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!
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)
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