Whilst this weekly "Introducing..." section has become a chance to highlight a prospect, or a debutant, the idea wasn't meant to be looking at pure novices, but instead the idea was to shine a light on youngsters who were worth watching. Today we get to go back that original idea was we introduce Ikuro Sadatsune (9-4-3, 3), a 22 year old who is much better than his record suggests, is very entertaining and someone we advise fans to make a real note of.
Unlike many of the fighters we mentioned in this feature Sadatsune doesn't have the backing of a big gym, instead he's with the T&T Boxing Sports Gym in in Kanagawa, a rather small an unremarkable outfit. He is however of the few fighters who has made the most out of being with a smaller gym, working there as a trainer and being able to stay in shape and active since his debut in September 2015, when he was 17.
In his first 12 months as a professional, from the day of his debut, Sadatsune fit in 6 fights and went 5-0-1. That run of form saw him reach the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2016, losing to Tatsuya Matsumoto in November that year. The loss to Matsumoto slowed Sadatsune who's return to the ring in 2017 ended in a draw against Wataru Yokoyama.
Since the Rookie of the Year loss Sadatsune has had some up and down results, including a loss to Kai Chiba on a Dynamic Glove card, though the young showed great toughness to give the then unbeaten Chiba a real test. It's been the ups however that have been really notable, with wins against Ryo Suwa, Tatsuya Takahashi and Isao Aoyama being really good wins for the youngster. Those wins saw Sadatsune enter 2019 with real momentum, though sadly we've seen that momentum falter, with 2 losses this year. The first of those came in an ultra-close bout against Kenshin Oshima, again in a bout televised on G+, and the second saw him losing to former world title challenger Sho Ishida, in Ishida's home area of Osaka.
Had a big promoter been behind Sadatsune we suspect he would have got the decision, or a least a draw, in his last 2 bouts. Both were really close, competitive and tight bouts against fighters who are more highly regarded than himself. In fact in a different world, and with only a slight tweak to his match making, Sadatsune could still be unbeaten. There was only a single point on 2 cards in his first loss, no notable promoter would have willingly matched him with Chiba, when he was 19, and his last two bouts saw judges really struggle to split him from the winners.
On October 5th Sadatsune will return to the ring looking to end his 2 fight losing run. He will be up against Filipino Robin Langres in what looks like an excellent match up on paper. We suspect Sadatsune's tougher competition will prove to be the difference here, though it should still be a great bout, and another hard bout for the young Sadatsune.
If you've never seen Sadatsune before he's an aggressive, cocky, tough, confident fighter. He's rough around the edges, a little messy, but very much a fighter worth watching and well worth following, despite his blotchy record.
This past week has been a strange one for Asian boxing, as very little notable action actually took place in Asia, with very few shows taking place in the Orient. There was the odd card, such as the Rookie of the Year shows in Tokyo and the show in Singapore, but in reality there wasn't much of note. As a result many of the awards winners this week fought outside of Asia, though really did provide so much excitement.
Fighter of the Week
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 9)
Tajik born Russian based Super Featherweight Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov proved his value with a great on Sunday when he stopped the previously unbeaten Azinga Fuzile in an IBF Super Featherweight world title eliminator. Rakhimov went in as the under-dog, fighting in Fuzile's back yard and for the most was out boxed, out sped, out thought and out fought. Fuzile's success left Rakhimov in a hole on the scorecards but the heavy handed fighter refused to accept defeat and in round 8 went about changing the nature of the fight, roughing up Fuzile. When he did that he broke through, dropping the South African twice to secure the win, and a huge title showdown with Tevin Farmer.
Performance of the Week
Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6)
Whilst we were massively impressed with Rakhimov the performance of the week belongs to Uzbek born fighter Batyr Akhmedov, who put in an amazing performance against Mario Barrios in a bout for the WBA "regular" Light Welterweight title. Akhmedov was dropped in round 4 then seemed to come alive, setting an incredible pace from round 5 to the final bell. Sadly Rakhimov was dropped in round 12 but had put in a performance that will leave fans talking for a while. He may have lost the bout, by decision, but Akhmedov impressed, proved he belonged at world level and showed he had the energy and style to be a genuine fan favourite. The bout may have come a touch too early in his career, but he made the most of his chance and will almost certainly have improved his standing, despite the defeat.
Batyr Akhmedov vs Mario Barrios
Akhmedov's effort in his loss to Barrios was incredible. The fight was fought at a high tempo through out, the momentum shifted, from a good start to Barrios, a strong middle for Akhmedov and then a big turn around in round 12 with Barrios knockdown. This was one of the most dramatic fights of the year, and it's just a shame that the judges scorecards left a bad taste over what had been an incredible fight, and a great showing of heart, determination and will from both.
Batyr Akhmedov Vs Mario Barrios (Rd12)
We stick with the Akhmedov Vs Barrios for the round of the week, which wasn't the most exciting round, but was the most dramatic. Akhmedov was in the ascendancy, he was pressing the fight and bringing the pressure. Barrios was badly swollen, looking tired and seemingly desperate to stay up right. Then with about 20 seconds left he scored his second knockdown of the fight. This wasn't an all action round, and put into isolation it wasn't an amazing round, but in context of the fight and the drama the round had this was amazing.
Jin Sasaki TKO1 Tetsuya Kondo
Although not the most significant KO of the week the one that really stood out as being the most aesthetically pleasing came in a Rookie of the Year bout, as teenager Jin Sasaki took out Tetsuya Kondo. Aftr just over 2 minutes Sasaki dropped Kondo for the first time. Kondo got back to his feet and about 20 seconds later Sasaki landed a truly sweet left hook that sent Kondo crashing to the canvas. This was a gorgeous KO, and whilst not the most destructive or important it was worth watching over and over.
Rei Nakajima (2-0)
Despite the Rookie of the Year action there wasn't much action featuring notable prospects. There was some talented Filipino's in mismatches at the start of the week but the mismatches certainly don't help their claim. Instead the one that stood out was was Rei Nakajima, who went 6 rounds in a clear win over Korean Se Yul Yang. Nakajima is a genuine talent and whilst Yang wasn't competitivehe did travel to win and forced Nakajima to remain sharp. It's a shame the top Filipino prospects didn't fight some what testing opponents at the start of the week.
Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14) vs Milan Melindo (37-4, 13)
There are a number of compelling match ups over the next 7 days, including 2 world title bouts and numerous bouts featuring prospects. For us the bout that stands out the most is the cross roads bout between rising contender Junto Nakatani and former world champion Milan Melindo. For Nakatani this is expected to be a legitimate test, his first real test since his Rookie of the Year days, whilst Melindo is looking to keep his career alive, and move towards one final world title bout. This is a really intriguing bout, and although there's no world title up for grabs, we see this as being the best of this weeks upcoming fights and the one which has the potential to launch a new star.
The best thing about the Japan scene is the fact we get to see so many fighters in action, be it on TV, Boxing Raise, fan cams, internet feeds or other there is simply so many opportunities to see different Japanese fighters in action. In places like the UK or US there are really only a handful of promoters capable of show casing their fighters, though due to rules preventing fighters from the same gym to face off in Japan promoters need to work together. There's also the Rookie of the Year that show cases fighters from across the country and gives them a window to make a name for themselves early in their careers.
One Japanese fighter that caught our eye in recent years, without having a major promoter or a strong amateur pedigree is Aso Ishiwaki (6-2-1, 4). On paper his record might not look amazing, but the reality he's one of the most entertaining young fighters in Japan and combines toughness, a high work rate, power and a real steely determination, that makes a perfect fighter for this "Introducing..." series.
Unlike many fighters we cover in this segment Ishiwaki doesn't appear to have had any sort of notable background in the amateur ranks. Instead he turned professional young, debuting at the age of 17. On debut Ishiwaki was stopped in the first round, losing to Kanta Takenaka in 2 minutes and 42 seconds. Given that result in isolation one could easily have written off the youngster but it really seems like an oddity given how his career has gone since. In his debut Ishiwaki looked like a man who was hurt, dropped, rocked and looked totally out of his element. How he has developed since then however has been very impressive.
Just 4 months after his debut Ishiwaki scored his first win, blowing away Mitsuki Morita in 57 seconds, and he didn't take much longer to defeat Yudai Tokumaru in his first fight of 2018. That win over Tokumaru began a great year for the youngster who reach the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in the Lightweight division. Sadly for Ishiwaki he would lose in the final to George Tachibana, in a razor thin 5 round split decision.
Aged 19 when he lost to Tachibana, in what was a really good bout, it was clear Ishiwaki had developed from the fighter who was stopped in his first professional round, to a genuine low key prospect. He had already matured to a strong, powerful youngster and he had began to look like someone who, despite being technically flawed, was full of potential.
Entering 2019 Ishiwaki had a record of 5-2 and was then matched with the 1-1 Yoji Sato. On paper this was an interesting one, and we had been really impressed by Saito who had been a solid amateur before turning professional. Being totally honest we expected Saito to blow out the youngster but instead it was Ishiwaki who seemed to deserve the win in a thrilling 6 round war that saw both men prove their toughness. Sadly for Ishiwaki he could only score a draw here, but it felt he deserved the win, and got rather unfortunate. This, more than his Rookie of the Year performance, saw us really sit up and take notice of the youngster who looked like he was beginning to mature into a very good fighter.
Since the Saito bout he scored a lot key win in Thailand, but will be back in action on September 29th against Takuya Matsusaka, who is a bit of a glass cannon.
We mentioned that Ishiwaki hasn't got a big gym behind him, he does however have Nobuhiro Ishida behind him, as his promoter. He also has a really impressive level of determination, a rugged toughness a great tank and at just 20 years old he has so much more to learn. From what we've seen however he is certainly someone who deserves a lot of attention. He's a busy, front foot fighter, who loves fighting on the inside and will make for very TV friendly fights, win or lose.
This week hasn't been a week with a huge amount of activity but there was a lot of talking points, some really amazing fights and some great performances. A week where quality certainly made up for a relative lack of quantity.
Fighter of the Week
Bakhodir Jalolov (6-0, 6)*
For the first time since we began doing these awards the Fighter of the Week has been won by someone who didn't fight in a professional bout. Instead it's gone to a man who picked up 4 wins in a week and won the World Amateur Championships. That is Uzbek Super Heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov, who got people talking about the World Amateur Championships in a way that really did bring extra attention to the tournament. We know some are against professionals fighting in amateur tournaments but we've yet to see them have any notable success, that was until Jalolov, who won took gold and show that fighters can do both, pro and amateur boxing.
Performance of the Week
Taku Kuwahara (6-0, 4)
Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara took a big step up in class and dominated Filipino foe Jonathan Refugio over 8 rounds. Kuwahara showed his technical ability, speed and movement against Refugio, who was tough but totally out fought, out boxed, out classed and out-sped. Although not one of the more well known prospects in Japan Kuwahara is making a mark and looks like a youngster who is going to be ready for title fights very soon. His performance here was excellent, and the only thing it missed was a stoppage.
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa
We had some absolutely brilliant fights this past week, but the pick of them was then back and forth 8 round thriller between Masaka Taniguchi and Kai Ishizawa, who faced off in a Japanese title eliminator. Both of these men had a lot to gain from a win, and both fought as if winning was worth everything. The opening round saw both men being rocked, rounds 2-4 saw Taniguchi set a high pace and out box Ishizawa, before Ishizawa began to get close and dropped Taniguchi. The final rounds were all out action and the bout really exceeded all expectations. A truly fantastic fight
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa (Rd 6)
Our fight of the week also gave us the round of the week. The 6th round of the bout was something that was out of a movie. It was 3 minutes of back and forth brutality, both men hammering away with bombs. Whilst Minimumweights often have a reputation for not being able to punch both of these guys were rocked in the round, and both were fighting at such an incredible pace that you couldn't catch your breath.
Notable - Kento Matsuoka vs Suguru Ishikawa (Rd4)
Bakhodir Jalolov KO1 Richard Torrez
The big fuss this week was whether amateur fighters should be allowed to fight in the amateurs, with the WBC stating they shouldn't due to one brutal incident. That was the opening round KO win for Bakhodir Jalolov, who took out Richard Torrez in frightening fashion. The 20 year Torrez, one of the big hopes for the US, had won his first 2 bouts in World Amateur Championships and reached the Quarter finals where he faced Jalolov. With less than a 20 seconds of the round left the lanky Uzbek landed a booming left hand that put Torrez down hard. Whether you're in the camp of not letting pro's in amateur tournaments or not, one thing is clear, this was a KO of the Year contender.
Notable-Froilan Saludar KO8 Tsubasa Murachi
Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Japanese-Afghan Kudura Kaneko scored one of his best win to date as he stopped veteran Moon Hyon Yun, a man who had never been stopped and was pretty much known for his toughness. Kaneko boxed well behind his jab to begin with, then been Yun at his own game, fighting on the inside and breaking down the veteran. The stoppage seemed questionable, but it felt very inevitable that Kaneko was going to beat and stop Yun. Kaneko might not be well known internationally but we have a feeling that a lot of fans will hear a lot about him over the next 12-24 months. He is a class fighter, with a great back story and a very easy to watch style.
Notable - Carl Jammes Martin
Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (14-0, 11)
Unbeaten men colliding in a world titlke eliminator is always a good thing, and next week end we see just that as South African Azinga Fuzile takes on Russian based Tajik Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a bout that has all the ingredients to be something very special. The styles should gel, both men will be out there for a win and both are solid punching fighters with sound boxing skills. This might not be an all out war, but should be a very compelling, high tempo and hard hitting battle.
The month of October is promising a lot of action. Of course some of it's not amazing, but the month has a lot of highlights and a lot of reasons to be excited. Here we take a look at the first part of the month, and the highlights we're set to get over the first week or so of the month.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (13-0, 9) vs Tetsuya Hisada (34-9-2, 20) -Osaka, Japan
In an all Japanese world title fight we'll see WBA Light Flyweight "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi take on veteran Tetsuya Hisada in Osaka. This will be Kyoguchi's second defense of the title, following his title victory in December against Hekkie Budler, whilst Hisada will be getting his first world title bout, just weeks short his his 35th birthday. The champion will be strongly favoured, but the challenge will go in knowing this will almost certainly be his only shot at a world title
Hiroshige Osawa (35-5-4, 21) Vs Jason Butar Butar (29-26-1, 19)- Osaka, Japan
Former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa is currently ranked #1 by the WBA at Featherweight, which we admit is a weird ranking given what he's done since losing to Oscar Valdez in a WBO title fight. Here he'll be looking to just stay busy as he takes on limited Indonesian journeyman Jason Butar Butar. Osawa doesn't deserve his #1 world ranking, but that doesn't lead us to thinking this will be anything other than an easy win for the Japanese fighter.
Gennady Golovkin (39-1-1, 35) vs Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-1, 10) - New York, USA
One of the real highlights of the month will see Kazakh puncher Gennady Golovkin look reclaim a portion of the Middleweight throne as he battles Ukrainian fighter Sergiy Derevyanchenk in a bout for the IBF Middelweight title. This is expected to be a really thrilling bout and a major test to see what Golovkin has left in the tank,and whether Derevyanchenko can get over the line in what is his second world title shot. This could be a really brilliant fight, though one that will leave the loser looking down the proverbial barrel of retirement.
Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14) vs Milan Melindo (37-4, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten Japanese Flyweight hopeful Junto Nakatani looks to continue his rise as he takes on his most notable test to date, former world champion Milan Melindo. The fast rising Nakatani has shown a lot to like so far, but has been fighting at a lower level, with the feeling that he needs to face better competition before getting a world title fight. Melindo is not the fighter he once was, and has lost his last 2 bouts, but still has a bag of tricks up his sleeve and should ask Nakatani some question that he has never been seen before.
Ryo Akaho (34-2-2, 22) Vs Kyung Min Kwon (7-5, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
Former world title challenger Ryo Akaho looks to score his 9th straight victory as he takes on Korean foe Kyung Min Kwon. The Japanese slugger is unbeaten since losing to Pungluang Sor Singyu in 2015, but his competition hasn't been the best during that run, including a close win over the relatively unknown Hiroaki Teshigawara. Kwon on the other hand is a former OPBF Featherweight title challenger, but is 2-3 in his last 5 and will obviously enter as the under-dog. Kwon has proven to be tough, and should give Akaho a solid test, but will almost certainly come up short here.
Ikuro Sadatsune (9-4-3, 3) Vs Robin Langres (10-3, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
The under-rated Ikuro Sadatsune might not be a star in the making but he's a hugely entertaining fighter has a very under-rated record, and should probably have a better record than he does, with 3 of his losses being very close. Robin Langres on the other hand is a Filipino with a similar record, looking to make his mark on foreign soil following 13 bouts at home. This looks competitive and every bout featuring Sadatsune is worth making a note of, especially ones which will be shown on TV, like this one.
Shigetoshi Kotari (0-0) Vs Lasben Sinaba (3-2, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
MT Gym's newest signing is solid former amateur fighter Shigetoshi Kotari. The youngster makes his pro debut, following sparring sessions with the likes of Junto Nakatani and Masayuki Ito, as he takes on Indonesian foe Lasben Sinaba. The reality is that this should be a show case for the Japanese novice, who has the skills and size to go a very long way. Sinaba really has little chance here and it's more a case of getting a chance to see Kotari in his debut, than anything competitive here.
Rikki Naito (21-2, 7) vs Gyu Beom Jeon (9-3-1, 4) -Cheonan, South Korea
At about the 4th time of asking we'll finally get OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito defending his title in Korea against Gyu Beom Jeon. This bout has been scheduled a number of times before one issue, or another, has caused it to be rescheduled. Those issues have seen Naito remaning out of the ring for pretty much a full year, with his last botu coming last October against Daishi Nagata.On the other hand Jeon will be fighting for the third time this year, and will be hunting his 6th straight win. Despite the winning run Jeon will be stepping up, massively, here.
Sung Jae Jo (9-0, 7) vs Wulamu Tulake (8-2-1, 4) - Cheonan, South Korea
Unbeaten Korean puncher Sung Jae Jo looks to extend his unbeaten record to 10 wins as he takes on Chinese foe Wulamu Tulake. The Korean Middleweight is a small but powerful fighter at 160lbs and we expect to see him getting into the regional title mix in the near future. Tulake will have size and reach advantages over the Korean, but has been stopped in both of his losses and will almost certainly struggle with the power of Jo.
Shuichiro Yoshino (10-0, 8) Vs Harmonito Dela Torre (20-2, 12) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino looks to become a triple champion as he faces Filipino Harmonito Dela Torre in a bout for the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight titles. The two regional thrones are both vacant coming in to this and will establish the winner as a world ranked contender, as well as the proverbial Lightweight king of Asia. Coming in to this Yoshino has looked brilliant, a sharp, heavy handed boxer-puncher who has stopped his last 6, and looks to be on the way up. Dela Torre on the other hand was once a touted 19-0 (12) prospect, but losses in 2 of his last 3 bouts have taken much of the shine from his career and left him in desperate need of a win here.
Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13) Vs Yuto Takahashi (10-4, 5) -Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Light Flyweight champion Kenichi Horikawa looks to continue his reign, and secure his second defense, as he takes on the unheralded Yuto Takahashi. The 39 year old champion is a true stalwart of the Japanese scene and despite his age is still a really talented warrior who has won his last 8 in a row and become a 2-time champion. The challenger is a 26 year old who has had some mixed success, but has earned a title fight thanks to wins over the likes of Ryoki Hirai and Yuta Nakayama. This is a big ask for the challenger, but given the age and wear and tear of Horikawa this is, perhaps, the perfect time to challenge him, and take the title before someone else the chance.
Back in December we looked at some boxers who were involved in music, either with their own recordings, or when they inspired songs. Now we've decided to look at other times Asian boxers featured in media outside of the sport. We've tried to find some pretty interesting examples and whilst we know there are thousands of examples, we've tried to feature some that are less well known, or rather amusing.
Samart Payakaroon in "The Body Guard"
One of the fighters we featured in the songs by Asian boxers was Thai great Samart Payakaroon. Samart wasn't just a boxer who turned to singing however but also acting, and did so in a number of roles, including a rather humorous role in Thai movie "บอดี้การ์ดหน้าเหลี่ยม", aka The Bodyguard.
Samart's role in the movie wasn't a massive one, but was a tongue in cheek comedy role in the movie, and it's genuinely fantastic to see what he was able to do in 2004 film. Incidentally the movie also features Khaosai and Khaokor Galaxy, who place twins in the movie, however the clip below is just Samart in what is genuinely a a clip worthy of 3 minutes of any ones time.
Katsuya Onizuka's Boxing video game
In the last few years the clamour for a new boxing game has grown, with Fight Night Championship now being a rather old and dated. Notably however former Japanese Katsuya Onizuka had a game that took his name back in the 1990's!
"Onizuka Katsuya Super Virtual Boxing" was a Japanese only Super Famicom game released in late 1993. Back then Onizuka, known as "Spanky K", was the WBA Super Flyweight champion and one of the most popular fighters in Japan. Interestingly the game was released around 3 weeks after his rematch with Thanomsak Sithbaobay.
Unlike most boxing games this one actually uses a first person mode, similar to Punch-Out!!
Onizuka has also featured in some other media, and is now known in Japan due to art work, with his paintings getting attention in his homeland and being available to buy.
Zou Shiming makes cameo in Transformers 4
Bob Arum's big hope to have a Chinese expansion was built primarily on the shoulders of Zou Shiming, a former Chinese amateur standout. Sadly the idea of making Macau an Asian boxing hub has failed, and Shiming's career has sadly been cut short due to injuries. Saying that however he is still very popular in China and a big name in his homeland.
Before his in ring career faltered he had a small part in Hollywood blockbuster Transformers 4. It wasn't a long cameo, or even a particularly long one, but it was a notable one with the producers of the film wanting to use Shiming to try and make the movie bigger in China, and tap into the growing Chinese film market.
This is less humours than the Samart Payakaroon clip, but still worthy of a few minutes to see Shiming trying to act!
Some thing totally different to everything else on this list is this old item that used to be sold on the Kameda shop. This was the "Kameda Roll", a food item that the Kameda brothers put their name to.
Back in 2010 this was pretty big news in Japan, back when all 3 of the Kameda brothers were active fighters. It was a collaboration between the Kameda brothers and Kitahorie Charbon, a cafe in Osaka. For those who know about Osaka they will know the area is regarded as having some of the best food in Japan and this roll was certainly interesting.
It was described on www.excite.co.jp as being a "melon bread-like biscuit dough with a two-layer structure of fluffy sponges with plenty of egg yolk", and was apparently a success back when it was released. Sadly though it hasn't been the raging, long term success of the George Foreman grill.
Rex Tso in HUAWEI Honor advert
Boxers being used in adverts isn't a new, or unique thing, but the partnership between Hong Kong's Rex Tso and Chinese phone giant HUAWEI was more than just Tso being used to advertise the phone. It was actually a solid partnership that ended up with HUAWEI streaming some of Tso's fights on their facebook page as the brand looked to make the most of their deal with the fighter.
The art featuring Tso for the phone is a pretty weak one if we're being honest, showing more of Tso training than any real attempt to sell the phone. The focus was clearly more on merely raising the brand awareness than showing what the phone could do, which is a shame as the Honor 6 was a fantastic phone. Still seeing Tso in this role was rather weird and it's clear that's, not the most natural of actors, despite his incredible charisma.
Other adverts that were considered included Gennady Golovkin's adverts for Apple Watch, which again did little to make us think anything positive of the device.
Naoya Inoue's under pants advert
We finish this article with one more advert, the Body Wild Airz advert featuring Japanese star Naoya Inoue, Unlike the Rex Tso advert this does try and sell the product, which are underpants.
Inoue became the face, and body, of the advertising campaign for the Body Wild underwear and whilst it was really smart marketing in many ways it does seem a rather peculiar of using one of the biggest stars in Japanese boxing. It also makes the product easy to rip, which does seem the best of ideas for those behind the product, even if that wasn't the idea behind the advert. Of all the adverts we came across featuring Asian boxers seemed the most bizarre. A boxer, selling boxers!
Over the last few months we've seen more and more Japanese amateur standouts turning professional and beginning their journey in the pro ranks. The next of these standouts to make their debut will be Shigetoshi Kotari (0-0) who kicks off his professional career on October 5th at the Korakuen Hall. He does so after amassing a 72 fight amateur record, and signing with a gym that's building a solid stable of young and emerging fighters.
The 23 year old Kotari will begin his career at Featherweight, having out grown the 56KG amateur division that he had fought at way back in the 2014, at the Japanese High School Selection Tournament. In the aforementioned High School tournament he reached the semi-final before being beaten by the excellent Arashi Morisaka who went on to win the tournament. A couple of years later he had moved up to the 60KG division and had begin to make his mark in the successful Nihon University boxing team. That team also had the likes of Tomoya Tsuboi, Subaru Murata and Kuntae Lee, so to be involved in that teams says a lot about how Kotari was regarded.
As an amateur Kotari went 48-24, an impressive record on the Japanese scene where the High School and University tournaments are incredibly tough, and are producing top professionals year on year recently.
After graduating from university earlier this year he signed up with the MT Gym. That's the same gym that has the likes of Kai Ishizawa, who fights in a Japanese title eliminator in late September, and Junto Nakatani, who headlines the show featuring Kotati's debut. Just a few years ago the gym was regarded as one of the least notable. It was only set up in 2001 and really had no one of note until Nakatani's success put the gym on the map. Since then it has been developing a solid reputation as a gym that can get the best from youngster and is willing to push fighters.
Kotari will be hoping that MT Gym push him in a similar way to Ishizawa, who has got a Japanese title eliminator in just his 7th fight, whilst Nakatani was more of a novice and went the Rookie of the Year route. He has the amateur background to be moved through the ranks and more impressive is how he's preparing for his debut. Recent he spent time sparring with former world champion Masayuki Ito, and surprisingly dwarfed Ito who has made his name at Super Featherweight.
At the time of writing Kotari's debut opponent hasn't been confirmed, but we have been informed it will be an Indonesian opponent in a 6 bout at a contracted 58KG's, just under 128lbs. He's expected to shine here and really take a chance to impress an audience who are there to see Nakatani in his biggest test so far. A win is the very that's expected of Kotari here.
After a flurry of activity over the past few days we now head into the back stretch of the month and it's another busy stretch, with some excellent match ups coming up.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Touted Ohashi gym prospect Taku Kuwahara is regarded highly in Japan but has yet to step up. That changes on September 17th when he takes on experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio in a big step up. This should serve as a genuine test for Kuwahara, who has shown touches of brilliance, but is certainly not a gimme for the unbeaten man as he goes against a foe who has given world class fighters decent competition.
Yusaku Kuga (18-3-1, 12) vs Yosuke Fujihara (18-6, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga will be looking to make his first defense of his second reign as he takes on the experienced, but limited, Yosuke Fujihara. On paper this looks a pretty even looking match up, but in reality should be little more than a showcase defense for the champion, who is a monster at the domestic level. We suspect Kuga runs through a brave Fujihara in only a handful of rounds.
Tsubasa Murachi (4-0, 3) Vs Froilan Saludar (30-3-1, 21) - Tokyo, Japan
A really good match up will see fast rising Japanese youngster Tsubasa Murachi take on former world title challenger Froiland Saludar in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. For Murachi this is a huge step up, a bit like the previously mentioned Kuwahara, though he has shown touches of being a fantastic young prospect and his team clearly have a lot of belief in him. Saludar has proven to not be world class, but he's certainly a good gate keeper type fighter and all 3 of his losses have come to world class opposition. A win for Murachi puts him on the fringes of the world rankings whilst a win for Saludar keeps his career alive, a very important bout.
Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) vs Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
In a Japanese eliminator at Minimumweight we'll see former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi take on Japanese Youth champion Kai Ishizawa. For Taniguchi this is not a bout he can afford to lose, following a loss earlier this year to Vic Saludar, and the talented Watanabe gym fighter has lost 3 of his most significant bout to date. On the other hand this is a massive step up in class for Ishizawa, and it could end up being too much too soon for the youngster. Ishizawa has looked good so far, but his aggression is crude and he may be a fight or two away from being polished enough to take on someone like Taniguchi. This should be very exciting, and very hard hitting.
Wakako Fujiwara (8-3-2, 3) vs Yoshie Wakasa (6-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
The in form Wakako Fujiwara looks to defend her OPBF Female Bantamweight title, as she takes on the once beaten Yoshie Wakasa. Both enter this bout on the back of a loss, though it's worth noting that Fujiwara's loss came at Super Featherweight to world champion Hyun Mi Choi, whilst Wakasa lost in a domestic Bantamweight title fight to Miyo Yoshida. Fujiwara should be strongly favoured, but Wakasa is going to be there to win and could make for a very tough challenge.
Miki Mitsuda (5-5, 4) vs Kimika Miyoshi (13-12-1, 5) - Osaka, Japan
Ina Japanese female Featherweight title bout Miki Mitsuda takes on veteran Kimika Miyoshi. Mitsuda will be looking to make her first defense of the title, following her title win in April against Asami Jinnari, and she is in good form, going 4-1 in her last 5. Miyoshi is a multi-weight OPBF champion, but has not lost her last 4 and is more than 3 years removed from her last win. This should be a competitive bout, but we can't see it really getting much attention given the limitations of both fighters.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (16-0-0-2, 13) vs Miguel Vazquez (41-8, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Unbeaten Kazakh Batyrzhan Jukembayev takes on his biggest test so far as he battles Mexican fighter Miguel Vazquez, himself a former IBF Lightweight champion. The aggressive Jukembayev has been screaming for a serious test for a while now and here he's getting one against a very talented, though some what faded Vazquez. At his best Vazquez was a real nightmare to fight, and whilst he's still talented he has shown signs of slipping in recent years. Jukambayev isn't the most polished, and we expect the Canadian based Kazakh to struggle at times, but youth and power should be enough to earn him a win here.
Batyr Akhmedov (7-0, 6) Vs Mario Barrios (24-0, 16) - Los Angeles, USA
The WBA have created a new title at Light Welterweight and look to fill it as Uzbek born, Russian based puncher Batyr Akhmedov takes on in form American Mario Barrios, in what should be a hard hitting and exciting contest. On paper neither of these men will be in the top 10 in the division, and neither would be ready to face the WBA "super" champion Regis Prograis, but the styles of the two men involved should make for a sensational battle. Back in the day this would have been a brilliant eliminator type bout, and it's a shame in many ways that the bout is instead for a secondary title. Saying that however it should still be a great fight and well worth tuning in for.
This past week has been an interesting one in many ways. The quantity of shows has dropped off, noticeably, but the quality was high through out with two major Japanese cards from the Korakuen Hall as well as several other noteworthy cards.
Fighter of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (8-1, 4)
On Friday we had a hugely anticipated show at the Korakuen Hall, featuring a number of notable Japanese fighters, with many of them being in ultra competitive contests. The man who won the most significant of those was Ryo Sagawa, who defeated Reiya Abe for the Japanese Featherweight title. The bout was an ultra competitive contest over 10 excellent rounds, and for Sagawa it completes a remarkable run of results, which also includes a win over Ryo Matsumoto and Al Toyogon. Given how close it was it keeps Abe in the title mix, but Sagawa is well deserving of the Fight of the Week award, and we expect to see him in some much bigger bouts in the coming years.
Performance of the Week
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4)
Japanese fighter Masanori Rikiisi isn't someone Western fans will be too aware of, though they may see his name breaking into the world rankings sooner rather than later, especially his match makings, and this weeks performance. The unheralded 25 year old stepped up massively to take on his first non-Asian opponent, and completely schooled Nicaraguan Freddy Fonseca. Fonseca is best known by American fans for losing earlier in the year to the Jo Jo Diaz, and whilst Rikiishi couldn't stop Fonseca he did drop him twice and totally dominate him over 8 rounds to secure his best win to date.
Saemi Hanagata 915-7-4, 7) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-6-4, 5) III
After 2 thrilling bouts, both of which ended in draws, we got exactly what expected when Saemi Hanagata and Nao Ikeyama took to the ring to end their trilogy. From the first round to the last this was an engaging, competitive bout, that never seemed easy to score and always looked like both fighters felt they had what it took to take home the win. We love competitive back and forth and this was just that, even if neither fighter had the power to hurt the other. The momentum shifts, action and gelling of styles between these two is great, and it's a shame their rivalry now seems to be over after 30 extremely competitive rounds.
Note - Unfortunately the A-Sign card hasn't been made available, had been out there there's a good chance that 3 bouts from that card would have been in the mix for this award.
Ayaka Miyao vs Monserrat Alarcon (Rd 10)
Fans of female boxing were treat this past week. Not only did they have the big Amanda Serrano Vs Heather Hardy bout in the US but there was also a Japanese card that completely focused on female boxing. The card didn't get a lot of attention, but it should have given the quality of action on the show. The highlight for us was the final round of the WBA Atomweight title bout between Ayaka Miyao and Monserrat Alarcon. This was a sensational round of action, with so much leather thrown as both fighters tried to secure victory in an incredibly close bout. If you like female boxing this is well worth hunting down.
Note-As with the fight of the week some of the best rounds haven't yet been made available to watch due to one of the cards being put on a tape delay to much later in the month.
Muhammad Waseem KO1 Conrado Tanamor
Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem had been out of the ring for over a year until returning in a cameo on Friday in Dubai. The cameo was very short, lasting just over a minute with Waseem taking out Filipino fighter Conrado Tanamor with a brutal body shot. The bout was a mismatch, but the shot was still a beauty and it's clear that if Waseem can shake some ring rust, against a decent opponent, he could well find himself back in the world title mix before the end of the end of 2020.
Iskander Kharsan (7-0, 6)
Unbeaten US based Kazakh prospect Iskander Kharsan has some how remained under the radar despite showing the potential to be someone very special. That ability, power punching and confidence was on show this weekend when he stopped Isidro Ochoa in the 5th round. The Kazakh youngster applied intelligent pressure and sharp punching to take control, dropping Ochoa in round 5 with an excellent straight right hand. Ochoi, to his credit, saw out the round but retired in the corner as Kharsan picked up best win to date.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7)
There are a number of solid bouts coming up over the next week or so, but the one that really stands out is a match up between fast rising Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara and experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio. On paper this is a massive step up for Kuwahara, but the body punching phenom from the Ohashi gym is tipped for big things and will be expected take home the win here. Refugio is no world beater, but the Filipino is a durable, skilled and tough fighter, who can do enough to test rising hopefuls. This should be a great chance to see just how good Kuwahara is, and how quickly the Ohashi team can move him.
The idea of our "Introducing..." articles wasn't just to talk about the brightest prospects in Asia, and more specifically Japan, but instead we wanted to shine a light on young fighters we want fans to be aware of. Of course usually this will be prospects, but sometimes we want to shine a light on someone we just enjoy watching, or a novice that is worthy of some attention. Today we want to shine that light on Ryugo Ushijima (3-0-1, 2).
Ushijima isn't likely to be a major star of the future, in fact being totally honest if Ushijima wins a Japanese title we would be pleasantly surprised and very happy for his success. Whe he will be however is fun to watch, highly entertaining and someone we suspect will be a fixture on the Japanese scene for years to come.
Ushijima debuted last year, at the age of 17, and did so a little above the Super Bantamweight division. Since then his frame has added a few pounds and he is now a fully fledged Featherweight. At just 18 years old however we suspect he'll fill out further and his 5'10" frame really is one that could make for a good sized Lightweight, or even Light Welterweight, in the future.
In his debut Ushijima struggled past Kento Nakano in a very competitive 4 round bout in July 2018. He would fight again almost 3 months later, scoring a super quick blow out win over Tomoyuki Hosaka, in just 20 seconds. For Boxing Raise subscribers this was the first time Ushijima had had a bout that was watchable for those not in the venue watching live, and he left an instant impression, dropping Hosaka face first. Hosaka wasn't out cold, but was wobbling when he got to his feet and forced the referee to halt the action.
Whilst Uchijima's second bout was on Boxing Raise it was his third bout that really caught our attention, with the youngster battling against fellow novice Shota Ogasawara on a card televised live on G+ way back in February. This was the bout made us really take note of UShijima, who looked really good for such a young novice in the first round. In round 2 Ogasawara managed to change the tone of the fight and dropped the youngster with a short, sharp left hand. Ushijima was clearly hurt and Ogasawara went for the kill, though the youngster's heart and desire kept him in the bout despite some hairy moments, before he turned things around himself. With only seconds left in the round he landed a thunderbolt to drop Ogasawara and finish the bout.
Since beating Ogasawara on a live televised bout Ushijima has fought just once, with this bout being available on the A-Sign youtube channel. This bout saw the teenager take on Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of Koki, Daiki and Tomoki, and score a draw in a Rookie of the Year preliminary bout. Had Kameda not had his surname there is a good chance that Ushijima would have moved on in the Rookie of the Year, with Kameda utilising a negative style against the youngster.
At the moment Ushijima is pencilled into fight against on September 13th, against Satoru Goto. On paper this is his toughest bout to date, though a win could end being his final bout before heading into 6 rounders.
Watching Ushijima it's clear that the Hachioji Nakaya gym have a natural talent on their hands, but someone who clearly needs serious time, development and guidance to develop his talent. He has a lot to work with, but does need to be allowed to mature physically and mentally before being tested too hard. His defense certainly needs tightening, but if he can do that then there is very, very bright for Ushijima.
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