As we into the middle of December we need to remember there's a lot to look forward in the back end of the month. Here we take a look at the final week or so of the month.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - What's to come in December...Part 1 and part 2 is here - What's to come in December...Part 2
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals - Tokyo, Japan
Professional boxing's biggest annual tournament comes to a close on December 23rd in Tokyo, as we see the latest All Japan Rookie of the Year champions being crowned. The tournament might not make much of a mark internationally but it puts the winners on the fast track to domestic success and with the whole card being shown live on G+ it goes us a brilliant pre-Christmas being treat.
Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final major bout for us before Christmas comes from Osaka and sees the hard hitting Keita Kurihara take on Yuki Strong Kobayashi for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. The match up is a solid looking lower tier match up, though what needs to be noted is that both men are better than their records suggest, with both suffering a number of defeats early in their careers, and to good fighters. We're expecting a hard hitting affair here and it should be very exciting.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) Vs Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
After a little bit of a break for Christmas big action returns on December 30th, as we run towards an explosive end to 2018. One of 3 title bouts on the penultimate day of the year will see Masayuki Ito make his first defence of the WBO Super Featherweight title, as he takes on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov. A win here will open up some big fights for Ito in the new year, and he has stated that he intends to return to the US, where he won the title, to make future defenses. For Chuprakov the bout is a big step up in class, but he is certainly a live challenger.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) Vs Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
The longest reigning Japanese champion Kenshiro will also be on the December 30th card, defending his WBC Light Flyweight title against Mexican veteran Saul Juarez. Kenshiro has been incredibly impressive recently, beating the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Milan Melindo, and this looks like a step backwards, unfortunately. Juarez is a good fighter, or rather was a good fighter, but his form has been less than great recently and he is 2-4-2 in his last 8 bouts. Juarez, at his best, would be a good opponent for Kenshiro, but he looks to be beyond his best, even if he is only 28.
Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) - Tokyo, Japan
The third major bout on December 30th will see the unbeaten pairing of Takuma Inoue and Petch Sor Chitpattana facing off for the WBC "Interim" Bantamweight title, a title that's an interim belt whilst the WBC wait to sort out the mess of their vacant "regular" title. This is a brilliant match up, between two talented youngsters, though sadly the politics of the WBC have left this bout feeling less glamorous than it should be. The winner will get a shot at the full WBC title in the new year, if and when the WBC actually get around to crowning an actual champion. With a combined 60-0 record these two do make for an interesting fight, but this is a huge step up in class for the Thai, whilst Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue, has fought a number of world class opponents during his short career.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) Vs Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) - Macau
It's not just December 30th that will be delivering a triple header, but also December 31st, which has one of the very best match ups of the year. The match up in question pits a couple of 3-weight world champions against each other, with Japan's Kazuto Ioka taking on Donnie Neites for the Vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. Both fighters are looking to become only the third man in history to win titles in the lowest 4 weight classes, both are looking to etch their names into the history books and help set up major bouts in 2019. Amazingly this will be the first time Nietes has ever faced a Japanese fighter whilst Ioka hasn't fought a Filipino in over 8 years! We expect to see a lot of skill on show here in what coul be a potential FOTY candidate.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) - Macau
The second best bout on New Year's Eve will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler defending his title against former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. This will be Budler's first defense of the title, which he won earlier this year in Japan by out point Ryoichi Taguchi, and he will be facing a stablemate of the man he beat for the belt. For Kyoguchi it's a great chance to become a 2-weight champion and to score a massive win to end the year. A win here for either man will set them up for massive bouts in 2019, with possible unification bouts in the new year.
Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) Vs Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) - Macau
A second South Africa Vs Japan bout will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title against little known Japanese fighter Masahiro Sakamoto. The South African is enjoying his second reign as the IBF champion, having won the title earlier this year in a nail biter against Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem, but at the age of 36 we do wonder what he has left, and he certainly looked like he was aging in the final rounds against Waseem. Sakamoto really is only known in boxing circles for losing to Sho Kimura, in a regional title bout, but has impressed since then and is a smart fighter who will know he has the opportunity of a life time here.
For most boxing fans in the west the year effectively comes to an end in mid-December with December 19th and 20th being the final couple of days with notable fights. Whilst we'll admit we're looking forward to a number of those contests, including the bout between Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar and Ruben Tamayo and the contest between Bryan Vasquez and Sergio Thompson, we've got to say they pale in comparison to what comes from the east in the days following.
Sunday December 21st [Tokyo]
The first of the days that we're looking forward to from Japan is more of an event than a single fight. That's because we get the All Japan Rookie of the Year on December 21st with 12 major domestic bouts involving some of the sports possible future stars.
We won't go through all 12 bouts here, we have a special feature coming later in the month regarding that, though it's hard not to get excited about some of those bouts, including a Welterweight clash between the heavy handed Yuki Beppu (7-0, 7) and fellow unbeaten fighter Hironobu Matsunaga (6-0, 3) and a Flyweight contest between Kenya Yamashita (6-0, 4) and Shun Kosaka (9-0).
The show is one of those traditional shows that Japanese boxing holds annually and although the fighters aren't big names they tend to have the ability to progress and numerous Rookie of the Year winners of the past have gone on to win world titles. We'd be shocked if we didn't get at least one world champion from this years batch of winners.
Sunday December 28th [Osaka]
The run in to the new year really kicks off after Christmas and the first of 4 notable cards comes on December 28th as we get 2 very interesting bouts.
The most notable of the bouts is a Japanese Light Middleweight title contest between the talented boxer Yuki Nonaka (26-8-2, 9), the current champion, and former title holder Charlie Ota (24-2-1, 16), who is best known by western fans for putting Jermell Charlo on his backside. The bout might only be a Japanese national title fight but it's an intriguing contest all the same and both men are expected to carry a low world ranking into this bout come fight night giving the bout extra significance.
The chief under-card bout here looks like a genuine thriller as Japan's “KO King” Masao Nakamura (18-2, 18) battles against Filipino tough guy Rey Labao (26-6, 17). Nakamura will be hoping to bounce back from a decision loss to Masayuki Ito and although Labao is tough he should make for a better opponent, stylistically at least, for Nakamura who will be happy to have a war with Labao, who was himself out pointed last time out by Roman Andreev. Don't be surprised if this ends up being an all out war.
Tuesday December 30th [Tokyo] (Fuji TV)
The first, of 3, genuinely huge shows left this year comes on December 30th as Ohashi gym put on what may well be the best show this year. It features another potential FOTY contender and possibly a fight involving a young man who could be the 2014 Fighter of the Year.
The weakest bout on the card, at least in our eyes, is a Middleweight contest between Ryota Murata (5-0, 4) and Jessie Nicklow (24-4-3, 8). When you consider that's probably the worst bout then it really does dawn on you how good this card is. The Murata/Nicklow bout is one of just 2 non-title bouts with the other being a huge step up in class for Takuma Inoue (3-0, 1) who will be fighting former world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-2-2, 9).
In an OPBF title bout the much touted Ryo Matsumoto (12-0, 10) will be fighting against Thailand's world ranked Rusalee Samor (25-5-2, 11) in a bout for the recently vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title. For Matsumoto a win here will likely push him towards a world title bout in 2014 whilst for Samor we suspect he'll defend the belt several times before even thinking about a world title fight.
Talking about world title bouts we get a trio on this show. The lesser of the 3 will see Jorge Linares (37-3, 24) attempting to become a 3-weight world champion as he battles Javier Prieto (24-7-2, 18) for the vacant WBC Lightweight title. This bout is rather weak over-all though should move the winner, we suspect Linares, onto a bout with WBC Emeritus champion Omar Figueroa in what could be a really exciting fight.
What is certain to be an exciting fight is the contest between Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) and Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15) for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title. For Yaegashi this is a chance to become a 3-weight world champion though he'll have to go through hell to defeat his Mexican opponent who gave Johnriel Casimero a tough bout in an IBF title fight back in 2012. This has all the ingredients to be a FOTY type of fight and is, in terms of the styles, the most exciting bout in the final days of the year.
Whilst we are massively excited about the contest between Yaegashi and Guevara we're even more excited about this show's main event which will see Japanese wunderkind Naoya Inoue (7-0, 6) battling against WBO Super Flyweight champion Omar Andres Narvaez (43-1-2, 23). This bout will see Inoue moving from Light Flyweight to Super Flyweight and if he wins we suspect he should be the 2014 Fighter of the Year and be a man breaking into the top 10 pound for pound fighters. In Narvaez wins then this will be a genuinely huge win for the Argentinian veteran who has been criticised in recent times for the level of his opposition.
Wednesday December 31st [Tokyo] (TV Tokyo)
The final day of the year really sends us off in brilliant style with 2 separate Japanese shows that deserve a lot of attention.
In Tokyo we get another world title triple header headlined by Super Featherweight kingpin Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) who will be defending his WBA world title against Argentinian challenger Israel Hector Enrique Perez (27-2-1, 16). Although the challenger is relatively unknown outside of Argentina he is unbeaten since 2003 and is on a 19 fight unbeaten run. For Uchiyama it will be his return to the ring after a year of inactivity following his hard fought win over Daiki Kaneko. On paper this is a genuine banana skin and a measuring to see just what Uchiyama has left.
The second world title will see 2-time Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8, 13) defending his WBA world title against Norberto Jimenez (20-8-3, 10) for the first time. Kono, who won the belt earlier this year stopping Denkaosan Kaovichit, has had a frustrating year due to issues regarding Koki Kameda and will be hoping to take those frustrations out on his 23 year old Dominican foe who is stepping up massively for this fight. Whilst Jimenez is stepping up he is active and this will be his 11th fight in less than 24 months. Like Perez we also see Jimenez coming into the ring on the back of an impressive undefeated streak running back 20 bouts!
The third world title bout in Tokyo is easily the most interesting of the show as former Japanese Light Flyweight national champion Ryoichi Taguchi (20-2-1, 8) steps up to the world level to fight WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel (32-8-0-1, 13). This is Taguchi's chance to follow in the footsteps of Kono and Uchiyama, stable mates of his at the Watanabe gym, and to move away from just being “the man Naoya Inoue beat”. For Rossel this will be his toughest bout since he was stopped in 9 rounds by Hugo Fidel Cazares back in October 2010. This is a brilliant match up and should tell us a lot about both men.
Wednesday December 31st [Osaka] (TBS)
On the same day in Osaka we get another 2 world title fights, a Japanese title fight and a world title “prelude”.
The “prelude” will see former 2-weight world champion Kazuto Ioka (15-1, 9) battling against former WBA interim Flyweight champion Jean Piero Perez (20-7-1, 14) in a bout expected to prepare Ioka for a WBA Flyweight world title bout next year. Ioka moved to Flyweight earlier this year though has yet to shine at the weight and will be hoping to have filled into the weight this time around. Perez on the other hand needs a win just to remain relevant in the world of professional boxing given that he has lost his last 2 bouts, both by stoppage. And has won just twice in the last 6 bouts.
The Japanese title fight on this show will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (17-0, 9) defending his belt for the first time. The talented Ishida, one of the top prospects at the Ioka gym, will be battling against the relatively unknown Masato Morisaki (9-3-1, 5) in what should be a straight forward defense for the touted champion who has shown some touches of sheer brilliance so far in his career. We suspect that if Ishida wins here, as he should, he'll be moved towards a world title bout in 2015 with opponents like Kono and Inoue both being possibilities, if they both win.
In a bout for the vacant IBF Minimumweight title fans will see the always exciting Katsunari Takayama (27-7-0-1, 10) battle against Japanese compatriot Go Odaira (11-3-3, 1) in what looks likely to be an all-action bout between two men who lack power but have amazing engines and activity. This is unlikely to end in a knock out but should be like watching a boxing equivalent to “Rock em Sock em robots”.
Whilst Takayama and Ioka are both solid names it's fair to say that the attention here will be focused on a Super Bantamweight world title bout between Cuban boxing sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9) and Japan's relatively unknown Hisashi Amagasa (28-4-2, 19). The bout as has been a major talking point since the story was first mentioned and although Rigondeaux will be expected to do a number on his Japanese foe it's still great to see such an internationally regarded fighter travelling to Japan. For Amagasa this is a great chance to make a name for himself and will know it only takes 1 punch to become a star whilst Rigondeaux may be hoping to impress the local fans enough for them to want to bring him back and have him fight the likes of Shingo Wake in what would be an interesting contest.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
In July 1975 Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin, pictured, shocked the world by winning a world title in just his third professional contest. For much of the last 40 years fans thought that record was an untouchable record, one that would never be beaten and very few fighters would have either the testicular fortitude or skills to even dream about challenging it.
Just this past weekend however a fighter came very close to beating that record. Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1), fighting for just the second time as a professional after a stunning amateur career, was just a single judge away from managing to win the WBO Featherweight world title in his second bout.
Lomachenko's failure to win the world tile might have been "bad" for his legacy and for those hoping to see "history" created that night, though in another way it may have been one of the greatest things to happen in recent memory for professional boxing. Lomachenko's competitive effort signalled that professional novices could hold their own against experienced championship level fighters. Although Lomachenko may have been an exceptional amateur he was still a baby in terms of professional experience and he showed that a fighter doesn't need to have been a professional for years to have world class skills.
In failing to secure the record Lomachenko has actually left the door open to others wanting to tie, or even beat the record.
One man who seems interested in trying to tie the record is Japanese teenage Takuma Inoue (1-0), pictured below, who faces the world ranked Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (23-2, 15) on April 6th.
Sakkreerin Jr is currently ranked by all 4 organisations and a victory over him would open up doors with any of the WBA, WBC, WBO or IBF. Whilst some of these doors won't be worth trying open for obvious reasons, for example having a champion that you simply wouldn't risk a young novice against, others are very much open. In fact some of these possibilities are so open that it's hard to imagine Inoue refusing to consider them.
At the moment the WBA have a vacant title at Light Flyweight. If Inoue gets past Fahlan in their encounter it's hard to imagine Inoue not being rewarded with a top 5 rankings with the WBA. A top 5 ranking would surely leave Inoue in a position to challenge for either the vacant title, if it's still vacant, or have a shot at the next champion.
It may seem an extreme way to treat an 18 year old but with Inoue holding his own in sparring with WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi it's hard for Ohashi Gym and Inoue himself not to at least consider trying to tie the world record. He'd be in an ideal position, if he beats Sakkreerin Jr, to tie the record and most importantly he'll know a loss isn't a huge set back. He could easily rebound, like Lomachenko, at either the OPBF or Japanese level and rebuild from their.
Of course there is risk there for Inoue though the youngster will surely be aware that he could cement his place in the history books if he takes the risk and the gamble pays off.
The interesting thing for Inoue though isn't just that he'd be in a position to challenge for a world title in his third fight but that he's the next in the line of Japanese fighter who are swiftly coming through the ranks with ideas of grandeur.
We all know how great Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was and his rapid climb up the ranks back in the early 1990's was brilliant. Though of course his national record was beaten a few years back by Kazuto Ioka. Joichiro's national record had stood for almost 20 years before Kazuto Ioka burst on to the scene and defeated Oleydong Sithsamerchai to break "Jo's" record.
Now, just over 3 years after Ioka set a national record, Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) is trying to beat Ioka's achievement. If Naoya is successful and claims a world title in his 6th fight, when he battles Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title, then one must wonder what is next.
For me, and knowing what Takuma has been involved in in the gym, the next step is for Takuma to either get a world title fight in fight #3 or fight #4, if he gets past Sakkreerin Jr.
There is every chance that if Takuma does manage to fight for, and win, a world title in his third bout then more fighters will be looking to try and break the record and claim a world title in their second bout. On paper it's beyond what is currently allowed in Japan, due to domestic rules, but it's a marker set down to suggest that in this day and age Muangsurin's record is there to be challenged, not just admired.
(Pictures courtesy of boxrec and Ohashi Gym)
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