As we all know a number of gyms in Japan are run by former fighters. A lot of those are run by former world champions such as Hideyuki Ohashi, Hiroki Ioka, Hiroshi Kawashima and Kiyoshi Hatanaka, others are run by less well known fighters, like Kazuhiro Ryuko. Although Ryuko was pretty notable, winning the Japanese and OPBF titles, challenging for a world title and holding a notable win against a young Celes Kobayashi, himself a current gym owner and former champion, he isn't a top name. Ryuko's gym however is a good one, and has a number of exciting prospects based there.
The pick of fighters from Ryuko's gym, known as the RK Boxing Family, is Rikuto Shiba (2-0, 1) [芝 力人], a 23 year old Flyweight hopeful who had a distinguished, though not standout, amateur career before turning professional last year and quickly catching the eye of fans.
Born in October 1995 Shiba managed to run up a 38-13 amateur record. That's not amazing but he was a key figure in the team of his high school and his University before his debut. As we're all too aware of the High School and University leagues in Japan are incredibly tough and whilst a 38-13 record is far from amazing it's a respectable record and not something to be sniffed at.
Shiba would turn professional in 2018, and make his debut on May 20th 2018 at the Ota-City Gymnasium, where he beat the then 2-0 Hiroki Inamine. This wasn't a typical debut however, as it came on a stacked card, headlined by Ryoichi Taguchi's bout with Hekkie Budler, which also saw Hiroto Kyoguchi defending his IBF Minimumweight title against Vince Paras. Although he beat Inamine he was forced to work for the win, dropping Inamine on route to a clear, but competitive, unanimous decision win.
Around 4 months after his debut Shiba returned to the ring for his second professional bout, taking on Yasuhiro Tanaka in a B Class tournament final. This was Tanaka's 11th professional bout, and he was looking to build on a solid win over Satoshi Tanaka. Despite the gulf in professional experience Shiba looked confident, calm and accurate. He showed cased a lovely sharp jab, good footwork, and a crisp hook, though did show some inexperience, when complaining about headclashes early in the bout. As the contest went on Shiba began to turn the screw, showcasing more of what he could do, doubling and tripling his hook and land solid clean right hands. Those blows took a toll and in round 5 the referee saved a tired looking Tanaka, who had taken some huge body shots and was forced to cover up on the ropes.
For fans wanting to watch Shiba's bout with Tanaka, it's available on Boxingraise.
Talented, sharp and powerful Shiba is an exciting fighter to watch, with good solid fundamentals. He's expected to have his third bout on April 11th in a Japanese Youth title eliminator and is eyeing his first title by the end of the year. Given his stiff competition he hasn't had things all his own way, but has shown a lot to get excited by. If he continues to impress he will almost certainly find himself in the Japanese rankings sooner, rather than later.
This past week has been an under-the-radar week, with a lot of action, even if there wasn't a lot of headlines. We've had some really interesting and eye catching moments, and it is certainly a week that will go down as being an over-looked one at the end of the year.
Fighter of the Week
Samuel Salva (17-0, 10)
There was a couple of world title eliminators this week and whilst neither really delivered in terms of being a FOTY candidate, it was good to see Samuel Salva put on a career best performance to over-come Rene Mark Cuarto. Salva hadn't looked great in some previous bouts, but the 22 year old showed a lot to like here, and had certainly improved from the fighter that had previous had footage available. Whether he goes all the way or not is yet to be seen, though he is now firmly in the mix for a world title fight.
Performance of the Week
Sadriddin Akhmedov (8-0, 7)
Kazakh fighter Sadriddin Akhmedov has been carving out a real reputation due to his performances in Canada but this week he returned to his motherland and put on a show for the fans in Kazakhstan, beating up tough Indonesian John Ruba. The bout, for a regional title, saw Akhmedov take the fight to Ruba round after round, though was surprisingly taken the 10 round distance. The "Soldier of Q" will have been disappointed in losing his 100% KO rate, but did get a chance to answer any questions about his stamina and work rate. A fantastic showing.
Ricky Sismundo Vs Maxim Dadashev
Although there was a lot of minor fights from Asia one of the most interesting fights from the week to feature an Asian came from the US as Ricky Sismundo took on hard hitting Russian Maxim Dadashev, and really forced the fight to be a good one. The fight won't be recalled as a Fight of the Year contender but had a great momentum swing and come back. In round 2 Sismundo dropped the unbeaten Russian and seemed confident of attacking Dadashev, before being taken out by a huge 2-punch combination in round 4. A very entertaining contest, even if it's nothing that will be remembered highly at the end of the year.
Notable mention - Jon Jon Estrada Vs Vladislav Krasnoshein
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu vs Mike Tawatchai Round 3
We had some great rounds this past week, and one of the best was the third round of the bout between Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu and Mike Tawatchai. The bout overall was 1-sided, with Uulu beating up the Thai veteran, but the 3rd round really saw the Thai gritting his teeth and taking the fight back to Uulu, almost fighting out of desperation. It wasn't an effective tactic for Tawatchai, but did make for some really exciting action before he was broken down.
Roy Nagulman KO2 Angelito Merin
We had a few great KO's this week, including one suffered by Ricky Sismundo, though none was as good as the one score by Filipino teenager Roy Nagulman, who left Angelito Merin out cold, and requiring a stretcher to get out of the ring. The shot that left Merin down was a huge right hand that could not possibly have landed any cleaner. At 17 years old Nagulman looks to be a real prospect and this performance was as much of an eye opener as he team could ever have hoped for.
Yuki Yamauchi (3-0, 2)
Japan's Yuki Yamauchi may not be on the radar of many fight fans yet, despite our recent "Introducing..." article about him, but it's only a matter of time before fans will begin talking about him. He stepped up this week and took the unbeaten record of Claudevan Sese in 3 rounds. Yamauchi could be the best Japanese fighter you're not aware of, and is well worth following. Unlike most Japanese prospects the 23 year old has international amateur experience and fighting at Super Bantamweight he's someone capable of making a big mark on the international stage.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20)
We sometimes get amazing match ups that make us lick our lips in anticipation, despite average fans not caring too much. We think we have one such bout this week, as OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro takes on Takuya Watanabe. This has the potential to be a very, very special bout between two talented fighters. These might not be a world title bout, or even a world title eliminator, but it's a bout we're incredibly excited about and we suspect we'll be getting something very special here.
Whilst March started somewhat quietly it certainly ends with a crescendo of action, thanks to a huge flurry of fights in the last week or so of the month. While they are of varying quality they do come thick and fast!
Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1) Vs Claudevan Sese (7-0-3, 1) - Hyogo, Japan
In a meeting of unbeaten fighters touted Japanese prospect Yuki Yamauchi battles against unbeaten Filipino Claudevan Sese. We're bit on Yamauchi, and this looks like a really good test for the former Japanese amateur standout, even if Sese hasn't shown much in terms of power through his career. It's not a huge bout, by any stretch, but we do love seeing touted amateurs tested and this should be an ideal test for Yamauchi.
Sergey Lipinets (14-1, 10) Vs Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17) - Maryland, USA
Kazakh-Russian Sergey Lipinets looks to continue the rebuilding process following his 2018 IBF world title loss to Mikey Garcia. In the opposite corner is another former world champion, Lamont Peterson, himself needing to rebuild from a loss to Errol Spence. This isn't an amazing match up in terms of names but in the ring the styles should gel to provide us with something very exciting and very enjoyable, with the volume and strength of Peterson against the explosive power and ruggedness of Lipinets.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) - Tokyo, Japan
The potential hidden gem of the month will take place on March 27th and will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro defending his title against Slver champion Takuya Watanabe. Both of these men are very talented boxers, both can be dragged into a war and both can put on a show. Mishiro is the more natural talent, with amateur polish and the promising prospect tag, but Watanabe is a gritty veteran who has seen it all before. This really could be one of the best bouts of the month.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) II - Thailand
After several changes in regards to the date, we now finally see the rematch between unbeaten WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara. We though their first bout was incredibly close, actually feeling as if Fukuhara's work rate should have earned him a win, but since then the Japanese fighter has failed to shine. Wanheng however has moved past Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record and is unlikely to be just giving up the WBC title any time soon. An interesting match up that should tell us a lot about the future of both men.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) Vs Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5) - Shanghai, China
Touted Japanese youngster Ryota Yamauchi takes a huge step up in class, in his first bout away from Japan, as he battles world ranked Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi. The Japanese prospect has impressed from the off, with a couple of notable wins already, but this is a massive leap up in what will be his first bout scheduled for 12 rounds, and to do that in enemy territory shows his confidence. Tuolehazi isn't the most polished of fighters, but he's strong, makes fights ugly and is riding a good winning streak into this, including an excellent win over Jayr Raquinel.
Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) Vs Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) - Shanghai, China
Another China Vs Japan bout will see Baishanbo Nasiyiwula take on Yusuke Konno, in what should be a chance for Baishanbo to look good. The Chinese hopeful looked less than brilliant against Ernesto Espana last time out, but has shown plenty to get excited about in the past, with a usually fun style, a rugged toughness and a dislikable streak of mean arrogance. Konno looks like the clear under-dog on paper but he's been enjoying a solid run of performances coming into this and will feel confident enough of over-coming the Chinese hopeful.
Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (60-10-2, 24) - Shanghai, China
Arguably the biggest fight on the card, in terms of name value, is also the biggest mismatch, with former world champion Sho Kimura battling against Thai veteran Pigmy Kokietgym, himself a former world title challenger. For Kimura, who is still hugely popular in China, this will be his first bout since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka in 2018. Pimgy is a veteran, but a veteran who has lost 7 by stoppage and is already 37 years old. The Thai has gone on too long, and is likely to be used as little more than a confidence booster for Kimura.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) Vs Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) - Pennsylvania, USA
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov takes on Japanese puncher Keita Obara in an IBF Welterweight eliminator, to earn a shot at the title later in the year. The unbeaten Uzbek is the more naturally gifted boxer and the more rounded fighter, with a good boxing brain, good movement and speed, but he is a relatively light punching fighter compared to Obara, who is technically less impressive but a solid hitter. This should make for an interesting dynamic, and both will see this as a potentially career defining bout, leading to a massive fight in the near future.
Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) Vs Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) - Kanagawa, Japan
Also at the very end of the month will be the next OPBF Minimumweight title defense from unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura, who will be taking on limited but tough Filipino challenger Lito Dante. On paper this looks like a total mismatch, but in reality it should be a lot more competitive than it looks. Not to say we don't Koura will win, but he will have to work for the win against the very under-rated Dante, who has never been stopped and has faced world class fighters numerous times during his 29 fight career.
The Shinsei Gym has been a notable one in recent years and has been one of the main sources of fights of fights in Hyogo, whilst managing the careers of fighters like Hozumi Hasegawa, Ryuya Yamanaka, Etsuko Tada, Shun Kubo and Reiya Konishi. Whilst Hasegawa and Yamanaka have both retired the gym is still an excellent environment with not only Tada, Konishi and rising female star Kasumi Saeki, but also Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1) [山内祐希] an incredibly promising Super Bantamweight prospect who appears to be on the fast track to the top.
Yamauchi was a genuine former amateur standout. His record in the unpaid ranks has been reported as 66-16 (25) and he won a number of awards, including a silver medal at the 2016 World University Championships and a number of high school titles. His test bout in 2018 saw him sharing the ring with Tenta Kiyose and he looked sharp, crisp and very much a pro-ready. Interestingly that pro-test took place on the same day as Kasumi Saeki's pro-test, who won her first title in her third bout and is set to fight for a world title in her 4th professional bout.
Less than 3 months after taking part in his pro-test bout Yamauchi made his professional debut, taking on Filipino foe Jimboy Rosales. On paper this wasn't expected to be a huge test, and it proved not to be anything too tough for the Japanese fighter. Yamauchi set the tempo for the fight early on, controlled the distance from the opening seconds, with his razor sharp and excellent straight left hand, and managed to find a home for his body shots in round 3. Those body shots would break Rosales up, and drop him to the canvas, where he would take the 10 count.
In his second bout Yamauchi would take a big step up in class to take on the hard hitting Alvin Medura. Medura had never been stopped, and was 8-2 (7) as a professional, but was unable to match the skills or speed of Yamauchi, who repeatedly found a home for his left hand often on the jaw of Medura. The impressive punching of Yamauchi seemed to frustrate Medura, who became clumsier and a head clash in round 4 saw the bout coming to an early conclusion, with Yamauchi taking a clear technical decision win over the heavy handed Filipino, at the start of round 5.
Interestingly his second bout had been rumoured to be a 10 round bout, and had originally been listed on the Shinsei Gym website as a 10 round contest, before being reduced to a 6 round contest. In the end the length wasn't an issue, due to the head clash, but it did seem very obvious that Shinsei were looking to push him fast and hard to the top. It wasn't just Shinsei looking to push him but also himself, and talk prior to that bout was that Yamauchi was looking to move into the title mix in 2019, something that certainly looks plausible if he can fit in 3 or 4 fights this year.
Whilst it's unclear how many fights Yamauchi will have this year we do know that his next fight will take place on March 24th at the Kobe Sambo Hall and will see him battle against unbeaten Filipino fighter Claudevan Sese (7-0-3, 1) in a bout scheduled for 8 rounds. This will be Yamauchi's first bout set for more than 6 rounds and it seems like a very clear step up in class for the 23 year old southpaw.
The Shinsei Gym will push talented youngsters hard .They are not a gym that protects their fighters and allows them to go stale, and with that in mind it does seem really obvious that they will be looking to give Yamauchi stiffer and stiffer tests until he's reached title level. There is clearly a lot of developing that he needs to do before he takes on a really top tier domestic or regional fighter, but there's no reason for him to avoid things like a Japanese Youth title or a WBC Youth title, both of which could be in his grasp before the end of 2019, with senior titles to potentially follow in 2020.
After a few disappointing weeks of action, or rather a lack of action, things got going again this past week and it has been an excellent week with a great FOTY contender and several impressive performances from prospects.
Fighter of the Week
Kosei Tanaka (13-0, 7)
There was a clear star this week, and you'll be seeing his name mentioned a lot in this article. That is WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka, who was the clear Fighter of the Week, defending his WBO title in a fantastic 12 round contest with Ryoichi Taguchi. Although Tanaka wasn't impressed by his own performance, we were and it really was an excellent win and another thrilling bout from the "KO Dream Boy" who has now been in back to back FOTY contenders.
Performance of the Week
Koshin Takeshima (3-0, 3)
One of the many fighters who will end up being over-looked from this past week is Koshin Takeshima, who looked sensational, exciting and destructive as he stopped Jian Wang. Takeshima dropped his Chinese opponent in the opening seconds, then bulled him around until the resolve of Wang went and the referee was forced to step in and stop the bout. The level of the bout might not have been high but we are only a few months removed from Wang going 10 rounds in a regional youth title bout. Very impressive from Takeshima.
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) vs Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12)
The fight of the week was, clearly, the aforementioned WBO Flyweight title bout between Kosei Tanaka and Ryoichi Taguchi. It was, in the end, one sided but was still truly exciting, action packed and all action. Tanaka had too much of everything for the 32 year old Taguchi, but the heart and desire of Taguchi kept him in the bout and kept firing shots back at Tanaka. Yes it was one sided, but 12 rounds of pulsating action at a very high level!
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi - Round 3
There was several great rounds in the Tanaka Vs Taguchi bout, several of which could have been considered the Round of the Week. For us round 3 gets it though, as it was the only round where Tanaka seemed shaken, with his legs buckling at one point. It was one of the few moments that Taguchi looked like he had a chance, and it was long after the round that Tanaka began to really dominate the fight. It was a great back and forth, as the first few rounds were, and really, really fun to watch.
Takuya Mizuno KO2 Piched Chianawa
There is something to really love about body shots, and that was what we got when Takuya Mizuno took out Piched Chianawa. The bout was a farcical mismatch, but it was still closed in style by Mizuno who left the Thai journeyman in agony from a perfect liver shot.
Kento Hatanaka (8-0, 8)
It wasn't only Kosei Tanaka shining from the Hatanaka gym this week but also youngster Kento Hatanaka, who impressed with a thrilling action packed and eye opening win over Songsaeng Phoyaem. The bout, which was streamed live on CBC's international fee, was exciting with Hatanaka eventually breaking down the Thai to claim the win and successfully defend his WBC Youth title. His aggressive and exciting performance certainly put him on the map for more fans and it's hard to imagine that it'll be much longer before he's in much bigger bouts.
Ricky Sismundo (35-12-3, 17) Vs Maxim Dadashev (12-0, 10)
This coming week has a lot going on, though perhaps the fight which gives us the most to be excited about is a bit of a hidden potential gem. The fight in question will see highly experienced Filipino journeyman Ricky Sismundo take on Maxim Dadashev in what could be a truly compelling contest. Sismundo is much better than his record suggests whilst Dadashev if taking a step up in class and risking his unbeaten record. This could be something very telling about both men.
It's nice to see how wide ranging the Japanese scene is, and whilst much of the focus is on fighters from Tokyo, Kanagawa or Osaka there are other places that are providing great talent at the moment, and the Chubu region is one of those with a great crop of youngsters coming through at once. Of course that charge is lead by Kosei Tanaka but below him are fighters like Kento Hatanaka and, the man we want to talk about here, Koshin Takeshima (2-0, 2) [竹嶋宏心], who is a Featherweight fighting out of the historic Matsuda gym in Nagoya.
The Matsuda gym isn't a hugely well known one in the west, and it would be easy to walk past it on the street without know it's historic place in Japanese boxing, but it has developed two world champions, Kiyoshi Hatanaka and Yasuei Yakushiji, several domestic and regional champions and 7 All Japan Rookie of the Year winners. It's a traditional gym, set up in 1943, and is now the basis for several very talented young fighters. Including Takeshima.
Takeshima was a standout amateur. In the unpaid ranks he went 82-19 and placed in the top 3 of numerous notable national competitions, whilst also captaining his University team. He didn't managed to make a mark internationally, but with over 100 amateur bouts in Japan he was certainly an experience and accomplished fighter before deciding to turn professional.
Having decided to turn professional in 2018 Takeshima would make his debut as the Aioi Hall in Kariya when he took on Indonesian fighter Yohanis Tatul. The bout, which is available on Boxing Raise, saw Takeshima look crisp, sharp and a natural in the ring. He looked razor sharp from the opening bell, with lighting quick combinations, a laser guided southpaw left hand and not only had the punches in his arsenal but also the footwork, getting in and out of range with ease. Tatul was an awful opponent though he was good enough to allow Takeshima to show a bit of everything, from body punching to counter punching before Takeshima secured a 3rd round TKO.
Takeshima's second bout came in September, when he was on the under-card for Kosei Tanaka's bout with Sho Kimura. He was again up against an over-matched Indonesian foe, this time Kiki Marciano, who was stopped in the 2nd round of the bout. Sadly footage of this isn't available, though we have been informed that Marciano was put down hard from a solid body shot that left him in agony. The bout was nostly a show case for Takeshima's body shots, and even prior to the knockout he had dropped Marciano with body shots.
Takeshima's next bout is pencilled in for March 16th, as part of the Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi card, and will see him take on Chinese visitor Jian Wang (7-1-1, 2). Wang isn't an amazing fighter, but he does have a good work rate, he's tough and he's a very clear step up for Takeshima. Wang was involved in a 10 round thriller with Seong Yeong Yang back in January and we're really looking forward to seeing how Takeshima deals with Wang in an 8 round contest.
If Takeshima, as expected, defeats Wang it's almost certain that he will be Japanese and OPBF rankings by the end of the year, with a potential title fight in 2020 or 2021.
For a second week running we didn't really see a lot happening, with a very rare week of no action in Japan and limited action from the rest of Asia. As a result this week's awards are very limited, with one man clearly being the talking point of the week thanks to a very impressive display and excellent KO. Thankfully we should be set for an increase in action in the very near future!
Fighter of the Week
Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11)
Whilst Kyrgyzstan born Bivol failed to set the world alive he was clearly the Asian fighter of the Week, winning the most notable bout of the week, in regards to Asian boxing. His win over Joe Smith Jr was certainly not exciting, and will be quickly forgotten, but it was another successful defense for Bivol who continues his reign as the WBA Light Heavyweight champion, and continues to develop a reputation as a talented fighter. It's obvious he's not going to be an exciting fighter to watch at world level but there is no doubting his skills and ability.
Performance of the Week
Israil Madrimov (2-0, 2)
Uzbek fighter Israil Madrimov left us with more to talk about than the rest of the Asian fighters in action combined and his win over Venezuelan foe Frank Rojas was memorable, scary, exciting and impressive. We knew the Uzbek was special, given how he beat Vladimir Hernandez in November, but the way he knocked out Frank Rojas here was sensational and was the type of thing that will live long in the memory.
Israil Madrimov KO2 Frank Rojas
It's not likely we'll see many better combination's than the one Israil Madrimov threw to knockout Frank Rojas, who needed stretchering from the ring following the knockout. He was out cold from a combination of clean headshots, punctuated by a brutal left hook, and then went on to bang his head against the ring in what will go down as one of the most sensation KO's of 2019. Whilst some didn't know of Madrimov before this, the KO will have helped him increase his profile and will likely be rewatched over and over. A thing of beauty from one of the best prospects in world boxing.
Israil Madrimov (2-0, 2)
Needless to say it's that man again, Israil Madrimov blew us away and whilst some will argue with him being dubbed a "prospect" still, given he's already won and defended a WBA minor trinket, he will be regarded as one here. A very, very advanced prospect. Whilst it was clear Rojas wasn't fit to be in the ring with Madrimov, it's going to be very, very hard to get him a suitable opponent and we'd not be surprised to see him fighting in a world title eliminator next time out. He is a sensational talent.
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) vs Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12)
Whilst this past week was limited in terms of action things do pick up this coming week, and on March 16th we get the chance to see one of the best match ups of 2019, as Kosei Tanaka defends the WBO Flyweight title against former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi. This is an exceptional match up, and better yet we will feaure the live feed of the bout on our home page. Maybe we're biased but it's clear that this is going to be a very, very special bout.
The Middle of March is somewhat packed, with several notable fights taking place in the space of just a few days. These include World and Youth title fights and a very interesting JBC and OPBF female title unification bout,
Eri Matsuda (2-0) Vs Nanae Suzuki (8-2-1, 1) -Tokyo, Japan
The first major bout during the middle section of March will see Eri Matsuda risk her OPBF Atomweight title against JBC Atomweight champion Nanae Suzuki in a mouth watering unification bout. The unbeaten Matsuda has impressed in both of her bouts so far, but this is a very stiffer test than hew two previous bouts. For Suzuki this is a huge chance to put her name on the boxing map.
Miyo Yoshida (11-1) Vs Yoshie Wakasa (6-0, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
On the same card as the Matsuda Vs Suzuki bout we'll also see Miyo Yoshida defending her JBC female Bantamweight title, as she takes on unbeaten challenger Yoshie Wakasa. This is a great example of the bouts the JBC female title will give us, and really does look like a fantastic defense for Yoshida, who also holds the OPBF female Bantamweight title, but won't be defending that here.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (5-0, 3) Vs Silverio Ortiz (37-23, 18) - Pennsylvania, USA
2016 Olympic Gold medal winner, Daniyar Yeleussinov will look to extend his unbeaten run, as he takes on Mexican veteran Silverio Ortiz. The Kazakh struggled to settle to the pro-style of boxing in his first few bouts but has settled recently with a couple of good performances. This is expected to be another win for Yeleussinov, but he may need to work for a stoppage as Ortiz has proven to be relatively tough, with just 6 stoppage losses in his 23 defeats.
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) Vs Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) -Gifu, Japan
Potentially the best fight of the month comes right bang in the middle of March and will see Kosei Tanaka make his first defense of the WBO Flyweight title, as he takes on Ryoichi Taguchi. Tanaka won the title last year in a FOTY contender against Sho Kimura and has long been linked to a fight with Taguchi. Taguchi will be fighting as a fully fledged Flyweight for the first time, and we wouldn't be surprised if his body was more suited to Flyweight than it was at Light Flyweight. This has the potential to be a very, very special and exciting match up, with styles that should gel well.
Kento Hatanaka (7-0, 7) Vs Songsaeng Phoyaem (6-1, 1) - Gifu, Japan
On the same show we'll see Kento Hatanaka defending the WBC Youth Flyweight title against Thai visitor Songsaeng Phoyaem. Hatanaka, the son of former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka, has looked really exciting so far and we'd expect to see him win here, but the key at the moment is following his progression and development as a fighter. The Thai hasn't scored a win of note, but he will see this as a chance to put himself on the map.
Koshin Takeshima (2-0, 2) Vs Jian Wang (7-1-1, 2) - Gifu, Japan
Also on this card, in an interesting bout, is Koshin Takeshima who will be expecting a really tough test as he goes up against Jian Wang from China. Takeshima has shown a fair bit of promise and talent but this is a clear step up and it will be very, very interesting to see how he deals with the technically limited but tough Wang. Wang will be fighting for the first time since January's war with Seong Yeong Yang and in that draw he showed toughness, work rate and stamina. This could be very fun.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (14-0-0-2, 12) Vs Carlos Jimenez (14-9-1, 8) - Quebec, Canada
Unbeaten Canadian based Kazakh fighter Batyrzhan Jukembayev will be fighting for the first time since falling out with Eye of the Tiger Management, though their relationship has now seemingly recovered. He'll be up against Mexican foe Carlos Jimenez in what looks like an easy bout but should be a bit of a test for Jukembayev, who's very promising and exciting despite having a number of technical flaws.
Nurzat Sabirov (8-0, 7) vs Cesar Hernan Reynoso (15-11-4, 7) - Quebec, Canada
Another Kazakh prospect in action here is Nurzat Sabirov, who will be up against Cesar Hernan Reynoso. The unbeaten Sabirov scored 4 solid wins last year and although this is a step backwards from those bouts he should be able to shine, show power and move his career forward. Reynoso is no push over, but we don't imagine he can hang with Sabirov here.
Mercito Gesta (32-2-2, 17) vs Juan Antonio Rodriguez (29-7, 25) - California, USA
Former 2-time world title challenger Mercito Gesta continues his career when he takes on Juan Antonio Rodriguez. This looks solid on paper, though in reality it should be a straight forward win for Gesta, who will likely be hunting another world title fight before his career is over. Gesta is probably never going to win the big one, but he does look like he's going to remain on the fringes of world level for the rest of his career.
Michael Dasmarinas (28-2-1, 19) Vs Kenny Demecillo (14-4-2, 8) Metro Manila, Philippines
All Filipino world title bouts have started to become a thing in recent years, after 90 years with out, and now we're starting to see a growth in all Filipino world title eliminators. That's the case here as Michael Dasmarinas and Kenny Demecillo battle in an IBF Bantamweight world title eliminator, to potentially get a shot at the WBSS winner. The IBF title is currently held by Emmanuel Rodriguez, who faces Naoya Inoue in May, and whilst Dasmarinas and Demecillo would be the under-dog against either man they do make for an interesting addition to the world title mix.
Samuel Salva (16-0, 10) Vs Rene Mark Cuarto (16-1-1, 9) -Metro Manila, Philippines
A second All-Filipino world title eliminator on this card is a match up between Samuel Salva and Rene Mark Cuarto, who battle in an IBF Minimumweight world title eliminator, to potentially get a crack at Deejay Kriel. This bout is an interesting contest between two youngsters each looking for their break out win and we're really looking forward to see how it plays out. On paper it's a very even match up and should make for compelling viewing.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (13-0, 6) Vs Mike Tawatchai (45-12-2, 28) - Ekaterinburg, Russia
Unbeaten Russian based Kyrgyzstan born Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu will look to continue his winning run as he takes on Thai veteran Mike Tawatchai, aka Pipat Chaiporn. Following strong recent wins over Leonardo Padillo and Jon Jon Estrada Uulu will be expected to take care of the Thai with no real issues. At 33 Tawatchai can't afford any more setbacks but has yet to win outside of Thailand, and it would be a huge shock to see him changing that here.
When a fighter loses on their debut we are often far too quick to write them off, suggest they aren't worth following and overlook them going forward. The one mark on their record can, at least in the eyes of Western fans, show that they aren't as good as others and even a few years down the line we can be seen holding that loss against them. That's possibly going to be the case with Yoji Saito (1-1) [齊藤陽ニ], though that would be a huge mistake of fans given that Saito is one to watch, and is a very promising young fighter.
The 23 year old Saito is part of the really well established Kadoebi Gym and prior to turning professional in 2018 he was an experienced amateur, running up a 28-26 record.
It's not an amazing record but showed Saito's experience and due to that experience he turned professional with a B Class license. Something that is typical of successful, or experienced fighters.
Unfortunately for Saito his debut came against another experienced amateur, Shu Utsuki. Utsuki had been an amateur standout, going 81-27 in the unpaid ranks and had captained his University team among other things. Utsuki's amateur pedigree helped him get over the line in what was a really exciting and action packed 6 round bout shown over the BoxingRaise service. Utsuki was dropped in round 1, from an ultra-aggressive Saito, but battled back hard to take a narrow win over the debutant. It was a loss on debut, but a very, very credible one for Saito given that Utsuki is himself regarded as one of the top prospects at the Watanabe Gym.
Less than 6 months after his debut Saito returned to the ring and took on Tameji Ito, who was fighting in his 10th professional bout. Saito showed the same aggressive, combination punching pressure style he had showed on debut. The style quickly forced Ito on to the back foot and Saito really went to work, closing the distance and unloading on his man with both hands. Ito was dropped mid way through the round and again later on in the same round as Saito's pressure dropped Ito hard.
Saito's next bout is set to take place on April 6th at the Korakuen Hall, with Saito facing Aso Ishiwaki on a Kadoebi promoted card to be shown on G+. That should give those who haven't yet seen Saito a chance to see what he can deliver, and why we have featured him here.
Although certainly not the most polished of fighters Saito is someone we're going to be really excited to follow. He's perhaps not the technically skilled type of fighter we have typically covered in these "Introducing" segments but he is someone who will certainly provide explosive action and a lot of fun for fans wanting to follow a fighter who delivers explosive action.
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 is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces