This past week has been an incredible one in the grand scheme of things. We've had Asian fighters fighting for world titles on 3 different days, we've had a whole host of prospects, Japanese title bouts, two live streamed shows on Boxing Raise, more streamed action from Thailand and Taiwan and it really has been a week to remember. With that in mind it's been a really great week for our weekly awards, and an incredible hard one to decide in terms of some winners.
Fighter of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We suspect that there will be no argument at all with us selecting "The Monster" as our fighter of the week. He really was the talk of the boxing world through the last 7 days, not only in the build up to his WBSS semi-final bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez but also afterwards, with his 2nd round demolition of the Puerto Rican really being something very spectacular. Whilst we did feel that Rodriguez perhaps had an overly inflated reputation coming in to the bout there was no questioning Inoue's performance. He took a round to get a read on Rodriguez, then destroyed him to become the first ever Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe. This was the Monster announcing himself, and doing so in a way that leave no doubt about the Japanese star.
Performance of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
For the first time ever our Fighter of the Week, generally given to the fighter who scored the best win, and our Performance of the Week, the fighter who impressed us the most, are the same man. We won't bother to repeat ourselves, though we will say that if you've not yet seen the performance this was something amazing.
Despite Inoue picking up the double we will just add that the performances form Yusaku Kuga, Tsubasa Maruchi, Masayuki Kuroda and Reiya Konishi were all very impressive and all would likely have been a serious contender had we not had the Monster do what he did in Glasgow.
Moruti Mthalane Vs Masayuki Kuroda
We loved the rematch between Ryuichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, and the thriller between Tatsuya Yanagi and Koichi Aso, but the reality is that Monday's world title fight between Moruti Mthalane and Masayuki Kuroda was a level above the other bouts. This was something to behold, a 12 round war, with the skills of Mthalane put against the heart and desire of Kuroda. The champion retained his IBF Flyweight title relatively comfortably in the end, but that cannot take away from the fact that the bout was sensational. It was a really, really exciting, well fought contest that deserves to mentioned as a FOTY contender
Ryoichi Tamura vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
There was so many amazing rounds this past week. We had things like Yosuke Fujihara v Naoya Okamoto, round 3, Koichi Aso v Tatsuya Yanagi, round 7, and and several rounds from Moruti Mthalane vs Masayuki Kuroda bout. For us however the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga had the best round of the week. It's difficult to pick one, though we're edging with round 6, which was the round where the fight really came alive. Tamura, who was losing the bout quite clearly after 5 rounds, picked up his pace and we ended up with a 3 minute fire fight, that began the second half of a sensational fight. This was the sort of bout that we love, for the action, but hate knowing that there's a chance neither man will ever be the same. A truly brutal fight, with some truly amazing rounds.
Kenta Nakagawa TKO7 Ryosuke Nasu
For such an amazing, action packed week, we didn't really have many standout KO's on show. Whilst Naoya Inoue's stoppage of Emmanuel Rodriguez was impressive Rodriguez wasn't out cold. Arguably the best of the bunch was Kenta Nakagawa's brilliant left hand against Ryosuke Nasu, that left Nasu out in Nakagwa's corner. The bout hadn't been thje mopst notable but the stoppage was huge and really showed that, despite his limitations, Nakagawa can bang at this level.
Ryusei Kawaura (6-0, 4)
If we're being totally honest the Prospect of the Week was one of the harder categories this past week, even hard than the Fight and Round of the Week. We had notable wins for not only our winner, Ryusei Kawaura, but also Batyrzhan Jukembayev, Shakhobidin Zoirov, Elnur Abduraimov, Eric Pen and Tsubasa Maruchi. For us Kawaura's win over Renoel Pael, and the manner of that win, was what won him the award, but in reality it was really close and we got a real glimpse at some amazing talent this past week, talent that will make a mark at a much higher level in the near future future.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) vs Sho Kimura (18-2-2, 11)
As with the week we've just had there is a lot to look forward to over the coming 7 days. For us the highlight, at least on paper, is the WBA "regular" Light Flyweight title bout between Carlos Canizales and Sho Kimura. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and a true FOTY contender. Canizales, looking to make his second defense of the title, is the natural Light Flyweight, and is a strong powerful guy at 108lbs, whilst Kimura is dropping down from Flyweight for this. If Kimura makes the weight safely we should be in for something truly, and gruesomely violent.
We mentioned them at the start of this but they need mentioning again, Boxing Raise were tremendous. They gave us two live shows, one of which was totally free whilst one was for their members. The first of those shows was arguably the show of the week and featured a trio of amazing match ups, once again showing the level of service their cards have.
TVK were a real mixed bag, winning the first ever "Half assed" award. Whilst they were big winners on Monday, live streaming the IBF Flyweight title bout between Masayuki Kuroda and Moruti Mthalane, we are really disappointed that they've not uploaded the bout to their youtube channel for a chance to rewatch what was a FOTY candidate...come on folks!
Masafumi Ando, who scored a huge upset by stopping former Japanese Welterweght champion Toshio Arikawa. Ando was expected to be taken out but completely ripped up the script to score a career defining win, and prove that even with his poor record he can still be a banana skin to much more well known fighters.
The action really doesn't stop this month, and the final third of the month gives us 5 world title bouts along with a lot of other great action as we really end the month with a great flurry of fights.
Whilst March started somewhat quietly it certainly ends with a crescendo of action, thanks to a huge flurry of fights in the last week or so of the month. While they are of varying quality they do come thick and fast!
Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1) Vs Claudevan Sese (7-0-3, 1) - Hyogo, Japan
In a meeting of unbeaten fighters touted Japanese prospect Yuki Yamauchi battles against unbeaten Filipino Claudevan Sese. We're bit on Yamauchi, and this looks like a really good test for the former Japanese amateur standout, even if Sese hasn't shown much in terms of power through his career. It's not a huge bout, by any stretch, but we do love seeing touted amateurs tested and this should be an ideal test for Yamauchi.
Sergey Lipinets (14-1, 10) Vs Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17) - Maryland, USA
Kazakh-Russian Sergey Lipinets looks to continue the rebuilding process following his 2018 IBF world title loss to Mikey Garcia. In the opposite corner is another former world champion, Lamont Peterson, himself needing to rebuild from a loss to Errol Spence. This isn't an amazing match up in terms of names but in the ring the styles should gel to provide us with something very exciting and very enjoyable, with the volume and strength of Peterson against the explosive power and ruggedness of Lipinets.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) - Tokyo, Japan
The potential hidden gem of the month will take place on March 27th and will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro defending his title against Slver champion Takuya Watanabe. Both of these men are very talented boxers, both can be dragged into a war and both can put on a show. Mishiro is the more natural talent, with amateur polish and the promising prospect tag, but Watanabe is a gritty veteran who has seen it all before. This really could be one of the best bouts of the month.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) II - Thailand
After several changes in regards to the date, we now finally see the rematch between unbeaten WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara. We though their first bout was incredibly close, actually feeling as if Fukuhara's work rate should have earned him a win, but since then the Japanese fighter has failed to shine. Wanheng however has moved past Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record and is unlikely to be just giving up the WBC title any time soon. An interesting match up that should tell us a lot about the future of both men.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) Vs Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5) - Shanghai, China
Touted Japanese youngster Ryota Yamauchi takes a huge step up in class, in his first bout away from Japan, as he battles world ranked Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi. The Japanese prospect has impressed from the off, with a couple of notable wins already, but this is a massive leap up in what will be his first bout scheduled for 12 rounds, and to do that in enemy territory shows his confidence. Tuolehazi isn't the most polished of fighters, but he's strong, makes fights ugly and is riding a good winning streak into this, including an excellent win over Jayr Raquinel.
Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) Vs Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) - Shanghai, China
Another China Vs Japan bout will see Baishanbo Nasiyiwula take on Yusuke Konno, in what should be a chance for Baishanbo to look good. The Chinese hopeful looked less than brilliant against Ernesto Espana last time out, but has shown plenty to get excited about in the past, with a usually fun style, a rugged toughness and a dislikable streak of mean arrogance. Konno looks like the clear under-dog on paper but he's been enjoying a solid run of performances coming into this and will feel confident enough of over-coming the Chinese hopeful.
Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (60-10-2, 24) - Shanghai, China
Arguably the biggest fight on the card, in terms of name value, is also the biggest mismatch, with former world champion Sho Kimura battling against Thai veteran Pigmy Kokietgym, himself a former world title challenger. For Kimura, who is still hugely popular in China, this will be his first bout since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka in 2018. Pimgy is a veteran, but a veteran who has lost 7 by stoppage and is already 37 years old. The Thai has gone on too long, and is likely to be used as little more than a confidence booster for Kimura.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) Vs Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) - Pennsylvania, USA
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov takes on Japanese puncher Keita Obara in an IBF Welterweight eliminator, to earn a shot at the title later in the year. The unbeaten Uzbek is the more naturally gifted boxer and the more rounded fighter, with a good boxing brain, good movement and speed, but he is a relatively light punching fighter compared to Obara, who is technically less impressive but a solid hitter. This should make for an interesting dynamic, and both will see this as a potentially career defining bout, leading to a massive fight in the near future.
Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) Vs Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) - Kanagawa, Japan
Also at the very end of the month will be the next OPBF Minimumweight title defense from unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura, who will be taking on limited but tough Filipino challenger Lito Dante. On paper this looks like a total mismatch, but in reality it should be a lot more competitive than it looks. Not to say we don't Koura will win, but he will have to work for the win against the very under-rated Dante, who has never been stopped and has faced world class fighters numerous times during his 29 fight career.
This pas week hasn't been the biggest news week of the year, but has been a pretty interesting one with returns, retirements and a number ob bout announcements, as well as some punishments from the JBC.
Kuroda to face Mthalane on May 13th
The biggest bout to be announced this week is the IBF mandatory Flyweight title bout between South African world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) and mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之]. The bout was known to be in the works from the start of the year, with Kuroda have been assured a shot prior to Mthalane's defense in December. It's a good match up, and whilst the champion will be favoured Kuiroda is a veteran challenger who will know that a loss here ends any hope he has of ever winning a world title.
Yamauchi Vs Tuolehazi, Konno Vs Baishanbo
A pair of WBA International title bouts, set to take place on March 30th, were announced for a Shanghai show. One bout will see Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) [今野裕介] battle Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) [拜山波] for Baishanbo's title at 140lbs whilst the other bout is an even more interesting contest between unbeaten youngster Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) [山内涼太] and world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). We're still expecting 1 more bout to be announced for this show, but two bouts we now have are fantastic.
Sho Kimura to return in China in Spring!
China won't just play host to the two WBA International title fights mentioned above but also to the return of former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔], who is set to fight "in Spring" in China. It's unclear if he will be on the same show as the two bouts above, though it is known that he will be continuing his career and despite losing to Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成] last year he isn't hanging up the gloves. Fingers crossed that we get more news on Kimura's return next week!
Akira Yaegashi's return set for April 8th
Popular Japanese warrior Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) [八重樫 東] will be back in action as the headline attraction of an April 8th show at the Korakuen Hall. At the moment the full details of his bout haven't been announced, though it's expected to be a "world title prelude" over 10 rounds at Super Flyweight. Yaegashi is one of the most popular Japanese fighters, due to his style, and we're glad to see him back in the ring, though we do worry about his health if he does fight for a world title.
WP Boxing to return in March
The excellent WP Boxing, from Thai television channel Work Point, will also be making a return, with their next show being set for March. WP Boxing raised the standard for Thai broadcasts last year, having high quality matches, a sizable audience and a professionalism rarely seen in other Thai shows, so we're really looking forward to seeing what WP Boxing brings in 2019.
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo signs Top Rank deal
Uzbek Welterweight contender Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 6) [Қудратилло Абдуқаҳҳоровдан] has long been linked to an IBF Welterweight world title eliminator with Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) [小原 佳太], with that bout set to be set for March 30th. The news this week is that the UZbek hopeful has now inked a deal with American promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank, who will promote his next 3 bouts, including the March 30th contest.
Erika Hanawa retires
Just days after losing in her second world title bout Japan's Erika Hanawa (10-4, 4) [塙英理加] handed in a retirement notice to the JBC. Hanawa had really put in an excellent performance against WBC female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (15-5-3-1, 6) but had made it clear that she would retire if she lost. We're hoping she reconsiders her decision in the future, given that she is only 28, though for now at least that's the end of her short but notable career. As well as he losses in world title bouts she would win a couple of regional titles and mix top company during her 14 fight career.
Nietes Vs Palicte purse bids set
The WBO have laid down the law, and have announced that the purse bids for the WBO Flyweight world title bout, between defending champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) and mandatory challenger Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) will take place on February 28th. The rumour is that Nietes' team were looking else where for bouts, but the WBO seem to be wanting to rule with an iron fist this year, and this is the second time they have done something to stamp their authority. The odds are that Nietes will vacate if the money for this bout isn't as attractive as it is for other contests, however we do expect to see the purse bids take place and for Nietes' team to weigh up their options before deciding what's next.
JBC officials punished for time keeping error
The JBC announced punishments for 3 different officials this week due to a time keeping error back in December in an OPBF title fight. The toughest punishment was given to the time keeper, who has been given an indefinite suspension, whilst others have been cautioned. It's clear that the JBC saw this error, or rather the number of errors, as seriously harmful to the sport, and it's interesting to see they have taken such a harsh line. In a way it's admirable, though it is perhaps setting a standard that other countries won't follow.
In September we were lucky enough to strike a deal where we worked alongside CBC in Japan to bring the fans the fantastic FOTY contender between Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura live. On paper the bout looked brilliant but it easily exceeded our expectations, going from what we suspect would be a very good fight and was instead a real instant classic.
Prior to us reaching out to CBC it seemed like the bout would be limited in scope to only having a live audience in the Chukyo region of Japan.
Those who know Japanese boxing they will be well aware that the region isn't one of the major boxing markets, like Toyko and Osaka are. Instead the area has a small, but solid, boxing market, with the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Kento Hatanaka really being the rising local names. In the 1990's Kento's father Kiyoshi Hatanaka was the big name and he's now the key promoter in the region, and actually has his shows on CBC.
When we approached CBC it did take a while for them to get back to us and it seemed like they were unsure what they were going to do in regards to doing an international broadcast of the fight. I suspect our original request may have caught them off-guard. Thankfully though they took the request seriously and the Producer for International Co-production got in touch with us, which eventually lead us discussing boxing and quickly striking an agreement to show the WBO Flyweight title bout, for free, to anyone outside of Japan. This was a massive coup for us, and whilst the bout was free on youtube the fact we played a part in making it accessible was massive for us as a website.
We'll admit that prior to the stream actually going live we were worried. We spent over a week trying to raise as much interest as we could. We knew fight fans in the West were interested in Kosei Tanaka's rise through the ranks, as he attempted to tie Vasyl Lomachenko's record for fewest fights to become a 3-weight champion. We also knew Western fans wanted to see more of Sho Kimura, following his 3 big wins coming in to the fight. We also knew that American fans were having to stay up incredibly late to watch the bout, whilst European fans may have booked the day off work.
There was genuine fear that things would go down, that the stream would be buggy and poor, that the feed would pause at a key moment. That fear turned out to be incredibly misguided. From the moment the live countdown stopped to the post-fight interview with Tanaka the stream was amazing. It was high quality from the off, with no issues at all, it was smooth and worked perfectly. The fact their was no commentary at all was amazing, and helped us all soak up the atmosphere of an amazing fight. It really was fantastic and the only complaint we can even think about making is that we didn't get the chance to see some of the undercard as well.
In this day and age of paid apps and internet subscription services it's kinda funny that one of the very best bouts of the year was put on a free international stream that no one paid for.
Prior to the stream going live we had set a relatively respectable target of 300 live viewers. Compared to the numbers possible for a high profile bout on a weekend in the US or UK that's a tiny number, but given the day and time of the fight and the fact it was two Japanese fighters fighting in a Flyweight bout we thought it was a fair target. We never told anyone at CBC that we would see that number as a success.
Amazingly however it peaked at well over double that number and over the days that followed, it ended with nearly 10,000 views, on the official video. That, to us, easily out did any expectation we had. We have to thank CBC for putting the stream on, and you, the readers of this, for their support of boxing in Japan and hopefully that support will continue and that Tanaka's next bout will also be available for free.
Earlier this month we looked at some of the most notable bouts of September to feature an Asian fighter. Here will be the second, and final, part covering the notable bouts which are set to take place from September 22nd too September 30th and there really is some great fights set to take place over the last week or so of the month.
Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22) Vs Vince Paras (13-1, 11) – Philippines
Hard hitting Filipino fighters collide as former 2-time world title challenger Jonathan Taconing defends his WBC International Light Flyweight title against youngster Vince Paras. Both of these men have fought at world level, have exciting styles and a lot of power, so we're expecting serious fire works here!
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7) – Japan
WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura seeks his third defense as he takes on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka, who is looking to become a 3-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! This is set to pit will against skills and we're expecting both men to have their moments in nail biting all-Japanese world title bout.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) Vs Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2, 8) – Japan
Former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi begins his Light Flyweight campaign as he takes on unbeaten Indonesian Tibo Monabesa. This is a tough first bout at a new one for Kyoguchi whilst Monabesa will know that a win here would almost certainly open the door to a world title fight for him. A really significant contest.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1, 11) vs Suthat Kalalek (12-9, 11)- Japan
If we did this list based sole on how competitive they were this bout wouldn't be here, but with the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Heavyweight titles on the line the bout between Kyotaro Fujimoto and Suthat Kalalek needs to be mentioned. The contest is a significant one, even if we do strongly favour the champion.
Yasuyuki Akiyama (12-7-1, 9) Vs Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (10-3, 9) – Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF title bout will see Yasyuki Akiyama defending the titles against hard hitting challenger Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa. Akiyama won the titles last year, in somewhat controversial fashion, but this will be his first defense and comes against a man he narrowly beat 18 months ago
Wulan Tuolehazi (8-3-1, 4) v Jayr Raquinel (10-0-1, 7) – China
In form Chinese hopeful Wulan Tuolehazi takes a big step up in class to face OPBF Flyweight champion Jayr Raquinel for the WBC Silver Flyweight strap. Raquinel has impressed this year, twice scoring stoppage wins in Japan to win and then defend the OPBF title but will be taking on a man in the form of his career.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20) Vs Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7) – USA
IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas continues to to face less than stellar competition as he defends his belt against little known challenger Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Ancajas is one of the best fighters at 115lbs and this will be his 6th defense of the belt, but it does feel like Top Rank are matching him far too softly with bouts like this.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (2-0, 1) Vs TBA – USA
On the same card as Ancajas' bout with Barrios we'll see the US debut of former Kazakh amateur standout Janibek Alimkhanuly. Sadly his opponent for the contest isn't yet known, though we do have a feeling that fans will be very excited about the Egis Klimas managed boxer-puncher.
Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-0, 4) – Japan
OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura looks to record his third defense as he takes on fellow unbeaten youngster Daiki Tomita. This has the potential to be one of the best bouts of the month and could, potentially, lead to a world title fight for the winner. The edge in power and competition is with Koura but Tomita cannot be over-looked here!
Yuko Kuroki (18-5-1, 8) Vs Saemi Hanagata (14-7-4, 7) III- Japan
On the same card in Japan fans will get an IBF Atomweight title fight with Yuko Kuroki battling against Saemi Hanagata, in what will be their 3rd bout. So far Hanagata is leading the series, winning the first bout before the two fought to a draw. Since then both have proven to be world class fighters and this should be action packed from the first bell to the last.
Muhamad Ridhwan (11-0, 8) Vs Paulus Ambunda (26-2, 11) – Singapore
In Singapore local fans will get the chance to see their best prospect Muhamad Ridhwan take a massive step up in class as he faces former world champion Paulus Ambunda in a bout for the IBO Super Bantamweight title. Ridhwan is a talent, and should be favoured over the shopworn Ambunda, but at 30 he really does need to kick on if he wins here.
Takuya Watanabe (34-8-1, 19) Vs Paiboon Lorkham (19-10, 8) – Taiwan
In Taiwan we see the biggest show in the countries history, headlined by a contest between the teak tough Japanese fighter Takuya Watanabe and Thailand's Paiboon Lorkham. The bout, for the OPBF Silver Super Featherweight title, is expected to be a straight forward win for Watanabe but is still a massive deal for boxing in Taiwan.
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)
It's fair to say that 2017 has been one of the best years for boxing fans in a long time, that is perhaps even more true if you're either a Japanese fight fan or someone who follows the Japanese scene incredibly closely.
We're not saying that due to the wars and great fights Japanese boxing had during the year, but more based on the number of fighters who had genuine break out years. There was fighters who really exceeded all expectations and they have helped lay the ground work for what should be an incredible year.
Here we take a look at a number of those fighters, who in some cases were highly regarded prospects, and in other cases were relative unknowns.
In total Higa fought 17 rounds this year, having fought just 38 prior, and became arguably the new face at Flyweight. His style is thrilling, his fan base is growing and given his age he could have a very long reign at the top. His next defense is scheduled for February and there's no reason why he can't 3, or even 4 defenses into 2018 as he looks to distinguish himself as the elite fighter at Flyweight. He has an ultra aggressive style that is always so impressive to see and incredibly heavy hands.
He did however finish the year with a sterling performance as he stopped the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago in what was a truly one-sided beat down by the Watanabe man, stopping Buitrago in the 8th round, when Robert Ramirez Jr finally intervened with a mercy stoppage. He'll now concentrate on building in 2018 but to have claimed his first 2 titles and moved from a 5 fight novice to a world champion in 2017 has been remarkable.
The plan now for the champion is to make his third defense in early 2018, facing off with Ganigan Lopez in a rematch of May's bout, and we're expecting that to be on live TV. His win over Pedroza and post fight interview should have been enough to convince Fuji not to hide him on a satellite channel and hopefully he'll manage to grow his profile even more in 2018, whilst continuing to develop his skills.
In December had the chance to make a name for himself at home, and took that as he defeated mandatory challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi in 9 rounds to record his first defense. Igarashi, a former WBC champion, had some moments early on but in the end the pressure and surprisingly heavy hands of the champion broke him down, with Igarashi's face being a mess and his body essentially giving in to the ever aggressive man from the Aoki gym.
To have gone from total obscurity to having featured on huge shows in both China and Japan, having had TV coverage in both and having impressed a televised audience in both it's hard to argue with Kimura being the biggest Japanese break out of the year. He wasn't a touted prospect going in to the year, only really the most hardcore of Japanese fans would have known much about him, but to end the year with wins over Shiming and Igarashi is incredibly impressive and he is worthy of whatever big fights come his way in 2018.
Whilst Inoue is currently in the world rankings we're not expecting to see him get a world title fight in 2018. What we are expecting to see from him is a lot excitement and hopefully he will be able to climb up the rankings and move to a potential title shot for 2019. Fighting at 154lbs he's in a tough division to make a mark in, but there's no reason who he can't crawl up the rankings towards a big bout, or a potential domestic showdown with the teak tough Yoshihiro Kamegai, in what would be a very interesting clash of styles.
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