By Marcus Bellinger
After a dry spell the last week or so has been a hectic one in Japanese boxing with significant bouts both at domestic and world level.
The only place to start is at the Kokugikan in Tokyo where Luis Nery rematched Shinsuke Yamanaka for the WBC bantamweight title on 1 March. There was already a cloud of suspicion hanging over Nery after he tested positive for Zilpaterol after dethroning Yamanaka last August.
Things then took a huge twist as Nery came in 5 pounds overweight on his first attempt and was only able to shed around 2 pounds a couple of hours later and was stripped of his belt without even making a defense. Coming in a few ounces or even a pound overweight is a real annoyance and has become a far too often occurrence nowadays but coming in a pound over the next weight division is simply unforgivable.
Despite the events from the previous day the fight went ahead with only Yamanaka eligible to win the now vacant belt. Whilst the home man was given a rapturous reception on the way to the ring, Nery was roundly booed which is highly unusual as visiting fighters are always given respect from the fans in the land of the rising sun.
Yamanaka actually began well, landing with the jab and some body shots but Nery soon took the play away from him and scored a knockdown in the opening round. Realising he was there for the taking Nery overwhelmed Yamanaka, scoring 3 more knockdowns in the second round before the contest came to a conclusion in what was actually pretty painful viewing given the circumstances that had occurred.
Yamanaka announced his retirement soon afterwards and the Teiken southpaw can leave with his head held high and will definitely go down as one of Japans greatest world champions. The 35-year-old was a huge draw, pulling in TV audiences of 7 and 8 million more than once and he made 12 successful defences of the WBC 118 lb strap scoring wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Malcolm Tunacao and Liborio Solis. Although unification alluded him his defining victory came in one of the best bantamweight title bouts seen in recent times against Anselmo Moreno in their thrilling up and down rematch in September 2016.
As for Nery despite the 2 wins over Yamanaka he leaves Japan with his reputation in tatters and he has since subsequently been put on the Japan Boxing Commissions banned list and been suspended indefinitely by the WBC. Going forward it will be extremely difficult to route for the Mexican and Cliff Rold summed it up perfectly in his Boxing Scene column late last week, “Yamanaka deserved better”.
The other world title contest on the show saw Ryosuke Iwasa score a wide unanimous decision against Ernesto Saulong in his first defense of the IBF super bantamweight trinket. The fight was a forgettable one and Iwasa failed to build on the momentum of his terrific 6th round stoppage of Yukinori Oguni last September. Next up for the Japanese southpaw is a mandatory defense against TJ Doheny who should provide a more willing opponent and make for a far more entertaining encounter.
The last day of February saw Ohashi protégé Ryo Matsumoto step up for his first world title tilt when he faced super bantamweight titlist Daniel Roman at the Korakuen Hall. The fans in attendance were treated to 12 rounds of absorbing action as the pair went back and forth throughout. At the final bell it was Romans hand who was raise with cards of 119-109 twice and 118-108 although these didn’t tell the full story of what was a competitive scrap where with many close rounds.
Matsumoto in spots had real success but the champion’s methodical and more consistent pressure saw him get the nod and going forward the American will be a tough out for any super bantamweight especially if you aren’t able to dissuade him from coming forward. Matsumoto can certainly come again and after avenging his only previous loss to Victor Uriel Lopez then having an operation for hyperthyroidism this experience for the 24-year-old will be invaluable and bouts against the many countrymen at the domestic and regional level would be the wise next step.
On 3 March at the Korakuen Hall Masayuki Ito was aiming to maintain his world title dreams and avoid any banana skins when he squared off against Vergil Puton. The super featherweight controlled proceedings throughout, eventually securing a 9th round stoppage and with Vasyl Lomachenko almost certain to vacate Ito's number 1 spot with the WBO should secure him a shot at the vacant belt.
Since losing a razor thin split decision to Rikki Naito back in February 2015 the 27-year-old has strung together 7 straight wins capturing the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific trinkets in the process. He has more than served his apprenticeship at the domestic and regional level with victories over the likes of Shingo Eto, Ernie Sanchez, Takuya Watanabe and Lorenzo Villanueva and he is as ready as he’ll ever be for a world title crack.
On the same day over in Kanagawa Masayuki Kuroda defended his Japanese flyweight crown against mandatory challenger Katsunori Nagamine. This was expected to be one not to miss and it proved to be the case with Kuroda keeping Nagamine at bay early on with a busy jab before the challengers incessant pressure began to tell as he put the champion on the floor in round 8. Kuroda managed to survive the storm and took the decision with judge’s tallies of 96-93, 96-94 and 95-94.
Given his high ranking a world title shot is a solid possibility for Kuroda in the near future. Nagamine has gained a reputation as a real crowd pleasing operator and despite the loss this should remain intact and he can be in many more enjoyable fights going forward. On the same bill Kazuto Takesako blitzed Hikaru Nishida inside a round to claim domestic honours at middleweight, extending his record to 8-0 8 KOs and could be one worth keeping an eye on.
Finally on 26 February back at the Korakuen Hall in what looked a tasty matchup on paper for the Japanese Youth lightweight title unfortunately didn’t live up to those expectations as Izuki Tomioka fought to a second round technical decision versus Kaiki Yuba. It has since been revealed that Tomioka will be moving down to 130 pounds in search of a shot at the national super featherweight title.
To read more from Marcus follow him on twitter @marcusknockout
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
If 2014 gave us anything it gave amazing fights. A result of having great fights is that we get great rounds, in fact we got some genuinely amazing rounds. Here run through some of the best, and we believe many people may not have had the opportunity to watch some of these, which is a real shame.
Koki Eto Vs Ardin Diale (Rd8)-The Koki Eto Vs Ardin Diale fight was a good old fashioned “slobber knocker” that saw both men letting their hands go through out. Early on however it was Diale on top as used his more technically correct boxing and speed to take a clear over Eto. Round 8 however was a little bit different with Diale being too tired to box and move. Instead we got a slug feast of epic proportions with Diale going down twice before trading with Eto who eventually forced a stoppage. What made the even more dramatic is that an exhausted Eto was then shaken by corner men who did what Diale couldn't and actually knocked him out! Amazing action that finished in completely bizarre manner. (Full fight here)
Katsunari Takayama Vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr (Rd12)-Unification bouts are almost always a special occasion but they are even better when the styles of the fighters involved gel perfectly. We got such a fight when Katsunari Takayama and Francisco Rodriguez Jr went to war. The war was a true FOTY contender though it was the final round that truly stood out as the two went hell for leather in a round that really summed up what the fight meant to both men. There trading, boxing, both men unloading and although both were tired they both managed to summon up the devil inside to give us some of the most dramatic and exciting action we managed to see in 2014. Brilliant stuff from both, especially in the last 40 seconds. (Full fight here)
Takuya Kogawa Vs Hirokyuki Hisataka (Rd8)-We've been lucky this year that some Japanese cards have been stream free and legally world wide. One such card was Dangan 112 which was headlined by an all Japanese bout between Takuya Kogawa and Hiroyuki Hisataka. The bout was great fun throughout but the final round was something else as the two fought a phone booth war which was violent, exciting, action packed and nothing short of amazing. Again the two men showed signs of being exhausted but both found something else in the gas tank to unload numerous monster shots on each other. Had this bout received air time on a major channel this round would have become a youtube classic. (Full fight here)
Kongfah Nakornluang Vs Den Sithsaithong (Rd3)-Sometimes it's easier to enjoy a fight when the skills and “boxing” go out the windw and we just get a good old fashioned pier 6 brawl. This was certainly the case in Thailand when Kongfah Nakornluang traded blows with Den Sithsaithong. The fight never really let up at any point in it's 6 rounds. For us the best round was round 3 though any of the rounds could have been selected with them all looking very similar to each other with punches being swung in and defence being neglected. (Full fight here)
Jaesung Lee Vs Takuya Watanabe (Rd 9)-For us the blood bath of the year came from South Korea as Japan's Takuya Watanabe gave a huge blood donation in his bout with Jaesung Lee. Not only did Watanbe fight whilst having blood pulsating out of his head but he fought hard and this was seen in the brilliant 9th round that saw both men trading shots in some of the most eye catching and alarming sequences seen this year. One moment it was one man looking like he was hunting the stoppage and then, moments later, the other seemed to come back. The blood from Watanabe made the action look even better and by the end of the round it looked like we may have had a stabbing victim. This round wasn't for the faint hearted but was exceptional and everything a fight fan could possibly want in a fight. (Full fight here)
Takuya Kogawa Vs Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (12)-Takuya Kogawa becomes the only man with 2 entries on this list though with good reason, the Japanese Flyweight is an exceptionally fun fighter ti watch and that was on show again as he battled Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep for the WBA interim Flyweight title. A lot of these rounds were very good to watch as Kogawa's insane engine saw him throwing hundred of punches but something about the final round just seemed even better than the others. Kogawa seemed to feel he needed to win every round, big, and Yodmongkol seemed to feel he would need a KO in the final round. This lead to Kogawa trying to break down the champion in the final 3 minutes whilst the champion loaded up on bombs. This combined for a sensational 3 minutes of action and near-non-stop punching from the Japanese dynamo. (Full fight here)
Due to the fact we had 6 amazing contenders we've decided that the round of the year...is too difficult to pick just 1 so treat yourself and watch all 6 contenders together below and decide for yourself which you prefer.
In the west we've see a lot of fight fans complain about the poor quality of matches that they've had to endure from promoters who seemed more interested in matching their men softly than giving fans value for money. Whilst some fights in the west did end up being unexpectedly good, for example the Lucas Matthyse Vs John Molina bout or the Tommy Coyle Vs Daniel Eduardo Brizuela, it's fair to say they were unexpected treats as opposed to bouts that always looked like sure fire hits. In the west however we had a bit of everything with unexpected treats, dream match ups and bouts that lived up to all our hopes and expectations.
Unfortunately as there were so many brilliant bouts it was really hard to decide on the fight of the year, and infact there were 2 very good bouts outside of Asia that featured Asians and a host of top bouts that deserve a notable mention.
Terdsak Kokietgym Vs Orlando Salido-In September we had a bout that was more up-and-down than a yo-yo with Thailand's Terdsak Kokietgym dropping Orlando Salido 3 times whilst being dropped himself 4 times, including a staggering KO in the 11th round. This bout was one of the best bouts fought in the west though at times it did seem a little bit one sided, and that was reflected somewhat in the scorecards which read 96-91 in favour of Salido at the time of the stoppage. A great bout with a lot of drama though one that had become one-sided by the end.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr-In August we had another thriller in Mexico as Katsunari Takayama traded blows with Francisco Rodriguez Jr in a bout to unify Minimumweight titles. If you enjoy wars, toe-to-toe slug fests, action, heart and mindless bloody violence this is a must watch. It had everything a fight fan could want with both drama in the ring and real significance. Unfortunately it also had a blind man, John Madfis, at ringside turning in a repulsive 119-108 scorecard that really was unbelievably bad.
Akira Yaegashi Vs Roman Gonzalez-Another bout of major significance saw the all action Akira Yaegashi battle against Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez. The bout was brilliant in a lot of ways though in the end the brave Yaegashi was just simply beaten into submission by the brilliant Gonzalez, who become a 3-weight world champion with this win.
Kongfah Narkornluang Vs Den Sithsaithong-A real hidden war in Thailand saw the unbeaten Kongfah Nakornluang go toe-to-toe with Den Sithsaithong in a bout that was little more than a 6 round phone booth war. For us this was our “favourite” bout of the year but couldn't really be a contender for Fight of the Year given it's total lack of significance and it's real lack of skill, thankfully however it was exciting. (Note Sithsaithong is named Den Baansuan Samlansaraburi in the linked video)
Koki Eto Vs Ardin Diale-For much of the year this was our pick for the best fight and it appeared to tick all the boxes. It had knockdowns, it had competitiveness, it had action, soul and heart and it was brilliant. Diale, for the most part, was brilliant and through 7 rounds was well ahead with Eto looking almost certain to lose...until he managed to turn it around in the 8th round with an effort that bordered on the ridiculous. It was an insane come back a brilliant ending and ridiculously great fight.
We know we're a bit controversial but we believe we saw a perfect fight. That was the OPBF Minimumweight title bout between the then champion Ryuji Hara and the ultra-fast rising Kosei Tanaka. The bout had 2 unbeaten prospects in action in a bout that was going to send the winner on to the verges of a world title fight. Not only were both men unbeaten but both were sensationally well schooled, lightning quick and brilliant to watch. The fight wasn't a war but was an incredibly high speed and aggressive game of chess. For 8 rounds this was pretty much equal with Tanaka finally pulling away from his more experienced for in round 9 and answering questions about his stamina in the process. The bout may not have been the most violent contest of the year but it managed to combine fighting with boxing and gelled it all into a perfect bout that saw both men coming out better fighters than they had been when they had stepped into the ring. Really sensational stuff from both.
Although not the greatest year for boxing fans it's fair to say that 2014 had a number of upsets across the globe. We got to see upsets at every level of the sport with a number of them genuinely being jaw dropping.
The category really was packed, and not at all in a bad way, and there was a number of very good candidates that saw Asians winning in upsets and losing in upsets as the year went on.
Oswaldo Novoa (Vs Xiong Zhao Zhong)- Back on February 5th we saw the then WBC Minimumweight champion Xiong Zhao Zhong attempt to defend his title against the unknown Oswaldo Novoa. To many fans the bout was a farcical mismatch with Zhong, a good but not great champion, being accused of hand picking a Mexican patsy to defend his title against. What transpired in the ring however was a beat down by Novoa who battered Zhong from pillar to post until the fight was finally stopped in round 5. Sadly for Novoa his reign was to be a short one and he lost in his second defence, suffering a TKO defeat to Wanheng Menayothin.
Allie Laurel (Vs Tiger Tor Buamas)- On January 3rd, in fact in one of the years very first bouts, we saw the relatively unknown Allie Laurel stop Thailand's very own Tiger Tor Buamas, a then world ranked and unbeaten Thai. The win saw Laurel claim the WBO Oriental Bantamweight title, a belt he has defended once, though unfortunately it's a bit of a forgotten win with Laurel being somewhat inactive since the bout. Incidentally Tiger has scored 2 wins since the bout though both of them came against very limited foes.
Joebert Delos Reyes (Vs Valentine Borg)- March 28th featured one of the most eye catching upsets as the heavy handed but limited Jeobert Delos Reyes sent shock waves through the Australian boxing scene. Delos Reyes is a big of an upset king and had beaten a number of unbeaten fighters such as Andrew Wallace and Charlie Sugiura but yet his best came when he iced the much touted Valentine Borg and claimed the IBO Youth Lightweight title with a monster right uppercut that really was something special.
Arnel Tinampay (Vs Koshinmaru Saito)- The final upset of the year shouldn't have been an upset in many ways but in other ways it was a shock. This happened on December 17th when late replacement Arnel Tinampay blasted through the Japanese ranked Koshinmaru Saito in just 2 rounds. On paper it was a huge surprise given that Tinampay's record was poor, his KO rate wasn't high and he'd been inactive for more than a year. That however was forgetting that he had upset upset both Yosuke Kirima and Shoma Fukumoto in his 2 previous bouts with Japanese fighters. Tinampay deserves a notable mention here, especially given the manner of his win which was sensational.
Faris Nenggo (Vs Merlito Sabillo)- Another that came late in the year saw Indonesian journeyman Faris Nenggo score a TKO win over former WBO Minimumweigth champion Merlito Sabillo. Sabillo had began the year as a world champion though ended the year with his career in tatters after a pair of losses. The first loss was understandable, a stoppage loss to the excellent Francisco Rodriguez Jr, this however was unfortunate as he suffered a major cut that ended his fight and may well have ended any dreams of reclaiming a world title.
Whilst there was a lot of contenders for the upset of the year, in regards to Asian boxing, there was a stand out winner. Rey Loreto. Loreto caused a major stir in the boxing world on February 1st when he scored a 3rd round KO against the very highly regarded Nkosinathi Joyi in Monaco. The bout was expected to be an easy win for Joyi, a former IBF Minimumweight champion, though turned out to be a nightmare with Loreto, priced around 12/1, scoring a win that left the boxing world talking about the Filipino. Sadly Loreto has had a frustrating time since with a rematch against Joyi being delayed until February 28th 2015. A win in that rematch would likely shoot Loreto into a major title bout by the end of the year.
Although many in the west have complained about the fighters we've had in 2014 it does seem that we've all been happy with the KO's we've had with KO of the Year being one of the most hotly debated around the world. The contenders have varied almost by the publication but that's due to sheer number of great KO's we've seen this year. Some have been brutal, some have been beautiful and some have just had us sitting, staring and mouthing “wow”.
Due to the number of contenders it does seem fitting to share a small of our runners up, and trust us we could have doubled this list with no real problem.
Kongfah CP Freshmart (Vs Sangthong Chor Pakdee)-Possibly the most visually pleasing KO of the year was scored by Thailand's Kongfah CP Freshmart back on August 29th. Kongfah, a teenager from Thailand that some are tipping for major success, landed a single short right uppercut on Sanghtong who dropped to his knees before falling face first. He quickly got attention from his trainer who tried to revive him though for a few a moments the scenes were worrying. Aesthetically this was our favourite though when we consider the level of the men involved we understand why it's not being mentioned internationally but it really was gorgeous to watch back.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (Vs Boido Simanjuntak)-Another one from Thailand came on October 10th This one saw former WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai jump out for round 6 and almost behead the unfortunate Bodio Simanjuntak with a short counter left hand that sent Simanjuntak to the canvas hard. To his credit the Indonesian rose to his feet before the 10 count, but he wasn't in control of his sense and the referee waved it off. This was brutal to watch and another one that was gorgeous to watch back.
Rey Loreto (Vs Nkosinathi Joyi)- Filipino fighter Rey Loreto was a relative unknown going into 2014. He had scored a notable win over Pornsawan Porpramook at the end of 2013 but was still an unheralded fighter going into the year. He changed all of that on February 1st when he iced highly touted South African Nkosinathi Joyi. The bout was seen as a huge mismatch in favour of Joyi who was looking to have a big 2014. Instead Joyi found himself staring up at the ceiling after Loreto landed a monster of counter left hook that left Joyi flat on his back. This was brutal and a huge surprise.
This tough category really was a toss up though we settled on something that seemed to combine everything. It had beauty and brutality, skills, timing and came at a high level against a former world champion in what was viewed a very even looking bout on paper. The KO in question was that scored by Marvin Sonsona against Akifumi Shimoda on February 22nd in Macau. The bout was for the WBO International Featherweight title and ended in what could only be deemed spectacular fashion. The contest had started slowly as both men tried to warm to the task at hand and just as it seemed like Shimoda was beginning to find his way he was popped with a perfect left uppercutt that just crumpled Shimoda who was never going to beat the count.
For a few moments it seemed like Shimoda could be in a bad way though thankfully the Japanese fighter did recover, though sadly he hasn't fought since.
(Video courtesy of Rabhak)
Over the past 2 days we've put up our award articles for the “2014 Fighter of the Year” and the “2014 Prospect of the Year”. Now we're onto our third award, the “2014 Trainer of the Year”.
For us there was a clear winner in this category who left all other contenders in his dust. That was the completely unheralded Shingo Inoue who has been all but ignored by the international publications who have, generally, refused to even include him in their short list or notable runners up, instead preferring to mention trainers like Freddie Roach.
Mr Inoue, the trainer for both of his sons, Naoya Inoue (8-0, 7) and Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1), has had a year which has really put him on the boxing map and has been a worthy winner of the “Eddie Townsend Award” in Japan despite the clear snub by the international press.
Mr Inoue's year began with his charges being 5-0 (4) and 1-0. Both of them were touted, very highly, but no one would have expected the year they have had between them.
The first bout of the year for Mr Inoue's fighters saw his youngest son, the then 18 year old, Takuma Inoue put on a masterclass against the world ranked Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in April. Sakkreerin had shocked the boxing world at the end of 2013 by stopping Ryo Miyazaki but was no match for the speed or skill of Takuma who nearly shut him out in a sensational performance. Soon afterwards his other charge, Noaya, stopped the well established Adrian Hernandez to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title.
We saw his sons return to the ring in September. On that show we saw Takuma score a second round blow out against Thailand's Chanachai Sor Siamchai whilst Naoya battered Samartlek Kokietgym over 11 rounds to record his first defense of the WBC world title. On paper these were lesser wins though though kept his fighters ticking over on a show headlined by Flyweight super fight between Roman Gonzalez and Akira Yaegashi.
To end the year we saw Mr Inoue's fighters both score their best wins to date. The first of those saw Takuma dominate former world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes en route to taking a very clear 8 round win, it was an outstanding win a brilliant performance. A few hours later we saw Naoya, who had climbed 2 weight classes, totally dismantle Omar Andres Narvaez in what was a clinical beat down of a well established world champion. The win for Naoya not only saw him climbing 2 weight classes but also look damned good at his new weight, a weight that his father and trainer seemed to suggest was his natural weight.
Whilst Mr Inoue may have been snubbed in the west we can't help but feel he was the run away winner here and if his success continues into next year he may well find himself in very much demand by the end of the year.
(Image of Shingo, Naoya, Takuma and Hideyuki Ohashi, courtesy of Naoya Inoue's blog)
Yesterday we announced our Fighter of the Year of 2014 as Naoya Inoue, and today we are doing second award for 2014, that of prospect of the year.
To keep things simple we have decided that for us a prospect is someone who hasn't yet fought on the world stage. They could well be a qualified “contender” but for us the terms aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
As with the Fighter of the year we felt one man was a rclear winner, and although several contenders did emerge, including two men who fought on December 30th, no one really put on a performance as impressive as our winner did in their most notable win.
Ryo Matsumoto- The clear “top runner up” was OPBF Super Flyweight champion Ryo Matsumoto 4-0 (3) who had a massive year and would have won this award easily were it not for the eventual winner. Matsumoto began the year with a decision over former world title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka, it was a tough win for the youngster but one that served him well down the line. A quick blow out of Zun Rindam followed before another blow out, over former world champion Denkaosan Kaovichit, really put the youngster on the map. To end the year he would then stop Rusalee Samor in 12 rounds after a dominant performance. It was as good a year as he could have hoped for.
Takuma Inoue- Another good contender was teenager Takuma Inoue who went 3-0 (1) for the year, with notable wins against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, back in April, and Nestor Daniel Narvaes, in December. The talented youngster was tipped for the top when he turned professional and wins over Fahlan and Narvaes have proven just how good he is. Despite his ability he has yet to fight in a title bout though we suspect that will change next year and we imagine he will be chasing either a Japanese or OPBF title in his first bout of the new year, from what we've seen it's hard to see him losing to any of the domestic or Asian champion at either 108lbs or 112lbs. It was an outstanding year but again his year paled in comparison to our winner.
Albert Pagara- Filipino 20 year old Albert Pagara had himself a very memorable year which saw him going 4-0 (3). The problem in some ways is that only one of those wins really made us say “wow”, but it was a win that put him in the mix for a world title bout. Stoppage wins against Isack Junior and Skak Max were both expected, to say the least, and although he did dispatch Hugo Partida quicker than we expected, it was his near shut out against Raul Hirales that blew us away. That win told us more about Pagara than his previous 21 wins combined. It showed that he was a patient, intelligent boxer, he could counter, set traps and not need to depend on his thunderous power. It was the sort of win that tells the boxing world “I'm ready” and we really do believe that Pagara could win a world title in the next 12 months.
For us the Prospect of the Year was current OPBF Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka, who went 3-0 (2) for the year including an exceptional win over Ryuji Hara to claim his OPBF title. The 19 year old kicked off his year in March with a 8 round decision win over the then world ranked Ronelle Ferreras, he gave away a round but ran away with the fight and showed why his promoter Kiyoshi Hatanaka was so excited about him. A fight later he decimated Crison Omayao in just 115 seconds to show that he had power to go with his skills and speed. It was, however, the victory over Hara that broke him away from the pack. Hara was 18-0 (10), a former Japanese champion and the reigning OPBF champion, he was also a highly ranked contender and ranked in the top 10 by all 4 title bodies. Tanaka however showed he could do it all by boxing with Hara for 8 rounds before turning the screw as he entered uncharted territory and stopped Hara in the 10th. It seemed as if Tanaka could have stopped it earlier but was wanting to test his stamina, wanting to go beyond 8 rounds and wanted to see if he could it on as and when needed.
A year ago we knew Naoya Inoue was on the fast track to the top, coming into 2015 we suspect Tanaka will be on an even fast track and it's now expected that he will be fighting for a world title in April. If he manages to do that, and win, he will break Inoue's Japanese record for fewest fights to a world title. Is he manages that then we'll likely be talking about Tanaka as a contender for the 2015 Fighter of the Year.
For those who haven't seen Tanaka feast your eyes on his win over Omayao.
(Image courtesy of Kyodo News)
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)
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