It's fair to say that April has been an up and down month, rather than a spectacular month. It's given us some really good highlights, but those highlights were spread through the month and often at a relatively lower level. It's not been a bad month, but it instantly looks disappointing given that two of the months biggest bouts were underwhelming, and we have an incredible May just around the corner.
Fighter of the Month
John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18)
The month didn't have a major standout for the Fighter of the Month award, there were a number of contenders, but no one took the month by the scruff of the neck quite like John Riel Casimero. The inconsistent, though hugely talented, Filipino claimed the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title when he score a final round KO win ocer Ricardo Espinoza Franco, in an off TV bout. The bout was level on the cards going into the 12th round, and it really was all to play for, with Casimero turning it on, and taking out the Mexican in the first minute of the round. A great victory and one that instantly puts him in the Bantamweight mix. Potentially Casimero could face Zolani Tete next, in what would be a really good match up between two world class, though often frustrating, fighters.
Fight of the Month
Yoji Saito vs Aso Ishiwaki
Whilst some categories were stacked this month, it's hard to think of a bout that stood out for all the right reasons and was a genuinely good, 50-50 type bout, that didn't end in the opening round, more about that in a minute. Looking back over the month the best of the bunch, for us, was the 6 round thriller between Yoji Saito and Aso Ishiwaki, who really went to war and tried to take each other out. The fight was expected to go Saito's way to begin with, given his amateur pedigree, but Ishiwaki saw off the early storm and was perhaps unfortunate to not take a notable win in what was a thriller. A really good bout, in a month lacking sensational contests.
As we mentioned there was really good 1-round fights, or rather 1 round shoot outs. These included the brilliant Boxing Raise exclusive between Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato, and the similarly entertaining contest between Yuki Yazawa and Kazuki Nakamura.
KO of the Month
Nonito Donaire KO6 Stephon Young
We had a lot of competition in this category, with great KO's scored in Asia by Cristiano Aoqui, Koiki Tyson and Chainoi Worawut, among others. The pick of the KO's however came on a higher level as Nonito Donaire's much famed left hook left Stephon Young looking up at the lights, but with no idea where he was. Donaire, even at the age of 36, may well have the most powerful left hook, pound for pound at least, in the sport and Young just became another victim to the shot. Not only was it a beauty to look at, in it's gorgeous and sudden violence, but it was also incredibly significant, as it put Donaire into the WBSS final later in the year.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 1)
One of the toughest categories this week was the Prospect of the Month, with a number of prospects in action, such as Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov, Seiya Tsutsumi, Riku Kunimoto, and our eventual pick, Ginjiro Shigeoka. The Watanabe Wondrer Kid impressed as he beat Joel Lino in what was a huge step up in class, and it seems clear that he learrned more in the bout than many of the other prospects who were in action. He not only learned a lot, but also clearly beat a very talented fighter, and a title bout is surely just around the corner.
Kanehiro Nakagawa vs Seiichi Okada and Masayasu Nakamura vs Tatsuya Takahashi
A real rarity here, but we have a draw here with two genuinely notable upsets, both of which are impossible to split for which is the best or biggest.
On one hand we had Kanehiro Nakagawa (7-6, 4) out-point former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada (22-7-1, 13) and on the other we had Masayasu Nakamura (7-3-1, 6) take a decision over former Japanese Bantamweight title challenger Tatsuya Takahashi (30-9-5, 21), in what was Nakamura's first bout in almost 3 years.
Whilst fingers can be pointed at both fights, both wins are huge for the under-dogs who should be able to use their victories as a launch pad.
Seigo Yuri Akui vs Yoshiki Minato - Round 1
One of the final shows of the Heisei Era gave us a full on shoot out, as Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato tore into each other, with neither showing any intention of going to the final bell. Within 20 seconds Akui had staggered his man, and Minato decided to fight fire with fire, dropping Akui with a huge left hand. When the bout resumed Minato went hunting Akui who took a few moments to regroup, turning the tables with some huge shots of his own. About 80 seconds into the round Akui had scored his own knockdown, then another 20 seconds later. Minato, who had picked the wrong fight, tried to gut it out but was stopped shortly afterwards. This may not have been technically solid, but was full on, non-stop entertainment.
Typically when we do an "Introducing..." we look at fighters who either have very strong amateur pedigrees or have done something as a professional, for example won Roookie of the Year, or a B class tournament. Today however we're going to look at someone who had a pretty poor amateur record, and hasn't yet done anything of real note, though will be taking a big step up in class on May 19th when he takes on an WBO Asia Pacific ranked opponent.
The fighter in question is 22 year old Tsubasa Murachi (3-0, 3) who debuted in May 2018, in a 4 rounder, and will be moving into his first 8 round bout next time out, incidentally just 1 day before he actually made his debut.
The youngster, as mentioned, had a less than stellar amateur record. His actual record isn't totally clear, but we've been told he was 16-16 (1), and even if it's slightly off it's around that. A 50-50 type amateur record. Despite not being an amazing amateur the youngster was confident and dropped out of university in his third year to pursue his boxing career.
His debut was fought over 4 rounds, in a C class bout. The plan was set in motion however to move to a B class bout if he won his debut. Of course, know he is now 3-0 (3) we know that Murachi won his debut, in fact he did so at DESAFIO 7 when he stopped Shun Fukuda in 92 seconds.
On his debut Murachi didn't look like a special talent, despite blowing out Fukuda. He looked talented, but like he was over-confident, arrogant almost. There was a cockiness to him, which left him looking wild at times and he had some defensive flaws. Despite the flaws and arrogance he looked heavy handed, exciting and crisp. There was something there, even if it was a long way from a flawless performance, that would have made fans take note. A flair, a excitement factor. The unnerving confidence of a man who knew he was too good, even on debut. There was no debut jitters, just cocky naivety.
Having won his debut Murachi would take a big step up in his second bout, moving into 6 round territory, having claimed a B class license after his debut. Not only was he stepping up in terms of length of bout, but also competition, taking on Wataru Ikegami, who had had 9 professional bouts prior to facing, had never been stopped and had actually taken on Fumiya Fuse in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017. Despite Ikegami being a good opponent on paper he was unable to cope with the power of Murachi. The youngster needed just 12 seconds to drop Ikegami and just over a minute to close the show, forcing the referee to save Ikegami.
It wasn't until Murachi's third professional bout that we saw him needing to go more than a single round, with China's Sheng Peng lasting 5 rounds with Murachi. For the first time Murachi's power wasn't enough, and Peng managed to give the youngster a pretty good fight, taking his shots and landing plenty of his own in a very entertaining scrap. Sadly for Peng he would begin to slow down and Murachibegan to land too regularly or the referee to allow the bout to continue, stopping it mid-way through round 5.
Murachi's next bout will be against Raymond Tabugon (21-9-1, 11), who has a WBO Asia Pacific ranking, a lot of experience and notably put Andrew Moloney down in 2017. He is no push over. If Murachi sees off Tabugon, then it's hard to imagine Murachinot getting title fight later in the year.
Although not a big name, Murachi is a crisp, free flowing offensive fighter. There is work to be had defensively, but he's heavy handed, a very crisp puncher, and a very, very exciting talent.
Sadly we're not able to share footage of the youngster, but if you're wanting to see what the fuss is about all 3 of his current bouts are on Boxing Raise. It's not going to be long however until he gets some form of TV coverage.
As we head into May, which us set to be a crazy month we bow out of April, and to be fair to April it's not been the worst month even if there has been inconsistent action. This past week was one of those where there wasn't a steady stream of notable bouts, but there was certainly enough to be entertained. Sadly the biggest bouts of the week both failed to live up to expectations, with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai fighting with some of the strangest tactics we've seen and Zolani Tete needing to pull out of his bout with Nonito Donaire. Despite those issues this week was certainly worthy paying attention to.
Fighter of the Week
Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26)
Whilst Donaire may have seen original opponent Zolani Tete pull out of the scheduled WBSS semi final that really can't take away from the fact Donaire himself turned up, and took out Stephon Young to move forward towards the WBSS final.The Filipino veteran, now aged 36, walked down Young before stopping him in 6 rounds to retain the WBA "Super" and WBC Diamond Bantamweight titles. The performance showed that Donaire is still young enough to over-come speedy younger southpaws, though the reality was that this was a massive step down to what had been planned.
Performance of the Week
Kasumi Saeki (4-0, 3)
Japan's Kasumi Saeki may not be a name that is on the lips of many fight fans but her performance this past Saturday was fantastic. Fighting in her first world title bout, in just her 4th professional bout, Saeki was up against Mexican foe Elizabeth Lopez and shone. Saeki would totally dominate Lopez before stopping in 6 rounds to become a new world champion, just 11 months after her debut. For those who haven't yet managed to see Saeki they really should be looking to follow her, she's a very, very special young fighter.
Seigo Yuri Akui vs Yoshiki Minato (Round 1)
When we get a 1 round fight that's something special it's sometimes hard to know if this belongs in "Round of the Week" or "Fight of the Week". We had this issue again this week thanks to the brilliant opening round of Seigo Yuri Akui's bout against Yoshiki Minato. The round saw both men swinging for the fences from the opening moments. Akui would be dropped, before bouncing back and dropping Minato twice, then stopping Minato on his feet. It was crazy, intense and thoroughly amazing action, the sort of 1-round thriller that we all love. The bout was one that we had been looking forward to, and will be uploaded to Boxing Raise in the coming days, we suggest that those who use Boxing Raise make sure to give this one a watch
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Juan Francisco Estrada II (Round 11)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai put in one of the strangest ever performanes of a world champion this past Friday. The hard hitting southpaw actually fought out of the orthodox stance for the most part, giving away some of his biggests strengths. In round 11 however the Thai finally began to fight as a southpaw, reverting to his typical stance, and this lead him to have real success, taking the fight to Estrada, who let machismo kick in and gave us a great round. Srisaket picked up his pressure and Estrada was forced to respond. This was a great round, and it's just a shame that Srisaket spent so much of the fight, fighting the wrong fight.
Nonito Donaire KO6 Stephon Young
We're back with the Filipino Flash who's much vaunted and thoroughly destructive left hook landed clean on the chin of Stephon Young in the 6th round of their clash. Donaire has been looking for the shot through much of the bout, landing it less flush a few times, but the one that closed the show was truly fantastic, landing clean and sending Young crashing to the ring, hard. That was it, with Young left looking up at the lights, with the lights on but nobody home.
Han Bin Suh (4-0-2, 3)
We're off to Korea for our prospect of the week, as 19 year old Han Bin Suh gets the plaudits from ourselves. The youngster, who had scored back to back draws prior to his bout this week took the Korean Super Bantamweight title with an 8th round TKO win against Dae Young Lee, Whilst Lee was nothing special to be put into a 10 round bout this early in his career Suh is certainly one to make note of. He's perhaps a little bit fortunate that there was many other prospects in action, but that shouldn't devalue the teenager winning such a big bout so early in his career.
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) Vs Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
This coming week is set to be a very busy week, and for us the most interesting match up will see Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto defending his title against slick southpaw challenger Reiya Abe. The bout might not have a world title on the line, but it's a sensational match up and could end up being one of the best bouts on Japanese soil this year. The styles should gel, the desire of both men will be huge and we really are expecting something very, very special here.
It's fair to say that May is typically a busy month in world boxing, with things picking up globally. It's with that in mind that we feel we don't really need to say that the month is going to be a hectic in terms of Asian boxers, with a host of notable fights taking place through the month. Here we look at the first part of the month, and it is set to be a huge first week for the month of May.
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) Vs Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
The first title bout takes place on May 1st and it's a brilliant match up, pitting hard hitting Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto up against slick southpaw Reiya Abe, in a mandatory defense of the title. Minamoto will be looking for his second defense, and will be hoping to putt in a performance more a kin to his title winning victory than his first defense, which was a poor performance. Abe on the other hand will be looking to extend his impressive winning run and make the most of his first title opportunity.
Hinata Maruta (8-1-1, 7) vs Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4)-Tokyo, Japan
On the same show as Minamoto's bout with Abe is a brilliant contest between highly tipped prospect Hinata Maruta and the experienced Coach Hiroto. Maruta is looking to build on an excellent win over Tsuyoshi Tameda late last year and move towards a potential title shot later in the year, possibly even against the winner of the Minamoto Vs Abe bout. Hiroto on the other hand is looking for redemption after essentially being kicked out of the Kadoebi gym following issues making weight last year. If Hiroto is up for this it could be very, very interesting.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) Vs Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9) - Osaka, Japan
We often over-look the Japanese Welterweight scene, but the reality is that it is pretty interesting, and looks set to become more interesting in the coming years thanks to some good emerging young talent. Two of those talented youngsters clash here in a battle for the JBC Youth Welterweight title. In one corner is unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko, an Afghan-Japanese fighter who really impressed last year when he stopped Toshio Arikawa. In the other corner is Hiroki Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi, talented boxer-puncher. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and the winner will likely find themselves in the mix to face newly crowned national champion Yuki Nagano in the near future.
Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11) Vs Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4) II - Tokyo, Japan
The second Japanese title fight of the month will see Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi defending his title against his mandatory challenger, Ken Osato. This is a rematch of a 2018 encounter that saw Osato scoring a knockdown before being stopped himself and we're again excepting a competitive contest. Since their first bout both have improved, with Osato gaining some valuable experience and building his confidence whilst Sueyoshi has fought to a draw with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The champion will be favoured, but he is in with a live challenger
Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) vs Daiki Kameyama (7-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
On the same card we'll also see touted prospect Shokichi Iwata make his Japanese debut, taking on 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama in a 6 round contest. Iwata made his professional debut in the US, among some solid fanfare, but this is a big step up in class and and Kameyama has won 4 in a row, including the Rookie of the Year title, winning that in December. This might look amazing on paper, but we're expecting a very good bout.
Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) vs Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) - Metro Manila, Philippines
At the same type of time as the Tokyo show there will be an ESPN5 broadcast in the Philippines headlined by an amazing match up between WBC ABC Silver Super Featherweight champion Al Toyogon and talented Japanese fighter Ryo Sagawa. This has the ingredients of an excellent match up, with Toyogon's exciting but crude offense against Sagawa's skilled boxing, but somewhat questionable toughness. This may not get the attention the Japanese card gets, but could be an even better contest.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) - California, USA
Another big bout of note on May 4th sees attention turn to California as IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas takes on mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai. For the champion this will be his 7th defense of the title, and follows a couple of disappointing performances including a forgetable win over Jonas Sultan and a draw with Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Funai on the other hand will be getting his first world title bout, and also having his first bout outside of Japan. If Ancajas fights like he has in his last 2 bouts this could be very, very tough for the champion, though he will clearly be favoured over the little known challenger.
Riku Kano (14-4-1, 7) Vs Mektison Marganti (5-10-1, 3) - Hyogo, Japan
Former world title challenger Riku Kano battled to repair his career when he fights for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. The talented Kano has had a tough time in recent years, losing to the likes of Katsunari Takayama and Shin Ono, but will feel confident of picking up a win here against limited Indonesian Mekitson Marganti, who has interestingly shared the ring with Wanheng Menayothin. This is a must win for Kano, and in fact he needs to win and look good.
Hikaru Matsuoka (15-4-3, 2) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (8-2, 4) - Hyogo, Japan
More Japanese youth title action will be on this same Hyogo show, with Hikaru Matsuoka making his first defense of the JBC Youth Featherweight title. Matsuoka won the title late last year, scoring his third straight win, but does have a lot of questions to answer in regards to his long term potentnial. Tonomoto, who reached the Rookie of the Year final all the way back in 2014, will be looking to claim his first title and this should make for a very, very interesting match up, even if it's only at domestic youth title level.
Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2) - Hyogo, Japan
Hikaru Matsuoka's brother Arata Matsuoka also looks to make his first defense of a Japanese youth title, as he defends the JBC Youth Light Flyweight title against Jukiya Washio. Matsuoka, who also won his title late last year, has the clear edge in experience here, but Washio is very much a lice challenger and enters on the back of 3 straight wins. This is the weakest of the 3 bouts on the Hyogo card, but could end up being the most competitive.
Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8) Vs Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (22-9, 14) - Tokyo, Japan
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni returns to the ring for his second bout since losing the world title. The talented Kadoebi gym fighter had some ring rust lats year, when he ended a lengthy break from the ring, and will be looking to shake a bit more here as he goes in with a world ranked Thai. Although world ranked Sukkasem is nothing hugely special, and has lost the last 7 times he's fought outside of Thailand with 2 of those losses coming in Japan. Given Oguni's inactivity this could be tough, but he should still come out on top.
As we've mentioned a number of times in these "Introducing..." articles, the Watanabe gym is rich with young and emerging talent. It's a gym that is so deep in talent that it may well be the strongest gym in Japan right now, and is certainly up there with Kadoebi and Ohashi in terms of overall depth. One of the many fighters at the gym making their mark is 24 year old southpaw Ren Sasaki (8-0, 5), a promising young southpaw.
Born in Morioka City in 1995 Sasaki didn't really have much of an amateur career, in fact our sources suggest he was 1-0 (1) as an amateur before beginning his professional career in late 2016, under the Tokyo based Watanabe Gym.
As with many fighters who lack a strong amateur background Sasaki was involved in 4 round bouts to begin his career, making his debut in October 2016. On his debut he quickly saw off Kyota Shinya, scoring an opening round TKO win over his opponent. It would then be 6 months before he returned to the ring, fighting in an East Japan Rookie of the Year preliminary bout against Yuichi Wakita. Wakita would himself be stopped in round 3 by Sasaki.
Having won his first Rookie of the Year bout in April 2017 Sasaki would go on to have an excellent 2017. He would go on to beat Masaaki Shiraishi in his second bout from East Japan Rookie and then defeat Yoshiki Nakamura in the competition's semi-final bout. Those wins lead Sasaki to the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in November, where Sasaki met Toru Kiyota. Kiyota came into the bout with a 7-1 (5) record, a reputation as a talented puncher and a man in good form. He would however be worn out and then stopped by Sasaki, with an official time of 3:09 in round 4.
The win over Kiyota wasn't pretty, it wasn't an attractive win, but it was a huge win for Sasaki who earned himself a place in the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year. In the All Japan final he would face another unbeaten fighter, Shuto Takase, the West Japan representative. Sasaki entered the bout 5-0 (3) whilst Takase was 4-0-1 (1). The bout, like Sasaki's bout with Kiyota, was another messy one, though it was clear that Sasaki had developed a style that was effective for him, and it often involved Sasaki pressing the action, breaking his opponent down, and that again happened here, stopping Takase in the 4th round.
With the Rookie of the Year crown won 2018 had the potential to be a huge year for Sasaki. His first bout of the year saw him stop Thai novice Somphot Seesa, in the 2nd of a scheduled 6 rounder. This bout may not have been a very notable one, though did come on a big show featuring two world title fights and did give Sasaki the experience of fighting on a big show.
Sasaki's second bout of 2018 saw him take on Kanehiro Nakagawa in a B Class tournament final. The bout looked like a mismatch on paper, with Nakagawa having a 5-5 record against the 7-0 record of Sasaki, in the end however this was actually a really competitive and tough bout, with Nakagawa holding his own with Sasaki. The toughness of Nakagawa forced Sasaki to go 6 rounds for the first time, and just narrowly sneak the win with a majority decision.
Sadly Sasaki wouldn't fight again in 2018 and now we have to wait until this coming May to see to see him again, with his next bout now set for May 12th. That will be a landmark bout for Sasaki as he travels to Hong Kong to take on Ge An Ma in an 8 round contest.
Unlike many featured in our "Introducing..." section we're not expecting Sasaki to get a title fight any time soon, but he is certainly one to make a note of going forward.
This past week hasn't been the best in Asian boxing, but we have had plenty of stuff going on, so with that said, who won our weekly awards over these past 7 days?
Fighter of the Week
John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18)
Talented Filipino veteran John Riel Casimero might have only had his recent bout seen by a handful of fight fans, but he was the clear fighter of the week. The 30 year old "Quadro Alas" travelled to the US, fought off TV and stopped Ricardo Espinoza Franco in the final round to claim the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title. Less than 2 years ago we saw him putting in a relatively hopeless performance against Jonas Sultan, at Super Flyweight, and to think he's dug deep to score a 12th round stoppage to claim a "world" title at a third division is incredible. Obviously he won't be favoured against the eventual WBSS winner, but for this week he deserves so many plaudits.
Performance of the Week
Joe Nonay (17-2-1, 6)
Travelling to enemy territory can always be daunting but for a fighter, but Filipino fighter Joe Noynay made things look easy as he travelled to Japan and stopped former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka in 2 rounds to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. Noynay dropped Saka early and forced the referee to interject in round 2. The Filipino, who isn't known for his power, looked devastating with his left hand, and this is the sort of performance that will help put him on the map. Marvellous.
Sadly due to a lack of footage from the week no fight really stood out as being worthy of a mention for Fight of the Week.
Yuta Saito Vs Hayato Kimura (round 4)
The Japanese Bantamweight unification bout between Yuta Saito and Hayato Kimura promised a lot, though failed to really give us the 50-50 match up we had hoped for. What it did deliver, however, was an amazing 4th round, that saw both fighters trading blows on the inside in a round is worth rewatching again and again. This was heavy handed trading at close range, for 3 hard fought minutes, and is among the best rounds in a Japanese title fight this year.
Notable mention - Nihito Arakawa Vs Denys Berinchyk (round 12)
Chainoi Worawut TKO2 Muhammad Ashiq
Thai puncher Chainoi Worawut claimed the WBC Youth Super Bantamweight title this Saturday with a big KO win over Singapore's Muhammad Ashiq. Ashiq was totally out of his depth but the finishing blow, a huge right hand, was brutal and left Ashiq out. This wasn't once of the biggest KO's of the year, but was a still a brutal one, and came from one of the hottest prospects in Thailand. Keep an eye on this young man over the coming years.
Toshiya Ishii (1-0, 1)
We love watching young fighters go from debutant to contender, and we suspect Toshiya Ishii will be one such fighter following his classy debut performance this past week.Ishii had been a a decent amateur on the domestic scene and although he was only up against Adam Wijaya of Indonesia there was still a lot to like about his performance here. He dropped Wajiya with body shots, twice, and showed fantastic variety, speed and composure. This is the sort of performance that showed Japan has another great prospect on their hands.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) vs Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26) II
Arguably the most obvious choice of the year. The fight we're most looking forward to this coming week is the rematch between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada. The bout is a do-over of their 2018 Fight of the Year contender and we're expecting something really, really special here. This WBC Super Flyweight title fight should be something every fight fan is excited about!
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.
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