This past week has been a strange week of action. We had two notable Japanese cards, a pretty interesting Thai card, a Korean card and brilliant Hong Kong card. It's made for a busy week, and a fairly interesting one!
Fighter of the Week
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9)
Japanese Light Middleweight Hironobu Matsunaga takes home top honours this week following his excellent win over Nobuyuki Shindo, to claim the Japanese title at 154lbs. Matsunaga had entered the bout was the under-dog against the taller, longer and more experienced Shindo. Despite all the disadvantages Matsunaga set the pace, was in Shindo's face and later went on to break down Shindo, who retired between rounds 6 and 7. The bout may end Shindo's career though for Matsunaga it's his biggest win, by far, and extends his current winning run to 9 bouts. It's hard to know how long Matsunaga will reign atop the Japanese domestic scene but this week is his week!
Performance of the Week
Keita Kurihara (14-5, 12)
The Performance of the Week award was one of the easier awards this week, with Japanese puncher Keita Kurihara being the run away winner. The OPBF Bantamweight king created history by scoring the fastest ever win an OPBF Bantamweight title fight. The performances lasted for a little over 30 seconds but the hard hitting Kurihara impressed with every one of those seconds, whilst sending the popular Warlito Parrenas into retirement. Given how Kurihara had failed to put away Yuki Strong Kobayashi in December this was a real return to form for the youngster!
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li
It's not often that Hong Kong gets our attention but it did this week for an excellent card from DEF HK. The main event of that card saw local hopeful Raymond Poon KaiChing take on aggressive Chinese southpaw Xiang Li in what turned out to be a really, really exciting 10 round back and forth war. On paper Poon had the advantages in terms of power, home advantages and crowd support but Li set a high tempo, fought with real hunger and looked the more technically sound fighter in what was a brilliant back and forth contest. This one is one that all fans should give a watch to, and it really was an instant Closet Classic between two young men each looking to prove a point.
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li (round 10)
We'll stay with the Fight of the Week for our Round of the Week, with the final round between Poon and Li being utterly brilliant as both dug deep, deeper than either was expected to dig. This was 3 minutes of desperation from two men desperate to take home the win, two men determined to give all they had, and two men who's styles just gelled. This was exactly what we love in the sport, and a reminder as to why some of these smaller cards are among the very, very best that the sport can provide.
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
Former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi was behind on the scorecards, being out boxing, out moved and out though by Shun Wakabayashi. It seemed like he was around 5 minutes from losing to the unheralded Wakabayashi. That was until he connected with a brutal uppercut that left Wakabayashi out cold, staring at the lights and made it easy to forget the action that had come before hand. The shot erased all of Wakabayashi's good work and showed what an amazing equliser Ohashi's power is.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Macau isn't known as a boxing hotspot but it's got a potential gem within it's ranks in the form of Lap Cheong Cheong, who secured his 6th win this Sunday, when he beat Muhammad Wahid of Indonesia. Cheong's win wasn't necessary a big win, but his performance filled us with a lot of excitement, as he spent 6 rounds going full tilt in pursuit of a stoppage. He had the bout easily won after 4 rounds, but wanted to put on a show, wanted to stop his Indonesian foe and showed touches of star potential He's not an amateur standout, like many Prospects of the Week, but there is a lot to like about him. Aged 22 we're expecting to see Cheong competing at a much higher level in the future and given his career so far he is going to be a very special fighter to watch.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12)
We have some amazing fights over the next 7 days, though the fight we're most looking forward to is, unsurprisingly, the WBSS semi final bout between Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez. The bout will be for a number of titles, including the IBF, WBA "regular" and Ring Magazine titles, it'll also be for a place in the WBSS final and a chance to claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Whilst there are other great bouts, such as the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, as well as the potentially fantastic IBF Light Flyweight title bout between Felix Alvarado and Reiya Konishi, there was only ever going to be one bout winning this category. It is, however, a week to be very, very excited about. We are in for something very, very special!
With a new year comes new ideas, and one of the new things we'd like to try in 2019 is our weekly awards, and further to that an attempt at monthly awards as well. We know some weeks, and months, will see a lot of contenders for awards, and we're really hoping that that sparks debate with you, the readers, as well as feedback. That feed back will be looked at and potentially included in a follow up article .
Just as some basic ground rules, weeks run from Monday to Sunday, so the end of week 1 is Sunday January 6th. These pieces will be posted between Sunday and Tuesday, depending on time, and what fights take place when. Also all awards are for Asian fighters or bout that take place in Asia, or feature and Asian fighter, so please remember that!
As a general rule we want to recognise fighters and fights in the following categories:
Fighter - Straight forward, which fighter impressed the most during the week
Performance - Which fighter put on the best performance of the week
Fight - Which fight was the best of the week (where possible a video will be supplied)
Round - Which round was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
KO - Which KO was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
Prospect - Which prospect impressed us most during the week
Upcoming fight - Which fight, during the following week, are we the most excited about
As well as a "notable mentions" category, which are essentially for doing something that doesn't fit in one of the above categories or where someone is narrowly pipped.
We suspect over the next few weeks we'll see this whole thing change slightly, but hopefully by the Spring we'll have settled on a format that works. We also know not all fights are available to watch publicly, for example those on boxingraise, where that's the case we will look to add a notable mention for another fight.
So....with all that said, I would like to get on to the Asian Boxing Awards for Week 1 2019!
Fighter of the Week
Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19)
There wasn't too much action this past week, what with the year just starting at all that, but there was really only 2 contenders for this award. They were Jiang Xiang of China and Giemel Magramo, of the Philippines. For us Magramo gets the win by a nose hair. He went over to China and stopped the previously unbeaten Wenfeng Ge, to unify the WBO Oriental and WBO International titles at Flyweight. Not only beating someone highly regarded, like Ge, but to do it by stoppage in their back yard gets Magramo our first ever Fighter of the Week recognition.
Performance of the Week
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) [向静]
Whilst Magramo's stoppage against Ge was an impressive result, we thought Magramo actually was pipped in terms of his performance by Jing Xiang, who dominated former world champion Kompayak Porpramook over 12 rounds to retain the WBC Silver Light Flyweight title. The bout Chinese fighter was taking on a determined visitor and ended up schooling the Thai veteran, hardly dropping a round, and actually putting the Thai down. For us this was the much better performance, with Magramo's having the better result. We were thoroughly impressed by how Xiang shut down the pressure from the Thai, despite some tough moments.
Jiang Wang (7-1, 2) [王健] Vs Sung Young Yang (6-2, 3) [양성영]
Despite being a dominant win for Jing Xiang over Kompayak Porpramook we were totally captivated, from the first round to the last. Sadly, it was too one-sided to be our fight of the week, however the walk out bout from the same show, which saw Jian Wang and Sung Young Yang battle to 10 round split decision draw was just what we wanted. It was exciting, action packed and highly competitive. These two lacked the skills of some other fighters on the card but in terms of action they delivered, in a big way, often taking it in turns to wail away on each other from close range. If you love technical mastery you'll be disappointed in our choice, but for pure wild entertainment this was just fantastic.
Giemel Magramo Vs Wenfeng Ge (Round 2)
Although there wasn't a lot of action this past week we got more than our share of great rounds. Rounds 9 and 10 from the Wang Vs Yang bout were amazing, round 7 of Xiang Vs Kompayak was sensational, however our pick for the week was round 2 of Magramo Vs Ge. The round wasn't just a high intensity one, but also featured a high level of skill, with both men showing ring craft and skills. As the bout went on the contest became 1-sided, but this round was an ultra competitive one and a very entertaining contest, that seemed to give us a glimpse of a very special fight, that sadly we didn't really get.
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!
Xiang Li (4-0, 3) [李想]
Chinese novice Xiang Li may not get many mentions through the next 12 months, but he did more than get this honour by defeat. He took on tough Filipino Arvin Yurong, who had travelled with the intention of claiming the WBO Oriental Youth title. Li, a 22 year old puncher from Nanjing, managed to stop Yurong in the 4th round, enduring some problems from the hungry and gutsy Filipino who had travelled to fight and was really in Li's face. Whilt we don't imagine we'll see Li getting many mentions this year he certainly impressed today, and hopefully he'll be busier in 2019 than he has been the last few years.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) [武田勇太] Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) [田村 亮一]
There's not many fights this coming week, but we do like th elook of the January 12th Japanese Super Bantamweight bout between Mugicha Nakagawa and Ryoichi Tamura, in what could be a very exciting contest. The styles should gel well, and with a national title on the line we suspect both men will give all they've got to make their mark. Tamura is rarely in a bad fight, and we Nakagawa is the type of battle who will happily engage in a war. Potentally a thriller at the Korakuen Hall!
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