. On paper a 3-0 record against those 3 is very impressive though the controversy around his win over Arroyo has been a black mark against him.
We suspect you may have been able to guess but the winner is.... the Monster from Kanagawa Naoya Inoue. Inoue, like Golovkin, went 3-0 (3) for the year and though unlike Golovkin he managed to make a splash and then another splash. The first came when he set a Japanese record by winning a world title in 6th professional bout, battering Adrian Hernandez into submission in April to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title. A weak defence in September may not have been great but a jump up 2 divisions to Super Flyweight in December saw him decimating Omar Andres Narvaez to become a 2 weight world champion in a world record setting 8 professional bouts.
Whilst the result on paper were excellent what was even better were the performances and watching his beat down of Narvaez was a joy on the eye. It was clinical, destructive, and even a bit magical. We know a lot of fans world wide have taken notice of Inoue now and we hope that their interest will expand beyond Inoue and help fans get into the Super Flyweight division and the rising Japanese super prospects such as his young brother Takuma Inoue and the equally fast rising Kosei Tanaka.
(Image courtesy of Hideyuki Ohashi's blog)
With 2015 quickly approaching we've decided to do out look at the 15 prospects to watch in 2015. Here we bring you the top 5. Hopefully you'll put them on your radar for the next of the year.
For people who missed part 1 of this list, it can be found here and part 2 can be found here.
A second Filipino in the Super Bantamweight division to get a mention is the talented Genesis Servania (25-0, 11). Servania is a 23 year old who has looked like a star in the making for the last 3 years. Unlike some fighters he's not just popped onto the scene but has carved through world class foes for fun and already holds notable wins over the likes of Gerson Guerrero, Genaro Garcia, Angky Angkotta, Konosuke Tomiyama, Rafael Concepcion, Alexander Munoz and Jose Cabrera. That list alone should have helped make him a top contender.
Blessed with speed, stinging power, great work rate and fantastic ability there is little holding Servania back other than the fact he's in a relatively tough division. If however ALA are willing to break the bank he could reach the top in the next year or so. If they aren't willing to break out the money quite yet than we suspect he'll be competing against other contenders and continuing to reinforce himself as a top contender
We don't think ALA will break the bank nor do we suspect that ALA will throw him to the wolves. There it talk about Servania getting WBO interim world title fight but that's now looking like it's off the table. If ALA can get the youngster some sort of interim title fight then there is a great chance he could end the year as a champion. What we suspect however is that Servania will end the year and a mandatory for one of the champions. He may need to wait until 2016 for his chance at the big time but we think he's pretty much ready as it is.
The third Ohashi gym fighter listed here is Ryo Matsumoto (13-0, 11) who recently won the OPBF Super Flyweight title. Matsumoto was expecting to be moved into title fights in 2015 though has found his progress being moved along a little bit quicker than expected. Sometimes it can seem rash to rush a prospect but Matsumoto has already scored wins over world class opponents such as Hiroyuki Hisataka, a multi-time world title challenger, and Denkaosan Kaovichit, a former world champion, as well as Rusalee Samor, himself a world ranked fighter
Matsumoto is tall for a Super Flyweight and we suspect his future will, long term, be at Bantamweight and not Super Flyweight. For as long as he can make 115lbs however he is a genuine threat to almost anyone in the division. We know he'll want to make a defense, if not 2, of the OPBF title before stepping up to a world title fight. Those bouts will serve as seasoning and will be done in the hope of making sure his stamina is good enough for a world title bout. It could well be that they already feel he is ready such an opportunity
We're assuming that Matsumoto will defend the OPBF belt early next year. After that, and after building up his experience and stamina he'll then being moved into world contention. We're going to guess that he does get a world title bout in late 2015 and it could well be that he manages to get a shot at WBA champion Kohei Kono, if he does we'll see Matsumoto and stablemate Naoya Inoue both holding world titles in the same division
We all know about Naoya Inoue, the “Monster”, and we suspect that his brother, Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1) isn't going to be far behind him in terms of success in the next year or so. We're already pretty confident that Takuma is seeking an OPBF title fight next year and although we confess he's not even close to ready for a world title fight there is little doubt that this youngster has everything needed to be a star in his own right.
Takuma looks freakishly strong for a teenager though we suspect he's still not physically matured yet to be put in with a genuinely big test. What he seems to have however is real speed, a genuine understanding of boxing, a toughness and maybe importantly people to look up to. It's not just Naoya that he can turn to for advice but also the likes of Hideyuki Ohashi and Akira Yaegashi two of the most respected men in Japanese boxing. The guidance offered there is huge and will be massively beneficial for the Japanese youngster.
We don't think 2015 will be “his year” per se but we do suspect he'll win his first title in, or around, summer and then move towards climbing the world rankings to open up several routes. We're unsure which way he will go but suspect 2016 ill see him in his first world title bout, however if he is rushed we'd not worry about him against too many fighters out there,
The Super Bantamweight division has seen several fighters look like they want to avoid real opposition and instead of fighting the best they've done what they can to take on light touches. One man who appears happy to change that is Filipino youngster Albert Pagara (22-0, 15). Dubbed “The Prince” we suspect that Pagara will be wearing a crown sooner rather than later and there is little doubting his ability or team.
Aged just 20 Pagara has shown real world class ability and his performance this past November, when he shut down down the very competent Raul Hirales with genuine ease, was nothing short of exceptional. Not only did Pagara completely dominate the bout but he also went the championship distance of 12 rounds for the first time and never looked to have any issue with the distance. That bout with Hirales was Pagara's 4th of the year with the other 3 lasting a combined 5 rounds and if he does something similar next year he will end the year on the verge of a world title fight.
Pagara doesn't quite look ready for a world title fight as of yet though we suspect by October or November he will be looking for a world title eliminator. Odds are he could hold his own against all the fighters at Super Bantamweight, bar Guillermo Rigondeaux. This kid really is special.
The most obvious name on this list is Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) a man who has been on the fast track to a world title since he debut in November 2013. Originally some fight fans may have been apprehensive to believe a young prospect was going to rise through the ranks quicker than Naoya Inoue though that's exactly what Tanaka has done under the guidance of former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka.
Blessed with insane speed, a clever boxing brain, freakish physical strength and a team that have full confidence in him it's hard not to see Tanaka reaching the very top in this sport. The only limitations we can see is that he may be too good for his own good or be over-confident. As long as Tanaka remains focused and doesn't become complacent then he's going to become a star.
By the end of summer 2015 we suspect Tanaka will be a world champion at Minimumweight and may even be looking at getting himself Light Flyweight world title before the year is out. If he's not in the mix for Fighter of the Year 2015 we will be shocked.
(Image courtesy of http://www.sankei.com)
With 2015 quickly approaching we've decided to do out look at the 15 prospects to watch in 2015. Here we bring you the first selection of those prospects, ranked from 10 to 6. Hopefully you'll put them on your radar for the test of the year.
For people who missed part 1 of this list, it can be found here.
10-Ye Joon Kim
South Korean boxing is certainly on a low point right now though it does have a very promising and exciting youngster making his name in the sport. That is Ye Joon Kim (10-1-2, 5) who appears to be the sole shining light in South Korean boxing. Kim combines charisma with arrogance, excitement with skill and, perhaps most tellingly, power with inexperience. There is a lot of improvements for the youngster to make however he has a lot of traits we like.
Aged 22 there is a lot of time for Kim to improve however we understand that there is a lot of pressure on the Seoul based fighter to pve himself and quickly, especially considering he is the shining light of Korean boxing. Thankfully he is as important as he is appealing and it's almost impossible not to enjoy watching this kid, despite some clear limitations.
Kim is the WBC Youth Super Bantamweight champion and although we don't think he will be ready for a world title bout by the end of 2015 we do suspect he will climb up through the WBC's world ranking, possibly moving into the top 10 by the end of the year. Prior to then however he will need a big win to boost him through the ranks and we think that'll come against a notable
Japanese based Filipino fighter Johnriel Maligro (12-0, 9) hasn't been getting a lot of attention but has been genuinely deserving of some after a brilliant 2014 that should have caught the attention of almost every boxing fan out there. Sadly for Maligro he is a 20 year old Super Featherweight competing in Japan where the division is red hot and he's been easy to ignore, despite wins over an 11-0 and a 10-0 opponent this last year.
Young, heavy handed, promising and slowly proving himself as a prospect to watch Maligro is certainly a talent to keep an eye on. His problems might be that his opposition, especially in Japan, will be tough however he's managed to beate tough foes so far and there is a chance he'll manage to continue that run of form a little bit longer as he begins to move beyond the Japanese domestic scene.
We're not expecting Maligro to fight for a major title this coming year but we're hoping to see him up against a world ranked foe at some point in 2015. He has the youth to take his time though something makes us think he'll continue on his fast track and be matched with solid foes from the start of the year to the end of it, hopefully he'll continue to win and moved towards a very successful 2016.
The unbeaten Shohei Omori (13-0, 8) has become a bit of a break out prospect this year in the eyes of many fans though the hardcore fans out there likely saw it coming and the southpaw hopeful hasn't been as a much a hidden secret as a gem in the making. Aged 21 he has already shown all the signs of a man reaching the top though was clear in 2012 when he won the Bantamweight Rookie of the year. In 2013 Omori added 3 stoppages with the most notable of those being his win over Christian Esquivel, which was a real coming of age performance.
Sharp punching, accurate, surprisingly heavy handed and very calm in the ring it seems like Omori has everything needed in terms of skills. Add those skills to his southpaw stance, his larger than average size and his ability to impress at either 118lbs or 122lbs and you have a really exciting young prospect ready to stamp his mark on the boxing scene in 2015, and lets not forget he is already world ranked.
Omori's future likely hands on what Woz Boxing can do for him. He'll know Woz aren't a big or powerful outfit but if they can link up with a Japanese power player then he could be in the title mix as soon as the year begins. There is no reason why Omori can't be in the mix for a title at either 118lbs or 122lbs and the chances he could over-come the Japanese champion in either division. As for the OPBF champions, they are out of his league, for now, though both titles are expected to be vacated early in the year. We don't see Omori fighting for a world title next year but a regional or national title has to be in his plans for 2015.
It seems that the promising Sho Ishida (17-0, 9) has been around for ages but the 23 year old is still several years from hitting his prime. Despite that he looked sensational last time out when he won the Japanese Super Flyweight title in what is his most notable win so far. Incidentally that win came 11 months after his previous best win, a stoppage against Petchbarngborn Kokietgym. With that same idea we suspect that next summer will be Ishida big step up and that he'll then begin to focus on the world scene.
Next time out, on December 31st, Ishida will be defending his Japanese title against Masato Morisaki, we'd not be shocked to see him defending that belt once more before stepping up a level, and we know former world title contender Teiru Kinoshita has said he would like to fight Ishida in 2015, that would be a perfect test for the Ioka gym prospect.
Ishida appears to have the tools to go to the top. He has the speed, the backing, the support and style to go a long way behind his razor like jab. He however needs some seasoning fights before he looks at a world title bout and whilst we suspect a bout with Kinoshita would help him develop that seasoning we think he'll still need another fight or two. As mentioned we think that a big step up will occur in summer and that could well be against a former champion. We'd be very shocked if 2015 did see Ishida fighting for a world title but we'd be even more shocked if he did end the year looking ready for a big break.
One choice that won't surprise many fans is that of Ryota Murata (5-0, 4), an Olympic champion who has been tipped for success since his debut in 2013. The powerful, good looking, charismatic and promising fighter was ear marked as one of the 2012 Olympians with the potential to become an almost immediate sensation in the professional ranks. He's not quite done that as of yet though within just 5 fights he already has a top 10 WBC ranking and a win over OPBF and Japanese champion Akio Shibata.
Murata did have a few questions asked of him last time out, as he struggled with stamina issues against Adrian Luna Flores, though we suspect those questions will help Murata focus on his weaknesses and that he will begin to work on his stamina ahead of a charge up the rankings in 2015 or 2016.
We know Murata will be going to the top in a different way to his compatriots. Unlike many he won't be focusing on winning Japanese or OPBF titles, instead he'll likely be basing his future in the US or fighting out of Macau. If that's the case he could get around the JBC's rules of needing to win a stepping stone title before fighting for a world title. If Murata does that then we suspect we'll see him in with world ranked foes in 2015 before a possible world title fight towards the end of the year, if the stars align. It may however be a case of waiting until 2016 for him to get an opportunity to fight for a world title.
(Image of Ryota Murata courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
With 2015 quickly approaching we've decided to do out look at the 15 prospects to watch in 2015. Here we bring you the first selection of those prospects, ranked from 15 to 11. Hopefully you'll put them on your radar for the test of the year.
15-Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi
Although WBA Asia Flyweight champion Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi (7-0, 6) has just began to be seen on the WBA world rankings we really wouldn't be surprised to see him race through those rankings throughout the next year. Talented, powerful, fast and with a lovely variety of punches Eaktawan has the ability to be fast tracked and he also hase a powerful Thai team behind him, the type of team that could open up “interim” world title doors for the youngster.
We've liked Eaktawan since we first managed to see him and although we know there is a lot of improvements to be made we also acknowledge that he is young and that improvements will be made over time. We don't see any point in rushing him and instead his development will be key, especially if he comes up against opponents who try to beat him, as Ichal Tobida tried to do. There is a lot to like about him and we suspect more will come with time, even if he is a bit of a “sleeper prospect” for now.
It would seem likely that Eaktawan's team will try to use the WBA Asia belt to move him towards a WBA “world”, or more likely “interim” title fight. He's not ready for that yet but the odds are that by the middle of 2016 he will be ready, as long as he is developed properly with rounds against varying opponents and fights that do, eventually, see him being pushed against foes looking to beat him.
Thai teenager Stamp Kiatniwat (11-0, 5) has gone 6-0 (3) in 2014 and scored a statement win with a decision over former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng. The win over Kwanthai was a major eye opener though he's not been pushed too hard since then and has not faced another notable foe. On paper that sounds bad though on the other side it's clear there is no need to rush Stamp, his team know he is a very good prospect and that giving him time to develop is the key. At the moment it's a development process for Stamp and that's the right attitude to take.
Although young Stamp has shown a real understanding in the ring, has shown real boxing ability, movement, speed and intelligence. We won't pretend he's the best pure boxer in Thailand but he's a man with the potential to be a star and with his age it's clear he's going to build up his power and strengthm, the two flaws in his game.
Stamp is the current PABA interim Flyweight champion, as per the PABA website, and although going for the full title is a possibility we suspect it's not an option he will be looking to follow through with, instead he'll be out there to develop. Development has to be the key word with Stamp for the next year and we suspect he'll be kept busy as part of that development. For Stamp that activity begins in January and we suspect will continue through the year with another 6 if not 7 fights before the year is over. All of those fights will be designed for Stamp to get some rounds under his belt not to move forward.
Aged 25 it may be hard to call Super Bantamweight prospect Hikaru Marugame (3-0, 2) one of the best prospects in Asia but, in all honesty, he is that good with all the tools anyone could wish in a prospect. Unlike many Japanese prospects he has high level amateur experience, competing at major international tournaments, and that is partly why he is so old yet so inexperienced as a professional. Sadly he has also only fought once this past year and has struggled in some ways to generate career momentum.
Fast, powerful, highly skilled and with a good team behind him we think Marugame has all the ingredients to be a major player on the world scene in the coming years. He does have some things sat in his way, for example he's competing in what looks likely to be a packed Super Bantamweight division domestically, however we can't see past the fact he's a sensational talent and his wins so far have been at a very solid level for such a novice.
If Marguame has another year like he's had he's going to be struggling through the domestic rankings, thankfully however we expect he'll be having a much better year in 2015 than he had in 2014 and by the end of next year we suspect he'll be banging on the door for an OPBF or Japanese title fight. We don't think he'll have a belt around his waste but we'd not be shocked to see him win the Strong Korakuen or be fighting an what amounts to an OPBF eliminator.
The highest Thai entry on this list is Kongputorn CPFreshmart (5-0, 4) who has looked special since he made his debut earlier this year. He's shown heavy and fast hands, lovely combinations, nice movement and a wonderful variety of shots through his first 5 bouts.
Yes, we said 5 bouts because, at the time of writing, boxrec doesn't recognise 2 of Kongputorn's 5 contests however footage we've managed to collect has shown him fighting 5 times and it's hard not to have been impressed by the footage which has made him look like one to watch despite a lack of experience in the boxing ring. We have however been told that he was a very good Muay Thai fighter and that may explain why he looks so natural so early in his career.
Thai's typically ignore the OPBF route to the top and we suspect Kongputorn will be no different there with the odds favouring him to go either the PABA route to a WBA title fight or follow in the footsteps of many other Thai's who have gone the WBC route via various WBC regional and lesser titles. Having already won the WBC Youth Flyweight title we suspect Kongputorn will progress to regional WBC titles in 2015 and maybe make an appearance on some world rankings by the end of the year.
One man who hasn't yet made his debut though we're expecting very big things of is Japanese teenager Hintata Maruta (0-0) who we have been told is the next on the production line of super talented Japanese kids set to rise quickly through the ranks. Unlike both Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka we're expecting to see Maruta competing at a more palatable division for western fans, either Bantamweight or Super Bantamweight, though like Inoue and Tanaka he is expected to rise just as quickly.
Maruta isn't set to debut until the second half of 2015 but the talented teenage is expected to spar with some notable fighters in the US as he looks to develop his teenage frame into that of a professional and, most amazingly, he is said to be eyeing up a world ranked foe for his debut. We're taking a punt on this kid but, if what we hear is true, Maruta will end 2015 as a world ranked fighter and may well end up winning titles in 2016 despite having not even made his debut at the time of writing.
It's clear he won't be winning world titles this coming year but if everything we read about him is true then 2016 will see him winning some sort of title, being world ranked and looking like a man on the extreme fast track to the top. Do not sleep on this fighter even if he is yet to debut.
We hope to get part 2 of this up short though hope that these 5 men will be added to your lists of fighters who names you will remember for the coming year.
(Image of Maruta courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
The action continued with excitement through out April despite some disappointing moments for Asian fight fans.
The month kicked off on the 3rd as the always fun to watch Shuhei Tsuchiya went to war with Australian Leonardo Zappavigna in what was a violent and highly enjoyable contest. Sadly for Tsuchiya he came up short, being stopped in the 10th round despite seriously marking up the Aussie warrior.
Just a day later we saw another Japanese fighter being stopped as Kohei Oba was taken out in 8 rounds by Randy Caballero in an IBF Bantamweight title fight. Caballero later won the IBF title by defeating Stuart Hall in Monaco making the most of this win whilst Oba fought once more, defeating Keigo Soma by decision, before announcing his retirement in September.
Arguably the biggest day of the month was April 6th as Japanese fans got a world title double header, featuring an historic bout that helped announce a new star on to the boxing world. The first of the world title bouts saw Akira Yaegashi retain the WBC Flyweight title with a 9th round KO against Odilon Zaleta, it was a KO that seemed really well timed for Yaegashi who appeared to be struggling slightly prior to the stoppage. The other bout saw Naoya Inoue winning a world title fight in just his 6th professional bout as he stopped Mexico's Adrian Hernandez in 6 rounds to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title, this win set a new Japanese national record for fewest fights to win a world title and continued Inoue's insane ascent to the top of world boxing.
On April 10th we saw Suguru Muranaka make the first defense of the Japanese Flyweight title as he over-came Masayuki Kuroda with a 10th round TKO. Since this win Muranaka had added a further defence of his belt whilst Kuroda has managed to score a win, which was his first in almost 3 years!
Over in the US on April 12th we saw Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao reclaim the WBO Welterweight title as he took a clear decision win over the then unbeaten Timothy Bradley to avenge a controversial 2012 loss to “Desert Storm”. Since this win Pacquiao has fought once more, defending the belt against the then unbeaten Chris Algieri to end the year on a high.
A day after the Pacquiao/Bradley rematch Japanese fans got the chance to see a veteran score a genuine break out victory of sorts as Kentaro Masuda, aged 31, scored his biggest win and over-came Yu Kawaguchi for the Japanese Bantamweight title. Since the win Masuda has defended the title twice and has quickly become a name in contention for an OPBF title fight, something he genuinely deserves after a really outstanding year. Since this bout Kawaguchi has also scored 2 wins and appears to be focusing on life as a Super Bantamweight.
Masuda wasn't the only new champion crowned around that time and on April 14th we saw Keita Obara claim he OPBF Welterweight title, stopping Filipino fighter Jay Solmiano in the 4th round, and Yohei Tobe claim the Japanese Super Flyweight title, with a 10th round TKO of Taiki Eto. Prior to these two bout both of the titles were vacant.
On April 19th we unfortunately saw Beibut Shumenov made to look third rate by American legend Bernard Hopkins who seemed to dominate the Kazakh despite some very questionable scoring. This loss saw Hopkins unifying the IBF and WBA Light Heavyweight titles and ended up sending Shumenov up to Cruiserweight.
On April 23rd we had a couple of world title bouts in Japan. The first of those saw the great Hozumi Hasegawa come up short as he attempted to become a 3-weight world champion. Hasegawa showed glimpses of magic though was over-whelmed, out muscled and eventually stopped by Spaniard Kiko Martinez who retained the IBF Super Bantamweight title with this win. The other bout was much better for Japanese fans with Shinsuke Yamanaka making extremely light work of Stephane Jamoye. Jamoye was dropped numerous times before being stopped in the 9th round by the Japanese southpaw.
Sadly on April 26th we saw Richie Mepranum come up short against unified Flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada. The Filipino gave a good account of himself before being stopped by the fantastic Mexican fighter. On the same show fans also saw John Mark Apolinario battle against Hernan Marquez and although Apolinario was widely beaten on the cards he did appear to give the former world champion some troubles, more so than the cards suggest.
Also on April 26th British fans saw Kazakh puncher Zhanat Zhakiyanov score a KO of the year contender as he stopped Karim Guerfi in eye catching fashion to claim the European Bantamweight title. The KO really bailed Zhakiyanov who appeared to be getting out boxed before landing a major right hand that left Guerfi down and out.
To end the month fans saw Yoshitaka Kato defend his Japanese Lightweight title with a 7th round stoppage of the heavy handed Yuhei Suzuki. This was Kato's first win of the year and saw him fighting for the second time this year, following his loss of the OPBF Lightweight title to Masayoshi Nakatani in January.
(Image courtesy of Teiken)
For many fans the key thing left this year are the three shows spanning the final 2 days of the year. We can't say that we're not incredibly excited about them but there's several things we're excited about before then, including the All Japan Rookie of the Year finals which come on December 21st from the Korakuen Hall. The show is the end of this year's Rookie of the Year competition and is likely to be a fantastic platform for some very promising fighters to build on.
As we did with the regional finals in November we have decided to break down the bouts on the show in an attempt to give you guys some details on each of fighters and fighters involved in the finals.
Reiya Konishi (6-0, 4) Vs Yuki Kubo (6-1, 2)
The first bout on the show comes at 105lbs and looks like a brilliant way to kick off the show with two men who know what a win could do for their careers.
The unbeaten Konishi is from the Shinsei gym and at just 21 years old has really impress rarely losing a round thus far in his career, that's despite facing 4 unbeaten men including Jun Takigawa last time out. Against Takigawa we saw Konishi being given a real test and passing it in a bout that would certainly have been character building for the youngster who had stopped his previous 4 opponents. Interestingly he has fought as high as Flyweight and it may be that he's either boiling down to make Minimumweight for this bout or that he's just incredibly strong, we suspect we'll find out very soon.
Aged 27 Kubo is significantly older than his young opponent though the Celes gym fight cannot rely on age to win him his upcoming bout. Like Konishi, Kubo comes into this bout in realy form having won his last 6 bouts including 3 wins over unbeaten opponents with his last foe being the then 5-0 Masayuki Ichikawa. Beaten on his debut, narrowly, Kubo has bounced back well and shown some real skill whilst fighting behind his southpaw stance however his relative lack of power maybe an issue against his better opponents, possibly including Konishi here.
Kenji Ono (6-1, 3) Vs Seita Ogido (6-1-1, 1)
On paper one of the most evenly matched bouts is this Light Flyweight contest between a pair of young southpaws. Sadly it also seems likely to be one of the worst with neither guy really standing out so far in their career's.
On paper the 26 year old Ono is the bigger puncher with 3 stoppages from his 7 bouts. Saying that however the Teiken promoted fighter hasn't looked great when he's not managed to stop opponents and all 3 decisions wins have been razor thin split decision victories. His loss, back in 2012, has also raised question marks about his chin as Daisuke Hayakawa stopped him in 2 rounds. It seems either Ono will hurt you or really struggle.
Ogido is the younger man at 21 years old though does boast an extra fight's worth of experience and has shown that he doesn't mind going the distance. Like Ono we've seen Ogido struggle with making wins clear and he has 2 very close decision wins on his record as well as a split decision draw and a split decision loss. Although talented it does seem like he needs to mature into his power and strength and also needs more experience before moving on to better opponents.
Kenya Yamashita (6-0, 4) Vs Shun Kosaka (9-0)
One of the most interesting bouts comes at Flyweight where we get two unbeaten men colliding with very different styles and mentalities. One is a pure boxer whilst the other has a fighters instinct.
Yamashita is a product of the Koguchi gym, the same gym as Shingo Wake, and at just 18 years old appears to be the gym's future star. He has shown solid power so far stopping 4 of his 6 opponents though strangely he has been run very close when he's not managed to stop opponents with 2 split decision wins as well as his stoppages. To date he has beaten 3 unbeaten fighters including a very notable win against the then 5-0-1 Sonin Nihei in his regional final. Although he has already had 6 fights he has only been a professional for a year and we suspect a lack of real experience could be major question mark coming into this bout.
Aged 19 Kosaka is also a very promising younger but the Shinsei gym hopeful has next to no power having been unable to record a single stoppage in his first 9 bouts. Whilst that sounds bad he has shown he has incredible ability and has lost only 1 of his 39 professional rounds so far. His competition, on the whole, hasn't looked great on paper though many of his of his foes have been more experienced than he has been and that will likely have helped him develop a few tricks whilst he continues to mature into a fine prospect.
Masayoshi Hashizume (6-0, 4) Vs Shogo Yonenaga (6-1, 3)
A bout that has us licking our lips with excitement comes at Super Flyweight where we expect a really exciting bout between two men who have shown a willingness to really let their hands go.
Of the two it's men here it's the 21 year old Hashizume, of the Ioka gym, that has us really excited. The hard hitting southpaw has fought 4 successive unbeaten opponents and he's taken the last 2 of them out in a combined 158 seconds. He's heavy handed, exciting, aggressive and everything a fan should want to see in a prospect, though he can be a little bit wild and has left himself a little open in the past. Of course coming from the Ioka gym he will be very confident, will be training with top tier gym mates, all of which could help him to have developed a little quicker than some other Rookies. If you've not seen him we suggesting giving a watch to his fights with Takeshi Kajikawa from two fights back and his most recent contest, when he took on Eita Sakurai,and again looked destructive.
Aged 26 Yonenaga will be feeling like he's coming into his physical prime however the Miyata gym prospect doesn't quiet fill us with the same excitement as Hashizume has done. Yonenaga has been a professional for a little more than 2 years and although he suffered an early loss, a 4th round TKO to Hiroto Kurosawa in May 2013, he has bounced back really well to win 5 on the spin. Last time out he stopped Hokuto Sakata in the 4th round and strangely all of his stoppages have come in the fourth. He's not as explosive as his opponents but with 28 rounds under the belt he is experienced and actually has twice as many rounds as his younger foe. That experience will likely be his key if he's to win here.
Keisuke Tabuchi (8-1-2, 6) Vs Ryohei Takakashi (4-1-1)
At Bantamweight we have a bout that is interesting though may not quite be as exciting as some of the others.
Tabuchi is a 21 year old who appears to have most of the advantages here. Although he's from the little known Yao boxing gym he is experienced, with 11 bouts, he's got real momentum with a 10 fight unbeaten streak, and has power having stopped 6 opponents, including 3 of his last 4. Like many fighters on this show however Tabuchi seems to struggle when he can't score a knockout and his 2 close wins, as well as his draw and loss, have all been very close bouts and we suspect he'll lose close bouts in the future. One of those close bouts was his narrow win over Takaaki Kitagawa from just 2 fights back.
Takahashi lacks the power and experience of Tabuchi but is older, at 24, and comes from an established gym, Yokohama Hikara, which boasts championship level fighters like Daiki Kaneko and Ryo Akaho. Training with the likes of Kaneko and Akaho will almost certainly have helped Takahashi more than sharing the ring with some lesser foes however that training is just training. If there is a major advantage for Takahashi coming into this bout it's that he has shown a great ability to win rounds having scored 4 pretty clear decision wins. He started his career 0-1-1 though has rebuilt very well and seems to know that his strength isn't his power.
Shohei Kawashima (8-0-2, 1) Vs Yuki Matsudo (8-1, 4)
Domestically the Super Bantamweight division in Japan is fantastic at the moment with the likes of Shingo Wake, Yusaku Kuga, Shun Kubo, Sho Nakazawa and Shohei Omori all making their name in, or around, 122lbs. The winner of this bout will be hoping to join those names we just mentioned.
Aged 22 Kawashima is one of the many Shinsei gym fighters who has reached this stage in the Rookie of the Year. Unbeaten in 10 bouts he is man who has been given some good tests, including his last bout against Shisato Okuma though his big issue appears to be a lack of power, an issue is almost certainly going to hold him back from reaching the top. With 10 bouts on his ledger you actually need to go back to debut, in November 2012, to find his sole stoppage which came very late in the bout. One notable thing about Kawashima however is his experience which included 40 rounds already, a huge number for a fighter in the Rookie of the Year.
Matsudo may have a loss on his record but he appears to have many advantages over Kawashima coming into this bout. Aged 20 the Aoki prospect is a tall and rangy southpaw with spiteful power, developing man strength and confidence that is building rapidly. He was beaten on his debut but has since gone 8-0 with and never looked like losing during that on-going run. His most recent bout, a 5 round decision over Yoshifumi Tamaki, looked a great test on paper but Matsudo made it look easy losing just a round on route to his win and he'll be hoping to do the same here. Sadly the only footage we have of Matsudo comes from several fights back when he over-came Ryuya Kaji with a decision back in July.
Reiya Abe (7-1, 4) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (5-1, 2)
At Featherweight we get a bout between two men with a single loss each and a combined age of 40. It's fair to say that the winner will be moved on quickly but the loser certainly still has a future which ever way this one goes.
The more experienced, and slightly older, fighter is Abe at 21 years old and with 8 fights behind him. Of those 8 fights the last 6 have all been wins with only one of them even being close. We had expected the KG Yamato fighter to have been given a serious test last time out, as he faced Naoto Moriya in a very good looking bout, in the end however he made that contest look easy with a 113 second win and we feel he's really finding his grove with 4 stoppages in his last 5 bouts. As well as his power he's also a dreaded southpaw and a relatively tall one at a little under 5'8” making his a nasty proposition for anyone.
At just 19 years old Tonomoto is a relative baby in boxing terms though he already has 6 fights worth of experience and has been a professional since early 2013. Of his 6 bouts the last 4 have all been wins, though he was somewhat fortunate to over-come the limited Toru Kageyama in a bout that was much harder than we would have expected given Kageyama's known limitations. In his most recent bout Tonomoto looked very good in defeating Takashi Igarashi and if he performs to that level again here he really could put on a performance to remember against a very good foe.
Yuichiro Kasuya (5-0, 1) Vs Masashi Wakita (4-2-1, 2)
On paper one of the weakest bouts is the Super Featherweight contest and even though we think it's weak we've got to admit we're really looking forward to it thanks to the way both men performed last time out.
Last time out Kasuya, then 17 though now 18, put on a sensational performance in his bout with Yutaka Ekawa in a bout that some regarded as the best bout of the Rookie of the Year competition this year. The fight was a thriller and saw both men hurt as the crowd got their money's worth. We're hoping to see more of the same here from the Ishikawa youngster who is a fighter showing real signs of being an all-action fighter, despite some clear limitations. At his age he's not yet developed the power he will need to make the most of his style though we suspect in the near future this kid could become one of those must watch fighters, win or lose. For those wanting to see Kasuya we sadly don't have footage of the Ekawa bout but we do have his bout with Shonosuke Sango.
Wakita, also an 18 year old, comes into this bout without a win since late May and has gone 0-1-1 in his last 2 contests, though the draw last time out was a really good contest against an unbeaten foe. Sadly that leads us to suspect that he is very fortunate to be in this bout and his confidence will likely be shot. Prior to his recent blips he was on a 4 fight winning streak though those wins had come against weak opponents. In theory Wakita is a nightmare to fight as he stands at 5'10” and fights as a southpaw though we suspect the fact he's so young leaves him lacking the physical maturity he needs for now. Sadly we think this is probably coming a year too early for Wakita, though we suspect he will put up a great effort here.
Andy Hiraoka (6-0, 3) Vs Shogo Yamguchi (6-0-1, 3)
At Lightweight we get a wonderfully enticing bout between two unbeaten men with very similar looking records each looking for their biggest win and a chance to really put themselves on the fast track.
Hiraoka has been one of the real success stories of this years Rookie of the Year and the 18 year old student has managed to capture the imagination of the boxing media as well as the fans. He is seen as the rising star of the Hanagata gym and has got the folks there very excited. The excitement isn't just because he's young and unbeaten but also because he's shown clear ability and has the potential to go a very long way. Not only is he talented and young but, at 5'11” and boxing as a southpaw, he's also a bit of a physical freak who uses his size excellently to box behind his sharp jab and make the most of his natural advantages. We suspect if he wins here he'll go on to become one of the stars of Japanese over the next few years. Sadly the sole footage we have of Hiraoka was his bout Susumu Nakata.
Although much of the attention here is on Hiraoka it's fair to say that Yamaguchi, a product from the Seien gym, is deserving of plenty of attention himself. Aged 21 he too is unbeaten and has reached this stage in the Rookie of the Year tournament by winning fights, in fact he has won his last 6 following a draw on his debut. Sadly whilst he is in great form on paper he did struggle in his last 2 bouts and wins in both of them may just cover up the cracks. If he's not as good as his record suggests then it's likely he'll be kept at the end of Hiraoka's long jab.
Naoharu Kida (6-0, 3) Vs Tetsuya Morisada (4-3, 4)
We're sad to report that this bout won't be taking place. With that said there is no point in us going into the details of either fighter though we have been informed it was Kida who was unable to take part in the contest. For what it's worth we have had footage of Kida in the past with his bout against Minoru Iizuka being the most notable whilst footage of Morisada came form his bout with Chocoboy Oizumi.
Yuki Beppu (7-0, 7) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (6-0, 3)
Another all unbeaten bout, and possible the most exciting bout on paper, comes at Welterweight where we see the heaviest puncher in action against his toughest test to date.
Obviously the puncher here is Beppu who has looked devastating so far with 7 straight stoppage wins, including 5 in the opening round. Aged 23 it seems likely that Beppu will only become stronger and more powerful and if that happens he may well end up becoming one of those rare Japanese fighters that can make a name for himself both in the East and in the West. The big issue at the moment is how does his power effect better fighters than those he has been matched up with so far, though it does need saying that he made very light work of Shota Yamamoto in what was, supposedly, his toughest test to date. If his power is as legit as it seems this guy has the potential to really be something special. Sadly however we don't know what his stamina or chin is like as of yet and they are going to be major questions even if his power is legitimate.
Matsunaga is a 27 year old southpaw who has shown good power in some of his bouts but on the whole appears to be more of a boxer than a puncher. That's been a good thing recently as 3 of his last 4 bouts have gone the distance, including a very narrow win over Makoto Kawasaki in September. Trained at the Yokohama Hikara gym he does have good training partners available to him but we do wonder how good he really is and what his chin is like. We suspect we'll find out how good Matsunaga's chin is here.
Hisao Narita (7-1, 4) Vs Toshihiro Kai (4-6-2, 1)
The final bout on the show comes at Middleweight in what is clearly the biggest mismatch of the show and features the only fighter with a losing record.
Narita, the clear favourite in this one, is a fighter from the Nakaya boxing gym who has strung together 6 successive wins after being stopped in a round by Shun Tomoshige back in April 2012, whilst fighting as a Welterweight. Although not a top prospect we have seen plenty from the 23 year old to suggest he could go on to mix at Japanese title level, especially given that the division is a weak one domestically. Although he didn't look great last time out, beating Asashi Hatsumi, he has shown plenty to like and we suspect he'll find a way to show what he's about here. Interestingly Narita celebrates his 24th birthday a day after this fight.
Kai is easily the luckiest man on this show and also the worst. Saying that however Kai needs to be given credit for winning his last bout, stopping Ryota Ikawa, and will know that he is being over-looked going into this bout. With no pressure on his shoulders the 29 year old may well find himself putting the performance of a life time, after all what is there to lose?
(Image courtesy http://www.kadoebi.com)
The year really got going in March with a lot of action building on the momentum from February.
The month kicked off with two very interesting cards on March 1st. In Japan we saw Middleweight titles unified as Akio Shibata defeated Daisuke Nakagawa to add the Japanese title to his OPBF belt. Sadly for Nakagawa he would retire after this loss. As for Shibata he has defended the unified crown twice, including a very recent win over Makoto Fuchigami.
In the Philippines on the same day Genesis Servania showed his class as he stopped former world champion Alexander Munoz in 12 rounds. This win saw Servania continuing his rise through the ranks and it now looks likely that he will kick off 2015 with a WBO world title bout.
The busy start to the continued on March 3rd when Japanese boxing fans had “Women's Day” and saw a trio of female world title bouts at the Korakuen Hall. These bouts saw wins for all 3 of the Japanese champions in action with Momo Koseki, Naoko Shibata and Ayaka Miyao all retaining their world titles.
On March 4th we had more title action with a Japanese title double header. These saw Hiroki Okada claim the Japanese Light Welterweight title with a decision win over Masayoshi Kotake and Takayuki Hosokawa upsetting Tadashi Yuba for the Light Middleweight title. For Okada this was his first decision win after starting his career with 7 straight stoppages whilst Hosokawa's reign was a short lived one and he had to give up his title before making a single defense.
In Thailand, also on March 4th, we saw one of the most controversially scored bouts in Asia this year as Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep retained the WBA “interim” Flyweight title with a highly debatable majority decision over Japanese visitor Takuya Kogawa. Kogawa appeared to out work and out fight Yodmongkol though was unable to convince Wan-Soo Yuh, Derek Milham or Pierluigi Poppi that he deserved the win. Sadly the judging over-shadowed what had been a genuinely fantastic and hard fought contest.
After the insanely busy start to the month it was a few days before we saw another Asian fighter in a major bout. This came on March 8th as Nihito Arakawa returned to the US following his thrilling loss to Omar Figueroa, sadly however he was unable to claim a win here either as the Teiken managed Jorge Linares clearly defeated “The Baby Faced Sniper” in a WBC Lightweight eliminator.
On March 11th Japanese fans got a treat as the heavy handed Koji Numata fought to a thrilling draw with Takehiro Shimokawara. The bout was a 12 round war that was incredibly close leading to a split decision draw. A rematch between the two later in the year saw Numata stopping Shimokawara for the title before Numata announced his retirement, incidentally he had also announced his retirement after this draw.
Our “Prospect of the Year”, Kosei Tanaka, fought his first bout of the year on March 16th as he defeated Filipino foe Ronelle Ferreras. Ferreras entered the bout as a world ranked foe though never came close to genuinely testing the Japanese youngster who lost a round en route to a clear 8 round decision win.
Also on March 16th was “The Bloodbath of the Year” as Takuya Watanabe give an-in ring blood donation in his loss to Jaesung Lee. Watanabe was cut early in the bout and although blood was going everywhere the referee was happy for the bout to continue it's 10 round schedule. By the end of the bout Lee's shorts were covered in claret and it was a mystery as to how Watanabe had managed to continue the distance despite leaving much of himself in the ring.
A day later Japanese Welterweight champion Suyon Takayama recorded a narrow defense of his title as he only just over-came Tetsuya Suzuki. Takayama would defend the belt once more, later in the year, and again seemed fortunate to keep the belt with it being very clear that he was one of, if not the, weakest domestic champion in the country.
On March 22nd we got one of the months biggest upsets as Merlito Sabillo was battered by the then unknown Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sabillo, defending the WBO Minimumweight title, was never really in the bout as his young Mexican foe was too good, too strong and too big. Going in to the bout it was widely seen that Sabillo was taking on a weak foe, oh how wrong we were and Rodriguez was one of the year's genuine revelations, also scoring a win over Katsunari Takayama later in the year.
Just a couple of days after Sabillo's loss we saw another Filipino come up short in a title bout as Vinvin Rufino suffered an 8th round TKO at the hands of Hisashi Amagasa, the OPBF Featherweight champion. On the same show Hidenori Otake retained the Japanese Super Bantamweight title with a narrow decision win over Takafumi Nakajima. Fans in attendance here would almost certainly have been surprised if they were to be told that both Otake, against Scott Quigg, and Amagasa, against Guillermo Rigondeaux, would fight in world title bouts before the year was out.
Staying with disappointment for Filipino fighters we saw Richard Pumicpic come up short in an OPBF Bantamweight title bout against Ryosuke Iwasa. Pumicpic really did give Iwasa a nightmare for 12 rounds though was unable to do quite enough to take the win over “Eagle Eye” who hinted that he had had problems making the 118lb weight limit. Before the year was out however Iwasa had agreed to an IBF Bantamweight world title eliminator, suggesting he was making a little bit of an excuse for a below par performance.
It wasn't all bad for Filipinos however and on the same day Jonathan Taconing claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title which had been vacated by Naoya Inoue. Taconing took on fellow Filipino Vergilio Silvano and the two men were involved in a full on brawl with Silvano eventually being stopped in round 11. The bout was regarded by many in attendance as one of the year's best contests in the Philippines though sadly full fight footage doesn't seem to have emerged.
On March 26th it was the turn of Thai's to feel disappointed as veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit was stopped by Kohei Kono in a bout for the vacant WBA Super Flyweight title. Kono dropped the Thai in round 4 before finishing him off in round 8 to begin a second reign as a world champion. Sadly for Kono he has been inactive since this win with problems regarding mandatory challenger Koki Kameda delaying any chance of Kono to really build on his momentum. Thankfully however the champion will be back in action on December 31st. For Denkaosan this was the start of a forgetable year which also saw him suffer a KO loss to the exceptionally talented Ryo Matsumoto in September.
On March 29th Russian “Krusher” Sergey Kovalev defended the WBO Light Heavyweight world title with a clear win over the out matched and negative Cedric Agnew who was stopped in 7 rounds after being thoroughly dominated.
The final notable bout of the month saw Ryuji Hara claim the OPBF Minimumweight title with a narrow decision over Filipino Donny Mabao. Mabao failed to make weight though still couldn't defeat the then unbeaten Japanese fighter who took a majority decision over the tough and experienced Filipino who had a 5lb weight advantage on the scales.
Following a somewhat quiet but interesting January we moved on to a more action pack February which featured several notable upsets, the return to the ring of one of the sports most popular fighters and some massive knockouts. For those who haven't forgotten what happened here is our review of the month.
The action kicked off on February 1st in what was a genuinely major day of action with notable shows in both Japan and Monaco, yes Monaco.
In Japan fans saw Yu Kimura become the new Japanese Light Flyweight as he narrowly defeated Kenichi Horikawa with a split decision. The title, which had been vacant, was the second Japanese national to find a new owner in 2014, following Go Odaira's victory in a Minimumweight title fight in January. Since this bout Horikawa has scored back-to-back wins, though both were majority decisions, Kimura has also managed 2 wins as he's defended the belt twice and is now expected to turn his attention to a world title.
In Monaco we saw the first bout of the year involving the always fun to watch Gennady Golovkin who beat up and eventually stopped Osumanu Adama to retain his WBA Middleweight title. Golovkin was fighting in Monaco for the second time and although he wasn't mega impressive the bout did two things. It allowed the Kazakh to remain active and it also showed that the US fans were wanting to see him with a near riot on twitter after this bout wasn't shown State side. On the same show fans also saw unheralded Filipino Rey Loreto iced South African Nkosinathi Joyi in a major upset. The win put Loreto on the boxing map for many though was really a continuation of his win in late 2013 against Pornsawan Porpramook. Loreto will rematch Joyi later this month, in South Africa, and if he can repeat the feat we suspect he'll find himself in a world title fight next year.
On February 2nd we saw Filipino prospect Johnreil Maligro score his first win of the year as he stopped Dondon Lapuz inside a round, since this win Maligro has gone on to score 2 big wins in Japan and the rise of the 20 year old hopeful really has been an astonishing one, even if he is still under-the-radar.
The busy start to February continued on February 5th as we saw a second major shock. This time it was in China where Xiong Zhao Zhong was shocked by the unheralded Oswaldo Novoa. Zhong, who could be backed a grossly mis-priced 1/100, was the WBC Minimumweight champion going into the bout but was battered, bullied and beaten up by Novoa. Despite the loss Zhong got back into action relatively quickly and has gone 2-1 in subsequent bouts, including a very competitive loss to WBA champion Hekkie Budler. As for Novoa he couldn't repeat his success on the road and was recently stopped in Thailand by Wanheng Menayothin.
We got another upset on February 9th when Japanese teenager Mako Yamada traveled to South Korea and dominated the then unbeaten Su Yun Hong to claim the WBO female Minimumweight title. Sadly however Yamada would retire without defending the belt to concentrate on other things in life. As for Hong she has since gone 1-0-1.
The same card in Korea also saw Ye-Joon Kim record an 8th round victory over Jong-Min Jung whilst Ja-Ik Goo defeated Taek-Min Kim. At the time Goo looked like the best prospect in Korean boxing though has vanished from the Korean boxing scene since this win whilst Kim has become the new face of Korean boxing and appears to be the one shining light in Korean boxing.
On February 10th we saw the months sole OPBF title fight as Shingo Wake defended the OPBF Super Bantamweight title against the thoroughly out classed and out sized Jovylito Aligarbes in what amounted to little more than a stay busy defence for the talented Wake. The more notable bout on this card was actually a Japanese title fight as the talented Rikki Naito claimed the Japanese Super Featherweight title with a sensational win over Hiroyasu Matsuzaki. Since these bouts Wake has recorded one further defenses whilst Naito has defended his belt twice.
Although the month started amazingly it did slow down and it wasn't until February 22nd that we had something else to really get excited about as Top Rank returned to Macau for the first show in the country for the year. The card featured 3 Olympic champions in the form of Ryota Murata, Egor Mekhontsev and Zou Shiming, who scored his first career stoppage. Although the show was sold on the 3 Olympians they didn't actually feature in any of the highlights that came on the show.
The big highlight was an 8 round war between Rex Tso and Mako Matsuyama in what was a much tougher fight for Rex than it should have been. The bout, from the opening round to the 8th, was a real war which you couldn't take your eyes off despite it being relatively one sided with Tso battering the gutsy and brave Matsuyama who showed incredible heart until eventually running out of steam and being stopped.
Although the bout between Tso and Matsuyama was brilliant it was over-shadowed in some ways by a KO of the Year contender as Filipino puncher Marvin Sonsona almost beheaded former world champion Akifumi Shimoda. Sonsona had made a very slow start to the bout but showed off his speed, skill and power as he landed a gorgeous short left uppercut that dropped Shimoda hard. The Japanese fighter was out cold when he got caught and stayed down whilst Sonsona celebrated one of the most outstanding KO's of the year.
With the year coming to a close we've decided to try and remind everyone of the key events of the year month by month, starting with January
On January 3rd, just days into the year we saw the first upset of the year as unheralded Filipino Alie Laurel went to Thailand and stopped the previously unbeaten, and world ranked, Tiger Tor Buamas in 5 rounds. The bout was for the WBO Oriental Bantamweight title that Tiger had won just a few months earlier when he stopped Alvian Bias, incidentally that was also in the 5th round, and it was expected that Tiger would secure another relatively straight forward win to defend the belt. Instead Laurel proved he wasn't just the typical Filipino who travels to Thailand to lose and instead he battered Tiger until the referee was forced to save the home fighter.
Interestingly the Filipino turned turned 22 the following day and would certainly have had a memorable birthday with his newly won title.
We had the first OPBF title bout of the year on January 11th and saw a new champion crowned as Lightweight prospect Masayoshi Nakatani came of age in a big way and out pointed Yoshitaka Kato. The bout was a huge step up in class for the Ioka gym prospect, who at time was fighting for just the 7th time as a professional, though it was a step he managed, despite a wobble or two. Since the win Nakatani has managed to defend the belt twice and has looked better with each defense. As for Kato he has since defended the Japanese title twice and will be looking to score his third win of the year this coming weekend when he fights against nemesis Nihito Arakawa in what will be a 3rd meeting between the two tough Lightweights.
Less than a week after Nakatani had won the first OPBF title fight of the year we saw the first Japanese title fight of the year. This came on January 17th and saw Go Odaira claim the Japanese Minimumweight title with an excellent decision win over Masashi Tada for the previously vacant belt. Since the winning the belt Odaira has defended it twice and will next been seen out on December 31st battling against Katsunari Takayama for the IBF Minimumweight title. If Odaira wins that he deserves to be given a lot of credit for a career defining year. Sadly we've not seen Tada return to the ring following this loss.
Whilst a Filipino had beaten a Thai in the first upset of the year we actually saw Thailand getting the last laugh of the month with Amnat Ruenroeng defeating Rocky Fuentes on January 22nd for the IBF Flyweight title. It was the first time either man had been in a world title bout and unfortunately for Fuentes he came up short in what was his 44th professional bout whilst Ruenroeng, fighting for the 12th time, became a world champion within 2 years of his debut. Since the bout the two men have certainly gone in different directions with Fuentes recently being stopped by Roman Gonzalez whilst Ruenroeng has defended his title twice defeating Kazuto Ioka in Japan and McWilliams Arroyo in Thailand in a mandatory defense.
Amnat's year has been so good that he is now being mentioned in the 2014 Fighter of the Year mix, a great achievement for someone unknown by most at the start of the year.
(Image, of Amnat landing a right hand on Fuentes, courtesy of Johnny Chaichotchuang)
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features