It's fair to say that March was a spotty month, with some real ups and downs, and little in terms on consistency. April however looks to be a month packed with great fights through the month, particularly in Japan where things really are a bit crazy!
April 6th-Naoya and Takuma. The champion is a true veteran, who won the Rookie of the Year more than a decade ago, and has battled through the Japanese scene the hard way. Inoue on the other hand was a touted amateur who has been avoided at times on the domestic stage, but will see this as a great chance to announce himself as a rising star. The styles of the men should make for a very special fight.
Young Japanese talent really is coming through the ranks at an alarming rate, and a lot of it is signed to a handful of major gyms. One of those gyms that is now signing up fantastic fighters on a regular basis is the Ohashi Gym, lead by former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi. In recent years the gym has developed Naoya Inoue into an internationally recognised star and other fighters are joining the gym in the hope of making their name on the international stage as well.
Among those coming through the ranks is 23 year old Light Flyweight Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) [桑原拓], who looks like he will be the next fighter at the gym to be fast tracked to a title, and to making his mark on a wider stage.
Kuwahara began boxing at a young age and ran up a reported amateur record of 50-18, winning several notable titles along the way, including the 2013 National Light Flyweight crown.
He would join up with the Ohashi gym in 2018 and pass a B license pro-test before making his debut in May, on the same show that saw Kenshiro retain the WBC Light Flyweight title against Ganigan Lopez and saw Naoya Inoue defeat Jamie McDonnell to claim the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title. Although Kuwahara was only up against Indonesian journeyman Mochamad Sholimin he still impressed, stopping the visitor inside a round.
Kuwhara would face an Indonesian foe in his second bout as well, blitzing Ardi Tefa in 46 seconds last September.
Having stopped a pair of Indonesian foes Kuwahara was then matched against fellow unbeaten Japanese hopeful Takamori Kiyama, himself a former amateur standout and a very talented southpaw hope. This was a much better test of Kuwahara's skill, but a bout that really allowed Kuwahara to showcase his skills, as he took a clear 8 round decision win over the talented Kiyama, proving not only that he was skills, sharp, and could move but also that he could fight for 8 rounds, at a good pace. As a result of going 8 rounds Kuwahara answered some questions about his stamina and engine, whilst leaving many talking about just how promising he looked, and in fairness how talented Kiyama was.
At the moment it's unclear when Kuwahara will return to the ring to kick his 2019 off, but it's expected that he will be fighting for titles by the end of 2020, at the very latest. In fact we wouldn't be surprised to see him fighting for a belt this year, just given his natural talent, and how the Ohashi have allowed their talented youngsters to be fast tracked in recent years.
Recently we did a list on 5 world title bouts we want to see in the new year, which can be read here 5 bouts we want to see in 2019 (World title version) for those who missed it. Now we're going to look at some All Japanese bouts we'd like to see in the new year. These bouts are all possible, so for example there is no issue with men being from the same gyms, and would all be really interesting fights, for at least one reason.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4) - Minimumweight
Back in July we were expecting the heavy handed Kai Ishizawa take on a then unbeaten Daiki Tomita. That bout was sadly cancelled when Ishizawa suffered a nose injury in the build up to the contest. Since then Ishizawa has become the Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion, stopping Yuga Inoue for the belt, whilst Tomita has challenged for the OPBF title, losing a decision to the world class Tsubasa Koura.
Getting this bout remade in the new year would be brilliant, and something to really look forward to. Both men have enhanced their reputations since the originally scheduled bout in the summer and we'd certainly love to see the power and desire of Ishizawa up against the skill and speed of Tomita.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) Vs Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) - Light Flyweight
We believe that Taku Kuwahara maybe one of the very best prospects in world boxing today, and think it would be great for him to prove that in 2019. A bout against Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa, potentially for the Japanese title late in the year. Kuwahara has proven his value as a prospect, was a stand out amateur and is an exceptional talent. Horikawa is a faded veteran, but a nightmare to fight and this would be a potential passing of the torch.
This isn't a bout that would make sense for early in the year, given that Horikawa has a Japanese title fight assured in the Champion Carnival, but towards the end of 2019 this bout would be a very good one, and could well be for the national title, if Horikawa wins his title shot.
Katsunori Nagamine (15-2-1, 11) Vs Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) - Flyweight
In 2017 we were impressed by the hunger and desire of Ryota Yamauchi. Sadly 2018 hasn't been the break out year we had anticipated from him, however that's not to say 2019 can't be. He does need a really good win next year however, and a real 50/50 bout with him would see him take on the exciting, hard hitting and talented Katsunori Nagamine, in what could be a very interesting match up between talented fighters looking to make a point in the new year.
Although we'd like to see this bout in the first half of the year, putting the winner in the mix for a title fight later in the year, it would be a very interesting title eliminator towards the end of the year, and potentially put the winner into the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) Vs Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) - Super Flyweight
When we started this list there was a bout that really whet our appetite, and looked like a potential FOTY candidate. That was a bout between former 3 weight world champion Akira Yaegashi and 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka. Both men have styles should gel perfectly, both are certainly shop worn, and both are a bit on the older side, still they should match up almost perfectly for an all out action packed bout. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will potentially be on the fringes of a world ranking.
With Yaegashi turning 36 in February and Kudaka turning 34 in April the hope is that this bout will take place as soon as possible. Kudaka does have a bout in December, potentially delaying this showdown, but there's no reason why we can't have this treat in late Spring or early Summer.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) Vs Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) - Super Bantamweight
When we talk about potential fights of the year it's hard to really know what bout will click. One we think will click perfectly is a show down between former world title challenger Shohei Omori and current OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hirokia Teshigawara. Omori is the more skilled man, and the bigger puncher, but Teshigawara is a proven tough guy, who will press the fight, throw a lot and really try to take the fight to Omori.
In theory this would make for a really interesting bout, with both men knowing a win would take them towards a world title fight. Neither man has their first bout of 2019 organised, and despite both fighting in the second half of 2018 neither took much punishment in their latest bout. If they can fit this bout in Spring it really would set up their year perfectly.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20)
A bonus fight for this list really excited us when we thought about it, and that is a show down between Super Featherweight's Masao Nakamura and Takuya Watanabe. Nakamura is a very heavy handed boxer-puncher, who can be hurt himself, whilst Watanabe is a rugged tough guy with under-rated boxing. Given Nakamura's power and Watanabe's proven durability we'd expect a war here, a bout that would really have fans on the edge of their seat.
Interestingly This bout would see the WBO Asia Pacific champion, Nakamura, taking on the OPBF "silver" champion, Watanabe, and would renove the loser from the mix domestically, potentially setting the winner up for a unification bout with Hironori Mishiro or Masaru Sueyoshi. Of the bouts on this list this may be one of the easier ones to make, and one of the most exciting all-Japanese bouts that could be made right now.
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