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.
Over the last few year we have seen top Japanese prospects flooding the lower weight classes, and it's genuinely becoming harder and harder to spot who will go all the way, and who will fall short.
One of the most highly touted of those coming through is Teiken promoter youngster Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1), who fights in his third professional bout on July 12th and is looking like a prospect who could go a very long way and become one of the future faces of the Teiken gym.
The 23 year old from Tokyo really came to the attention of the hardcore Japanese fans as an amateur where he ran up a brilliant 59-12 (16) record. That record included wins over Kosei Tanaka and Takuma Inoue, beating both in the same tournament in 2013 and some international experience, fighting in a tournament in Taipei in 2013. Given that sort of amateur background there was clearly a lot of interest in Iwata when he eventually decided to turn professional.
Unlike many Japanese fighters Iwata made his debut in the US, doing so on December 8th 2018 when he defeated Joel Bermudez at the StubHub Center in Carson. Not only did Iwata debut on US soil, but he did so on the final HBO show, before the American TV giant stepped away from boxing. It was a huge stage for his debut, even if he was buried way down the card, and it seemed like Iwata didn't really shine as many had hoped. He got the win, but the performance wasn't mind blowing, especially given his amateur credentials.
Having had his debut Iwata then turned his attention back home and earned a B class JBC license in early 2019, having signed up with the Teiken Gym in Japan. Having passed his B class test he made his Japanese debut in May, defeating the 2018 All Japan Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama over 6 rounds. This time around we saw what Iwata could really do, with the Japanese youngster showing touches of genius with his movement, his jab and his speed. It wasn't the most aggressive or exciting of performances but it was a brilliant showcase of his boxing skills and his boxing brains.
Whilst there are still a lot of questions for Iwata to answer, he has shown, in just 2 bouts, that he is a smart, talented fighter, with excellent skills, good stamina, a great boxing brain, fantastic speed and a stunning jab. He has the tools to go a very, very long way, but will obvious have bigger tests of those skills as his career develops.
We're hoping to see him being a given a test next time out, with his return pencilled in for July 12th, as part of a major card in Osaka. At the time of writing his opponent for that bout hasn't been named, though the bout will be another 6 rounder with Iwata likely to move into 8 rounders sooner, rather than later and from there on we expect to see the youngster answering questions and impressing us as he heads towards title fights and major glory.
We've finally seen the end of April and entered May, a month set to be one of the most hectic and crazy of the year. The move from April to May is certainly an exciting one, and this past week has certainly seen action pick up with a host of notable bouts featuring Asian fighters. We've already had some fantastic fights on US pay TV, Japanese streaming services and for free on Youtube. Boxing is certainly picking up and doing so fast!
Fighter of the Week
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21)
After a couple of disappointing performances Filipino world champion Jerwin Ancajas needed to shine, he needed to re-excite fans and show what he could do when he was on point. This past Saturday he got the perfect chance to show fans, and really did all he was asked of. He dominated mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai of Japan in a highly impressive fashion, forcing the doctor to save the challenger in at the start of round 7. Although Funai was the perfect foil for Ancajas it was the type of performance that reminds people what the Filipino can do, and why he should be regarded as a top fighter in one of the sports toughest divisions.
Performance of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4)
Whilst our Fighter of the week was a Filipino who stopped a Japanese fighter our performance of the week came from a Japanese fighter who dominated a Filipino. once beaten Japanese fighter travelled to the Philippines and put on a show, beating Al Toyogon to claim the WBA Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title. This was Sagawa's first bout outside of Japan, and his first fight at Super Featherweight, but he fought like a man determined to win, dominating the middle and later sections of the fight after a competitive start. Although Sagawa should have been on the map of fight fans before the bout, this win was certainly something that will get more fans talking about him.
Taiki Minamoto Vs Reiya Abe
Their was some real contenders for fight of the week, but for us the Japanese Featherweight title bout between Taiki Minamoto and takes the award. The fight had everything! There was drama early, with Abe being dropped in each of the first 2 rounds, it had heart, as Abe battled back from his poor start and Minamoto fought through a badly swollen eye, it had skill, from both fighters, and it was so close to call that the draw fight entirely fair. It wasn't an all out war but was a marvellous 10 round domestic title fight that showed what both could do and left fans wanting more. Whether we get a rematch or not is unclear, though it certainly appears to be something fans want. If a rematch doesn't happen it's likely due to Minamoto moving up weight and if he adds himself to the regional mix at 130lbs then that's not going to be a bad thing either!
Ryo Sagawa Vs Al Toyogon (round 11)
After being out boxed for 6 straight rounds Al Toyogon knew he had to turn things around, in a big way, and he came out fighting in the penultimate round of their bout. Sagawa was willing to respond and we got 3 minutes of brilliant action, with the Filipino giving all he had into trying to take down Sagawa. The bout was a little bit one sided overall, but this round really stood out as being something very special, and was one of the few where they both went for it. This was sustained action from start to end. A fantastic round!
Sadly their was no KO of note this past week, though we were very impressed by the shot from Kudura Kaneko that dropped Rikuto Adachi, who was stopped when he got to his feet rather than clean KO'd.
Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1)
The prospect of the week was one of the toughest to pick this week. Their was great performances from so many young fighters, such as Kudura Kaneko, impressive debuts for former amateur standouts Criz Russu Laurente and Criztian Pitt Laurente and Hinata Maruta. The most impressive however was Shokichi Iwata, who totally schooled 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama. This was a sensational domestic debut from Iwata and it is going to be a very exciting journey to see how far he can go. Notably he revealed he only showed 20% of what he feels he's capable of, if there's another 80% to go then we really do have another Japanese super talent ready to make a name for themselves.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23)
We all love a good shoot out and the upcoming OPBF Bantamweight title bout between Keita Kurihara and Warlito Parrenas is expected to be a full on shoot out, with both men believing in their power more than their boxing skills. We're not expecting a display of boxing IQ and nuances defense, but we are expecting a thrilling war for as long as this one lasts.
It's fair to say that May is typically a busy month in world boxing, with things picking up globally. It's with that in mind that we feel we don't really need to say that the month is going to be a hectic in terms of Asian boxers, with a host of notable fights taking place through the month. Here we look at the first part of the month, and it is set to be a huge first week for the month of May.
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) Vs Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
The first title bout takes place on May 1st and it's a brilliant match up, pitting hard hitting Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto up against slick southpaw Reiya Abe, in a mandatory defense of the title. Minamoto will be looking for his second defense, and will be hoping to putt in a performance more a kin to his title winning victory than his first defense, which was a poor performance. Abe on the other hand will be looking to extend his impressive winning run and make the most of his first title opportunity.
Hinata Maruta (8-1-1, 7) vs Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4)-Tokyo, Japan
On the same show as Minamoto's bout with Abe is a brilliant contest between highly tipped prospect Hinata Maruta and the experienced Coach Hiroto. Maruta is looking to build on an excellent win over Tsuyoshi Tameda late last year and move towards a potential title shot later in the year, possibly even against the winner of the Minamoto Vs Abe bout. Hiroto on the other hand is looking for redemption after essentially being kicked out of the Kadoebi gym following issues making weight last year. If Hiroto is up for this it could be very, very interesting.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) Vs Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9) - Osaka, Japan
We often over-look the Japanese Welterweight scene, but the reality is that it is pretty interesting, and looks set to become more interesting in the coming years thanks to some good emerging young talent. Two of those talented youngsters clash here in a battle for the JBC Youth Welterweight title. In one corner is unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko, an Afghan-Japanese fighter who really impressed last year when he stopped Toshio Arikawa. In the other corner is Hiroki Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi, talented boxer-puncher. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and the winner will likely find themselves in the mix to face newly crowned national champion Yuki Nagano in the near future.
Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11) Vs Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4) II - Tokyo, Japan
The second Japanese title fight of the month will see Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi defending his title against his mandatory challenger, Ken Osato. This is a rematch of a 2018 encounter that saw Osato scoring a knockdown before being stopped himself and we're again excepting a competitive contest. Since their first bout both have improved, with Osato gaining some valuable experience and building his confidence whilst Sueyoshi has fought to a draw with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The champion will be favoured, but he is in with a live challenger
Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) vs Daiki Kameyama (7-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
On the same card we'll also see touted prospect Shokichi Iwata make his Japanese debut, taking on 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama in a 6 round contest. Iwata made his professional debut in the US, among some solid fanfare, but this is a big step up in class and and Kameyama has won 4 in a row, including the Rookie of the Year title, winning that in December. This might look amazing on paper, but we're expecting a very good bout.
Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) vs Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) - Metro Manila, Philippines
At the same type of time as the Tokyo show there will be an ESPN5 broadcast in the Philippines headlined by an amazing match up between WBC ABC Silver Super Featherweight champion Al Toyogon and talented Japanese fighter Ryo Sagawa. This has the ingredients of an excellent match up, with Toyogon's exciting but crude offense against Sagawa's skilled boxing, but somewhat questionable toughness. This may not get the attention the Japanese card gets, but could be an even better contest.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) - California, USA
Another big bout of note on May 4th sees attention turn to California as IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas takes on mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai. For the champion this will be his 7th defense of the title, and follows a couple of disappointing performances including a forgetable win over Jonas Sultan and a draw with Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Funai on the other hand will be getting his first world title bout, and also having his first bout outside of Japan. If Ancajas fights like he has in his last 2 bouts this could be very, very tough for the champion, though he will clearly be favoured over the little known challenger.
Riku Kano (14-4-1, 7) Vs Mektison Marganti (5-10-1, 3) - Hyogo, Japan
Former world title challenger Riku Kano battled to repair his career when he fights for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. The talented Kano has had a tough time in recent years, losing to the likes of Katsunari Takayama and Shin Ono, but will feel confident of picking up a win here against limited Indonesian Mekitson Marganti, who has interestingly shared the ring with Wanheng Menayothin. This is a must win for Kano, and in fact he needs to win and look good.
Hikaru Matsuoka (15-4-3, 2) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (8-2, 4) - Hyogo, Japan
More Japanese youth title action will be on this same Hyogo show, with Hikaru Matsuoka making his first defense of the JBC Youth Featherweight title. Matsuoka won the title late last year, scoring his third straight win, but does have a lot of questions to answer in regards to his long term potentnial. Tonomoto, who reached the Rookie of the Year final all the way back in 2014, will be looking to claim his first title and this should make for a very, very interesting match up, even if it's only at domestic youth title level.
Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2) - Hyogo, Japan
Hikaru Matsuoka's brother Arata Matsuoka also looks to make his first defense of a Japanese youth title, as he defends the JBC Youth Light Flyweight title against Jukiya Washio. Matsuoka, who also won his title late last year, has the clear edge in experience here, but Washio is very much a lice challenger and enters on the back of 3 straight wins. This is the weakest of the 3 bouts on the Hyogo card, but could end up being the most competitive.
Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8) Vs Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (22-9, 14) - Tokyo, Japan
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni returns to the ring for his second bout since losing the world title. The talented Kadoebi gym fighter had some ring rust lats year, when he ended a lengthy break from the ring, and will be looking to shake a bit more here as he goes in with a world ranked Thai. Although world ranked Sukkasem is nothing hugely special, and has lost the last 7 times he's fought outside of Thailand with 2 of those losses coming in Japan. Given Oguni's inactivity this could be tough, but he should still come out on top.
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