This past week has certainly not been a massive week for Asian boxing, but has still been a pretty interesting one, with upsets, debuts and action. This wasn't a week that will go down as a major one but was still fairly entertaining.
Fighter of the Week
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13)
Heavy handed Japanese fighter fighter Keita Kurihara took a huge step towards his first world title fight as he stopped fellow world ranked fighter Sukpraserd Ponpitak in 2 rounds. We all know that Kurihara isn't ready for a world title shot, and won't be for some time, but was another good win for the 26 year old who has now notched 6 straight wins since a 2017 loss to Hiroaki Teshigawara. Although not yet in the title mix, it seems like it'll only be a matter of time before he gets a shot at the big time.
Performance of the Week
Kenbati Haiyilao (6-2-1, 1)
Unheralded Chinese fighter Kenbati Haiyilao travelled to Thailand with a plan, and put that plan into effect perfectly as he ended the unbeaten run of Nick Frese. It's fair to say that Haiyilao was given little chance but put on an excellent performance to out box, out fight and out think Frese, who struggled to get into the bout. What makes Haiyilao's win even more impressive is that he was only a few weeks removed from his previous bout, a technical draw with Shaoheng Chang. An excellent performance for a fantastic, yet low key, upset win.
Aso Ishiwaki Vs Ryuji Ikeda
There wasn't many bouts that really stood out this week, though we genuinely enjoyed the exciting, though short, battle between 20 year old Aso Ishiwaki and former Japanese Light Welterweight title challenger Ryuji Ikeda. This was fought at a fun pace from the opening round, and saw both men unloading some big shots. The fight wasn't an all out war, it didn't last long enough to become such a thing, but it was very entertaining a lovely hidden gem in a very quiet week
Aso Ishiwaki Vs Ryuji Ikeda (Rd2)
Our Fight of the Week also provided the round of the week, with round 2 of the aforementioned contest between Aso Ishiwaki and Ryuji Ikeda. This was thrilling with Ikeda looking to set a fast pace and Ishiwaki boxing smartly, using his power and strength and eventually breaking down Ikeda in a very fan friendly round of action. In a different week this may not have got a mention, but as it is this is our recommendation for fans to give a view to this week!
No valid contender this week
Hasanboy Dusmatov (1-0, 1)
After winning an Olympic gold medal in 2016 Hasanboy Dusmatov was one of the fighters that so many fans wanted to see make his professional debut. It was assumed that he would be fast tracked and be moved aggressively and be in the title mix almost instantly. Instead though he flirted with the professional ranks, whilst remaining an amateur...until this week when he finally turned professional and looked sensational stopping an over-matched Mexican teenager. He looked, crisp, sharp and very confident in the ring, and fingers crossed he'll manage to move quickly through the next 12 months, like several other Uzbek fighters.
Can Xu (17-2, 3) vs Manny Robles III (18-0, 8)
The coming week is another that isn't packed with with huge fights, but it's hard to not get excited about the WBA Featherweight title fight between Can Xu and Manny Robles III. This has the makings of an all out war, and we're really excited about this. Neither man is a big puncher, but both let leather fly and both are tough so we suspect this will be less abotu boxing, and more about trying to out man the other in what could end up being a legitimate fight of the year contender.
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.
It's fair to say that April has been an up and down month, rather than a spectacular month. It's given us some really good highlights, but those highlights were spread through the month and often at a relatively lower level. It's not been a bad month, but it instantly looks disappointing given that two of the months biggest bouts were underwhelming, and we have an incredible May just around the corner.
Fighter of the Month
John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18)
The month didn't have a major standout for the Fighter of the Month award, there were a number of contenders, but no one took the month by the scruff of the neck quite like John Riel Casimero. The inconsistent, though hugely talented, Filipino claimed the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title when he score a final round KO win ocer Ricardo Espinoza Franco, in an off TV bout. The bout was level on the cards going into the 12th round, and it really was all to play for, with Casimero turning it on, and taking out the Mexican in the first minute of the round. A great victory and one that instantly puts him in the Bantamweight mix. Potentially Casimero could face Zolani Tete next, in what would be a really good match up between two world class, though often frustrating, fighters.
Fight of the Month
Yoji Saito vs Aso Ishiwaki
Whilst some categories were stacked this month, it's hard to think of a bout that stood out for all the right reasons and was a genuinely good, 50-50 type bout, that didn't end in the opening round, more about that in a minute. Looking back over the month the best of the bunch, for us, was the 6 round thriller between Yoji Saito and Aso Ishiwaki, who really went to war and tried to take each other out. The fight was expected to go Saito's way to begin with, given his amateur pedigree, but Ishiwaki saw off the early storm and was perhaps unfortunate to not take a notable win in what was a thriller. A really good bout, in a month lacking sensational contests.
As we mentioned there was really good 1-round fights, or rather 1 round shoot outs. These included the brilliant Boxing Raise exclusive between Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato, and the similarly entertaining contest between Yuki Yazawa and Kazuki Nakamura.
KO of the Month
Nonito Donaire KO6 Stephon Young
We had a lot of competition in this category, with great KO's scored in Asia by Cristiano Aoqui, Koiki Tyson and Chainoi Worawut, among others. The pick of the KO's however came on a higher level as Nonito Donaire's much famed left hook left Stephon Young looking up at the lights, but with no idea where he was. Donaire, even at the age of 36, may well have the most powerful left hook, pound for pound at least, in the sport and Young just became another victim to the shot. Not only was it a beauty to look at, in it's gorgeous and sudden violence, but it was also incredibly significant, as it put Donaire into the WBSS final later in the year.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 1)
One of the toughest categories this week was the Prospect of the Month, with a number of prospects in action, such as Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov, Seiya Tsutsumi, Riku Kunimoto, and our eventual pick, Ginjiro Shigeoka. The Watanabe Wondrer Kid impressed as he beat Joel Lino in what was a huge step up in class, and it seems clear that he learrned more in the bout than many of the other prospects who were in action. He not only learned a lot, but also clearly beat a very talented fighter, and a title bout is surely just around the corner.
Kanehiro Nakagawa vs Seiichi Okada and Masayasu Nakamura vs Tatsuya Takahashi
A real rarity here, but we have a draw here with two genuinely notable upsets, both of which are impossible to split for which is the best or biggest.
On one hand we had Kanehiro Nakagawa (7-6, 4) out-point former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada (22-7-1, 13) and on the other we had Masayasu Nakamura (7-3-1, 6) take a decision over former Japanese Bantamweight title challenger Tatsuya Takahashi (30-9-5, 21), in what was Nakamura's first bout in almost 3 years.
Whilst fingers can be pointed at both fights, both wins are huge for the under-dogs who should be able to use their victories as a launch pad.
Seigo Yuri Akui vs Yoshiki Minato - Round 1
One of the final shows of the Heisei Era gave us a full on shoot out, as Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato tore into each other, with neither showing any intention of going to the final bell. Within 20 seconds Akui had staggered his man, and Minato decided to fight fire with fire, dropping Akui with a huge left hand. When the bout resumed Minato went hunting Akui who took a few moments to regroup, turning the tables with some huge shots of his own. About 80 seconds into the round Akui had scored his own knockdown, then another 20 seconds later. Minato, who had picked the wrong fight, tried to gut it out but was stopped shortly afterwards. This may not have been technically solid, but was full on, non-stop entertainment.
After a few weeks of not having much of note we've had a week that has created a bit of an accidental star, seen a debutant shine, seen new title holders in Indonesia and a lot actually happening. Sadly, due to the time issues in watching everything, we have seen a pro-Japanese week again, but there was clearly a lot of action in Asia in what was a great week for Asian fight fans.
Fighter of the Week
Koki Inoue (13-0, 10)
Whilst Koki Inoue, the cousin of Naoya and Takuma Inoue, didn't blow us away it's hard to argue with the quality of what he did this past Saturday. The talented Light Welterweight intelligently shut down Valentine Hosokawa to take a wide, and clear, decision over the talented and often high tempo Hosokawa. On paper the bout was a big step up in class for Inoue but he sort of made it look easy in the end as he took a comfortable decision over the veteran champion. Hosokawa, who usually controls the pace and tempo, struggled to catch Inoue clean, and struggled even more to change the pattern of the fight, whilst Inoue looked like a man comfortably fighting within himself. This wasn't exciting, but it was the biggest win of the week for an Asian fighter.
Performance of the Week
Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
Whilst Inoue failed to shine, winning Fighter of the week by virtue of getting the biggest win, there was real competition for Performance of the Week. We were really impressed by Tsuyoshi Sato, Aso Ishiwaki, Sultan Zaurbek and our winner for the week, Riku Kunimoto.
Sato, who was fighting for the 4th time as a professional, put on the complete performance in mid week as he stopped Shoma Fukumoto, and took a huge step towards a potential title fight. He out boxed Fukumoto, then stopped him later in the bout, in what was his Tokyo debut. On paper it was a leap up in class, but in the end he made it look easy and really announced himself as a Japanese Middleweight worthy of note. He's young, he's talented and he has the potential to go very, very far.
Yoji Saito (1-1, 1) vs Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3)
On paper the recent bout between Yoji Saito and Aso Ishiwaki didn't really promise a lot, though we genuinely over-looked the bout which proved to be a very exciting encounter. Saito set the early pace, pressing and pressuring Ishiwaki as he looked on route for his second win. Ishiwaki however refused to wilt, and instead came on strong, really strong, from round 3 giving us a huge momentum shift and an amazing fight. There wasn't any knockdowns but there was none stop action, and a really gritty determination from both. This is a great, great 6 round bout!
Yuki Yazawa (0-0) vs Kazuki Nakamura (0-0-1) - Round 1
The round of the week was a clear and easy one to decide, with the opening round of the Yuki Yazawa Vs Kazuki Nakamura fight easily being the best round of the week from Asia. The round, which actually only lasted 126 seconds, contained 3 knockdowns, a brutal finish, a strong scent of karma, taunting and everything you could ask for. This really was something that every fan deserves to watch.
Cristiano Aoqui KO5 Anthony Marcial
We had some awesome KO's this week, Yuki Yazawa's was a beauty against Kazuki Nakamura, Koki Tyson scored a brutal one, Sultan Zaurbek got a gorgeous one in Dubai but our pick of the bunch was Brazilian-Japanese fighter Cristiano Aoqui's brutal hook against Filipino Anthony Marcial.The shot was a highlight, or an otherwise dull fight, and was perfectly timed. Whilst Marcial wasn't out cold, like some of the others on the wrong end of a great KO, his stumble through the ropes whilst trying to beat the count was great to watch.
Shakhobidin Zoirov (1-0, 1)
We want to start this by saying we have nothing positive to say of Indonesian journeyman Anthony Holt, and the reason we think so little of Holt was shown this past Friday when he was in the ring with Shakhobidin Zoirov. The debuting Zoirov is an Olympic champion and a huge hope for Uzbek boxing. He deserved a real test, but instead took almost no time to destroy Holt. Despite the bout being a relative waste of time it was hard to not be impressed by the cameo, and it's obvious that Zoirov is a very, very special fighter. One to mark down as a super prospect.
Alphoe Dagayloan (12-2-5, 5) vs Esneth Domingo (11-0, 6)
There's no special fight this coming week, but we do love the look of several fighters over the coming 7 days. Perhaps the pick of the bunch is the WBA Asia Flyweight title bout between the under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan and the unbeaten Esneth Domingo. This is a brilliant match up and something that is very, very exciting! Neither guy is a big name, but both are promising and both could see this as a chance to move into the WBA rankings. A great fight and something that both will be looking to win!
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