The Minimumweight division is one of the most interesting in Japan, thanks to the sheer number of rising hopefuls breaking through the ranks. Not only is there a lot of rising Minimumweight hopefuls, but there is a wonderful mix of styles among those youngsters. We have highly skilled boxer punchers, like Ginjiro Shigeoka, slick boxers like Yuga Inoue and aggressive punchers, like Kai Ishizawa.
It's the last of those hopefules we're going to look to introduce today, with Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) being one of the most interesting, exciting and aggressive Minimumweights out there. He's not as technically gifted as the aforementioned Inoue or as wonderfully rounded as the sensationally talented Shigeoka, but he is very promising, very exciting and very, very aggressive. Often using his physicality and incredible strength to make up for his technical limitations.
The 22 year old Ishizawa, from Kanagawa, debuted in June 2017, following a 42 fight amateur career. In the unpaid ranks Ishizawa didn't really impress, running up a 28-14, record. What he did do however, was show a style that had the potential to be very successful in the professional ranks, albeit with the need to be refined and polished.
On his debut Ishizawa looked really powerful, taking out Thai novice Phongsaphon Panyakum in 2 rounds. Interestingly since losing to Ishizawa the Thai youngster has gone 3-0 in his native Thailand showing that he's not a total bum, even if he was given a JBC ban following the loss to Ishizawa.
Just a few weeks after his debut Ishizawa would return to the ring and stop Yoshimitsu Kushibe in 2 rounds, in what was Kushibe's 12th professional bout. It was a big step up, but a step up that the young puncher made with no problems at all.
Despite having fought his first 2 bouts in the space of about 8 weeks it would take almost 6 months before Ishizawa would have his next bout, and it was an incredibly short one as he blasted away Nrathip Sungsut inside a round. It was around this time that he was starting to get some attention. It's rare to see Minimumweight prospects blowing away opponents, but that's what Ishizawa was doing, and was doing in an exciting fahsion.
Not only was Ishizawa creating a buzz after his first 3 wins, but he was also creating real belief within his team, the MT Gym, that he was a genuine talent. That belief was tested in April 2018 when he was matched with the then unbeaten Tatsuro Nakashima. Nakshima was 7-0-1 (5) and had reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017, being eliminated on a tie-breaker following a draw with Yuga Inoue. This looked a huge step up for Ishizawa, but he again came out on top scoring a TKO win over Nakashima, who was saved by the referee with a badly swollen left eye, the result of Ishizawa's power. This was a Japanese Youth title eliminator, though sadly Ishizawa was unable to take part in a planned title bout with Daiki Tomita in July 2018 due to suffering an injury in training.
Despite missing out on a clash with Tomita we did see Ishizawa get a shot at the Japanese Youth title in November of last year, when he took on 2017 Rookie of the Year Yuga Inoue for the belt. The bout saw Ishizawa being out boxed, out fought and out battled through the first 4 rounds. He was made to look slow, clumsy and ineffective against a more technical, sharper and smarter fighter. Despite being out classed Ishizawa was showing his will to win and refusing to just roll over, eventually cutting Inoue and breaking him down to score a 6th round TKO.
We'll see Ishizawa attempt to extend hi KO run on June 1st, when he takes on Indonesian visitor Silem Serang. On paper this looks a mismatch, with Serang having a record of 13-19-2 (1) however the Indonesian did recently go 8 rounds with Ishizawa's former foe Tatsuro Nakashima and has also gone put up good efforts, in losses, to Wanheng Menayothin, Andika Sabu and Palangpol CP Freshmart. He might have 11 stoppage losses but he rarely gets blown out early, and should ask some questions of Ishizawa before being stopped later in the bout.
This past week has been an incredible one in the grand scheme of things. We've had Asian fighters fighting for world titles on 3 different days, we've had a whole host of prospects, Japanese title bouts, two live streamed shows on Boxing Raise, more streamed action from Thailand and Taiwan and it really has been a week to remember. With that in mind it's been a really great week for our weekly awards, and an incredible hard one to decide in terms of some winners.
Fighter of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We suspect that there will be no argument at all with us selecting "The Monster" as our fighter of the week. He really was the talk of the boxing world through the last 7 days, not only in the build up to his WBSS semi-final bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez but also afterwards, with his 2nd round demolition of the Puerto Rican really being something very spectacular. Whilst we did feel that Rodriguez perhaps had an overly inflated reputation coming in to the bout there was no questioning Inoue's performance. He took a round to get a read on Rodriguez, then destroyed him to become the first ever Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe. This was the Monster announcing himself, and doing so in a way that leave no doubt about the Japanese star.
Performance of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
For the first time ever our Fighter of the Week, generally given to the fighter who scored the best win, and our Performance of the Week, the fighter who impressed us the most, are the same man. We won't bother to repeat ourselves, though we will say that if you've not yet seen the performance this was something amazing.
Despite Inoue picking up the double we will just add that the performances form Yusaku Kuga, Tsubasa Maruchi, Masayuki Kuroda and Reiya Konishi were all very impressive and all would likely have been a serious contender had we not had the Monster do what he did in Glasgow.
Moruti Mthalane Vs Masayuki Kuroda
We loved the rematch between Ryuichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, and the thriller between Tatsuya Yanagi and Koichi Aso, but the reality is that Monday's world title fight between Moruti Mthalane and Masayuki Kuroda was a level above the other bouts. This was something to behold, a 12 round war, with the skills of Mthalane put against the heart and desire of Kuroda. The champion retained his IBF Flyweight title relatively comfortably in the end, but that cannot take away from the fact that the bout was sensational. It was a really, really exciting, well fought contest that deserves to mentioned as a FOTY contender
Ryoichi Tamura vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
There was so many amazing rounds this past week. We had things like Yosuke Fujihara v Naoya Okamoto, round 3, Koichi Aso v Tatsuya Yanagi, round 7, and and several rounds from Moruti Mthalane vs Masayuki Kuroda bout. For us however the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga had the best round of the week. It's difficult to pick one, though we're edging with round 6, which was the round where the fight really came alive. Tamura, who was losing the bout quite clearly after 5 rounds, picked up his pace and we ended up with a 3 minute fire fight, that began the second half of a sensational fight. This was the sort of bout that we love, for the action, but hate knowing that there's a chance neither man will ever be the same. A truly brutal fight, with some truly amazing rounds.
Kenta Nakagawa TKO7 Ryosuke Nasu
For such an amazing, action packed week, we didn't really have many standout KO's on show. Whilst Naoya Inoue's stoppage of Emmanuel Rodriguez was impressive Rodriguez wasn't out cold. Arguably the best of the bunch was Kenta Nakagawa's brilliant left hand against Ryosuke Nasu, that left Nasu out in Nakagwa's corner. The bout hadn't been thje mopst notable but the stoppage was huge and really showed that, despite his limitations, Nakagawa can bang at this level.
Ryusei Kawaura (6-0, 4)
If we're being totally honest the Prospect of the Week was one of the harder categories this past week, even hard than the Fight and Round of the Week. We had notable wins for not only our winner, Ryusei Kawaura, but also Batyrzhan Jukembayev, Shakhobidin Zoirov, Elnur Abduraimov, Eric Pen and Tsubasa Maruchi. For us Kawaura's win over Renoel Pael, and the manner of that win, was what won him the award, but in reality it was really close and we got a real glimpse at some amazing talent this past week, talent that will make a mark at a much higher level in the near future future.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) vs Sho Kimura (18-2-2, 11)
As with the week we've just had there is a lot to look forward to over the coming 7 days. For us the highlight, at least on paper, is the WBA "regular" Light Flyweight title bout between Carlos Canizales and Sho Kimura. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and a true FOTY contender. Canizales, looking to make his second defense of the title, is the natural Light Flyweight, and is a strong powerful guy at 108lbs, whilst Kimura is dropping down from Flyweight for this. If Kimura makes the weight safely we should be in for something truly, and gruesomely violent.
We mentioned them at the start of this but they need mentioning again, Boxing Raise were tremendous. They gave us two live shows, one of which was totally free whilst one was for their members. The first of those shows was arguably the show of the week and featured a trio of amazing match ups, once again showing the level of service their cards have.
TVK were a real mixed bag, winning the first ever "Half assed" award. Whilst they were big winners on Monday, live streaming the IBF Flyweight title bout between Masayuki Kuroda and Moruti Mthalane, we are really disappointed that they've not uploaded the bout to their youtube channel for a chance to rewatch what was a FOTY candidate...come on folks!
Masafumi Ando, who scored a huge upset by stopping former Japanese Welterweght champion Toshio Arikawa. Ando was expected to be taken out but completely ripped up the script to score a career defining win, and prove that even with his poor record he can still be a banana skin to much more well known fighters.
The action really doesn't stop this month, and the final third of the month gives us 5 world title bouts along with a lot of other great action as we really end the month with a great flurry of fights.
The Japanese Super Bantamweight scene is one of the most interesting, right across the levels. We have exciting prospects, a great domestic title scene, and some fantastic world class fighters finding themselves in the mix at world level. It's a division that is hard to break into, but is one where if you can conqueror domestically you're probably ready to fight at world level.
Today's introducing looks at one of the Japan's rising prospects in the division, Tulio Kuwabata (2-0, 2) who is set for a huge step up in class later this month when he takes on experienced Filipino John Mark Apolinario in a 6 round bout.
The 22 year old Kuwabata is a fighter at the well established Mutoh Gym, one of the best gyms in Osaka. He's one of their best prospects, along with Riku Kunimoto who has also featured in one of these articles, and like Kunimoto he was able to make his name in the amateurs. On paper his amateur record, reportedly 25-11, is unremarkable though the competition he was facing in the unpaid ranks was very interesting as he was part of the ultra competitive High School and University scenes, captaining teams at both levels.
The youngster turned professional last year and made his debut in China, stopping Zhiliang Yang in Kunming, on a show that also featured Riku Kunimoto. The youngster, fighting in a 4 round bout, stopped Yang in the second round of the bout and looked good without looking spectacular. It was interesting to note that he was kicking off his career on the road, something we rarely see from Japanese prospects.
Having debuted in September the youngster would return to action around 3 months later for his Japanese debut, and take a clear step up in class as he took on Japanese foe Yosuke Taniguchi at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center on Christmas Eve. This was a huge step up in class from his Chinese debut and yet Kuwabata made things look easy as he applied intelligent pressure on to his more experienced, and taller, opponent. It was obvious after just a few seconds of this bout that he was able to out jab the longer man, and was quickly able to establish his jab. It wasn't just the jab that shone here however, and he was showing off great variety with some crisp body shots and a brilliant knockdown at the end of the opening round with a looping right hand up top. He would close the show the following round, as he turned up the pressure and dropped Taniguchi for the second time.
Although not a true amateur star it's hard not to be impressed by his crisp punching, variety and confidence. Going in with Apolinario this early in his career is impressive, and a win over the Filipino, even if Apolinario is a somewhat faded force, would be a statement to the division, as Kuwabata begins to hunt rankings, and future title fights.
Sadly we can't share footage of his win over Taniguchi, but it it is available on Boxing Raise for those interested.
This past week has been a strange week of action. We had two notable Japanese cards, a pretty interesting Thai card, a Korean card and brilliant Hong Kong card. It's made for a busy week, and a fairly interesting one!
Fighter of the Week
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9)
Japanese Light Middleweight Hironobu Matsunaga takes home top honours this week following his excellent win over Nobuyuki Shindo, to claim the Japanese title at 154lbs. Matsunaga had entered the bout was the under-dog against the taller, longer and more experienced Shindo. Despite all the disadvantages Matsunaga set the pace, was in Shindo's face and later went on to break down Shindo, who retired between rounds 6 and 7. The bout may end Shindo's career though for Matsunaga it's his biggest win, by far, and extends his current winning run to 9 bouts. It's hard to know how long Matsunaga will reign atop the Japanese domestic scene but this week is his week!
Performance of the Week
Keita Kurihara (14-5, 12)
The Performance of the Week award was one of the easier awards this week, with Japanese puncher Keita Kurihara being the run away winner. The OPBF Bantamweight king created history by scoring the fastest ever win an OPBF Bantamweight title fight. The performances lasted for a little over 30 seconds but the hard hitting Kurihara impressed with every one of those seconds, whilst sending the popular Warlito Parrenas into retirement. Given how Kurihara had failed to put away Yuki Strong Kobayashi in December this was a real return to form for the youngster!
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li
It's not often that Hong Kong gets our attention but it did this week for an excellent card from DEF HK. The main event of that card saw local hopeful Raymond Poon KaiChing take on aggressive Chinese southpaw Xiang Li in what turned out to be a really, really exciting 10 round back and forth war. On paper Poon had the advantages in terms of power, home advantages and crowd support but Li set a high tempo, fought with real hunger and looked the more technically sound fighter in what was a brilliant back and forth contest. This one is one that all fans should give a watch to, and it really was an instant Closet Classic between two young men each looking to prove a point.
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li (round 10)
We'll stay with the Fight of the Week for our Round of the Week, with the final round between Poon and Li being utterly brilliant as both dug deep, deeper than either was expected to dig. This was 3 minutes of desperation from two men desperate to take home the win, two men determined to give all they had, and two men who's styles just gelled. This was exactly what we love in the sport, and a reminder as to why some of these smaller cards are among the very, very best that the sport can provide.
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
Former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi was behind on the scorecards, being out boxing, out moved and out though by Shun Wakabayashi. It seemed like he was around 5 minutes from losing to the unheralded Wakabayashi. That was until he connected with a brutal uppercut that left Wakabayashi out cold, staring at the lights and made it easy to forget the action that had come before hand. The shot erased all of Wakabayashi's good work and showed what an amazing equliser Ohashi's power is.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Macau isn't known as a boxing hotspot but it's got a potential gem within it's ranks in the form of Lap Cheong Cheong, who secured his 6th win this Sunday, when he beat Muhammad Wahid of Indonesia. Cheong's win wasn't necessary a big win, but his performance filled us with a lot of excitement, as he spent 6 rounds going full tilt in pursuit of a stoppage. He had the bout easily won after 4 rounds, but wanted to put on a show, wanted to stop his Indonesian foe and showed touches of star potential He's not an amateur standout, like many Prospects of the Week, but there is a lot to like about him. Aged 22 we're expecting to see Cheong competing at a much higher level in the future and given his career so far he is going to be a very special fighter to watch.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12)
We have some amazing fights over the next 7 days, though the fight we're most looking forward to is, unsurprisingly, the WBSS semi final bout between Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez. The bout will be for a number of titles, including the IBF, WBA "regular" and Ring Magazine titles, it'll also be for a place in the WBSS final and a chance to claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Whilst there are other great bouts, such as the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, as well as the potentially fantastic IBF Light Flyweight title bout between Felix Alvarado and Reiya Konishi, there was only ever going to be one bout winning this category. It is, however, a week to be very, very excited about. We are in for something very, very special!
When we first started this site, heading towards over 6 years ago now, the Thai boxing scene was one of the most active. In 2013 there was 148 shows in the country, many of those were televised with, Channel 7 (CH7) showing fights pretty much weekly and Channel 3 (CH3) also doing regular broadcasts.
To put that number into some perspective Japan had 233 shows in 2013, Philipines had 126, Indonesia had 95 and South Korea had 31.
There wasn't just an incredible level of activity but that activity was mostly about developing fighters as part of the next wave of the Thai boxing scene. An example of that was between January 25th and January 28th 2014 there was fights for Yodmongkol Vor Saenghtep, Wanheng Menayothin, Petch Sor Chitpattana, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Nawaphon Por Chokchai.These men were allowed to be active, were allowed to fight frequently on television shows and build their profiles.
In that year alone Wanheng and Srisaket, two of the biggest Thai names right now, each fought 7 times. They weren't the only busy fighters, but are certainly the two who appear to have benefited the most from that high level of activity.
As well as the emerging fighters, which also included Amnat Ruenroeng and Knockout CP Freshmart, we also saw the end of the legendary Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, who fought 3 bouts during the year before his retirement. Yes he came back in 2018 for 2 bouts, including the infamous rematch with Koki Kameda, but his career really ended in 2013. Like wise it was the last year that Denkaosan Kaovichit scored a win of note,
It was a transition year for the country, but a great year all the same, and a year that gave us some amazing fights, such as Kompayak Porpramook's FOTY contender with Koki Eto, and the entertaining bout between and Pornsawan Porpramook abd Rey Loreto.
At the time it seemed like the Thai scene, along with the Filipino and Japanese scenes, was amazingly healthy and as we entered 2014 we also seemed to be on the verge of a break out year for Fahlan Sakkreerin, Jr, who had stopped Ryo Miytazaki in Japan at the very end of 2013.
Sadly though things have gone backwards for Thai boxing since then. Activity has dropped, with no year since ever having the same amount of shows. Although 2015 boasted 140 cards that numbers declined to just 99 in 2016 and 2017 wasn't much better with 105. Although it climbed slightly in 2018, when there was 115, it was still a massive reduction from what we had seen just 5 years earlier.
That decline is despite the huge success of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, the 52 fight unbeaten streak of Wanheng and the emergence of Knockout CP Freshmart.
Worryingly yet, there has only been 31 Thai shows this year as we write this. That's less than 8 a month and it doesn't appear that the trend is set to change, in fact the upcoming scheduled seems to be worryingly scarce. We are well on course for the lowest number Thai shows since the millenium, and we need to go all the way back to 1998 for a year with less than 8 shows a month. That was a year where there was only 71 shows in Thailand, and even then there was unique circumstances behind things. After all 1998 was a year that had followed a massive financial crisis through out Asia, a financial crisis which began in 1997 in Thailand.
Thailand has long been one of the Asian boxing powerhouses, but right now it's a country floundering and a country that is paying for it's mistakes in the sport. Despite the attention given to Srisaket.
For years it has delivered awful match ups, packing records with wins, but not developing fighters. The focus has seemingly been to turn away from fighters carrying the name of top gyms, and instead to carrying the name of a sponsor, showing a shift in focus. Gone are the days of regularly seeing fighters reprresent OnesongChaigym, Kokietgym and Kratingdaenggym, and now are the days of seeing fighters carrying names like CP Freshmart or Ruawaiking. There are a few exceptions, but the gym names being part of a fighters identity are a lot rarer than they used to be.
The TV companies, including long time boxing support CH7, have gradually changed their view on the sport. In fact CH7 have changed their policy on the sport so much that what were once weekly broadcasts are now a near rarity, with the channel only airing world title bouts. We've gone from having shows aired on different channels at the same time, to waiting weeks for a televised show, and even longer for one with some intrigue. The main channels of the past have fallen by the say side in some ways and been over-taken by a relative new comer who have raised the production standards and quality expected of a Thai show
That new channel is WorkPoint, who have really managed to step in, put money into the sport and been putting in what resembles quality control. That had been lacking at times, but was really needed when they moved into the sport last year. In 2018 Work Point put on 11 shows under their "WP Boxing" banner, and despite not always being huge shows, they were consistently worth watching. They were different to what other channels were putting on, and were a shining light in what was becoming a rather dark and dreary Thai sign.
With Workpoint it's not all doom and gloom, and boxing in Thailand isn't dead. It's not like Korea, where it's hanging on by it's finger nails. But it is hard in seeing what the next wave of Thai contenders is going to look like, and just how long their top names of today can remain relevant.
At the moment the top 3 fighters in Thailand are Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who is 32, Wanheng Menayothin, who is is 33, and Knockout CP Freshmart, who is 28. Srisaket, of course, lost last time out to Juan Franisco Estrada, Wanheng is 52-0 but is showing signs of aging in recent fights and will likely see his perfect record come to an end sooner rather than later, and Knockout has bored fans with dull performances.
Aside from the top 3 it's really unclear what is actually worth caring about in the Thai scene.
Their are prospects, like Apichet Petchmanee, Singsayan CP Freshmart, up coming world title challenger Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Chainoi Worawut and Thanongsak Simsri but they are few and far between. To get big bouts they will need to travel, their is little money backing the prospects and securing home advantage against good journeymen, gatekeepers and fellow hopefuls. If these fighters can get the bouts they need they could give us towards a new era in Thai boxing, but the feeling is that they won't be given the development match ups they need. They will either pad their records, and climb the rankings on the back of a lengthy unbeaten run, or be thrown to the wolves.
There is also the worrying trend for Thai fighters to be on the way down at a young age. The promising Fahlan Jr is looking to be on the slide at just 25 years old whilst the once touted Stamp Kiatniwat, at just 21, is looking like his career might be over before many fighters even turn pro.
Whilst there is clearly a lot to the downfall in the Thai scene, despite the huge success of Srisaket, the main thing is that it's happening, and that it's clearly happening. This isn't some gradual thing, but is something that is happening alarmingly fast. The change in CH7's policy is a big change, but the downturn was happening well before that, though it is hard to pin point when this downturn began. In fact it is likely a combination of the issues we've mentioned and a lot more.
There is, of course, one thing we've not yet mentioned, and that is the effect of ONE, which held it's first show in Thailand in 2016, the same year that there was less than 100 boxing shows in Thailand. The competition from other combat sports, including the traditional Muay Thai, is there and no longer is boxing the best alternative source of income for a top Muay Thai fighter who can join something like ONE. It's also worth noting that in 2013 the Sports Authority of Thailand lifted a ban on MMA, which may also have played a notable role in the decline of boxing.
It's hard to know for sure how much of an impact the rise of MMA had, but longer term we suspect it will deny the sport the chance to acquire some top Muay Thai fighters, something that has been a key source of talent.
One other thing to note is the strengthening of the Baht in recent years, meaning the Thai currency is stronger than it was in 2013, meaning domestic are essentially costing more than they did.
Despite all of this, it is not the end of Western style boxing in Thailand, it is however the start of a worrying trend. A trend that needs to end quickly of Thai boxing isn't going to be into a proverbial dark age. Hopefully the rise of Srisaket will kick start the next generation of Thai fighters, if it doesn't then it's hard to see what it will stop the current in decline in boxing in Thailand., though as mentioned there are a few beacons of hope and hopefully those will become the game changers Thailand needs right now.
We saw the sport bounce back from the big issues in the 1990's, and we've seen Thai boxing producing a gem when it's needed one in the past. Fingers crossed they produce another and the sport will be given another shot in the arm for what has been a major player for the Asian scene ever since Pone Kingpetch won the World Flyweight title back in 1960.
The Shinsei Gym is one of the more established ones in Hyogo, and has shown an ability to not only promote level shows, but also bringing through talented youngsters. Fighters like Ryuya Yamanaka and Shun Kubo have both going all the way to the top in recent years, and Reiya Konishi is currently banging on the door for a world title as well.
Given the level of fighters at the gym it's little wonder that they have a number of prospects coming through the ranks, one of the most promising is Tetsuro Ohashi (6-0-1, 1), a talented, skilled Super Flyweight prospect who is just 20 years old and has a lot of promise.
Ohashi, from Hyogo, made his debut in June 2017 as an 18 year old. His debut had come following a short, 10 fight, amateur career. His 10 amateur fights saw him run up a 5-5 (3) record, though he was still, obviously, a kid when he took part in those bouts and hadn't become the fighter he now is, who is a really promising hopeful.
On debut Ohashi stopped Akihiro Imai in 4 rounds, that was followed up soon afterwards with decisions wins against Genki Tashima and Kazusa Arai, with Ohashi ending 2017 with a record of 3-0 (1). Whilst neither of those wins will stand out it is worth noting that Arai had managed to get a little bit of hype after debuting in Thailand as an extremely young 15 year in 2016, so a win over him, when both were 2-0, was a pretty notable result for the young Ohashi.
The early momentum for the young Ohashi continued beyond the spring of 2018, when he out pointed Hiroaki Satomura in a West Japan Rookie of the Year bout. That win, in Osaka, moved the youngster on to the West Japan Semi-finals, where he was held to a draw by Shuto Aritsu. Despite the draw it was Ohashi who progressed to the West Japan final by virtue of the tie breaker rules that are used in the Rookie of the Year competition.
In November of 2018 Ohashi took on Shunichi Okazaki in the West Japan Rookie of the Year final. The bout pitted unbeaten men against each other, in fact not only were both unbeaten but both had identical 4-0-1 (1) records, making the bout look wonderfully even on paper. In the end the bout wasn't competitive, in the slightest, with Ohashi being too sharp, too quick and too smart for Okazaki, who had no answer to Ohashi's speed, movement and jab. It wasn't a flawless performance by any stretch, but it was an dominant one by the then 19 year old.
Ohashi would turn 20 just days after he beat Okazaki and the following month he would take on Shinobu Wakagi in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Once again Ohashi showed off his speed, his ring craft and his sharp punching, controlling the fight with his jab, movement, straight left hands and slippery footwork. It was like watching a matador and a bull, with Wakagi swigning at the air over and over, whilst being tagged by clean, accurate shots.
Although not a power puncher Ohahsi is a wonderful little boxer, with fantastic control of the ring, brilliant footwork and so much promise. He's not a puncher, but at the age of 20 there is time to develop his man strength, and we actually saw Masayuki Ito struggle to develop his power early in his career and has a similar style to Ohashi.
The 20 year old Ohashi will return to action on May 19th. His opponent, at the time of writing, is unknown but it's expected that the youngster will be his first 6 round bout, and we're really looking forward to seeing how he matures and develops. There is real potential here with Ohashi, and we really hope he delivers in the years to come.
We've finally seen the end of April and entered May, a month set to be one of the most hectic and crazy of the year. The move from April to May is certainly an exciting one, and this past week has certainly seen action pick up with a host of notable bouts featuring Asian fighters. We've already had some fantastic fights on US pay TV, Japanese streaming services and for free on Youtube. Boxing is certainly picking up and doing so fast!
Fighter of the Week
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21)
After a couple of disappointing performances Filipino world champion Jerwin Ancajas needed to shine, he needed to re-excite fans and show what he could do when he was on point. This past Saturday he got the perfect chance to show fans, and really did all he was asked of. He dominated mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai of Japan in a highly impressive fashion, forcing the doctor to save the challenger in at the start of round 7. Although Funai was the perfect foil for Ancajas it was the type of performance that reminds people what the Filipino can do, and why he should be regarded as a top fighter in one of the sports toughest divisions.
Performance of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4)
Whilst our Fighter of the week was a Filipino who stopped a Japanese fighter our performance of the week came from a Japanese fighter who dominated a Filipino. once beaten Japanese fighter travelled to the Philippines and put on a show, beating Al Toyogon to claim the WBA Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title. This was Sagawa's first bout outside of Japan, and his first fight at Super Featherweight, but he fought like a man determined to win, dominating the middle and later sections of the fight after a competitive start. Although Sagawa should have been on the map of fight fans before the bout, this win was certainly something that will get more fans talking about him.
Taiki Minamoto Vs Reiya Abe
Their was some real contenders for fight of the week, but for us the Japanese Featherweight title bout between Taiki Minamoto and takes the award. The fight had everything! There was drama early, with Abe being dropped in each of the first 2 rounds, it had heart, as Abe battled back from his poor start and Minamoto fought through a badly swollen eye, it had skill, from both fighters, and it was so close to call that the draw fight entirely fair. It wasn't an all out war but was a marvellous 10 round domestic title fight that showed what both could do and left fans wanting more. Whether we get a rematch or not is unclear, though it certainly appears to be something fans want. If a rematch doesn't happen it's likely due to Minamoto moving up weight and if he adds himself to the regional mix at 130lbs then that's not going to be a bad thing either!
Ryo Sagawa Vs Al Toyogon (round 11)
After being out boxed for 6 straight rounds Al Toyogon knew he had to turn things around, in a big way, and he came out fighting in the penultimate round of their bout. Sagawa was willing to respond and we got 3 minutes of brilliant action, with the Filipino giving all he had into trying to take down Sagawa. The bout was a little bit one sided overall, but this round really stood out as being something very special, and was one of the few where they both went for it. This was sustained action from start to end. A fantastic round!
Sadly their was no KO of note this past week, though we were very impressed by the shot from Kudura Kaneko that dropped Rikuto Adachi, who was stopped when he got to his feet rather than clean KO'd.
Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1)
The prospect of the week was one of the toughest to pick this week. Their was great performances from so many young fighters, such as Kudura Kaneko, impressive debuts for former amateur standouts Criz Russu Laurente and Criztian Pitt Laurente and Hinata Maruta. The most impressive however was Shokichi Iwata, who totally schooled 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama. This was a sensational domestic debut from Iwata and it is going to be a very exciting journey to see how far he can go. Notably he revealed he only showed 20% of what he feels he's capable of, if there's another 80% to go then we really do have another Japanese super talent ready to make a name for themselves.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23)
We all love a good shoot out and the upcoming OPBF Bantamweight title bout between Keita Kurihara and Warlito Parrenas is expected to be a full on shoot out, with both men believing in their power more than their boxing skills. We're not expecting a display of boxing IQ and nuances defense, but we are expecting a thrilling war for as long as this one lasts.
Whilst the start of May was exciting, with a number of notable bouts taking place in the first few days of the month things go off the charts in the middle portion of the month with a string of major bouts, and some very, very exciting lesser bouts.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) Vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling bout for the OPBF Bantamweight title fight we'll see defending champion Keita Kurihara defending his title, for the first time, and battle against Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas. The champion is really exciting, and although not the most technically complete fighter is a really brutal puncher. The challenger, who also has brutal power, is regarded as a bit of a glass cannon, and will feel like he's in last chance saloon. This is set to be a really thrilling, all action shoot out. Of the two Kurihara is the younger, fresher, man but Parrenas has got experience at a very high level and will be looking to rely on that experience here. We're expecting fireworks aplenty here.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-2, 8) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (14-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
A second title bout on this day will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Nobuyuki Shindo defending his belt, for the second time, as he takes on mandatory challenger Hironobu Matsunaga. Shindo made his first defense late last year, fighting to a draw in a ridiculously good bout with Akinori Watanabe, and will be looking to build on some recent results as he takes on the in form Matsunaga is riding an 8 fight winning streak, including notable wins over Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Koshinmaru Saito.
Mark Anthony Geraldo (37-9-3, 18) vs Neil John Tabanao (17-4, 11) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
An interesting GAB Super Bantamweight title bout will see talented Mark Anthony Gerlado take on Neil John Tabanao. It's rare we get really good GAB title fights, but this one is worthy of some noting, partly due to the level that Geraldo has fought at, sharing the ring with a real who's who including McJoe Arroyo, Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali in recent years, and partly due to the fact Tabanao is a solid challenger. The champion is a good gatekeeper, and only tends to lose to people who can compete at the top. Tabanao on the other hand is a tough, game foe who has never been stopped and comes into this bout knowing a win could boost his standing.
Charly Suarez (2-0, 2) Vs Waldo Sabu (13-14, 3) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
A second notable bout on this card will see highly regarded former Filipino amateur standout Charly Suarez take on Waldo Sabu. This is a huge mismatch, but given how we're expecting to see Suarez make a mark at a higher level later in the near future this bout is pretty significant. We're going to be really excited to see where Suarez goes, but his next bout really does need to be a big step up in class, as he can't waste any more time at this level.
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest bouts for this portion of the month will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title, for the second time. The talented South African will take on mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda. The champion looked sensational in December, when he defended the title against Masahiro Sakamoto, but at the age of 36 father time will likely catch up with him before long. The talented Kuroda is solid, but this will be a big step up for him, and he will need a career best performance to even be competitive with the champion.
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4) vs Renoel Pael (23-8-1, 12) - Tokyo, Japan
Charly Suarez isn't the only hotly tipped former amateur stand out to be in action in the coming days, with Ryusei Kawaura set to take a notable step up in class and take on talented Filipino Renoel Pael. The unbeaten Japanese youngster is tipped for really, really big things and this is the next natural step forward for him. Pael has never been stopped, and has shared the ring with several notable fighters including Andrew Moloney. A stoppage for Kawaura here would be a huge statement, though a win would certainly be impressive at this early point in his career.
Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9) vs Jelbirt Gomera (14-5, 7) - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Filipino fighter Jelbirt Gomera is certainly not a big name, though has shared the ring with the likes of Can Xu and Hidenori Otake, and will now be taking on former world champion Ryan Burnett, in what will be Burnett's first bout since losing to Nonito Donaire last year. Gomera will clearly be the under-dog, but will come into the bout knowing that this is the perfect time to face Burnett, after his lay off and injury.
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) Vs Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11) II -Tokyo, Japan
A really interesting rematch that we'll see this month will pit Japanese Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura against former champion Yusaku Kuga. These two had an absolute war in their first bout, and we're expecting another brutal brawl here. Both are technically limited, but very aggressive and exciting. Tamura is a volume guy, who marches forward through an insane amount of thudding leather, whilst Kuga is a puncher, who looks to take opponents out. With that combination of styles we may be set for something really, really special here.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) - Glasgow, United Kingdom
One of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 will see top Bantamweights collide, as Naoya Inoue takes on Emmanuel Rodriguez in a WBSS Semi-final bout, which will have the IBF and Ring magazine titles up for grabs. Inoue will be looking to create history, as the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe, whilst Rodriguez will be looking to destroy the all-Asian WBSS dream final between Inoue and Nonito Donaire. Whilst the WBSS has had it's issues with this season, this semi-final, and the eventual final, are going massively anticipated by fans, and really can't complain about quality of this bout, or the final.
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