Today we celebrate a new period in Japanese history, the Reiwa period. This ends the Heisei era, which began back in January 8th 1989, and although the change is not likely to be noticed in the west it is a major event in Japan.
We thought, with the end of the era, it was worth looking at the 10 most influential fighters of the Heisei era.
Just a caveat, before we begin, by influential we're not looking at the fighters who were the most successful during the era, but those who had a long last effect on the sport, specifically in Japan. Those who forced changes, influenced fighters or inspired fighters who followed them. To be considered they had to have fought between January 8th 1989 and April 30th 2019.
10-Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) - The Watanabe Wonder
Several fighters on this list have gotten here due to their influence with fighters who have followed in their footsteps, or fighters who have turned their hand to promoting. Takashi Uchiyama on the other hand helped put the gym he was fighting for on the map. The Watanabe Gym had been opened for a few years but didn't really have a star to focus on, they lacked a fighter who could help attract top prospects and a man who carry the gym. In Uchiyama they had that star. Uchiyama's long reign as the WBA Super Featherweight champion, from 2010 to 2016, made his one of the major faces of Japanese boxing and he would inspire the Watanabe Gym, which is now regarded as one of the best in Japan. His effect on the Watanabe gym today has lead to fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Ryoichi Taguchi becoming major forces. He's now running a gym of his own, and it's clear that Uchiyama's influence is going to continue well into the future.
9-Katsuya Onizuka (24-1, 17) - Superstar Spanky K
Popular fighters are influential due to their ability to draw a crown, get people talking and get eye balls on the sport. That was certainly the case with Katsuya Onizuka, who's popularity was huge in the 1990's. He turned professional in 1988 and would fight through to 1994, running up 5 defenses of the WBA Super Flyweight title, and even having a video game released with his likeness in Japan. Onizuka was certainly controversial, with numerous suspect wins, but his popularity kept people interested and kept watching. Following his retirement he would train fighters in Fukuoka, work for TBS in a commentary position and continue to have a pretty notable impact in the sport, much more so than fans in the West would realise.
8-Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) - Bar setting prodigy
The Osakan boxing scene is the second biggest in Japan, behind that in Tokyo, and for the better part of a decade the face of Osakan boxing was Kazuto Ioka. He drew huge TV rating, he was crowned as super prospect from his debut and he would, famously, win the WBC Minimumweight title in just his 7th bout. His career has been remarkable, winning world titles in 3 divisions, and chasing a 4th divisional world title. He's notable won an all-Japanese unification bout, a real rarity, challenged for a 4th divisional world title and set the mark for fewest fights to a world title, a mark that has since been beaten by Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Ioka put a marker down for the newest wave of Japanese fighters, and really helped kick start the era of the Japanese super prospect.
7-Hozumi Hasegawa (36-5, 16) - Hyogo Hero
We're going to mention a man who inspired a generation of fighters a little bit further down this list, but Hozumi Hasegawa also fills that role excellently. In fact Hasegawa ois the man many current fighters cite as an inspiration, especially those in the Hyogo region. He was, for a long time, the one fighter from Hyogo who kept the region on the map, he was "The Ace" of Japan for years, a multi-time JBC MVP, a 3 weight world champion, a sensational fighter in the ring and someone who's appeal did actually cross over from Japan to the West. Hasegawa began his career in 1999 and despite some early defeats he would go on to win world titles at Bantamweight, Featherweight and Super Bantamweight, he was a TV star in the ring, with a great style to watch and with a list of notable names on his record. He wasn't the megastar that some had anticipated, but he was a big name, and the face of Japanese boxing during a little bit of a transition period in the 00's
6-Sugar Miyuki (11-1, 4) - Female punching pioneer
Women's boxing today is thriving in Japan, and Kasumi Saeki recently showed how good the top youngsters are. We've recent world champions like Naoko Fujioka, Ayaka Miyao, Etsuko Tada and Shindo Go all make their mark but the real OG is Sugar Miyoshi. A fighter you won't easily find on boxrec, where she's listed under her birth name of Nojima Miyuki and has an offiial record of 1-1. Miyuki was oriinally a Shoot Boxing fighter, a style more similar to kick boxing than regular boxing, but would turn to boxing in 1995, years before the JBC would recognise female boxing. In 1997 she would go on to win the IWBF Minimumweight title, becoming Japan's first female world champion. Her work in boxing saw him raise the profile of the sport in the country, fighting exhibitions and working as a trainer. She would clearly kick start the female boxing movement in Japan, long before any of the others, and was a key factor in careers for the likes of Miki Kikukawa and Yumi Takano. She pre-dates the like of Feujin Raika by years and also played a role in showing that fighters could convert from one of Japan's other combat sports leagues. Although Miyuki is only "officially" listed at 1-1 we know that's wrong, due to footage of her and reliable sources, we her impact it still being felt, directly and indirectly to this very day!
5-Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) - International man of focus
It's hard to really figure out where Naoya Inoue sits in this list. He hasn't inspired a generation of fighters, he hasn't forced rules to change, he hasn't set up a gym, or played a part in the running of the sport. However what he has done, internationally, has drawn eyes to Japanese boxing, he has managed to capture an international audience like no other Japanese fighter, getting American and European fans talking, and featuring as a cover star for magazines that often put Japanese boxing down their list of priorities. He has, arguably, become the first Japanese fighter, in a long time, to become a global star. His real influence is likely to be more notable in the Reiwa era, but it's impossible to state how much he has done since his debut in 2012. He, more than any other fighter, has made Japanese boxing global and we expect that will be something felt for a very, very long time.
4-Hiroki Ioka (33-8-1, 17) - First generation Ioka!
Today Kazuto Ioka is one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing. His unclue, Hiroki Ioka, is however a man who deserves on any list of influential fighters. The talented former 2-weight world champion saw his career begin before the Heisei era but his influence grew through out the era. He won his first world title in 1987, 3 months before the Heisei era began, but would make his first defense just weeks after the new emperor took the throne. He went 22-8-1 (11) during the Heisei era, defending the WBC Minimumweight title and winning the WBA Light Flyweight title. He would also chase a third divisional world title, coming up short at both Flyweight and Super Flyweight. After retiring in 1998 he would turn his hand to promoting, inspire his nephew to fight and guide numerous careers, as well as working as part of the West Japan Boxing Association. His influence may often be over-looked but he has been incredibly influential and will continue to be so in the Kansai region.
3-Katsunari Takayama (31-9-0-1, 12) - Rule changing road warrior
It's hard to ignore just how influential Katsunari Takayama was to Japanese boxing during his 40 fight career. The Minimumweight warrior was a trend setter who pushed his dreams and forced the JBC, and the JABF, to change how they did things. His pursuit of the IBF and WBO world titles eventually helped their legitimacy in Japan, and played a part in getting the JBC to recognise both the titles. He also brought real attention to the Minumumweight division, in part thanks to his incredible fight with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. He also, very notable, pushed the JABF into allowing former professional fighters to return to the amateur ranks. Whilst Takayama will never go down as one of the all time greats, it's impossible to ignore the effect that his career had on Japanese boxing.
2-Hideyuki Ohashi (19-5, 12) - The Phoenix
In the west Hideyuki Ohashi is relatively unknown, though plays a massive role in Japanese boxing, and has done for over 30 years. At the start of the Heisei era Ohashi was 9-3 (5) though went 10-2 (7) during the rule of Emperor Akihito, becoming a 2-time Minimumweight world champion during that 12 bout run. What he's he's done since hanging up the gloves in 1993 has been amazing, and he has not only played a role in the governing of Japanese boxing, due to roles with the JBC and JPBA, but also ran the Ohashi Gym. That gym has given us the likes of Katsushige Kawashima, Akira Yaegashi and Naoya Inoue. The "Ohashi Gym" is one of the most significant in Japan right now and looks to go from strength to strength.
Koki Kameda - Insanely popular, controversial, and a real star. His effect as a fighter was divisive but few can argue that he's not, even in retirement, a major draw.
Kiyoshi Hatanaka - A massive figure in boxing in Chubu, formerly a fighter and now the region's leading promoter with the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Kento Hatanaka making their name under him
Akinobu Hiranaka - Huge punching fighter who's work in Okyama as a promoter has started to build a notable, and exciting, local scene
Toshiaki Nishioka - Japan's fighters have tended to stay at home, fighting in the confines of of Japan. Nishioka would be one of the few fighters to go out of Japan for fighters on a semi-regular basis. He would fight in the US, Mexico and France during his career and prove that Japanese fighters could win away from home.
Yoshihiro Kamegai - Who spoke about Naoya Inoue dragging eyes to the Japanese scene. The same can also be said of Yoshihiro Kamegai, who actually became a bigger name in the west than in Japan, thanks to his fun to watch brawls. We wouldn't suggest many fighters follow his style, but his mind set of making it big in the US has helped lead the way for others.
Ryota Murata - It's unclear how much influence Murata has, or hasn't had. His TV figures are huge, his popularity, even now, is massive, but the real influence is the intangible, and that's the amateur success. We've yet to see Japanese amateurs really flourish on the international stage since Murata's 2012 Olympic gold medal, but it's expected that the 2020 Olympics will be a very successful one for Japan. It's assumed that Murata's amateur triumph may potentially have a similar effect to Amir Khan, who won an Olympic medal in 2004 and saw the UK team have a massive games in 2012.
1-Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (20-7-1, 14) - A generational influence
Few fighters can match the influence that Joichiro Tatsuyoshi had to the current Japanese scene. "Joe" made his debut 8 months after the start of the Heisei era and fought through to 2009, albeit with some breaks in there. During his career he would be a 2-time WBC Bantamweight champion, and whilst he was fast tracked to a title his influence was less due to his title reigns and more his style, his personality and his charisma. His effect on Japanese boxing was inspiring a generation of fighters, helping to kick start the current era of Japanese boxing. Even now he is still insanely popular, and when he appears at ring, as a member of the crowd, the cameras regularly zoom in on him. Enigmatic, exciting and incredibly charismatic the Osakan is still a star, though had had to pay for his boxing with various issues now effecting him.
On this coming Wednesday Japanese fans will be treat to a world title double header with both fights featuring big name Japanese fighters taking on European rivals. The fights, which are getting attention from hardcore fans around the world, are both major contests and could help define the legacies of both fighters both domestically and internationally.
The card, televised by NTV from 19:00 local time marks the return to free-to-air TV for Shinsuke Yamanaka (20-0-2, 15), the WBC Bantamweight champion who will be hoping to impress fans who may have been forced to miss his fight with Pedro Guevara, and will also see the return to world title level for the "Ace of Japan" Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) who has been out of major fights since 2011.
With the major significance of these fights and this show in general we've decided to do our first ever show specific feature where we will break down the fights, the fighters and what the bouts mean to their legacies and future.
The first of the two world title fights will be that of Hasegawa who will be challenging Spain's hard charging Kiko Martinez (30-4, 22) for the IBF Super Bantamweight title. For some this is a suicide mission from Hasegawa whilst for others it's a fight that could define him as one of the Japanese greats.
Having already claimed world titles at both Bantamweight and Featherweight Hasegawa is hoping to become just the second ever 3-weight world champion from Japan. At 33 years old this will likely be his only chance and unfortunately for him he's in a tough divisions where even another chance wouldn't guarantee him an easy fight for a title.
Hasegawa first made his name as one of the great Bantamweight champions. He won the WBC title at 118lbs way back in 2005 when he dethroned legendary Thai Veeraphol Sahaprom who had been a champion for more than 6 years and a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing. Sahaprom, who had defeated Joichiro Tatsuyoshi for the title, had run together 15 defences before Hasegawa managed to defeat him and end an impressive 44 fight unbeaten streak that dated back to 1996.
As the Bantamweight champion Hasegawa himself had a legendary reign from 2005 to 2010 that saw him defending the belt against the likes of Veeraphol Sahaprom, the then unbeaten Simpiwe Vetyeka, Simone Maludrottu and Vusi Malinga. His challenger's combined record read a remarkable 248-20-7.
Unfortunately for Hasegawa his reign came to an unfortunate end when he fought giant Mexican puncher Fernando Montiel who stopped Hasegawa in 4 rounds to end the first championship reign of the Japanese fight.
Hasegawa would quickly climb back to the top of the mountain as he moved up to Featherweight and over-came Juan Carlos Burgos to claim the WBC Featherweight title. This reign was short lived though and Hasegawa was dethroned for the second time in just 3 fights as the huge punching Jhonny Gonzalez stopped him in, also in round 4.
For many the loss to Gonzalez signalled the end of Hasegawa and many suggested he had been exposed, twice, by solid punchers and it was obvious he couldn't take a shot. It was as if the fans had forgotten, or simply not seen, the shots he had take from Veeraphol and wrote him off on that alone.
Since the loss to Gonzalez back in 2011 Hasegawa has taken his time to rebuild his confidence and interest in boxing which waned dramatically at one point and he actually spent a year out of the ring. Since returning, in April 2012, Hasegawa has run up 4 straight wins including an eye catching KO over Genaro Camargo last time out. They have been at a lower level though helped show that Hasegawa has still got his speed, timing, skills and criminally under-rated power
In Martinez we do have a hard puncher going up against Hasegawa. Martinez is genuinely rock fisted though unlike Montiel and Gonzalez he's not the most intelligent of boxers. What you see is what you get and what you see with Martinez is a thuggish brute who is all about non-stop pressure, solid shots upstairs and downstairs and a terrier like mentality in the ring.
The Spaniard can be out boxed, as we saw against Carl Frampton not too long ago, but he's not there to be brawled with and to beat him you need to be intelligent, capable of boxing on the back foot and have the power to hurt him to make him think twice about throwing shots. All traits that Hasegawa has in his locker though will need to hope he can access before he's ground down.
For Hasegawa this is his toughest bout since his loss to Gonzalez 3 years ago and he knows it, he's been training for it, he's bee doing all he can to prepare and he's going in knowing full well that this is do or die. A loss really would be the end of his career whilst a victory would have him an even bigger fan favourite than he already is. His name would go down in the annals of Japanese boxing history as a modern day great if not one of the all time greats.
Whilst Hasegawa's legacy is on the line for Martinez it's about the money the opportunity to earn big money as a champion. He was seen as a huge under-dog when he won his title, defeating Jhonatan Romero last August, and has made a single defence against South Africa's Jeffrey Mathebula. Boxing in Spain is about dead and unfortunately the Mathebula fight was fought as a low paying mandatory defence. He has taken this fight due to the money on offer from Hasegawa's team and will know that if he wins this more opportunities will arise for people wanting to take the world title from him. Bouts with the likes of Scott Quigg, Leo Santa Cruz, Cristian Mijares or Jamie McDonnell could make him good money whilst bouts with Shingo Wake or Genesis Servania could also interest the Spaniard.
It's a tough bout and it is really a lightning fast boxer against marauding brawler, the stylistic match up that we dream of.
Having twice beaten Veeraphol whilst also holding wins over Vetyeka, Burgos and Malinga a win against Martinez may not actually fit in to Hasegawa's top 5 wins. On the other hand a victory for Martinez would certainly be amongst he top 2 wins for the Spaniard, comparable with his victory over then unbeaten Romero.
It may not seem like much of a big deal but Hasegawa has won the big ones repeatedly through his career, for Martinez he has had mixed fortunes in the big ones losing to Frampton, Takalani Ndlovu and Rendall Munroe, twice, whilst beating Romero and Ireland's Bernard Dunne. Saying that however Martinez will have no fear of travelling to Japan having already fought in Ireland, England, South Africa, France, Northern Ireland, Argentina and the USA as well as his native Spain where he is the only real star boxing in the country.
For us this is the more competitive match up than the other title fight but it's also the one we worry about. Hasegawa isn't the fighter he once was and Martinez, for his technical flaws, is an animal in the ring and will view Hasegawa as his next meal. It's tough, it's even matched and it's a bout that should have fans genuinely excited.
Following Hasegawa's contest with Martinez we then get to see "The God of Left" Shinsuke Yamanaka defending his WBC Bantamweight crown against former European champion Stephane Jamoye (25-4, 15) of Belgium.
This will be the 6th defence for Yamanaka who will be seeking his 5th straight stoppage and his 14th in 15 fights. It's that level of power which has seen some referee to Yamanaka's left hand as one of boxing hardest punches in the sport right now though worryingly for his rivals he has been working hard on his right hook as well to try and make him into a more complete 2 handed fighter.
Last year Yamanaka was crowned the MVP of Japanese boxing by the JBC and with his 3 defences, all ending in KO, it was hard to argue with that status.
What's so great about the 31 year old Japanese southpaw isn't his power but the fact he can, when he chooses do anything he wants in the ring. He can box when he wants, he can brawl when he wants, he has the power to knock people clean out and he can almost do them all on the fly. There is really nothing that can phase him and he seems to know that one way or another he will either beat up and break down his opponents or he'll clean their clock.
Yamanaka came to the attention of hardcore fans and Japanese fans back in March 2011 when he stopped Ryosuke Iwasa in one of the best fights of recent years. It was Yamanaka's first defence of the Japanese Bantamweight title though managed to make him, and Iwasa in fairness, a name to follow.
Yamanaka's next fight after beating Iwasa saw him jumping from Japanese champion to world champion as he put on a fun to watch contest with Mexico's Christian Esquivel for the then vacant WBC Bantamweight title. The bout saw Yamanaka beat up Esquivel who was stopped in round 11 as Yamanaka claim the title. Despite being the world champion it wasn't until he defeat Vic Darchinyan in his first defence, winning a 12 round decision, that fans really began to take Yamanaka seriously.
In many recent bouts Yamanaka has looked devastating and eye catching stoppages over Tomas Rojas, Jose Nieves and Alberto Guevara have seen some putting Yamanaka in their top 10 pound-for-pound lists.
Whilst Yamanaka is seen as one of the jewels in Japanese boxing it's fair to say that Jamoye is seen as the jewel of Belgian boxing, unless we include the queen of Belgium boxing Delfine Persoon. Jamoye is really fun to watch and if you've not seen him we recommend you catch his fights with British pair Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins, with the Haskins fight being a true FOTY leve bout.
Jamoye is a 2-time European champion though did, unfortunately, lose last time out to tricky Frenchman Karim Guerfi in a bout that saw Jamoye's usually persistent pressure and busy work both vanish. It was truly a disappointing effort from Jamoye but still ended up being a really good fight. Some did question whether the Belgian had struggled to make weight, others asked if he had overlooked Guerfi whilst others suggested it was just an off night. Whatever it was it was poor from Jamoye who has usually been great fun.
In regards to Jamoye against Asian fighters he does hold a notable, albeit controversial, victory over Pungluang Sor Singyu and a split decision loss to Tomoki Kameda. Incidentally Pungluang will challenge Tomoki for the WBO Bantamweight title next month.
This bout isn't about Jamoye's fights with Asian's however and is instead about Jamoye against Leo Santa Cruz. As we all know Yamanaka wants to fight Santa Cruz and Jamoye himself lasted just 6 rounds with the Mexican back in 2011. Sure that fight was 3 years ago but Yamanaka will be hoping to beat that marker, just as he did when he stopped Guevara who had taken Santa Cruz the distance. In turn a good victory over Jamoye would also see him getting 1 up on Tomoki who really struggled with the Belgian.
As for the fight stylistically it's an extremely hard boxer-puncher in Yamanaka facing an aggressive pressure fighter who can be hurt, especially to the body, but tends to find a way past the pain to fight tooth and nail.
For Jamoye a victory over Yamanaka would be career defining. It would be a stand out win by such a margin that no other win on his record would even come close to. The victory over Pungluang, back in 2009, is his best so far but would really not be on the same planet as a victory over Yamanaka in 2014.
In regards to how this would look on Yamanaka's record it wouldn't compare to victories over Darchinyan, Malcolm Tunacao, Esquivel, Rojas or Iwasa. Genuinely it would be, at best, the 6th best win on his record though could very easily be 7th or 8th. It would, by all means, be a good win for the champion but not one of his best.
Fortunately for Yamanaka this isn't supposed to be about scoring a major win but is all about staying sharp and continue to apply mental pressure on Santa Cruz. It's also allows Yamanaka to show off how good his training in the US earlier this was. The training camp, which was spent with Ryota Murata's team in the US, was used to try and help Yamanaka get a feel for the US before a prospective fight over their next year. He worked a lot on his right hook and against a fighter like Jamoye that's a key punch to allow him to get into position to land his fearsome and deadly straight left.
We think Jamoye will come to fight and make for a fun contest but he'll be stopped by Yamanaka's devastating power in what will be a fun but relatively one sided contest.
Images courtesy of:
Top- NTV/Nippon TV
If you were to ask me what I think of 2014 so far, I'd say that the year has been very quiet. Whilst some fight fans will say that the first few weeks of any new year is quiet for boxing this one just seems quieter than usual.
I understand, that the lack of fights is, at least partially, down to the winter Olympics. I can appreciate that no promoter wants to go head-to-head with one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Though what I can't understand is the real lack of action in almost every country. Some weeks haven't just been quiet but have been pretty much silent in terms of notable fights (and I really stretch the definition of "notable fights" right here).
Thankfully though the lack of action in the ring hasn't stopped us from getting word of several major bouts which are either signed or strongly rumoured for this year. It appears that the battling in the ring might have been unexciting but the battle of the match makers, promoters and lawyers has been highly enticing.
I've decided that, instead of talking about the lack of bouts for once, I'd take a look at some of the best ones that have either been signed, are getting signed or seem likely to be made later this year.
Naoya Inoue v Adrian Hernandez (April 6th, Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo)
The first big major bout that we've got coming up was announced just a few short days ago and features Japanese youngster Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) taking on Mexican Adrian Hernandez (29-2-1, 18) for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
Aged 20 Inoue is still a boxing baby though his potential was clear from his days as an amateur and his desire to be one of the fastest moved fighters in the history of the sport has been a real breath of fresh air. For some however he is being rushed too fast and should have had a few more fights before fighting a dangerous for like Hernandez.
From where I am sat Inoue is more than ready for a world title fight. He is wonderfully gifted, exciting, and more advanced than almost anyone else his age. As well as that he has also been given top training by his father, Shingo Inoue, and has shared a ring with both Akira Yaegashi and Ryota Murata, both of whom have had nothing but glowing words about the youngster.
Hernandez is dangerous and experienced. He does however have numerous flaws and could well be the weakest of the champions at 108lbs. It's a huge ask for Inoue, of course it is, but this is the aggressive matchmaking which has made the Ohashi Gym so well liked by fans and fighters alike.
(Picture, left to right: Shingo Inoue, Naoya Inoue, Akira Yaegashi and Hideyuki Ohashi)
Hozumi Hasegawa v Kiko Martinez (April 23rd, Castle Hall, Osaka)
The second great looking match up takes place less than 3 weeks after the Inoue/Hernandez fight and will see former Bantamweight and Featherweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) attempting to become a 3-weight world champion. As with Inoue's bout Hasegawa will be taking on a dangerous world champion as he battles Spain's Kiko Martinez (30-4, 22), the current IBF Super Bantamweight champion.
Martinez was a man courted by a number of fighters, including Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, though it seems that Hasegawa's team have done enough to convince him to travel for his first bout in Asia.
Whilst Hasegawa, at 33 years old, is a man coming to the end of his career he will feel like he has one more great performance left in him. He'll be hoping that that great performance happens here as Kiko is a very dangerous puncher with an all out pressure mind-set. The Spaniard isn't the most skilled but is very strong and has a brutal attitude in the ring.
If Hasegawa, who some are already writing off, can beat Martinez he will become Japan's second ever 3-weight world champion and cap off a remarkable career. He may not have become the star of Japanese boxing like some had hoped but his name, win or lose, will be very fondly remembered by the boxing fans in his homeland. A win however would see him being put up amongst the genuinely great Japanese fighters.
Picture: Hozumi Hasegawa and Shinsuke Yamanaka
Tomoki Kameda v Pungluang Sor Singyu (Date and venue yet to be announced)
There is something about the Japanese/Thai rivalry that really adds an extra something to bouts. This will next be seen at the world level later this month as Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep defends his WBA interim Flyweight title against Takuya Kogawa. That fight however pales in comparison to the bout between WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18), pictured, and Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-2, 31).
Whilst no date has been set for Tomoki/Pungluang it's a bout that is very difficult not get very excited about. Tomoki looks to be the best fighter in Kameda family and can do it all. He can box wonderfully on the back foot or he can fight going forward. Pungluang on the other hand is an in your face fighter from Thailand who comes forward and tries to make every bout a real fight. If he can cut the ring off from Kameda this could be a potential fight of the year.
The few details that have been leaked about this contest is that it could take place in either Japan or the US. I'm personally hoping it's in the US so that every fan state side gets a chance to see these two men in action and gets to see a very even looking all-Asian bout that could well reignite the interest in watching these sorts of bouts in both the US and Europe.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Carlos Cuadras (Date and venue yet to be announced)
If I'm excited about the prospect of Tomoki Kameda fighting Pungluang Sor Singyu then I'm even more excited by the potential Super Flyweight clash between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (24-3-1, 22) and Mexico's unbeaten Carlos Cuadras (29-0, 24).
This, a WBC mandatory for champion Srisaket, has all the ingredients of being a special contest between two big hitting fighters and aggressively minded fighters.
Srisaket was one of the break out stars of last year and scored an impressive 7 victories, 6 by KO, which included a shockingly destructive victory over Yota Sato and impressive beat down of the brave Hirofumi Mukai. Although he's relatively unknown outside of Thailand and Japan Srisaket is nothing short of terrifying.
Like Srisaket, Cuadras is also aggressively minded and with the bout rumoured to be in Mexico he may well have a notable advantage in terms of home field. Saying that though Srisaket is by far the best fighter that Cuadras will have ever stepped in to the ring with and may well have too much power, aggression, strength and toughness for the unbeaten Mexican.
The only things confirmed about this bout is that Teiken will be the promoters and this it will be a sure fire war for as long as it lasts.
Picture is from Srisaket's Sor Rungvisai's victory over Yota Sato
Shinsuke Yamanaka v Leo Santa Cruz (Speculative)
The first of two "speculative" bouts that I'm excited about sees WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (20-0-2, 15) moving up to Super Bantamweight to challenger WBC champion Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15).
The bout is one that Yamanaka has been talking about a lot to the Japanese press and seems to be a contest he really wants even though he would have to step up in weight and travel to the US to get it, two things he has been very happy to accept.
Yamanaka has helped pressure the fight by doing a better job on former Santa Cruz opponent Alberto Guevara and seems set to do the same against Stephane Jamoye when the two meet on April 23rd. Whilst some may view this as Yamanaka fighting Santa Cruz's "cast off's" the fact he is looking to do a better job than Santa Cruz could well be enough to make fans question just how good Santa Cruz really is.
As for Santa Cruz, the all out Mexican fighting machine will need to get past slippery and skilful Cristian Mijares on March 8th for this bout to take place. We don't imagine Santa Cruz will have any problems with Mijares though we'd not be shocked if Santa Cruz tries to show more to his boxing than his pressure style, at least for a few rounds.
Akira Yaegashi v Roman Gonzalez (Speculative)
Last week saw Ohashi gym announcing a show for April 6th that included not only Naoya Inoue's bout with Adrian Hernandez, see above, but also a contest between WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9) and Odilon Zaleta (15-3, 8) as well as an under-card contest involving Roman Gonalez (38-0, 32).
When that card was announced Yaegashi seemed to strongly suggest that his next defense, if he gets past Zaleta of course, will be against Gonzalez in what is a Flyweight contest to really be excited about.
Gonzalez, who fought this past weekend against Juan Kantun, is arguably the best offensive fighter on the planet. He is a destructive machine that combines speed, power, skill and an outstanding array of punches.
If the bout, as expected, gets signed for fall or winter then we have a bout that will see Yaegashi's toughness and experienced put against Gonzalez's intelligent aggression. One thing is certain, this one will have the potential to be a fight of the year.
Of course, no date has been set for this one and both men will need to win on April 6th but that shouldn't be a problem.
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