We've had another quiet week in the world of Asian boxing, though thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel and in the coming weeks and when we get to July we're set for some great fights and hectic action. Despite the action still being slow we did have a great show in the middle of the week with a trio of world title fights. That show has really dominated awards this week, and without it we really would have been at a loss.
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14)
There was only one person really in the running for the Fighter of he Week and that was Japanese star Kazuto Ioka, who became a 4-weight world champion on Wednesday when he stopped Aston Palicte in Chiba. The bout, which was a huge ratings success for TBS, was Ioka's first bout in Japan in over 2 years and there was worries that a loss would send him into retirement. What we got from him however was a show case performance and an eventual stoppage of a much bigger, stronger fighter. This was the performance Ioka needed, and it was performance that has put him back among the top of the Japanese scene.
Performance of the Week
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5)
Thai fighter Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart travelled to Japan and was expected to be on the receiving end of a bad loss to WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. Whilst he did lose to the Japanese star he managed to put in an excellent performance, neutralising a lot of Kyoguchi's pressure and not only going the distance with the champion but actually taking a number of rounds from Kyoguchi. This was the sort of loss where the loser comes out with an enhanced reputation, and we're looking forward to seeing more of the Thai hopeful.
Kazuto Ioka TKO10 Aston Palicte
We're back to Kazuto Ioka and his WBO Super Flyweight title win against Filipino fighter Aston Palicte, in what really was a brilliant fight. Ioka's technique, speed and timing was up against the size, power and strength of Palicte, making for a fantastic dynamic to the fight. The bout was fought at a high skill level, with a solid tempo through out, and whilst it won't be regarded as a FOTY contender it was a fantastic bout all round, with a great atmosphere and a real tension, especially when Palicte threw some of his bombs. This will likely be one of the more forgotten bouts at the end of the year, best remembered for Ioka becoming a 4 weight champion rather than the in ring action, but it was a very solid fight and a great watch.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte (round 7)
Staying with the WBO Super Flyweight title bout the 7th round was something super special, with Palicte, who was starting to struggle with Ioka's accuracy and timing, putting his foot on the gas and putting the pressure on. For the first minute or so it looked like he was getting to Ioka and that his size advantage was going to be a major issue as we got into the second half of the fight. We then saw Ioka regroup and fight back amazingly well in the second half of the round, giving us a real back and forth round. Despite neither man being dropped the round was excellent, dramatic and exciting, all we could ever ask for.
There was no standout KO for this past week
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4)
We suspect we'll be talking about Shu Utsuki a lot in the years to come, and it's not with good cause with the Watanabe Gym fighter being a fantastic prospect, with solid power, heavy handed and a developing professional style. This past week he scored a career best win by stopping Omrri Bolivar, and will likely find himself in the Japanese and OPBF rankings in July. He might not be one of the gym's biggest name prospects but the Watanabe Gym has a real talent among their midst here, and hopefully they develop him through the next 18 months before pushing him towards title fights.
Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5) vs Takahiko Kobayashi (8-3, 6)
This coming week is another quiet one, thankfully the last quiet one for a while, though it does have some interesting bouts with the pick of the bunch being a mid-week Korea Vs Japan bout between Korean teenage prospect Jeong Han Cha and hard hitting Japanese fighter Takahiko Kobayashi. We expect this to be a shoot out, and we would be absolutely gob smacked if this goes the distance. On paper this is a true gem.
The Watanabe gym is stacked with great prospects, many of whom are tipped to be stars of the future. One of those is the unbeaten Shu Utsuki (4-0, 3), who made his professional debut in 2018 and has already impressed with some solid performances and good wins. He'll be looking to extend those good performances on June 19th, when he returns and faces Omri Bolivar (8-1, 3) on a big card in Chiba.
Utsuki, as with many of the top prospects at the Watanabe Gym, is a former amateur standout with a notable career in the unpaid ranks. That career as an amateur saw Utsuki go 81-27 and also captain the Heisei International University boxing team As an amateur he would fight in numerous tournaments on the domestic scene, notably coming runner up in the 2012 Junior Selection tournament in Ibaraki. Though unfortunately it doesn't appear that he turned good performances into notable tournament wins or notable international appearances.
In February 2018 Shu Utsuki, along with Seiya Tsutsumi and Eri Matsuda, took part in his B license pro-test. He looked really good at his pro-test and made his debut a month later, doing so on the same show as Tsutsumi. His debut was unspectacular if we're being honest, with the youngster beating Thai foe Meechaiya Kaewkwanresort in round 3. A few months later he would go on to defeat the debuting Yoji Saito, a fellow amateur standout, in what was a much tougher bout. Against Saito we saw Utsuki being dropped by the power punching Saito, but regroup well to take a narrow and hotly contest win. Despite it being Saito's debut it was an ultra-competitive bout, and is well worth hunting down on Boxing Raise, and is currently available to those who don't subscribe to the service.
In his third professional bout, which took place last November, Utsuki took on unbeaten Chinese fighter Da Xu, who travelled to Tokyo with ambition of upsetting Utsuki. He came with fire and put Utsuki under pressure, but the local hopeful boxed well, stayed composed during Xu's pressure and saw off the Chinese fighter in round 2 with a brilliant hand on the chin. Xu somehow got to his feet following he shot but had no idea where he was as the refere waved the bout off.
Utsuki's only bout so far this year was a big step up in class, but a successful one, as he defeat Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde, with an 8th round TKO following the towel being thrown in. This was only the second time Castroverde had been stopped and was a real statement for Utsuki who proved he could go 8 rounds, and proved he still had power and speed late into bouts. Sadly this bout isn't available online, as his previous 2 were.
As mentioned Utsuki's next bout will take place in Chinba against Bolivar. That bout will take place on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's bout with Aston Palicte and will be Utsuki's first contest outside of Korakuen Hall. Whilst the bout isn't expected to get any TV or streaming coverage it is a good step in the right direction for Utsuki, who will likely find himself in the title mix in 2020.
As a fighter Utsuki is well schooled, as you'd expect from a man with over 100 amateur bouts, heavy handed and composed. There is however a feeling that he will take longer to make his mark on the sport than the likes of Tsutsumi and Ginjiro Shigeoka, who both looked a lot more "pro-ready" straight from the off.
After a couple of quiet weeks, with only a single show or two of note, we had boxing really pick up this past week with notable cards in the Japan, the US and even Vietnam. Not only did we have notable shows but we also had a world title fight, and it now seems like the sport is starting to get into the swing of things.
Fighter of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39)
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao turned 40 in December, an age that many fighters turn whilst they are retired. Not is Pacquiao 40 years old but this week he proved he was still a top class fighter, as he defeat Adrien Broner in the US. Pacquiao appeared to be giving away significant size to Broner, and was 11 years old than the American, but looked in total control through out their 12 round bout, even staggering Broner in rounds 7 and 9. It wasn't a vintage Pacquiao performance, by any stretch, and he did look like a faded version of his prime self, but it was still a comfortable and controlling display against the cocksure Broner. Sadly the performance, whilst it was controlled, did seem to show how far Pacman had slid from his destructive best, though at the age of 40 that is to be expected!
Notable mention - Shingo Wake
Performance of the Week
Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
We think that we'll be mentioning the name Reiya Abe a lot in 2019, and we don't believe that that's a bad thing! This week he shut down the talented and aggressive Daisuke Sugita in Tokyo, dropping Sugita twice and hardly losing a minute of the bout in what was a thoroughly controlled performance. For much of the fight Abe simply stuck to his boxing, using his skills to neutralise Sugita, before dropping his man twice. There was no real urgency from Abe, but he didn't need to be, he was just showcasing his skills from the first round to the final bell, only really going through the gears in the 8th round as he started to look to close the show. This wasn't an exciting fight, but it was a fantastic performance that showed what Abe can do.
Kenshin Oshima (4-1-1, 3) vs Ikuro Sadatsune (9-2-3, 3)
We stay in Japan for our Fight of the Week, an 8 round contest between two youngsters each looking to shine. This wasn't an all out war, like some Fight of the Weeks, but it was a bout that swung one way, then the other. It saw both men hurt, both having to over-come adversity and both digging deep in a fight that really exceeded expectations. The competitive nature of the bout will leave the door open to a potential rematch somewhere down the line. The was skills involved, making this more of a technical chess match at times, but they upped the pace regularly enough to give us some brilliant moments
Shohei Yamanaka vs Tatsuhito Hattori (Round 4)
There is something about these lower level Japanese bouts, over 4 rounds, that keep delivering fantastic rounds. This was seen perfectly this week when the debuting Shohei Yamanaka battled Tatsuhito Hattori in a bout that was easy to overlook. Yamanaka, as mentioned, was debuting whilst Hattori was fighting his 6th professional bout, more than a decade after his previous contest. Yamanaka had done enough to claim the first rounds on our card, but was dropped in round 3, meaning it was all to play for in round 4 ant they both went out there seeking to do enough to take the victory. A fantastic and thoroughly engaging round.
Notable mention - Round 3 Oshima Vs Sadatsune
Mikhail Lesnikov KO Afrizal Tamboresi
It's taken a while but 2018 finally has a brutal KO thanks to Russian Mikhail Lesnikov, who blasted out Indonesian fighter Afrizal Tamboresi in Vietnam. Tamboresi was rocked hard from an uppercut, somehow remaining upright. That however wasn't a good thing for him and he would be caught by a brutal left hook just seconds later. He was dropped hard and stayed down. A gorgeous KO for the Russian, who had never previous scored a KO.
Vikas Krishan (1-0, 1)
We have a feeling that Indian boxing is going to be huge over the coming few years, and part of that rise will be linked, directly, to the "Indian Tank" Vikas Krishan. Krishan made his debut on Friday, against Steven Andrade, and looked like a pro-ready fighter immediately with his intense pressure style, sharp punching and intelligent footwork. His amateur background, which is arguably the best of any Indian fighter, shone through here and it seems like he has the ambition, drive and age to really progress. There are still things he needs to work on, but he showed enough here to get excited about.
Notable mention- Fazliddin Gaibnazarov
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) (January 26th)
It feels like we've lacked a really explosive fight so far. We've had some excellent action fights, some brave performances but nothing truly explosive. That's likely to change next week when unbeaten Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar takes on Dominican puncher Claudio Marrero. With a combined 33 wins, 26 by T/KO, it's hard to imagine this one goes the distance. Both men have been down and we would not be surprised to see both hitting the deck in what could end up be an early contender for Fight of the Year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [and undercard]
After weeks of waiting we finally saw the announcement of the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi. The bout was one of the worst kept secrets in the sport, but we were still awaiting the confirmation until this week. The bout is a really good looking one. Both are aggressive, both have nasty power, and both have exciting styles that should gel really well. Although the bout looks like it won't be televised live, unfortunately, it does look almost certain to be a really fun fight, when TBS finally get around to airing it.
As well as the main event we also saw the under-card being revealed, and includes Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2), Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1), Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and the debut of Suzumi Takayama.
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