Se we're now into March and February, the shortest month of the year, has come to an end having really over-delivered in terms of fights and action, so lets have a look at the award winners for the month.
Fighter of the Month
Filipino fighter Vic Saludar really does love performing in Japan, and that was shown again this month, when he travelled to Tokyo and successfully defended the WBO Minimumweight title, out pointing Masataka Taniguchi. The Filipino had first made his mark in Japan losing to Kosei Tanaka, after dropping Tanaka, and would later go on to claim the title by beating Ryuya Yamanaka last year. This recent win will likely see him being invited back in the future, and the role of "Japanese Killer" could be there for him, and could be very profitable for the hard hitting Pinoy champion.
Fight of the Month
Hyun Je Shin vs Dong Kwan Lee
The hidden gem of the month came from Korea as Hyun Je Shin and Dong Kwan Lee beat the holy hell out of each other in a brilliant, all action 10 round bout for the Korean Super Featherweight title. We won't pretend that this bout will get a lot of attention, though if you like phone booth wars, all action fights and real intensity between two men who believe they can win, then this should be down your alley. It really was something very special, and a genuine treat for Korean fans, who look like they could be in for a really good year in 2019.
KO of the Month
Romero Duno KO2 Kuldeep Dhana
The month had some strong contenders for KO of the year, though the most brutal was Romero Duno's vicious knockout of Indian for Kuldeep Dhanda. This was explosive to say the least and Dhanda was left flat for several minutes as Duno looked shaken by what he'd done. Thankfully Dhanda would wake up in the ring and looked fine, but this really was something spectacular.
Notable contender: Downua Ruawaiking Vs Akihiro Kondo
Carl Jammes Martin
One category that was packed this month was the prospect of the month, which had so many notable contenders in the category that we could have easily done a full length feature on the "Prospects of February". If forced to pick one however it's teenager Carl Jammes Martin that shone the brightest. He was among the youngest of the prospects to fight, he made his TV debut and he put in a performance that showed why so many had been raving about him in the Philippines. He isn't the most rounded or accomplished of the prospects who fought in February, but he was the one who excited us the most.
Carlos Castro Vs Genesis Servania
There wasn't many upsets this past month, but Genesis Servania, who was widely available at 1/3, was beaten by relative unknown Carlos Castro. On paper this shouldn't have been a major upset, given that Castro was an unbeaten with 21 wins, but Servania had held his own in a world title bout and was seen as a man on the verge of a second world title fight. Castro however ended those hopes and took a clear win over the Filipino, who will be back to drawing board.
Ryugo Ushijima v Shota Ogasawara - Round 2
It wasn't just the fight of the month that was relatively low key but also the round of the month, which came back when Ryugo Ushijima and Shota Ogasawara put on a hell of a show. The second round was chaotic with Ogasawarwa dropping the 17 year old Uchijima before the youngster turned things around and stopped Ogasawara. This was a special round, and will hopefully gain both men some more eye balls on them,
Notable - Okada Vs Beltran (2)
This past week hasn't been the most packed, and sadly a lot of what did take place, at leats in Japan, wasn't made available live. As a result this week has been an awkward one to follow, but we have still had some pretty notable activity.
Fighter of the Week
Vic Saludar (19-3, 10)
The clearest category for the week was that of Fighter of the Week, which was won by WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar, following his impressive title defense on Japanese soil against Masataka Taniguchi. The champion was asked a few questions, and certainly slowed down at times, but was the clear winner and did so by out boxing Taniguchi in what was a very good fight. Saludar could end up back in Japan to defend his title again later in the year, and it does seem that he is building a reputation there following 3 strong performances in Japan in recent years.
Performance of the Week
Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6)
Whilst Saludar was impressive his bout was widely seen as a 50-50 bout going in. We, and many others, had however expected Shuji Kato to become the 11th victim of Kazuto Takesako. Instead however the 2017 Rookie of the Year came within a hair of dethroning the Japanese Middleweight champion, fighting to a very good draw. It wasn't the result that either man wanted, but the performance of Kato, to move, box and take the power of the champion was impressive and he certainly deserves some serious consideration for performance of the month and not just the week.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
There wasn't any FOTY contenders this week, but there was two talented, boxer punchers performing at the highest level. Sure the champion, Vic Saludar, took a clear win over the game but less experienced Masataka Taniguchi, but the bout was high level stuff from start to finish, with shifts in momentum, action and excitement. This won't be a bout remembered massively at the end of the year, and if we're being honest is one of the weaker Fight of the Weeks of 2019 so far, but was still a very good contest.
It should also be noted that the Korean action which took place on Sunday and the Japanese card from Saturday haven't yet been made available to watch widely, so none of those fights were considered here.
Vic Saludar vs Masataka Taniguchi - Round 8
We again had a lack of rounds to watch, and even things like Boxingraise have lacked new footage this past week. We suspect that, had the Korean card form Sunday been made available a round from there would have won Round of the Week. Instead we've gone with round 8 of the Saluda Vs Taniguchi bout. It was one of the most hotly contested bouts of the fight and was a pretty even round, with Taniguchi having some of his best successes. It's not a round that will live long in the memory, but sadly it's not been a week where we've been given much to view.
No fit contender
Unfortunately a lack of footage has been a problem again here. There was certainly plenty of KO's in the two notable Japanese cards of the week, but with so few fights being shown we were unable to see many KO's.
Jin Minamide (3-0, 3)
Whilst we lacked footage of fights there was a lot of prospects in action, and by a lot we really do mean a lot with around 10 notable hopefuls fighting in the space of just a few days. Although we've got to revert to selecting by results, and not the overall performance it's hard to deny how impressive Jin Minamide's TKO win over Marjun Pantilgan was. The Filipino is a durable opponent but was stopped by Minamide in 3 rounds, who really does look like one to watch. His win will be shown on Monday on G+.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) vs Joe Smith Jr (24-2, 20)
It's hard to not be excited by Dmitry Bivol and how his career is going to unfold. Next Saturday he will be defending the WBA Light Heavyweight title against the hard hitting Joe Smith Jr, in what could be a real fire cracker of a bout! We're looking forward to this one, a lot!
This past week has been a pretty low key yet interesting one for Asian boxing, with a really interesting Korean show, some Japanese action and various fights across the rest of the world with Asian fighters involved in them.
Fighter of the Week
Yuki Nonaka (33-10-3, 10)
Japanese veteran Yuki Nonaka rolled back the clock on Sunday, at the age of 41, to outpoint Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and claim the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight titles. The Osakan veteran had been regarded as the under-dog but dropped Hosokawa in the opening round and went on to take a clear decision over the hard hitting Hosokawa, in what was a really brilliant performance from the veteran. Given how Nonaka had lost 2 of his last 3 and had been a career Light Middleweight this result really was a surprise and the way he fought was fantastic, a great display of boxing skills, timing, control of distance and crisp punching.
Notable mentions: Downua Ruawaiking, Shakhram Giyasov
Performance of the Week
Downua Ruawaiking (15-0, 12)
To begin the week Thailand's Downua Ruawaiking, aka Apinun Khongsong, put himself on the boxing map with a KO win over durable veteran Akihiro Kondo. Kondo had been regarded as the favourite, he had proven his toughness through 39 previous fights including a loss to Sergey Lipinets, and this was Downua's first international fight. Despite being the under-dog the Thai was sharp, accurate and closed the show in style, sending Kondo down hard with an excellent uppercut. This was a performance that really caught the attention and showed that Downua deserved to be in the mix with bigger fights, in fact the win has made him the mandatory IBF title challenger at 140lbs.
Hyun Je Shin (10-8, 2) vs Dong Kwan Lee (9-2-2, 4)
It's rare that we get fights of real quality in Korea but this week we got something special as Hyun Je Shin and Dong Kwan Lee took part in a sensational 10 round war for the BoxingM Super Featherweight title. The pace the two men set was incredible from the opening round and they never really slowed down at any point, as both gritted their teeth and fought with an exceptional desire. This is probably not going to be mentioned much internationally but SPOTV really did have a cracking bout on their hands.
Due to SPOTV's youtube setting's we can't embed the video, but feel free to watch the video on youtube, here.
Hyun Je Shin vs Dong Kwan Lee (round 3)
The aforementioned BoxingM Super Featherweight title fight had a number of rounds that could have been the round of the week. We've gone with the third, but there really was so many options from the same fight. The action was a phone booth war and is something that had so much intensity, action and excitement. It's a bit of a shame that neither man had the power to really hurt the other, but the high intensity action made up for that.
Downua Ruawaiking KO5 Akihiro Kondo
We will struggle to find a more aesthetically pleasing KO this year than the one scored by Downua Ruawaiking against Akihiro Kondo. Kondo may not have been out cold, some how getting to his feet, but it was nothing short of a spectacular shot, and will something we expect to see replayed time and time again this year. The fact Kondo had never been stopped prior to this KO is a testament to how well Downua caught him, and the way Kondo went down was genuinely amazing.
Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5)
Back to Korea for our Prospect of the week, in what was a really stacked category. We've gone with aggressive and exciting Korean teenager Jeong Han Cha. He was up against a fellow unbeaten and in fact his opponent, Yun Seong Kim, look really goo in the opening round. In round 2 however Cha scored two different knockouts. The first was from a brutal body shot, that seemed to be incorrectly ruled a low blow and allowed Kim a chance to recover, whilst he would later finish the bout with some huge head shots. It's hard to get too excited about Korean prospects, but Cha really does look like he has something special about him, and is really worthy of serious attention.
Notable mentions: Sultan Zaurbek, Tanawat Nakoon, Ravshanbek Umurzakov
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
The bout we're most excited about this coming week is the WBO Minimumweight title bout between defending champion Vic Saludar and Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. This bout has the potential to be a FOTY contender. Both have exciting styles, under-rated power and skills and they should make for a thrilling war of attrition. Something for us to be very, very excited about.
Kuroda to face IBF champion Mthalane on May 13th!
This week we had the official announcement that Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) would challenge IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) on May 13th at the Korakuen Hall. The full details of the show and the broadcast are yet to be announced, but this is a great bout and something we're looking forward to. It's not like the bout was a secret, but to have a date and venue confirmed this week is great news, and the result of the details will be announced over the coming weeks.
The final part of February is a really interesting one, with a lot of action in less than 2 weeks including world title bouts, prospects, world title eliminators and a regional title fight.
Dave Penalosa (14-0, 10) vs Marcos Cardenas (19-6-1, 15) - Metro Manila, Philippines
For a second straight week we see a Filipino prospect called Dave in a notable step up on ESPN5. First there was Dave Apolinario and now we get Dave Penalosa, who looks to over-come Marcos Cardenas for the WBO Oriental Featherweight title. Penalosa, who carries a legendary surname, showed early promise but inactivity has cost years of his career, and he will now be looking to get back in the right track. Cardenas is heavy handed but this is a huge step up for the Mexican.
Johnriel Casimero (25-4, 16) vs Kenya Yamashita (13-4, 10)- Metro Manila, Philippines
Former 2-weight world champion John Riel Casimero returns to a Filipino ring for the first time since losing in a world title eliminator to Jonas Sultan back in September 2017. In the opposite corner is flawed, but exciting, Japanese youngster Kenya Yamashiita, who should make for a really interesting opponent. Casimero should be favoured, but he has been disappointing at times and he may well be on the slide.
Carl Jammes Martin (11-0, 10) vs Petchchorhae Kokietgym (17-2, 8)- Metro Manila, Philippines
Another exciting prospect on this card is the unbeaten and prodigiously young Carl Jammes Martin, who will be making his TV debut in a bout against Thai visitor Petchchorhae Kokietgym. This looks like a really tough match up for Martin's first bout on TV, but a win here will really allow him to announce himself on the Filipino fans who may not have had a chance to see the youngster yet. The Thai is no pushover but has lost his two most notable bouts to date.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) Vs Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)- California, USA
In the US we'll see an IBF world title eliminator at Super Bantamweight, as former world champion Ryosuke Iwasa takes on the always entertaining Cesar Juarez in what should be a very entertaining battle. Iwasa needs to impress to remain in the mix, and this will be his US debut after having had a previous Stateside aborted when his opponent failed to make weight. Juarez lost his last bout at world level, being stopped by Isaac Dogboe, but has bounced back well and will be really up for this contest, in what could be a very, very entertaining bout and potentially the highlight of the weekend.
Yesenia Gomez (14-5-3, 6) vs Erika Hanawa (10-3, 4) - Quintana Roo, Mexico
In a female world title fight we'll see Japan's Erika Hanawa challenge WBC Female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez. Despite being a world title fight few would consider either of these as truly world class, with both suffering set backs in recent bouts. It's those setbacks, and the need to shine brightly here, that makes this bout more intriguing than if both were in good form, and neither can afford a loss. Sadly though in a division with Yesica Yolanda Bopp, Kenia Enriquez and Tenkai Tsunami it's hard to see the winner of this bout as truly top level fighter.
Akihiro Kondo (31-7-1, 18) Vs Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
A second IBF world title eliminator is set to take place at Light Welterweight, as the teak tough Akihiro Kondo battles unbeaten Thai prospect Downua Ruawaiking. This is a really interesting match up that not only lets us see what Kondo has left in the tank, after 2 straight forward bouts since his loss to Sergey Lipinets, but also see what Ruawaiking has to offer. The Thai has looked good so far, but this is a big step up in class, and his first bout outside of his homeland. A win for Downua would put him on the map, but this is a really stiff test for him.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-3, 10) Vs Yuki Nonaka (32-10-3, 10) - Osaka, Japan
Potentially the fight of the month will see the big punching Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa defending his WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Middleweight titles against skilled veteran Yuki Nonaka. This bout will likely be brawn against brain and should be a real thriller. Hosokawa only fights one way, and that is with intense aggression, the sort of thing Hosokawa has made a career out of soaking up, countering and using against fighters. We really do see this as a highlight and can't wait to see Boxingraise posting the fight on demand.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Another potential highlight will see WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar defending his title for the first time, taking on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. Both of these men are aggressive, heavy handed, skilled and exciting. We're expecting bombs to be traded, though not in a wild way. Instead this should be a compelling chess match with shotguns and rocket launchers. A potentially brilliant contest, that is only really harmed by the fact TBS won't be broadcasting the fight live but instead showing it on tape delay.
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.
Although not many fights for 2019 have been officially announced there are numerous contests rumoured and others that are thought to be in the pipe line, such as mandatory title challenges. Here we take a look at some of those fights.
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) [岡田 博喜] Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)
Supposedly set for February 10th in California is a bout between former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada take on former WBO Lightweight champion Raymundo Beltran. The bout would have fireworks written all over it, and push the winner onto a potential title fight, with Jose Carlos Ramirez likely be an option. It now seems like the bout won't be taking place in February, but could end up happening later in the year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [谷口 将隆]
Rumoured to be set for February 25th we'll be seeing WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar return to Japan to take on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. Both of these men are hard hitters in the lowest class, both have under-rated skills and this should make for a really exciting match up. The champion would, rightfully, be favoured, but it is a very dangerous first defense and could be a potential FOTY candidate, given the styles of the two fighters.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼]
WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin is rumoured to be making his international debut later in the year, to take on unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura in Tokyo. This bout began to be rumoured after Wanehng's last bout, and has excited fan much more than a previously rumoured contest between the Thai and Japanese national champion Shin Ono, in a bout that didn't really get the juices flow. Koura would be the under-dog, but would be a very live challenger for the unbeaten Thai champion.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
Considered as a possible world title fight for Spring we could see WBO Light Flyweight champion Angel Acosta defending his belt against Jonathan Taconing, who is highly ranked by all of the 4 world title bodies. Taconing had been ordered to fight in a WBC world title eliminator, and may go that route, but a shot at the WBO champion certainly shouldn't be ruled out given he is ranked highly by the Puerto Rican organisation. This has the potential to be a very special bout, and something to get very excited about given that both men are hard hitters who fight with bad intentions.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) Vs Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也]
WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales has twice fought in the Land of the Rising Sun and put on a show in both, fighting to a draw with Ryoichi Taguchi and taking a win over Reiya Konishi. He's now expected to return for a third visit to defend his title against veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who is the WBA's #1 contender for the title. Hisada vacated the Japanese title in late 2018 and is expected to make the most of his top ranking with the Panamanian outfit. He would be a very clear under-dog against the Venezuelan puncher, but at 34 years old it really is now or never for the Osaka.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) Vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) [船井 龍一]
If a much anticipated showdown between IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas and WBC counterpart Srisaket Sor Rungvisai can't be made in the coming weeks Ancajas is expected to be ordered to make a mandatory defense of his title against Ryuichi Funai, who earned his mandatory shot by stopping Victor Olivo in November. The Filipino champion would be favoured, but has under-delivered in recent bouts and Funai will be fully aware that this could be his one and only shot at a world title. This all Asian bout is likely to be pushed for hard by Funai's team, at the Watanabe gym, though Ancajas does have other options on the table including a move up in weight.
With 2018 coming to a close we're already excited about the coming year and what the sport may have in store for us in 2019. Here we look at 5 potential bouts involving Asian fighters at world level, we'll be doing a similar article at Oriental/Asia Pacific level in the coming days.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Kal Yafai (25-0, 15)
The Super Flyweight division is one of the most packed at the moment, with a good handful of fighters who could all mix in some interesting fights. Among those possible fights is a WBC/WBA unification bout that would pit Asia Vs the UK. The match up in question would see murderous puncher Srisaket Sor Rungvisai take on unbeaten boxer Kal Yafai, in a bout that could go some way towards sorting out the division.
In theory it's not the out and out best bout the division could give us, or even the most obvious, but we would love to see this bout, and suspect it could end what has been a poor reign from the Englishman. It would also leave Juan Francisco Estrada available to have a long awaited rematch with Roman Gonzalez and a potential WBO/IBF unification with the winner of Donnie Nietes Vs Kazuto Ioka taking on Jerwin Ancajas.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9)
The Minimumweight division is particularly exciting right now with a lot of young talent emerging to challenge the champions at the top of the division. The longest reigning champion in the sport right now is Thailand's unbeaten Wanheng Menayothin, who has held the WBC Minimumweight title since November 2014 and already ran up 10 defenses. One of the most promising of the emerging contenders is Japan's Tsubasa Koura, who is exciting, skilled, hard hitting and one of the brightest youngsters in Japan.
This bout has been mooted for Spring 2019, and seems almost certainly a done deal to our understanding. It would be a big step up in class for Koura but he's really looked tremendous so far and if he can lure Wanheng to Japan he has a great chance. For Wanheng it'd be another bout against a young upstart, but one that could see him silencing more of his doubters and further extending his impressive unbeaten record.
Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20) Vs Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17)
Back in November Tomoki Kameda claimed the WBC "interim" Super Bantamweight title, he's expected to face "regular" champion Rey Vargas in 2019, however there is some talk that bout may not be next for either man, with Vargas expected to face WBA champion Daniel Roman. If that happens it could open the door for Kameda to defend the interim title before facing Vargas. There's one man who has been very public about fighting him, and that's Shingo Wake, who has publicly called Kameda out, a number of times.
If this All Japanese Super Bantamweight clash was made it would pit two skilled fighters against each other in a mouth watering bout that could end up deciding the #1 Japanese fighter in the division, though Ryosuke Iwasa and Yukinori Oguni could also involve themselves in that argument. It would however have to wait until late Spring given that Wake will be fighting on January 19th and would need time to prepare for Kameda, who doesn't seem to have been excited about facing Wake in the past.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7)
Filipino fighter Vic Saludar travelled to Japan earlier this year to rip the WBO Minimumweight title from the hands of Ryuya Yamanaka, and sadly retired Yamanaka in the process. A return to Japan to defend the title against Masataka Taniguchi would be a potential FOTY candidate with Saludar and Taniguchi both being heavy handed fighters, with solid boxing skills, a good amateur pedigree and exciting, free flowing attacking styles. It's rare to get two solid punchers up against each other at 105lbs and this bout would give us just that.
This bout had been rumoured for New Year's Eve but didn't come off, it could however end up taking place in 2019, with Taniguchi having won the WBO Asia Pacific title since the bout was first rumoured. This could be put on a bumper card in the Golden Week and would make for a great supporting world title bout.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) Vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
It's hard to say what the best bout possible to make at Light Flyweight really is, with a number of match ups that could end up being FOTY contenders featuring many of the top fighters in the division. Not only are there a lot of fantastic fighters at 108lbs but there are a lot that stylistically match up for great fights. One such fight would see WBO world champion Angel Acosta taking on Filipino slugger Jonathan Taconing, who would be getting his third world title fight. This wouldn't be a mega skilled bout, but would be ultra exciting, with both being heavy handed, tough, and having solid stamina.
On paper this is a real possibility, given that Taconing is ranked #2 by the WBO, though Acosta is pencilled in to make a mandatory defense against Ryuji Hara in Spring. If the bout takes place in Summer 2019 then we'd be ecstatic and looking forward to some real unbridled violence. This really would be something special, though either man could be replace with Felix Alvarado, Carlos Canizales, Hiroto Kyoguchi or Christian Araneta and we'd still get a very special bout!
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