We now head into June, and we do so on the back of a huge May that had everything a fight fan could wish for. We had regular, frequent action, at every level, we had fantastic fights, brilliant performances, and a month that is going to be one of the very, very best of 2019.
Fighter of the Month
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We had some great performances through the month, but it was clearly only one man who was in the running to be regarded as the fighter of the month, and that was the Monster. Inoue not only boosted his profile to a point of international star, progressed to the WBSS final, claimed the IBF Bantamweight title, but did so in a fashion that seemed to tell the world how good he was, stopping the unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2 rounds. This was the type of win that made those, who dind't know of Inoue, sit up and take note. And for those who had long supported the Monster it was vindication that he wasn't just a normal fighter, in fact he was an historical fighter, becoming the first Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe.
Fight of the Month
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) vs Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
May really did have a lot going on it, with a huge number of fights, but we actually go back to the very start of the month for our Fight of the Month. That was the Japanese Featherweight title fight between between the hard hitting Taiki Minamoto and Reiya Abe, a bout that was sensational, with momentum shifts, excitement, skills, power, heart. Abe, the more skilled fighter, was dropped twice, but gritted his teeth and earned a draw in what wasn't a warm it wasn't a brawl, but it was a brilliant, high skilled, boxing contest. We love wars, and we had those through the month, but this was a brilliant fight and is a must watch for any fight fan.
KO of the Month
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
When a fighter is being out boxed, out sped, out fought and out skilled there is always a chance he can bail himself out, if he's a puncher. That's what we saw when Takenori Ohashi landed a brutal uppercut, leaving Wakabayashi out cold, flat on his back and rendering any of Wakabayashi's success as moot. It was proof of the adage of "it only takes 1 punch" and proof that when a fighter is a puncher, they are always in the fight. A massive KO and a huge statement for Ohashi.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Although we saw more notable prospects, and we saw bigger wins, we were really impressed by Macao's 22 year old Lap Cheong Cheong this month, as he took an excellent win over Muhammad Wahid in Hong Kong. The unbeaten Macau man pressed the fight through out, took the fight to his foe and tried to break him down from the first round the final seconds. Wahid's toughness prevented the stoppage, but Cheong couldn't have impressed much more. We loved hi style, mentality and hunger, and he looks like a really exciting young fighter.
Masafumi Ando KO3 Toshio Arikawa
Japanese domestic level journeyman Masafumi Ando scored the biggest win of his career, by far, by stopping former Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa in 3 rounds. Ando, who had won just 1 of his previous 4 bouts, was a huge under-dog against Arikawa and when he was dropped himself things seemed to be against him. That however instantly changed when he dropped Arikawa and sent him into retirement. What's particularly remarkable about this win is that Ando hadn't scored a stoppage in well over 5 years, and had only beaten 1 opponent with a winning record, the then 1-0 Masanori Iwai.
Ryoichi Tamura Vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
We had some amazing fights during the month, in what was a truly amazing month. Among the best was the 10 round rematch between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga. The bout had some amazing rounds, the pick of which was the 6th round, as Tamura, who knew he was well behind, moved through the gears and began to push Kuga back. Kuga held his ground more than he did in the later rounds, and gave us a really special 3 minutes of damaging and brutal action. An excellent 3 minutes in what was a fantastic bout, and is well worthy a watch by anyone who likes hard hitting wars.
This past week has been a strange week of action. We had two notable Japanese cards, a pretty interesting Thai card, a Korean card and brilliant Hong Kong card. It's made for a busy week, and a fairly interesting one!
Fighter of the Week
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9)
Japanese Light Middleweight Hironobu Matsunaga takes home top honours this week following his excellent win over Nobuyuki Shindo, to claim the Japanese title at 154lbs. Matsunaga had entered the bout was the under-dog against the taller, longer and more experienced Shindo. Despite all the disadvantages Matsunaga set the pace, was in Shindo's face and later went on to break down Shindo, who retired between rounds 6 and 7. The bout may end Shindo's career though for Matsunaga it's his biggest win, by far, and extends his current winning run to 9 bouts. It's hard to know how long Matsunaga will reign atop the Japanese domestic scene but this week is his week!
Performance of the Week
Keita Kurihara (14-5, 12)
The Performance of the Week award was one of the easier awards this week, with Japanese puncher Keita Kurihara being the run away winner. The OPBF Bantamweight king created history by scoring the fastest ever win an OPBF Bantamweight title fight. The performances lasted for a little over 30 seconds but the hard hitting Kurihara impressed with every one of those seconds, whilst sending the popular Warlito Parrenas into retirement. Given how Kurihara had failed to put away Yuki Strong Kobayashi in December this was a real return to form for the youngster!
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li
It's not often that Hong Kong gets our attention but it did this week for an excellent card from DEF HK. The main event of that card saw local hopeful Raymond Poon KaiChing take on aggressive Chinese southpaw Xiang Li in what turned out to be a really, really exciting 10 round back and forth war. On paper Poon had the advantages in terms of power, home advantages and crowd support but Li set a high tempo, fought with real hunger and looked the more technically sound fighter in what was a brilliant back and forth contest. This one is one that all fans should give a watch to, and it really was an instant Closet Classic between two young men each looking to prove a point.
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li (round 10)
We'll stay with the Fight of the Week for our Round of the Week, with the final round between Poon and Li being utterly brilliant as both dug deep, deeper than either was expected to dig. This was 3 minutes of desperation from two men desperate to take home the win, two men determined to give all they had, and two men who's styles just gelled. This was exactly what we love in the sport, and a reminder as to why some of these smaller cards are among the very, very best that the sport can provide.
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
Former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi was behind on the scorecards, being out boxing, out moved and out though by Shun Wakabayashi. It seemed like he was around 5 minutes from losing to the unheralded Wakabayashi. That was until he connected with a brutal uppercut that left Wakabayashi out cold, staring at the lights and made it easy to forget the action that had come before hand. The shot erased all of Wakabayashi's good work and showed what an amazing equliser Ohashi's power is.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Macau isn't known as a boxing hotspot but it's got a potential gem within it's ranks in the form of Lap Cheong Cheong, who secured his 6th win this Sunday, when he beat Muhammad Wahid of Indonesia. Cheong's win wasn't necessary a big win, but his performance filled us with a lot of excitement, as he spent 6 rounds going full tilt in pursuit of a stoppage. He had the bout easily won after 4 rounds, but wanted to put on a show, wanted to stop his Indonesian foe and showed touches of star potential He's not an amateur standout, like many Prospects of the Week, but there is a lot to like about him. Aged 22 we're expecting to see Cheong competing at a much higher level in the future and given his career so far he is going to be a very special fighter to watch.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12)
We have some amazing fights over the next 7 days, though the fight we're most looking forward to is, unsurprisingly, the WBSS semi final bout between Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez. The bout will be for a number of titles, including the IBF, WBA "regular" and Ring Magazine titles, it'll also be for a place in the WBSS final and a chance to claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Whilst there are other great bouts, such as the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, as well as the potentially fantastic IBF Light Flyweight title bout between Felix Alvarado and Reiya Konishi, there was only ever going to be one bout winning this category. It is, however, a week to be very, very excited about. We are in for something very, very special!
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