By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (20-1): WBO #6 / WBA #11
The former K-1 champion and the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific title holder recently defended his belts twice in 2018.
-Ryota Murata (14-2): IBF #6 / WBC #6 / WBA #7
The 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist lost his WBA world title to Rob Brant in October, and once again finds himself in the position of the title chaser.
Super Welterweight / Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): WBO #3
The undefeated 4-year veteran and the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion will challenge Jaime Munguia (31-0) for the WBO World title, on January 26, in Texas.
-Keita Obara (20-3): IBF #6 / WBO #15
After avenging his shocking loss to Alvin Lagumbay (10-4) and regained the WBO Asia Pacific championship, Obara was set to takes on the undefeated former WBC Silver champion Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0), on January 4th, in an IBF world title eliminator, but the match never happened. No updates yet if it will be rescheduled or not.
Super Lightweight / Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (19-0): WBO #2 / WBA #3 / IBF #5 / WBC #9
The former Japanese & WBO Asia Pacific champion made his US debut this past September, against Cristian Rafael Coria (28-7), winning via unanimous decision. Okada is rumored to face the former WBO Lightweight World champion Raymundo Beltran (35-8) on February 10.
-Akihiro Kondo (31-7): IBF #4
Since losing to Sergey Lipinets (14-1) in 2017, Kondo has won his last 2 fights against the debuting Rikhit Thunritsa and Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-12). He will meet the undefeated IBF Pan Pacific champion Apinun Khongsong (14-0), on February 18, in an IBF world title eliminator.
-Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0): IBF #5 / WBC #7 / WBO #10
Nakatani marked his 11th successful OPBF title defense recently, when he stopped the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa (25-8) in round 6. He is rumored to face former EBU European & WBA Intercontinental champion Edis Tatli (31-2) in an IBF world title eliminator.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #4
The former Japanese, OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion is looking for his second world title opportunity in 2019.
Super Featherweight/ Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #6
Sueyoshi has defended his Japanese title thrice this year. His next one will probably be a rematch with Ken Osato (15-2) in early 2019.
-Satoshi Shimizu (8-0): IBF #3
The 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist has marked 3 successful title defenses of the OPBF crown in 2018, against Kyung Min Kwon (6-5), Shingo Kawamura (16-5) and Takuya Uehara (16-1).
-Reiya Abe (18-2): IBF #4 / WBC #12
Abe is the number 1 contender for Taiki Minamoto’s (16-5) Japanese title. These 2 will collide at the 2019 Champion Carnival, on May 1st, but before that the young lion has another match set first against Daisuke Sugita (4-0) on January 12.
Super Bantamweight / Jr Featherweight:
-Shingo Wake (25-5): IBF #4 / WBC #4
The 12 year veteran has re-established himself at the top of the division after stopping Yusaku Kuga (17-3) in July to win the Japanese title. However, Wake recently vacated his belt and he is rumored to face a world champion in 2019. Until then, he will square off against Takafumi Nakajima (29-11) on January 19.
-Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3): IBF #3 / WBC #14
Iwasa lost his IBF world title to DJ Doheny (20-0) this past August. Rumor has it that he maybe fighting Cesar Juarez (23-6) in an IBF world title eliminator in the near future.
-Ryohei Takahashi (16-3): IBF #10
Takahashi won the IBF Pan Pacific championship from Pipat Chaiporn (45-12) back in June and defended it against Shingo Kusano (11-7) in September.
-Yukinori Oguni (20-2): WBA #6
After losing his World title in 2017, Oguni has picked only one victory in 2018.
Super Flyweight / Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (23-2): WBO #3
Ioka debuted at the Super Flyweight division this past September, defeating McWilliams Arroyo (17-4) to become the WBC Silver champion. In December, he fought Donnie Nietes (42-1), for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World title, losing a very close decision.
-Koki Eto (23-4): WBC #5 / WBO #8 / WBA #8 / IBF #12
The former interim WBA Flyweight World champion has fought and won twice in 2018 against lesser opponents.
-Ryuichi Funai (31-7): IBF #1 / WBO #6 / WBC #10
Funai stopped Victor Olivo (15-3) in an IBF world title eliminator, this past November, to become the number 1 contender. However, if the rumored Jerwin Ancajas (30-1) vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4) fight takes place, Funai might have to wait for a few months more before he receives his opportunity.
-Sho Ishida (27-1): IBF #4 / WBO #7 / WBA #7 / WBC #13
Since losing to the WBA world champion Khalid Yafai (25-0) in 2017, Ishida has won all of his 2018 bouts, against Ratchanon Sawangsoda (12-3), Richard Claveras (18-6), as well as former world title contender Warlito Parrenas (26-9).
-Daigo Higa (15-1): WBA #6
The former WBC Flyweight World Champion has been suspended for the majority of 2018, since failing to make weight in his last title fight. Recently though, there have been rumors of his upcoming return, including training videos of him, and with his inclusion to the WBA rankings, it’s almost a certainty that we will see Okinawa’s favorite son back to the rings this year.
-Junto Nakatani (17-0): WBC #4 / WBO #10
The unstoppable Japanese prospect has fought 4 times in 2018 and has won all of his bouts, 2 of them via KO. He will finally compete for a championship belt when he faces Naoki Mochizuki (15-3), on February 2nd, for the vacant Japanese crown.
-Sho Kimura (17-2): WBO #5
The former WBO World champion lost his title to Kosei Tanaka (12-0) this past September, in a FOTY candidate. Already ranked at the top 10 of the WBO, he will probably find himself in a championship match again very soon.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBC #3 / WBO #3 / IBF #4
Kuroda has recently vacated his Japanese title as his has set his sights on the World championship. He is rumored to meet Moruti Mthalane (37-2) for the IBF title in 2019.
-Tetsuya Hisada (33-9): WBA #1 / WBO #2 / WBC #2 / IBF #11
Hisada recorded a 5th successful Japanese title defense in November, before vacating the belt. Ranked at the top of the division all year long, it will be a surprise if he doesn’t fight for a World championship in 2019.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #3 / WBA #3 / IBF #7
Taguchi could be challenging Kosei Tanaka (12-0) for the WBO World title this Spring.
-Reiya Konishi (17-1): IBF #3 / WBA #4 / WBO #4 / WBC #14
After losing a decision to Carlos Canizales (21-0), for the WBA world title, Konishi came back in July and knocked out Orlie Silvestre (12-5) to become the new WBO Asia Pacific champion. His first successful title defense took place on December 1st, against Richard Rosales (13-8).
Kenichi Horikawa (35-18): WBC #6
Horikawa ends 2018 with a 4-0 record.
-Tsubasa Koura (14-0): WBC #3 / IBF #4 / WBA #10 / WBO #9
Koura defended his OPBF title, for the 3rd time, against Daiki Tomita (12-1) in September. He is now set to face Simphiwe Khonco (19-5) in a WBC World title eliminator (date TBA).
-Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6): WBO #3 / WBC #6 / IBF #14
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 bouts.
-Shin Ono (23-9): WBO #5 / IBF #12 / WBA #13 / WBC #13
Ono marked his first successful Japanese title defense against former world title contender Riku Kano (14-4) in August. He will make his second one against Norihito Tanaka (17-7), on January 12.
-Masataka Taniguchi (11-2): WBO #2 / IBF #6
Taniguchi recently defeated Joel Lino (10-1) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. It’s almost certain that he will take on Vic Saludar (18-3) on February 25th for the WBO title.
(Image courtesy of World Sport Boxing)
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