So 2018 is here and now, every fight from 2017 is done. What a perfect time to look at our 2017 Award winners, which as always are based around Asian fighters and the Asian fight scene.
Fighter of the Year
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai has long been one of our favourites with his wins over Yota Sato in 2013 and over Jose Salgado in 2015 proving that he belonged toward to be considered a genuinely top level Super Flyweight. He was however not expected to be any sort of a match up for Roman Gonzalez, the WBC champion and the man who was widely regarded as the #1 fighter pound for pound. Srisaket however went over to the US in March and dropped Gonzalez on route to winning a disputed decision. He then went back over to the US a few months later and shut the doubters up by stopping Gonzalez in a rematch.
However you want to paint it it was a year that took Srisaket from the eye of the hardcore fans to being one of the most notable little men in the sport, and the way he did it was a way that every fight fight fan should have been excited by.
Not only did he beat Gonzalez twice, but he did so as the under dog both times and will be rewarded with another Stateside bout as he is now scheduled to take on Juan Francisco Estrada in February.
Ken Shiro- The Japanese youngster fought three times in 2017 beating Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza. Wins over Lopez and Guevara were close and competitive bouts but the youngster essentially thrust himself on the world stage with those wins, before the win over Pedroza saw him take a slot on a TV broadcast and massively boost his standing in Japan. A fantastic year and one that leaves him on the verge of becoming a break out star.
Robbery of the Year
Ryota Murata Vs Hassan N'Dam I
A fighter being robbed at home is rare, but that's exactly what fans saw in May when Ryota Murata was some how beaten on the scorecards by Frenchman Hassan N'Dam. The French had been ruled down on one occasion, but it could have been several more, had tried to avoid a fight wand was repeatedly caught by right hands by the heavier handed and more aggressive Murata. Some how the fight was scored in favour of the visitor, a decision that even the French press disagreed with. The decision, which had been forgotten by some now, was so bad some of the judges from the bout were suspended by the WBA, who ordered a rematch almost immediately and had their president, Gilberto Mendoza publicly score the bout 117-110 to Murata.
The story did have a second chapter in October, with Murata avenging the loss and stopping N'Dam to claim the WBA Middleweight title at the second time of asking.
KO of the Year
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez II
Scoring a win over Roman Gonzalez was impressive when Srisaket did it the first time, fans, and Gonzalez, felt the Thai had been lucky. In the second bout however there was no doubting the outcome as Srisaket laid Gonzalez out for the count with a truly brutal left hook. The shot rendered Gonzalez out cold and the way the Nicaraguan body went limp as he went down was really a case of the lights being turned out on Gonzalez.
Whilst this may not been the most graphically impressive KO featuring an Asian fighter in 2017 the fact it came against Gonzalez really made it stand out, and helped silence the Thai's doubters in the process.
Kazuto Takesako Vs Shoma Fukumoto- This short but exciting bout was a war from the off and ended in brilliant style as Takesako landed a huge right hand that crumpled Fukumoto to the canvas. A brutal finish to what had been a viciously fought bout.
Masaru Sueyoshi Vs Allan Vallespin- Filipino fighter Allan Vallespin had travelled to Japan with a puncher's reputation and had some out with a lot of aggression against Sueyoshi. That pressure later came back to cost him as Sueyoshi landed a massive counter right hand that splattered Vallespin on to the canvas in an eye catching KO.
Takenori Ohashi Vs Kosuke Saka- Saka was making his first defense of the Japanese Featherweight title against the unheralded Ohashi. In round 5, after the clacker, Saka turned away thinking it was the bell and Ohashi went for the kill, finishing off his man in brutal fashion for one of the most bizarre and explosive KO's this year.
Upset of the Year
Sho Kimura Vs Zou Shiming
Going into 2016 Sho Kimura was an unknown. He was a man who had fought in just a single title fight, in which he claimed a regional WBO title. He had only beaten a handful of fighters with winning records and was really looking like a hand picked first challenge for the WBO Flyweight champion. Whilst fans may not have been impressed by Shiming they sure were aware of him, and with Shiming having home advantage it seemed clearly like Shiming would take home a decision and use the bout as a platform to face Kazuto Ioka in a huge bout. Kimura hadn't read he script and instead of being the patsy for Shiming he turned the bout into a platform to win the world title and make a real name for himself.
At the time it was a big upset, though Kimura has since notched another big win and doesn't appear to be the one hit wonder some had assumed.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez I
Kenichi Ogawa Vs Tevin Farmer
Yasuyuki Akiyama Vs Koki Tyson
Fight Of The Year
Takashi Miura Vs Miguel Roman
There were good fights in 2017 that it was hard to select a favourite, or a best. There were bouts that were action packed, others that were dramatic, some that were savage, some with pure intensity and others with momentum that swung back and forth and other that were high skilled chess matches. There was really something for everyone. For us the winner, albeit just, was the January clash between Takashi Miura and Miguel Roman in what was a WBC world title eliminator. The contest had two very talented, well matched fighters beating the stuffing out of each other, until Roman was eventually stopped in round 12. Prior to the knockout the two had inflicted unreal punishment on each other. At the time of the knockout Miura was leading by 5 points, 3 points and 1 with Roman having been dropped in rounds 10 and 11.
Sadly the bout does suffer from a typical issue with boxing, short term memory of fans. The bout, which was fought on January 28th has been forgotten by some, but is well worth a rewatch for fans who have forgotten has amazing it was.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez I, Takuya Kogawa Vs Masayuki Kuroda II, Milan Melindo Vs Hekkie Budler, Ryoichi Taguchi Vs Milan Melindo, Wanheng Menayothin Vs Tatsuya Fukuhara, Tatsuya Fukuhara Vs Moises Calleros, Wanheng Menayothin Vs Melvin Jerusalem, Jason Pagara Vs James Onyango,
Comeback of the Year (Fight)
Mark John Yap Vs Mentaro Masuda
Not often will we see a fighter being dropped 3 times in the opening round, stumble to his corner at the end of the round and yet storm back to win. That however is what OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap did back in July. He was dropped hard early in the round, Masuda went on the hunt and dropped him again as the two wildly traded on the ropes, and then again. By the time the bell went it looked like Yap was living on borrowed time, as he stumbled to his corner. Amazingly however Yap recovered, before stopping Masuda in round 4.
Ratchasai Sithsaihtong Vs Yutaka Oishi-Going into round 12 of their OPBF title fight Oishi, the defending champion, was in a clear lead. On one card he was up but 3, on another 5 and on the other he was leading 109-98. If he could make it to the final bell he'd have made a success defense of the title. Ratchasi however had other plans, and refused to just accept defeat, pulling off some last round heroics, stopping Oishi with less than 90 seconds of the bout left.
Prospect of the Year
Koki Inoue (4-0, 4 for the year)
The Inoue name is going to be a huge one in Japanese boxing for the next decade or so. There is, obviously, Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue, but also their Koki Inoue who had a fantastic 2017, even if he was frustrated by a lack of title fights, The destructive Kanagawan started the year with a 5th round TKO win over Mitsuyoshi Fujita, a Japanese ranked fighter. He followed that up with a blow out against Thai visitor Ni Wisoram, a corner retirement win over Cristiano Aoqui and a destruction of KBF champion Dong Hee Kim. His wins have opened up the door for OPBF or Japanese title fights in 2018 and he is certainly on the chase for bigger and better fights, just like his cousins.
Mark Anthony Barriga (5-0, 1 for the year)- Talented Filipino Barriga was busy in 2017, but the talented 24 year old only scored 1 big win from his 5 bouts, a shut out of Samartlek Kokietgym in China.
Ryota Yamauchi (2-0, 2 for the year)- Exciting Japanese Flyweight Yamauchi made his debut in a low key affair in June but shone in December when he battered Lester Abutan in 4 rounds. A real one to watch in 2018.
Junto Nakatani (4-0, 3 for the year)- Flyweight hopeful Nakatani had a second fantastic year, despite going under the radar. In 2016 he was the Flyweight Rookie of the Year and in 2017 he became the first ever Japanese Youth Flyweight champion.
(Images courtesy of the AFP, Japan Times, WBO Boxing and Boxmob.jp)
So once again fans, worldwide, are complaining about the judges and their scoring of a fight. In fact once again we're being told boxing is dying because of the judges, and that it won't keep it's current fans or attract new ones, whilst ignoring the fact that the recent Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn fight was a really fantastic battle shown on ESPN. The fight may have left a bad taste in the mouths of many, and may have lead to more than a few forum bust ups, but it's fair to say that the sport isn't dying. In fact over the coming weeks, to the end of July, we have some real thrillers to look forward to. And in fact we have number which feature fighters from the Asian boxing scene.
The first two come on May 9th from a show in Russia which features a number of Japanese fighters getting out their passport for a potentially thrilling show in Ekaterinburg. One of those Japanese fighters is former world title challenger Daiki Kaneko (26-5-3, 18) who takes on unbeaten Russian Pavel Malikov (11-0, 5). This bout won't set the world on fire in terms of name value, but they fighters have the ability to put on an absolute classic of high skilled, high energy and highly aggressive fighting. Malikov will be the favourite, given his unbeaten record and home advantage, but Kaneko always brings the fight and should make for a real under-the-radar war.
On the same card in Russia fans will see the once beaten Dmitry Mikhaylenko (22-1, 10) face off with fast rising Uzbek prospect Qudratillo Abduqaxorov (11-0, 8), with the Uzbek defending his WBC silver Welterweight title. The Russian has been shown cased in the US and holds notable wins over the likes of Sechew Powell, Ronald Cruz, Johan Perez, Karim Mayfield and Breidis Prescott and is a fun fighter able to fight at a high pace. The Uzbek on the other hand is a hard matched boxer-puncher with a really solid record for such a novice. Interestingly Abduqaxorov won the title he's defending by stopping Charles Manyuchi, who won the belt himself by upsetting Mikhaylenko. Expect this to be a fun back and forth, fought at a high pace with real momentum shifts.
July 15th promises to be a day that has something special at the start, and at the end.
The day begins with a really exciting WBA Minimumweight title bout as the unbeaten Knockout CP Freshmart (15-0, 7) defends against mandatory challenger Rey Loreto (21-13, 15). On paper we know this looks like a mismatch, and can under-stand fans complaining about the fact a guy with 13 losses is fighting for a world title, but the reality is that Loreto, like many Filipino fighters, was matched hard and picked up early career losses. In recent years however he has gone on a 7-0 (6) run, with wins against former world champions Pornsawak Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi. Knockout is regarded as one of the top Minimumweights, and is an improving boxer with solid power and very good skills. The unbeaten champion will be favoured but this is no forgone conclusion and should be a real thriller.
Talking about thriller the days ends with the massively anticipated WBC Super Featherweight title fight between Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28) and former champion Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24). It's hard not to get excited about this one, as both men are aggressive, heavy handed, exciting and genuine world class. The younger, fresher, champion will be favoured and really impressed last time when he stopped Francisco Vargas for the title, but he has shown a dodgy chin in the past and was stopped inside a round back in 2014 by the unheralded Luis Eduardo Florez. Miura came to the attention of US fans back in 2015 when he lost a FOTY contender to the aforementioned Vargas, and has since had another war on US soil against Miguel Roman. This could be a very special, very explosive and a real blink and you miss it contest to end the day, and mark the mid-way point of the month.
On July 23rd Japanese fight fans get a world title double header in Tokyo. One of those looks like a real treat, as the Minimumweight division against looks like it's going to shine. That bout sees IBF champion Jose Argumedo (20-3-1, 12) defending his title against human wrecking ball Hiroto Kyoguchi (7-0, 6). Interestingly Argumedo won the title in Japan, beating Katsunari Takayama, and will be returning their for his next defense. He's not the best boxer out there but is a big, tough, strong fighter with a style that should gel against the all action Kyoguchi, who had always hunted stoppages and will be stepping up massively. This looks almost certain to be a war, and one that could have fight fans give some real attention to the Minimumweight division, at least for the duration of the contest.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the best in Japan right now, with the country having two world champions and a host of contenders. On the domestic scene the division is red hot and on July 29th we'll see heavy handed Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) defending his title against the under-rated Ryoichi Tamura (8-2-1, 5). Although this is one that will be for the truly hardcore, with the bout being shown on subscription site Boxingraise, it has the potential to be a thrilling and explosive fire fight. Kuga is spiteful puncher, who is relatively unrefined but so heavy handed that every shot he throws is hurtful. As for Tamura he has been matched hard from the off and comes into this on a 5-fight winning run, having stopped his last 4. This has the ingredients of a short lived war with combustible styles colliding in a thoroughly exciting stylistic match up. Both fighters fighters are going to be tagged, and this could be over very quickly, or be an all out thriller.
To end the month we stay with the type of bouts only the hardcore fans would look at with any excitement going in. That's the OPBF Bantamweight title fight between defending champion Mark John Yap (26-12, 12) and former 2-time Japanese national champion Kentaro Masuda (27-7, 15). On paper this doesn't look amazing, with the men having almost 20 losses between them, but records are certainly misleading and shouldn't be used to judge match quality as the styles, mentality and skills of these two are much better than the numbers suggest. What we have here are two rough and tough Bantamweights looking to move towards a world title fight and we're expecting a rough, punishing 12 round war for the Oriental title and for pride. Don't sleep on this one.
Yeah we know people are angry about the result of Pacquiao Vs Horn but don't let that cloud what should be a month of brilliant action, and really we should be excited that the next 4 weeks is set to be nothing short of brilliant and full of treats for us fans, hardcore and casual.
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