This past week we really saw action pick up in a big way, with a number of notable Japanese cards which created headlines, a major upset in Russia and a card in Saudi Arabia. It's a week that felt so much different to recent weeks and it's very clear that business is picking up, after a dreary June.
Fighter of the Week
Ryota Murata (15-2, 12)
When a fighter loses in fashion that sees them being dominated, especially in an upset, it can be easy to write them off. We certainly did that last year when Ryota Murata was beaten by Rob Brant. This week however Murata showed he shouldn't be written off as he avenged his loss to Brant in shocking fashion, beating Brant in 2 rounds, and forcing the referee to save the American, who was wobbling and had been down. This was not what we were expecting from Murata, but we're so glad to have seen him show what he can do, reclaim the WBA "regular" Middleweight title. Although Murata has so much ability this was the first time he's truly shown that ability, and we're really hoping he can build on this win. Sadly though much of his career has been flat and this performance may end up being little more than an anomaly.
Performance of the Week
Joe Noynay (18-2-1, 7)
Filipino youngster Joe Noynay has been written off as the under-dog far too many times in his career, and this past Friday he showed that fighters, and fans, need to take notice of him. He travelled to Japan, dropped Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu 3 times, twice in the opening round, and successfully defended the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. Although not a puncher this was Noynay's second straight stoppage win in Japan and he is going to be getting himself a serious reputation as a Japanese Killer, similar to that off forgotten Filipino Bantamweight Jess Maca.
Andy Hiraoka, Kenshiro, Rolden Aldea
Naoko Fujioka Vs Tenkai Tsunami
When we have two of the best female fighters on the planet facing off we can always expect a dark horse of a fight, and that's what we got this week with a thrilling 10 round battle between the legendary Naoko Fujioka and the under-rated Tenkai Tsunami. The bout, was engaging, swung one way then the other and was almost impossible to call. It was one of the bouts that had the potential to be something special, and it delivered. in a big way, again showing what happens when two top, world class, well matched female fighters face off. Given the result, the action and the way the bout was fought we're really hoping to see the two run it over again, and give us another special bout.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa vs Koki Tyson (RD 12)
One thing we didn't expect this week was for for the OPBF Middleweight title to remain vacant. We expected Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and Koki Tyson to give us a shoot out, with one man eventually taking the other out to take the crown. Surprisingly however we got the opposite with the two men competing in a 12 round fight that had some dull moments but was a thoroughly engaging contest with tactical holding from Tyson and bombs from both. Despite some sloppy action at times the final round was great, with both firing off some bombs, and the round got better as it went on, with a loud fan base cheering on Tyson. It won't go down as a Round of the Year contender, but with the atmosphere, the huge power shots from both and the clear desire this was a great round, and a fantastic ending to a fight we had expected to be over much, much earlier.
Roldan Aldea KO8 Mikhail Alexeev
For much of the week it seemed like Kenshiro's TKO over Jonathan Taconing, to retain the WBC Light Flyweight title, was going to take the honour of the best stoppage of the week. It wasn't a clear KO but it was a beautiful finish of a usually durable Filipino. Instead however it was Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea that stole honour for the best KO, and did so in relatively notable upset in Russia. The unheralded Aldea Aldea was cornered by the previously unbeaten Mikhail Alexeev in round before landing a gorgeous uppercut that split the guard of Alexeev who had his senses turned off. It took a second or two, but after a slight delay Alexeev would then crash face down onto the canvas. This was a beauty of a shot, and one of the most eye catchign KO's of 2019. Truly fantastic from Aldea.
Andy Hiraoka (14-0, 9)
It's fair to say that Andy Hiraoka has been almost demanding a chance to show what he can do in recent months, being very much a frustrated man on social media and a young fighter simply wanting a chance. This week he got a chance, and he showed what he could do, as he clearly out boxed former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo to claim his first major scalp. The youngster showed poise, skills, speed and a solid ring IQ to score his best win to date, and the hope will surely be for him to fight for a senior title in 2020
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) Vs Keith Thurman (29-0-0-1, 22)
Despite having had a great week this past week the next few days are a bit lacking, though we do have 3 fights of real note featuring Asian fighters in the West. One of those will fee Filipino great Manny Pacquiao take on big talking American Keith Thurman, in a bout to unify the regular and super titles at Welterweight. The bout is a good one on paper and we're expecting to see both men being forced to answer big questions about their future. Sadly it's not the same bout it could have been a few years ago, but should still be a very interesting contest.
The middle portion of July is incredibly packed with a lot of action coming in just a few days, including 4 world title bouts, a regional title bout and several notable hopefuls. It really is set to be an insanely busy few days.
Unbeaten WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro looks to make his next defense as he battles against hard hitting Filipino challenger Jonathan Taconing, who enters as the mandatory challenger. At the moment Kenshiro is arguably the most under-rated world champion in the sport, and is certainly the most under appreciated fighter in Japan. This however is no gimme for the champion and Taconing brings a real air of danger with him thanks to his hard hitting southpaw style. On paper this may end up being the bout of the month, and is a true boxer Vs banger affair.
We spend so much time talking about the Ohashi Gym in Yokohama that it can be really hard to truly grasp how much great talent is under the guidance of the legendary Hideyuki Ohashi. One of the many fighters at the gym looking to make a mark in the coming years is Light Welterweight Andy Hiraoka (13-0, 9), who already looks he could be a very special young fighter, though clearly needs time and work to get the most of his ability.
Although well known as a boxer now Hiraoka was a standout track athlete, and didn't really have much of an amateur career. His athletic background over-lapped with the early part of his boxing career and obviously he was a natural athlete, who was pushed into learning boxing by his father.
Hiraoka made his professional debut back in 2013, whilst not actually an Ohashi gym fighter. He was originally signed to the Hanagata gym, run by former Flyweight world champion Susumu Hanagata. It was under Mr Hanagata that Hiraoka first made his mark on the sport, winning the 2014 East Japan Rookie of the year crown at Lightweight, beating Shintaro Nakamura in the final. That had set him up for an All Japan Rookie of the Year, whilst aged just 18.
Sadly Hiraoka's dream of becoming the Rookie of the Year champion came to an end early as illness left him unable to compete in the All Japan final against Shogo Yamaguchi. Notably around the same time he took part in a major distance race, seemingly unclear on what option he wanted to do.
After missing out on the Rookie of the Year final it was almost 2 years before we saw Hiraoka return to a boxing ring. When he did return, in 2016, he was signed to the Ohashi gym, and had returned following a lengthy stay in the US, where he trained at the Floyd Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas, and worked with the likes of Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Roger Mayweather, really working on his skills and ring craft.
Upon Hiraoka's return to competition he quickly took out a pair of Thai novices, getting a feel of the ring again. After a couple of straight forward bouts he finally faced Shogo Yamaguchi, the man he was supposed to fight in the Rookie of the Year tournament, and despite some struggles he managed to see off Yamaguchi in the 6th round. The win over Yamaguchi seemed to expunge some frustration of missing out in 2014.
Following his win over Yamaguchi we then saw Hiraoka enter a 4 man tournament to crown a Japanese Youth Light Welterweight champion. In his first bout of the tournament Hiraoka scored a 3rd round TKO over Ukyo Yoshigai in August 2017. That win netted him a bout against Takahiko Kobayashi for the Japanese Youth title just weeks later.
Despite having been stopped twice to facing Hiraoka we saw no fear from Kobayashi who got off to a great start, out boxing and out landing Hiraoka who really struggled through the first 4 rounds. Thankfully for Hiraoka the effort of Kobayashi took it's toll on him, and he would slow down,allowing Hiraoka's strength and stamina to play a part. In round 5 Koabayashi fell apart with Hiraoka forcing a stoppage win and claiming the title, and his biggest win to date.
Having won the Japanese Youth title in November 2017 Hiraoka would kick off his 2018 with an 8 round decision win over Fumisuke Kimura, in a none-title fight. The win was a really mature one from Hiraoka, but one that did really excite many at the time, with Kimura not being regarded very highly. It is worth noting however that since that bout Kimura has gone on to stop Hayato Ono and Giraffe Kirin Kanda.
Hiraoka would then make his first defense of the title, defeating Ukyo Yoshigai last September in his only defense of the belt so far. Like their first bout Hiraoka would stop Yoshigai in the third round to retain his title.
Later this month Hiraoka takes a huge step up in class to face off with former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo. The bout is set to be a massive test for Hiraoka, who knows that a win will boost his career in incredibly ways, but is certainly a a tough test and a win is far from a given, even with Kondo being stopped earlier this year by Downua Ruawaiking. A win and he is immediately in the OPBF title picture, however a loss will be a big set back for the confident youngster.
Aged 22 has over-come battles from child hood. His mother is Japanese and his father is from Ghana, giving him darker skin than most in Japan, and he is also very tall for someone in the country. He stands out from most in Japan, but given his athletic background it should be little surprise that he has fought to the point where he is now and looks to be fighting towards big success. He's a really strong, powerful kid, and despite being rough around the edges he has the build and athletic ability to go a long way. It's now just a case of whether those at the Ohashi can smooth off his rough edges and develops him from the diamond in the rough that he is today.
It's fair to say that March was a spotty month, with some real ups and downs, and little in terms on consistency. April however looks to be a month packed with great fights through the month, particularly in Japan where things really are a bit crazy!
April 6th-Naoya and Takuma. The champion is a true veteran, who won the Rookie of the Year more than a decade ago, and has battled through the Japanese scene the hard way. Inoue on the other hand was a touted amateur who has been avoided at times on the domestic stage, but will see this as a great chance to announce himself as a rising star. The styles of the men should make for a very special fight.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces