The World Sport Boxing Gym got a good amount of attention on January 26th when their biggest name fighter, Takeshi Inoue battled Jamie Munguia. The gym does however have some other very interesting fighters there, including Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) and one of Japan's truly elite prospects, Masahiro Suzuki (1-0, 1) [鈴木雅弘].
Suzuki made his professional debut on November 3rd last year, fighting on the under-card of Takesako's Japanese title defense against Sanosuke Sasaki at the Korakuen Hall. On his debut he really impressed, over-coming hard hitting Filipino foe Antonio Siesmundo, who had travelled with the intention of stopping Suzuki.
On his debut Suzuki relied on his amateur skills to see off the aggression of Siesmundo, before stopping the tiring Filipino in the 6th, and final, round. By that point Suzuki had proven more in 6 rounds than many fighters prove in 12 fights. He had shown a high level of skill, a fantastic ring IQ, sharp punching and maturity not often seen in a debutant. He had immediately looked like a star in the making.
Suzuki's performance shouldn't have been a surprise. He was an excellent amateur, going 64-26 (21) in the unpaid ranks, he had competed internationally and had travelled to Finland for the 2015 Tammer Tournament. He was an accomplished fighter before he turned professional, and it showed.
The 23 year old from Tokyo will be returning to the ring on March 2nd, again fighting at the Korakuen Hall. His opponent for that bout hasn't yet been confirmed but given how he made his debut we are expecting someone rather testing for the Light Welterweight hopeful, who we have really high hopes for. The World Sport gym aren't known for regressing the competition level that their fighters fight and and this should mean that we see Suzuki progressing to big fights fairly soon, with national titles potential within his grasp at some point in 2020.
If you want to watch Suzuki's debut a link to the fight with Siesmundo is below, and his March bout is expected to be shown live on G+ as part of the Dynamic Glove card headlined by Takesako's Japanese title defense against Shuji Kato.
The final part of February is a really interesting one, with a lot of action in less than 2 weeks including world title bouts, prospects, world title eliminators and a regional title fight.
Dave Penalosa (14-0, 10) vs Marcos Cardenas (19-6-1, 15) - Metro Manila, Philippines
For a second straight week we see a Filipino prospect called Dave in a notable step up on ESPN5. First there was Dave Apolinario and now we get Dave Penalosa, who looks to over-come Marcos Cardenas for the WBO Oriental Featherweight title. Penalosa, who carries a legendary surname, showed early promise but inactivity has cost years of his career, and he will now be looking to get back in the right track. Cardenas is heavy handed but this is a huge step up for the Mexican.
Johnriel Casimero (25-4, 16) vs Kenya Yamashita (13-4, 10)- Metro Manila, Philippines
Former 2-weight world champion John Riel Casimero returns to a Filipino ring for the first time since losing in a world title eliminator to Jonas Sultan back in September 2017. In the opposite corner is flawed, but exciting, Japanese youngster Kenya Yamashiita, who should make for a really interesting opponent. Casimero should be favoured, but he has been disappointing at times and he may well be on the slide.
Carl Jammes Martin (11-0, 10) vs Petchchorhae Kokietgym (17-2, 8)- Metro Manila, Philippines
Another exciting prospect on this card is the unbeaten and prodigiously young Carl Jammes Martin, who will be making his TV debut in a bout against Thai visitor Petchchorhae Kokietgym. This looks like a really tough match up for Martin's first bout on TV, but a win here will really allow him to announce himself on the Filipino fans who may not have had a chance to see the youngster yet. The Thai is no pushover but has lost his two most notable bouts to date.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) Vs Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)- California, USA
In the US we'll see an IBF world title eliminator at Super Bantamweight, as former world champion Ryosuke Iwasa takes on the always entertaining Cesar Juarez in what should be a very entertaining battle. Iwasa needs to impress to remain in the mix, and this will be his US debut after having had a previous Stateside aborted when his opponent failed to make weight. Juarez lost his last bout at world level, being stopped by Isaac Dogboe, but has bounced back well and will be really up for this contest, in what could be a very, very entertaining bout and potentially the highlight of the weekend.
Yesenia Gomez (14-5-3, 6) vs Erika Hanawa (10-3, 4) - Quintana Roo, Mexico
In a female world title fight we'll see Japan's Erika Hanawa challenge WBC Female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez. Despite being a world title fight few would consider either of these as truly world class, with both suffering set backs in recent bouts. It's those setbacks, and the need to shine brightly here, that makes this bout more intriguing than if both were in good form, and neither can afford a loss. Sadly though in a division with Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Kenia Enriquez and Tenkai Tsunami it's hard to see the winner of this bout as truly top level fighter.
Akihiro Kondo (31-7-1, 18) Vs Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
A second IBF world title eliminator is set to take place at Light Welterweight, as the teak tough Akihiro Kondo battles unbeaten Thai prospect Downua Ruawaiking. This is a really interesting match up that not only lets us see what Kondo has left in the tank, after 2 straight forward bouts since his loss to Sergey Lipinets, but also see what Ruawaiking has to offer. The Thai has looked good so far, but this is a big step up in class, and his first bout outside of his homeland. A win for Downua would put him on the map, but this is a really stiff test for him.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-3, 10) Vs Yuki Nonaka (32-10-3, 10) - Osaka, Japan
Potentially the fight of the month will see the big punching Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa defending his WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Middleweight titles against skilled veteran Yuki Nonaka. This bout will likely be brawn against brain and should be a real thriller. Hosokawa only fights one way, and that is with intense aggression, the sort of thing Hosokawa has made a career out of soaking up, countering and using against fighters. We really do see this as a highlight and can't wait to see Boxingraise posting the fight on demand.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Another potential highlight will see WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar defending his title for the first time, taking on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. Both of these men are aggressive, heavy handed, skilled and exciting. We're expecting bombs to be traded, though not in a wild way. Instead this should be a compelling chess match with shotguns and rocket launchers. A potentially brilliant contest, that is only really harmed by the fact TBS won't be broadcasting the fight live but instead showing it on tape delay.
This past week has been one of the quietest of the year so far, at least in terms of Asian fighters and fighters involving Asian fighters. It wasn't silent by any stretch, but much of the action was relatively low key. That however doesn't take away from what we did have.
Fighter of the Week
Ben Mananquil (17-1-3, 4)
Although his fight isn't yet available to watch, with Boxing Raise set to post next week, it's hard to argue that anyone deserves Fighter of the Week more than Filipino fighter Ben Mananaquil. The 26 year old southpaw travelled to Japan and easily outboxed Japanese youngster Tenta Kiyose on Sunday to become the new WBO Asia Pacfic Bantamweight champion.Mananquil has been one of the sports over-looked men in recent years, with a number of unlucky results on the round, including bouts with Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym and Jing Xiang. He did get a bit of luck last year, with a draw against Hinata Maruta, but generally hasn't had much luck. He didn't need it against Kiyose, dropping the Japanese fighter on route to a clear win.
Performance of the Week
Reymart Gaballo (21-0, 18)
The unbeaten Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men of the Bantamweight division, but he really shouldn't be. The 22 year old boxer-puncher is one of the best young fighters in boxing, and can box, bang, brawl and really excite. This past Saturday he showed how good he was as he completely destroyed the brave but outgunned Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo would drop Nakamura twice in the opening round and once in round 2 to record a 2nd round TKO. At times he looked wild, yet found the target time, and time, and time again. It was the sort of performance that deserved a bigger platform than ESPN5, and hopefully fans will find the time watch the bout, just to see how good Gaballo looked, and how good he is. We're really hoping for Gaballo to have a big bout this year, and this performance showed exactly why so many are so high on him.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34)
This past week has had some good fights, but nothing really stood out in terms of overall quality, excitement or value. There was good fights that just missed something, or had a lack of intensity. With that in mind we're taking the odd step of selecting the televised exhibition between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Nawaphon Por Chokchai as out fight of the week. It was fought with headgear and over-sized gloves, fought for charity and fought an insane pace as both men looked to try and take the other out. It won't go down on either man's record, but it was certainly fun to watch on Friday morning.
Hiroki Okada Vs Raymundo Beltran (Round 2)
A great round is made from the combination of drama and excitement and the second round of the enthralling bout between Japan's Hiroki Okada and Mexican Raymundo Beltran is hard to beat. The round saw Beltran applying pressure, dropping Okada then being hurt badly himself as Okada came close to forcing a knockdown of his own. It was a really great round and deserves to be in the conversation for round of the year so far. Sadly the bout had too many slower rounds, especially in the middle of the fight, to be in the Fight of the Year conversation, but it was a great round in a very good, but not amazing, fight. Had the bout not had it's slow spell in the middle this would likely have taken the Fight of the Week award.
Romero Duno KO2 Kuldeep Dhanda
This week we saw arguably the KO of the Year so far when heavy handed Filipino Romero Duno flattened over-matched Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what was a really scary KO. The Indian had been down and wobbled badly in the opening round, but had shown bravery to try and fight back. That turned out to be a huge mistake and he was left out cold from a monstrous right hand from Duno about a minute into the second round. Referee Ferdinand Estrella gave a 10 count, when he really didn't need to, and it took a good few minutes for Dhanda to move after getting medical assistance. Thankfully he did get to his feet and seemed to walk out of the ring by himself, following some really worrying scenes.
Dave Apolinario (10-0, 6)
We had a number of prospects in action though none shone like Dave Apolinario, who clearly beat Romshane Sarguilla over 8 rounds. The fight was a clear win, Apolinario near enough shut out his countryman, but was force to work though out the contest and never had time to relax. Despite the hot tempo Apolinario seemed to enjoy the fact he had an opponent who came to win, and that drew the best out of the southpaw who really did look like one to watch in the Flyweight division. At just 20 years old
he is someone who should be on everyone's radar going forward. A fantastic, sharp, quick, intelligent fighter who has the potential to go all the way!
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) vs Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4)
This coming week has a lot of great bouts scheduled for it, though the one that has us most interested is Thurday's OPBF Super Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Hiroaki Teshigawara and 21 year old challenger Yuki Iriguchi. Watching both men we see two aggressive, exciting, fighters who are happy to engage in a real fight. Stylistically this bout is the one that intrigues us the most, despite not being the most significant contest of the week. We do expect Teshigawara to win, but we also expect some all out violence until he gets the victory.
Ryosuke Iwasa Vs Cesar Juarez, Edward Heno Vs Koji Itagaki, Shohjahon ErgashevVs Mykal Fox
Katsunari Takayama to compete on March 1st!
There wasn't a huge announcement this week, though the Japanese Boxing Awards did get plenty of attention. Instead we had a bit of a scatter gun news week, with arguably the most notable single story being that of Katsunari Takayama's return to action. The hugely popular warrior will be fighting at the Japanese selection event for the Asian Championships, beginning his journey towards a potential Olympic berth. Whether Takayama's dream comes to reality or note, and he manages to make it to Tokyo 2020 is yet to be seen, but we're so glad to hear that he will be in the ring on March 1st as he continues to be a bit of a Japanese trail blazer.
The middle section of February is pretty interesting , with a number of notable regional level bouts.
Ben Mananquil (16-1-3, 4) Vs Tenta Kiyose (15-2-1, 7) - Hyogo, Japan
Filipino fighter Ben Mananquil travels to Japan to take Tenta Kiyose in what appears to be a really well matched bout for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title. Mananquil has been unlucky in a number of his bouts, though was fortunate to get a draw against Hinata Maruta. Kiyose on the other hand hasn't fought at the same level as Mananquil, but did score a very notable win over Oleydong Sithsamerchai last July and will be looking to build on that win here. This looks like a very interesting match up an should be very, very competitive.
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)- California, USA
Japan's Hiroki Okada takes part in his second US bout, as he battles former world champion Raymundo Beltran, in what looks to be an unofficial world title eliminator for the WBC Light Welterweight title. Okada failed to shine in his US debut, last year, but is a talented boxer-puncher and is certainly better than he looked last time out. Beltran, at his best, was handful for anyone other than the elite, and would have been strongly favoured against Okada, but he has looked to be on the slide in recent bouts, making this a very interesting match up, and something close to a 50-50 fight.
Genesis Servania (32-1, 15) vs Carlos Castro (21-0, 9)- Califnornia, USA
Former world title challenger Genesis Servania, from the Philippines, will be looking to take a huge step towards his second world title fight as he takes on the unbeaten Carlos Castro. Castro is taking a massive step up in class, and will be regarded as the under-dog, but Servania knows he needs to shine, not just win, if he's to open up the doors he needs to get a second title shot. Servania is best known in the US for his fantastic bout with Oscar Valdez and fans will be aware of how good he is, however Castro is an unknown, and could see this as his huge chance to make a name for himself, in what could be a very interesting match up.
Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5) Vs Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7)- Hiroshima, Japan
Filipino fighter Edward Heno returns to Japan to make his next defense of the OPBF Light Flyweight title, as he takes on Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki in Hiroshima. The unbeaten Filipino won the title in Japan back in 2017, when he stopped Seita Ogido, and has made 2 impressive defenses since. As for Itagako, he has come up short in Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific title bouts, but this will be his first for an OPBF belt. The Japanese fighter, who is now 35, is in last chance saloon, but has sadly not looked great in recent bouts and has scored just 2 wins in his last 7. All signs point towards another defense for the champion, but can Itagaki put in a career defining performance to save his career?
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) Vs Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4)-Tokyo, Japan
Over the last few year's we've been incredibly impressed by Hiroaki Teshigawara, who will be looking to make his next defense of the OPBF Super Bantamweight title, as he takes on Yuki Irigughi. This is a bout where the champion will be the clear favourite, but the challenger is far from a patsy, and holds a win over recent world title challenger Ryohei Takahashi. Given the styles of both men we're expecting a potential FOTY candidate and both men really do love to let their shots go. Sadly for the challenger he may not have the power needed to make the champion respect him, though he will have the self belief to bring the fight. This really could be the highlight of the week.
Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) Vs Satoru Todaka (9-2-4, 3) -Tokyo, Japan
On the same show as the Teshigawara Vs Iriguchi bout is a brilliant bout to crown a new Japanese Light Flyweight champion, as veteran Kenichi Horikawa takes on little known foe Satoru Todaka. Horikawa is a former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific champion who is an incredibly experienced fighter. At 38 Horikawa is coming towards the end of his career, but he showed there was still life in his legs last year when he stopped the previously mentioned Koji Itagaki. At 29 years old Todaka is the much younger man, but this is a major step up in class for him.
Shohjahon Ergashev (15-0, 14) vs Mykal Fox (19-0, 5)- Kansas, USA
In Kansas we'll see unbeaten men colliding, as highly touted Uzbek puncher Shohjahon Ergashev takes on Mykal Fox in a very interesting looking match up. The Uzbek shined last year, when he went 5-0 (4) putting himself on the map with notable wins over Sonny Fredrickson and Wang Zhimin. Fox, a tall rangy fighter, is stepping up massively here, but a win will boost his chances of a huge fight and he will likely be coming into this bout with the knowledge that this could be his coming out party. It's always good to see prospects colliding, and that's exactly what we have here!
The Celes Gym isn't a particularly well known one, in fact other than Ryosuke Iwasa we would be pretty surprised if Western fans recognised anyone else from the gym. Despite that it is pretty popular and the gym Chairman, Celes Kobayashi, is a notable figure in Japanese boxing. He is a former world champion, and someone who regularly shows up on G+ broadcasts, where he does commentary.
Whilst the Celes isn't too well known it does have a really exciting prospect rising through the ranks, Jin Minamide (2-0, 2) [南出仁]. To date he has only had 2 cameo appearances, but has looked destructive in both and is obviously a fighter that Celes have very big plans for.
As an amateur Minamide ran up a respectable 43-22 (15) record. That record lead to him turning professional as a B class fighter, meaning he started his career fighting in 6 round bouts rather than the 4 rounders that we typically see for novices.
Minamide made his debut back in June of 2018, when he faced Indonesian foe Anthony Holt. On paper this looked like a good test for Minamide, given that Holt was 5-3-1 (3), but instead Minamide made things look too easy, a he applied intelligent pressure, and landed a brutal straight left to the body to drop Hold in the first minute. Holt recovered to his feet but was dropped by a left hand to the head just moments later. A third knockdown followed as Minamide cornered his man and unloaded on the Indonesian, with the referee stopping the bout as soon as Holt dropped to the canvas.
Despite needing less than a round to score his debut win Minamide would be out of the ring until November, when he returned with dyed hair and a cocky swagger to take on Filipino foe Conrado Tanamor. Tanamor was 10-2 (4) and showed some ambition in the first 30 seconds. Sadly he was quickly put on the foot after that and ambitious start and would be dropped a little more than a minute into the bout. From then on Tanamor looked beaten and would be dropped again soon afterwards, taking the 10 count in the neutral corner.
Although Minamide has only had around just over 3 minutes of in ring action as a professional he has looked powerful, destructive and exciting. The 23 year old southpaw looks like a real prospect and a the potential face of the Celes gym. However his competition hasn't looked like they really wanted to be in the ring with him, they looked like they were hit and didn't like it before looking for a way out. It's going to take a durable and skilled opponent for us to really know what Minamide has in the locker, and too see if he has the skills to go with his power. If he does then, he's going to be a real threat and a major prospect.
Minamide will be back in the ring on March 2nd, when he face Marjun Pantilgan and hopefully he'll fit 3 or 4 fights into 2019 en route to taking a huge step towards getting into the title mix. We're also hoping he faces significantly better opposition than he's had so far.
It's fair to say that action is picking up, and going through February we are expecting to see a lot of great fights, in fact we've already seen some fantastic stuff, with this weekend being very notable.
Fighter of the Week
Junto Nakatani (18-0, 13)
Japan's Junto Nakatani has long been viewed as a major prospect as Flyweight and as one of Japan's hottest young talents. Coming into 2019 he had claimed the Rookie of the Year and Japanese Youth titles, showing that he had progressed beyond the novice leagues. This week he showed that he was far beyond that level as he took the Japanese Flyweight title, stopping the very brave, but thoroughly out classed, Naoki Mochizuki. Some had anticipated a walk in the park for Nakatani, though he was forced to work for this win and that brought out the best in him as he showed he could box, bang, move, and soak up pressure, before unleashing his uppercuts later on. It wasn't flawless from the youngster, but it was impressive.
Performance of the Week
Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21)
Filipino puncher Aston Palicte really left us with no option this week, when it came to the "Performance of the Week", as he decimated the previously unbeaten Jose Martinez in just 2 rounds. The win saw Palicte become the WBO Super Flyweight mandatory challenger, but it was how he earned that position that was so impressive. The first round was quiet, it was as if Palicte wanted to see what Martinez had, before moving through the gears and just battering Martinez, dropping him repeatedly before the referee decided enough was enough. It was destructive, brutal and a real statement of intent from "Mighty".
Notable mention - Janibek Alimkhanuly - We had long criticised Alimkhanuly and his ability to fight with a professional boxing style, but few can fault how he performance this week. He did appear to carry Steven Martinez but was in total control. Now we will expecting top performances from the former amateur star.
Koki Eto (23-4-1, 18) Vs Romel Oliveros (9-4-1,4)
This past week is the first one where we didn't really get a fight that stood out as being something amazing, however it did have some really great moments. The best single bout, was another from the Japanese card on Saturday and saw the always amusing Koki Eto end up getting involved in a war with Filipiono Romel Oliveros. The fight looked like a mismatch, especially at the end of the opening round, when Oliveros was dropped twice. The Filipino however seemed to have the attitude of "if I'm going down I'm going to try and take you with me" which drew out the machismo from Eto who stood and had a war with Oliveros. Eto has long been a must watch fighter, making even mismatches incredibly tough for himself, and here he was again in a stupidly entertaining battle.
Ryugo Ushijima vs Shota Ogasawara (Round 2)
We know we're picking quite a lot of obscure rounds in this series for our Weekly Round of the Week section, but we can't help the fact that it's the Japanese under-card bout that are delivering breath taking stanza's. That was seen again this week when unbeaten 17 year old Ryugo Ushijima took on Shota Ogasawara. On paper this was not a bout worthy of attention, it was the first bout on a televised Japanese card, neither man was well known and, if we're being honest, the opening round seemed to suggest that Ushijima was too good of a boxer to struggle with Ogasawara. In round 2 however things went crazy as Ogsawara dropped Ushijima and we ended up getting something very special. A show of hear, courage and will to win. This is easily worth 3 minutes of time from any boxing fan.
Mikito Nakano KO1 Ekarak Laprakorn
We've not seen many real KO's this year, and even fewer have been body shots, but Mikito Nakano, take a bow. The former Japanese amateur standout knew he was too good for his over-match Thai opponent, Ekarak Laprakorn, and wasn't going to waste time carrying his man. Instead he closed the show mid-way through the opening round with a truly brutal straight left hand to the body. The shot was so painful you could almost see tears in Ekarak's eyes as he wondered whether or not his liver was going to function properly afterwards. It wasn't a competitive match up, which does take some shine away from the blow, but it was brutal and gorgeous to watch in all the angles that G+ later showed the shot from.
Notable mentions: Kuntae Lee KO1 Aphisit Namkhot, Ryugo Ushijima TKO2 Shota Ogasawara
Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1)
This was a strange week for prospects. You had two top Japanese prospects, Kuntae Lee and Mikot Nakano, in total mismatches against Thai's and the only other fighters you could regard as a prospect would be Takuya Mizuno, a who had his 17th fight and has bene a professional for more than 5 years, Junto Nakatani, who is now a Japanese national champion with 18 fights, or 25 year old former World Amateur Champion Janibek Alimkhanuly, who made his debut in 2016. Given those options we'll give this week to the debuting Lee. He was in a mismatch, and everyone knew it, but he showed a really sharp jab, lovely control of distance and lived up to the expectations put on his shoulders. Hopefully his next bout will be a more significant test though, as this was too easy.
Notable mentions: Mikito Nakano and Janibek Alimkhanuly
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)
The coming week sees quite a lot of exciting action to come, with notable shows in Thailand, the US and the Philippines. The pick of the bunch, at least on paper, seems to be the final bout with an Asian interest of the week, and will see unbeaten Japanese fighter Hiroki Okada taking on Mexican veteran Raymundo Beltran, in what looks likely to be a really interesting war. Okada will be the betting under-dog, given how disappointing he was on his US debut, but Beltran has looked old and worn and knows he will be fighting for his career. A really good match up! Our preview of this bout can be read here Okada and Beltran set to battle in must win bout!
Srisaket to fight on DAZN, will be featured on Febaruy 8th charity show!
This past week was a busy one, out of the ring, for Thailand with numerous stories, the most significant, by some margin, was that Srisaket Sor Rungvisai's future lies with DAZN. The WBC and Ring Magazine Super Flyweight champion has signed up with the streaming service who will air his next official fight. We say "official" fight as he is set to take part in an exhibition before that with Nawaphon Pro Chokchai, in what will be a charity event to raise money for medical supplies.The rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada is now expected to take place in early April on DAZN US.
So we're finally through what feels like an incredibly long January, and it's time to post our first ever Monthly award winners!
Fighter of the Month
On January 26th Can Xu, from China, upset Jesus M Rojas to become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion, that win netted him our Fighter of the Week for Week 4 2019 and saw him announce himself on the radar of many fight fans. Whether he will become the figure that Chinese boxing builds around is unclear, for now, but it's clear that this is one of the biggest ever wins for Chinese boxing, and to do it on foreign soil makes it even bigger.
Xu not only won, which was impressive by it's self but did so by out Rojasing' Rojas. He stood and traded, fought at a high tempo and forced the champion to tire down the stretch. Which is when he was particularly effective.
The win, the performance and his post fight interview, where he explained his power came from China, made him a fan favourite and it's clear that he will be welcomed back in the US in the future.
Fight of the Month
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
There was stiff competition for Fight of the Month, with Takeshi Inoue Vs Jaime Munguia and Kenshin Oshima Vs Ikura Sadatsune and Jian Wang Vs Seong Yeong Yang all being great fights. The winner however was the Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas fight, which was high Octane from the start to the end. It did, perhaps, lack the drama needed for a true Fight of the Year candidate, but it's the best we've had this year, and yes we know we are only in February now but it was a very enjoyable contest.
The tempo that was set was great, the momentum shifts, with Rojas starting fast, Xu coming into the bout, Rojas having a big 9th round, then Xu come back on strong, made it something that you couldn't take your eyes off of.
It seemed early on like Rojas was going to get Xu out of there. He looked too strong and too powerful, he then began to tire and Xu's punches too over as his toughness saw him staying up through the storm. What a great fight, and a great coming out party for Xu, who may prove to be one of the most TV friendly fighters out there.
KO of the Month
Mikhail Lesnikov KO1 Afrizal Tamboresi
There hasn't been many true KO's in Asian Boxing this month, but there was a really brutal one that stood out, and that was Mikhail Lesnikov's brutal knockout out of Indonesian journeyman Afrizal Tamboresi. The match was a disgusting mismatch, with Lesnikov being far too big for Tamboresi, and that was compounded by the fact Tamboresi had been numerous times prior to this contest. A disgusting mismatch that ended in brutal fashion, though credit to Lesnikov for not prolonging the beating of Tamboresi.
The bout it's self leads us to wondering why Tamboresi's team would throw him into such a mismatch but that's not really relevant to the discussion at hand.
We had a really good selection of prospects in action this month including Vikas Krishan, who made his debut, Li Xiang, who shined in China and Sadriddrin Akhmedov. For us the most impress was unheralded ArAr Andales.
We all know how good Akhmedov and Krishan were as amateurs, they were expected to win, and win good, Andales on the other hand was a bit of a mystery, an unknown teenager taking a notable step up in class. Despite the step up he stopped Charlie Malugpangue, his first stoppage win in 6 bouts.
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
We won't go into this too much, given the bout has already been mentioned twice, but Xu entered as a 5/1 under-dog across the British betting markets and still secured the win. A big win and a bit betting surprise.
Shin Ono Vs Norihito Tanaka (Round 6)
Stream live on Boxing Raise the Japanese Minimumweight title bout between Shin Ono and Norhito Tanaka is likely to be the start of the end for Ono's career. It was however a gutsy performance from the Watanabe man, who knew he was behind after 5 rounds and put everything in to trying to turn the bout around. He put in an incredible effort in round 6, but was unable to damage Tanaka, who would see him off the following round to claim the Japanese title.
The round was a brilliant see saw round, that saw Ono upping his pace and Tanaka refusing to release his grip on the bout. A fantastic 3 minutes of action!
Whilst Ono's career is unlikely to last too much longer, given his age and accumulated damage, this was a fantastic way to go out. As for Tanaka he has finally won a big one and will likely see himself defending the belt in the Spring.
The Watanabe gym is thriving, despite a recent loss for Shin Ono and the retirement ceremony of Kohei Kono. The reason they are thriving so much is their young talent. We recently covered Ginjiro Shigeoka in a previous "Introducing..." and now we'd like to talk about another Watanabe prospect, Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1) [富施郁哉], who isn't on the same trajectory as Shigeoka, but has been very impressive himself.
Born in 1998 Fuse was only 18 when he made his professional debut in January 2017. There was no hype behind the youngster, no expectation and no real pressure. Despite being under the radar he quickly impressed and exactly 11 months after his debut he was crowned the 2017 Bantamweight Rookie of the Year.
Fuse had made his debut at Super Featherweight, but quickly dropped the weight to move down to Bantamweight. At Bantamweight he settled and scored Rookie wins over Takayoshi Suzuki and Wataru Ikegami to become the East Japan Rookie of the year. As the East Japan champion he would then competed in the all Japan final against the unbeaten West Japan representative Hiroki Tokuyama. Fuse would stop Tokuyama, though in fairness the stoppage was a poor one, to become the all Japan champion and go into 2018 with some expectations on his shoulders.
Having fought 5 times in his debut year, going 5-0 (1), Fuse was actually not too active in 2018, fighting just twice. The first of those bouts saw him defeat the previously unbeaten Yohanis Tatul over 6 rounds before making his international debut in October 2018, travelling to Korea and schooling Dong Young Lee, in a Japan Vs Korea show. That performance, more than any of the others, showed just how good Fuse is. He out boxed, out moved, out punched, out skilled and out sped the Korean who struggled to win a single from the 6 round contest.
Unlike many of the youngsters at the Watanabe gym Fuse doesn't have power, he's not a destructive fighter. He has enough snap on his shots to keep opponents respectful, but won't go out and destroy them. Instead Fuse will out box them, using his movement, handspeed and brain to out think fighters, and rack up the points. We suspect that might change when he matures, given he still hasn't got his man strength, but for now he is developing a very sharp boxing style.
In some ways his career has started in a similar way to that of current WBO Super Featherweight world champion. Like Ito we've not seen Fuse show much power, instead relying on his boxing skills, both have won the Rookie of the Year and if Fuse can have a career anything like that of Ito he'll have done something to be very proud about.
For those wanting to follow Fuse's career, he'll be in action again on February 26th, when he'll face Naoto Mizutani as part of an undercard on a major Watanabe show. A win there will move Fuse towards a potential Japanese youth title fight, and we'll be looking forward to his progress through 2019.
It appears that things got real this week, like really real, with some true Fight of the Year candidates, a notable upset, some stellar performances by lesser known fighters and some really under-rated fights from lesser known fighters. It was a weekend that saw attention being thrust on Asian fighters, with 3 major US bouts featuring fighters from Asia, as well as bouts in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (16-2, 2)
Entering his first "world" title bout as a 5/1 to one under-dog, Chinese fighter Can Xu was expected to be steam rolled by WBA"regular" Featherweight champion Jesus M Rojas. Instead however Xu shocked the bookmakers by not only surviving the bout, but also winning. The early rounds saw Rojas on the offensive, but Xu fought back and eventually came on strong in the second half, as Rojas began to feel the tempo, in what was an amazing all action bout. In the end Xu's energy and work rate in the second half of the fight was enough for him to take home the surprise win. The scorecards didn't do justice for how close the bout is, but this huge win for Xu is massive for Chinese boxing and should see the Max Power Promoted fighter become the new face of Chinese boxing.
Performance of the Week
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7)
It would be easy to crown Xu the double winner for the two main solo awards for this week, but the reality is that his performance was equalled by that of Japan's Takeshi Inoue. Inoue wasn't just expected to lose, but was expected to be stopped, and stopped early. Instead the little known Inoue was in Jamie Mungia's face from the first round to the last, pressing the touted Mexican all the way and giving him more problems than anyone as at world level. Some had suggested Inoue didn't belong in the ring with Munguia before hand but his performances here showed he belong in, and around, world level and he is certainly going to be a handful for other fighters at the world level. He may have lost, but his performance, against a supposed superstar in the making, was excellent.
Can Xu (15-2, 2) Vs Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2, 19)
The WBA "Regular" Featherweight title fight between China's Can Xu and Jesus M Rojas is likely to be forgotten at the end of the year, due to it taking place so early in 2019, but it will be one of the most action packed fighters of the year.From the opening round both men let their shots go, both set a high activity level and there was really grit and determination from both fighters. The fight changed in the middle rounds, when Rojas' work rate dropped, but he still looked the more dangerous man, and seemed to have Xu on the back foot in round 9. The only thing missing from making it a truly legendary fight was the lack of real drama and neither man ever seemed to be particularly hurt, but the action was so in tense that it was easy to ignore that flaw.
Alphoe Dagayloan Vs Danrick Sumabong, Tugstogt Nyambayar Vs Claudio Marrero, Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Munguia
Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Mungia (round 10)
The Inoue Vs Mungia fight will be marred by the scoring, which essentially made it clear that Inoue was never going to get the win on the scorecards, but it gave us some amazing action, the best of which was in round 10. Inoue started the round fast, having great success in the early going of the round, but was rocked in the final stages as Munguia finally began to show the offense and aggression that he's best known for.It was the only time Inoue looked hurt during the 12 round contest, and the only time Munguia looked like the monster he's been sold as in recent months. The assault from Munguia however didn't come until late in the round.
No fit contender - Unfortunately 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!
ArAr Andales (9-0, 2)
There were several better known prospects in action this week but 19 year old ArAr Andales was the one that shone to us. He was aggressive, exciting and despite not being a power puncher really brought the fire before stopping Charlie Malupangue in the 5th round. On paper this was a very credible step up in class for the Filipino teenager, but he made it look easy and really put himself on the map, whilst claiming the WBA Asia Minimumweight title.He appears to be someone who could well end up in the mix in the coming years, and shouldn't be over-looked as a potential contender, at least on the regional scene.
Saddridin Akhmedov, Danrick Sumabong
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8)
After a few weeks of top level world class fights there isn't anything at that level over the next 7 days, however there are still some interesting contests. The most interesting of those appears to be the Japanese Flyweight title bout between the highly regarded Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki, who battle for the vacant belt. The match up won't make waves internationally, but will likely help push the winner towards major international bouts, as well as seeing them pick up their major title. Nakatani is widely considered as one of the best hopes in Japan, but Mochizuki is a very live under-dog and could well have the style to over-come the 21 year old. Very interesting bouts.
Gonte Lee Vs Aphisit Namkhot, Aston Palicte Vs Jose Martinez
Denver Cuello to return in March
Former Minimumweight world title contender Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) has been out of the ring for well over 3 years, yet this week we saw the news break that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, to take on Indonesian veteran Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14). It's not a match up that will get peoples attention, but it is amazing to know that Cuello will be back in the ring, even if he has had so long away, due to injuries.
If we're being honest January was a bit of a slow burn month, with a lack of action at the start of the month before picking up over the last 2 weekends. There was action through January but it was very bitty and very slow to get going. Thankfully the same can't be said for February which starts hot and continues to be busy throughout, even if the action doesn't hit the same heights as January in terms of quality.
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) Vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese title fight of the new month sees Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki battle for the vacant Japanese fight title, which Masayuki Kuroda vacated in late 2018. Coming in to the bout Nakatani will start as the favourite but Mochizuki is a tough and underrated fighter who will know this is a huge opportunity to claim a national title, put himself in the mix for big fights down the line and impress on a televised Japanese card.
Kenichi Ogawa (21-1-0-1, 17) vs Roldan Aldea (12-6-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa returns to the ring after more than a year out of action, following a failed drugs test. The hard hitting Ogawa, who is best known for taking a controversial win over Tevin Farmer that was later over-turned due to the aforementioned drug test, will be facing off with Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea, in what is supposed to be a show case for the talented and returning Japanese fighter.
Gonte Lee (0-0) vs Aphisit Namkhot (1-1, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest debuts of 2019 will see Japanese-Korean fighter Gonte Lee, a former amateur standout, take on Thai foe Aphisit Namkhot. The talented Lee won over 100 amateur fighters, with 62 wins in a row, competed for North Korea and was expected to go to the 2020 Olympics. Instead he chose to go professional and his debut is something to be very highly excited about. The Thai foe is expected to provide little more than the perfect foil for Lee's debut.
Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) vs TBA - Tokyo, Japan
Talking about amateur standouts it's worth noting that another Japanese amateur stand out will also be on this card, Mikito Nakano. Nakano, who debuted last year, is tipped for huge success and will be looking to score his second professional win. His opponent is currently unknown, though we do know it will be a Thai, and like Lee's bout this should be little more than a show case for a fantastically talented young prospects.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1) vs Steven Martinez (18-4, 13) - Texas, USA
In the US we'll see Kazakh fighter Janibek Alimkhanuly take a good step up in class as he battles Steven Martinez. The talented Alimkhanuly has yet to shine since signing with Top Rank in 2018, putting in two forgetable performances last year. Despite failing to look great recently we do have high hopes for the 25 year old Kazakh and we're expecting to see him show that potential sooner rather than later. Martinez is a tough opponent, with ambitions of his own, but we suspect that Alimkhanuly will have the skills to defeat the tough American.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) vs Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Young prospect Dave Apolinario takes on his stiffed test to date as he battled against fellow unbeaten Filipino Mark Vicelles, in what looks like an excellent bout on paper. Apoinarion, the younger brother of former world title challenger Mark John Apolinario, has looked like an excellent prospect since making his debut back in 2017 but has yeat to face someone looking to score a win of their own. Vicelles on the other hand has proven he can get through hungry fighters, taking the unbeaten records of Rey Tagulaylay and Roldan Sasan. He's a capable fighter himself and will know a win here would be huge. This has the hallmarks of a weekend stealing contest.
Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) vs Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7)- Metro Manila, Philippines
WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men at 118lbs, due to the WBSS, but is building a reputation at home, a reputation he'll be looking to enhance here when he takes on charismatic Japanese warrior Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo is an excellent boxer-puncher with really crisp punching and he looks like one of the better contenders in the division. Nakamura on the other hand is a fun but limited fighter who we suspect will play his part in a fun fight, but a fight that he loses.
Romero Duno (18-1, 14) vs Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Filipino boxer-puncher Romero Duno put his name on the international stage when he travelled to the US and upset the much fancied Christian Gonzalez in 2 rounds. Since then he has fought only once in the Philippines, and 4 times in the US, whilst building his international presence. He returns "home" to face Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what appears to be a stay busy contest for the Filipino hopeful, who will be expected to return to the US later in the year for potential world title eliminator, or minor title bout of some kind.
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