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.
Over the last few years we've seen Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) go from schooling Yuki Sano one handed in just his third professional bout to claiming the WBC Light Flyweight title, the WBO Super Flyweight title and the WBA "Regular" Bantamweight title. He has looked sensational since announcing himself on the world stage, stopping Adrien Hernandez, and really turned heads when he blitzed Omar Andre Narvaez, in a bout that made him an international name but also saw him badly bang up his hands. In 2018 he again showed his destructive ability by stopping Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano, both inside a round.
One question that has often been asked is just how high can he go? Can he be the next Asian fighter to climb through the weights like Manny Pacquiao, who won world titles in 8 divisions, or is his limit going to be rather lighter than that?
To begin with we should look at history. Throughout the history of the sport only one man has ever won world titles to bridge Light Flyweight and Super Bantamweight. That was Mexican warrior Jorge Arce (64-8-2 49).
Arce's first 2 titles came at Light Flyweight, winning the WBO title in 1998 and the WBC title in 2002. Unlike Inoue he did compete at Flyweight, winning the WBC interim title, but never got a shot at the full title before moving up in weight. He would have a few shots at 115lbs before finally winning the WBO Super Flyweight title in 2010 before skipping a division the following year to claim the WBO Super Bantamweight title. He would then head down to Bantamweight to pick up the vacant WBO Bantamweight title. In total he would compete in 20 world title fights, going 14-6 (9) from December 1998 to October 2014, when he lost in an attempt to win the WBC Featherweight title from Jhonny Gonzalez.
Arce's career began when he was just 16. He was 19 when he took the WBO Light Flyweight title from Juan Domingo Cordoba, in his 22nd bout, 22 years old when he claimed his second Light Flyweight title, defeating Yo Sam Choi in his 34th bout. He came up short in his first 3 Super Flyweight world title bouts, before getting a vacant title fight with Angkly Ankotta and winning to claim his third world title, in his 60th professional bout. His next title was the Super Bantamweight title, which came when he stopped Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in his 65th fight at the age of 31. He would rematch Angkotta, again for a vacant title, at Bantamweight title after defending the Super Bantamweight title once.By the time he was a 4 weight champion Arce had notched a 59-6-2 (45) record. He was 32, and had grabbed vacant titles at Super Flyweight and Bantamweight, by beating Angky Angkotta.
So we do have a precedent of a fighter climbing successfully from Light Flyweight to Super Bantamweight. Interestingly Arce was similar in size to Inoue as well, with Inoue being ½″ taller and 1½″ longer, in terms of reach.
Notably there is also one fighter who has gone from winning world titles at Flyweight, a division Inoue famously missed out on, to Featherweight. That's Nonito Donaire who claimed the IBF Flyweight title, the WBC Bantamweight title, the WBO Super Bantamweight title and the WBA Featherweight title, before dropping back down to Bantamweight last year to claim the WBA "super" Bantamweight title. We won't go into Donaire too much, though like Inoue and Arce he missed out on the division above the one he won his first world title at.
Donaire is more notable in a way due to his natural size. He was huge at Flyweight and Bantamweight, and still a big fighter at Super Bantamweight, standing at 5′ 7½″ and boasting a 68" reach. Like Inoue he's heavy handed, but in ways became a fighter who depended on his power, rather than the skills to set that power up. When he and Inoue have been pictured together you can clearly tell they are not the same size, despite both currently competing at Bantamweight, and as you can see in the picture he physically dwarfs Inoue.
Given that I've just mentioned size, it's worth considering how Inoue stacks up with current Super Bantamweights.
Inoue is a muscular 5′ 5" fighter with a 67½″ reach. His frame will certainly be capable of adding 4lbs with no real issue, but how does he stack up with the Super Bantamweight champions?
WBA champion Danny Roman (26-2-1, 10) is the same height as Inoue and only has a slight edge in reach, at 68"
WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete (26-1, 22) is taller than Inoue, at 5'7", but looks huge at the weight and his time competing at 122lbs may not be that long
WBC champion Rey Vargas (32-0, 22) is a wiry fighter at 5′ 7½″ with a 70½″ reach
and IBF champion TJ Doheny is (20-0, 14) is 5′ 5½″ with a 68" reach.
It should be noted however that Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14) was recently the WBO champion and he's significantly smaller than Inoue, standing at around 5'2" with a 66" reach. He had success despite being small, and Inoue's size doesn't seem as much of a disadvantage as that of Dogboe.
Whilst all 4 champions are bigger than Inoue the Japanese fighter was physically dwarfed by both Jamie McDonell and Yoan Boyeaux, and Inoue has shown an ability to get inside on bigger men.
Inoue's father has suggested his son will, one day, fight at Featherweight. It's not something in their immediate plans, and they will certainly more to Super Bantamweight first, but it is worth considering how he would fair at Featherweight.
At Featherweight we again see fighters naturally bigger than Inoue, though the reality is that the Featherweights don't appear much bigger than their Super Bantamweight counter parts.
WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19) is 5′ 7½″ with a 69" reach, though he carries the weight well he does regularly give up his reach
Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19) is almost the same size as Inoue, standing at 5′ 5½″ with a 66" reach
IBF champion Josh Warrington (28-0, 6) stands at 5'7" and although being tall isn't a powerful fighter, who instead relies on speed and a very high work rate
and WBC champion Gary Russell Jr (29-1, 17) is actually smaller than Inoue, listed at 5′ 4½″ with a 64" reach.
If Inoue does indeed take a Super Bantamweight title, to become a 4 weight world champion, and a Featherweight title, to become a 5 weight champion, there will clearly be some thoughts towards another title at Super Featherweight. That's despite the fact that Inoue would be one of only a handful of fighters, including Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar Delay Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, to win titles in 5 weights.
Through history we have only had men winning world titles in 6 divisions, De la Hoya and Pacquiao. If Inoue was to win a world title at Super Featherweight, as well as the other 2 divisions as mentioned, he would put his name in a very select list.
Currently the Super Featherweights are a mixed bag in terms of size. A couple of title holders are similar in size to Inoue.
Champions bigger than Inoue at the weight are
WBC champion Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31) is 5'7" with a 71" reach, both significantly bigger than Inoue, and he too is a huge puncher
WBA champion Alberto Machado (21-0, 17), who stands at 5'10" and has a 72" reach
WBO champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13), 5′ 8½″ and has a 70½″
The outliers here however are Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19), the WBA "super" champion, who is 5′ 5½″ with a 67½″, and Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 6), who is 5'6" with a 67" reach. Both of these are similar in terms of reach and height to Inoue, though Davis is built like a "Tank", excuse the pun, and has the body type to carry more weight with little issue.
So back to the original question. How high can Inoue go?
We don't imagine him having problems at Super Bantamweight, he has the skills, size, speed and power to compete at Super Bantamweight tomorrow. He will be giving away a bit of size, but not too much against many of the champions.
At Featherweight he will certainly come across some problems, but does regularly spar with Featherweights, and more than holds his own. He can certainly make a mark there in the future, and could do so against a recognised champion.
It's at Super Featherweight where we start to think he will totally struggle and would be very lucky to win a world title. He could, potentially, nip up and take a vacant title against a weak opponent, like we saw Arce do, but against an actual top Super Featherweight we think he'd struggle.
It is worth noting that we have only used the current champions for size comparisons, with Inoue now 25 years old it's going to be years before he heads to Featherweight, if he ever does, and by then the title scene will have changed drastically. If he ever ends up at Super Featherweight we wouldn't expect the title scene to be anything like it is today, and would be genuinely surprised if any of the current champions are still title holders at the weight in 3 years time.
(Images courtesy of Ohashi Gym, boxingnews.jp)
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
It was another busy weekend of fight action as 3 of the continents best talents took to the ring and neither of them disappointed.
We begin at the Yokohama Arena where Naoya Inoue squared off against Juan Carlos Payano in the quarter-finals of the bantamweight World Boxing Super Series. Some had the opinion that Payano might go a few rounds but a single left right combination 70 seconds into the contest and the Dominican was laid out on the canvas giving Inoue his second first round win of 2018. It’s hard to know what other superlatives and adjectives that haven’t already been used to describe the 25-year-old, who continues to wreak havoc in the lower weights.
Unfortunately we won’t see Inoue again until 2019 where he will meet the winner of the bout between Emanuel Rodriguez and Jason Moloney in the semi-final but few would bet against the Japanese wrecking machine from picking up the WBSS trophy. The card was shown on Fuji TV in Japan, DAZN in the US and free on the WBSS platforms in other territories including the UK and generated a massive buzz online with Inoue amongst the top trends worldwide on twitter, showing how his stardom continues to increase.
The co-main event on this show saw WBC light flyweight titlist Kenshiro make the 4th defense of his belt against forma world champion Milan Melindo in what looked another stern examination for the home man. The first 2 rounds saw Kenshiro used his jab to great effect whilst Melindo had some success with the looping right hand. The champion began to up the pace in round 3 and his quick feet and darting in and out raids were causing the Filipino issues. Kenshiro poured on the pressure, reigning in right hands and body shots and a cut to the challenger only added to his woes.
Any further success Melindo did have was quickly snuffed out as Kenshiro toyed with his opponent and the contest was stopped in round 7 due to the cut with Melindo looking like an old fighter by the conclusion. Coupled with his wins over Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and going back to his victories over Katsunori Nagamine and Kenichi Horikawa, Kenshiro really has built himself a very strong resume and in most people’s eyes is the number 1 light flyweight in the world which is no mean feat given the insane strength in depth at 108 lb. A December 30th return looks likely and it would be great to see the 26-year-old being given a world title defense in Kyoto and there are numerous fabulous fights for him for the foreseeable future.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made the 3rd defense of his WBC super flyweight crown against Iran Diaz in Thailand. The bout headlined a One Championship card at the Impact Arena giving Srisaket major exposure at home. Not being a fan of MMA or never having viewed a One Championship show before, the whole event feel/crowd reaction was a real eye opener and nothing I’ve ever experienced before whilst watching boxing from Thailand.
With the atmosphere at fever pitch and the crowd almost baying for blood Srisaket flew out of the blocks in the opening stanza, ripping home crunching body shots and it looked like we could have a short fight on our hands. To his immense credit Diaz showed a superb chin and the ability to keep taking the numerous punches to the torso from the champion. The Thai got sloppy and neglected his defense and was lucky not to have 2 knockdowns awarded against him in rounds 8 and 9.
Having repeatedly hammered away at the body Srisaket tried to target the head in the last few rounds but he had to be content with a wide unanimous point’s verdict against the gritty Mexican challenger. It’s unclear what the next move of the hard hitting southpaw is but a rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada should happen sometime next year and there is also talk of a unification with IBF belt holder Jerwin Ancajas. It would also be great to see Srisaket fight in front of a raucous packed crowd at home once again as it could do wonders for future Thai boxers.
Finally we had an unexpected brawl at the hall as Masaru Sueyoshi and Hirinori Mishiro battled to a 12 round split draw with both the Japanese and OPBF super featherweight straps on the line. Given Sueyoshi’s awkward style and Mishiro’s preference to fight at range this had the potential to be a bit of a stinker but after Sueyoshi began brightly Mishiro turned the tables, forcing Sueyoshi into a toe-to-toe scrap leading to a fantastic contest which hopefully will take place again in early 2019. Rising flyweight youngster Junto Nakatani dominated Shun Kosaka over 8 rounds to book himself a shot at the Japanese title next year and he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on going forward.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Boxing might be the sweet science but, if we're all being honest, it's also a fight. Due to it being a fight we of course love the true fighters, the ones who come to the ring with the intention of stopping their opponents and are willing to do all they can to finish a fight early. In this feature we're going to take a look at 10 of the most fun to watch Asian fighters. Some fighters you will be familiar with whilst others you may not be too aware of, one thing is for certain however, these men mean business every time they step in the ring.
-Wanheng Menayothing-Intelligent pressure fighter, even though he lacks lights out power he is great fun to watch
-Akira Yaegashi-A real warrior who is coming to the end of his career though will always go out on his shield and give fans good value.
-Takuya Kogawa-A warrior through and through. Though he lacks power he does enjoy a tear up and is scarcely in a dull fight
-Suguru Muranaka-Another warrior who enjoys a tear up and is more than happy to let his hands go despite not being a note puncher.
-Knockout CP Freshmart-With a name like “Knockout” you already know he's looking for the stoppage every time.
-Rex Tso-Like many featured above this man from Hong Kong is flawed but that's what makes him so much fun with every fight being a war
-Kyoo Hwan Hwang-Korean teenage has got ability though often lets his "Korean instinct" kick in and turns every fight so far into a slugfest
Over the last few years we've seen the emergence of the "Super Prospect" from Japan. Unlike most prospect's the hope with these guys isn't to work their way to a world title in a few years whilst running up a double figure record. Instead the hope is to do things quickly with the emphasis on fighting the fewest fights to become a world champion.
Japanese fighters winning titles early isn't a new thing. In fact in 1976 Yoko Gushiken began his sensation reign as the WBA Light Flyweight champion, dethroning Juan Antonio Guzman in just his 9th fight. Some 11 years later we saw Hiroki Ioka claim the WBC Minimumweight title with a decision win over Mai Thomburifarm to equal Gushiken's achievement.
Between the rise of Gushiken and Ioka we saw Satoshi Shingaki claim a world title in just his 8th bout when he stopped Elmer Magallano for the IBF Bantamweight title to set a Japanese record*. It was an impressive achievement for the Southpaw who at the time was just 2 fights removed from a world itle loss to Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr, all the way down at Light Flyweight!
In 1991 we saw Shingaki's record equalled by the charismatic Joichiro Tatsuyoshi who claimed the WBC Bantamweight title in his 8th bout, when he stopped Greg Richardson. The always exciting "Joe" lost the title in his very next fight but went on to reclaim the belt and become a 3-time WBC champion, albeit with one reign as the "interim" champion.
Another fast riser emerged in 2006 when the insanely tough Nobuo Nashiro claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title in his 8th bout, out lasting Martin Castillo. Like Tatsuyoshi the reign was a short one though it seemed to set the stage for the rise of the super fast. The question however was "how fast is super fast?"
It wasn't until 2011 that a Japanese fighter managed to cut another fight off the record as the talented Kazuto Ioka, the nephew of Hiroki Ioka, managed to break the record and claim a world title in his 7th bout. Ioka, a former amateur stand out, claimed the WBC Minimumweight title, just like his uncle, when he stopped the previously unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai for the title. At the time it seemed likely that Ioka's record would stand for at least decade, especially considering how long it had taken for a Japanese fighter to break the 8 fight barrier.
Sadly for Ioka his record was broken just over 3 years after he set it as Naoya Inoue did it in 6, stopping Adrian Hernandez in the 6th round of their clash to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title. Amazingly Inoue then went on to become the quickest 2-weight world champion, worldwide, whenhe blew away Omar Andres Narvaez to claim the WBO Super Flyweight title. Inoue had essentially taken Ioka's record, smashed it and then put the cherry on top all in the space of 9 destructive months.
Inoue's records, both of them, are amazing achievements. It seems however that one, if not both, may be under threat from a 19 year old wonder kid who may well be every bit as good as Inoue. That is Kosei Tanaka who attempts to claim his first world title at the end of May when he takes on Julian Yedras for the WBO Minimumweight title in what will be Tanaka's 5th professional bout. A sensational achievement if he manages to do it, and it seems his team really believes he will manage it and in some style. It's worth noting that in Tanaka's 4th bout he set a Japanese record for the fewest fights to become an OPBF champion, defeating the then unbeaten Ryuji Hara in 10 rounds.
For sake of comparison we've compared the first few bouts of Ioka, Inoue and Tanaka in the table below. For Ioka and Inoue we've included their first 7 bouts, taking us up to Inoue's first world title defense and Ioka's first world title win. Due to Tanaka having only fought 4 bouts we've only included 4 bouts for him.
*Indicates Japanese Title win
**Indicates OPBF Title win
***Indicates World Title win
^Indicates world title defence
*In 1984 Satoshi Shingaki won the IBF Bantamweight title in his 8th bout but at the time the IBF wasn't recognised by the JBC and his reign is a bit of a grey area. He was technically the first Japanese world champion to have had just 8 fights when he won the title though his reign seems to come with an asterisk and isn't fully accepted by some in Japan.
(Image of Gushiken courtesy of Boxrec.com)
Over the past week or so the Super Flyweight division has come to the attention of fans world wide. In the UK fans saw a much touted and previously unbeaten fighter come up short against a world class but unheralded African world champion whilst fans watching a stream from Macau got the chance to see an all-action war courtesy of TopRankTV. Despite these two memorable event over this past weekend many still suggest the division is a weak one. The reality however, is that the division is one of the toughest and most packed out there.
The Japanese Renegade-
Koki Kameda (33-1, 18) The oldest of the Kameda brothers is the current #2 WBA ranked fighter in the division and is the mandatory challenger to Kohei Kono with the WBA demanding the two men negotiate or face purse bids in a few weeks time. Kameda's resume is highly impressive with title reigns at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight though he wants a Super Flyweight title to become Japan's first ever 4 weight world champion. Sadly he is a divisive figure, similar to Adrien Broner, with many in Japan turning on him. Among those who have gotten sick of him and his brothers are the JBC who have banned him from fighting in Japan, though he has since made a very powerful ally in the form of Al Haymon who is likely to help make Kameda a big name in the US.
The tricky African champion-
Zolani Tete (20-3, 17) The first of two non-Asian that we're going to mention here is IBF champion Tete who impressed last week when he derailed the hopes of the previously unbeaten Paul Butler in the UK. Tete won the title last year, when he out pointed Teiru Kinoshita, and his fight with Butler was his first defence. Tall, rangy and with an educated southpaw jab Tete is a nightmare to fight and made both Butler and Kinoshita look clueless in their bouts with him. His biggest worry as a Super Flyweight will be out growing the division, a possibility given his frame, but for as long as he can made 115lbs he's going to be an avoided opponent. Most worryingly for his future opponents, he seems happier fighting on the road than he does at home.
The Mexican champion-
Carlos Cuadras (31-0-1, 25) The remaining champion in the division is WBC champion Teiken managed Mexican boxer-puncher Cuadras who won his title last year when he over-came Srisaket Sor Rungvisai via a technical decision. The talented Cuadras is a fighter who can box or brawl, electing to do what suits him best for each fight. Unfortunately for Cuadras recent bouts have been marred with headclashes though it's hard not to be excited when we see Cuadras in the ring. Thankfully we won't need to wait long to see him back in the ring with Cuadras set to fight Luis Concepcion on April 4th in what looks likely to be an absolutely enthralling contest.
Images courtesy of:
Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi's facebook
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 the recent news that Kosei Tanaka (3-0, 1) would be fighting Ryuji Hara (18-0, 10) for the OPBF Minimumweight title we got a little bit excited by the idea that Tanaka is likely to challenge for a world title in just his 5th bout, if he gets past Hara. If Tanaka managed to get past Hara and then win a world title in his very next fight he would set a Japanese record for the fewest fights to a world title. The question however is how would he compare to other Asian fighters?
Saensak Muangsurin (3rd fight & 7th fight)
The tied world record for fewest fights to a world title is Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin who claimed the WBC Light Welterweight title in just his 3rd bout when he stopped Perico Fernandez in 8 rounds. This bout, way back in 1975, set an almost unmatchable standard for becoming a world champion and it was more than 30 years later until Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko finally managed to tie this record.
Muangsurin was 24 at the time and had had a long and successful career in Muay Thai, in fact he was one of the the top Muay Thai fighters of his era and used that experience to help him on his fast track to the top. Unfortunately Muangsurin's reign was short lived and he lost the title in just his 6th professional bout after making just a single defence of the belt.
Although Muangsurin lost his title in his 6th bout he did regain it a fight later meaning he was a 2-time champion after just 7 fights an amazing achievement that is unlikely to be matched by any other fghter.
Veeraphol Sahaprom (4th fight)
Another of the quickest men to a world title was another Thai Veeraphol Sahaprom who won the WBA Bantamweight title in just his 4th professional contest. Veeraphol, like Muangsurin, was a former Muay Thai fighter who transitioned to boxing with immediate success and won an international title on debut and a world title just 9 months later making him one of the quickest fighters to a world title in both time and fights.
Sahaprom over-came domestic foe Daorung Chuwatana via a narrow split decision to win his first world title and although he lost the belt in his first defence, being stopped in 2 rounds by Nana Yaw Konadu, he would later become the WBC Bantamweight champion and score notable wins over Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Toshiaki Nishioka.
At the time of his win over in Chuwatana in 1995 for his first world title Sahaprom was just 26 years old, he would continue fighting until 2010 retiring for good at the the age of 41 and establishing himself as one of the great modern day Thai's.
Naoya Inoue (6th fight)
The Japanese record for fewest fights to a world title is held by current WBC Light Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue who won a world title earlier this year with a stoppage victory over the much more experienced Adrian Hernandez. Going in to this bout Inoue was the favourite and was highly regarded as a once in a generation fighter with skills so advanced that many had tipped him as a future world champion from his debut. The rise of Inoue's saw him winning a Japanese title in his 4th bout and an OPBF title in his 5th bout.
Dubbed "Monster" Inoue will be making his first defence this coming Friday when he takes on Samartlek Kokietgym. If Inoue is successful against Samartlek the odds are he will be moving up a weight in an attempt to become a 2-weight world champion within 10 fights, that would be another record we can't imagine many fighters ever beating.
Having only turned professional in 2012 it took Inoue just 18 months to become a world champion, another Japanese record that Tanaka will be chasing.
Kazuto Ioka (7th fight)
Inoue, see above, broke a previous Japanese record when he beat Kazuto Ioka's record of 7 fights. Ioka, who won the WBC Minimumweight title back in 2011 with a 5th round TKO victory over Thailand's Oleydong Sithsamerchai. Ioka had claimed the Japanese title a fight earlier and stepped up big time to beat Oleydong though some did question whether or not the Thai was struggling at the weight. Whether Oleydong was killing himself to make 105lbs or not is immaterial to the fact Ioka was still a complete professional novice.
Following his quick rise to his first world title Ioka has managed to unify belts, in just his 10th bout, and then became a 2-weight world champion in just his 11th professional bout. Ioka did however fail in an attempt to become a 3-weight world champion in his 15th fight, losing to Amnat Ruenroeng.
Ioka begins his climb back following his first loss on September 16th when he fights Pablo Carillo.
Muangchai Kittikasem (7th fight)
Prior to Ioka's there was several other men who world titles in their 7th professional bouts. One of them was Thailand's Muangchai Kittikasem who claimed the IBF Flyweight title with a split decision win over Filipino fighter Tacy Macalos, who was making the first defence of his title.
Like the other Thai's listed here Kittikasem was a former Muay Thai star who turned to boxing, and like the others he had a very successful career. Not only did he win a world title in just his 7th professional bout but he later went on to become a 2-weight world champion when he won the WBC Flyweight title in just his 15th professional fight. In just 29 fights Kittikasem fought 11 world title bouts in a career that lasted less than 11 years in total.
Sung-Kil Moon (7th fight)
A third fighter who won his first world title in his 7th fight was South Korean Sung-Kil Moon who claimed the WBA Bantamweight title with a technical decision win over Khaokor Galaxy after just 17 months as a professional. Moon would twice defend the belt before losing it back to Galaxy 11 months later.
Just 6 months after losing his first title Moon became a 2-weight world champion by defeating Nana Yaw Konadu for the WBC Super Flyweight title making him one of the few fighters to drop down in weight to become a multi-weight world champion.
Moon's 22 fight career lasted little more than 6 years though he was a 2-weight world champion with a stunning 15 world title fights. A genuinely amazing career that may not have lasted long though was incredible all the same.
Images courtesy of:
This past week saw Boxnation publish an article on the biggest punchers in the sport. The article whilst having solid selections overall did seem to have a general "main stream" bias with only several of the fighters being somewhat unproven American or fighters that are certainly not what they once were.
On the whole the selections they had were solid and credible though we tend to feel that the article failed to really give a fair representation of the fighters from outside of their own broadcasts and when you consider many of their shows are from Europe or North America it explains their bias. Like wise it tended to feel like the article was done by someone who had watched the channel rather than someone who actually watched world wide boxing.
With the issues in the Boxnation article I've decided to do my own "Biggest Punchers" article with 11 fighters.
Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26) [89.66%]
The one Asian who was represented on the Boxnation article was Kazakhstani Middleweight Gennady Golovkin who has the highest KO % of any active world champion.
Golovkin is really a man who can do anything in the ring though is at his destructive best when he cuts down the ring, forces an opponent to throw then counters with precision and power. It's this power that has made him a star in the US and has helped him become one of the true "must watch" fighters.
Although a highly accomplished amateur Golovkin has become less about "point scoring" in the professional ranks and more about destruction which he has shown in both vicious beat downs and 1-punch KO's. The beat downs, given out to the likes of Gregorz Proksa and Gabriel Rosado, were bludgeoning affairs where every punch took a toll whilst his 1-punch KO's over Lajuan Simon, Nobuhiro Ishida and Matthew Macklin were highlight reel KO's that showed off the explosiveness of the Kazakh.
With 16 straight stoppages, including a number against decent world level opponents, there is little doubting the power of "GGG".
Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) [77.27%]
Arguably the hardest punching fighter, pound-for-pound, currently based in the Orient is WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama who's power has lead to his brilliant nickname of "KO Dynamite".
Uchiyama, at 34 years old, does look to be a man on the slide slightly but with his power no one will be in a rush to mix it up with him and one clean shot to either head or body from the huge punching Watanabe Gym fighter can end a fight at any moment.
Uchiyama burst on to the world scene in 2009 when he stopped Juan Carlos Salgado in 12 rounds and has since shown his power by stopping 6 of his subsequent 8 opponents inside the distance including scoring a highlight real KO over the very capable Jorge Solis and a sickening body shot KO over Jaider Parra.
Of the two recent fights that Uchiyama hasn't scored a stoppage in one was a technical draw with rough Filipino Michael Farenas whilst the other was a decision against Daiki Kaneko, a man we feel is a future world champion. Sadly however there is some questioning of just how long Uchiyama has left at the top though for now it's hard to argue with the power of "KO Dynamite"
Shinsuke Yamanaka (21-0-2, 16) [69.57%]
If Uchiyama is Japan's biggest puncher then it's fair to say that Shinsuke Yamanaka is the second biggest despite his record not actually showing it, in fact Yamanaka's record is one of the most misleading in the sport.
The WBC Bantamweight champion stopped just 2 of his first 8 opponents as he began 6-0-2 (2) though from then on he has stopped 14 of 15 opponents with several stoppages over very tough fighters like Ryosuke Iwasa, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Alberto Guevara and Stephane Jamoye. Impressively Yamanaka hasn't just been stopping foes fighter after fight but they have pretty much all been dropped at least once.
Known as the "God of Left" Yamanaka really does have thunder bottled in his left hand and he has developed how he uses it excellently to score real beat downs as well as eye catching KO's. There is little doubt that his level of competition is higher than most fighters, worldwide, and the fact he is stopping world class opponents on a regular basis really does show up just how confusing his KO% actually is.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (27-3-1, 25) [80.65%]
The only Thai on this list is WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who is a true whirling dervish in the ring. Srisaket's KO rate may be just shy of 81% but, as with Yamanaka, it's a misleading figure with the Thai having stopped 24 of his last 26 foes.
Srisaket of course started his career with an unspectacular 1-3-1 beginning though has risen through the Super Flyweight division by simply destroying opponents with a vicious and never ending assault. It's the not actually raw power which has really helped Srisaket though every punch he lands is hurtful and the cumulative effect of those shots is simply too much for many fighters to take.
In terms of 1-punch power Srisaket is probably lacking though every single shot is nasty, spiteful and hurtful. He's the sort of fighter who my not take your head off with a single shot but will break over the course of a fighter.
Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38) [60.32%]
Filipino puncher Manny Pacquiao was once seen as a phenom in the ring stopping a who's who of top tier fighters from Chatchai Sasakul to Marco Antonio Barrera, from Erik Morales to Ricky Hatton from Oscar De La Hoya to Miguel Cotto. A few short years ago he'd have topped this list based on his scalps alone. Unfortunately however the "Pacman", whilst still hurtful, is no longer the wrecking machine he once was and he hasn't scored a stoppage in his last 8 fights. That has dropped him from 69.09% all the way down to 60.32% despite the drop off in KO's few would argue that Pacquiao is solid puncher.
Part of the drop off in Pacquiao's knockouts has come due to the fact he is facing naturally bigger men, such as Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey whilst also facing incredibly tough men such as Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios. He still hits hard but those men are big and tough guys themselves.
Aged 35 the Filipino star is surely on the back end of his illustrious hall of fame career though it's fair to say the KO's he scored through out his career will serve him well with highlight videos being published across the net.
Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5) [83.33%]
When we talk about super stars the new star in world boxing in Naoya Inoue who, after just 6 fights, is already a world champion and already looks like a scary fighter. The 21 year old has managed to claim Japanese, OPBF and world titles in just 6 fights and a combined 36 rounds.
With an 83.33% KO rate Inoue has one of the highest stoppage rates of any active champion and is showed that power to great effect in his title winning effort which saw him stopping Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
It may be a little early to declare Inoue as one of the hardest punchers in the world but his record speaks for it's self and his nickname of "Monster" really does seem accurate with his physical strength as well as his power. Even the jab of the 21 year old seems spiteful never mind his true power shots, such as the beauty he landed against Ngaoprajan Chuwatana in just his second professional contest.
Ryota Murata (4-0, 4)
Arguably the hardest pure puncher currently plying their trade in the Orient is Ryota Murata. The Middleweight sensation may not yet be fighting at the world level though has been cruising through opponents and improving fight after fight.
On debut he of course stopped the OPBF champion Akio Shibata, a man who is stoppable but is in no means soft. He then followed that up with a very good win over the surprisingly tough Dave Peterson before scoring stoppages over former world title challenger Carlos Nascimento and tough Mexican Jesus Angel Nerio.
Whilst no one would suggest Murata is ready for a world title fight he is beating tough guys by breaking them down with his heavy handed assault to head and body and the way he is racing up towards the world rankings is impressive. He is still a work in progress but his power is certainly there, just as it was in the amateurs where he was sensational.
Kanat Islam (16-0, 13) [81.25%]
Gennady Golovkin, our #1 power puncher, isn't the only Kazakh impressing with his power, another is the US based Kanat Islam.
Although Islam is based in Florida he has been making his name in Latin America with fights in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and has not only been scoring stoppages but has been rising in to the rankings whilst picking up WBA regional titles.
Of course the biggest issue with Islam is that he's not been stopping well known fighters or quality fighters. In fact his best win to date has come over Humberto Toledo, who lasted less than a minute with the big punching Islam. Incidentally Boxnation's list included Randall Bailey who took 8 rounds to take a DQ win over Toledo which would suggest that Islam does hit incredibly hard.
Ranked #11 by the WBA at Light Middleweight Islam is a man who looks likely to make a mark on the wider boxing world in the next year or so. He will need to continue his winning streak though it's hard not to be impressed by a man who is averaging just 2.75 rounds per fight!
Keita Obara (11-1, 10) [83.33%]
One more Japanese fighter who has serious power is OPBF Light Welterweight champion Keita Obara who has thunderous power which has helped him string together 11 straight wins with 10KO's. Those wins have seen him claiming the Japanese and OPBF titles whilst walking through the likes of Jay Solmiano and So Takenaka.
Obara isn't the most skilled or the hardest working but when he tags someone he does serious harm often rendering a fighter void of their senses with just 1 clean shot. This guy has the sort of power that generates excitement, at least domestically.
The problem with Obara is that we're not certain of how well his power will carry up as he moves through the levels to fringe world class. We're hoping it carries up and that he could become a star on the international scene though we will have to wait in the hope that he fights a world ranked fighter like Czar Amonsot, Patomsuk Pathompothong or Min Wook Kim, all of whom would make for fun to watch bouts and a real test for Obara.
Jonathan Taconing (18-2-1, 15) [71.43%]
Another OPBF champion included in this list is Light Flyweight champion Jonathan Taconing who really has spite in his punches despite fighting in the 108lb division.
Taconing first came to the attention of hardcore fans when he went toe-to-toe with Thailand's tough Kompayak Porpramook and appeared to be getting the better of the bout before a controversial technical decision cost Taconing what should have been the WBC Light Flyweight world title, the title that is now around the waist of Naoya Inoue.
Since the loss to Porpramook fans have been able to see Taconing score 5 wins in a combined 23 rounds, including a very impressive stoppage over Vergilio Silvano to claim the OPBF title.
Taconing isn't a big name but he's a fighter with a genuinely exciting style, an aggressive mentality and the ability to give anyone at 108lbs real trouble. We'd love to see him given a second world title fight and with his style he could well
Rey Megrino (21-20-3, 18) [40.91%]
The true "joker" amongst the hardest Asian punchers is the under-rated Filipino Rey Megrino. Although Megrino boasts a KO rate of less than 41% he is a true banger and what he connects with he hurts. Unfortunately he does have one of the most odd and misleading records due to the start of his career which was certainly less than stellar.
Although Megrino has won less than half of his fights he has shown distinct improvements in recent years and those improvements have seen him learning how to use his natural god given power to it's full effect. Those improvements have seen him stopping 5 of his last 6 opponents including the legendary Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, the once touted Kenji Kubo and the unbeaten Ernesto Saulong. In fact the only fighter to survive the distance with Megrino in the last year was Myung Ho Lee who was dropped even though he saw out the distance.
Megrino's current run has seen him climb into the WBC world rankings with a #9 Flyweight ranking and although the ranking, in theory, makes him an attractive target his power has put opponents off and it's completely understandable as to why.
Boxnation logo courtesy of boxnation.com
Images of Golovkin, Srisaket, Pacquiao, Islam, Taconing and Megrino Boxrec.com
Image of Uchiyama courtesy of watanabegym
Image of Yamanaka courtesy of Teiken
Image of Inoue courtesy of Ohashi Gym
Image of Murata courtesy of boxingnews.jp
Image of Keita Obara courtesy of Keita Obara's facebook
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