Snips and Snipes 19 January 2017
I am not one for looking back so what’s ahead for us in 2017. We have already had one unification fight, The James DeGale vs. Badou Jack fight was an interesting mix of styles, a close one with both having a claim to victory. Unfortunately the draw just muddied the waters with Jack immediately relinquishing his WBC title and moving up to light heavy. The WBC have already given the nod for Jack to challenge Adonis Stevenson meaning the super middle division will continue to have the title split four ways. Even though he failed to unify the titles a James DeGale vs. Callum Smith fight with DeGale’s IBF title on the line along with the vacant WBC crown (where Smith is the No 1 challenger) would be huge draw in Britain. However that will need the WBC’s No 2 Anthony Dirrell agreeing to wait for a fight with the winner and the Venezuelan IBF No 1 Jose Uzcategui doing the same, and that won’t happen.
It also rules out for some time the possibility of a totally unified title at light heavy between three title champion Andre Ward and Stevenson.
One huge fight already signed and sealed and to be delivered on April 29 in London is the Anthony Joshua and Wlad Klitschko clash. They have already sold 80,000 tickets for the fight at Wembley Stadium. I remember going there to watch the first Muhammad Ali vs. Henry Cooper fight and I would be surprised if there were more than 10,000 in attendance but as the Carl Froch vs. George Groves fight showed for the right fight there is a huge audience both for TV and live boxing in Britain right now. It will be only the third time that two winners of the Olympic heavyweight title (which became the super heavyweight title) have gone on to fight each other for a version of the heavyweight title as professionals. The first was George Foreman (Olympic Champion in 1968) vs. Joe Frazier (1964) and the other Wlad Klitschko (1996) vs. Alex Povetkin (2004). Both Lennox Lewis 1988) and Tyrell Biggs (1984) were Olympic Champions but when they fought each other as pros there was no title at stake.
The Joshua vs. Klitschko fight hopefully will be a unifier with the vacant WBA title on the line. They have Klitschko at No 2. He has not fought since November 2015 but that is not his fault with delays and then the cancellation of the Tyson Fury fight but at 41 and by fight time 17 months out of the ring, he has not had the best preparation.
Can’t get too excited over Deontay Wilder and Andre Wawrzyk for the WBC title on 25 February. Wawrzyk was floored in each of the three rounds his 2013 fight with Alex Povetkin for the WBA secondary title lasted. Of his six wins since then three have been against guys over 40, two against guys just a smidgen away from their 40th birthday and a guy with a 3-14 record. Not a fight for the WBC to be proud of.
Interestingly David Haye is now the mandatory challenger for Joseph Parker’s WBO title giving Britain a big say in the division.
Obviously the line up for 2017 will depend also on Manny Pacquiao’s plans. There is not much clarity here apart from Pac-Man’s defence of his WBO welter title against Jeff Horn in Brisbane on 23 April and a mention of perhaps four more fights before retirement. Pacquiao has talked about another fight with Juan Manuel Marquez this time in the Philippines. We won’t know what the campaign plan is until Bob Arum tells us. Nacho Beristan has indicated that the 43-year-old Marquez wants to have three more fights and that the knee injury that has plagued Marquez for so long has cleared up, but no mention of Pacquiao there. Horn is obviously very much an outsider but it has been a marvellous achievement for Horn’s team to get such a high profile fighter as Pacquiao to come to Brisbane and you can be sure “The Hornet” will not roll over.
In the past if you mentioned Pacquiao then the name Floyd Mayweather Jr would probably appear in the same sentence. Thankfully there is no sign that “Money” is contemplating a return to boxing. I can’t see $25 million enticing him to fight Conor McGregor and even if it did it would be irrelevant to boxing. Mayweather has a growing stable of good young fighters-as Gervonta Davis proved in destroying Jose Pedraza so hopefully that will keep him occupied.
Saul Alvarez vs. Jesus Chavez Jr on 6 May will be big in Mexico. Both fighters better make the weight as there is reportedly a $1 million penalty for every pound over the 164.5lbs contract weight each fighter comes in at. Chavez has failed to make the weight for other fights. I can see both fighters adding a surgeon to their camp ready to have a leg sawn off if they are in danger of going over the limit.
At middle we have Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Jacobs on 18 March in New York. If “GGG” wins he will have to look outside the middleweight division for a big fight. WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders needs a better performance than his close decision over Artur Akavov in December as on the back of that a Golovkin fight would be a very hard sell. As for the listed challengers they have all already been crushed by “GGG” or would start as rank outsiders. Golovkin vs. Alvarez would sell big but despite the posturing there seems to be no real enthusiasm for the fight from the Alvarez camp so it may never get done and there’s the danger that Golovkin might never get that career defining fight he needs and deserves.
At super welter without Alvarez then Jermell Charlo vs. Demetrius Andrade would be interesting fight but first Andrade needs to get past Jack Culcay in Germany on 11 March and winning in Germany will be no easier in 2017 than it has been in any other year.
Miguel Cotto is still in the picture and he fights James Kirkland in Frisco Texas on 25 February at 153lbs but at 37 Cotto is unlikely to play a big part in the picture in 2017.
At welterweight we are getting Danny Garcia vs. Keith Thurman on 4 March to unify the WBC and WBA titles and there seems to be serious discussions over a Kell Brook vs. Amir Khan fight with 20 or 27 May as the possible date, another huge event British fans. Errol Spence will get his title shots this year and they all have to be looking over their shoulders with Terrence Crawford aiming to become a three division champion.
There will be a unification match at super light when Ricky Burns puts his WBA title on the line against IBF champion Julius Indongo 15 April in Glasgow. It is a fight that will show us how much the three division champion Burns has left in the tank and whether the shocking 40 seconds one punch kayo of Eduard Troyanovsky was a genuine measure of the power and potential of the Namibian or just a non-repeatable flash. He only a 50% inside the distance wins measure before the Troyanovsky fight and that against a much lower level of opponent than the unbeaten Russian.
At lightweight whilst Jorge Linares (WBC & WBA), Robert Easter (IBF) and Terry Flanagan (WBO) are all good fighters a lot of interest will be in how Felix Verdejo, Mikey Garcia, Richard Commey and Luke Campbell perform in 2017 and a move up by Vasyl Lomachenko would open up all sorts of possibilities for Linares, Easter and Flanagan. Verdejo returns from injuries he received in a motor bike crash when he fights in Puerto Rico on 3 February so it will be important for him to show he is 100% recovered
If Lomachenko moves up then there are some good but not really high profile fights at super feather. The featherweight could catch fire in 2017 starting with an intriguing return between Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas on January 28. You can make a case for either fighter winning but you can be sure there will be fireworks. If Frampton wins then again British fans could be in for a treat with a unification fight against IBF champion Lee Selby a distinct possibility. With Gary Russell Jr (WBC) and Oscar Valdez (WBO) holding the other titles it is an exciting division.
Rey Vargas (28-0) and Gavin McDonnell (16-0-2) will contest the vacant WBC super bantam title on 25 February in Britain and it will be interesting to see how Jessie Magdaleno grows into his WBO tile. Once gain Guillermo Rigondeaux will struggle to find a suitable challenger and get any recognition for his highly skilled but clinical performances.
Rau’shee Warren defends his WBA bantam title against Zhanat Zhakiyanov in Ohio on 10 February. It would be nice to think that the two champions from Britain, IBF champion Lee Haskins and WBA secondary title holder Jamie McDonnell might get together but there is no sign of that. There is a dearth of good challengers for either WBC champion Shinsuke Yamanaka or WBO champion Marlon Tapales.
It would be great if there was a chance of Roman Gonzalez and Naoya Inoue clashing at super fly but Gonzalez’s dance card is already marked with a defence of his WBC title against No 2 Srisaket and after that a return with Carlos Cuadras is mandated.
A WBO flyweight title defence for Shiming Zou against his No 1Donnie Nietes would be a big fight in the Far East but no news yet on when and if it will take place and there is not too much to get interested in at light fly or minimumweight.
We have already had Gervonta Davis burst onto the scene in a big way this year and you can be sure that more young, emerging fighter will make a big breakthrough and who knows there might be another Mayweather, Pacquiao, Ward or Golovkin out there.
We have a saying in Britain that after the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dust cart (rubbish truck). Well after Joshua vs. Klitschko the WBA have ordered a fight between Shannon Briggs and Fres Oquendo for their secondary heavyweight title. Briggs wants the fight to be in London. Please no! Oquendo, a 43-year-old who has not had a fight for almost three years against a 45-year-old Briggs who has fought only selected low level opponents since losing to Vitali Klitschko in 2010. It was reported that the last circus in Britain closed recently-obviously not.
Interesting super welter match in Montreal on 28 January with Brandon Cook (17-0) from Ontario up against outstanding local prospect Steven Butler (18-0-1). A couple of minor sanction body titles on the line and an important fight for both boxers. Unbeaten Canadian Olympic heavyweight Simon Kean with former Canadian World Championship representative Yves Ulysse (11-0) facing his biggest test against experienced Mexican Jose Emilio Perea.
Despite having been rated No 1 by the WBC for a considerable while Argentinian Jorge Heiland will have to go through an elimination tournament to qualify for a shot at Gennady Golovkin. With No 2 Ievgen Khytrov getting blown away by unrated (not in the WBC top 40) Immanuwel Aleem the next mandatory could be the winner of David Lemieux vs. Curtis Stevens match on 11 March. Golovkin has beaten them both inside the distance which again goes back to the lack of real opposition for the Kazak fighter apart from Daniel Jacobs.
News of two former world champions from Argentina has former interim IBF cruiser champion Victor Ramirez announcing his retirement and former WBC welter champion Carlos Baldomir detained by the police and facing allegations of sexual abuse of his daughter. Another former champion from Argentina, Omar Narvaez, has not given up hope on becoming a three division champion. At 41, and with 31 world title fights behind him the former WBO fly and super fly champion, is now slated to face unbeaten Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez in an IBF final eliminator with the winner to be the next mandatory for Lee Haskins. The first two position in the IBF ratings are vacant as none of the rated fighters has beaten another rated fighter (so what are they doing there) so they can’t fill those first two positions. Narvaez is currently No 3 and Rodriguez No 5 which will resolve that dilemma. Narvaez is a candidate for a WBO loyalty award as every one of his 31 title fights has featured a WBO world title.
Another eliminator on the cards is Filipino Arthur Villanueva vs. South African Zolani Tete. They are respectively No 1 and No 2 in the WBO bantamweight ratings. A victory for Villanueva would set up an all-Filipino title fight against his Japanese-based fellow-countryman and current WBO champion Marlon Tapales.
Filipino Jerwin Ancajas (25-1-1) makes the first defence of his IBF super fly title in Macau on 29 January against the former interim WBA champion from Mexican Jose Alfredo Rodriguez (32-4). Ancajas is reported to be getting his highest career purse of $40,000 for the defence.
Boxing in Italy should get a boost when one of their former amateur stars turns pro on 24 February. Domenico Valentino won a hat full of titles at 60kg, including gold, silver and bronze medals at the World Championships, multi Italian national titles, Olympic appearances and a World Military title but at 32 he has left it late to take off his vest.
A couple of lighter notes to finish with. I sometimes wonder about the quality and content of some of the tattoos sported by a large percentage of professional fighters. So anything goes unless you are a Cuban amateur boxer. Double World Championships gold medallist and Pan American Games champion Lazaro Alvarez has been dropped from the Cuban national team-for dying his hair!
I sometimes wonder how much research some matchmakers do before putting a fight together. Last weekend in China local fighter Xing Xin Yang knocked out Thai Vachayan. Yang, 24, is 5’11 ½” (182cm) and 40-year-old Vachayan is 5’4” (163cm)! Someone should be incarcerated in Xing Xin for that.
Welcome to part 2 of my 10 all Japanese bouts I would like to see for this year and if you missed part 1 then click here to read it.
Masayuki Ito 20-1-1 9 KOs v Kenichi Ogawa 20-1 16 Kos.
Over the last couple of years we’ve seen a number of competitive and well matched super featherweight contests involving the domestic and OPBF titles and in a sense the 2 men to have emerged from the pack are Ito and Ogawa. There would also be an intriguing style clash with Ito’s smooth skills and excellent movement versus Ogawa’s power and bull like strength. On current form you would have to favour Ito but there’s a reason why the fights take place in the ring and with both highly ranked by the WBO an eliminator could feasibly be arranged.
After losing a razor thin majority decision to Rikki Naito for the national crown in February 2015 Ito rebounded excellently to claim the vacant OPBF strap 6 months later, stopping Dai Iwai in 10 rounds. 4 months later the 26-year-old won a unanimous decision against Shingo Eto. Ito’s 2016 campaign consisted of an 11th round stoppage of Ernie Sanchez in July and on New Year’s Eve he scored a wide points victory over Takuya Watanabe on the undercard of Takashi Uchiyama’s rematch with Jezreel Corrales. The win over Watanabe saw Ito add the WBO Asia Pacific bauble to his OPBF title and 2017 should be a big year for the Tokyo man.
After an early career set back Ogawa regrouped and in December 2015 he snatched the Japanese super featherweight strap from Rikki Naito taking a 5th round technical decision. Naito was down early and Ogawa’s strength simply was too much for the then champion and it looked like we had another hard hitting exciting 130 pounder from the land of the rising sun. There was much expectation going in to 2016 and despite scoring stoppages against Satora Sujita and Kento Matsushita some glaring flaws were being exposed with a leaky defence and slow feet being obvious to viewers. Ogawa then took on Naito for a 2nd time in December 2016 and won a unanimous decision with all 3 cards reading 96-94 in a very tight contest. The 28-year-old rematches Sugita on April 1st and was recenlty in a training camp in Okinawa with Teiken stablemates Jorge Linares and Shinsuke Yamanaka and will hope for improved performances in 2017.
Shun Kubo 11-0 8 KOs v Kazuki Tanaka 6-0 5 Kos.
These 2 unbeaten prospects are a little way off challenging for world titles but both are highly gifted and are part of the new wave of exceptional young fighters coming out of Japan.
Unfortunately Kubo only fought twice in 2016, pounding out a hard-fought unanimous decision against Benji Suganob in May and easily dispatching the overmatched Jin Wook Lin in 4 rounds 6 months later. The 26-year-old captured the OPBF 122 lb title scoring a 5th round knockout over Lloyd Jardeliza in December 2015. With the retirement of Hozumi Hasegawa Kubo is now the spearhead of the Shinsei Gym and will have to carry that expectation on his shoulders. More activity should be the aim in 2017 for the promising southpaw as he aims to work his way up the rankings.
Tanaka endured a frustrating 2016 only having 2 ring appearances with the most significant being a 2nd round stoppage versus Denkaosan Kaovichit in April. The Thai was well passed his best but the way the Osakan dealt with the former world champion was impressive all the same. The 24-year-old was forced to pull out of a scheduled August 2016 clash with Hideo Sakamoto which would have been a good step up for the Green Tsuda Gym fighter. An 8 round decision win over the durable Monico Laurente in December 2015 showed Tanaka’s quality and if he can stay injury free then this year should be a break out one for the youngster.
Hinata Maruta 4-0 3 KOs v Kentaro Masuda 26-7 14 Kos.
This would be the ultimate youth versus experience contest and would show us where both men are in their respective careers.
Japanese boxers being fast tracked through the ranks at an insanely rapid pace has become the norm with Kazuto Ioka, Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka being examples in recent times and teenager Maruta looks to be the next one to follow. Professional debuts only usually receive much attention if it is an elite amateur or a big ticket seller but Maruta’s November 2015 debut against tough Filipino Jason Camoy caused more than a few ripples amongst Japanese boxing circles. Canoy have never been stopped, was world ranked and was coming off a 1st round KO of Drian Francisco but he was no match for the 19-year-old who won a unanimous 6 round decision also scoring a knockdown along the way. In just his 3rd bout in July 2016 Maruta captured the WBC Youth bantamweight strap stopping the unbeaten Wilbert Berondo in 6 rounds and 4 months later he took care of his first southpaw opponent Joe Tejones in 7 rounds. Maruta is a terrific body puncher and possesses huge height and reach for a bantamweight and will inevitably go through the weights as he matures.
Masuda has been a great servant on the Japanese circuit but as shown in his loss in 7 rounds to Ryosuke Iwasa and his crushing 3rd round defeat to Shohei Omori he has never managed to make it past domestic level. A 2 time national bantamweight champion Masuda has notched up wins over the likes of Tatsuya Takahashi, Konosuke Tomiyama and Yu Kawaguchi and has been in plenty of entertaining scraps. In his 2nd stint as Japanese champion he impressively beat the unbeaten Yushi Tanaka, stopping him in 8 rounds in March 2016 to take the vacant crown. 3 months later he won a split decision over Yu Kawaguchi and in December 2016 he knocked out Satoshi Ozawa in 2 rounds. In a slightly surprising announcement Masuda vacated his title and the 33-year-old is now in search of opportunities at the regional and world level.
Riku Kano 11-2-1 6 KOs v Ryuya Yamanaka 13-2 3 KOs.
In slightly different ways both these 2 stepped up to the plate in 2016 and will have their eyes set on world glory this year and with both being world ranked this could be made as an eliminator as well as for the OPBF belt. Neither has KO power but this shouldn’t take away from what would be an intriguing high speed chess match of 2 skilful operators.
Having turned pro at just 16 Kano’s first 7 bouts were on the road in Thailand and the Philippines with the young southpaw running up a record of 5-1-1. His Japanese debut finally came in June 2015 and in December of that year he scored his most significant victory, an 8 round decision over forma world title challenger Pigmy Kokietgym. Kano stepped up to title level in May 2016, earning a 12 round split decision over forma world champion Merlito Sabillo to grab the interim OPBF bauble at 105 lb. By now his desires of becoming the youngest ever world champion from Japan were looking more of a distinct possibility and in August 2016 he took on Katsunari Takayama for the vacant WBO minimumweight belt. Despite securing home advantage in Hyogo it wasn’t to be for Kano as Takayama prevailed via a 6th round technical decision. Although the loss would have been disappointing the 19-year-old certainly wasn’t out of his depth and should only grow from sharing the ring with a quality veteran like Takayama.
Yamanaka suffered an early career setback in just his 5th bout with Kenta Shimizu stopping him in a round back in April 2013. The 21-year-old was beaten again in August 2014 losing a split decision over 8 rounds to Roque Lauro. Thankfully Yamanaka persevered and in November 2016 he was granted a shot at the vacant OPBF strawweight strap against Merlito Sabillo. Yamanaka used his speed and movement expertly to leave the Filipino floundering and despite being cut in the 2nd half of the contest he remained composed and calm to take a wide unanimous decision. With only 3 KOs power could be an issue going forward but Yamanaka will have to rely on his boxing skills if he’s to succeed in capturing a world title.
Masayoshi Hashizume 12-0 9 KOs v Katsunori Nagomine 13-1 9 KOs.
I’ll admit this final selection is a little out of left field but for pure action I think this would be a guaranteed war and would produce fireworks in abundance.
Hashizume won the all Japan rookie of the year final at super flyweight in 2014 and looked to be a serious prospect. Since then he has for some reason been matched softly facing a number of modest Thai imports and his career has really stagnated. Fighting out of the Ioka Gym Hashizume isn’t short of quality sparring and has fought on many high profile shows which is a valuable experience. At times he has showed some defensive flaws but unless there’s something glaringly obvious in regards to his chin and has been spotted whilst in the gym it really is time to let the 23-year-old off the leash.
Nagomine was stopped in 7 rounds by the outstanding Ken Shiro in March 2015 and sustained some bad injuries during the contest. After taking some much needed time out of the ring he returned in February 2016 to face Kenya Yamashita. The pair produced an unforgettable up and down thriller with Nagomine eventually prevailing in round 3. The 25-year-old scored 2 more stoppage wins in 2016 over Yuki Yonaha and Mako Matsuyama and is more than deserving of some sort of title tilt at either domestic or regional level.
A huge thanks to Marcus Bellinger for this, and for the first part, and for those interested in following Marcus his twitter can be reached at @marcusknockout
As we commence 2017 boxing in Japan could hardly be in a better place with 8 full world champions, a number of contenders capable of challenging and winning world hardware and a slew of phenomenally talented youngsters tearing through the ranks at a rapid pace. 2016 also saw more free streams made available and the edition of paid services Boxingraise and Asign gave some much needed exposure to fighters below world level.
Crowds were healthy throughout the year and TV ratings were among the best in the world however, high profile all Japanese bouts have been at a premium with the June 2012 unification between Kazuto Ioka and Akira Yaegashi and the December 30th Naoya Inoue Kohei Kono contest for the WBO super flyweight strap standing out in recent times.
In this guest article we look at 10 all Japanese dust ups that would be a ratings winner on TV and would put plenty of bums on seats. The 10 fights are split in to 2 categories with the first 5 involving at least 1 world title and the other 5 for either domestic, regional or world title eliminator status.
In part 1 we feature the 5 potential world title scraps.
Katsunari Takayama 31-8 12 KOs v Tatsuya Fukuhara 18-4-6 7 KOs
Despite double digit losses between them and neither being a big puncher you would do well to come up with a more fan friendly fight than this one and the chances of it happening are strong if Fukuhara can overcome Moises Calleros on February 26.
After back to back losses to Yu Kimura and a debuting Takuma Inoue in 2013 the career renaissance of Fukuhara has been remarkable with the first signs coming on the road in Thailand with an 8 round majority draw against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr in September 2014. The upward curve continued for the 27-year-old in November 2015 as he picked up the vacant domestic 105 lb crown outpointing Hiroya Yamamoto. The Kumamoto man enjoyed a quite brilliant 2016 taking the unbeaten records of both Takumi Sakae and Genki Hanai and a win over Calleros in his back yard will make him mandatory challenger for Takayama’s WBO strawweight belt.
Takayama needs no introduction for readers of this site and fans of the lower weights having shared the ring with the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Nkosinathi Joyi twice, Eagle Den Junlaphan and Utaka Niida. Few will also forget his epic 12 round battle with Francisco Rodriguez in August 2014 which saw both the WBO and IBF minimumweight titles on the line in a rare unification bout in boxing’s’ lightest division. After losing his IBF strap to Jose Argumedo on the last day of 2015 in another gruelling encounter some may have wondered about the Osakan’s future at world level but as he has done on a number of occasions Takayama bounced back to earn a technical decision over talented teenager Riku Kano to grab the vacant WBO 105 lb belt in August 2016. Due to injuries suffered in the bout with Kano, Takayama has been side lined since with a May returned being targeted and if it is indeed Fukuhara in the other corner the 33-year-old will again need all of his resolve and warrior traits to prevail but write off Takayama at your own peril.
Kosei Tanaka 8-0 5 KOs v Ken Shiro 9-0 5 KOs.
This clash would pit 2 of Japan’s outstanding young phenomes against each other and would be one of the best fights in a congested light flyweight division.
Tanaka snatched the vacant WBO 108 lb strap on New Year’s Eve in Gifu taking Moises Fuentes apart in 5 rounds sending out a message to the rest of the division in the process. The forma WBO strawweight champion seem to really benefit from the extra 3 pounds of replenishment as he retained his blistering speed and carried plenty of power up with him as was seen against Fuentes. There were more than a few sceptics after the 21-year-old had to climb off the floor to eventually overcome Vic Saludar in their December 2015 meeting with Tanaka fighting with his heart rather than his head but his supreme display this past New Year’s Eve should quell any of those doubters. Having already become a 2 weight world champion in just 8 fights Tanaka has stated his desire to win world titles at 5 weights and if he is intent on expanding his fan base outside of Gifu and Nagoya then a first defence against a hungry unbeaten challenger like Shiro would easily fit the bill.
Shiro has been matched brilliantly during his short career facing a variety of styles and showing all the necessary ingredients to succeed at the world class level. His power was on full display with early stoppages of Lester Abutan and Atsushi Kakutani and his beat down in 7 rounds of the naturally much bigger Katsunori Nagamine was highly impressive. The 25-year-old survived an early flash knockdown to prevail on points against the then unbeaten Rolly Sumalpong in his first 10 rounder and also was victorious on points in a local derby versus Kenichi Horikawa to win the Japanese title. The Kyoto born man showed an improved gas tank in the later stages against Toshimasa Ouchi with the BMB Gym fighter pressing for the stoppage in the championship rounds of the pairs OPBF contest. Shiro defends his national title on April 12th in Osaka versus Tetsuya Hisada before hopefully moving on to the world stage.
Akira Yaegashi 25-5 13 KOs v Ryoichi Taguchi 25-2-2 11 KOs.
This contest would draw extremely well both at the gate and on TV in the Tokyo area and would be a long overdue unification at 108 lbs.
Yaegashi was pushed all the way by Martin Tecuapetla in May 2016, eventually taking a split decision in his first defence of the IBF light flyweight crown. Having suffered injuries during the bout with the Mexican Yaegashi didn’t return until the end of the year where he stopped Samartlek Kokietgym in the 12th round of a routine defence. Next up is a tricky mandatory against Milan Melindo and if he can come through that the Ohashi fighter certainly won’t shy away from anyone. The 33-year-old is much respected and revered for his warrior mind set and the bouts with Kazuto Ioka and Porsawan Porpramook will live long in the memory for Japanese boxing fans.
Taguchi fought 3 times in 2016 with mixed results and clung on to his world title drawing with Carlos Canizales on New Year’s Eve. The champion was surprised by the Venezuelan’s insane work rate but remained composed and dominated the later stages. 4 months earlier Taguchi produced arguably his career best performance to earn a unanimous decision over Ryo Miyazaki in a mandatory defence. An 11th round stoppage over Juan Jose Landaeta in April 2016 was indicative of a disappointing run of opposition since the 30-year-old won his world title in December 2014. Since Yaegashi has a mandatory next this gives Taguchi the chance to fit in another contest before the possibility of this unification is even discussed but with him being the Gyms only world champion it’s doubtful that Watanabe would take a risk before their crop of young talent is ready to take over the mantel of Taguchi, Kohei Kono and Takashi Uchiyama.
Kazuto Ioka 21-1 13 KOs v Daigo Higa 11-0 11 KOs.
With Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada and John Riel Casimero all having moved a division north this is the most appetising flyweight dish on the menu and there’s no doubt it would fill any arena in the land of the rising sun especially in Osaka.
After being totally out foxed by Amnat Ruenroeng for the IBF flyweight strap in May 2014 Ioka managed to regroup and score a pair of wins over Juan Carlos Reveco in 2015 with the second being an impressive stoppage victory over the solid Argentinian on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately the 27-year-old wasn’t able to build on that success with KO wins over the plucky Keyvin Lara and the very talented but inexperienced Stamp Kiatniwat being his ring appearances for 2016. With limited options at 112 lb and falling TV ratings in recent times a bout with a dangerous hard hitting foes such as Higa would surely regain the interest of the Japanese public.
Higa continued his rampage through the flyweight ranks in 2016 with a 4th round demolition of OPBF champion Ardin Diale being a stand out performance. In his last outing Filipino southpaw Felipe Cagubcob caused a few minor issues before being overwhelmed by the relentless youngster. The 21-year-old returns on February 4th in a non-title encounter against Jayar Estremos before awaiting the winner of the March 4th Nawaphon Por Chokchai Juan Hernandez clash for the vacant WBC belt. If Higa gets by the March 4th winner and he’d be a solid favourite against either then the Yoko Gushiken protégé would be in line for big fights and a victory over a leading light such as Ioka would propel him to super star status in Japanese boxing.
Yukinori Oguni 19-1-1 7 KOS v Ryosuke Iwasa 22-2 14 KOs.
This bout is already mandated by the IBF and should take place within the first half of the year.
Oguni suffered a few injuries in his amazing New Year’s Eve title winning effort so will be out of the gym for the next few months. Few if any gave Oguni a prayer against Jonathan Guzman but his all-round performance to relieve the hard hitting Dominican of his IBF super bantamweight belt was simply outstanding with the man from Japan proving everybody wrong. After being stopped in 11 rounds for the OPBF strap by Shingo Wake back in March 2013 the 28-year-old is proof that a loss isn’t the end of the world and that you can actually learn from the experience, rebuild and still enjoy a successful career and become a world champion.
After being knocked out in 6 rounds by Lee Haskins in June 2015 for the interim IBF trinket Iwasa has had to do some rebuilding himself. The southpaw has rebounded with 3 victories, 2 coming via stoppage over Dennis Tubieron and Patomsith Pathompothong and the move up from bantamweight has proved fruitful for now. Iwasa travelled to the US in November 2016 to compete in a final IBF 122 lb eliminator but saw his training camp come to nothing as Luis Rosa failed to make weight but thankfully Iwasa was made mandatory challenger for Oguni and when this contest does take place we should be in for a treat.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my 10 all Japanese fights I would like to see occur this year.
A huge thanks to Marcus Bellinger for this, for those interested in following Marcus his twitter can be reached at @marcusknockout
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.