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.
This past week hasn't been the most packed, and sadly a lot of what did take place, at leats in Japan, wasn't made available live. As a result this week has been an awkward one to follow, but we have still had some pretty notable activity.
Fighter of the Week
Vic Saludar (19-3, 10)
The clearest category for the week was that of Fighter of the Week, which was won by WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar, following his impressive title defense on Japanese soil against Masataka Taniguchi. The champion was asked a few questions, and certainly slowed down at times, but was the clear winner and did so by out boxing Taniguchi in what was a very good fight. Saludar could end up back in Japan to defend his title again later in the year, and it does seem that he is building a reputation there following 3 strong performances in Japan in recent years.
Performance of the Week
Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6)
Whilst Saludar was impressive his bout was widely seen as a 50-50 bout going in. We, and many others, had however expected Shuji Kato to become the 11th victim of Kazuto Takesako. Instead however the 2017 Rookie of the Year came within a hair of dethroning the Japanese Middleweight champion, fighting to a very good draw. It wasn't the result that either man wanted, but the performance of Kato, to move, box and take the power of the champion was impressive and he certainly deserves some serious consideration for performance of the month and not just the week.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
There wasn't any FOTY contenders this week, but there was two talented, boxer punchers performing at the highest level. Sure the champion, Vic Saludar, took a clear win over the game but less experienced Masataka Taniguchi, but the bout was high level stuff from start to finish, with shifts in momentum, action and excitement. This won't be a bout remembered massively at the end of the year, and if we're being honest is one of the weaker Fight of the Weeks of 2019 so far, but was still a very good contest.
It should also be noted that the Korean action which took place on Sunday and the Japanese card from Saturday haven't yet been made available to watch widely, so none of those fights were considered here.
Vic Saludar vs Masataka Taniguchi - Round 8
We again had a lack of rounds to watch, and even things like Boxingraise have lacked new footage this past week. We suspect that, had the Korean card form Sunday been made available a round from there would have won Round of the Week. Instead we've gone with round 8 of the Saluda Vs Taniguchi bout. It was one of the most hotly contested bouts of the fight and was a pretty even round, with Taniguchi having some of his best successes. It's not a round that will live long in the memory, but sadly it's not been a week where we've been given much to view.
No fit contender
Unfortunately a lack of footage has been a problem again here. There was certainly plenty of KO's in the two notable Japanese cards of the week, but with so few fights being shown we were unable to see many KO's.
Jin Minamide (3-0, 3)
Whilst we lacked footage of fights there was a lot of prospects in action, and by a lot we really do mean a lot with around 10 notable hopefuls fighting in the space of just a few days. Although we've got to revert to selecting by results, and not the overall performance it's hard to deny how impressive Jin Minamide's TKO win over Marjun Pantilgan was. The Filipino is a durable opponent but was stopped by Minamide in 3 rounds, who really does look like one to watch. His win will be shown on Monday on G+.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) vs Joe Smith Jr (24-2, 20)
It's hard to not be excited by Dmitry Bivol and how his career is going to unfold. Next Saturday he will be defending the WBA Light Heavyweight title against the hard hitting Joe Smith Jr, in what could be a real fire cracker of a bout! We're looking forward to this one, a lot!
This past week has been a pretty low key yet interesting one for Asian boxing, with a really interesting Korean show, some Japanese action and various fights across the rest of the world with Asian fighters involved in them.
Fighter of the Week
Yuki Nonaka (33-10-3, 10)
Japanese veteran Yuki Nonaka rolled back the clock on Sunday, at the age of 41, to outpoint Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and claim the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight titles. The Osakan veteran had been regarded as the under-dog but dropped Hosokawa in the opening round and went on to take a clear decision over the hard hitting Hosokawa, in what was a really brilliant performance from the veteran. Given how Nonaka had lost 2 of his last 3 and had been a career Light Middleweight this result really was a surprise and the way he fought was fantastic, a great display of boxing skills, timing, control of distance and crisp punching.
Notable mentions: Downua Ruawaiking, Shakhram Giyasov
Performance of the Week
Downua Ruawaiking (15-0, 12)
To begin the week Thailand's Downua Ruawaiking, aka Apinun Khongsong, put himself on the boxing map with a KO win over durable veteran Akihiro Kondo. Kondo had been regarded as the favourite, he had proven his toughness through 39 previous fights including a loss to Sergey Lipinets, and this was Downua's first international fight. Despite being the under-dog the Thai was sharp, accurate and closed the show in style, sending Kondo down hard with an excellent uppercut. This was a performance that really caught the attention and showed that Downua deserved to be in the mix with bigger fights, in fact the win has made him the mandatory IBF title challenger at 140lbs.
Hyun Je Shin (10-8, 2) vs Dong Kwan Lee (9-2-2, 4)
It's rare that we get fights of real quality in Korea but this week we got something special as Hyun Je Shin and Dong Kwan Lee took part in a sensational 10 round war for the BoxingM Super Featherweight title. The pace the two men set was incredible from the opening round and they never really slowed down at any point, as both gritted their teeth and fought with an exceptional desire. This is probably not going to be mentioned much internationally but SPOTV really did have a cracking bout on their hands.
Due to SPOTV's youtube setting's we can't embed the video, but feel free to watch the video on youtube, here.
Hyun Je Shin vs Dong Kwan Lee (round 3)
The aforementioned BoxingM Super Featherweight title fight had a number of rounds that could have been the round of the week. We've gone with the third, but there really was so many options from the same fight. The action was a phone booth war and is something that had so much intensity, action and excitement. It's a bit of a shame that neither man had the power to really hurt the other, but the high intensity action made up for that.
Downua Ruawaiking KO5 Akihiro Kondo
We will struggle to find a more aesthetically pleasing KO this year than the one scored by Downua Ruawaiking against Akihiro Kondo. Kondo may not have been out cold, some how getting to his feet, but it was nothing short of a spectacular shot, and will something we expect to see replayed time and time again this year. The fact Kondo had never been stopped prior to this KO is a testament to how well Downua caught him, and the way Kondo went down was genuinely amazing.
Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5)
Back to Korea for our Prospect of the week, in what was a really stacked category. We've gone with aggressive and exciting Korean teenager Jeong Han Cha. He was up against a fellow unbeaten and in fact his opponent, Yun Seong Kim, look really goo in the opening round. In round 2 however Cha scored two different knockouts. The first was from a brutal body shot, that seemed to be incorrectly ruled a low blow and allowed Kim a chance to recover, whilst he would later finish the bout with some huge head shots. It's hard to get too excited about Korean prospects, but Cha really does look like he has something special about him, and is really worthy of serious attention.
Notable mentions: Sultan Zaurbek, Tanawat Nakoon, Ravshanbek Umurzakov
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
The bout we're most excited about this coming week is the WBO Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Vic Saludar and Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. This bout has the potential to be a FOTY contender. Both have exciting styles, under-rated power and skills and they should make for a thrilling war of attrition. Something for us to be very, very excited about.
Kuroda to face IBF champion Mthalane on May 13th!
This week we had the official announcement that Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) would challenge IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) on May 13th at the Korakuen Hall. The full details of the show and the broadcast are yet to be announced, but this is a great bout and something we're looking forward to. It's not like the bout was a secret, but to have a date and venue confirmed this week is great news, and the result of the details will be announced over the coming weeks.
The final part of February is a really interesting one, with a lot of action in less than 2 weeks including world title bouts, prospects, world title eliminators and a regional title fight.
Dave Penalosa (14-0, 10) vs Marcos Cardenas (19-6-1, 15) - Metro Manila, Philippines
For a second straight week we see a Filipino prospect called Dave in a notable step up on ESPN5. First there was Dave Apolinario and now we get Dave Penalosa, who looks to over-come Marcos Cardenas for the WBO Oriental Featherweight title. Penalosa, who carries a legendary surname, showed early promise but inactivity has cost years of his career, and he will now be looking to get back in the right track. Cardenas is heavy handed but this is a huge step up for the Mexican.
Johnriel Casimero (25-4, 16) vs Kenya Yamashita (13-4, 10)- Metro Manila, Philippines
Former 2-weight world champion John Riel Casimero returns to a Filipino ring for the first time since losing in a world title eliminator to Jonas Sultan back in September 2017. In the opposite corner is flawed, but exciting, Japanese youngster Kenya Yamashiita, who should make for a really interesting opponent. Casimero should be favoured, but he has been disappointing at times and he may well be on the slide.
Carl Jammes Martin (11-0, 10) vs Petchchorhae Kokietgym (17-2, 8)- Metro Manila, Philippines
Another exciting prospect on this card is the unbeaten and prodigiously young Carl Jammes Martin, who will be making his TV debut in a bout against Thai visitor Petchchorhae Kokietgym. This looks like a really tough match up for Martin's first bout on TV, but a win here will really allow him to announce himself on the Filipino fans who may not have had a chance to see the youngster yet. The Thai is no pushover but has lost his two most notable bouts to date.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) Vs Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)- California, USA
In the US we'll see an IBF world title eliminator at Super Bantamweight, as former world champion Ryosuke Iwasa takes on the always entertaining Cesar Juarez in what should be a very entertaining battle. Iwasa needs to impress to remain in the mix, and this will be his US debut after having had a previous Stateside aborted when his opponent failed to make weight. Juarez lost his last bout at world level, being stopped by Isaac Dogboe, but has bounced back well and will be really up for this contest, in what could be a very, very entertaining bout and potentially the highlight of the weekend.
Yesenia Gomez (14-5-3, 6) vs Erika Hanawa (10-3, 4) - Quintana Roo, Mexico
In a female world title fight we'll see Japan's Erika Hanawa challenge WBC Female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez. Despite being a world title fight few would consider either of these as truly world class, with both suffering set backs in recent bouts. It's those setbacks, and the need to shine brightly here, that makes this bout more intriguing than if both were in good form, and neither can afford a loss. Sadly though in a division with Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Kenia Enriquez and Tenkai Tsunami it's hard to see the winner of this bout as truly top level fighter.
Akihiro Kondo (31-7-1, 18) Vs Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
A second IBF world title eliminator is set to take place at Light Welterweight, as the teak tough Akihiro Kondo battles unbeaten Thai prospect Downua Ruawaiking. This is a really interesting match up that not only lets us see what Kondo has left in the tank, after 2 straight forward bouts since his loss to Sergey Lipinets, but also see what Ruawaiking has to offer. The Thai has looked good so far, but this is a big step up in class, and his first bout outside of his homeland. A win for Downua would put him on the map, but this is a really stiff test for him.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-3, 10) Vs Yuki Nonaka (32-10-3, 10) - Osaka, Japan
Potentially the fight of the month will see the big punching Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa defending his WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Middleweight titles against skilled veteran Yuki Nonaka. This bout will likely be brawn against brain and should be a real thriller. Hosokawa only fights one way, and that is with intense aggression, the sort of thing Hosokawa has made a career out of soaking up, countering and using against fighters. We really do see this as a highlight and can't wait to see Boxingraise posting the fight on demand.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Another potential highlight will see WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar defending his title for the first time, taking on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. Both of these men are aggressive, heavy handed, skilled and exciting. We're expecting bombs to be traded, though not in a wild way. Instead this should be a compelling chess match with shotguns and rocket launchers. A potentially brilliant contest, that is only really harmed by the fact TBS won't be broadcasting the fight live but instead showing it on tape delay.
After a couple of quiet weeks, with only a single show or two of note, we had boxing really pick up this past week with notable cards in the Japan, the US and even Vietnam. Not only did we have notable shows but we also had a world title fight, and it now seems like the sport is starting to get into the swing of things.
Fighter of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39)
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao turned 40 in December, an age that many fighters turn whilst they are retired. Not is Pacquiao 40 years old but this week he proved he was still a top class fighter, as he defeat Adrien Broner in the US. Pacquiao appeared to be giving away significant size to Broner, and was 11 years old than the American, but looked in total control through out their 12 round bout, even staggering Broner in rounds 7 and 9. It wasn't a vintage Pacquiao performance, by any stretch, and he did look like a faded version of his prime self, but it was still a comfortable and controlling display against the cocksure Broner. Sadly the performance, whilst it was controlled, did seem to show how far Pacman had slid from his destructive best, though at the age of 40 that is to be expected!
Notable mention - Shingo Wake
Performance of the Week
Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
We think that we'll be mentioning the name Reiya Abe a lot in 2019, and we don't believe that that's a bad thing! This week he shut down the talented and aggressive Daisuke Sugita in Tokyo, dropping Sugita twice and hardly losing a minute of the bout in what was a thoroughly controlled performance. For much of the fight Abe simply stuck to his boxing, using his skills to neutralise Sugita, before dropping his man twice. There was no real urgency from Abe, but he didn't need to be, he was just showcasing his skills from the first round to the final bell, only really going through the gears in the 8th round as he started to look to close the show. This wasn't an exciting fight, but it was a fantastic performance that showed what Abe can do.
Kenshin Oshima (4-1-1, 3) vs Ikuro Sadatsune (9-2-3, 3)
We stay in Japan for our Fight of the Week, an 8 round contest between two youngsters each looking to shine. This wasn't an all out war, like some Fight of the Weeks, but it was a bout that swung one way, then the other. It saw both men hurt, both having to over-come adversity and both digging deep in a fight that really exceeded expectations. The competitive nature of the bout will leave the door open to a potential rematch somewhere down the line. The was skills involved, making this more of a technical chess match at times, but they upped the pace regularly enough to give us some brilliant moments
Shohei Yamanaka vs Tatsuhito Hattori (Round 4)
There is something about these lower level Japanese bouts, over 4 rounds, that keep delivering fantastic rounds. This was seen perfectly this week when the debuting Shohei Yamanaka battled Tatsuhito Hattori in a bout that was easy to overlook. Yamanaka, as mentioned, was debuting whilst Hattori was fighting his 6th professional bout, more than a decade after his previous contest. Yamanaka had done enough to claim the first rounds on our card, but was dropped in round 3, meaning it was all to play for in round 4 ant they both went out there seeking to do enough to take the victory. A fantastic and thoroughly engaging round.
Notable mention - Round 3 Oshima Vs Sadatsune
Mikhail Lesnikov KO Afrizal Tamboresi
It's taken a while but 2018 finally has a brutal KO thanks to Russian Mikhail Lesnikov, who blasted out Indonesian fighter Afrizal Tamboresi in Vietnam. Tamboresi was rocked hard from an uppercut, somehow remaining upright. That however wasn't a good thing for him and he would be caught by a brutal left hook just seconds later. He was dropped hard and stayed down. A gorgeous KO for the Russian, who had never previous scored a KO.
Vikas Krishan (1-0, 1)
We have a feeling that Indian boxing is going to be huge over the coming few years, and part of that rise will be linked, directly, to the "Indian Tank" Vikas Krishan. Krishan made his debut on Friday, against Steven Andrade, and looked like a pro-ready fighter immediately with his intense pressure style, sharp punching and intelligent footwork. His amateur background, which is arguably the best of any Indian fighter, shone through here and it seems like he has the ambition, drive and age to really progress. There are still things he needs to work on, but he showed enough here to get excited about.
Notable mention- Fazliddin Gaibnazarov
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) (January 26th)
It feels like we've lacked a really explosive fight so far. We've had some excellent action fights, some brave performances but nothing truly explosive. That's likely to change next week when unbeaten Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar takes on Dominican puncher Claudio Marrero. With a combined 33 wins, 26 by T/KO, it's hard to imagine this one goes the distance. Both men have been down and we would not be surprised to see both hitting the deck in what could end up be an early contender for Fight of the Year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [and undercard]
After weeks of waiting we finally saw the announcement of the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi. The bout was one of the worst kept secrets in the sport, but we were still awaiting the confirmation until this week. The bout is a really good looking one. Both are aggressive, both have nasty power, and both have exciting styles that should gel really well. Although the bout looks like it won't be televised live, unfortunately, it does look almost certain to be a really fun fight, when TBS finally get around to airing it.
As well as the main event we also saw the under-card being revealed, and includes Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2), Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1), Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and the debut of Suzumi Takayama.
Although not many fights for 2019 have been officially announced there are numerous contests rumoured and others that are thought to be in the pipe line, such as mandatory title challenges. Here we take a look at some of those fights.
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) [岡田 博喜] Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)
Supposedly set for February 10th in California is a bout between former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada take on former WBO Lightweight champion Raymundo Beltran. The bout would have fireworks written all over it, and push the winner onto a potential title fight, with Jose Carlos Ramirez likely be an option. It now seems like the bout won't be taking place in February, but could end up happening later in the year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [谷口 将隆]
Rumoured to be set for February 25th we'll be seeing WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar return to Japan to take on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. Both of these men are hard hitters in the lowest class, both have under-rated skills and this should make for a really exciting match up. The champion would, rightfully, be favoured, but it is a very dangerous first defense and could be a potential FOTY candidate, given the styles of the two fighters.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼]
WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin is rumoured to be making his international debut later in the year, to take on unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura in Tokyo. This bout began to be rumoured after Wanehng's last bout, and has excited fan much more than a previously rumoured contest between the Thai and Japanese national champion Shin Ono, in a bout that didn't really get the juices flow. Koura would be the under-dog, but would be a very live challenger for the unbeaten Thai champion.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
Considered as a possible world title fight for Spring we could see WBO Light Flyweight champion Angel Acosta defending his belt against Jonathan Taconing, who is highly ranked by all of the 4 world title bodies. Taconing had been ordered to fight in a WBC world title eliminator, and may go that route, but a shot at the WBO champion certainly shouldn't be ruled out given he is ranked highly by the Puerto Rican organisation. This has the potential to be a very special bout, and something to get very excited about given that both men are hard hitters who fight with bad intentions.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) Vs Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也]
WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales has twice fought in the Land of the Rising Sun and put on a show in both, fighting to a draw with Ryoichi Taguchi and taking a win over Reiya Konishi. He's now expected to return for a third visit to defend his title against veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who is the WBA's #1 contender for the title. Hisada vacated the Japanese title in late 2018 and is expected to make the most of his top ranking with the Panamanian outfit. He would be a very clear under-dog against the Venezuelan puncher, but at 34 years old it really is now or never for the Osaka.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) Vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) [船井 龍一]
If a much anticipated showdown between IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas and WBC counterpart Srisaket Sor Rungvisai can't be made in the coming weeks Ancajas is expected to be ordered to make a mandatory defense of his title against Ryuichi Funai, who earned his mandatory shot by stopping Victor Olivo in November. The Filipino champion would be favoured, but has under-delivered in recent bouts and Funai will be fully aware that this could be his one and only shot at a world title. This all Asian bout is likely to be pushed for hard by Funai's team, at the Watanabe gym, though Ancajas does have other options on the table including a move up in weight.
With 2018 coming to a close we're already excited about the coming year and what the sport may have in store for us in 2019. Here we look at 5 potential bouts involving Asian fighters at world level, we'll be doing a similar article at Oriental/Asia Pacific level in the coming days.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Kal Yafai (25-0, 15)
The Super Flyweight division is one of the most packed at the moment, with a good handful of fighters who could all mix in some interesting fights. Among those possible fights is a WBC/WBA unification bout that would pit Asia Vs the UK. The match up in question would see murderous puncher Srisaket Sor Rungvisai take on unbeaten boxer Kal Yafai, in a bout that could go some way towards sorting out the division.
In theory it's not the out and out best bout the division could give us, or even the most obvious, but we would love to see this bout, and suspect it could end what has been a poor reign from the Englishman. It would also leave Juan Francisco Estrada available to have a long awaited rematch with Roman Gonzalez and a potential WBO/IBF unification with the winner of Donnie Nietes Vs Kazuto Ioka taking on Jerwin Ancajas.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9)
The Minimumweight division is particularly exciting right now with a lot of young talent emerging to challenge the champions at the top of the division. The longest reigning champion in the sport right now is Thailand's unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, who has held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014 and already ran up 10 defenses. One of the most promising of the emerging contenders is Japan's Tsubasa Koura, who is exciting, skilled, hard hitting and one of the brightest youngsters in Japan.
This bout has been mooted for Spring 2019, and seems almost certainly a done deal to our understanding. It would be a big step up in class for Koura but he's really looked tremendous so far and if he can lure Wanheng to Japan he has a great chance. For Wanheng it'd be another bout against a young upstart, but one that could see him silencing more of his doubters and further extending his impressive unbeaten record.
Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20) Vs Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17)
Back in November Tomoki Kameda claimed the WBC "interim" Super Bantamweight title, he's expected to face "regular" champion Rey Vargas in 2019, however there is some talk that bout may not be next for either man, with Vargas expected to face WBA champion Daniel Roman. If that happens it could open the door for Kameda to defend the interim title before facing Vargas. There's one man who has been very public about fighting him, and that's Shingo Wake, who has publicly called Kameda out, a number of times.
If this All Japanese Super Bantamweight clash was made it would pit two skilled fighters against each other in a mouth watering bout that could end up deciding the #1 Japanese fighter in the division, though Ryosuke Iwasa and Yukinori Oguni could also involve themselves in that argument. It would however have to wait until late Spring given that Wake will be fighting on January 19th and would need time to prepare for Kameda, who doesn't seem to have been excited about facing Wake in the past.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
Filipino fighter Vic Saludar travelled to Japan earlier this year to rip the WBO Minimumweight title from the hands of Ryuya Yamanaka, and sadly retired Yamanaka in the process. A return to Japan to defend the title against Masataka Taniguchi would be a potential FOTY candidate with Saludar and Taniguchi both being heavy handed fighters, with solid boxing skills, a good amateur pedigree and exciting, free flowing attacking styles. It's rare to get two solid punchers up against each other at 105lbs and this bout would give us just that.
This bout had been rumoured for New Year's Eve but didn't come off, it could however end up taking place in 2019, with Taniguchi having won the WBO Asia Pacific title since the bout was first rumoured. This could be put on a bumper card in the Golden Week and would make for a great supporting world title bout.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) Vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
It's hard to say what the best bout possible to make at Light Flyweight really is, with a number of match ups that could end up being FOTY contenders featuring many of the top fighters in the division. Not only are there a lot of fantastic fighters at 108lbs but there are a lot that stylistically match up for great fights. One such fight would see WBO world champion Angel Acosta taking on Filipino slugger Jonathan Taconing, who would be getting his third world title fight. This wouldn't be a mega skilled bout, but would be ultra exciting, with both being heavy handed, tough, and having solid stamina.
On paper this is a real possibility, given that Taconing is ranked #2 by the WBO, though Acosta is pencilled in to make a mandatory defense against Ryuji Hara in Spring. If the bout takes place in Summer 2019 then we'd be ecstatic and looking forward to some real unbridled violence. This really would be something special, though either man could be replace with Felix Alvarado, Carlos Canizales, Hiroto Kyoguchi or Christian Araneta and we'd still get a very special bout!
Having gone through the champions and contenders at Light Flyweight our final look at the fighters comes from the prospects in the division. There isn't a huge amount of “name value” here, but for the long term success of the division these are among the guys that really should have fans keep an eye one. They might be 2 or 3 fights from a world title fight, or might be much further away, but these are some of the fighters who are likely to make a mark on the division in the near future.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
If you missed past 2 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 2 - The Contenders
Masataka Taniguchi (10-2, 7)
One of the few prospects of note with a loss against his name is Masataka Taniguchi, a 24 year old fighter from the Watanabe gym. As an amateur Taniguchi was a top domestic talent, the captain of his university and someone marked for professional success. As a professional he has been ultra busy, fighting 12 times in 24 months, and has been matched hard already.
The thing that stands out, on paper, about Taniguchi is his two defeats. They have however been to Reiya Konishi and Tsubasa Koura in title fights at Minimumweight, and both were razor thin majority losses. In both of those defeats Taniguchi showed that he was class, with all the skills needed to go all the way. We'd keep him in mind when talking about the best prospects in boxing, never mind the best at 108lbs.
At the moment it's unclear when he will be back in the ring but we are expecting him to fight in May and he will likely find himself in a title fight before the end of 2018.
Abraham Rodriguez (22-0, 11)
Unbeaten 23 year old Abraham Rodriguez is finely balanced between being a prospect and a contender, and with 22 bouts under his belt he is already racking up the experience to be ready for a title fight. Amazingly, given his age, he has already been a professional for over 5 years and in recent bouts has been stepping up.
Rodriguez's record isn't just impressive in terms of numbers but there is also some substance there, with wins over Saul Jaurez, Mauricio Fuentes and and Jose Alonso Nunez Lopez. Sadly removing those names does leave his record looking thin for a fighter with around 20 wins, but for a 23 year old that's a trio of solid wins and he is looking like a fighter who will push his team to give him more and more tests.
After fitting in 3 fights last year Rodriguez has been quiet thus far in 2018, and really hasn't built on a December win over Saul Juarez. Hopefully he'll be back in action shortly and hopefully will be able to get another good win to begin the year.
Christian Araneta (15-0, 13)
Filipino puncher Christian Araneta is a brutal 23 year old from Cebu who has looked fantastic on the domestic scene and already looks like he could be mixing at a higher level. He has been a professional since September 2013 and has already claimed the PBF and WBO Oriental Light Flyweight titles. Not only has he claimed titles but he has also scored several wins of note, including a very big one over Jessie Espinas.
With his power Araneta looks like the next great puncher in the division, a division that already boasts punchers like Jonathan Taconing, Felix Alvarado, Angel Acosta and Carlos Canizales, and with his youth there is a lot of time to develop the skills to match his power.
Araneta fought earlier this month, stopping Ian Ligutan in 2 rounds, and given the quick nature of that blow out he will likely be back in action in the summer and may well fit 3 more fights in this year, making up for a frustrating 2017 in which he just once.
Rene Mark Cuarto (15-1-1, 9)
Another man with a loss on his record, but can't be over-looked, is 21 year old Pinoy hopeful Rene Mark Cuarto. The youngster suffered an earlier career set back to Jerald Paclar, though has since avenged the loss and has now beaten every fighter he has faced. Not only that but he is riding a 6 fight winning run and has managed to pick up a win on foreign soil, winning in China last year. Just as impressive is his activity, which saw him fight 5 times last year.
Although rising through the ranks Cuarto is still lacking a win of note, even on the domestic scene. Whilst that can certainly be held against him he is, as mentioned, only 21 years old and is likely to get that notable win in the near future. In fact it could well come later this year, if his team can afford to get him a good enough foe.
Given that Cuarto fought 5 times last year we are expecting him to be busy this year. So far he has fought just once, scoring a 3rd round KO over the highly experienced Rodel Tejares back in March, though we expect him back out in the ring in the Summer before potentially getting a notable opponent in the fall, if not the winter.
Vince Paras (13-0, 11)
Another Filipino puncher is Vince Paras, a teenager who is really getting fans excited. Aged just 19 the belief is that Paras is something something, and that belief has been there for a while with his handlers debuting the youngster at just 16 years old! Of course he was matched very easily early on but has been progressed well, and and last year he scored an excellent domestic win over Jimboy Haya for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Light Flyweight title. That win over Haya showed that Paras could go 10 rounds and he looks like his potential is huge.
Although really promising Paras was dropped last time out, though did recover. He might be lacking in the toughness department though that's one of a number of questions that could make following Para really exciting, though the big question is how long he will remain at 108lbs.
Haya hasn't fought yet this year, though we suspect that he will be back in the ring in the Summer, potential moving towards a national title fight. There is however no need to race him, and he can have time to develop, even if he does mature into a Super Flyweight or Bantamweight.
Christian Bacolod (8-0, 6)
It really does seem like thee is a Filipino take over at 108lbs, and Christian Bacolod is yet another young Filipino rising through the division. At 23 he's older than some of the other's but has already began to come close in terms of achievements. His career only consists of 8 bouts but already features good domestic wins over Marlou Sandoval, Mike Kinaadman and Ryan Makiputin.
Bacolod was relatively inactive last year, fighting only twice, and he's not fought so far this year. At his age he can get away with some inactivity but won't want to waste too much time, especially given how many other good Filipino's are in his weight class. If he only fights twice this year there is a good chance he will get left behind.
In the ring Bacolod is a little rough around the edges but with his age there is time to smooth those edges off and add to what is a promising fighter with naturally heavy hands and some lovely combination punching. It's also worth noting that he has fought in front of the big lights on a ALA card and won't be worried about fighting on TV in the future.
Dave Apolinario (6-0, 4)
A final Filipino of note here is another 19 year old in the form of Dave Apolinario. The “Amazing” southpaw made his debut last June with an opening round TKO and has been managed well so far, with 6 fights in 10 months. Not only has he been busy but he has been stepped up and was last out in an 8 rounder, proving he had stamina to go with his power and skills. With that in mind it may be long until he's fighting in 10 rounders and even title bouts.
Apolinario has looked sensational so far and has shown glimpses of his amateur pedigree, skills that have allowed him and his team to be so aggressive with his development. That is likely to continue, and perhaps even step up a level as he continues to mature and physically develop.
Apolinario has already fought twice this year and will likely continue to be busy through the rest of 2018. We don't see him fighting for titles this year, but he will almost certainly break into the OPBF rankings before the year is over. A title fight at that level will be too much for him, for now, but in the next 24 months or so he should be looking Oriental titles.
Kai Ishizawa (4-0, 4)
Japanese youngster Kai Ishizawa is an over-looked 21 year old puncher who debuted last June but already looks like a sensation in the making. He debuted, like many Japanese prospects, against a Thai novice and looked great on debut. In his second bout he destroyed a domestic opponent before another Thai foe. Those first 3 opponents lasted just 5 rounds with Ishizawa. In his most recent bout Ishizawa stepped up and stopped Tatsuro Nakashima in an outstanding performance to further solidify his standing as one of Japan's most over-looked prospects.
Having already shown good power, a good boxing brain and a stiff hard jab Ishizawa is already showing the tools needed to go a very long way. His team have matched him hard already, with two good domestic opponents already on his record, and a good 42 fight amateur career behind him. There work to be done, but he really does look like he could be a diamond in the rough.
Ishizawa is expected to return later in the year in a Japanese Youth title fight. That will be a chance for him to prove himself, claim a title and begin to show he belongs to be fighting at title level. If he wins that belt we expect to see him bang on the door of a Japanese ranking soon afterwards.
Lu Bin (1-0, 1)
The division's wild card in some ways is Chinese sensation Lu Bin. The 23 year old from Jinan is an amateur stand out, who like very few other fighters seems to be a fighter who has made his professional debut, but is also fighting as an amateur. His amateur career seems to be standing in the way of his professional development, which is a huge shame as Bin has the ability to become the star that Chinese boxing want Zou Shiming to be. The novice professional is a true talent with speed, power, skills, defense and a really high ring IQ. Not only that but he already has a world ranking, a regional title and the skills to make an immediate impact on the professional scene.
If Bin can commit to being a professional fighter he can almost choose his rate of progress. He has the tools to be something very special, but a question can be asked of his desire and hunger.
Bin recently won the Chinese National Amateur crown, no big surprise given his pedigree, but the decision to chase professional glory doesn't seem like one he's in a rush to make. His debut professional bout looks like it's going to be an anomaly for now, and it could be a while until he's unleashed on the professional ranks again. Sadly.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Boxing Gym, Boxrec and Boxmob.jp)
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