Se we're now into March and February, the shortest month of the year, has come to an end having really over-delivered in terms of fights and action, so lets have a look at the award winners for the month.
Fighter of the Month
Filipino fighter Vic Saludar really does love performing in Japan, and that was shown again this month, when he travelled to Tokyo and successfully defended the WBO Minimumweight title, out pointing Masataka Taniguchi. The Filipino had first made his mark in Japan losing to Kosei Tanaka, after dropping Tanaka, and would later go on to claim the title by beating Ryuya Yamanaka last year. This recent win will likely see him being invited back in the future, and the role of "Japanese Killer" could be there for him, and could be very profitable for the hard hitting Pinoy champion.
Fight of the Month
Hyun Je Shin vs Dong Kwan Lee
The hidden gem of the month came from Korea as Hyun Je Shin and Dong Kwan Lee beat the holy hell out of each other in a brilliant, all action 10 round bout for the Korean Super Featherweight title. We won't pretend that this bout will get a lot of attention, though if you like phone booth wars, all action fights and real intensity between two men who believe they can win, then this should be down your alley. It really was something very special, and a genuine treat for Korean fans, who look like they could be in for a really good year in 2019.
KO of the Month
Romero Duno KO2 Kuldeep Dhana
The month had some strong contenders for KO of the year, though the most brutal was Romero Duno's vicious knockout of Indian for Kuldeep Dhanda. This was explosive to say the least and Dhanda was left flat for several minutes as Duno looked shaken by what he'd done. Thankfully Dhanda would wake up in the ring and looked fine, but this really was something spectacular.
Notable contender: Downua Ruawaiking Vs Akihiro Kondo
Carl Jammes Martin
One category that was packed this month was the prospect of the month, which had so many notable contenders in the category that we could have easily done a full length feature on the "Prospects of February". If forced to pick one however it's teenager Carl Jammes Martin that shone the brightest. He was among the youngest of the prospects to fight, he made his TV debut and he put in a performance that showed why so many had been raving about him in the Philippines. He isn't the most rounded or accomplished of the prospects who fought in February, but he was the one who excited us the most.
Carlos Castro Vs Genesis Servania
There wasn't many upsets this past month, but Genesis Servania, who was widely available at 1/3, was beaten by relative unknown Carlos Castro. On paper this shouldn't have been a major upset, given that Castro was an unbeaten with 21 wins, but Servania had held his own in a world title bout and was seen as a man on the verge of a second world title fight. Castro however ended those hopes and took a clear win over the Filipino, who will be back to drawing board.
Ryugo Ushijima v Shota Ogasawara - Round 2
It wasn't just the fight of the month that was relatively low key but also the round of the month, which came back when Ryugo Ushijima and Shota Ogasawara put on a hell of a show. The second round was chaotic with Ogasawarwa dropping the 17 year old Uchijima before the youngster turned things around and stopped Ogasawara. This was a special round, and will hopefully gain both men some more eye balls on them,
Notable - Okada Vs Beltran (2)
This past week has been one of the quietest of the year so far, at least in terms of Asian fighters and fighters involving Asian fighters. It wasn't silent by any stretch, but much of the action was relatively low key. That however doesn't take away from what we did have.
Fighter of the Week
Ben Mananquil (17-1-3, 4)
Although his fight isn't yet available to watch, with Boxing Raise set to post next week, it's hard to argue that anyone deserves Fighter of the Week more than Filipino fighter Ben Mananaquil. The 26 year old southpaw travelled to Japan and easily outboxed Japanese youngster Tenta Kiyose on Sunday to become the new WBO Asia Pacfic Bantamweight champion.Mananquil has been one of the sports over-looked men in recent years, with a number of unlucky results on the round, including bouts with Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym and Jing Xiang. He did get a bit of luck last year, with a draw against Hinata Maruta, but generally hasn't had much luck. He didn't need it against Kiyose, dropping the Japanese fighter on route to a clear win.
Performance of the Week
Reymart Gaballo (21-0, 18)
The unbeaten Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men of the Bantamweight division, but he really shouldn't be. The 22 year old boxer-puncher is one of the best young fighters in boxing, and can box, bang, brawl and really excite. This past Saturday he showed how good he was as he completely destroyed the brave but outgunned Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo would drop Nakamura twice in the opening round and once in round 2 to record a 2nd round TKO. At times he looked wild, yet found the target time, and time, and time again. It was the sort of performance that deserved a bigger platform than ESPN5, and hopefully fans will find the time watch the bout, just to see how good Gaballo looked, and how good he is. We're really hoping for Gaballo to have a big bout this year, and this performance showed exactly why so many are so high on him.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34)
This past week has had some good fights, but nothing really stood out in terms of overall quality, excitement or value. There was good fights that just missed something, or had a lack of intensity. With that in mind we're taking the odd step of selecting the televised exhibition between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Nawaphon Por Chokchai as out fight of the week. It was fought with headgear and over-sized gloves, fought for charity and fought an insane pace as both men looked to try and take the other out. It won't go down on either man's record, but it was certainly fun to watch on Friday morning.
Hiroki Okada Vs Raymundo Beltran (Round 2)
A great round is made from the combination of drama and excitement and the second round of the enthralling bout between Japan's Hiroki Okada and Mexican Raymundo Beltran is hard to beat. The round saw Beltran applying pressure, dropping Okada then being hurt badly himself as Okada came close to forcing a knockdown of his own. It was a really great round and deserves to be in the conversation for round of the year so far. Sadly the bout had too many slower rounds, especially in the middle of the fight, to be in the Fight of the Year conversation, but it was a great round in a very good, but not amazing, fight. Had the bout not had it's slow spell in the middle this would likely have taken the Fight of the Week award.
Romero Duno KO2 Kuldeep Dhanda
This week we saw arguably the KO of the Year so far when heavy handed Filipino Romero Duno flattened over-matched Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what was a really scary KO. The Indian had been down and wobbled badly in the opening round, but had shown bravery to try and fight back. That turned out to be a huge mistake and he was left out cold from a monstrous right hand from Duno about a minute into the second round. Referee Ferdinand Estrella gave a 10 count, when he really didn't need to, and it took a good few minutes for Dhanda to move after getting medical assistance. Thankfully he did get to his feet and seemed to walk out of the ring by himself, following some really worrying scenes.
Dave Apolinario (10-0, 6)
We had a number of prospects in action though none shone like Dave Apolinario, who clearly beat Romshane Sarguilla over 8 rounds. The fight was a clear win, Apolinario near enough shut out his countryman, but was force to work though out the contest and never had time to relax. Despite the hot tempo Apolinario seemed to enjoy the fact he had an opponent who came to win, and that drew the best out of the southpaw who really did look like one to watch in the Flyweight division. At just 20 years old
he is someone who should be on everyone's radar going forward. A fantastic, sharp, quick, intelligent fighter who has the potential to go all the way!
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) vs Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4)
This coming week has a lot of great bouts scheduled for it, though the one that has us most interested is Thurday's OPBF Super Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Hiroaki Teshigawara and 21 year old challenger Yuki Iriguchi. Watching both men we see two aggressive, exciting, fighters who are happy to engage in a real fight. Stylistically this bout is the one that intrigues us the most, despite not being the most significant contest of the week. We do expect Teshigawara to win, but we also expect some all out violence until he gets the victory.
Ryosuke Iwasa Vs Cesar Juarez, Edward Heno Vs Koji Itagaki, Shohjahon ErgashevVs Mykal Fox
Katsunari Takayama to compete on March 1st!
There wasn't a huge announcement this week, though the Japanese Boxing Awards did get plenty of attention. Instead we had a bit of a scatter gun news week, with arguably the most notable single story being that of Katsunari Takayama's return to action. The hugely popular warrior will be fighting at the Japanese selection event for the Asian Championships, beginning his journey towards a potential Olympic berth. Whether Takayama's dream comes to reality or note, and he manages to make it to Tokyo 2020 is yet to be seen, but we're so glad to hear that he will be in the ring on March 1st as he continues to be a bit of a Japanese trail blazer.
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.
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