The idea of our "Introducing..." articles wasn't just to talk about the brightest prospects in Asia, and more specifically Japan, but instead we wanted to shine a light on young fighters we want fans to be aware of. Of course usually this will be prospects, but sometimes we want to shine a light on someone we just enjoy watching, or a novice that is worthy of some attention. Today we want to shine that light on Ryugo Ushijima (3-0-1, 2).
Ushijima isn't likely to be a major star of the future, in fact being totally honest if Ushijima wins a Japanese title we would be pleasantly surprised and very happy for his success. Whe he will be however is fun to watch, highly entertaining and someone we suspect will be a fixture on the Japanese scene for years to come.
Ushijima debuted last year, at the age of 17, and did so a little above the Super Bantamweight division. Since then his frame has added a few pounds and he is now a fully fledged Featherweight. At just 18 years old however we suspect he'll fill out further and his 5'10" frame really is one that could make for a good sized Lightweight, or even Light Welterweight, in the future.
In his debut Ushijima struggled past Kento Nakano in a very competitive 4 round bout in July 2018. He would fight again almost 3 months later, scoring a super quick blow out win over Tomoyuki Hosaka, in just 20 seconds. For Boxing Raise subscribers this was the first time Ushijima had had a bout that was watchable for those not in the venue watching live, and he left an instant impression, dropping Hosaka face first. Hosaka wasn't out cold, but was wobbling when he got to his feet and forced the referee to halt the action.
Whilst Uchijima's second bout was on Boxing Raise it was his third bout that really caught our attention, with the youngster battling against fellow novice Shota Ogasawara on a card televised live on G+ way back in February. This was the bout made us really take note of UShijima, who looked really good for such a young novice in the first round. In round 2 Ogasawara managed to change the tone of the fight and dropped the youngster with a short, sharp left hand. Ushijima was clearly hurt and Ogasawara went for the kill, though the youngster's heart and desire kept him in the bout despite some hairy moments, before he turned things around himself. With only seconds left in the round he landed a thunderbolt to drop Ogasawara and finish the bout.
Since beating Ogasawara on a live televised bout Ushijima has fought just once, with this bout being available on the A-Sign youtube channel. This bout saw the teenager take on Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of Koki, Daiki and Tomoki, and score a draw in a Rookie of the Year preliminary bout. Had Kameda not had his surname there is a good chance that Ushijima would have moved on in the Rookie of the Year, with Kameda utilising a negative style against the youngster.
At the moment Ushijima is pencilled into fight against on September 13th, against Satoru Goto. On paper this is his toughest bout to date, though a win could end being his final bout before heading into 6 rounders.
Watching Ushijima it's clear that the Hachioji Nakaya gym have a natural talent on their hands, but someone who clearly needs serious time, development and guidance to develop his talent. He has a lot to work with, but does need to be allowed to mature physically and mentally before being tested too hard. His defense certainly needs tightening, but if he can do that then there is very, very bright for Ushijima.
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.
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)
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.
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