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.
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Since late 2019 there has been one potential all-Japanese title clash which has been spoken about a lot, and it now seems to have taken a step towards reality thanks, in part, to a ruling the WBO made in regards to one of the two men involved in the potential match up. The bout would see Japan's only male 4 weight champion up against someone looking to match him, and would pit two of the most skilled body punchers against each other in a mouth watering contest.
It's hard to believe that Kazuto Ioka only turns 31 this year. The talented Ioka turned pro all the way back in 2009 and fought through out the 10's, barring a short retirement that lasted less than a year. During the decade he won titles in 4 weight classes, unified belts at 105lbs, and scored a number of wins that aged really well, just look at what Akira Yaegashi and Felix Alvarado did as proof of that. He also became one of the foremost faces of the Japanese boxing scene, a huge draw, and a central figure for the New Year Eve shows that highlight the end of the year. As the current WBO Super Flyweight champion he enters 2020 with a lot of potentially thrilling match ups out there for him, but there is something about all Japanese title bouts that always excited us.
When talking about exciting all Japanese world title bouts we can't forget how Kosei Tanaka introduced himself to the Flyweight division, having a barnstormer against Sho Kimura in the 2018 Fight of the Year. Now the talented "KO Dream Boy" is the WBO Flyweight "Super" champion he is linked to another move up, and a potentially thrilling encounter with Ioka. Tanaka, like Ioka, has raced through the weights and raced through competition that has later made his victories look better, with Vic Saludar and Angel Acosta both going on to win world title. He has also chased the big fights and become a man who's face we tend to see at the end of the year, with 3 New Year Eve bouts bouts in the last 5 years. A win over Ioka would make Tanaka a star, and essentially force TBS to push him nationally, not just in Tokyo and Chukyo, the two regions that tend to get his fights in Japan.
With the talk of this bout starting way back in August 2019, then growing as the year went on, it does seem like there is real desire for these two to be matched. On paper it's a very, very, easy one to make as both fight for the same Japanese network, essentially the JNN which owns TBS and sister channel CBC, and there is desire from the WBO to make the bout. Of course both men have other options, but this seems to be getting a lot more talk and time than those other options in Japan, suggesting this is the bout the fans want first.
Of course if we do have to wait we could end up with things like Tanaka Vs Moruti Mthalane or Ioka Vs Juan Francisco Estrada, and lets be honest, we wouldn't complain at those options, if we eventually got this all Japanese super fight later in the year!
As we cross into a new year we've not really had much to talk about, despite that we did have results from New Year's Eve, and an obscure Korean show taking place in the last 7 days, and that's enough for us to be happy with!
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
The fight of the week was an easy call, with Kazuto Ioka taking the award on the back of his hard fought win over Jeyvier Cintron on New Year's Eve. Whilst Ioka was always expected to win it was great to see him being tested, and being pushed. Cintron wasn't there to make up the numbers, and instead the Puerto Rican was in the ring to win, using his size and skills to ask a lot of questions of the Japanese star. Also real credit goes to Cintron for fighting to the end of the bout, something we didn't expect when Ioka's body shots started to land with alarming consistency.
Performance of the Week
Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
With a nigh on punch perfect performance Kosei Tanaka retained his WBO Flyweight title and looked fantastic. From the opening moments it was clear that Tanaka was happy to use his tools to make life easy and dominate a challenger who was too slow, too clumsy and too open for him. This was exactly what Tanaka needed after a struggle last time out, against Jonathan Gonzalez.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Jeyvier Cintron
This was a long, long way, from Fight of the Year conversation, however it was a truly compelling 12 round championship level match that swung nicely back and forth. The early rounds were high level chess, with Cintron taking the early lead, before Ioka found his range and hammered the body of the Puerto Rican. Ioka seemed on the verge of a stoppage at one point, before Cintron bit down on his mouth piece and finished strongly. Not a fight of the year, but still a very high quality fight.
Jae Hyun Jo Vs Chul Hyun Lim (Round 6)
We really didn't have many stand out rounds if we're being honest though we did enjoy the final round of the relatively obscure bout between Jae Hyun Jo and Chul Hyun Lim on Sunday morning. It may have been our craving for boxing speaking but it felt like both men put their foot on the gas for the final 3 minutes and delivered something rather fun. Nothing special, but fun all the same.
Kosei Tanaka KO3 Wulan Tuolehazi
This was an easy pick with Tanaka's triple uppercut KO win over Wulan. This was spiteful, this was nasty and this was Tanaka using his speed to and boxing IQ to find a hole in Wulan's defense, breach it then again and again. A gorgeous KO, and one that will send Tanaka into the new with another highlight KO on his resume. After a relatively tough year this was the perfect way to finish it from the "KO Dream Boy".
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
It's hard to give even consider giving Prospect of the week to anyone other than Ginjiro Shigeoka, following his win over former world title challenger Rey Loreto. We all expected Shigeoka to win, but few would have anticipated him dropping Loreto in the opening round, then battling with Loreto, a feared puncher, before scoring a second knockdown. Shigeoka was rather honest post fight, explaining that he had injured his hand and ear drum and questioned whether he could have gone 12 rounds, but in the end that didn't really matter. He battled through some adversity and stopped a legitimate contender.
Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22) vs Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1-1, 12)
Sadly our pick for this week has been picked almost by default. Whilst Jaron Ennis, a fantastic US prospect, is a fantastic prospect this isn't a bout we'd typically get too excited about. Sadly there is very, very little else on in terms of fights involving Asian's this week. Eyubov, from Kazakhstan, has looked very limited when he's stepped up and we wouldn't be surprised to see him getting blasted out here.
When we think of the best rounds in world title fights this year there are lots that have been forgotten, lost in the haze of a year of amazing fights. One or two might stand out, but many have just faded into a blur of great action we've had in 2019.
Today we bring you one of the rounds that stood out to us, and one that swung one way, then the other. It was a round from a very highly anticipated all-Japanese world title clash. A clash that perhaps came a year later than it should have, but still delivered some top level action through out.
The bout we're talking about is Kosei Tanaka's March clash with Ryoichi Taguchi, in a bout that Tanaka clearly won, by a landslide, but was tested in early the early going by a determined Taguchi. That determination was most clearly seen in this brilliant round, round 3, where Taguchi came forward and rocked Tanaka in the opening seconds.
With his man hurt Taguchi smelled his opportunity and went all out, before the momentum began to shift back. This led to a 3 minute back and forth fought at an incredibly high skill level, almost entirely in range. The referee was featured once or twice, splitting them, but that didn't take away from what was a pulsating round of action. A real forgotten round and something deserves a rewatch by those who saw the card live...and a first watch for those who missed it!
Since this bout Taguchi has announced his retirement whilst Tanaka has had a more interesting year. The youngster from Chukyo has beaten Jonathan "Bomba" Gonzalez, in a come from behind stoppage win, and is now days away from facing off with Wulan Tuolehazi, on New Year's Eve.
Disclaimer - If you're in Japan this round is sadly not available
The final part of December, in fact the final part of 2019 and the last part of the decade, is set to go out with a bang as we get a lot of action in the last few days.
Sho Ishida (28-1, 15) vs Israel Gonzalez (24-3, 11) - Osaka, Japan
In a really meaningful bout in Osaka we'll see two former world title challengers clash in an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator. In one corner will be Japan's Sho Ishida, looking to secure his second title fight, whilst his opponent is aggressive Mexican Israel Gonzalez, who has come up short twice in world title bouts. On paper Ishida, with home advantage, will be favoured but Gonzalez is no push over and will have travelled with the intention of not just winner, but of setting up a second clash with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. We expect this to be really exciting bout, and Gonzalez is better than he looked against Ancajas.
Joe Shiraishi (9-0-1, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-4-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
In a Japanese Youth title fight we'll see Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Joe Shiraishi defending his title against Jukiya Washio. The talented, yet relatively unknown Shiraishi, is slowly making a name for himself and a win here would help push him towards a potential domestic title fight in next year or two. For Washio this is a second title fight, and whilst he is the under-dog, he's a live fighter who will be in there to win. This could be a very fun, if some what over-looked, bout.
Tokyo, Japan [TBS - Live]
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) Vs Jeyvier Cintron (10-1-0-1, 5) -Tokyo, Japan
In what will be the final world title bout of the decade WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka will defend his title, for the first time, and take on mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka won the title earlier this year, when he stopped Aston Palicte, to become the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and will be looking to end a fantastic decade as a champion. For Cintron this will be his first title bout and is a huge step up from the competition he has been facing.
Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) vs Wulan Tuolehazi (13-3-1, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
Rising Japanese star Kosei Tanaka looked poor last time out, when he scored his second defense of WBO Flyweight title with a win over Jonthan Gonzalez, and will be hoping for a better performance here as he takes on Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi. The Chinese challenger has been a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing recently, and with wins against the likes of Ryota Yamauchi and Takeshi Kaneko, but this is a massive step up in class for him. Win or lose it's expected that Tanaka will move up in weight shortly and hunt a world title at Super Flyweight in the new year.
Miyo Yoshida (13-1) vs Li Ping Shi (5-2, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
A third world title bout on this card will see WBO Female Super Flyweight champion Miyo Yoshida hunt her first defense. The talented Yoshida will be looking to defend the title she won earlier in the year, when she out pointed Casey Morton, as she takes on aggressive Chinese challenger Li Ping Shi. Although Yoshida will be the favourite here, we do suspect that Shi will be there to win, and she could be a real nightmare for the champion with her aggression and physicality.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) Vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17) -Tokyo, Japan
Prospect of the year contender Ginjiro Shigeoka looks to end the year with his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, as he takes on former world title challenger Rey Loreto. The 20 year old Shigeoka has looked fantastic since making his debut but this is a massive step against a heavy handed, tough and expected fighter who has score a number of upsets during his career. A win for Shigeoka would take see him take a huge step towards a world title fight in the new year, whilst a win for Loreto would be another upset victory for the unpredictable Pinoy puncher.
Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13) vs Jhunriel Ramonal (16-8-6, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight will see heavy handed Japanese fighter Yusaku Kuga take on Filipino slugger Jhunriel Ramonal for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. For Kuga it's a chance to become a double champion, adding the belt to the Japanese title he won earlier this year, whilst Ramonal is looking to build on his huge upset win over Shingo Wake. We suspect this could be a genuinely explosive fight, between two hard hitting fighters who will both be looking to the title and a KO win. We expect this to be a lot of fun.
Marina Sayama (4-1-1, 2) vs Yume Hirayama (4-0)- Tokyo, Japan
One more title fight to close out the year will see Marina Sayama and Yume Hirayama battle for the vacant Japanese female Flyweight title, in what will be a second bout between the two women. The first time these two met Hirayama beat Sayama with a decision over 4 rounds, and if she does the same here she'll be a champion at the age of just 19! On the other hand Sayama is a former football player, and a win here would see her become a rare case of a competitor being a success in different sports.
August seems to have been a very long month. It's hard some highlights, and some huge weekends, but has also had some stretches without fights. At the top level we've struggled to see fighters really shine, but there has been a lot happening below world level which really has been worth talking about.
Fighter of the Month
For the second time this year Kosei Tanaka has taken our Fighter of the Month award, though this was more down to the fact few others at world level shone. We had a number of world title fights, but in reality Johnriel Casimero toyed with his foe, Knockout CP Freshmart struggled against a relative unknown and Vic Saludar lost a clear decision in Puerto Rico. Tanaka on the other hand struggled against a former amateur standout but pulled out the win when a long way behind on the cards. It was a flawed performance but one that resulted in fantastic ending for the WBO Flyweight champion.
Fight of the Month
Hiroaki Teshigawara vs Shohei Omori
The best fights for the month really came at Oriental level, with arguably the best of them being a 12 round tactical war between OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara and Shohei Omori. The bout wasn't an all action battle but was a brilliantly engaging fight with skills, excitement, exchanges and to much great back and forth. A fantastic fight well worth watching, even if it's not a Fight of the Year contender.
KO of the Month
Jayr Raquinel TKO Takuya Kogawa
Another OPBF title fight picks up another of our awards. This time it's Filipino Jayr Raquinel's KO win over Takuya Kogawa, to retain the OPBF Flyweight title, which was truly brutal and scary in combined measure. The shot that sent the tough Kogawa down was as clean a whistle and left Kogawa's team rushing to his aid before he was removed from the ring on a stretcher. Thankfully he's fine, but their was some genuinely scary moments here.
Notable mention - Xiao Tao Su Vs Shota Yukawa
There was some great performances by prospects this month, though the one that stood out to us was the excellent performance by Ryota Yamauchi, who narrowly defeated the world ranked Alphoe Dagayloan in a thrilling 8 round battle. Not a lot separated the two fighters, but what both showed was incredible and when, or if, Kadoebi put the bout on youtube we suggest everyone watches this thrilling battle.
Notable mentions - Kento Hatanaka, Bektemir Melikuziev
Abdallah Paziwapazi TKO3 Zulipikaer Maimaitiali
In Asia this month there's not been many notable upsets, a few minor surprises but little in terms of real upsets. That was until very close to the end of the month when Tanzania's Abdallah Paziwapazi shocked us all and defeated Zulipikaer Maimaitiali to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title. The local was expected to take an easy win here but was instead stopped in 3 rounds in what is one of the biggest surprises to take place in a Chinese ring this year.
Shuhei Hamano vs Nobuo Maruoka (Rd1)
We finish this with out round of the month and it's an obscure one, but a thrilling one as Shuhei Hamano and Nobuo Maruoka engaged in a phone booth war, with an incredible intensity, high work rate and, for the most part, none stop action. This was crude, low level, but thrilling action.
The past few days have been incredible ones in Asian boxing circles with so much activity that it's been hard to keep tabs on everything. Thanks to the incredible activity it's made the awards for this week really interesting, with some really hard competition in some of the categories!
Fighter of the Week
Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8)
This week has been one of the weirdest in some ways with our Fighter of the Week being one who really under-performed yet turned it on when it mattered to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. That was Kosei Tanaka who seemed to realise the WBO Flyweight title was slipping from his grasp before turning it on in round 7 and stopping Jonathan Gonzalez to record his second defense. This was an really under-whelming performance, on the whole, but the way he stepped it up,
Performance of the Week
Jayr Raquinel (11-1-1, 8)
This was arguably the toughest category this week, with great performances from the likes of Shakhram Giyasov, Shohjahon Ergashev, Ryota Yamauchi and John Riel Casimero. For us the winner, just, was Jayr Raquinel, who shines again on Japanese soil and became the first man to stop Takuya Kogawa. The talented and young Filipino was dropped in the opening round but bounced back brilliantly and took Kogawa out truly sickening fashion. At just 22 years old the Flyweight division has got a wonderful little talent in it's ranks, but one that needs just a bit more nurturing.
Orlie Silvestre vs Ronald Alapormina
Despite us having some great performances the actual overall quality of bouts wasn't amazing with the 6 round bout between Orlie Silvestre and the upset minded Ronald Alapormina being the best of the bunch. This was just a really fun, low level action packed bout with the skills of Silvestre going up against the aggression and work rate of Alapormina. A very fun fan friendly bout.
Alphoe Dagayloan vs Ryota Yamauchi (Rd8)
Whilst overall bouts weren't amazing, on the whole, we did have some great rounds and the 8th round of a nail biter between Alphoe Dagayloan and Ryota Yamauchi was one such round. The bout had aggression from both, moments were both seemed to be exhausted, brilliant exchanges and bombs being thrown back and forth. Despite the high volume of power shots this wasn't sloppy, and instead the shots were being landed clean and hard, with high level of skills on show from both.
Jayr Raquinel TKO8 Takuya Kogawa
We've seen few KO's this year that have caused the rushed panic of a fighters team as Jayr Raquinels 8th round knockout of veteran Takuya Kogawa. The tough Kogawa was wobbled hard and responded by trying to throw big power shots, he was then countered by a monstrous straight left hand from Raquinel which dropped him hard. The referee instantly called off the bout, Kogawa's team rushed to his aide and Raquinel walked over to the corner to prey. Thankfully Kogawa is fine, and this KO will be one that deserves serious consideration at the end of the year.
Notable mention - John Riel Casimero KO10 Cesar Ramirez
Kento Hatanaka (10-0, 9)
We love seeing prospects stepping up in class and that's what Kento Hatanaka did this week as he moved from young local hopefuls to the world ranked Jaysever Abcede, and was pushed all the way. This was a huge step up for the youngster and a step up he made, just. For the first time Hatanaka was forced to go to the final bell, was forced to pick himself off the canvas and was forced to fight against someone who was physically stronger. After the win Hatanaka seemed to realise he had been given a real test, but he it was just the next step forward in a very interesting career for the youngster who will likely find himself in, or near, the world rankings shortly.
Notable mention - Criztian Pitt Laurente (3-0, 3), Charly Suarez (3-0, 3)
Fumiya Fuse (8-0, 1) vs Toshiya Ishii (1-0, 1)
Not ever bout that intrigues us is at the highest level, and a Japanese Youth title eliminator between Fumiya Fuse and Toshiya Ishii is proof of that. Fuse really impressed us in his 2017 Rookie of the Year win and Ishii was a former amateur standout who has been tipped for big things. For Fuse this will be a real test, against a very capable and well schooled youngster whilst Ishii will be expected to answer some real questions. This is a bout that may not interest international fans in the same way that some of the other bouts coming up will, but for us this is a brilliant match up and something to geet very, very excited about.
It's fair to say that this past 7 day weren't the best for boxing, but even then there was a solid amount going on for the hardcore fan who doesn't just want to see the big names in action. Just over the weekend alone there was action form Thailand, China, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan. Whilst the big names were lacking the smaller names were given a chance to chine.
Fighter of the Week
Nursultan Zhangabayev (8-0, 5)
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Nursultan Zhangabayev continued to build his reputation as he travelled to Australia and beat Steve Gago over 10 rounds. The Kazakh may have flirted with a DQ at times, due to accidental low blows, but there is no doubting his performance against a fellow unbeaten fighter and the way he further increased his profile, by fighting in a 4th country already. He may not be a world champion in the making, but this week he scored a big win and unified titles from 3 of the 4 world title bodies.
Performance of the Week
Xiao Tao Su (11-1, 6)
We'd never really paid Chinese youngster Xiao Tao Su much attention until this week, when he really impressed with an opening round win over Shota Yukawa. He was in the ring for 150 seconds but that was enough time to impress as he wobbled Yukawa and then, only moments later, took him our with a brutal left hand. This was the sort of performance that made us sit up and take notice, and at the end of the day he did more than expected. Yes, Yukawa is no world beater but this was an excellent performance.
Apichet Petchmanee (4-0, 2) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-4, 41) II
For the second time this year Thai pairing Apichet Petchmanee and Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo gave us a bit of a thriller. Chonlatarn tried to force the pace and Apichet tried to make him pay, in the end both fighters had mixed success with their gameplan but both combined to make a great, competitive and action packed fight. Apichet again showed touches of brilliance but couldn't get rid of the veteran, who showed his toughness and will to win, making life very, very difficult for the rising hopeful. This was very good and very enjoyable
Notable mention - Xiang Li vs Do Jin Lee
Jing Xiang vs Jomar Caindog (Rd4)
Whilst there was plenty of good action there was few rounds that really stood out, however we really enjoyed the 4th round of the Minimumweight bout between the world class Jing Xiang and the unheralded Jomar Caindog. Xiang, to us at least, always looked in control but the bout certainly had moments where Caindog showed real ambition. In round 4 we saw some brilliant exchanges, some great action and Xiang ended the round like he had a point to prove. This really was a lot of fun, and actually the entire bout was really compelling, even if it wasn't all action packed.
Xiao Tao Su TKO1 Shota Yukawa
We mentioned it earlier but we need to mention it again, Xiao Tao Su's KO over Shota Yukawa. The fight ended with a brutal, huge left hook from Su whilst left Yukawa flat out on the canvas. Technically this was a TKO, though Yukawa was out cold and the referee could have counted to 30 and not seen Yukawa beat the count. The shot was a peace and Su certainly seems like a very heavy handed young fighter. He may not be a big name but he's one to watch and we're going to be very excited to see where he goes following this win.
Xiang Li (5-0, 4)
We're not totally sold on Chinese prospect Xiang Li but it's hard to not be impressed by him at times. The 24 year old was given a test by Korean youngster Do Jin Lee but racked up the rounds with his hard, clean punching and despite being put on the back foot at times. Li closed the show with a barrages of right hands, and managed to shine, and answer some new questions. Given this was just his 5th bout we're happy to see him being pushed, for the second time this year. He might not have world class potential, at least not showing at the moment, but there's a lot to like about the youngster and he certainly has the ability to make a mark on the regional level in the years to come.
Kosei Tanaka (13-0, 7) vs Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2-1, 13)
This has probably been the hardest week to pick a single fight for our "upcoming" fight, though it's hard for the right reason with a host of great fights coming up. If forced to pick a single one to get the most excited about it's the WBO Flyweight title bout between Kosei Tanaka and Jonathan Gonzalez, which should be a super-high speed chess match. Both guys are super quick, both were talented amateurs and it's hard not to get excited about every Tanaka fight. Since moving to Flyweight Tanaka's been even more entertaining than he was at the lower weights and Gonzalez should bring the best out of him. Even better yet, the bout will be shown live here on Asian Boxing for free!
Other bouts considered here were: Ryota Yamauchi vs Alphoe Dagayloan, Shohjahon Ergashev Vs Abidel Ramirez, Kento Hatanaka Vs Jaysever Abcede, Vic Saludar v Wilfredo Mendez and Carlo Caesar PenalosaVs Maximino Flores
The end of August really is a week where we go out with a bang, with 3 world title bouts and a number of top prospects all in action in the final 7 days of the month!
Kosei Tanaka (13-0, 7) v Jonathan Gonzalez (22-2-1, 13) - Aichi, Japan
Arguably the most interesting of the world title bouts will see WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka make his second defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Jonathan Gonzalez of Puerto Rico. After a few wars for Tanaka we're now expecting to see him put on a more sound boxing display. Gonzalez is a former amateur stand out, but he has shown vulnerability in his 2 losses and we suspect those vulnerabilities will show again here.
Kento Hatanaka (9-0, 9) v Jaysever Abcede (19-8, 12) - Aichi, Japan
In a really good supporting bout to Tanaka Vs Gonzalez we'll see fast rising Japanese youngster Kento Hatanaka takes on world ranked Filipino Jaysever Abcede. This is a big step up for Hatanaka, but the talented "Prince" is tipped for the top and a win here will help push him into the world rankings. On paper Abcede isn't someone who looks like a challenge for a top prospect but the Filipino has scored recent wins over Stamp Kiatniwat and Seigo Yuri Akui.
John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18) v Cesar Ramirez (18-3, 11) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Staying in Asia we'll see WBO interim Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero make his first defense, taking on Mexican challenger Cesar Ramirez. The talented Filipino won the title back in April, when he stopped Ricardo Espinoza Franco in the 12th round, and will be further wanting to make his make on the talent packed 118lb division. Ramirez on the other hand is a very limited challenger who has done nothing to earn a shot at a title fight, and was nearly shut out the last time he faced a world class fighter.
Vic Saludar (19-3, 10) v Wilfredo Mendez (13-1, 5) - San Juan, Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico we'll see former Tanaka opponent Vic Saludar making his second defense of the WBO Minimumweight title as he takes on mandatory challenger Wilfredo Mendez. The under-rated Saludar is a heavy handed boxer-puncher who has really shone in his last two, beating Ryuya Yamanaka and Masataka Taniguchi and despite being on the road, for the third fight in a row, he will again be favoured. Mendez is a talented fighter but is taking a massive step up in class here for what will be his toughest bout, by far.
Shakhram Giyasov (8-0, 6) Vs Darleys Perez (34-4-2, 22) Sonora, Mexico
Unbeaten Uzbek fighter Shakhram Giyasov takes on his most notable opponent to date as he returns to a Mexican ring, for the second time. The talented Giyasov, who didn't look great last time out against Emanuel Taylor, will be up against former world champion Darleys Perez. Giyasov is a talent, and an Olympic silver medal winner, but as a professional it's seemed very much like he either blows opponents away with raw power or struggles. Perez, at his best, was world class, but with a 2-3-3 record in his last 7, with all 3 losses by stoppage, it's hard to know what he has left at this point.
Haruki Ishikawa (7-1, 5) vs Atsushi Takada (6-1-3, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
The Japanese Youth title picture is a really interesting one and although none of the fighters in Yoyuth title bouts are big names they are often emerging talents. In a really good looking JBC Youth Bantamweight title Eliminator we'll see the once beaten Haruki Ishikawa take on Atsushi Takada. The talented Ishikawa suffered his only loss in the 2018 Rookie of the Year final, by majority decision, whilst Takada's only loss was to Tetsu Araki in a Youth title fight. This should be a very good fight.
Fumiya Fuse (8-0, 1) v Toshiya Ishii (1-0, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
Another JBC Youth Bantamweight title eliminator will will see Rookie of the Year winner Fumiya Fuse take on the recently turned professional Toshiya Ishii. The talented Fuse has been impressive since his Rookie of the Year win back in 2017 and has notched some solid wins since his rookie triumph. Ishii on the other hand only debuted back in April but looked excellent on his debut win over Adam Wijaya, though did have a solid amateur career. Despite looking like a mismatch this should be a compelling contest of skills.
The winner of the two eliminators will fight for the vacant title later in the year.
Yuki Nakajima (2-0, 2) vs Ryu Horikawa (1-0, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
On the same card as the two eliminators we'll also see a B Class Tournament bout that pits former amateur standouts against each other, with Yuki Nakajima and Ryu Horikawa facing off. Despite only 3 fights between them this should be a very hotly contest, high skilled battle between two youngsters who, win or lose, will still have a very bright future. The winner of this may "only" have beaten a novice, but will be on the fast track to some much bigger bouts in the very near future.
The month of March is over and whilst it hasn't been an amazing month it has had it's moments, and has had a very clear Fighter of the Month, Fight of the Month and Upset of the Month. It's a month that had some down time, and didn't seem to be as memorable as either January or February, but was still a pretty good month in terms of highlights.
Fighter of the Month
The "KO Dream Boy" managed to really shine in the middle of the month, retaining his WBO Flyweight title in style as he clearly out pointed former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi. The bout, like most Tanaka fights, was high tempo, exciting and saw the talented Hatanaka promoted fighter trying to put on a show. Tanaka, who at 13-0 is already a 3 weight world champion, is one of the real young stars of world boxing and his performance this month was sensational. He is clearly going looking to create history and it's now assumed that he only has a fight or two left at Flyweight before seeking a 4th divisional world title.
Fight of the Month
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi
Whilst we could wax lyrical about Tanaka it does take two to tango and his bout with Ryoichi Taguchi was clearly the best bout of the month. It was relatively one sided, but was highly skilled, hugely entertaining and pitted the desire and hunger of Tanaka against the guts and heart of Taguchi. To his credit Taguchi refused to lie down and quit, and despite being clearly beaten his will to win cannot be questioned. A fantastic bout, and as good a 1-sided bout as we'll see this year.
KO of the Month
Israil Madrimov vs Frank Rojas
Uzbek fighter Israil Madrimov is no normal prospect. His first 2 professional bouts have both been title bouts, over 10 rounds, with fighters holding records with more wins than losses. He isn't just a fighter with ambitious match making but also real skill, confident, and as seen this month, dynamite punching. The way he took out Venezuelan Frank Rojas on March 9th was clinical and brutal with the final left hook being as brutal a shot as they come.
Canadian based Kazakh Sadriddin Akhmedov has long been a bit of a hidden secret with fight fans who don't follow the Asian scene or the Canadian scene in a hardcore fashion. This month Akhmedov fought in Kazakhstan for the first time and whilst it wasn't his best performance to date he did clearly beat Indonesian tough guy John Ruba over 10 rounds, and prove he had the stamina to go 10 rounds, with out any problem. It's just a shame he was later diagnosed as having suffered an injury in his bout.
Lito Dante TKO12 Tsubasa Koura
The biggest upset of the month, and in fact one of the biggest upsets of the year so far, saw unheralded Filipino tough guy Lito Dante break down the previously unbeaten Tsubasa Koura. Koura, who was ranked #3 by the WBC, seemed set to make one final defense of the OPBF title before moving on to a world title fight, but those planned have been destroyed by Dante. The Filipino had given Koura fits through out the bout before finally forcing the referee to save the Japanese fighter in the final round. A huge upset!
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi - Round 2
We go back to the Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi for our round of the month, which gave us an amazing second round. The round was high skilled back and forth, and despite being one of the only really competitive rounds from the fight was a round that gave us everything. Skills, action, intensity, back and forth, guts and desire. This is what boxing is about and this is why we all love this sport.
After a few disappointing weeks of action, or rather a lack of action, things got going again this past week and it has been an excellent week with a great FOTY contender and several impressive performances from prospects.
Fighter of the Week
Kosei Tanaka (13-0, 7)
There was a clear star this week, and you'll be seeing his name mentioned a lot in this article. That is WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka, who was the clear Fighter of the Week, defending his WBO title in a fantastic 12 round contest with Ryoichi Taguchi. Although Tanaka wasn't impressed by his own performance, we were and it really was an excellent win and another thrilling bout from the "KO Dream Boy" who has now been in back to back FOTY contenders.
Performance of the Week
Koshin Takeshima (3-0, 3)
One of the many fighters who will end up being over-looked from this past week is Koshin Takeshima, who looked sensational, exciting and destructive as he stopped Jian Wang. Takeshima dropped his Chinese opponent in the opening seconds, then bulled him around until the resolve of Wang went and the referee was forced to step in and stop the bout. The level of the bout might not have been high but we are only a few months removed from Wang going 10 rounds in a regional youth title bout. Very impressive from Takeshima.
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) vs Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12)
The fight of the week was, clearly, the aforementioned WBO Flyweight title bout between Kosei Tanaka and Ryoichi Taguchi. It was, in the end, one sided but was still truly exciting, action packed and all action. Tanaka had too much of everything for the 32 year old Taguchi, but the heart and desire of Taguchi kept him in the bout and kept firing shots back at Tanaka. Yes it was one sided, but 12 rounds of pulsating action at a very high level!
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi - Round 3
There was several great rounds in the Tanaka Vs Taguchi bout, several of which could have been considered the Round of the Week. For us round 3 gets it though, as it was the only round where Tanaka seemed shaken, with his legs buckling at one point. It was one of the few moments that Taguchi looked like he had a chance, and it was long after the round that Tanaka began to really dominate the fight. It was a great back and forth, as the first few rounds were, and really, really fun to watch.
Takuya Mizuno KO2 Piched Chianawa
There is something to really love about body shots, and that was what we got when Takuya Mizuno took out Piched Chianawa. The bout was a farcical mismatch, but it was still closed in style by Mizuno who left the Thai journeyman in agony from a perfect liver shot.
Kento Hatanaka (8-0, 8)
It wasn't only Kosei Tanaka shining from the Hatanaka gym this week but also youngster Kento Hatanaka, who impressed with a thrilling action packed and eye opening win over Songsaeng Phoyaem. The bout, which was streamed live on CBC's international fee, was exciting with Hatanaka eventually breaking down the Thai to claim the win and successfully defend his WBC Youth title. His aggressive and exciting performance certainly put him on the map for more fans and it's hard to imagine that it'll be much longer before he's in much bigger bouts.
Ricky Sismundo (35-12-3, 17) Vs Maxim Dadashev (12-0, 10)
This coming week has a lot going on, though perhaps the fight which gives us the most to be excited about is a bit of a hidden potential gem. The fight in question will see highly experienced Filipino journeyman Ricky Sismundo take on Maxim Dadashev in what could be a truly compelling contest. Sismundo is much better than his record suggests whilst Dadashev if taking a step up in class and risking his unbeaten record. This could be something very telling about both men.
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