We start the month of August by looking backwards, over what has been a rather emotional rollercoaster of a month of fight fans. Rather than focusing on the bad, the ugly and the negative we'll try to stay upbeat as we cover our monthly award winners for this past July.
Fighter of the Month
It's fair to saw that we, like many others, had written Ryota Murata off at the start of the month, and expected to see him sent into retirement by Rob Brant, the man who had taken the WBA "regular" Middleweight title form him last year. Instead we got a resurgent Murata who battered Brant to the point where Luis Pabon had no option but to step in. This wasn't just a man avenging a loss, this was a man telling the world his career had real legs left in it, and that he had a new found fire in his belly. If this Murata turns up against some of the better fighters in the division he could give some of those guys a real test, though the top 2 or 3 guys in the division would still be far too good for him.
Kenshiro, Joe Noynay, Manny Pacquiao
Fight of the Month
Naoko Fujioka (18-2, 7) vs Tenkai Tsunami (26-12, 15)
Whilst female boxing is still criminally under-rated and over-looked there are bouts that really shine above the rest, and in the last few years we've had some amazing female contests. This month we actually had one as 5-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka battled in a thrilling 10 round battle against Tenkai Tsunami. The bout really swung with momentum shifting in the second half, when it became a question of whether Fujioka could do enough to reel in Tsunami's lead and what we ended up getting was a real treat, combining boxing with fighting. This wasn't an all out war, but it was a wonderfully balanced, competitive, exciting and thrilling clash.
Manny Pacquiao Vs Keith Thurman, Han Bin Suh Vs Jong Won Jung, Jin Minamide Vs Tetsu Araki
KO of the Month
Kanat Islam KO1 Julio De Jesus
Kazakh fighter Kanat Islam returned to the ring for the first time in almost 2 years and took part in one of the shortest bouts we've ever seen. In fact he only needed to land around 3 right hands and a short left hook to leave Julio De Jesus down, flat on his face. This a short fight but a brutal finish for Islam, who showed he still had it, despite having had his body ravaged by injury. Aesthetically this probably wasn't the most beautiful KO of the month, but it as vicious and truly nasty. A great KO.
Roldan Aldea Vs Mikhail Alexeev, Ginjiro Shigeoka Vs Clyde Azarcon
Mikito Nakano (3-0, 3)
We had a lot of prospects in action this month, a number of which took on their biggest opponents so far. For us the man that left impression from those who are clearly just prospects was Mikito Nakano, who scored his third win by taking out decent Filipino Arvin Yurong in impressive fashion. Nakano, who weren't sold on originally, looks very much like the real deal and we don't expect him to take long to reach title level as he is an excellent talent.
It should be noted that this month Ginjiro Shigeoka showed he is no longer a prospect, but a fully fledged contender, taking his first title. Despite being just 19 and fighting in his 4th bout it's hard to consider a regional champion as still a "prospect"
Andy Hiraoka, Koshin Takeshima
Roldan Aldea KO8 Mikhail Alexeev
Filipino fighter Roldan Aldea will never be a world beater but recent bouts proved he was a solid fighter, going the distance with Shawn Oda, Xiangxiang Sun and Kenichi Ogawa. Despite being solid no one would have given him any chance against unbeaten Russian hopeful Mikhail Alexeev, but he held his own through a brilliant and pulsating 8 round affair, before scoring a brutal KO of Alexeev. This was a shocker, even if Alexeev was never one of the most touted or Russian hopefuls, as Aldea seemed to have become little more than a journeyman.
Sho Nakazawa v Jinya Ito
Manny Pacquiao Vs Keith Thurman (10)
We had some brilliant fights through the month but few rounds really stood out, with consistency over the course of a fight really being more notable than the actual rounds themselves. There was however a few rounds that did make us sit up, and the best of those was the 10th round between Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman. The round was at the very highest level and saw momentum swing, from being a Thurman round to a Pacquiao in the final moments. It was brilliant drama and although not a round with a phonebooth war it was compelling and absolutely worthy of a rewatch.
Jin Minamide Vs Tetsu Araki (6)
This past week we really saw action pick up in a big way, with a number of notable Japanese cards which created headlines, a major upset in Russia and a card in Saudi Arabia. It's a week that felt so much different to recent weeks and it's very clear that business is picking up, after a dreary June.
Fighter of the Week
Ryota Murata (15-2, 12)
When a fighter loses in fashion that sees them being dominated, especially in an upset, it can be easy to write them off. We certainly did that last year when Ryota Murata was beaten by Rob Brant. This week however Murata showed he shouldn't be written off as he avenged his loss to Brant in shocking fashion, beating Brant in 2 rounds, and forcing the referee to save the American, who was wobbling and had been down. This was not what we were expecting from Murata, but we're so glad to have seen him show what he can do, reclaim the WBA "regular" Middleweight title. Although Murata has so much ability this was the first time he's truly shown that ability, and we're really hoping he can build on this win. Sadly though much of his career has been flat and this performance may end up being little more than an anomaly.
Performance of the Week
Joe Noynay (18-2-1, 7)
Filipino youngster Joe Noynay has been written off as the under-dog far too many times in his career, and this past Friday he showed that fighters, and fans, need to take notice of him. He travelled to Japan, dropped Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu 3 times, twice in the opening round, and successfully defended the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. Although not a puncher this was Noynay's second straight stoppage win in Japan and he is going to be getting himself a serious reputation as a Japanese Killer, similar to that off forgotten Filipino Bantamweight Jess Maca.
Andy Hiraoka, Kenshiro, Rolden Aldea
Naoko Fujioka Vs Tenkai Tsunami
When we have two of the best female fighters on the planet facing off we can always expect a dark horse of a fight, and that's what we got this week with a thrilling 10 round battle between the legendary Naoko Fujioka and the under-rated Tenkai Tsunami. The bout, was engaging, swung one way then the other and was almost impossible to call. It was one of the bouts that had the potential to be something special, and it delivered. in a big way, again showing what happens when two top, world class, well matched female fighters face off. Given the result, the action and the way the bout was fought we're really hoping to see the two run it over again, and give us another special bout.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa vs Koki Tyson (RD 12)
One thing we didn't expect this week was for for the OPBF Middleweight title to remain vacant. We expected Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and Koki Tyson to give us a shoot out, with one man eventually taking the other out to take the crown. Surprisingly however we got the opposite with the two men competing in a 12 round fight that had some dull moments but was a thoroughly engaging contest with tactical holding from Tyson and bombs from both. Despite some sloppy action at times the final round was great, with both firing off some bombs, and the round got better as it went on, with a loud fan base cheering on Tyson. It won't go down as a Round of the Year contender, but with the atmosphere, the huge power shots from both and the clear desire this was a great round, and a fantastic ending to a fight we had expected to be over much, much earlier.
Roldan Aldea KO8 Mikhail Alexeev
For much of the week it seemed like Kenshiro's TKO over Jonathan Taconing, to retain the WBC Light Flyweight title, was going to take the honour of the best stoppage of the week. It wasn't a clear KO but it was a beautiful finish of a usually durable Filipino. Instead however it was Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea that stole honour for the best KO, and did so in relatively notable upset in Russia. The unheralded Aldea Aldea was cornered by the previously unbeaten Mikhail Alexeev in round before landing a gorgeous uppercut that split the guard of Alexeev who had his senses turned off. It took a second or two, but after a slight delay Alexeev would then crash face down onto the canvas. This was a beauty of a shot, and one of the most eye catchign KO's of 2019. Truly fantastic from Aldea.
Andy Hiraoka (14-0, 9)
It's fair to say that Andy Hiraoka has been almost demanding a chance to show what he can do in recent months, being very much a frustrated man on social media and a young fighter simply wanting a chance. This week he got a chance, and he showed what he could do, as he clearly out boxed former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo to claim his first major scalp. The youngster showed poise, skills, speed and a solid ring IQ to score his best win to date, and the hope will surely be for him to fight for a senior title in 2020
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39) Vs Keith Thurman (29-0-0-1, 22)
Despite having had a great week this past week the next few days are a bit lacking, though we do have 3 fights of real note featuring Asian fighters in the West. One of those will fee Filipino great Manny Pacquiao take on big talking American Keith Thurman, in a bout to unify the regular and super titles at Welterweight. The bout is a good one on paper and we're expecting to see both men being forced to answer big questions about their future. Sadly it's not the same bout it could have been a few years ago, but should still be a very interesting contest.
The middle portion of July is incredibly packed with a lot of action coming in just a few days, including 4 world title bouts, a regional title bout and several notable hopefuls. It really is set to be an insanely busy few days.
Unbeaten WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro looks to make his next defense as he battles against hard hitting Filipino challenger Jonathan Taconing, who enters as the mandatory challenger. At the moment Kenshiro is arguably the most under-rated world champion in the sport, and is certainly the most under appreciated fighter in Japan. This however is no gimme for the champion and Taconing brings a real air of danger with him thanks to his hard hitting southpaw style. On paper this may end up being the bout of the month, and is a true boxer Vs banger affair.
The first weekend of October is huge for fight fans who follow the Asian scene, as we covered in “What's to come in October - Part 1”. Thankfully there is still a smattering of action during the rest of the month.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2-2, 10) Vs Glenn Suminguit (21-3, 11)-Japan
The first of two OPBF title fights on October 11th will see Japan's Hiroaki Teshigawara and Filipino Glenn Suminguit battle for the vacant OPBF Super Bantamweight title, a title that was vacated by Hidenori Otake earlier this year. Teshigawara is rarely in a bad bout, due to his aggressive styles which is defensively open but yet very exciting. Suminguit is a relative unknown out side of the Philippines but should be a tricky assignment for the Japanese fighter given his smart movement and accurate counter punching.
Rikki Naito (20-2, 7) Vs Daishi Nagata (11-1-1, 5)
The second OPBF bout for the day will see Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito defending his belt against Daishi Nagata, in what will be Naito's second defense. The champion narrowly scraped a win last time out, against Jheritz Chavez, and showed that he can be hurt, especially late. Despite that Naito is a talented boxer-mover and will feel confident of a win here. Nagata on the other hand has reeled off 3 wins since his 2017 stoppage loss to Vladimir Baez and looks to have rebuild his form and confidence. We expect this will be a highly skilled battle between two light hitting but talented fighters.
Ryota Murata (14-1, 11) v Rob Brant (23-1, 16) – USA
In the US on October 20th we see two major Middleweight bouts. One of those will see WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders defending his title against Demetrius Andrade whilst another will see WBA “regular” champion Ryota Murata defending his title against Rob Brant. Sadly the Murata bout is the weaker of the two contests and is expected to serve as little more than a straight forward mandatory defense for Murata, as he continues to pursue Kazakh icon Gennady Golovkin. This really should be a straight forward win for Murata, who is seen as being levels above Brant, but the Japanese fighter will be looking to impress and not just do enough to win. He know that to add interest to the Golovkin fight he needs to look great and that will be in his mind when he steps in the ring.
Kenny Demecillo (14-4-2, 8) Vs Lee Haskins (35-4, 14)- Philippines
On October 21st we get another notable show, this time in the Philippines. One of the biggest bouts on the card will be an IBF Bantamweight title eliminator, with the winner becoming the future mandatory for the IBF title and likely getting a shot at the belt at the end of the WBSS. The bout will see Filipino fighter Kenny Demecillo facing off with English visitor Lee Haskins, in what will be one of the very first bouts where an Englishman has travelled to fight in a bout of note in the Philippines. The visitor will be favoured, given he is a former world champion, but give he is 35 and has had a long career this could where father time catches up with him. Demecillo on the other hand is 26 and comes into this out on the back of a career defining win over Vyacheslav Mirzaev in Russia. A very interesting match up.
Randy Petalcorin (29-2-1, 22) v Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29) – Philippines
Whilst the Demecillo Vs Haskins bout is an interesting one it pales, massively, compared to the main event on the same card, which will see Filipino Randy Petalcorin take on Nicaraguan Felix Alvarado for the vacant IBF Light Flyweight title. The Filipino has been hovering on the world scene for a while but due to various issues he hasn't been able to secure a world title fight until now, and is being pitted with arguably the most dangerous man in the division. Petalcorin is a sharp boxer-puncher with lovely movement and an intelligent ring style, though perhaps isn't quite as destructive as his record suggests. Alvarado on the other hand is one of the sports most fearsome punchers, and whilst a little bit crude and rough around the edges he is a real dangerman that no one will be in a rush to face off with. This could be the bout of the month, and promises a lovely battle between boxing skills and frightening power.
It's also worth noting that on October 12th there will be a show with 6 Japanese title eliminators on it. The bouts are only Japanese domestic level fights but could prove to be significant in the new year, with the winners all getting a chance to fight in the 2019 Champion Carnival.
In the last few years we've seen more and more bouts between Asian fighters and European fighters. Unfortunately it hasn't often been the best from the two continents colliding, but it has been a start with two continental forces of world boxing clashing and opening the doors for inter-continental growth between the scenes which have often been kept away from each other.
Sadly we have typically seen a lot of mismatches. These have included bouts like Naoya Inoue's recent defence against Yoan Boyeaux, Daigo Higa against Thomas Masson, Jerwin Ancajas against Michael Conlan, Scott Quigg against Hidenori Otake and Kal Yafai against Suguru Muranaka. Bouts where the favourite wasn't really given too much of a challenge by the under-dog.
Sure we have seen some interesting bouts, such as the two bouts between Ryota Murata and Hassan N'Dam and, on paper, the Lee Haskins Vs Ryosuke Iwasa bout, but they haven't been as regular as they really should be. And that's not due to a lack of possible match ups. In fact right now there is a real host of fantastic fights that could be made at the world level between the two continents. Here we'll look at some of those possible bouts.
At the moment there is two Flyweight bouts that have some talk behind them, and they would both be very interesting.
One of those is a proposed WBC title bout between destructive world champion Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) and unbeaten Welshman Andrew Selby (10-0, 5). This bout was spoken about during 2017, though Selby seemed to suggest that he was against travelling to Japan where Higa is now a break out star and backed by the financially solid Fuji TV. The bout would put the most destructive fighter at Flyweight against one of the most decorated European amateurs, and would be a real clash of styles between ultra-aggressive champion and silky outside fighting challenger.
With a high WBC ranking it does look like this would be the shortest route to a world title for Selby, but he would be up against arguably the best Flyweight on the planet, and would almost certainly have to travel.
The other bout, and one that has had a public call out of sorts, is a WBO title fight between Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) and 2-time Olympic bronze medal winner Paddy Barnes (5-0, 2). Interestingly if this bout was made it would see Kimura taking on a third Olympian, following stoppage wins over Zou Shiming and Toshiyuki Igarashi, and a win could see him continue what has been a really surprising run of results. Barnes had targeted former amateur rival Zou Shiming earlier in his career, but may now see the man who stopped his amateur nemesis as the man to fight.
Given that Barnes is 31 later this year he may not want to wait around long for a fight at world level and Kimura hasn't been a fighter making big purses so far. A large offer could get Kimura over to Ireland for the fight, though he has got other options, including a domestic showdown with 2-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka and may look to delay a showdown with Barnes for now.
In 2017 there was several obvious bouts to make at 115lbs. That's because we have a world champion from Europe and several from Asia. But for whatever reason we never saw them face off. Thankfully however not all the doors are shut here, despite the fact Naoya Inoue is leaving the division rather than continue to get frustrated at the other top fighters.
Arguably the most even of the match ups we could get here would be an IBF/WBA unification bout, with Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19) defending the IBF title against WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14). Both men seemed to turn down Inoue, and it'd be very hard to favour either man against WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40), but against each other they should make for a compelling contest. The bout shouldn't be too tricky to make, with both fighters looking to make a huge name for themselves this coming year. The two teams, Top Rank and Matchroom, have worked together in the past and both could see this as an opportunity to get their guy in a position to make big money.
Sadly lower weight unification bouts have long been a troublesome issue. Both fighters will want to be financially compensated for taking on another top rival, and with the talent in the division it may make more sense to milk a title for a little while longer. A bout between the two is one that we'd love, and we suspect most fans would love to see, but it may be that the two men simply have other plans and too many other options.
Having mentioned Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) a few times above it only makes sense to mention him here, seeing that he has stated his intent is to fight at Bantamweight in 2018. The “Monster” has been linked to pretty much every notable Bantamweight since mid-December.
Two of these options have some British link. One of those is WBO champion Zolani Tete (26-3, 21), who is South African but is promoted out of the UK and has began to build a cult status in the country. The bout has been spoken about by both teams and Inoue has stated he's willing to travel to the UK for the bout, showing his hunger for a big contest and a third divisional world title. The other British option would be a bout with the talented Northern Irishman Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9), the current WBA and IBF unified champion.
A bout with Tete seems the most likely given that the two teams are talking about the contest. However Inoue could get a unified title by beating Burnett, and get some revenge for the struggles he had at Super Flyweight. The one big spanner in the work for the Burnett bout may be Burnett's promoter Eddie Hearn, who seemed happy to keep Kal Yafai away from Inoue and would likely want to do the same for Burnett, unless life changing money was on offer for his man. Given that financial issue we're much more likely to see the Tete bout than the Burnett one.
Inoue isn't the only fighter moving up in 2018, another is Englishman Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1, 13). The former Bantamweight champion scored notable wins over Tomoki Kameda at Bantamweight and is now moving up to Super Bantamweight, which is stacked with Asian fighters. The amount of interesting match ups McDonnell could have at 122lbs really is huge, and he could have fights with someone like IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) or the skilled and sharp shooting Shingo Wake (23-5-2, 15).
For us though the bout that has the most interest here would be a bout between McDonnell and Filipino warrior Marlon Tapales (30-2, 13). The bout may not have the big name quality of others, but stylistically this would be a lot of fun. Both men can let their hands go, both have pretty good styles and when put under pressure McDonnell can be involved in some real thrillers, as his first bout against Liborio Solis was. Although not a star Tapales is a tough, come forward fighter and could well bring the best out of McDonnell in a back and forth war, with the winner well deserving of a world title fight, and a chance to become a 2-weight world champion.
Unification bouts feel natural for us fans, and there are few more enticing than a Middleweight clash between IBF/WBC/WBA Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33) and WBO counterpart Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12). The bout would leave us with an undisputed champion at 160lbs and would be a brilliant match up between two unbeaten men with very different styles.
On one hand Kazakh fighter Golovkin is one of the sports purest punchers, with thudding power, a chin of rock and a very high intensity pressure style. One the other hand Saunders is a southpaw boxer-mover who moves like a much smaller man, and at his best is one of the purest boxers in and around the division. The questions about the contest would be whether or not Golovkin could cut the ring off and break down Saunders, or whether the fleet footed Englishman could avoid the Kazakh for 12 rounds.
On a much lesser level we'd also love to see a clash between Irishman Jason Quigley (13-0, 10) and Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8). On paper this bout wouldn't get much attention in the build up but the action in the ring would be sensational, as would a bout between Nishida and Gary O'Sullivan (27-2, 19). If either of the Irish fighters are looking for someone with a fan friendly style they could do a lot worse than taking on the aggressive Nishida in a sure fire barn burner.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp and boxrec.com)
So 2018 is here and now, every fight from 2017 is done. What a perfect time to look at our 2017 Award winners, which as always are based around Asian fighters and the Asian fight scene.
Fighter of the Year
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai has long been one of our favourites with his wins over Yota Sato in 2013 and over Jose Salgado in 2015 proving that he belonged toward to be considered a genuinely top level Super Flyweight. He was however not expected to be any sort of a match up for Roman Gonzalez, the WBC champion and the man who was widely regarded as the #1 fighter pound for pound. Srisaket however went over to the US in March and dropped Gonzalez on route to winning a disputed decision. He then went back over to the US a few months later and shut the doubters up by stopping Gonzalez in a rematch.
However you want to paint it it was a year that took Srisaket from the eye of the hardcore fans to being one of the most notable little men in the sport, and the way he did it was a way that every fight fight fan should have been excited by.
Not only did he beat Gonzalez twice, but he did so as the under dog both times and will be rewarded with another Stateside bout as he is now scheduled to take on Juan Francisco Estrada in February.
Ken Shiro- The Japanese youngster fought three times in 2017 beating Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza. Wins over Lopez and Guevara were close and competitive bouts but the youngster essentially thrust himself on the world stage with those wins, before the win over Pedroza saw him take a slot on a TV broadcast and massively boost his standing in Japan. A fantastic year and one that leaves him on the verge of becoming a break out star.
Robbery of the Year
Ryota Murata Vs Hassan N'Dam I
A fighter being robbed at home is rare, but that's exactly what fans saw in May when Ryota Murata was some how beaten on the scorecards by Frenchman Hassan N'Dam. The French had been ruled down on one occasion, but it could have been several more, had tried to avoid a fight wand was repeatedly caught by right hands by the heavier handed and more aggressive Murata. Some how the fight was scored in favour of the visitor, a decision that even the French press disagreed with. The decision, which had been forgotten by some now, was so bad some of the judges from the bout were suspended by the WBA, who ordered a rematch almost immediately and had their president, Gilberto Mendoza publicly score the bout 117-110 to Murata.
The story did have a second chapter in October, with Murata avenging the loss and stopping N'Dam to claim the WBA Middleweight title at the second time of asking.
KO of the Year
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez II
Scoring a win over Roman Gonzalez was impressive when Srisaket did it the first time, fans, and Gonzalez, felt the Thai had been lucky. In the second bout however there was no doubting the outcome as Srisaket laid Gonzalez out for the count with a truly brutal left hook. The shot rendered Gonzalez out cold and the way the Nicaraguan body went limp as he went down was really a case of the lights being turned out on Gonzalez.
Whilst this may not been the most graphically impressive KO featuring an Asian fighter in 2017 the fact it came against Gonzalez really made it stand out, and helped silence the Thai's doubters in the process.
Kazuto Takesako Vs Shoma Fukumoto- This short but exciting bout was a war from the off and ended in brilliant style as Takesako landed a huge right hand that crumpled Fukumoto to the canvas. A brutal finish to what had been a viciously fought bout.
Masaru Sueyoshi Vs Allan Vallespin- Filipino fighter Allan Vallespin had travelled to Japan with a puncher's reputation and had some out with a lot of aggression against Sueyoshi. That pressure later came back to cost him as Sueyoshi landed a massive counter right hand that splattered Vallespin on to the canvas in an eye catching KO.
Takenori Ohashi Vs Kosuke Saka- Saka was making his first defense of the Japanese Featherweight title against the unheralded Ohashi. In round 5, after the clacker, Saka turned away thinking it was the bell and Ohashi went for the kill, finishing off his man in brutal fashion for one of the most bizarre and explosive KO's this year.
Upset of the Year
Sho Kimura Vs Zou Shiming
Going into 2016 Sho Kimura was an unknown. He was a man who had fought in just a single title fight, in which he claimed a regional WBO title. He had only beaten a handful of fighters with winning records and was really looking like a hand picked first challenge for the WBO Flyweight champion. Whilst fans may not have been impressed by Shiming they sure were aware of him, and with Shiming having home advantage it seemed clearly like Shiming would take home a decision and use the bout as a platform to face Kazuto Ioka in a huge bout. Kimura hadn't read he script and instead of being the patsy for Shiming he turned the bout into a platform to win the world title and make a real name for himself.
At the time it was a big upset, though Kimura has since notched another big win and doesn't appear to be the one hit wonder some had assumed.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez I
Kenichi Ogawa Vs Tevin Farmer
Yasuyuki Akiyama Vs Koki Tyson
Fight Of The Year
Takashi Miura Vs Miguel Roman
There were good fights in 2017 that it was hard to select a favourite, or a best. There were bouts that were action packed, others that were dramatic, some that were savage, some with pure intensity and others with momentum that swung back and forth and other that were high skilled chess matches. There was really something for everyone. For us the winner, albeit just, was the January clash between Takashi Miura and Miguel Roman in what was a WBC world title eliminator. The contest had two very talented, well matched fighters beating the stuffing out of each other, until Roman was eventually stopped in round 12. Prior to the knockout the two had inflicted unreal punishment on each other. At the time of the knockout Miura was leading by 5 points, 3 points and 1 with Roman having been dropped in rounds 10 and 11.
Sadly the bout does suffer from a typical issue with boxing, short term memory of fans. The bout, which was fought on January 28th has been forgotten by some, but is well worth a rewatch for fans who have forgotten has amazing it was.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez I, Takuya Kogawa Vs Masayuki Kuroda II, Milan Melindo Vs Hekkie Budler, Ryoichi Taguchi Vs Milan Melindo, Wanheng Menayothin Vs Tatsuya Fukuhara, Tatsuya Fukuhara Vs Moises Calleros, Wanheng Menayothin Vs Melvin Jerusalem, Jason Pagara Vs James Onyango,
Comeback of the Year (Fight)
Mark John Yap Vs Mentaro Masuda
Not often will we see a fighter being dropped 3 times in the opening round, stumble to his corner at the end of the round and yet storm back to win. That however is what OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap did back in July. He was dropped hard early in the round, Masuda went on the hunt and dropped him again as the two wildly traded on the ropes, and then again. By the time the bell went it looked like Yap was living on borrowed time, as he stumbled to his corner. Amazingly however Yap recovered, before stopping Masuda in round 4.
Ratchasai Sithsaihtong Vs Yutaka Oishi-Going into round 12 of their OPBF title fight Oishi, the defending champion, was in a clear lead. On one card he was up but 3, on another 5 and on the other he was leading 109-98. If he could make it to the final bell he'd have made a success defense of the title. Ratchasi however had other plans, and refused to just accept defeat, pulling off some last round heroics, stopping Oishi with less than 90 seconds of the bout left.
Prospect of the Year
Koki Inoue (4-0, 4 for the year)
The Inoue name is going to be a huge one in Japanese boxing for the next decade or so. There is, obviously, Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue, but also their Koki Inoue who had a fantastic 2017, even if he was frustrated by a lack of title fights, The destructive Kanagawan started the year with a 5th round TKO win over Mitsuyoshi Fujita, a Japanese ranked fighter. He followed that up with a blow out against Thai visitor Ni Wisoram, a corner retirement win over Cristiano Aoqui and a destruction of KBF champion Dong Hee Kim. His wins have opened up the door for OPBF or Japanese title fights in 2018 and he is certainly on the chase for bigger and better fights, just like his cousins.
Mark Anthony Barriga (5-0, 1 for the year)- Talented Filipino Barriga was busy in 2017, but the talented 24 year old only scored 1 big win from his 5 bouts, a shut out of Samartlek Kokietgym in China.
Ryota Yamauchi (2-0, 2 for the year)- Exciting Japanese Flyweight Yamauchi made his debut in a low key affair in June but shone in December when he battered Lester Abutan in 4 rounds. A real one to watch in 2018.
Junto Nakatani (4-0, 3 for the year)- Flyweight hopeful Nakatani had a second fantastic year, despite going under the radar. In 2016 he was the Flyweight Rookie of the Year and in 2017 he became the first ever Japanese Youth Flyweight champion.
(Images courtesy of the AFP, Japan Times, WBO Boxing and Boxmob.jp)
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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