As we head towards the new year we've had a big look at the current scene and come up with "20 fights we'd like to see in 2020", yeah another series ahead of the new decade!
As is always the case with what we do, these articles will have an Asian flavour, and every bout we mention in the series will have at least 1 fighter from Asia involved. So for those of you expecting us to talk about Deontay Wilder Vs Anthony Joshua, that won't be listed.
What we'll be looking at is well matched contests with either some form of back story, a great stylistic clash or bouts with some form of significant meaning. If they tick all the boxes then that is even better! Each fight will be given it's own article and each of these will come with an introduction to the fighters, and why the bout is being featured in the list.
Can Xu (18-2, 3) Vs Josh Warrington (30-0, 7)
We love chaos, we love high volume fighters and we love unification bouts. Few bouts tick those boxes as much as this potential Featherweight bout between two men who lack in terms of concussive power, but make for it in terms of volume, and willingness to let their hands go very freely. Given that one of the aims of this series is to talk about fights that would be exciting, we don't think we could come up with a more sure fire war than this one!
In one corner is Chinese "Monster" Can Xu, a 25 year old who burst on to the scene in 2019 and wowed with his his incredible work rate. He shocked the division by out pointing Jesus M Rojas in January for the WBA "regular" title before making two defenses, against Shun Kubo and Manny Robles III. Xu is a willing participant in a fire fight, and is capable of throwing in excess of 1500 punches in a 12 round fight. On paper his KO rate suggests he lacks power, but the reality is that he hits hard enough to get respect, and often enough to keep that respect. In many ways he hurts people by simply wearing them out, and mentally defeats them as much as physically. Few will have the gas tank to keep up with him, and few will deter him from unleashing his whirlwind of shots
In the other corner is Englishman Josh Warrington, the IBF champion and a man who has a solid following in the UK. Warrington won his title in May 2018 and has defended it against Carl Frampton, Kid Galahad and Sofiane Takoucht. Like Xu we've seen Warrington try to give the people counting punch numbers a heart attack with incredible volume and has proven to be capable of throwing a silly number of punches himself. He's got more experience and has fought better fighters than Xu, so will be full of confidence, though for the first time he would be in with someone who would be able to match in terms of volume, and that would be really interesting to see how he'd respond, especially given that Xu is the naturally bigger man.
If this was made it would be incredible fun to watch. It would be very much like a fight from some sort of movie, with two men letting go of shots incredibly freely. Compubox, or whichever system is employed to count the punches thrown, would likely see their operators want to find a new job afterwards. They would be two men unleashing a non-stop fury of punches at each other at close to mid range and would be a clear Fight of the Year contender. If we got this one we suspect that we'll have something we'll be talking about for years afterwards.
At the moment it seems like Warrington is eyeing a fight with Shakur Stevenson, but if that falls though sign us up for this one!
What a bizarre week we had in boxing last week. We had some truly amazing fights, some great announcements, one decision that left a disgusting taste in the mouth of fans, and a cheater finally put in his place. Oh and we got arguably the most homo-erotic poster in boxing history...boy has this been a weird 7 days!
1 - Can Xu contines to show he can do!
We need to start this by talking about someone who has been such a great ambassador for Asian boxing this year, Can Xu. A year ago he was an unknown outside of Asian fight fans but today he sits as the WBA Featherweight champion, with 2 defenses behind him, 3 great wins in 2019, and as one of the revelations of the year. Those who saw him struggle past Enrique Bernache in September 2018 will hardly believe the same guy has gone on to beat Jesus M Rojas, former Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo and the unbeaten Manny Robles III. If a fighters year is to be marked solely by how far they've come in a year then Can Xu is up there for Fighter of the Year. As only the third Chinese world champion it's faint praise to celebrate him as China's greatest ever professional fighter, but it really is getting hard to argue. This charismatic young action fighter is someone we should all be celebrating.
2 - Hajime No Ippo Tournament 20th anniversary tournament
From one great fighter to a great tournament! The Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament began last week with 3 quarter-final bouts and 2 of those were breath taking fights. For those who have a Boxing Raise subscription and missed them we need to advise you to check out Tsuyoshi Tameda's war with Jae Woo Lee and the up and down battle between Shungo Kusano and Qiang Ma. These might not have been high profile contests but my god they were something special. Even the third quarter-final, between Daisuke Watanabe and Koshin Takeshima, was worthy of a watch even if was the worst of the bouts by far. Who ever managed to put this tournament together deserves a huge round of applause for making a tournament that has already provided 2 incredibly bouts, and looks likely to give us more in the next round!
3 - Jhon Gemino
The "Disaster" struck again with another upset. The hard hitting Filipino might not have a dangerman's record but this was his third upset in 12 months, all in different countries, and it's becoming clear that if a prospect isn't legit he will be more than a handful. With double digit losses to his name he's not some unbeatable fighter, but he's crafty, rugged and has power in both hands, and will be someone who is always a danger. As fans of seeing "opponents" come to win we can't help but love Jhon Gemino and his willingness to travel for fights against unbeaten hopefuls....and show up more than a handful of those unbeaten foes.
1 - The poster for Dangan 231
We've seen some poor posters in our years of Asian boxing but maybe the poster for Dangan 231 is perhaps the very worst. We really have no idea what those behind the poster, excuse the pun, were thinking here and it's taken what was a great fight on paper and made the poster a bigger talking point than the fight. Had the fighters been either clothed or completely silhouetted out this might have worked, but with both guys being naked it's a poster that has given us more questions than answered. Still we guess it's gotten more people talking about the show than we would have had anyway...even if no one likes the poster.
2 - NHK's coverage of the All Japan Championships
We understood scheduling can be a problem but this year's All Japan Championships were bizarrely televised by NHK who showed some of the bouts on BS1, some on BS1's sister channel and then more on BS1. We are pretty sure that a year ago it was all on one channel as a coherent broadcast, but this year it split by a sumo tournament. We understand sumo is huge in Japan though surely with NHK having so many channels they could have shown all of both events with no real issue, using NHK General, BS1 and BS Premium.
3 - Felix Alvarado's illness
We were all looking forward to the planned WBC/IBF Light Flyweight unification bout between Kenshiro Teraji and Felix Alvarado, a bout that had the potential to be a late FOTY contender. Sadly however Alvarado was forced out of the bout due to illness. It's hard to hold the illness against the fighter, but it's still a bad to see the fight being cancelled. Obviously we wish Alvarado a speedy recovery, and seeing his twin, Rene, win a world title at Super Featherweight in a big upset on Saturday was certainly a positive for the Alvarado in what has been a very mixed week for them.
1 - The poster for Dangan 231
We need to return to that damn poster for our first ugly....like seriously what was the idea behind it? It's not just bad, it's down right laughable. Honestly look at it! How can anyone take the fighters seriously with that poster being used to promote the fight...
2 - Matchroom's show at the weekend
We don't really want to use this weekly section to complain about one promoter or another but unfortunately for Matchroom boxing they are making it hard to not criticise them. The £24.95 price for Anthony Joshua is bad, but this past weekend's show was just baffling from start to end. They had the best fight of the show on Facebook, for a few thousand viewers, on a geo-locked feed. They had Anthony Fowler fight someone who made for an awful stylistic match up, in a really, really ugly fight that did neither guy any favours. They then had a main event marred by some of the worst scorecards of 2019. If Matchroom were hoping to sell their product ahead of their up coming PPV this did the opposite. It made it seem like they had no idea about bout placement on a card, it looked like their match makers struggle to make Fowler look good, honestly have him in with a fellow come forward fighter not a mover! And it looked like the judges were certainly told to lean one way in their scoring of the bout. Overall a terrible advert for what Matchroom should have seen as a big chance to sell themselves.
3 - Luis Nery
The drug taking, weight cheating son of a gun struck again! And this team people had had enough. Nery once again missed weight, forcing the cancellation of a world title eliminator against Emmanuel Rodriguez. Unlike in the past, where fighters, promoters and world title bodies have all accepted Nery's unprofessional Rodriguez said no. Rodriguez didn't sell out for a bump in his pay packet, he didn't bend over to Nery and his team and essentially told Nery to fuck himself. Somethings others should have said earlier. If this was a one off then fair enough but unprofessional behaviour is coming a constant with Nery who should be given an actual punishment after this mishap on the scales.Well done to Emmanuel Rodriguez for standing his ground, and hopefully he'll be rewarded with a WBC title fight, as it wasn't him the forced the eliminator to be cancelled.
(Photo by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/GoldenBoy Promotions)
Maybe it's just me but it's beginning to feel rather chilly, and the weeks are starting to become more and more packed with fights! It must mean we're heading towards December, when this are really set to go a little bit crazy! This past week has been a stellar week for action, and although we've not had any massive names fighting we have seen several great fights, amazing rounds a big upset and a world champion retaining his belt. Sure this past week hasn't been the best, but it's been very, very solid.
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (18-2, 3)
The fighter of the week was an easy one this week with China's Can Xu showing us what a fighter does. The light punching WBA Featherweight champion controlled the previously unbeaten Manny Robles III with output, and although Xu couldn't get the stoppage he hurt Robles a number of times late in the bout. Xu might not be the most amazing fighter in the sport but in 2019 he has quickly become one of the most must watch fighters on the planet, and he showed his all action style against Robles. Whether boxing on the front foot or the back foot Xu unloads so much leather that it's hard to take your eyes off him, and the way he challenged Josh Warrington straight after his win shows his desire to become the best in the division. A fantastic performance by one of Asian boxing's true gems.
Performance of the Week
Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5)
Being dropped twice in the opening round of a 6 round fight would mark the end for most, but for Shingo Kusano it seemed to do the opposite. Instead of wilting following a 10-7 round Kusano steadied himself, dug deep and went on to break down Qiang Ma in a thrilling bout at Korakuen Hall. Kusano isn't a world beater, in fact we suspect he loses next time our when he competes in a tournament semi-final bout, but that really doesn't change the fact that his performance this week was excellent and he really did deserve his victory after such a horror start.
Jae Woo Lee vs Tsuyoshi Tameda
Whilst the Kusano Vs Ma bout was a brave fight back through adversity from Kusano it wasn't even the best bout on the show. That honour fell to the intense and incredible war between Korean fighter Jae Woo Lee and Japanese slugger Tsuyoshi Tameda. Any other month of the year this would likely be nailed on for fight of the month honours. It was two guys who both came with the same gameplan, and that gameplan was to throw bombs on the inside, to fight with fire, and to try and break down the other man. This ended up having styles that gelled instantly and from the opening bell to the eventual ending this was a fire fight. If you like inside wars this is really a must watch fight, and saw hooks and uppercuts being thrown shot after shot, with little use, from either man, for a jab. Exceptional, yet short, war!
Jae Woo Lee vs Tsuyoshi Tameda (2)
Given the way the Lee Vs Tameda fight was fought either of the first 2 rounds could have been the round of the week, with both rounds being nothing short of breath taking, none stop action. This is what we watch boxing for! We favoured the second, over the first, as it seemed both ended the round having been damaged at some point. Lee had been rocked early in the round and Tameda ended the round bloodied. But both rounds should be considered among the very finest rounds of action we've had in 2019.
Jhon Gemino KO5 Arnold Alejandro
We didn't have a lot of clan KO's this week, despite how much action we had, but there was one or two, with one really standing out. That standout was Filipino fighter Jhon Gemino taking out the previously unbeaten Arnold Alejandro in the US in spectacular fashion. A huge right hand from Gemino landed as flush as could be on Alejandro, breaking his nose and cleaning his clock. This was a thunder bolt of a right hand. Whilst the result was an upset we can't say it was a huge shock as Gemino is building himself a reputation as a fighter who regularly scores upsets, and this was his third big away from home in less than 12 months! Still in terms of the wonder of the KO it will go down as one of his best.
Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4)
Despite there being a lot of action this past week there really wasn't a lot of fighters we'd describe as being prospects. The one man who did fulfil the description of a prospect was Ryusei Kawaura, who continued his careful be intelligent climb up the rankings as he over-came Joy Joy Formentera of the Philippines. This bout was a great test for the unbeaten Japanese fighter and he had to be on point through out an excellent 8 round chess match. He's not a well known prospect, in the grand scheme of things, but Kawaura is certainly one to keep an eye on in 2020.
Zolani Tete (28-3, 21) Vs John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19)
Next week is another without a massive name in Asian boxing in action, but it is a week that has a massive fight, as South African Zolani Tete takes on Filipino John Riel Casimero in a mouth watering WBO Bantamweight title clash. This is a huge fight and the winner instantly finds themselves in the Inoue sweepstakes. Tete hasn't looked great in recent bouts, and is coming back from an injury, and Casimero does blow hot and cold but we still expect this to be a very exciting and entertaining bout over in sunny England!
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.
Although November has been a rather bitty month, with a great start and a weak middle, there is plenty to be excited about in the last couple of weeks of the month, with a very interesting mix of fights coming through in what's left of the month.
Eruka Hiromoto (5-0) vs Sana Hazuki (7-4-1, 2) - Yamaguchi, Japan
In Yamaguchi on the 17th we'll see OPBF female Minimumweight champion Eruka Hiromoto defending her title for the first time, as she takes on the aggressive Sana Hazuki in a very interesting match up. The teenage champion looked less than spectacular in her title win, but is a very clear talent with a lot of potential and ambition, and her team have spoken about her challenging for a world title in 2020. Hazuki isn't a big name but she's a handful at this type of level, win or lose, and she could be the sort of fighter who makes Hiromoto pay for her lack of power.
Riku Kano (15-4-1, 8) Vs Tetsuya Mimura (8-1, 1) - Kobe, Japan
Former world title challenger Riku Kano looks to continue his career rebuild as he takes on the once beaten Tetsuya Mimura, a 2018 Rookie of the Year finalist. This should be a really interesting fight between two talented youngsters, and although it's unlikely to end early it is a really meaningful fight, and the winner will almost certainly see themselves in the mix for some form of regional title in 2020.
Daud Yordan (39-4-0-1, 27) Vs Michael Mokoena (15-4, 10) - Batu, Indonesia
It's hard to deny that we all love Daud Yordan, the Indian veteran has been flying the flag almost solo for Indonesian boxing the last few years. Here we see him look to claim the WBO Oriental Light Welterweight title as he takes on Tanzania's Michael Mokoena. We suspect Yordan will have to much for Mokoena, but the Indonesian has taken a lot of punishment during his long career and he could end up feeling the effects of that long career at any point.
Ongen Saknosiwi (7-0, 7) vs Marco Demecillo (24-8-1, 19) - Batu, Indonesia
Whilst Yordan has flown the flag solo for Indonesian boxing several prospecta have come and gone, including the likes of Iwan Zoda, Defry Palulu and most recently Jon Jon Jet. The latest rising Indonesian looking to make their mark is Ongen Saknosiwi, who takes a massive leap up in class here as he faces Filipino veteran Marco Demecillo. A win here will give Saknosiwi's career a monster boost and put him on the fast track, whilst a loss will see him become the latest Indonesian prospect to have his career derailed before it really got going.
Can Xu (17-2, 3) vs Manny Robles III (18-0, 8) - California, USA
One of the biggest bouts from the second half of November will see China's Can Xu defending his WBA Featherweight title against the unbeaten Manny Robles III. On paper this looks brilliant, and in the ring we expect it to be even better. Xu, despite his lack of power, is a very strong fighter who walks through hell fire and brimstone if he needs to. Robles is a more technically capable fighter, but often finds himself fighting the wrong fight and if he gets into a war with Xu we could have a legitimate contender for Fight of the Year on our hands. Xu's pressure will be key as will Robles' concentration, and we are expecting a very, very fan friendly bout here.
Zolani Tete (28-3, 21) v John Riel Casimero (28-4, 19) - West Midlands, United Kingdom
Another world title towards the end of the month will see South African fighter Zolani Tete return to face Filipino John Riel Casimero. Tete, who has been out of the ring for more than a year, enters the bout as the WBO Bantamweight champion whilst Casimero is the interim champion and will be looking to pick up another big win on the road. Coming in to this both men will be looking at a potential showdown with WBA and IBF champion Naoya Inoue, and will need to win here to keep that potential bout alive.
Zhilei Zhang (20-0, 16) Vs Sergey Kuzmin (15-1, 11) - Monte Carlo, Monaco
There is, of course, something about the Heavyweight division that intrigues us all and we'll actually have a rare bout with an Asian interest in the division at the end of November when unbeaten Chinese hopeful Zhilei Zhang take on once beaten Russian Sergey Kuzmin. Both of these fighters were former amateur standouts, and although both are the wrong side of 30 this could still be a very significant bout, with the winner likely to find themselves in the world title mix. Sadly coming into this Zhang has been out of the ring for more than a year whilst Kuzmin was beaten last time out, with both of those facts taking some shine off what this contest could have been 6 months ago.
Andy Hiraoka (14-0, 9) v Rogelio Casarez (13-8, 5) - Nevada, USA
Unbeaten Ohashi gym prospect Andy Hiraoka makes his US debut at the end of the month as he takes on Rogelio Casarez in what looks like an easy introduction to the American boxing scene. Hiraoka, a Japanese-Ghanaian fighter, has trained over in the US in the past and is regarded highly in Japan, though this will be a very different test to anythign he's faced before. Casarez will be the under-dog but will come out looking to upset the unbeaten hopeful. A nice teast for Hiraoka's first bout on US soil.
This past week hasn't been the best or the busiest for Asian Boxing, with a very clear down turn in weekly activity, despite some big fights over the weekend. Sadly with such a lack of activity it has made our weekly awards a little bit focused on the fights from the weekend.
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
The last 7 days have really lacked a big win for Asian fighters, other than China's Can Xu, who retained his WBA "regular" Featherweight title with an excellent stoppage win against Shun Kubo on Sunday. The under-rated Chinese "Monster" shocked us all when he beat Jesus M Rojas in January and the stoppage over Kubo was another impressive performance by a young man with a lot of potential. Although Kubo wasn't really suited to the fight that Xu brought it's hard to take away from Xu who looks like he really is coming into his own, and could very easily be the break out Chinese boxin star the country has needed.
Performance of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
For a second week running we have a double award winner. It was hard to see anyone really competing with Xu for the performance of the week, as he pressed the action, went through the gears and broke down the determined Kubo. Whilst Kubo seemed to be the more technically skilled fighter Xu's relentless attack, combinations and physicality were impressive and, it's great to see that Xu is now finding power on his shots.
Notable mention - Yuki Strong Kobayashi
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo
With so little action it was clear that this weeks Fight and Round were unlikely to be spectacular. That's seen notably in the Fight of the Week, which, whilst entertaining, wasn't a FOTY contender or anything like that. This was just a fun, fan friendly bout with Xu moving through the gears and throwing more punches by the round whilst Kubo was eventually broken down. Kubo played his part, standing at mid-distance, trying to fight with Xu and made for an entertaining contest, until he was stopped. No one can doubt Kubo's fighting heart, but with this being his second stoppage loss in 3 bouts it's hard to know where he goes form this.
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo (round 3)
As we've not managed to see the Osakan show from Sunday, the round of the week was another that will not stand the test at the end of 2019, despite again being fan friendly. This was the pick of the rounds from the Xu vs Kubo fight, and was the point where Xu began to step up his work rate, whilst Kubo would decline quickly in the rounds that followed and eventuaally be broken down.
We had no valid KO's this week
Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2)
Unbeaten Japanese prospect Tulio Kuwabata took a major step up this weekend and beat the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo in a 6 round bout in Osaka. The talented Kuwabata looked sharp and skilled and appears to be one to keep an eye on in the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight divisions. With this only being his third bout it's hard to know how far he will go, but there is a lot of talent here.
Notable mention - Shichao Gao
Charles Bellamy (28-3-2, 18) vs Yuto Shimizu (12-4-2, 5) II
Back in September Charles Bellamy took a split deciison over Yuto Shimizu in an entertaining 8 round battle. We're expect their rematch, this coming Saturday, to be even better than their first contest. Shimizu is the under-dog, as he was in their first bout, but at 37 years old we do wonder what Bellamy has left in the tank.
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.
So we're finally through what feels like an incredibly long January, and it's time to post our first ever Monthly award winners!
Fighter of the Month
On January 26th Can Xu, from China, upset Jesus M Rojas to become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion, that win netted him our Fighter of the Week for Week 4 2019 and saw him announce himself on the radar of many fight fans. Whether he will become the figure that Chinese boxing builds around is unclear, for now, but it's clear that this is one of the biggest ever wins for Chinese boxing, and to do it on foreign soil makes it even bigger.
Xu not only won, which was impressive by it's self but did so by out Rojasing' Rojas. He stood and traded, fought at a high tempo and forced the champion to tire down the stretch. Which is when he was particularly effective.
The win, the performance and his post fight interview, where he explained his power came from China, made him a fan favourite and it's clear that he will be welcomed back in the US in the future.
Fight of the Month
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
There was stiff competition for Fight of the Month, with Takeshi Inoue Vs Jaime Munguia and Kenshin Oshima Vs Ikura Sadatsune and Jian Wang Vs Seong Yeong Yang all being great fights. The winner however was the Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas fight, which was high Octane from the start to the end. It did, perhaps, lack the drama needed for a true Fight of the Year candidate, but it's the best we've had this year, and yes we know we are only in February now but it was a very enjoyable contest.
The tempo that was set was great, the momentum shifts, with Rojas starting fast, Xu coming into the bout, Rojas having a big 9th round, then Xu come back on strong, made it something that you couldn't take your eyes off of.
It seemed early on like Rojas was going to get Xu out of there. He looked too strong and too powerful, he then began to tire and Xu's punches too over as his toughness saw him staying up through the storm. What a great fight, and a great coming out party for Xu, who may prove to be one of the most TV friendly fighters out there.
KO of the Month
Mikhail Lesnikov KO1 Afrizal Tamboresi
There hasn't been many true KO's in Asian Boxing this month, but there was a really brutal one that stood out, and that was Mikhail Lesnikov's brutal knockout out of Indonesian journeyman Afrizal Tamboresi. The match was a disgusting mismatch, with Lesnikov being far too big for Tamboresi, and that was compounded by the fact Tamboresi had been numerous times prior to this contest. A disgusting mismatch that ended in brutal fashion, though credit to Lesnikov for not prolonging the beating of Tamboresi.
The bout it's self leads us to wondering why Tamboresi's team would throw him into such a mismatch but that's not really relevant to the discussion at hand.
We had a really good selection of prospects in action this month including Vikas Krishan, who made his debut, Li Xiang, who shined in China and Sadriddrin Akhmedov. For us the most impress was unheralded ArAr Andales.
We all know how good Akhmedov and Krishan were as amateurs, they were expected to win, and win good, Andales on the other hand was a bit of a mystery, an unknown teenager taking a notable step up in class. Despite the step up he stopped Charlie Malugpangue, his first stoppage win in 6 bouts.
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
We won't go into this too much, given the bout has already been mentioned twice, but Xu entered as a 5/1 under-dog across the British betting markets and still secured the win. A big win and a bit betting surprise.
Shin Ono Vs Norihito Tanaka (Round 6)
Stream live on Boxing Raise the Japanese Minimumweight title bout between Shin Ono and Norhito Tanaka is likely to be the start of the end for Ono's career. It was however a gutsy performance from the Watanabe man, who knew he was behind after 5 rounds and put everything in to trying to turn the bout around. He put in an incredible effort in round 6, but was unable to damage Tanaka, who would see him off the following round to claim the Japanese title.
The round was a brilliant see saw round, that saw Ono upping his pace and Tanaka refusing to release his grip on the bout. A fantastic 3 minutes of action!
Whilst Ono's career is unlikely to last too much longer, given his age and accumulated damage, this was a fantastic way to go out. As for Tanaka he has finally won a big one and will likely see himself defending the belt in the Spring.
It appears that things got real this week, like really real, with some true Fight of the Year candidates, a notable upset, some stellar performances by lesser known fighters and some really under-rated fights from lesser known fighters. It was a weekend that saw attention being thrust on Asian fighters, with 3 major US bouts featuring fighters from Asia, as well as bouts in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (16-2, 2)
Entering his first "world" title bout as a 5/1 to one under-dog, Chinese fighter Can Xu was expected to be steam rolled by WBA"regular" Featherweight champion Jesus M Rojas. Instead however Xu shocked the bookmakers by not only surviving the bout, but also winning. The early rounds saw Rojas on the offensive, but Xu fought back and eventually came on strong in the second half, as Rojas began to feel the tempo, in what was an amazing all action bout. In the end Xu's energy and work rate in the second half of the fight was enough for him to take home the surprise win. The scorecards didn't do justice for how close the bout is, but this huge win for Xu is massive for Chinese boxing and should see the Max Power Promoted fighter become the new face of Chinese boxing.
Performance of the Week
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7)
It would be easy to crown Xu the double winner for the two main solo awards for this week, but the reality is that his performance was equalled by that of Japan's Takeshi Inoue. Inoue wasn't just expected to lose, but was expected to be stopped, and stopped early. Instead the little known Inoue was in Jamie Mungia's face from the first round to the last, pressing the touted Mexican all the way and giving him more problems than anyone as at world level. Some had suggested Inoue didn't belong in the ring with Munguia before hand but his performances here showed he belong in, and around, world level and he is certainly going to be a handful for other fighters at the world level. He may have lost, but his performance, against a supposed superstar in the making, was excellent.
Can Xu (15-2, 2) Vs Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2, 19)
The WBA "Regular" Featherweight title fight between China's Can Xu and Jesus M Rojas is likely to be forgotten at the end of the year, due to it taking place so early in 2019, but it will be one of the most action packed fighters of the year.From the opening round both men let their shots go, both set a high activity level and there was really grit and determination from both fighters. The fight changed in the middle rounds, when Rojas' work rate dropped, but he still looked the more dangerous man, and seemed to have Xu on the back foot in round 9. The only thing missing from making it a truly legendary fight was the lack of real drama and neither man ever seemed to be particularly hurt, but the action was so in tense that it was easy to ignore that flaw.
Alphoe Dagayloan Vs Danrick Sumabong, Tugstogt Nyambayar Vs Claudio Marrero, Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Munguia
Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Mungia (round 10)
The Inoue Vs Mungia fight will be marred by the scoring, which essentially made it clear that Inoue was never going to get the win on the scorecards, but it gave us some amazing action, the best of which was in round 10. Inoue started the round fast, having great success in the early going of the round, but was rocked in the final stages as Munguia finally began to show the offense and aggression that he's best known for.It was the only time Inoue looked hurt during the 12 round contest, and the only time Munguia looked like the monster he's been sold as in recent months. The assault from Munguia however didn't come until late in the round.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
ArAr Andales (9-0, 2)
There were several better known prospects in action this week but 19 year old ArAr Andales was the one that shone to us. He was aggressive, exciting and despite not being a power puncher really brought the fire before stopping Charlie Malupangue in the 5th round. On paper this was a very credible step up in class for the Filipino teenager, but he made it look easy and really put himself on the map, whilst claiming the WBA Asia Minimumweight title.He appears to be someone who could well end up in the mix in the coming years, and shouldn't be over-looked as a potential contender, at least on the regional scene.
Saddridin Akhmedov, Danrick Sumabong
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8)
After a few weeks of top level world class fights there isn't anything at that level over the next 7 days, however there are still some interesting contests. The most interesting of those appears to be the Japanese Flyweight title bout between the highly regarded Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki, who battle for the vacant belt. The match up won't make waves internationally, but will likely help push the winner towards major international bouts, as well as seeing them pick up their major title. Nakatani is widely considered as one of the best hopes in Japan, but Mochizuki is a very live under-dog and could well have the style to over-come the 21 year old. Very interesting bouts.
Gonte Lee Vs Aphisit Namkhot, Aston Palicte Vs Jose Martinez
Denver Cuello to return in March
Former Minimumweight world title contender Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) has been out of the ring for well over 3 years, yet this week we saw the news break that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, to take on Indonesian veteran Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14). It's not a match up that will get peoples attention, but it is amazing to know that Cuello will be back in the ring, even if he has had so long away, due to injuries.
Despite a rather dry January we do see action pick up, in a big way, in the end portion of the month with several major fights featuring Asian fighters.
Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2-1, 19) Vs Can Xu (15-2, 2) - WBA "Regular" Featherweight title
Talented Puerto Rican Jesus M Rojas will be looking to defend the WBA "regular" Featherweight title, just a week after interim champion Jhack Tepora attempts to defend his title, as he takes on Chinese fighter Can Xu. For Rojas, who won the title way back in September 2017, this will be just huis first defense of the title, as Joseph Diaz failed to make weight for a clash last August. Rojas is a fantastic fighter, but alack of activity through his career has been a major issue. Xu on the other is fighting for just the second time in the US and is fighting in his first bout at this level, in fact a win for Xu would see him become the first Chinese fighter to win a "world" title above 112lbs.
Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26) Vs Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) - WBO Light Middleweight title
On the same card in Texas we'll an Inoue in action, as the little known Takeshi Inoue challenges WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. The champion was the breakout star of 2018, going 5-0 (4) and went from being not allowed to fight Gennady Golovkin in May to the WBO Light Middleweight champion with 2 defenses under his belt. Whilst Munguia was becoming a star in 2018 Inoue, no relation to Naoya, was stuck in negotiation hell with a fighter against Julian Williams seemingly being in negotiations for months before he managed to secure this match up with Munguia. With this bout now set Inoue will know he will be in a major bout, but one where he is a massive under-dog.
New York, USA
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17)
In an excellent match, perhaps the best of the month, we'll see unbeaten Mongolian puncher Tugstsogt Nyambayar battle against explosive Dominican fighter Claudio Marrero. This is about as good as it gets, and will set the winner up for a Featherweight world title fight later in the year. Both of these men have brutal power, both of these men have been down, and together we expect to see them producing fire works of the highest order. Nyambayar is the more technically gifted of the two men, but he has shown some poor balance issues and has been tagged before. Marrero on the other hand has a raw dangerous quality about him, defensively and offensively, and is incredibly quick. This could be an early runner for FOTY.
Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) Vs Jose Martinez (20-0-2, 13)
The final bout of note in January is a WBO Super Flyweight world title eliminator, as Filipino puncher Aston Palicte takes on Puerto Rican fighter Jose Martinez. This bout, which will be shown on UFC Fight Pass, will set the winner up for a world title fight later in the year. Palicte came to the attention of the boxing world in 2018 when he fought to a controversial draw with Donnie Nietes on Superfly 3, since then he has been inactive though comes into this fight with a lot of hunger. Martinez on the other hand is best known for two fortunate draws against the under-rated Alejandro Santiago Barrios, who proved himself against Jerwin Ancajas last year. Despite being unbeaten we've yet to be impressed by Martinez and this looks like his toughest test so far.
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