The final 10 or so days of April are set to be packed with a fantastic variety of bouts, from national title fights, to world title fights. We see one of the most anticipated bouts of 2019, a female prodigy going for a world title in her 4th bout and the return of the WBSS. This is how you end a month!
The World Sport Boxing Gym is a criminally over-looked one, which has started to sign up some pretty notable amateur fighters from across Japan. One of their most notable recent signings is Welterweight Takuma Takahashi (3-0, 3), who joins the likes of Takeshi Inoue, at Light Middleweight, and Kazuto Takesako, at Middleweight, in the heavier weights for Japanese fighters. The 25 year old has long been tipped for big things, and was a former amateur star on the domestic scene.
Born in the Sumiyoshi Ward of Osaka, Takahashi had a stellar amateur career. During his years in the unpaid ranks he went 77-24 (68) showing not only a habit of winning, but also hitting hard. That amateur record didn't just result in some pretty numbers but also actual achievements, with 4 amateur championships.
Although full details of what he won, and when, is hard to find we do know that he shone at the 2010 Japanese Junior Selection Tournament in Gunma, stopping Takayuki Nishii in the final, and reached the semi-finals of two national championships, losing in 2012 to Kiyoshi Hattori and in 2013 to Kazuki Saito.
Following his long amateur career Takahashi turned professional, signing up with the World Sport Boxing gym in Tokyo. He would take part in his protest in April 2018, sharing the ring with Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako for his pro-test bout. The pro-test saw Takahashi showing off good skills and under-standing of the ring and made a number of people within Japanese boxing circles take note, especially given that his debut was pencilled in for just a few weeks late, on June 2nd.
On his debut Takahashi took on Thai foe Weerayut Wannasri and looked a pretty promising talent, though not like a fighter with over 100 amateur bouts. There was a sense of stiffness to his work, his straight punches looked flawed and like there was work to do. He lacked the fluidity that we see in a lot of Japanese amateurs who turn professional. What he did show however was that he threw smart body shots and was heavy handed, with a commitment to forcing opponents on to the back foot. He would stop his Thai foe in the second round, and clearly show his team that whilst he was powerful there was real work to do.
In his second bout Takahashi's defensive issues reared their head as he dropped from a big right hand by Filipino Joepher Montano, a crude but heavy handed visitor. Despite being dropped he was composed when he recovered to his feet and quickly caught Montano with a counter to stop the Filipino and move to 2-0 (2).
Takahashi's most recent bout came in March, when he took on Filipino Jonel Dapidran. On paper this was a notable step up, but proved to be a relatively pointless match with Dapidran looking very poor, and Takahashi scoring an opening round win. Again Takahashi looked defensively flawed, open and stiff, but seemed to have worked on his defense, become more relaxed, and landed a gorgeous right hand to drop Dapidran, and stop the bout. There was still work to do, but he was making the right strides, especially at such an early stage in his career.
The unbeaten Takahashi clearly has a lot of work to do, but as a promising puncher there is real potential for him to be in some fun to watch bouts. He is crude, he is unpolished and he is flawed, but those issues will only make him more and more fun to watch, knowing he can be hurt, just as easily as he can hurt others.
At the moment his next bout hasn't been arranged, those we're hoping it'll be in the summer and be another step forward for his development.
One of the big issues with boxing this year, at least for us, is how inconsistent things have been. Some weeks have there's been almost nothing with an Asian interest, and other weeks there has been an overload of activity. Not only is there a huge variation in quantity of fights but also the quality of activity.
This past week wasn't a quiet one, by any stretch, but was one where some of the best fights went with out broadcast exposure, and was one that perhaps did lack in terms of real quality. We had some great names in action but the competitiveness from the bouts was certainly lacking. With that in mind, this actually is one of the weakest weeks for our Weekly Awards.
Fighter of the Week
Mark Magsayo (19-0, 14)
One of the few categories with a few notable mentions was the Fighter of the Week, though in reality we struggled to see past Mark Magsayo here following his return to the ring, after more than a year out of action. The Filipino wasn't up against anything too testing, in the form of Erick Deztroyer, but managed to show case his speed, skills and destructiveness as he broke down the Indonesian journeyman in a very 1-sided affair. Given the long lay off this was an impressive win, and hopefully it will be the start of big things to come from Magsayo.
Notable mentions: Shuichiro Yoshino, Musashi Mori, Seiya Tsutsumi
Performance of the Week
Kanehiro Nakagawa (7-6, 4)
When a fighter enters the bout with no real expectations but then scores a notable upset, even at the domestic level, they tend to automatically be in the running for Performance of the Week. With that in mind it's hard to not be impressed by Kanehiro Nakagwa this week. The Misako gym fighter scored a major upset on the Japanese domestic scene this past Monday, when he defeat former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada. Whilst Okada isn't the fighter he once was few expected Nakagawa to take the win, and he deserves real attention after this victory.
Notable mentions: Seiya Tsutsumi, Ginjiro Shigeoka.
Sadly there was no Fight of the Week that stood out. Partly this was an issue with a lack of fights, none of which were worthy of attention, and that the better fights haven't been made available to watch outside of very select markets. It's a shame that this is the first week of 2019 not to have an explicit winner of Fight of the week.
Much like the lack of Fight of the Week we've not managed to see a round which has jumped out as being something special.
A third straight "none award" is the KO of the week. We've sadly not been able to see Seiya Tsutsumi's KO of Ryan Rey Ponteras, which was said to have been brutal. All we've seen is an image of Ponteras flat on his back, and this is a shame given that he had never previously been stopped. A lot of the other KO's from the week were less than spectacular.
Please note that if you do have a suggestion for any of the 3 awards that weren't given please do nominate them in the comments.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2)
The Japanese teenager shone again, albeit away from the TV cameras, as he took a clear and wide win over Joel Lino. It's not going to be long before we stop considering Shigeoka as a prospect and more like a regional, or national, contender and in fact we suspect today's win will have served as chance to for his team to judge whether he's ready for a title fight. Given how he answered a lot of questions here, it's hard to imagine his team not just pushing him into something big later this year.
Nihito Arakawa (32-6-2, 18) Vs Denys Berinchyk (10-0, 7)
This coming weekend has several really good looking match ups, and for us the most promising, at least on paper, is the clash between Japanese tough guy Nihito Arakawa and Ukrainian destroyer Denys Berinchyk. Whgen this bout was first announced our thoughts were "this is gonna be violent" and that hasn't changed. This could be a low-key FOTY candidate between two men are who likely to put on a fairly high skilled war. A really interesting match up and likely to be a very, very exciting and hard hitting one.
The middle part of April promises a lot, despite having had some bouts fall through. We'll see prospects, title fights and must win cross road bouts over the coming week or so.
Japanese boxing is full of fighting families. Some of these are obvious, like the Inoue brothers, Naoya and Takuma, and the Kameda brothers, others are less well known like Masamichi Yabuki and Masanori Rikiishi or the Hosokawa brothers, Valentine Hosokawa and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa. Another set of brothers making their name on the sport right name are the Nakajima brothers, Kazuki Nakajima and Yuki Nakajima. Today we want to introduce you to Yuki Nakajima, the younger of the two men.
The 23 year old Yuki Nakajima (1-0, 1) made his professional debut last October, fighting on a card that was featured on Boxing Raise. That debut saw the youngster stop Thai foe Somphon Banyaem in 2 rounds, using some devastating body shots to take out the Thai in rather eye catching fashion.
Whilst we'll get back to how he looked on his debut in a few minutes lets have a bit more of a look at who he is first.
Nakajima was born in Yamatokoriyama, Nara, though now based in Tokyo at the Kadoebi Gym in, one of Japan's packed gyms, and notably didn't join the Ohashi Gym, where his brother is based. Prior to turning professional he had been a notable amateur, running up a 52-21 record, though lacked in terms of major competition wins. It's worth noting that his older brother went 72-15 in the unpaid ranks, and did manage to win various amateur honours, though it's hard to ignore that Yuki was a very good amateur.
The amateur pedigree of the younger Nakajima saw him turn professional with plenty of expectation on his shoulders and he was immediately debuting as a B license fighter when he turned professional last year. That meant that he essentially skipped the 4 round stage of his career, beginning in 6 round bouts instead. This is typical of fighters in Japan with amateur backgrounds and is something that we do love, we don't really see why top amateurs fight in 4 rounders when they are unnecessary to a young prospects development.
So back to his debut. Yuki looked fleet footed through out the bout, moving quickly and naturally around the ring, getting his jab into play almost immediately. He swiftly looked like a natural talent, but one who perhaps was too focused on using a jab rather than trying to go for a kill to begin with. It wasn't long however until he began to put more on his shots, and the body shot he used to close the show was an absolute beauty, finding the perfect place for the blow.
Nakajima's next bout will take place at Slugfest 9 on May 8th. His opponent is yet to be confirmed but the contest is scheduled to be a 6 rounder at Light Flyweight. We're not expecting anyone too tough for Nakajima for this bout, butt wouldn't be surprised if he was fighting ranked fighters before the end of 2019, with titles likely to be in his grasp no later than the end of 2021. He's a real talented and another brilliant fighter under the Kadoebi banner.
After a few weeks of not having much of note we've had a week that has created a bit of an accidental star, seen a debutant shine, seen new title holders in Indonesia and a lot actually happening. Sadly, due to the time issues in watching everything, we have seen a pro-Japanese week again, but there was clearly a lot of action in Asia in what was a great week for Asian fight fans.
Fighter of the Week
Koki Inoue (13-0, 10)
Whilst Koki Inoue, the cousin of Naoya and Takuma Inoue, didn't blow us away it's hard to argue with the quality of what he did this past Saturday. The talented Light Welterweight intelligently shut down Valentine Hosokawa to take a wide, and clear, decision over the talented and often high tempo Hosokawa. On paper the bout was a big step up in class for Inoue but he sort of made it look easy in the end as he took a comfortable decision over the veteran champion. Hosokawa, who usually controls the pace and tempo, struggled to catch Inoue clean, and struggled even more to change the pattern of the fight, whilst Inoue looked like a man comfortably fighting within himself. This wasn't exciting, but it was the biggest win of the week for an Asian fighter.
Performance of the Week
Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
Whilst Inoue failed to shine, winning Fighter of the week by virtue of getting the biggest win, there was real competition for Performance of the Week. We were really impressed by Tsuyoshi Sato, Aso Ishiwaki, Sultan Zaurbek and our winner for the week, Riku Kunimoto.
Sato, who was fighting for the 4th time as a professional, put on the complete performance in mid week as he stopped Shoma Fukumoto, and took a huge step towards a potential title fight. He out boxed Fukumoto, then stopped him later in the bout, in what was his Tokyo debut. On paper it was a leap up in class, but in the end he made it look easy and really announced himself as a Japanese Middleweight worthy of note. He's young, he's talented and he has the potential to go very, very far.
Yoji Saito (1-1, 1) vs Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3)
On paper the recent bout between Yoji Saito and Aso Ishiwaki didn't really promise a lot, though we genuinely over-looked the bout which proved to be a very exciting encounter. Saito set the early pace, pressing and pressuring Ishiwaki as he looked on route for his second win. Ishiwaki however refused to wilt, and instead came on strong, really strong, from round 3 giving us a huge momentum shift and an amazing fight. There wasn't any knockdowns but there was none stop action, and a really gritty determination from both. This is a great, great 6 round bout!
Yuki Yazawa (0-0) vs Kazuki Nakamura (0-0-1) - Round 1
The round of the week was a clear and easy one to decide, with the opening round of the Yuki Yazawa Vs Kazuki Nakamura fight easily being the best round of the week from Asia. The round, which actually only lasted 126 seconds, contained 3 knockdowns, a brutal finish, a strong scent of karma, taunting and everything you could ask for. This really was something that every fan deserves to watch.
Cristiano Aoqui KO5 Anthony Marcial
We had some awesome KO's this week, Yuki Yazawa's was a beauty against Kazuki Nakamura, Koki Tyson scored a brutal one, Sultan Zaurbek got a gorgeous one in Dubai but our pick of the bunch was Brazilian-Japanese fighter Cristiano Aoqui's brutal hook against Filipino Anthony Marcial.The shot was a highlight, or an otherwise dull fight, and was perfectly timed. Whilst Marcial wasn't out cold, like some of the others on the wrong end of a great KO, his stumble through the ropes whilst trying to beat the count was great to watch.
Shakhobidin Zoirov (1-0, 1)
We want to start this by saying we have nothing positive to say of Indonesian journeyman Anthony Holt, and the reason we think so little of Holt was shown this past Friday when he was in the ring with Shakhobidin Zoirov. The debuting Zoirov is an Olympic champion and a huge hope for Uzbek boxing. He deserved a real test, but instead took almost no time to destroy Holt. Despite the bout being a relative waste of time it was hard to not be impressed by the cameo, and it's obvious that Zoirov is a very, very special fighter. One to mark down as a super prospect.
Alphoe Dagayloan (12-2-5, 5) vs Esneth Domingo (11-0, 6)
There's no special fight this coming week, but we do love the look of several fighters over the coming 7 days. Perhaps the pick of the bunch is the WBA Asia Flyweight title bout between the under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan and the unbeaten Esneth Domingo. This is a brilliant match up and something that is very, very exciting! Neither guy is a big name, but both are promising and both could see this as a chance to move into the WBA rankings. A great fight and something that both will be looking to win!
The month of March is over and whilst it hasn't been an amazing month it has had it's moments, and has had a very clear Fighter of the Month, Fight of the Month and Upset of the Month. It's a month that had some down time, and didn't seem to be as memorable as either January or February, but was still a pretty good month in terms of highlights.
Fighter of the Month
The "KO Dream Boy" managed to really shine in the middle of the month, retaining his WBO Flyweight title in style as he clearly out pointed former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi. The bout, like most Tanaka fights, was high tempo, exciting and saw the talented Hatanaka promoted fighter trying to put on a show. Tanaka, who at 13-0 is already a 3 weight world champion, is one of the real young stars of world boxing and his performance this month was sensational. He is clearly going looking to create history and it's now assumed that he only has a fight or two left at Flyweight before seeking a 4th divisional world title.
Fight of the Month
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi
Whilst we could wax lyrical about Tanaka it does take two to tango and his bout with Ryoichi Taguchi was clearly the best bout of the month. It was relatively one sided, but was highly skilled, hugely entertaining and pitted the desire and hunger of Tanaka against the guts and heart of Taguchi. To his credit Taguchi refused to lie down and quit, and despite being clearly beaten his will to win cannot be questioned. A fantastic bout, and as good a 1-sided bout as we'll see this year.
KO of the Month
Israil Madrimov vs Frank Rojas
Uzbek fighter Israil Madrimov is no normal prospect. His first 2 professional bouts have both been title bouts, over 10 rounds, with fighters holding records with more wins than losses. He isn't just a fighter with ambitious match making but also real skill, confident, and as seen this month, dynamite punching. The way he took out Venezuelan Frank Rojas on March 9th was clinical and brutal with the final left hook being as brutal a shot as they come.
Canadian based Kazakh Sadriddin Akhmedov has long been a bit of a hidden secret with fight fans who don't follow the Asian scene or the Canadian scene in a hardcore fashion. This month Akhmedov fought in Kazakhstan for the first time and whilst it wasn't his best performance to date he did clearly beat Indonesian tough guy John Ruba over 10 rounds, and prove he had the stamina to go 10 rounds, with out any problem. It's just a shame he was later diagnosed as having suffered an injury in his bout.
Lito Dante TKO12 Tsubasa Koura
The biggest upset of the month, and in fact one of the biggest upsets of the year so far, saw unheralded Filipino tough guy Lito Dante break down the previously unbeaten Tsubasa Koura. Koura, who was ranked #3 by the WBC, seemed set to make one final defense of the OPBF title before moving on to a world title fight, but those planned have been destroyed by Dante. The Filipino had given Koura fits through out the bout before finally forcing the referee to save the Japanese fighter in the final round. A huge upset!
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi - Round 2
We go back to the Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi for our round of the month, which gave us an amazing second round. The round was high skilled back and forth, and despite being one of the only really competitive rounds from the fight was a round that gave us everything. Skills, action, intensity, back and forth, guts and desire. This is what boxing is about and this is why we all love this sport.
We don't tend to see Japan as a hot bed of Middleweight talent, and that's because Japanese fighters typically don't have the frame for the weight. When Japanese fighters do make a name for themselves at the weight we usually see them being heavy handed fighters, like Ryota Murata, Shinji Takehara and Koji Sato. There is however a really skilled youngster making his mark in the division right now, and it looks like he could end up being some one who could go a long way based on his skills, speed, timing and boxing IQ.
That man is Riku Kunimoto (3-0, 1), who was a distinguished amateur before making his professional debut in August 2018.
The 21 year old from Osaka is based at the established Mutoh Gym and not only has a really good team behind him, headed by Takashi Edagawa, but also has the type of match making which will help him develop his skills at an advanced age. In fact through his first 3 bouts he has already gone 6 rounds twice, made his international debut and been in a scheduled 8 rounder, with his next 8 round bout set to come in April, but more about that a little later.
Kunimoto's debut came in a 6 round bout against Korean fighter Kyung Wook Kwon, a tough but light punching Korean who had never been stopped, but had also never scored a stoppage of his own. Kwon was, in many ways, the perfect opponent for the debuting youngster who could get away with some mistakes, but also had someone to test his stamina and concentration. Despite the bout being his debut Kunimoto shone, being taken 6 rounds by the Korean and showing a lot to be excited about. Kunimoto instantly looked like he was taking to professional boxing like a duck to water. He was accurate, calm, sharp and threw some brilliant combinations that switched from head to body. The only real issue was a lack of power, despite scoring a knockdown in the opening round, and an overall lack of physicality. He looked skilled but like a child and seemed to be smaller than Kwon.
Rather than staying at home and making the most of home comforts Kunimoto's second professional bout would take place in China, where he went 6 rounds again as he defeated Huwang Zhang, in a wide and clear decision. Although Zhang was nothing special he was an unbeaten Super Middleweight fighting at home and Kunimoto still easily out pointed him.
In his most recent bout Kunimoto faced his first domestic opponent, Toshihiro Kai, and scored an opening round win over Kai, showing more purpose to his shots and more power. He still wasn't boxing with a hugely physical style, relying on speed, timing and combinations, but was able to force a stoppage over the much more experienced Kai.
The 21 year old is set to fight on April 5th against the heavy handed and more experienced Shoma Fukumoto. This will be Kunimoto's first bout against a Japanese ranked opponent, and is a serious test of his chin, his guts, his desire and skills. If he passes this test then the future is incredibly bright, whilst a loss, at such a young age, will certainly not be the end.
The Japanese Middleweight scene might not be on fire, but it certainly has more depth to it than many assume, and Kunimoto might turn out to be the best of the bunch.
After a few relatively disappointing weeks we've managed to have a really amazing 7 days of Asian boxing, where every category of our weekly awards could, very easily, have multiple contenders. This wasn't a typical week, of course it wasn't, we had a host of cards across the continent, but we didn't just have quantity but also real quality with proof, again, that 50-50 match making provides the best from boxing!
Fighter of the Week
Hironori Mishiro (7-0-1, 2)
OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro may not have got a huge amount of attention this week but his win over Takuya Watanabe, to make his second defense of the Oriental title. The bout was competitive, at times, but Mishiro always seemed to be a step ahead and was well deserving of his win, arguably the best of his career so far. He showed how good he was as a boxer, as a brawler and as a general fighter that he it. This was the sort of win that proved what Mishiro has to offer, and that he is edging towards a world title fight, even at this very early stage in his career.
Performance of the Week
Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8)
In one of the final Asian bouts of the week Filipino Lito Dante proved that records are for DJ's as he travelled to Japan and ripped the OPBF Minimumweight title from the previously unbeaten Tsubasa Koura. Koura, who had been ranked #3 by the WBC, had looked the clear favourite against a man who was known as a tough but limited fighter. Dante however broke down the previously unbeaten Japanese fighter, scoring a shock 12th round TKO in what is, by far, the best win of his career and one of the biggest upsets of 2019 so far.
Wulan Tuolehazi vs Ryota Yamauchi
One of the best things this week has been the sheer number of amazing fights we've had, across all levels of the sport. For us the one that had everything was the WBA International Flyweight bout between Wulan Tuolehazi and Ryota Yamauchi from Shanghai. The bout saw both men going down, both men digging in deep, both landing hurtful shots and both adapting. The only real issue was two score-cards of 117-109, which didn't reflect the action in the ring, and again leaves question marks over judging. Rather than dwell on the negatives we'll just state that this is a must watch bout.
Juan Miguel Elorde vs Shohei Kawashima
Hironori Mishiro vs Takuya Watanabe
Fangyong Zhang vs Ryuto Maekawa
Fuga Komatsu vs Yota Sato
Fuga Komatsu vs Yota Sato (Round 1)
Given how many great fights we had, we also, obviously, had a lot of great rounds. For us the one that perhaps stood out the most was the opening round of the all-debutant bout between Fuga Komatsu and Yota Sato. The bout was a 4 round contest on a small card in Yokohama, but was fought at a frantic, exciting and exhilarating pace. Komatsu would drop his man in the opening seconds, with Sato managing to see out the storm. It wasn't the most evenly contested round of the week, but in terms of sheer excitement and heart it was amazing.
No fit contender - Despite all the great action, there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
Jayson Mama (12-0, 6)
Filipino youngster Jayson Mama may not be a big name, yet, but the 21 year old "Smasher" sure did impress this past week when he travelled to China and clearly out boxed Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. The Filipino, who had never really beaten anyone of note prior to this week, took a huge step up and totally dominated the Thai former world title challenger. This was the sort of win that will help put anyone on the map and should well help Mama move into the world rankings. For those unaware of Mama it's now time to make a mental note of the youngster.
Valentine Hosokawa (24-6-3, 11) vs Koki Inoue (12-0, 10)
We don't have any world level bouts coming up this week, be we do have a potentially amazing Japanese Light Welterweight title bout set for Saturday as veteran champion Valentine Hosokawa takes on mandatory challenger Koki Inoue. Given the styles of the two men, and what's on the line this has the potential to be something very, very special. One to be really excited about.
It's fair to say that March was a spotty month, with some real ups and downs, and little in terms on consistency. April however looks to be a month packed with great fights through the month, particularly in Japan where things really are a bit crazy!
April 6th-Naoya and Takuma. The champion is a true veteran, who won the Rookie of the Year more than a decade ago, and has battled through the Japanese scene the hard way. Inoue on the other hand was a touted amateur who has been avoided at times on the domestic stage, but will see this as a great chance to announce himself as a rising star. The styles of the men should make for a very special fight.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces