By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (20-1): WBO #6 / WBC #20
The former K-1 champion and the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific title holder recently defended his belts against Suthat Kalalek (12-10).
-Ryota Murata (14-2): WBA #7 / IBF #7
The 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist lost his WBA world title to Rob Brant, on October 20, and once again finds himself in the position of the title chaser. No word yet as to what’s next for the Japanese superstar.
Super Welterweight / Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): IBF #2 / WBO #3 / WBC #19
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 (10-3) and regained the WBO Asia Pacific championship, Obara will take on the undefeated former WBC Silver champion Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0), on January 4th, in an IBF world title eliminator.
Super Lightweight / Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (19-0): WBO #3 / WBA #3 / IBF #5 / WBC #12
The former Japanese & WBO Asia Pacific champion made his US debut this past September, against Cristian Rafael Coria (27-7), winning via unanimous decision.
-Akihiro Kondo (31-7): IBF #4
Since losing to Sergey Lipinets (14-1) last year, Kondo has won his last 2 fights against the debuting Rikhit Thunritsa and Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-12).
-Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0): IBF #5 / WBC #8 / WBO #12
Nakatani marked his 11th successful OPBF title defense, on December 9, when he stopped the WBC International champion Hurricane Futa (25-8) in round 6.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #4
The former Japanese, OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion is still looking for his second world title opportunity as 2019 approaches.
Super Featherweight/ Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #6 / WBC #22
Sueyoshi has been victorious in his last 15 outings and even won the Japanese title on October of 2017. A few more wins and we may see him challenging Masayuki Ito (24-1) for the WBO World championship by the end of next year. He recently fought the OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0), for the Japanese & OPBF titles, to a draw.
-Satoshi Shimizu (8-0): IBF #3 / WBC #5
The 2012 Olympics Bronze Medalist has already defended his OPBF crown thrice this year. It’s only a matter of time before he challenges for a World championship.
-Shun Kubo (13-1): WBA #7 / WBC #23
The former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion returned this April, after his TKO loss to Daniel Roman (26-2) in 2017, and won his comeback fight against former OPBF Featherweight champion & world title contender Hiroshige Osawa (33-5) making a huge impact on his Featherweight debut.
-Reiya Abe (18-2): IBF #4 / WBC #20
The young Japanese lion, undefeated in his last 10 bouts, is steadily making his mark in the Featherweight division. Abe will take on Daisuke Sugita (4-0) on January 12. Winning or losing, he will still challenge Taiki Minamoto (16-5) for the Japanese title at the 2019 Champion Carnival.
Super Bantamweight / Jr Featherweight:
-Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3): IBF #3 / WBC #12
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.
- Shingo Wake (25-5): IBF #4 / WBC #7
The 12 year veteran has re-established himself at the top of the division after stopping Yusaku Kuga (16-3) in July to win the Japanese title. However, Wake recently vacated his belt and he is rumored to face a world champion in 2019, possibly either Rey Vargas (32-0) or TJ Doheny (20-0). Until then, he will square off against Takafumi Nakajima (29-11) on January 19.
- 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.
-Takuma Inoue (12-0): WBC #4
Takuma will go up against undefeated Thai boxer Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0) for the interim WBC World championship, on December 30, in Japan.
Super Flyweight / Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (23-1): WBO #3 / WBC #3
Ioka is on a journey to conquer yet again another division, as a match with fellow 3 division World champion Donnie Nietes (41-1), for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World title, is scheduled to take place on December 31st, in Macau.
-Koki Eto (23-4): WBC #7 / WBO #8 / WBA #8 / IBF #14
The former interim WBA Flyweight World champion has fought twice this year against lesser opponents. Nothing new on the horizon for him at this moment.
-Ryuichi Funai (31-7): IBF #3 / WBO #6 / WBC #14
Funai stopped Victor Olivo (15-3) in an IBF world title eliminator, on November 10, and he will now be facing Jerwin Ancajas (30-1) for the gold next year.
-Sho Ishida (27-1): IBF #5 / WBO #7 / WBA #7 / WBC #17
Since losing to the WBA world champion Khalid Yafai (25-0) last year, 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 the year, 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 ring in 2019.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBC #3 / WBO #2 / IBF #4
Kuroda was scheduled to fight Komgrich Nantapech (24-5) in an IBF world title eliminator this November. However, Nantapech was injured and the match got cancelled.
-Junto Nakatani (17-0): WBC #4 / WBO #11
The unstoppable Japanese prospect has fought 4 times in 2018 and has won all of his bouts, 2 of them via KO. At this pace, he will be competing for a world title in no time.
-Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1): WBO #4 / IBF #15
Sakamoto has been on a 5 fight winning streak, all stoppages, including victories over Ekkawit Songnui (48-6) and Wicha Phulaikhao (60-10). The former WBO Asia Pacific champion will be challenging Moruti Mthalane (36-2) for the IBF World championship, on December 31st, in Macau.
-Sho Kimura (17-2): WBO #6 / WBC #7
The former WBO World champion lost this title recently to Kosei Tanaka, in a back and forth affair. Already ranked at the top 10 of the WBO & WBC, he will probably find himself in a championship match again very soon.
-Tetsuya Hisada (33-9): WBA #2 / WBO #3 / WBC #3 / IBF #3
The reigning Japanese champion recorded a 5th successful title defense against Akihiro Toya (8-5) in November. Hisada is 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.
Note: Hisada vacated the Japanese title in December.
-Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0): WBA #1 / WBC #2 / IBF #4
The former undefeated IBF Minimumweight World champion stopped Tibo Monabesa (18-1) this past September in his Light Flyweight debut. He is now set to fight Hekkie Budler (32-3) for the WBA World title, on December 31st, in Macau.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #4 / WBA #4 / IBF #8
Taguchi is said to be challenging Kosei Tanaka for the WBO World title, in Spring of 2019.
-Reiya Konishi (17-1): WBA #5 / WBO #5 / IBF #9 / WBC #13
After losing a decision to Carlos Canizales (21-0), for the WBA world title, earlier this year, Konishi came back in July and knocked out Orlie Silvestre (12-4) to become the new WBO Asia Pacific champion. His first title defense took place on December 1st, against Richard Rosales (13-8).
-Ryuji Hara (23-2): WBO #1
Hara has been the #1 ranked Light Flyweight by the WBO since January, despite having only competed once in this division against the debuting Seneey Worachina. Hara was set to face Angel Acosta for the World title on April 7 but an injury prevented him from stepping into the ring. Now there are talks again of making that fight happen in February of next year.
-Tsubasa Koura (14-0): WBC #2 / IBF #4 / WBA #9 / WBO #10
Koura successfully defended his OPBF title, for the 3rd time, against Daiki Tomita (12-1) on September 29. 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 #5 / IBF #13
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 bouts. An interesting development is his inclusion to the WBO rankings again and in the third place nonetheless.
-Shin Ono (23-9): WBO #5 / IBF #11 / WBA #12 / WBC #13
Ono made his first successful Japanese title defense against former World title contender Riku Kano (13-4) on August 24. He will mark his second one against Norihito Tanaka (17-7), on January 12.
-Masataka Taniguchi (11-2): WBO #2
Taniguchi recently defeated Joel Lino (10-1) for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title.
*Interim World Champions NOT included.
**The WBC/IBF rankings are from October
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