It's fair to say that action is picking up, and going through February we are expecting to see a lot of great fights, in fact we've already seen some fantastic stuff, with this weekend being very notable.
Fighter of the Week
Junto Nakatani (18-0, 13)
Japan's Junto Nakatani has long been viewed as a major prospect as Flyweight and as one of Japan's hottest young talents. Coming into 2019 he had claimed the Rookie of the Year and Japanese Youth titles, showing that he had progressed beyond the novice leagues. This week he showed that he was far beyond that level as he took the Japanese Flyweight title, stopping the very brave, but thoroughly out classed, Naoki Mochizuki. Some had anticipated a walk in the park for Nakatani, though he was forced to work for this win and that brought out the best in him as he showed he could box, bang, move, and soak up pressure, before unleashing his uppercuts later on. It wasn't flawless from the youngster, but it was impressive.
Performance of the Week
Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21)
Filipino puncher Aston Palicte really left us with no option this week, when it came to the "Performance of the Week", as he decimated the previously unbeaten Jose Martinez in just 2 rounds. The win saw Palicte become the WBO Super Flyweight mandatory challenger, but it was how he earned that position that was so impressive. The first round was quiet, it was as if Palicte wanted to see what Martinez had, before moving through the gears and just battering Martinez, dropping him repeatedly before the referee decided enough was enough. It was destructive, brutal and a real statement of intent from "Mighty".
Notable mention - Janibek Alimkhanuly - We had long criticised Alimkhanuly and his ability to fight with a professional boxing style, but few can fault how he performance this week. He did appear to carry Steven Martinez but was in total control. Now we will expecting top performances from the former amateur star.
Koki Eto (23-4-1, 18) Vs Romel Oliveros (9-4-1,4)
This past week is the first one where we didn't really get a fight that stood out as being something amazing, however it did have some really great moments. The best single bout, was another from the Japanese card on Saturday and saw the always amusing Koki Eto end up getting involved in a war with Filipiono Romel Oliveros. The fight looked like a mismatch, especially at the end of the opening round, when Oliveros was dropped twice. The Filipino however seemed to have the attitude of "if I'm going down I'm going to try and take you with me" which drew out the machismo from Eto who stood and had a war with Oliveros. Eto has long been a must watch fighter, making even mismatches incredibly tough for himself, and here he was again in a stupidly entertaining battle.
Ryugo Ushijima vs Shota Ogasawara (Round 2)
We know we're picking quite a lot of obscure rounds in this series for our Weekly Round of the Week section, but we can't help the fact that it's the Japanese under-card bout that are delivering breath taking stanza's. That was seen again this week when unbeaten 17 year old Ryugo Ushijima took on Shota Ogasawara. On paper this was not a bout worthy of attention, it was the first bout on a televised Japanese card, neither man was well known and, if we're being honest, the opening round seemed to suggest that Ushijima was too good of a boxer to struggle with Ogasawara. In round 2 however things went crazy as Ogsawara dropped Ushijima and we ended up getting something very special. A show of hear, courage and will to win. This is easily worth 3 minutes of time from any boxing fan.
Mikito Nakano KO1 Ekarak Laprakorn
We've not seen many real KO's this year, and even fewer have been body shots, but Mikito Nakano, take a bow. The former Japanese amateur standout knew he was too good for his over-match Thai opponent, Ekarak Laprakorn, and wasn't going to waste time carrying his man. Instead he closed the show mid-way through the opening round with a truly brutal straight left hand to the body. The shot was so painful you could almost see tears in Ekarak's eyes as he wondered whether or not his liver was going to function properly afterwards. It wasn't a competitive match up, which does take some shine away from the blow, but it was brutal and gorgeous to watch in all the angles that G+ later showed the shot from.
Notable mentions: Kuntae Lee KO1 Aphisit Namkhot, Ryugo Ushijima TKO2 Shota Ogasawara
Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1)
This was a strange week for prospects. You had two top Japanese prospects, Kuntae Lee and Mikot Nakano, in total mismatches against Thai's and the only other fighters you could regard as a prospect would be Takuya Mizuno, a who had his 17th fight and has bene a professional for more than 5 years, Junto Nakatani, who is now a Japanese national champion with 18 fights, or 25 year old former World Amateur Champion Janibek Alimkhanuly, who made his debut in 2016. Given those options we'll give this week to the debuting Lee. He was in a mismatch, and everyone knew it, but he showed a really sharp jab, lovely control of distance and lived up to the expectations put on his shoulders. Hopefully his next bout will be a more significant test though, as this was too easy.
Notable mentions: Mikito Nakano and Janibek Alimkhanuly
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)
The coming week sees quite a lot of exciting action to come, with notable shows in Thailand, the US and the Philippines. The pick of the bunch, at least on paper, seems to be the final bout with an Asian interest of the week, and will see unbeaten Japanese fighter Hiroki Okada taking on Mexican veteran Raymundo Beltran, in what looks likely to be a really interesting war. Okada will be the betting under-dog, given how disappointing he was on his US debut, but Beltran has looked old and worn and knows he will be fighting for his career. A really good match up! Our preview of this bout can be read here Okada and Beltran set to battle in must win bout!
Srisaket to fight on DAZN, will be featured on Febaruy 8th charity show!
This past week was a busy one, out of the ring, for Thailand with numerous stories, the most significant, by some margin, was that Srisaket Sor Rungvisai's future lies with DAZN. The WBC and Ring Magazine Super Flyweight champion has signed up with the streaming service who will air his next official fight. We say "official" fight as he is set to take part in an exhibition before that with Nawaphon Pro Chokchai, in what will be a charity event to raise money for medical supplies.The rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada is now expected to take place in early April on DAZN US.
If we're being honest January was a bit of a slow burn month, with a lack of action at the start of the month before picking up over the last 2 weekends. There was action through January but it was very bitty and very slow to get going. Thankfully the same can't be said for February which starts hot and continues to be busy throughout, even if the action doesn't hit the same heights as January in terms of quality.
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) Vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese title fight of the new month sees Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki battle for the vacant Japanese fight title, which Masayuki Kuroda vacated in late 2018. Coming in to the bout Nakatani will start as the favourite but Mochizuki is a tough and underrated fighter who will know this is a huge opportunity to claim a national title, put himself in the mix for big fights down the line and impress on a televised Japanese card.
Kenichi Ogawa (21-1-0-1, 17) vs Roldan Aldea (12-6-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa returns to the ring after more than a year out of action, following a failed drugs test. The hard hitting Ogawa, who is best known for taking a controversial win over Tevin Farmer that was later over-turned due to the aforementioned drug test, will be facing off with Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea, in what is supposed to be a show case for the talented and returning Japanese fighter.
Gonte Lee (0-0) vs Aphisit Namkhot (1-1, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest debuts of 2019 will see Japanese-Korean fighter Gonte Lee, a former amateur standout, take on Thai foe Aphisit Namkhot. The talented Lee won over 100 amateur fighters, with 62 wins in a row, competed for North Korea and was expected to go to the 2020 Olympics. Instead he chose to go professional and his debut is something to be very highly excited about. The Thai foe is expected to provide little more than the perfect foil for Lee's debut.
Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) vs TBA - Tokyo, Japan
Talking about amateur standouts it's worth noting that another Japanese amateur stand out will also be on this card, Mikito Nakano. Nakano, who debuted last year, is tipped for huge success and will be looking to score his second professional win. His opponent is currently unknown, though we do know it will be a Thai, and like Lee's bout this should be little more than a show case for a fantastically talented young prospects.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1) vs Steven Martinez (18-4, 13) - Texas, USA
In the US we'll see Kazakh fighter Janibek Alimkhanuly take a good step up in class as he battles Steven Martinez. The talented Alimkhanuly has yet to shine since signing with Top Rank in 2018, putting in two forgetable performances last year. Despite failing to look great recently we do have high hopes for the 25 year old Kazakh and we're expecting to see him show that potential sooner rather than later. Martinez is a tough opponent, with ambitions of his own, but we suspect that Alimkhanuly will have the skills to defeat the tough American.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) vs Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Young prospect Dave Apolinario takes on his stiffed test to date as he battled against fellow unbeaten Filipino Mark Vicelles, in what looks like an excellent bout on paper. Apoinarion, the younger brother of former world title challenger Mark John Apolinario, has looked like an excellent prospect since making his debut back in 2017 but has yeat to face someone looking to score a win of their own. Vicelles on the other hand has proven he can get through hungry fighters, taking the unbeaten records of Rey Tagulaylay and Roldan Sasan. He's a capable fighter himself and will know a win here would be huge. This has the hallmarks of a weekend stealing contest.
Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) vs Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7)- Metro Manila, Philippines
WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men at 118lbs, due to the WBSS, but is building a reputation at home, a reputation he'll be looking to enhance here when he takes on charismatic Japanese warrior Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo is an excellent boxer-puncher with really crisp punching and he looks like one of the better contenders in the division. Nakamura on the other hand is a fun but limited fighter who we suspect will play his part in a fun fight, but a fight that he loses.
Romero Duno (18-1, 14) vs Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Filipino boxer-puncher Romero Duno put his name on the international stage when he travelled to the US and upset the much fancied Christian Gonzalez in 2 rounds. Since then he has fought only once in the Philippines, and 4 times in the US, whilst building his international presence. He returns "home" to face Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what appears to be a stay busy contest for the Filipino hopeful, who will be expected to return to the US later in the year for potential world title eliminator, or minor title bout of some kind.
One of the new series we want to look at for 2019 is the "Introducing" series, where we try and shine a light on a new fighter, who perhaps hasn't had much exposure in the West, and sometimes not much in the East either. These aren't supposed to be lengthy biopics but a quick overview of a fighter that we'd like to out on your radar. They will also be put on youtube, as voice overs only to begin with.
The first fighter to be covered in this series will be a prodigy signed to the world famous Teiken Gym in Tokyo, in fact it's someone who will almost certainly be among the future faces for the gym as they look to rebuild following the recent retirements and losses of some of their biggest name fighters.
The gym that was, until recently, the major one in Japan right now has no world champions and is really looking to acquire top amateur talent to rebuild their ranks. Among those amateur standouts is Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) [中野幹士], a talented southpaw looking to make his name in, or around, the Featherweight division.
Prior to turning professional last year Nakano had been a true amateur standout for Japan. He had gone 68-9 (48), winning a number of national titles and competed internationally at the Asian Students Championships and the President's Cup. His amateur credentials may not be on par with a Naoya Inoue or a Kosei Tanaka, but they were strong and he had impressed in competitions time and time again. He had been a name on the radar of most professional gyms and in 2018 decided the time was right to go pro.
He would make his professional debut last October, though missed out on live TV exposure due to other programming. Despite his debut not being shown live, we did get the chance to see the bout soon afterwards, as G+ showed the contest on tape delay. On his debut he defeated Thai visitor Thanawat Yancharoen at the Korakuen Hall, and looked razor sharp, aggressive and talented. He was the instant eye grabbing fighter than Ginjiro Shigeoka was, but you could see some of the things he was doing weren't typically in the arsenal of a debutant. The way he moved, the way he knew where he had to be and how he could control Thanawat with his feet were really impressive.
Since making his debut there hasn't been too much fuss about Nakano, though we do now know that he will be back in the ring on February 2nd as part of the live G+ broadcast of the Dyanmic Glove card. He will be one of the supporting bouts for Kenichi Ogawa's ring return against Roldan Aldea. Sadly his opponent hasn't been named for that bout, but we're not expecting anyone too testing for Nakano at this early stage in his career.
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