We've sadly had another very quiet week in the realm of Asian boxing, meaning that, once again, our awards aren't littered with big name winners and outstanding rounds. We have had a few notable performances, though many of those won't even be aired until next week, with the real talking piint being the latest Uzbek amateur star to turn professional
Fighter of the Week
Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Mid-week fights can often be over-looked and that was likely the case this past week, with a couple of Japanese cards in the middle of the week. It was on one of those shows that Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka made his first defense, avenging a prior loss to Naoya Haruguchi in the process. The under-rated Tanaka is rumoured to be next in line for Wanheng Menayothin and, in all honesty, he would make for a compelling for the unbeaten Thai world champion., especially given the run he's on and performances like the one this week.
Performance of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (1-0, 1)
Former Uzbek amateur star Bektemir Melikuziev made his debut, and although it was only a short one, lasting 99 seconds, it was easily the best performance by an Asian fighter this week. He took on Argentinian veteran Martin Fidel Rios and almost gutted him with a brutal body shot. Although big things were expected of Melikuziev we really didn't expect him to take Rios out this quickly! Very impressive.
Kyonosuke Kameda vs Ryugo Ushijima
We didn't see a fight of the year contender this past week, but did see some interesting action, and for us the most interesting was between Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of Koki Daiki and Tomoki, and Ryugo Ushijima in a qualifier for the Rookie of the Year. This was hotly contested, highly competitive and really good from a fans perspective. Yes, this wasn't an all out war, but was a genuinely fantastic 4 round bout.
No round, that we saw, stood out this week. It's a shame that there was so little actually visible though, with various shows not being available to watch at the time of writing.
Bektemir Melikuziev KO1 Martin Fidel Rios
It may have been a body shot, m but what a body shot it was! Bektemir Melikuziev showed straight out of the box that he knew how to find the body and how land a fight ending blow to the body, with what was an amazing shot to the mid-section to take Rios out.
Ryu Horikawa (1-0, 1)
Japanese teenager Ryu Horikawa, who turned professional with a fair bit of buzz, may not have had a flawless debut but he looked exciting and fought with a really aggressive style. There's a lot of defensive flaws for him to work on, but he still impressed and looks like the sort of fighter who we could easily see getting big fights after just a couple of years on the domestic scene, make a note of this young man's name.
Whilst Bektemir Melikuziev did look more impressive it's hard to consider hima prospect given he's just beaten a man regarded as a gate keeper, and it's obvious that Melikuziev will be looking to skip the prospect stage of his career.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) vs Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5)
We have some great fights coming up, with the pick of them being the WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, aka Tanawat Nakoon. It's always great to see unbeaten fighters clash at world level, and we're expecting to see something very exciting.
Yesterday we looked at 6 bouts rumoured to be in the works for the new year, and then we realised there was a lot more that were swirling around and ended up here, with part 2!
If you missed the first part that's available to read here 6 bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019
Reymart Gaballo (20-0,17) Vs Liborio Solis (28-5-1-1, 13)
A bout between WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo and Venezuelan veteran Liborio Solis has been rumoured for a while, and is a bout that would keep both of the highly regarded fighters busy until the end of the WBSS, when the winner could then get a shot at a top title. Gaballo has really impressed, despite not being given too many opportunities, and the 22 year old looks like a major player in the future of the Bantamweight division. Solis on the other hand is a 36 year old, grizzled veteran who would want one more major fight. This make sense for both men, and has the makings of a great fight.
Daniel Roman (26-2-1, 10) Vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4)
WBA Super Bantamweight champion Daniel Roman is expected to have a mandatory title defense in early 2019 against insanely fast rising Uzbek fighter Murodjon Akhmadaliev. The champion, won the title in September 2017 and has made 3 defenses since then, over-coming Ryo Matsumoto, Moises Flores and Gavin McDonnell. Akhmadaliev on the other hand only turned professional last March and has risen in a sensationally quick way to become the #1 ranked WBA contender. Roman would be favoured, but this is a tough one to call and looks like it's going to be announced in the coming weeks.
Rey Vargas (32-0, 22) Vs Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20)
A match up between WBC Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas, from Mexico, and interim champion Tomoki Kameda, of Japan, is expected to be made at some point this year, and is a bout with history behind it. Vargas has made 3 defenses of the belt already, and is planning his next one for February before potentially facing Kameda in Summer. Kameda on the other hand won the interim in late 2018, when Vargas was out of the ring injured, and could well find himself getting a chance to avenge and amateur defeat to the Mexican. With both being able to speak Spanish this would be an easy sell to the Mexican markets, and could take place in Japan, Mexico or the US.
Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0, 12) Vs Edis Tatli (31-2, 10)
Supposedly in the works as Lightweight world title eliminator we could see Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani battle Finland's Edis Tatli in 2019. Nakatani has long been the OPBF champion, running up 11 defenses of the title, and is clearly in need of stiffer tests rather than continuing to battle on the regional circuit. As for Tatli, a former European champion, the bout would give him a potential push to fight for a world title. It should be noted that both fighters have generally fought at home, with Nakatani rarely leaving Osaka and Tatli only leaving Finland once, and we suspect that the fighter who secures home advantage will be favoured in this potentially compelling contest.
Kenshiro (15-0, 8) Vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9)
One of the most mouth watering bouts that could be made right now would see WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro unifying with WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. These two fought several times as amateurs, with Kenshiro holding the advantage from those days, and the two have also taken part in a recent public spar, to build hype towards this potential contest. Between then they are 10-0 (5) in world title bouts, and would make for a brilliant contest stylistically, as well as an incredibly rare all Japanese unification bout. Our fingers are tightly crossed that this one gets done!
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26) II
WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai narrowly got past Juan Fracnisco Estrada last February and is now expected to make another defense against Estrada in 2019, if a unification bout for the Thai can't be secured. Their first bout was a razor thin bout, and one where Srisaket's technical boxing surprised many, though Estrada did seem to finish the stronger man and would certainly start faster in a rematch, making things interesting once again. The WBC are expected to let Srisaket negotiate a unification contest, but if his team can't get it done quickly there's a good chance they will order this bout sooner, rather than later.
As we into the middle of December we need to remember there's a lot to look forward in the back end of the month. Here we take a look at the final week or so of the month.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - What's to come in December...Part 1 and part 2 is here - What's to come in December...Part 2
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals - Tokyo, Japan
Professional boxing's biggest annual tournament comes to a close on December 23rd in Tokyo, as we see the latest All Japan Rookie of the Year champions being crowned. The tournament might not make much of a mark internationally but it puts the winners on the fast track to domestic success and with the whole card being shown live on G+ it goes us a brilliant pre-Christmas being treat.
Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final major bout for us before Christmas comes from Osaka and sees the hard hitting Keita Kurihara take on Yuki Strong Kobayashi for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. The match up is a solid looking lower tier match up, though what needs to be noted is that both men are better than their records suggest, with both suffering a number of defeats early in their careers, and to good fighters. We're expecting a hard hitting affair here and it should be very exciting.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) Vs Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
After a little bit of a break for Christmas big action returns on December 30th, as we run towards an explosive end to 2018. One of 3 title bouts on the penultimate day of the year will see Masayuki Ito make his first defence of the WBO Super Featherweight title, as he takes on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov. A win here will open up some big fights for Ito in the new year, and he has stated that he intends to return to the US, where he won the title, to make future defenses. For Chuprakov the bout is a big step up in class, but he is certainly a live challenger.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) Vs Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
The longest reigning Japanese champion Kenshiro will also be on the December 30th card, defending his WBC Light Flyweight title against Mexican veteran Saul Juarez. Kenshiro has been incredibly impressive recently, beating the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Milan Melindo, and this looks like a step backwards, unfortunately. Juarez is a good fighter, or rather was a good fighter, but his form has been less than great recently and he is 2-4-2 in his last 8 bouts. Juarez, at his best, would be a good opponent for Kenshiro, but he looks to be beyond his best, even if he is only 28.
Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) - Tokyo, Japan
The third major bout on December 30th will see the unbeaten pairing of Takuma Inoue and Petch Sor Chitpattana facing off for the WBC "Interim" Bantamweight title, a title that's an interim belt whilst the WBC wait to sort out the mess of their vacant "regular" title. This is a brilliant match up, between two talented youngsters, though sadly the politics of the WBC have left this bout feeling less glamorous than it should be. The winner will get a shot at the full WBC title in the new year, if and when the WBC actually get around to crowning an actual champion. With a combined 60-0 record these two do make for an interesting fight, but this is a huge step up in class for the Thai, whilst Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue, has fought a number of world class opponents during his short career.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) Vs Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) - Macau
It's not just December 30th that will be delivering a triple header, but also December 31st, which has one of the very best match ups of the year. The match up in question pits a couple of 3-weight world champions against each other, with Japan's Kazuto Ioka taking on Donnie Neites for the Vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. Both fighters are looking to become only the third man in history to win titles in the lowest 4 weight classes, both are looking to etch their names into the history books and help set up major bouts in 2019. Amazingly this will be the first time Nietes has ever faced a Japanese fighter whilst Ioka hasn't fought a Filipino in over 8 years! We expect to see a lot of skill on show here in what coul be a potential FOTY candidate.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) - Macau
The second best bout on New Year's Eve will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler defending his title against former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. This will be Budler's first defense of the title, which he won earlier this year in Japan by out point Ryoichi Taguchi, and he will be facing a stablemate of the man he beat for the belt. For Kyoguchi it's a great chance to become a 2-weight champion and to score a massive win to end the year. A win here for either man will set them up for massive bouts in 2019, with possible unification bouts in the new year.
Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) Vs Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) - Macau
A second South Africa Vs Japan bout will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title against little known Japanese fighter Masahiro Sakamoto. The South African is enjoying his second reign as the IBF champion, having won the title earlier this year in a nail biter against Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem, but at the age of 36 we do wonder what he has left, and he certainly looked like he was aging in the final rounds against Waseem. Sakamoto really is only known in boxing circles for losing to Sho Kimura, in a regional title bout, but has impressed since then and is a smart fighter who will know he has the opportunity of a life time here.
Earlier this month we looked at some of the most notable bouts of September to feature an Asian fighter. Here will be the second, and final, part covering the notable bouts which are set to take place from September 22nd too September 30th and there really is some great fights set to take place over the last week or so of the month.
Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22) Vs Vince Paras (13-1, 11) – Philippines
Hard hitting Filipino fighters collide as former 2-time world title challenger Jonathan Taconing defends his WBC International Light Flyweight title against youngster Vince Paras. Both of these men have fought at world level, have exciting styles and a lot of power, so we're expecting serious fire works here!
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7) – Japan
WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura seeks his third defense as he takes on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka, who is looking to become a 3-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! This is set to pit will against skills and we're expecting both men to have their moments in nail biting all-Japanese world title bout.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) Vs Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2, 8) – Japan
Former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi begins his Light Flyweight campaign as he takes on unbeaten Indonesian Tibo Monabesa. This is a tough first bout at a new one for Kyoguchi whilst Monabesa will know that a win here would almost certainly open the door to a world title fight for him. A really significant contest.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1, 11) vs Suthat Kalalek (12-9, 11)- Japan
If we did this list based sole on how competitive they were this bout wouldn't be here, but with the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Heavyweight titles on the line the bout between Kyotaro Fujimoto and Suthat Kalalek needs to be mentioned. The contest is a significant one, even if we do strongly favour the champion.
Yasuyuki Akiyama (12-7-1, 9) Vs Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (10-3, 9) – Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF title bout will see Yasyuki Akiyama defending the titles against hard hitting challenger Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa. Akiyama won the titles last year, in somewhat controversial fashion, but this will be his first defense and comes against a man he narrowly beat 18 months ago
Wulan Tuolehazi (8-3-1, 4) v Jayr Raquinel (10-0-1, 7) – China
In form Chinese hopeful Wulan Tuolehazi takes a big step up in class to face OPBF Flyweight champion Jayr Raquinel for the WBC Silver Flyweight strap. Raquinel has impressed this year, twice scoring stoppage wins in Japan to win and then defend the OPBF title but will be taking on a man in the form of his career.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20) Vs Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7) – USA
IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas continues to to face less than stellar competition as he defends his belt against little known challenger Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Ancajas is one of the best fighters at 115lbs and this will be his 6th defense of the belt, but it does feel like Top Rank are matching him far too softly with bouts like this.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (2-0, 1) Vs TBA – USA
On the same card as Ancajas' bout with Barrios we'll see the US debut of former Kazakh amateur standout Janibek Alimkhanuly. Sadly his opponent for the contest isn't yet known, though we do have a feeling that fans will be very excited about the Egis Klimas managed boxer-puncher.
Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-0, 4) – Japan
OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura looks to record his third defense as he takes on fellow unbeaten youngster Daiki Tomita. This has the potential to be one of the best bouts of the month and could, potentially, lead to a world title fight for the winner. The edge in power and competition is with Koura but Tomita cannot be over-looked here!
Yuko Kuroki (18-5-1, 8) Vs Saemi Hanagata (14-7-4, 7) III- Japan
On the same card in Japan fans will get an IBF Atomweight title fight with Yuko Kuroki battling against Saemi Hanagata, in what will be their 3rd bout. So far Hanagata is leading the series, winning the first bout before the two fought to a draw. Since then both have proven to be world class fighters and this should be action packed from the first bell to the last.
Muhamad Ridhwan (11-0, 8) Vs Paulus Ambunda (26-2, 11) – Singapore
In Singapore local fans will get the chance to see their best prospect Muhamad Ridhwan take a massive step up in class as he faces former world champion Paulus Ambunda in a bout for the IBO Super Bantamweight title. Ridhwan is a talent, and should be favoured over the shopworn Ambunda, but at 30 he really does need to kick on if he wins here.
Takuya Watanabe (34-8-1, 19) Vs Paiboon Lorkham (19-10, 8) – Taiwan
In Taiwan we see the biggest show in the countries history, headlined by a contest between the teak tough Japanese fighter Takuya Watanabe and Thailand's Paiboon Lorkham. The bout, for the OPBF Silver Super Featherweight title, is expected to be a straight forward win for Watanabe but is still a massive deal for boxing in Taiwan.
Earlier this week Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人] confirmed that he would be making a fully fledged move to Light Flyweight, and would be returning to the ring on September 25th to take on unbeaten Indonesian prospect Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2, 8), in what is an excellent match up to introduce Kyoguchi to the 108lb weight class. The plan is, if Kyoguchi defeats Monabesa at least, for the Watanabe gym fight to move into a bout with WBA super champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) in late December.
Although Kyoguchi Vs Budler looks to be “agreed in principle”, the move up in weight for Kyoguchi does leave the already strong Light Flyweight division with some more dream match ups, and it was a division with more than a handful of those to begin with. With that in mind we've had a look at 3 possible wars for Kyoguchi to get involved in down the line, though the reality is this list could easily have gotten to 10 or so bouts!
Vs Ken Shiro (13-0, 7)
We don't get enough all-Japanese world title bouts, which is a huge shame, but it's hard not to salivate over a potential bout between the all action Kyoguchi and the baby faced Ken Shiro to decide the #1 in Japan, if not the world, at 108lbs.
Kyoguchi, at 24, would be the younger man and naturally the bigger puncher, but whether he could apply his trade mark pressure on the intelligent and technically excellent Ken Shiro would be a major question. If Kyoguchi could apply his pressure another massive question is whether or not Ken Shiro would be able to get Kyoguchi's respect in the pocket, and provide a more durable target himself than the fighters that Kyoguchi had been beating at Minimumweight.
As the WBC champion Ken Shiro has already defeated the likes of Pedro Guevara, Gilberto Pedroza and Ganigan Lopez. He has proven himself to be a real talent who has matured as the champion, and his knockout of Lopez earlier this year showed how much more confidence he has now he's the champion. He's certainly not unbeatable, but the longer his reign as a world champion goes the more accomplished his boxing will become.
Sadly the biggest issues with this bout taking place is television, with Kyoguchi's promoter working with TBS whilst Ken Shiro is being built as a star by Fuji TV. It's unlikely that either man would want to leave their current network, but it's a great potential bout, that could happen down the line.
Vs Angel Acosta (18-1, 18)
Whilst Ken Shiro is the most proven Light Flyweight champion, at the moment, it could be argued that the most dangerous is the once beaten WBO king pin Angel Acosta. The 27 year old Puerto Rican has shown a willingness to travel and has fought in front of a Japanese audience before, battling Kosei Tanaka in May 2017 when he suffered his sole defeat. With Kyoguchi being a big puncher himself this has the makings of being something special.
Following his loss to Tanaka we've seen Acosta go on to win the WBO world title and made one defense back in June against Carlos Buitrago, a man that Acosta and Kyoguchi have both stopped. Having been out of the ring since June we suspect that Acosta will be looking to fight a notable name on his return and what would be better than travelling over to Japan to take on another of their young upstarts?
For Kyoguchi the bout would be all about trying to out do Tanaka's unanimous decision over Acosta and ripping the title from the champion. It wouldn't be a simple task at all, and Acosta isn't just a tough fighter but someone with a reputation of being a very dangerous fighter, much like Kyoguchi. If Kyoguchi decided to go to war with Acosta he could be made to pay and dragged through hell, win or lose.
This one makes a lot of sense, if the Budler bout falls through, and would almost certainly be fire works from the opening round. There's no television deal in the way and the only real problem could be a potential mandatory defense that Acosta might have to deal with sooner rather than later.
Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29)
Acosta is probably the most dangerous champion at 108lbs, but Alvarado has the title as the most dangerous fighter in the division. At the moment the Nicaraguan 29 year old doesn't hold a world title, though will be fighting or the vacant IBF title on October 21st against Randy Petalcorin. Given the timing there is almost no chance that he will be available again to fight in December, but in 2019 he'll certainly be looking to stay busy.
Alvarado is, without a doubt, one of the most avoided men in the sport. Both of his losses have come at world level, to Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco, and neither man really wanted to go toe-to-toe with Alvarado, who has improved since those defeats. He has gone 15-0 (14) since the back-to-back defeats and stopped notable contenders like Luis de la Rosa, Karluis Diaz, Jose Antonio Jimenez and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr during that run.
Kyoguchi, as mentioned, holds a win over Buitrago but his countryman is a totally different kettle of fish. Unlike Buitrago we wouldn't be seeing Alvarado back off him. Instead we could see Kyoguchi being forced to box off the back foot, and that would tell us a lot more about the Japanese fighter. If he elects to stand toe-to-toe with Alvarado he in real danger, though we can't help but feel like he will, at some point.
From the perspective of wanting to see two fighters who like putting opponents away face off this is probably the most mouth watering bout at 108lbs, and is one that is really hard to call. As with Acosta we know that Alvarado will travel and would go to Japan for the right money!
(Image courtesy of http://www.watanabegym.com)
Over the last few days there have been a number of stories that have linked together to suggest that the Light Flyweight division, arguably the best division in the sport right now, is set to be shaken up. So rather than cover all the news pieces individually we've decided to roll a number of them into one and look at the possible knock on effects to the division.
Hiroto Kyoguchi heading up
The first bit of news is that hard hitting Japanese youngster Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人] will be vacating the IBF Minimumweight title. There had been talk about the Watanabe gym fighter remaining at Minimumweight for a potential unification bout at the end of 2018 but it now seems like those plans have changed and he is set to vacate the IBF title and move to Light Flyweight.
The exciting 24 year old had made 2 defenses of the title, stopping Carlos Buitrago and taking a decision win over Vince Paras, but had spoken about weight struggles and suffered cramps from weight loss during the bout with Paras in May.
Ryoichi Taguchi returns
Former WBA "super" and IBF champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一], who is a stablemate of Kyoguchi at the Watanabe Gym, returned to the gym recently. Although he hasn't set his flag out on what he's going to be doing going forward he is certainly back in the gym and getting back into fighting shape. Originally it seemed like he was going to return at Light Flyweight, but it now seems to be for Taguchi to move up in weight and compete in the Flyweight division, which is going through a lot of changes at the moment.
Hekkie Budler vacates IBF
The man who beat Taguchi for the WBA "super" and IBF titles was Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10), who is now set to vacate the IBF title rather than defend the title against mandatory challenger Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29). This is likely to lead to a bout between Budler and Kyoguchi for the WBA "super" title, in what will be a very exciting and action packed bout as Kyoguchi looks to become a 2-weight champion.
The knock on of the IBF title becoming vacant is that the heavy handed Alvarado will fight for the vacant belt. At the moment Alvarado is ranked #1 by the IBF with the #2 ranking being vacant and the #3 position being held by Filipino fighter Randy Petalcorin (29-2-1, 22), in what would be an incredibly good fight for the vacant title. Another possible option to be Alvarado's opponent would be Japanese national champion Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也], who is ranked #4 by the IBF.
It's fair to say that 2017 has been one of the best years for boxing fans in a long time, that is perhaps even more true if you're either a Japanese fight fan or someone who follows the Japanese scene incredibly closely.
We're not saying that due to the wars and great fights Japanese boxing had during the year, but more based on the number of fighters who had genuine break out years. There was fighters who really exceeded all expectations and they have helped lay the ground work for what should be an incredible year.
Here we take a look at a number of those fighters, who in some cases were highly regarded prospects, and in other cases were relative unknowns.
In total Higa fought 17 rounds this year, having fought just 38 prior, and became arguably the new face at Flyweight. His style is thrilling, his fan base is growing and given his age he could have a very long reign at the top. His next defense is scheduled for February and there's no reason why he can't 3, or even 4 defenses into 2018 as he looks to distinguish himself as the elite fighter at Flyweight. He has an ultra aggressive style that is always so impressive to see and incredibly heavy hands.
He did however finish the year with a sterling performance as he stopped the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago in what was a truly one-sided beat down by the Watanabe man, stopping Buitrago in the 8th round, when Robert Ramirez Jr finally intervened with a mercy stoppage. He'll now concentrate on building in 2018 but to have claimed his first 2 titles and moved from a 5 fight novice to a world champion in 2017 has been remarkable.
The plan now for the champion is to make his third defense in early 2018, facing off with Ganigan Lopez in a rematch of May's bout, and we're expecting that to be on live TV. His win over Pedroza and post fight interview should have been enough to convince Fuji not to hide him on a satellite channel and hopefully he'll manage to grow his profile even more in 2018, whilst continuing to develop his skills.
In December had the chance to make a name for himself at home, and took that as he defeated mandatory challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi in 9 rounds to record his first defense. Igarashi, a former WBC champion, had some moments early on but in the end the pressure and surprisingly heavy hands of the champion broke him down, with Igarashi's face being a mess and his body essentially giving in to the ever aggressive man from the Aoki gym.
To have gone from total obscurity to having featured on huge shows in both China and Japan, having had TV coverage in both and having impressed a televised audience in both it's hard to argue with Kimura being the biggest Japanese break out of the year. He wasn't a touted prospect going in to the year, only really the most hardcore of Japanese fans would have known much about him, but to end the year with wins over Shiming and Igarashi is incredibly impressive and he is worthy of whatever big fights come his way in 2018.
Whilst Inoue is currently in the world rankings we're not expecting to see him get a world title fight in 2018. What we are expecting to see from him is a lot excitement and hopefully he will be able to climb up the rankings and move to a potential title shot for 2019. Fighting at 154lbs he's in a tough division to make a mark in, but there's no reason who he can't crawl up the rankings towards a big bout, or a potential domestic showdown with the teak tough Yoshihiro Kamegai, in what would be a very interesting clash of styles.
So once again fans, worldwide, are complaining about the judges and their scoring of a fight. In fact once again we're being told boxing is dying because of the judges, and that it won't keep it's current fans or attract new ones, whilst ignoring the fact that the recent Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn fight was a really fantastic battle shown on ESPN. The fight may have left a bad taste in the mouths of many, and may have lead to more than a few forum bust ups, but it's fair to say that the sport isn't dying. In fact over the coming weeks, to the end of July, we have some real thrillers to look forward to. And in fact we have number which feature fighters from the Asian boxing scene.
The first two come on May 9th from a show in Russia which features a number of Japanese fighters getting out their passport for a potentially thrilling show in Ekaterinburg. One of those Japanese fighters is former world title challenger Daiki Kaneko (26-5-3, 18) who takes on unbeaten Russian Pavel Malikov (11-0, 5). This bout won't set the world on fire in terms of name value, but they fighters have the ability to put on an absolute classic of high skilled, high energy and highly aggressive fighting. Malikov will be the favourite, given his unbeaten record and home advantage, but Kaneko always brings the fight and should make for a real under-the-radar war.
On the same card in Russia fans will see the once beaten Dmitry Mikhaylenko (22-1, 10) face off with fast rising Uzbek prospect Qudratillo Abduqaxorov (11-0, 8), with the Uzbek defending his WBC silver Welterweight title. The Russian has been shown cased in the US and holds notable wins over the likes of Sechew Powell, Ronald Cruz, Johan Perez, Karim Mayfield and Breidis Prescott and is a fun fighter able to fight at a high pace. The Uzbek on the other hand is a hard matched boxer-puncher with a really solid record for such a novice. Interestingly Abduqaxorov won the title he's defending by stopping Charles Manyuchi, who won the belt himself by upsetting Mikhaylenko. Expect this to be a fun back and forth, fought at a high pace with real momentum shifts.
July 15th promises to be a day that has something special at the start, and at the end.
The day begins with a really exciting WBA Minimumweight title bout as the unbeaten Knockout CP Freshmart (15-0, 7) defends against mandatory challenger Rey Loreto (21-13, 15). On paper we know this looks like a mismatch, and can under-stand fans complaining about the fact a guy with 13 losses is fighting for a world title, but the reality is that Loreto, like many Filipino fighters, was matched hard and picked up early career losses. In recent years however he has gone on a 7-0 (6) run, with wins against former world champions Pornsawak Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi. Knockout is regarded as one of the top Minimumweights, and is an improving boxer with solid power and very good skills. The unbeaten champion will be favoured but this is no forgone conclusion and should be a real thriller.
Talking about thriller the days ends with the massively anticipated WBC Super Featherweight title fight between Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28) and former champion Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24). It's hard not to get excited about this one, as both men are aggressive, heavy handed, exciting and genuine world class. The younger, fresher, champion will be favoured and really impressed last time when he stopped Francisco Vargas for the title, but he has shown a dodgy chin in the past and was stopped inside a round back in 2014 by the unheralded Luis Eduardo Florez. Miura came to the attention of US fans back in 2015 when he lost a FOTY contender to the aforementioned Vargas, and has since had another war on US soil against Miguel Roman. This could be a very special, very explosive and a real blink and you miss it contest to end the day, and mark the mid-way point of the month.
On July 23rd Japanese fight fans get a world title double header in Tokyo. One of those looks like a real treat, as the Minimumweight division against looks like it's going to shine. That bout sees IBF champion Jose Argumedo (20-3-1, 12) defending his title against human wrecking ball Hiroto Kyoguchi (7-0, 6). Interestingly Argumedo won the title in Japan, beating Katsunari Takayama, and will be returning their for his next defense. He's not the best boxer out there but is a big, tough, strong fighter with a style that should gel against the all action Kyoguchi, who had always hunted stoppages and will be stepping up massively. This looks almost certain to be a war, and one that could have fight fans give some real attention to the Minimumweight division, at least for the duration of the contest.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the best in Japan right now, with the country having two world champions and a host of contenders. On the domestic scene the division is red hot and on July 29th we'll see heavy handed Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) defending his title against the under-rated Ryoichi Tamura (8-2-1, 5). Although this is one that will be for the truly hardcore, with the bout being shown on subscription site Boxingraise, it has the potential to be a thrilling and explosive fire fight. Kuga is spiteful puncher, who is relatively unrefined but so heavy handed that every shot he throws is hurtful. As for Tamura he has been matched hard from the off and comes into this on a 5-fight winning run, having stopped his last 4. This has the ingredients of a short lived war with combustible styles colliding in a thoroughly exciting stylistic match up. Both fighters fighters are going to be tagged, and this could be over very quickly, or be an all out thriller.
To end the month we stay with the type of bouts only the hardcore fans would look at with any excitement going in. That's the OPBF Bantamweight title fight between defending champion Mark John Yap (26-12, 12) and former 2-time Japanese national champion Kentaro Masuda (27-7, 15). On paper this doesn't look amazing, with the men having almost 20 losses between them, but records are certainly misleading and shouldn't be used to judge match quality as the styles, mentality and skills of these two are much better than the numbers suggest. What we have here are two rough and tough Bantamweights looking to move towards a world title fight and we're expecting a rough, punishing 12 round war for the Oriental title and for pride. Don't sleep on this one.
Yeah we know people are angry about the result of Pacquiao Vs Horn but don't let that cloud what should be a month of brilliant action, and really we should be excited that the next 4 weeks is set to be nothing short of brilliant and full of treats for us fans, hardcore and casual.
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