It's fair to say the recent WBO Flyweight title fight between Sho Kimura and Kosei Tanaka created a lot of buzz with fans who perhaps haven't followed the Japanese scene too well. Thankfully this has been a brilliant year for Japanese fights, even if it's been a rather disappointing one for Japanese fighters on the global scene.
For those new fans, and for those who perhaps missed some of what has gone on this year, we've decided to look at some of the very best fights in Japan these year. For the sake of this particular piece we've only included fights that were either on Japanese TV or have been made freely available via online sources. This unfortunately means that anything on boxingraise won't be included, though I do suggest that fight fans do give Boxingraise a look, as it is a fantastic service well worthy of a subscription.
This is part two of a multi-part article and will look at 5 bouts that took place from May 20th to July 23rd. More parts to this will be posted in the coming weeks, so please keep your eye on for those!
If you missed part 1 than can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 1)
May 20th – Ota-City General Gymnasium
Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7) vs Vince Paras (13-0, 11)
In May we saw the then IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi take on little known Filipino challenger Vince Paras. This bout was sadly not shown live, instead being made to go the way of the already frustrating TBS tape delay, but it was worth the wait with the challenger not being intimidated by the champion, and instead he held his own in a brilliant war that was regularly fought on the inside at a hectic pace.
May 20th – Ota-City General Gymnasium
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) Vs Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10)
Whilst fans had to wait to see Kyoguchi's bout with Paras the same how actually had a live televised bout between the then WBA “Super”, IBF and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi and former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler. This wasn't quite as smooth as the Minimumweight title bout, but was thrilling, rough, and exhilarating, with the two men regularly standing their ground and unloading punches. The final rounds of this one were particularly enthralling as both men fought through exhaustion.
July 13th- Central Gym, Kobe
Reiya Konishi (16-1, 5) vs Orlie Silvestre (11-3-1, 7)
After having had a thrilling bout in March with Carlos Canizales, featured in part 1, we saw Reiya Konishi return to the ring in July and get involved in another memorable contest as he battled little known Filipino Orlie Silvestre. The Filipino hadn't read the script and really did travel to win, cutting Konishi early on and forcing the Japanese fighter to dig deep to just keep up with him in a hectic, bloody, pulsating contest that was fought an incredible pace. Not only was it a great fight but it was one where both men came out with enhanced reputations.
July 13th- Central Gym, Kobe
Ryuya Yamanaka (16-2, 5) Vs Vic Saludar (17-3, 10)
Whilst the Konishi Vs Silvestre bout was great, you could make a strong case that it was only the second best bout on the card, with the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Ryuya Yamanaka and Vic Saludar being an even better bout. Yamanaka was looking to secure his second defense of the title, and he had really impressed in his first defenses when he schooled Moises Calleros. Saludar on the other hand was looking to claim a world title in his second attempt, having come up short when he faced Kosei Tanaka in 2015, being stopped whilst leading the contest. This enthralling with the only dark mark being that this was Yamanaka's final career bout.
July 23rd – Korakuen Hall
Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) vs Akinori Hoshino (14-7-2, 9)
Asign boxing delivered again in July when they put the Japanese Flyweight title bout between Masayuki Kuroda, the defending champion. and Akinori Hoshino online. This looked weak on paper but delivered in the ring as both men managed to land solid shots through out. Hoshino proved, as he had done in a number of previous fights, that his record was misleading, and he certainly landed the best shot from the early portion of the fight. This was a high intensity bout, like the others in this list, but was a brutal, gruelling contest that left both men showing battle scars at the end.
One of the highlights of the boxing year is the series of shows we get at the end of the year,often featuring a number of big names from the Japanese boxing world with some massive fights. It now seems like the Watanabe Gym are starting to piece together their end of year card, which will be expected to take place on December 31st on TBS. That will be part of “Kyokugen”, a huge event on TBS, which is not just boxing, but a special broadcast that combines various sporting activities.
In recent years the boxing part of Kyokugen has featured a number of world title fights. These have included shows like the 2014 extravaganza that included Hisashi Amagasa challenging Guillermo Rigondeaux, the 2015 card that saw Kazuto Ioka have his rematch with Juan Carlos Reveco and the fantastic 2017 clash between Ryoichi Taguchi and Milan Melindo.
Given how big the previous shows have been and how they have gotten progressively bigger and more significant we're expecting the 2018 card to be something massive.
We already seem to know one of the bouts on the card, a WBA Light Flyweight “super” title bout between reigning champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) and former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人]. This bout has been on the cards for a while and looks to have been agreed in principle, with the only caveat being that Kyoguchi successfully defeats Tibo Monabesa on September 25th.
The bout between Budler and Kyoguchi will give Kyoguchi a chance to avenge Budler's win over his Watanabe stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一], more about him later, and will reward Budler well after he gave up the IBF title, rather than fulfil their mandatory obligations to face the feared Felix Alvarado. The bout would be a tough first defense for Budler and it would give Kyoguchi a chance to become a 2-weight champion.
A second bout has been mooted with Thai sources reporting WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] is in talks to face Japanese Minimumweight champion Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) [小野 心] on the card. The bout would be huge for Wanheng, as it would see him risking his unbeaten record and fight for the first time outside of Thailand, and it would give Ono a third shot a world title. Wanheng's team had reportedly been in talks for this bout before he beat Pedro Taduran and it does look like something they have actively wanted.
Last time out Ono suffered a pretty nasty cut in his win over Riku Kano. That cut should however be heeled with more than enough time for him to go through a training camp and prepare for Wanheng, in what would be his third world title fight. Ono has come up short against Katsunari Takayama and Knockout CP Freshmart, and will know that at the age of 35 this will be his final shot whilst Wanheng will see this as a chance to make his mark outside of Thailand.
The third bout could well be the most interesting on paper. It's almost a given that Watanabe will want to feature the aforementioned Ryoichi Taguchi, who has announced his intention to move up in weight. There isn't a Flyweight champion that Taguchi wouldn't make for a great opponent against, but there's possibly a match up that makes more sense than any other. That would be a bout between Taguchi and the winner of the upcoming WBO world title fight between Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) [木村翔] and Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7) [田中恒成].
Tanaka has fought his entire career on TBS affiliate CBC, and has been featured on TBS in recent years as part of their December 31st show, except for last year when he was injured. When he and Taguchi were both fighting at Light Flyweight the two had been continually linked to a fighter, but injuries and mandatories stood in the way. Now however there wouldn't be any issue.
Of course Tanaka beating Kimura isn't a given, and it's worth noting that Kimura also had a working relationship with TBS, with the Aoki man having made his first defense on the channel last year, on the New Year's Eve card, against Toshiyuki Igarashi. His style against Taguchi's would be really interesting and something that would certainly appeal to fans, though maybe not quite as much as Taguchi Vs Tanaka fight.
There's actually one other option that Taguchi may have and that's WBC champion Cristofer Rosales (28-3, 19), who won his title in Japan earlier this year against Daigo Higa. Although not as attractive on paper as the two Japanese fighters Rosales has inked some sort of deal with Teiken promotions, and they may well feel that having Rosales face off with Taguchi would be an excellent way to end the year, and get Rosales his second defense. It would be an excellent match up, it would allow Rosales build on the big win over Higa and give Taguchi a chance to face one of the best fighters in the division.
Interestingly the Taguchi Vs Rosales option would, in theory, allowed for a split site show with 4 title bouts, if Tanaka beat Kimura and wanted to defend his belt live on CBC, in Nagaoya, with a potential showdown between those winners. Though we suspect TBS would pusher harder for the Kimura/Tanaka winner to defend against Taguchi instead.
(Images courtesy of SiamSports and Sho Kimura)
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.