As we head towards the end of 2019 we're seeing more and more "...of the year" discussions popping up, and it's left people compiling short lists. With that in mind we've decided to do a quick feature over the coming days to look at some of the best rounds of the year. This, of course, is focused on just fights from Asia, but that's a chance for us to shine a light on a great round that you may well have missed the first time around!
To begin this mini series we go all the way back to January 5th in Suzhou for a Flyweight bout between once beaten Filipino hopeful Giemel Magramo and Chinese fighter Wenfeng Ge. The bout ended up getting quite one sided later on, but round 2 was fire from both as they slowly warmed to the task at hand and unloaded some seriously heavy fire at each other. This wasn't a round that many will remember now, but was a real fun start to the year, and is one that every fight fan deserves to give 3 minutes of their time to!
Sadly since this bout, which was genuine a good bout and not just a good round, neither man really did much. Magramo picked up a single win over Richard Claveras in September whilst Ge beat Kompayak Porpramook the following month, meaning this was pretty much the highlight for both men during the year.
From a personal perspective the last week has been an incredibly long one, though from a boxing perspective it's been a packed one with notable fights taking place right through the week. Whilst not every fight was great there was certainly a lot to take in over the last 7 days, and we had some glittering performances by youngsters looking to make a mark for themselves.
Fighter of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (2-0, 2)
The biggest standout for the week was Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev who fought his second professional bout and destroyed Adrian Luna Flores inside a round, thanks to some brutal body shots. Like many of the tops Uzbek amateurs turning professional he seems to have skipped the early section of a typical professional career and has already taken out a couple of notable opponents to make a statement. The plan seems to be for him to move down in weight to Middleweight, but given the power and technical ability he has already shown there may be a case for him to not drain himself at all and instead just make a run at 175lbs. After just 2 fights he's already gained a reputation as a brutal body puncher and looks like a scary fighter.
Performance of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (2-0, 2)
Taking out a notable name like Luna Flores in just his second bout left it hard to select anyone else for our performance of the week. The hard hitting Uzbek blew out a solid Mexican inside a round, a Mexican who had gone the distance with the likes of Ryota Murata. We do wonder whether the notice and weight played a part in Luna Flores being taken out so quickly, but regardless this was still incredibly impressive.
Giovanni Escaner vs Renoel Pael
Whilst we had a lot of action this past week there wasn't actually a lot that was competitive, with many bouts ending up more one-sided than expected. One of the few contests that was truly competitive over 12 rounds was the GAB Bantamweight title fight between Giovanni Escaner and Renoel Pael. Given the styles of the two men it was clear this was going to be a gruelling war and the bout lived up to that expectation with a lot of back and forth, great exchanges of body shots and a real desire to win from both men. The bout won't go down as a classic at the end of the year, but that doesn't take away from how brutal and entertaining this was. Really a fantastic fight.
Ryu Horikawa vs Yuki Nakajima (Rd 6)
With his unbeaten record slipping away Yuki Nakajima moved through the gears and looked to put the pressure on RyuHorikawa in the final round of their 6 rounder. The result of that pressure from Nakajima was a brilliant round with Horikawa being forced to move, respond, mix it up and and give up some great exchanges. Despite some slips from an over-committed Nakajima this wasn't sloppy but was an exciting round of action and really thrilling stuff at a very high level. Not a war, but a high level, super fast boxing showcase. Great stuff.
Bektemir Melikuziev KO1 Ricardo Adrian Luna Flores
We're back to Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev and his excellent win over Ricardo Adrian Luna Flores. The finish wasn't the most gorgeous we'll see but it left Flores in agony on the canvas thanks to a truly brutal body shot. Luna Flores had been dropped earlier in the rounds, and had been softened up by repeated body shots, but that doesn't take away from just how brutally savage the finish shot was.
Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1)
Our view is that Bektemir Melikuziev has already progressed beyond being a typical prospect and is now more of a fringe contender, despite only being a professional for a matter of months. With that in mind we had to look elsewhere for a prospect and it was hard to ignore 18 year old Toshiya Ishii, who booked a place in a Japanese youth title fight thanks to a win over Fumiya Fuse. The youngster really did look like a special talent against a man we regard highly. Ishii isn't the complete package, yet, but he is a really wonderful young talent and we would be hugely surprised if titles aren't in his future.
Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19) vs Komgrich Nantapech (25-5, 16)
This coming Saturday is set to be a hectic day with shows all over Asia, but the best of the bunch looks like it will be an IBF world title eliminator at Flyweight, between Filipino Giemel Magramo and Thai Komgrich Nantapech, aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking. On paper this has the hall marks of a FOTY contender. The two men have styles that should gel, both are aggressive, tough and exciting.We're expecting the fighters to meet center ring and engage in a thrilling all action war!
August wasn't the biggest month for Asian boxing, but was a solid month overall, which had plenty of shows to be excited about and a very few real breaks between something of note.
On paper September looks like it will be a lot less interesting than August was. It looks to start slowly, peak with a flurry of major bouts in the middle, then tail off in forgettable fashion. With that said lets have a look at what's to come in the first part of the month.
Samuel Salva (17-0, 10) Vs Pedro Taduran (13-2, 10) -Metro Manila, Philippines
The first world title bout takes place on the 7th and is an all-Filipino battle for the vacant IBF Minimumweight title. The bout pits the unbeaten Samuel Salva against hard hitting youngster Pedro Taduran. For Salva this is his first world title bout, and a chance to announce himself after a relative slow build on the Filipino domestic scene. As for Taduran the bout will be his second world title fight, following a 2018 loss to Wanheng Menayothin. The winner of this will be seen as the weakest of the champions at 105lbs but they'll have had a very credible win to take the title regardless.
Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19) vs Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking (25-5, 16) - Metro Manila, Philippines
On the same card as the Salva/Taduran bout we also get an IBF Flyweight world title eliminator, as once beaten Filipino hopeful Giemel Magramo takes on former world title challenger Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, aka Komgrich Nantapech, in what could end up being one of the best bouts of the month. The winner will likely get a shot at Moruti Mthalane, though will almost certainly have to go through a real war to get that title fight. Both of these men like to come forward, through shots and press the action, so we're expecting a bit of a phone booth tear up here. On paper Eaktwan is the more experience and proven but Magramo looks to be the more naturally talented and smarter. Either way we're in for something very special here.
Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12) vs Makoto Kawasaki (11-7-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
In a Japanese Welterweight title fight we'll see Yuki Nagano defending his title against veteran Makoto Kawasaki. On paper this looks like an easy first defense for Nagano, though we really can't begrudge him an easy one after successive wins over Riku Nagahama, Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada. With a 14 fight winning run Nagano is in great form and full of confidence. The 35 year old Kawasaki on the other hand likely knows retirement is looming and a loss he will almost certainly push him into hanging up the gloves. Kawasaki isn't a bad fighter, but we really don't know what he has in his arsenal to test the in form champion.
Jorge Linares (45-4, 28) Vs Al Toyogon (10-4-1, 6)
Former 3-weight world champion Jorge Linares has fought around half of his carer in Japan, though amazingly he's not fought in the Land of the rising Sun in well over 4 years. The wait for his Japanese return ends here as he takes on Filipino Al Toyogon, who looks to end a 2-fight losing run. The exiting, but vulnerable, Linares is in a position where his career is likely over as a world class operator with another loss. Toyogon comes into this on the back of losses to Ryo Sagawa and Shuya Masaki, but will know a win here will get the boxing world talking about him, and there is no better time to face Linares.
Saemi Hanagata (15-7-4, 7) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-5-4, 5) III - Tokyo, Japan
All female cards are rare, but when they happen in Japan they tend to be stacked with some excellent match ups. On September 12th we get once such card, headlined by the third bout between IBF Atomweight champion Saemi Hanagata and former WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama. After drawing in the first 2 fights of their rivalry both will be desperate to take home a win here and we're expecting an all out thriller, much like their previous bouts.
Ayaka Miyao (23-7-1, 6) Vs Monseratt Alcaron (12-4-2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another fantastic looking female world title bout on same card will see the WBA Atomweight title being unified. In one corner will be regular champion Monseratt Alcaraon whilst the other will house interim champion Ayaka Miyao, together they should make for a brilliant match up. Miyao is an aggressive veteran who uses a lot of speed and a high output whilst Alcaron is a smart fighter with an aggressive counter punching style. This should be a bout that really sees the style gel.
Eri Matsuda (3-0) Vs Mont Blanc Miki (4-2-1, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
A third Atomweight title bout on the same card will see Eri Matsuda make her first defense of the Japanese Atomweight title, as she takes on the limited Mont Blanc Miki. Matsuda is one of the pure talents in female boxing, and she will likely be targeting one of the winners from the world title fights on this show. Miki on the other hand has been stopped in both of her defeats, both at a low level, and a win here for the challenger would be a a big surprise.
With a new year comes new ideas, and one of the new things we'd like to try in 2019 is our weekly awards, and further to that an attempt at monthly awards as well. We know some weeks, and months, will see a lot of contenders for awards, and we're really hoping that that sparks debate with you, the readers, as well as feedback. That feed back will be looked at and potentially included in a follow up article .
Just as some basic ground rules, weeks run from Monday to Sunday, so the end of week 1 is Sunday January 6th. These pieces will be posted between Sunday and Tuesday, depending on time, and what fights take place when. Also all awards are for Asian fighters or bout that take place in Asia, or feature and Asian fighter, so please remember that!
As a general rule we want to recognise fighters and fights in the following categories:
Fighter - Straight forward, which fighter impressed the most during the week
Performance - Which fighter put on the best performance of the week
Fight - Which fight was the best of the week (where possible a video will be supplied)
Round - Which round was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
KO - Which KO was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
Prospect - Which prospect impressed us most during the week
Upcoming fight - Which fight, during the following week, are we the most excited about
As well as a "notable mentions" category, which are essentially for doing something that doesn't fit in one of the above categories or where someone is narrowly pipped.
We suspect over the next few weeks we'll see this whole thing change slightly, but hopefully by the Spring we'll have settled on a format that works. We also know not all fights are available to watch publicly, for example those on boxingraise, where that's the case we will look to add a notable mention for another fight.
So....with all that said, I would like to get on to the Asian Boxing Awards for Week 1 2019!
Fighter of the Week
Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19)
There wasn't too much action this past week, what with the year just starting at all that, but there was really only 2 contenders for this award. They were Jiang Xiang of China and Giemel Magramo, of the Philippines. For us Magramo gets the win by a nose hair. He went over to China and stopped the previously unbeaten Wenfeng Ge, to unify the WBO Oriental and WBO International titles at Flyweight. Not only beating someone highly regarded, like Ge, but to do it by stoppage in their back yard gets Magramo our first ever Fighter of the Week recognition.
Performance of the Week
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) [向静]
Whilst Magramo's stoppage against Ge was an impressive result, we thought Magramo actually was pipped in terms of his performance by Jing Xiang, who dominated former world champion Kompayak Porpramook over 12 rounds to retain the WBC Silver Light Flyweight title. The bout Chinese fighter was taking on a determined visitor and ended up schooling the Thai veteran, hardly dropping a round, and actually putting the Thai down. For us this was the much better performance, with Magramo's having the better result. We were thoroughly impressed by how Xiang shut down the pressure from the Thai, despite some tough moments.
Jiang Wang (7-1, 2) [王健] Vs Sung Young Yang (6-2, 3) [양성영]
Despite being a dominant win for Jing Xiang over Kompayak Porpramook we were totally captivated, from the first round to the last. Sadly, it was too one-sided to be our fight of the week, however the walk out bout from the same show, which saw Jian Wang and Sung Young Yang battle to 10 round split decision draw was just what we wanted. It was exciting, action packed and highly competitive. These two lacked the skills of some other fighters on the card but in terms of action they delivered, in a big way, often taking it in turns to wail away on each other from close range. If you love technical mastery you'll be disappointed in our choice, but for pure wild entertainment this was just fantastic.
Giemel Magramo Vs Wenfeng Ge (Round 2)
Although there wasn't a lot of action this past week we got more than our share of great rounds. Rounds 9 and 10 from the Wang Vs Yang bout were amazing, round 7 of Xiang Vs Kompayak was sensational, however our pick for the week was round 2 of Magramo Vs Ge. The round wasn't just a high intensity one, but also featured a high level of skill, with both men showing ring craft and skills. As the bout went on the contest became 1-sided, but this round was an ultra competitive one and a very entertaining contest, that seemed to give us a glimpse of a very special fight, that sadly we didn't really get.
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!
Xiang Li (4-0, 3) [李想]
Chinese novice Xiang Li may not get many mentions through the next 12 months, but he did more than get this honour by defeat. He took on tough Filipino Arvin Yurong, who had travelled with the intention of claiming the WBO Oriental Youth title. Li, a 22 year old puncher from Nanjing, managed to stop Yurong in the 4th round, enduring some problems from the hungry and gutsy Filipino who had travelled to fight and was really in Li's face. Whilt we don't imagine we'll see Li getting many mentions this year he certainly impressed today, and hopefully he'll be busier in 2019 than he has been the last few years.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) [武田勇太] Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) [田村 亮一]
There's not many fights this coming week, but we do like th elook of the January 12th Japanese Super Bantamweight bout between Mugicha Nakagawa and Ryoichi Tamura, in what could be a very exciting contest. The styles should gel well, and with a national title on the line we suspect both men will give all they've got to make their mark. Tamura is rarely in a bad fight, and we Nakagawa is the type of battle who will happily engage in a war. Potentally a thriller at the Korakuen Hall!
After the hectic new year period we do see boxing slow down as we begin 2019, with January being a particularly quiet month. That's not to say there's nothing happen, just a lot less than we see in the usually busy months of September, October, November and December.
Wenfeng Ge (11-0, 6) vs Giemel Magramo (22-1, 18) - WBO International Flyweight title
The notable Asian card of the year features number of interesting match ups, including a fantastic Flyweight bout between unbeaten Chinese fighter Wenfeng Ge, who holds solid wins over Amnat Ruenroeng and Ivan Soriano, and the once beaten Filipino Giemel Magramo. The winner of this bout will immediately find themselves on the verge of a WBO title fight, and it's hard not to think this is a huge way to start the new year.
Jiang Xiang (15-4-2, 3) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (59-6, 40) - WBC silver Light Flyweight
On the same card fans will see Chinese hopeful Jiang Xiang take a huge step up in class to take on former world champion Kompayak Porpramook. The Chinese fighter is a relative unknown but will see this as a huge chance to climb up the WBC rankings, and towards a potential world title fight. Kompayak is well beyond his best, though is well known for his great fights with Adrian Hernandez and Koki Eto. If Kompayak can roll back the clock and put in solid performance here there is a very real chance that he could derail Xiang's charge. This a really interesting match up, and should be a very exciting one.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) - Vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title
The Japanese Super Bantamweight title was vacated in late 2018 by Shingo Wake, who now looks to chase a world title. To fill the vacancy we'll see Mugicha Nakagawa take on Ryoichi Tamura, in what should be a genuinely excellent contest between a boxer-puncher and an aggressive pressure fighter. On paper Nakagawa is the more experienced and more proven man, but Tamura is aggressive, hard hitting and gave Yusaku Kuga hell when they fought in 2018. This could be a very exciting match up.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) Vs Norihito Tanaka (17-7, 9) - Japanese Minimumweight title
On the same card in Tokyo we'll also see Shin Ono defending the Japanese Minimumweight title in a mandatory title defense against fellow veteran Norihito Tanaka. This will be Ono's second defense of the title, following his title win in 2018 against Ryoki Hirai and his TKO8 win over Riku Kano to defend the title in October. Ono is thought to be pursuing another world title fight in 2019 but will know that he needs to win here. For Tanaka this shot comes on the back of an upset win over Takumi Sakae in October, and is his third title fight, following losses to Akira Yaegashi and Tsubasa Koura. Ono will be the favourite, but this is a very competitive looking match up, and one that should deliver a lot of action!
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