Recently we did a list on 5 world title bouts we want to see in the new year, which can be read here 5 bouts we want to see in 2019 (World title version) for those who missed it. Now we're going to look at some All Japanese bouts we'd like to see in the new year. These bouts are all possible, so for example there is no issue with men being from the same gyms, and would all be really interesting fights, for at least one reason.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4) - Minimumweight
Back in July we were expecting the heavy handed Kai Ishizawa take on a then unbeaten Daiki Tomita. That bout was sadly cancelled when Ishizawa suffered a nose injury in the build up to the contest. Since then Ishizawa has become the Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion, stopping Yuga Inoue for the belt, whilst Tomita has challenged for the OPBF title, losing a decision to the world class Tsubasa Koura.
Getting this bout remade in the new year would be brilliant, and something to really look forward to. Both men have enhanced their reputations since the originally scheduled bout in the summer and we'd certainly love to see the power and desire of Ishizawa up against the skill and speed of Tomita.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) Vs Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) - Light Flyweight
We believe that Taku Kuwahara maybe one of the very best prospects in world boxing today, and think it would be great for him to prove that in 2019. A bout against Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa, potentially for the Japanese title late in the year. Kuwahara has proven his value as a prospect, was a stand out amateur and is an exceptional talent. Horikawa is a faded veteran, but a nightmare to fight and this would be a potential passing of the torch.
This isn't a bout that would make sense for early in the year, given that Horikawa has a Japanese title fight assured in the Champion Carnival, but towards the end of 2019 this bout would be a very good one, and could well be for the national title, if Horikawa wins his title shot.
Katsunori Nagamine (15-2-1, 11) Vs Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) - Flyweight
In 2017 we were impressed by the hunger and desire of Ryota Yamauchi. Sadly 2018 hasn't been the break out year we had anticipated from him, however that's not to say 2019 can't be. He does need a really good win next year however, and a real 50/50 bout with him would see him take on the exciting, hard hitting and talented Katsunori Nagamine, in what could be a very interesting match up between talented fighters looking to make a point in the new year.
Although we'd like to see this bout in the first half of the year, putting the winner in the mix for a title fight later in the year, it would be a very interesting title eliminator towards the end of the year, and potentially put the winner into the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) Vs Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) - Super Flyweight
When we started this list there was a bout that really whet our appetite, and looked like a potential FOTY candidate. That was a bout between former 3 weight world champion Akira Yaegashi and 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka. Both men have styles should gel perfectly, both are certainly shop worn, and both are a bit on the older side, still they should match up almost perfectly for an all out action packed bout. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will potentially be on the fringes of a world ranking.
With Yaegashi turning 36 in February and Kudaka turning 34 in April the hope is that this bout will take place as soon as possible. Kudaka does have a bout in December, potentially delaying this showdown, but there's no reason why we can't have this treat in late Spring or early Summer.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) Vs Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) - Super Bantamweight
When we talk about potential fights of the year it's hard to really know what bout will click. One we think will click perfectly is a show down between former world title challenger Shohei Omori and current OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hirokia Teshigawara. Omori is the more skilled man, and the bigger puncher, but Teshigawara is a proven tough guy, who will press the fight, throw a lot and really try to take the fight to Omori.
In theory this would make for a really interesting bout, with both men knowing a win would take them towards a world title fight. Neither man has their first bout of 2019 organised, and despite both fighting in the second half of 2018 neither took much punishment in their latest bout. If they can fit this bout in Spring it really would set up their year perfectly.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20)
A bonus fight for this list really excited us when we thought about it, and that is a show down between Super Featherweight's Masao Nakamura and Takuya Watanabe. Nakamura is a very heavy handed boxer-puncher, who can be hurt himself, whilst Watanabe is a rugged tough guy with under-rated boxing. Given Nakamura's power and Watanabe's proven durability we'd expect a war here, a bout that would really have fans on the edge of their seat.
Interestingly This bout would see the WBO Asia Pacific champion, Nakamura, taking on the OPBF "silver" champion, Watanabe, and would renove the loser from the mix domestically, potentially setting the winner up for a unification bout with Hironori Mishiro or Masaru Sueyoshi. Of the bouts on this list this may be one of the easier ones to make, and one of the most exciting all-Japanese bouts that could be made right now.
As, has become custom in recent years, the calendar for December is genuinely stacked, from wall to wall, making it probably the busiest month for us arguably ever! As a result we'll be breaking our "What's to come" into 3 different parts. The first part, this one, will look at the hectic start to the month, covering everything from a world title fight to a former world champion returning after more than a year away to great looking prospect Vs prospect match!
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-0, 1) Vs Carlos Licona (13-0, 2)- USA
A crazy December 1st starts Japan, but the highlight of the day is in the US due to a stacked American card. Among the bouts on that card is an IBF Minimumweight title bout, as the Filipino sensation Mark Anthony Barriga takes on Carlos Licona, for the title that was vacated by Hiroto Kyoguchi. We've not seen anything much of Licona but Barriga has always impressed and we're expecting this to be an excellent technical contest.
Valentine Hosokawa (23-6-3, 10) Vs Takashi Inagaki (20-17-2, 9) -Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa returns for his second defense as he takes on fellow veteran Takashi Inagaki. This bout looks like it's going to be one sided, at least on paper, but Inagaki will know that this will be his final shot, and will almost certain risk it all for a chance to become a champion, after previously coming up short twice.
Yukinori Oguni (19-2-1, 7) Vs Arega Yunian (6-11, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni returns to the ring after more than a year out, as he fights in a tune up bout against limited Indonesian visitor Arega Yunian. This really will be a mismatch, but it's great to see the popular Oguni back in the ring and he's seemingly got serious plans for 2019.
Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) Vs Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) - Osaka, Japan
The Barriga Vs Licona bout isn't the only world title fight this coming Saturday, as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata defends her title against former WBA and IBF champion Etsuko Tada. Ebata is looking to make her second defense of the belt, and if we're being honest a loss will almost certainly end her career. The talented Tada isn't the fighter she once was, but is the younger fighter and will likely be the crowd favourite here.
Eri Matsuda (1-0) Vs Minayo Kei (6-3, 1) - Osaka, Japan
Talented novice Eri Matsuda looks to claim her first title in just her second professional bout, as she takes on Minayo Kei in an OPBF Atomweight title fight. This could be a good test for Matsuda, who is tipped to have a very successful career, and if she wins she could well end up moving into world title bouts by the summer of 2019. For Kei this is a chance to over-come a touted opponent.
Wakako Fujiwara (6-2-2, 2) Vs Kimika Miyoshi (13-11-1, 5) II - Osaka, Japan
The relatively unknown Wakako Fujiwara shocked Kimika Miyoshi earlier this year, to claim the OPBF female Featherweight title. Now she'll be looking to repeat the feat in a rematch against the former champion, and former world title challenger. It's hard to see where the loser goes from here, whilst the winner may well end up moving in the direction of a world title fight in the new year.
Kasumi Saeki (2-0, 1) Vs Wassana Kamdee (3-4, 2) - Osaka, Japan
Matsuda isn't the only novice looking to claim their first title very early in their career as Kasumi Saeki looks to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Female Minimumweight in just her third bout. The talented Saeki will be up against Thai visitor Wassana Kamdee. We suspect Saeki will win, but we're more intrigued by her performance, rather than just the result.
Reiya Konishi (16-1, 6) Vs Richard Rosales (13-7-2, 7) - Osaka, Japan
Former world title challenger Reiya Konishi looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight, and move a step closer to a second world title fight as he takes on Filipino Richard Rosales. The talented Konishi failed to shine in his title win, but is expected to look really good against Rosales. To his credit Rosales has mixed with good opponents, but isn't expected to be a serious test here.
Masao Nakamura (24-3, 23) Vs Carlo Magali (23-10-3, 12) - Osaka, Japan
Another Japan Vs Philippines bout will see former OPBF Super Featherweight champions Masao Nakamura and Carlo Magali face off for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. The heavy handed Nakamura was once tipped for big things, but has shown a frailty through his career, whilst Magali has a very misleading record and he can be a nightmare at this level. We're expecting a pretty exciting tear up when these two get in the ring together, and the winner will take a huge step towards a potential WBO world title fight.
Arata Matsuoka (6-6, 4) Vs Hikaru Ota (9-8, 5) - Hyogo, Japan
In a bout for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title we'll see Arata Matsuoka and Hikaru Ota face off. This bout doesn't scream amazing on paper, but these youth title bouts are typically very good to watch and this one looks amazingly competitive, with both being very limited fighters. In a way it's a shame that these two are fighting for a title vacated by the brilliant Junto Nakatani, but we should at leats get a 50-50 bout, something we wouldn't have got had Nakatani defended the belt against one of these two.
Hikaru Matsuoka (14-4-3, 2) Vs Noboru Osato (10-6-4, 2)- Hyogo, Japan
A second Japanese Youth title fight will see Hikaru Matsuoka take on Noboru Osato for the Super Bantamweight belt. Hikaru Matsuoka, is the twin brother of Arata Matsuoka, from the Flyweight bout, and we could potentially see twins ending the day as Japanese Youth champions. Osato is however a very capable fighter and footage of both men suggest that this will be a match up between two technically capable fighters each looking to box at range in what could an interest chess match.
Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) Vs Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
Reigning OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu will be looking top make his 4th defense, and take a huge step towards a world title fight as he takes on unbeaten challenge Takuya Uehara. The champion, a 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner, is a technically flawed fighter, but one who has serious power and throws from awkward angles. Uehara is a more technically fighter, rather than the free swinging and unorthodox style of Shimizu, but it is the challenger who is taking a massive step up in class.
Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6) Vs Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
A brilliant prospect vs prospect bout for this part of the month will see the very highly regarded Hinata Maruta taking on the heavy handed Tsuyoshi Tameda in a really outstanding bit of match making. Maruta is the more naturally gifted, and when he made his debut he genuinely impressed, beating Jason Canoy, but has yet to really show what he can really do. Tameda is a real brutish puncher, with several wins of note, but he has come up short against the better boxers he's been up against. This could seriously be the bout of the month and is fantastically matched!
For most boxing fans in the west the year effectively comes to an end in mid-December with December 19th and 20th being the final couple of days with notable fights. Whilst we'll admit we're looking forward to a number of those contests, including the bout between Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar and Ruben Tamayo and the contest between Bryan Vasquez and Sergio Thompson, we've got to say they pale in comparison to what comes from the east in the days following.
Sunday December 21st [Tokyo]
The first of the days that we're looking forward to from Japan is more of an event than a single fight. That's because we get the All Japan Rookie of the Year on December 21st with 12 major domestic bouts involving some of the sports possible future stars.
We won't go through all 12 bouts here, we have a special feature coming later in the month regarding that, though it's hard not to get excited about some of those bouts, including a Welterweight clash between the heavy handed Yuki Beppu (7-0, 7) and fellow unbeaten fighter Hironobu Matsunaga (6-0, 3) and a Flyweight contest between Kenya Yamashita (6-0, 4) and Shun Kosaka (9-0).
The show is one of those traditional shows that Japanese boxing holds annually and although the fighters aren't big names they tend to have the ability to progress and numerous Rookie of the Year winners of the past have gone on to win world titles. We'd be shocked if we didn't get at least one world champion from this years batch of winners.
Sunday December 28th [Osaka]
The run in to the new year really kicks off after Christmas and the first of 4 notable cards comes on December 28th as we get 2 very interesting bouts.
The most notable of the bouts is a Japanese Light Middleweight title contest between the talented boxer Yuki Nonaka (26-8-2, 9), the current champion, and former title holder Charlie Ota (24-2-1, 16), who is best known by western fans for putting Jermell Charlo on his backside. The bout might only be a Japanese national title fight but it's an intriguing contest all the same and both men are expected to carry a low world ranking into this bout come fight night giving the bout extra significance.
The chief under-card bout here looks like a genuine thriller as Japan's “KO King” Masao Nakamura (18-2, 18) battles against Filipino tough guy Rey Labao (26-6, 17). Nakamura will be hoping to bounce back from a decision loss to Masayuki Ito and although Labao is tough he should make for a better opponent, stylistically at least, for Nakamura who will be happy to have a war with Labao, who was himself out pointed last time out by Roman Andreev. Don't be surprised if this ends up being an all out war.
Tuesday December 30th [Tokyo] (Fuji TV)
The first, of 3, genuinely huge shows left this year comes on December 30th as Ohashi gym put on what may well be the best show this year. It features another potential FOTY contender and possibly a fight involving a young man who could be the 2014 Fighter of the Year.
The weakest bout on the card, at least in our eyes, is a Middleweight contest between Ryota Murata (5-0, 4) and Jessie Nicklow (24-4-3, 8). When you consider that's probably the worst bout then it really does dawn on you how good this card is. The Murata/Nicklow bout is one of just 2 non-title bouts with the other being a huge step up in class for Takuma Inoue (3-0, 1) who will be fighting former world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-2-2, 9).
In an OPBF title bout the much touted Ryo Matsumoto (12-0, 10) will be fighting against Thailand's world ranked Rusalee Samor (25-5-2, 11) in a bout for the recently vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title. For Matsumoto a win here will likely push him towards a world title bout in 2014 whilst for Samor we suspect he'll defend the belt several times before even thinking about a world title fight.
Talking about world title bouts we get a trio on this show. The lesser of the 3 will see Jorge Linares (37-3, 24) attempting to become a 3-weight world champion as he battles Javier Prieto (24-7-2, 18) for the vacant WBC Lightweight title. This bout is rather weak over-all though should move the winner, we suspect Linares, onto a bout with WBC Emeritus champion Omar Figueroa in what could be a really exciting fight.
What is certain to be an exciting fight is the contest between Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) and Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15) for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title. For Yaegashi this is a chance to become a 3-weight world champion though he'll have to go through hell to defeat his Mexican opponent who gave Johnriel Casimero a tough bout in an IBF title fight back in 2012. This has all the ingredients to be a FOTY type of fight and is, in terms of the styles, the most exciting bout in the final days of the year.
Whilst we are massively excited about the contest between Yaegashi and Guevara we're even more excited about this show's main event which will see Japanese wunderkind Naoya Inoue (7-0, 6) battling against WBO Super Flyweight champion Omar Andres Narvaez (43-1-2, 23). This bout will see Inoue moving from Light Flyweight to Super Flyweight and if he wins we suspect he should be the 2014 Fighter of the Year and be a man breaking into the top 10 pound for pound fighters. In Narvaez wins then this will be a genuinely huge win for the Argentinian veteran who has been criticised in recent times for the level of his opposition.
Wednesday December 31st [Tokyo] (TV Tokyo)
The final day of the year really sends us off in brilliant style with 2 separate Japanese shows that deserve a lot of attention.
In Tokyo we get another world title triple header headlined by Super Featherweight kingpin Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) who will be defending his WBA world title against Argentinian challenger Israel Hector Enrique Perez (27-2-1, 16). Although the challenger is relatively unknown outside of Argentina he is unbeaten since 2003 and is on a 19 fight unbeaten run. For Uchiyama it will be his return to the ring after a year of inactivity following his hard fought win over Daiki Kaneko. On paper this is a genuine banana skin and a measuring to see just what Uchiyama has left.
The second world title will see 2-time Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8, 13) defending his WBA world title against Norberto Jimenez (20-8-3, 10) for the first time. Kono, who won the belt earlier this year stopping Denkaosan Kaovichit, has had a frustrating year due to issues regarding Koki Kameda and will be hoping to take those frustrations out on his 23 year old Dominican foe who is stepping up massively for this fight. Whilst Jimenez is stepping up he is active and this will be his 11th fight in less than 24 months. Like Perez we also see Jimenez coming into the ring on the back of an impressive undefeated streak running back 20 bouts!
The third world title bout in Tokyo is easily the most interesting of the show as former Japanese Light Flyweight national champion Ryoichi Taguchi (20-2-1, 8) steps up to the world level to fight WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel (32-8-0-1, 13). This is Taguchi's chance to follow in the footsteps of Kono and Uchiyama, stable mates of his at the Watanabe gym, and to move away from just being “the man Naoya Inoue beat”. For Rossel this will be his toughest bout since he was stopped in 9 rounds by Hugo Fidel Cazares back in October 2010. This is a brilliant match up and should tell us a lot about both men.
Wednesday December 31st [Osaka] (TBS)
On the same day in Osaka we get another 2 world title fights, a Japanese title fight and a world title “prelude”.
The “prelude” will see former 2-weight world champion Kazuto Ioka (15-1, 9) battling against former WBA interim Flyweight champion Jean Piero Perez (20-7-1, 14) in a bout expected to prepare Ioka for a WBA Flyweight world title bout next year. Ioka moved to Flyweight earlier this year though has yet to shine at the weight and will be hoping to have filled into the weight this time around. Perez on the other hand needs a win just to remain relevant in the world of professional boxing given that he has lost his last 2 bouts, both by stoppage. And has won just twice in the last 6 bouts.
The Japanese title fight on this show will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (17-0, 9) defending his belt for the first time. The talented Ishida, one of the top prospects at the Ioka gym, will be battling against the relatively unknown Masato Morisaki (9-3-1, 5) in what should be a straight forward defense for the touted champion who has shown some touches of sheer brilliance so far in his career. We suspect that if Ishida wins here, as he should, he'll be moved towards a world title bout in 2015 with opponents like Kono and Inoue both being possibilities, if they both win.
In a bout for the vacant IBF Minimumweight title fans will see the always exciting Katsunari Takayama (27-7-0-1, 10) battle against Japanese compatriot Go Odaira (11-3-3, 1) in what looks likely to be an all-action bout between two men who lack power but have amazing engines and activity. This is unlikely to end in a knock out but should be like watching a boxing equivalent to “Rock em Sock em robots”.
Whilst Takayama and Ioka are both solid names it's fair to say that the attention here will be focused on a Super Bantamweight world title bout between Cuban boxing sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9) and Japan's relatively unknown Hisashi Amagasa (28-4-2, 19). The bout as has been a major talking point since the story was first mentioned and although Rigondeaux will be expected to do a number on his Japanese foe it's still great to see such an internationally regarded fighter travelling to Japan. For Amagasa this is a great chance to make a name for himself and will know it only takes 1 punch to become a star whilst Rigondeaux may be hoping to impress the local fans enough for them to want to bring him back and have him fight the likes of Shingo Wake in what would be an interesting contest.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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