It appears that things got real this week, like really real, with some true Fight of the Year candidates, a notable upset, some stellar performances by lesser known fighters and some really under-rated fights from lesser known fighters. It was a weekend that saw attention being thrust on Asian fighters, with 3 major US bouts featuring fighters from Asia, as well as bouts in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (16-2, 2)
Entering his first "world" title bout as a 5/1 to one under-dog, Chinese fighter Can Xu was expected to be steam rolled by WBA"regular" Featherweight champion Jesus M Rojas. Instead however Xu shocked the bookmakers by not only surviving the bout, but also winning. The early rounds saw Rojas on the offensive, but Xu fought back and eventually came on strong in the second half, as Rojas began to feel the tempo, in what was an amazing all action bout. In the end Xu's energy and work rate in the second half of the fight was enough for him to take home the surprise win. The scorecards didn't do justice for how close the bout is, but this huge win for Xu is massive for Chinese boxing and should see the Max Power Promoted fighter become the new face of Chinese boxing.
Performance of the Week
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7)
It would be easy to crown Xu the double winner for the two main solo awards for this week, but the reality is that his performance was equalled by that of Japan's Takeshi Inoue. Inoue wasn't just expected to lose, but was expected to be stopped, and stopped early. Instead the little known Inoue was in Jamie Mungia's face from the first round to the last, pressing the touted Mexican all the way and giving him more problems than anyone as at world level. Some had suggested Inoue didn't belong in the ring with Munguia before hand but his performances here showed he belong in, and around, world level and he is certainly going to be a handful for other fighters at the world level. He may have lost, but his performance, against a supposed superstar in the making, was excellent.
Can Xu (15-2, 2) Vs Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2, 19)
The WBA "Regular" Featherweight title fight between China's Can Xu and Jesus M Rojas is likely to be forgotten at the end of the year, due to it taking place so early in 2019, but it will be one of the most action packed fighters of the year.From the opening round both men let their shots go, both set a high activity level and there was really grit and determination from both fighters. The fight changed in the middle rounds, when Rojas' work rate dropped, but he still looked the more dangerous man, and seemed to have Xu on the back foot in round 9. The only thing missing from making it a truly legendary fight was the lack of real drama and neither man ever seemed to be particularly hurt, but the action was so in tense that it was easy to ignore that flaw.
Alphoe Dagayloan Vs Danrick Sumabong, Tugstogt Nyambayar Vs Claudio Marrero, Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Munguia
Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Mungia (round 10)
The Inoue Vs Mungia fight will be marred by the scoring, which essentially made it clear that Inoue was never going to get the win on the scorecards, but it gave us some amazing action, the best of which was in round 10. Inoue started the round fast, having great success in the early going of the round, but was rocked in the final stages as Munguia finally began to show the offense and aggression that he's best known for.It was the only time Inoue looked hurt during the 12 round contest, and the only time Munguia looked like the monster he's been sold as in recent months. The assault from Munguia however didn't come until late in the round.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
ArAr Andales (9-0, 2)
There were several better known prospects in action this week but 19 year old ArAr Andales was the one that shone to us. He was aggressive, exciting and despite not being a power puncher really brought the fire before stopping Charlie Malupangue in the 5th round. On paper this was a very credible step up in class for the Filipino teenager, but he made it look easy and really put himself on the map, whilst claiming the WBA Asia Minimumweight title.He appears to be someone who could well end up in the mix in the coming years, and shouldn't be over-looked as a potential contender, at least on the regional scene.
Saddridin Akhmedov, Danrick Sumabong
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8)
After a few weeks of top level world class fights there isn't anything at that level over the next 7 days, however there are still some interesting contests. The most interesting of those appears to be the Japanese Flyweight title bout between the highly regarded Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki, who battle for the vacant belt. The match up won't make waves internationally, but will likely help push the winner towards major international bouts, as well as seeing them pick up their major title. Nakatani is widely considered as one of the best hopes in Japan, but Mochizuki is a very live under-dog and could well have the style to over-come the 21 year old. Very interesting bouts.
Gonte Lee Vs Aphisit Namkhot, Aston Palicte Vs Jose Martinez
Denver Cuello to return in March
Former Minimumweight world title contender Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) has been out of the ring for well over 3 years, yet this week we saw the news break that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, to take on Indonesian veteran Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14). It's not a match up that will get peoples attention, but it is amazing to know that Cuello will be back in the ring, even if he has had so long away, due to injuries.
Despite a rather dry January we do see action pick up, in a big way, in the end portion of the month with several major fights featuring Asian fighters.
Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2-1, 19) Vs Can Xu (15-2, 2) - WBA "Regular" Featherweight title
Talented Puerto Rican Jesus M Rojas will be looking to defend the WBA "regular" Featherweight title, just a week after interim champion Jhack Tepora attempts to defend his title, as he takes on Chinese fighter Can Xu. For Rojas, who won the title way back in September 2017, this will be just huis first defense of the title, as Joseph Diaz failed to make weight for a clash last August. Rojas is a fantastic fighter, but alack of activity through his career has been a major issue. Xu on the other is fighting for just the second time in the US and is fighting in his first bout at this level, in fact a win for Xu would see him become the first Chinese fighter to win a "world" title above 112lbs.
Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26) Vs Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) - WBO Light Middleweight title
On the same card in Texas we'll an Inoue in action, as the little known Takeshi Inoue challenges WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. The champion was the breakout star of 2018, going 5-0 (4) and went from being not allowed to fight Gennady Golovkin in May to the WBO Light Middleweight champion with 2 defenses under his belt. Whilst Munguia was becoming a star in 2018 Inoue, no relation to Naoya, was stuck in negotiation hell with a fighter against Julian Williams seemingly being in negotiations for months before he managed to secure this match up with Munguia. With this bout now set Inoue will know he will be in a major bout, but one where he is a massive under-dog.
New York, USA
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17)
In an excellent match, perhaps the best of the month, we'll see unbeaten Mongolian puncher Tugstsogt Nyambayar battle against explosive Dominican fighter Claudio Marrero. This is about as good as it gets, and will set the winner up for a Featherweight world title fight later in the year. Both of these men have brutal power, both of these men have been down, and together we expect to see them producing fire works of the highest order. Nyambayar is the more technically gifted of the two men, but he has shown some poor balance issues and has been tagged before. Marrero on the other hand has a raw dangerous quality about him, defensively and offensively, and is incredibly quick. This could be an early runner for FOTY.
Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) Vs Jose Martinez (20-0-2, 13)
The final bout of note in January is a WBO Super Flyweight world title eliminator, as Filipino puncher Aston Palicte takes on Puerto Rican fighter Jose Martinez. This bout, which will be shown on UFC Fight Pass, will set the winner up for a world title fight later in the year. Palicte came to the attention of the boxing world in 2018 when he fought to a controversial draw with Donnie Nietes on Superfly 3, since then he has been inactive though comes into this fight with a lot of hunger. Martinez on the other hand is best known for two fortunate draws against the under-rated Alejandro Santiago Barrios, who proved himself against Jerwin Ancajas last year. Despite being unbeaten we've yet to be impressed by Martinez and this looks like his toughest test so far.
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