Over the past few weeks Asian boxing has been quiet, at least near the top tier. Despite that there have been a number of brilliant bouts that fans have over looked. As part of this feature I'm hoping to bring some of those bouts to your attention, and if you missed them the first time around then this is a great chance to catch up with them enjoy the action and perhaps even stumble on a fighter that you may wish to follow in the future.
One interesting note to make about these fights is that 3 were streamed online, world wide, for free, the Korean fights and both of the August 7th bouts, whilst another was shown on free TV in Thailand, the Kongfah Vs Higa bout. For American fans who have been so excited about the PBC it may be worth looking at what the Asian fight fans have been getting for free before applauding Al Haymon a little bit too much. It's also perhaps worth noting that only 3 of the 10 men involved had unbeaten records, and two of them faced each other.
The Japanese boxing scene has seen more than it's share of wunderkinds over the last few years with the likes of 3-division world champion Kazuto Ioka, or 2-weight world champion Naoya Inoue. Thankfully though it seems like they aren't done, in fact they aren't even close to being done.
The next youngster hoping to graduate from “young prospect” to “world champion” is 19 year old Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2), who will be hoping to claim the WBO Minimumweight title on May 30th when he takes on Mexican foe Julian Yedras (24-1, 13). Tanaka is hoping to claim a title just a few days before his 20th birthday but those who have seen the youngster all agree that he's a fighter well beyond his years and with natural ability that many other fighters could only dream of having.
For those who haven't seen Tanaka in action you've been missing out so far, though thankfully there is still time to catch up on the youngster before his bout with Yedras, which is a little more than a fortnight away.
The next chapter?
The next step for Tanaka is, as we know, his bout with Yedras on May 30th. On paper it's a step up from the Hara bout and is a "World" title bout though in reality it looks to be a bout on the same level as the win over Hara, if not a slight step backwards.
If, as we suspect, Tanaka defeats Yedras then the next step is the interesting one. Does he sit on his title and trying to develop with the belt around his waist, like we see many quick risers do in the west or does he instead try to prove he is something special and go after things like unification bouts and fellow top fighters. We know there is talk of a unification bout with IBF champion Katsunari Takayama later in the year and a possible showdown with Hekkie Budler may be on the cards if Tanaka does indeed face, and beat Takayama.
Over the last week or so we've seen the two stand out fighters at Super Featherweight successfully defending their world titles, in eye catching fashion.
First we saw WBC champion Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22) steal the headlines and attention as he blew away Australian challenger Billy Dib in 3 rounds on May 1st. This was Miura's 4th defense of his WBC title and saw him getting attention around the world due to the very eye catching finish. Just days later WBA “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) restated his case as being the best in the division as he decimated Thailand's Jomthong Chuwatana in just 2 rounds, and recorded his 10th defense of the title.
For the last couple of years it's been hoped that the two men were on a collision course. Everyone has been wanting to see the two heavy handed Japanese warriors battle for a second time, following their sensational 2011 bout which saw Miura being stopped in his corner after 8 brilliant rounds. Sadly though it seems both men are teasing us whilst looking for other suitors, at least for now.
First it seemed that Miura was putting the bout on hold, at least for now, as he started talking about a contest with WBO champion Roman Martinez next time out. It's a mouth watering contest, and a great chance for Miura to become a global name whilst unifying titles against a man known in both the US and the Latin American countries. However it's not what fans are demanding, it's a good alternative, but's still an alternative to what fans want.
Now we've seen Uchiyama discuss his next bout and seem to hint at bouts with either former champion Yuriorkis Gamboa or current WBA Featherweight champion Nicholas Walters. Both of these bouts would be amazing contests and neither would be expected to go the 12 rounds, however they are again alternatives to what fans, especially in Japan, are calling for.
The reason that both men seem to be avoiding the obvious match up, for now, is that it appears both know the dangers of the rematch and both know the rewards. The reward is solid, but not amazing, financially and another belt though comes with the risk of a serious career shorting bout. It seems clear that both men want to fight but first they want international recognition. The division has been theirs pretty much exclusively in recent years, barring short title reigns by the likes of Martinez, Ricky Burns, Adrien Broner, Mikey Garcia and Rances Barthelmy, and yet they've not had the international acclaim they deserve. If they beat well established international fighters, such as Gamboa or Martinez, then they know their profile will raise and more people will give them the attention they deserve.
In recent years we've seen more Japanese fighters catch the attention of international fans. Kazuto Ioka being a notable example, the Kameda's being another though last year it Naoya Inoue who really caught the imagination as he blitzed Omar Andres Narvaez in a way that got fans in the west excited and made both the Europeans and Americans talk about the sensational youngster. For Uchiyama and Miura it seems they want to do the same before they knock the ever loving snot out of each other again. It's disappointing as a fan who knows both fighters but it's an understandable move and one we can't begrudge the men for wanting, especially if they do meet this coming December as the rumours seem to be suggesting.
For those who haven't seen the first bout between the two men it's below in it's violent entirety
(Image courtesy of TV Tokyo comes from the first bout between the Takashi's, and also features Akifumi Shimoda and Ryol Li Lee who traded blows in a memorable Super Bantamweight title bout)
A weigh in should be simple, it should be straight forward and it shouldn't tell us anything new about a fighter or fight. This past Friday however we managed to see weigh ins that shifted bouts that I thought were 50-50, and made me think they were closer to 80-20 type of fights. Remarkably what should have been little more than a case of stepping on the scales has seen two bouts change drastically, and made me feel confident in picking the winners of both bouts.
The first of those weigh ins came in Japan and saw the unbeaten Jomthong Chuwatana (8-0, 4) struggle to make the Super Featherweight limit ahead of his 4th OPBF title defence against the wonderfully carved Daiki Kaneko (21-3-3, 14). Jomthong took 3 attempts to make the divisional and looked bad on the scales, as you can see in the picture. He was still confident though he looked like he had already been undone and had lost the fight before the first bell. It was a strange sight considering Jomthong's long and well established Muay Thai career but it really did seem like he had been unprofessional and messed up badly in his preparation for the bout. Although this is "only" an OPBF title bout many suspect the winne will be getting a world title fight by the end of the year and an opportunity to make big money for the weight.
Around 12 hours after Jomthong's weigh in we saw another unbeaten man, American Heavyweight Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32) also look like he had lost whilst at the weigh in ahead of his WBC world title fight with the once beaten Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21). Wilder came in at 219lbs, the lowest he has been in more than 2 years. On paper a low weight could be a sign that he has had a fantastic training camp though he didn't look in sensational shape, in fact he looked like he was regressing physically and the weight loss wasn't something he needed, in fact if anything he needed to bulk up and add muscle to his gigantic frame. It wasn't the weight that makes me feel he had lost however, instead it was the way he looked and spoke. He looked like a man who realised, for the first time in his career, that he was in a fight. He was up against a man coming to beat him. He wasn't fighting a hand picked patsy. That realisation seemed to instantly suck the confidence from the usually self assured fighter who looked close to tears whilst talking to an interviewer after the weigh in.
It's strange to say this of men with a combined record of 40-0 (36) but I honestly feel both men lost their bouts on the scales a day before they stepped foot into the ring. I might be wrong, and it wouldn't be the first time, but this certainly appears to be a case of two fighters failing to master the art of the weigh in. They failed to get their weight right, they failed to prepare and they might essentially blown their shot at the big time.
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Messrs Honda, Gushiken, Ohashi and Watanabe show Bob Arum and Eddie Hearn how it's really done with value for money
This past weekend was an expensive one for boxing fans in the west who didn't seem to have been very pleased by the sport nor the supposed "value for money" that they were getting as fans.
In the UK they were being asked to fork out several times to watch all the fights. Firstly they were asked to pay for Sky Sports Box Office at a cost of £16.95 to watch the much hyped card headlined by a rematch between Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew. The show was full of mismatches with the selling point being the big names on the show rather than the fights. It was, all in all, a farce and a card that was a cash grab of the British fan base who were very vocal online with their views of the card. The fans however were fobbed off in their complaints being told the card was full of great matches and that fans who were complaining should "get a life" from Barry Hearn, the father of promoter Eddie Hearn.
Following the per-per-view card on Sky British fans were then forced to turn to Boxnation, a subscription services that costs £12 a month, to watch a Top Rank card from Macau. That card turned out to be significantly more interesting than the Sky one but was still mostly a case of show case bouts with the most interesting contest in the ring being a very good bout between Jessie Vargas and Antonio DeMarco on the pay-per-view's opening bout.
Whilst British fans were watching the Macau card on a subscription service American fans were being asked to fork out big money for the same card which was priced at $59.99 for most people. That was for exactly the same fights as the Boxnation show though it had a different commentary team with HBO's team doing the card instead of the team doing the international feed.
For British fans in particular this was a frustrating weekend with many of those who bout the "Cleverly V Bellew 2" card, pictured above, also forking out £46 a month for a Sky Sports subscription. In total those fans will have felt the pinch in a nasty fashion, especially given it is just a few weeks before and the fights themselves were all lacking in quality.
Between them Hearn and Arum managed to put fans into a serious feeling of regret. They made fans regret not only paying for the action they saw but also regret following our great sport. It was the ultimate lose-lose for the fans who felt like they had been sold an absolute dud.
Thankfully not all promoters are like that.
On the same day Japanese fans had a pair of world title fights on free TV as Takashi Miura defended his WBC Super Featherweight title against mandatory challenger Edgar Puerta and Roman Gonzalez defended the WBC Flyweight title against Rocky Fuentes. The fight was shown free as part of the WOWOW Touch! Event which allowed everyone to watch the WOWOW channels for free for a day and helped give the boxing fans a little bonus.
The WOWOW card was promoted by Japanese promotional giant Teiken, ran by Akihiro Honda, and there was no need to pay for anything with the promoter using 2 of his 4 world champions on the card, for what it's worth the other two have been in action recently.
This coming Wednesday Yoko Gushiken, the boxing icon in charge of Shirai Gushiken Gym, will stream his coming show free and legally over the Gushiken ustream channel (external link). The show, admittedly, doesn't have a world champion on it though it does promise action with 2 of the 3 Eto brothers on it. The show is unlikely to be an amazing one though I suspect the main event will be all action for as long as it lasts, after all it does feature Koki Eto who has given us a trio of sensational fights in the last 18 months.
Whilst the Gushiken show isn't great it's a similar level to what we expect Eddie Hearn's “Fight Pass” cards will be, and they are put on a subscription service leaving the fans even further out of pocket to follow our great sport.
At the end of the year Japanese fans get a trio of shows, all of which are on free to air TV.
The first of those is an Ohashi card dubbed “Super Boxeo” with 3 world title fights and 3 prospects all in very interesting match ups. The card's headline bout will be Naoya Inoue's WBO Super Flyweight title bout with Omar Andres Narvaez in what looks like one of the best fights left this year whilst a co-feature bout will see Akira Yaegashi fight Pedro Guervara in what promises to be an all action bout for the WBC Light Flyweight title. The fact this show is on Fuji TV, for free, is a masterstroke by promoter Hideyuki Ohashi who is giving fans a wonderful late Christmas present. The show didn't need to be stacked but is it, the show didn't need to feature several 60-40 type bouts but it does and the show sets a high bar for promoters going into a new year, a year that could well be one where fans in the west start talking with their money.
A day later, on December 31st, we get two Japanese shows. One of those is an Ioka card set to be headlined by Kazuto Ioka fighting against Jean Piero Perez though also featuring Ryo Miyazaki, Sho Ishida and, if the rumours are to be believed, an IBF Minimumweight title bout between Katsunari Takayama and Go Odaira. The card isn't stacked by any means but TBS, the channel carrying the card, is another free to air one and the card is the sort of card that Sky Sports subscribers get via their paid service.
The other card on December 31st will see the return to the ring of the very popular Takashi Uchiyama who will be defending his WBA Super Featherweight title in one of 3 world title bouts of a Watanabe gym card. The show, like the Ioka one, isn't flawless but it is a solid card with a combination of big names in the shape of Uchiyama and Kohei Kono as well as a very interesting bout between Alberto Rossel and Ryoichi Taguchi in what is the show's stand out bout. This card, on TV Tokyo, is another free to air show and with 3 genuine world title bouts it's hard to really complain what is likely to be a very enjoyable card.
Whilst the western promoters may be in for a short term cash grab I need to beg you not to give up on the sport. Instead do your best to watch the Japanese cards. With 3 of them being on free-to-air TV and one being free to stream it's fair to say not all promoters are the same, not all of them want to make fans regret the sport they follow and not all will pretend that they "need to do" pay-per-view to make big bouts. Well done to Mr Honda, Mr Gushiken, Mr Ohashi, Mr Ioka and Mr Watanabe for doing the right thing and not ripping fans off, instead they have helped to grow the sport, retain fans and keep interest in a sport the western promoters appear determined to kill as quickly as they can.
(Images courtesy of Sky Sports and Watanabe)
Earlier today I was informed that Shingo Wake (17-4-2, 10) had "pulled out" of a world title fight with Scott Quigg (29-0-2, 22). At the time it was slightly surprising as no one had actually announced the bout as being signed. It seems scarcely believable that a fighter can pull out of something that hasn't been announced. It was then brought to my attention that several sources had reported that Eddie Hearn was in talks with former Japanese national champion Hidenori Otake (22-1-3, 9). After a little thought and consideration I've decided that I would throw out 2 pence into the conversation.
Firstly the deal regarding Wake struck me as a little bit. On October 2nd Wake said he was "on standby" for a world title bout, this was after some in the British press made the fight sound like a done deal. No one in the Japanese press seemed to think of it was worth news and no one, from Nikkan Sports to Boxingnews.jp seemed to say much, if anything about the contest. A Japanese fighter signing up for a world title fight would have made a few ripples in the local press, right? Well apparently not and what ripples there were died down almost as quickly as they originated with British press being given as the source.
Maybe I'm a cynic but I'm not sure the Wake fight was ever really on. Wake, who I know likes to blog a lot, hardly mentioned it when one would have assumed it would have been all over his blog. Likewise had he suffered an injury in training that too would have been on his blog, instead he was talking about the fact he was at yesterday's OPBF Featherweight title bout between Hisashi Amagasa and Ryo Takenaka. No mention of an injury just that he enjoyed the fight yesterday.
That, to me anyway, doesn't sound like a guy who has just hurt his leg and had to miss out on the opportunity of a life time. It sounds like a guy enjoying life, enjoying watching fights and watching his friends in action.
In regards to Otake, who is now apparently in talks regarding a Quigg fight, I again have issues with believing the fight is actually being spoken about in good faith.
Firstly Otake would have to receive a WBA ranking in the next update, an unlikely outcome given he's been inactive for most of the year following a rib injury that he suffered prior to a scheduled bout with Gakuya Furuhashi (16-5, 6). That rib injury forced Otake out of a scheduled defense of the Japanese title on July 18 and he has now been out of the ring for around 7 months. Not a huge amount of time but considering the injury it would make sense for Otake to look else where than jump straight in to a world title bout and since he has had a bout arranged for November 18th it would seem likely that he has an easy bout planned.
Otake's last blog entry followed him vacating the title at the end of September. Does anyone not find it odd that Otake hasn't updated his own blog to suggest he's in talks about a world title bout? I know Otake doesn't blog as much as Wake but again I'd have expected such a huge opportunity to have been mentioned on there, or at least in the Japanese press.
So is Otake likely? Not really, without a WBA ranking, with a bout scheduled and coming back from an injury I can't see him fighting Scott Quigg in 5 weeks time. To suggest otherwise is a bit foolish in my eyes and instead I'd suspect Otake will be in a "world title prelude" or a tune up next time out. What is possible however is tat either Otake or Wake get a fight with Quigg in 2015 if Quigg continues to hold a title into next year.
We suspect Hearn has linked Wake's name to Quigg due to the high rankings Wake has though in reality there was no real negotiations with the Japanese fighter. Hearn does, after all, have a very controversial PPV to sell fans. Even if there was no intention of having Quigg fight Wake there was still bluster behind linking a top contender to Quigg and now selling a late replacement as a bout where the original opponent "had to pull out".
In some ways I'm becoming very doubtful when Hearn, or someone from his stable or television backers, mentions a Japanese fighter as it's becoming a bit like a broken record. The number if times Stephen Smith has been linked to Takashi Miura does help back me up here. Sorry "Fast Car" but talk's cheap.
Over the past few days we've seen some interesting things in boxing. Some of them were good, some of them were bad and some of them were confusing. One thing however that we must all accept is that there are problems in boxing, problems hat effect us as fans on a weekly basis.
For this "Taka's Title Shot" I want to focus on just 1 of those issues. Televised fights.
On Friday night in the USA there were 2 competing cards. One of them was shown on Fox Sports 1 and one of them was shown on ESPN. On paper the ESPN card ran away with things. It had the big debut of Chinese Olympian Zhang Zhilei, an interesting 8 rounder between the previously unbeaten Norbert Nemesapati and the triumphant under-dog Jason Escalera and a bout between the much touted Willie Nelson and the under-rated Luis Grajeda. On paper it looked intriguing though in the end it was hugely under-whelming. Zhilei's opponent, Curtis Lee Tate, looked like an out of shape bum who came straight from McDonalds and went down like a hooker. Escalera ended up totally dominating his Hungarian opponent in the highlight bout of the card, and Nelson got very lucky with the judges.
Judging is a problem and it's a big one, but it's not my focus here. So I'm sorry but I won't be talking about that.
The Fox Sports card on paper looked very different but was much more entertaining. It too started with an opening round blow out as former amateur standout Ievgen Khytrov blitzed the experienced Willie Fortune. The bout was similar in many ways to Zhilei's debut but also very different. Fortune came to win and found out he couldn't, he didn't just turn up for a pay day. The second bout was a bout many would have over-looked as Monty Meza Clay took on Alan Herrera. Between them Clay and Herrera had 8 losses and 67 wins and 42 KO's, it was a bout that the match makers put together and it gelled from he opening round with the two being well matched in terms of skills, heart and power and proved to be one of the best bouts of the year. The show then ended with the exciting Samuel Vazquez taking on James Stevenson. This bout saw the men entering with a combined record of 36-0 (25) and neither man came to lose, both again had styles that gelled and we, as fans were treat to some amazing action.
Fox Sports haven't been showing fights for as long as ESPN yet some how their team delivered a card that really blow their opposition out of the water. For most of Saturday fans on forums were talking about the Fox Sports card and trying to encourage other fans to watch the bouts online. It was genuinely one of the best cards this year.
Whilst the fox card delivered the action the ESPN card delivered the talk, the dreaded Teddy Atlas talk. Teddy for once made a lot of sense as he ranted and raved about mismatches, including the ones that were to follow the following even on Showtime, which I'll get to in a few moments. The words from Atlas seemed to suggest that we, as fans, should boycott mismatches. In principle I agree though do so with some careful consideration. The executives at the big networks will cut boxing if the numbers drop too low, we need to be careful to prevent that from happening, however we do need to make our views felt. To do this I would suggest social media to target the likes of HBO and Showtime into using some sort of quality control for match ups. We should also make a determined effort to tune in to good fights, especially ones that that look good from the moment they are signed.
As well as the two competing cards on Friday there was numerous cards on Saturday. The one Atlas ranted about was the Showtime one headlined by Danny Garcia Vs Rod Salka and supported by Lamont Peterson Vs Edgar Santana. These bouts were mismatches in the eyes of everyone, the bookies, the fans, the fighters and even my blind neighbour. The card's 3 main televised bouts, the two we've mentioned and a contest between Daniel Jacobs and Jarrod Fletcher, all went the way they were expected to with the house fighters winning all 3 bouts by stoppage in a combined 16 rounds. Sadly that card was the highest profile card of the weekend, by a mile, despite it being a series of mismatches.
Soon after Showtimes stinker we had the beginning of a televised card from Mexico. The opening bout wasn't great as former world champion Tomas Rojas did as he wished with Irving Berry. The headline bout however was a thing of beauty as Japan's very own Katsunari Takayama battled tooth and nail with Francisco Rodriguez Jr in an IBF/WBO unification bout. The contest looked amazing when it was announced and proved to be even better when the two men were in the ring. Sadly the bout was ignored by large swathes of fans.
I can't tell you what to watch or when to watch it. What I can ask however is that you don't boycott boxing, but instead you tune in to fights like Takayama/Rodriguez, and that you contact your TV networks to encourage them to bring in some sort of quality control. To refuse fights like Garcia/Salka and beg them to pick up fights like Takayama/Rodriguez and the upcoming Akira Yaegashi/Roman Gonzalez fight. I really don't want to labour the point, but many boxing fans are missing out on amazing fights and if we unite and demand better fights, stick together in telling the networks what fights we want, and what we don't then the odds are they will eventually listen.
Amazingly fights like Gonzalez/Yaegashi and Takayama/Rodriguez would cost a mere fraction of what Showtime paid the main fighters on their show. Not only would they be providing better fights by listening to fans and ensuing some level of quality control but they could also find themselves saving a substantial part of their budget by picking up these fights. If they put a small bit of their budget into helping these fighters make a name for themselves over the space of 2 or 3 the returns will be incredible with cheaper fights and more action. Maybe, just maybe we, as fans, can help the people in power provide much more for much less.
I was recently asked what is killing American boxing. My answer is greed, the greed of fighters, managers and promoters. Hopefully the networks realise the same thing before too many fans boycott the sport.
(Image courtesy of http://espnmediazone.com)
Earlier today, July 21st, Shingo Wake (17-4-2, 10) recorded the 4th defence of his OPBF Super Bantamweight title by stopping South Korea's Jaesung Lee (17-4-2, 9). Lee, who entered as the #1 ranked OPBF challenger, was the 5th successive stoppage victim of Wake who has been on a real roll in the last 2 years with 7 successive wins.
Following the victory over Lee we heard Wake announce his intentions to fight for a world title. He mentioned it in the ring immediately after the fight and then mentioned it again on his blog a few hours after the fight re-affirming his intention to chase a world title and prove himself as not just the best in Asia but one of the best in the world.
Wake's focus on a world title made us wonder who would be next for the sharp shooting Wake? Which champion did he have his eyes on? And who would we like to see him fight the most.
The man widely regarded as the best in the 122lb division is unbeaten Cuban sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9) who currently holds the WBO and WBA "super" titles in the division. Like Wake Rigondeaux is a sharp shooting southpaw though he's a man many are avoiding as the risks outweigh the rewards for fighting him. The Cuban is an exceptionally well schooled and gifted fighter and although many fans will complain about the ending of his recent fight with Sod Kokietgym it's likely that Rigondeaux would have eventually seen off the Thai.
On paper Wake would be a considerable under-dog against Rigondeaux though the queue to fight the Cuban is short and one would assume that if Wake's team from Koguchi and Kyoei made a decent offer to the Cuban then the fight could be made, in fact it could be made before the end of the year.
Whilst Rigondeaux is the toughest fight in the division the most exciting champion is probably the unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15). Santa Cruz is the current WBC champion and is an exciting pressure fighter that Shinsuke Yamanaka had spoken about fighting though unfortunately a bout between the two never materialised.
Santa Cruz does seem to have several other suitors and is scheduled to fight on September 13th. That date, around 8 weeks away, would be far too soon for Wake to prepare for a world title bout though he could chase the winner of Santa Cruz Vs whoever he ends up fighting for early next year, especially when you consider that Santa Cruz has often fought regularly in the last few years.
A third option would be Britain's Scott Quigg (28-0-2, 21), the current WBA regular champion. Like Santa Cruz we will see Quigg in the ring on September 13th though, as with Santa Cruz, no opponent has yet been named and it's unlikely to be anyone too tough. The date, just like with Santa Cruz, is likely to be too soon for Wake to prepare but this is certainly an "easier" assignment if the Japanese fighter could possibly make the date. Odds are however that he can't.
As with with Santa Cruz the option of fighting Quigg in 2015 is certainly there and Quigg did struggle with the last boxer-mover he fought, Yoandris Salinas. With that in mind Wake may like the idea of fighting Quigg, especially as Salinas has just been beaten by a journeyman named Enrique Quevedo proving that Salinas really wasn't a world class foe.
As for getting the fight in Japan, Quigg isn't a bankable star in the UK despite a solid following and he may be lured easier than Santa Cruz who would be demanding a considerable payment to fight in Japan
The fourth option would be chasing the IBF title which at the moment is the longest route to a title by quite some margin .
The IBF champion Kiko Martinez (31-4, 23), known to Japanese fans for his fight with Hozumi Hasegawa earlier this year, is set to face the unbeaten Carl Frampton (18-0, 13) on September 6th. Following that fight the winner is expected to take on the hard hitting Chris Avalos (24-2, 18) in an IBF mandatory defence. That would put any possible IBF title challenge from Wake on ice for at least 6-8 months and clearly makes it an unattractive option.
As for those 3 men in the IBF picture Martinez would certainly travel if the money was right, he showed that against Hasegawa. Frampton, who has a huge fan base in Belfast, wouldn't travel unless the money on offer was ridiculous and Avalos would travel if the money on offer was acceptable, in fact Wake Vs Avalos could plausibly have been made on a Macau show with Avalos having fought Yasutaka Ishimoto in Macau earlier this year.
Depending on how quickly it'll take Wake to return to action could help decide his next opponent, as could knowing how much backing Kyoei are willing to give him financially to lure an opponent over. If he can return by September 13th and be 100% fit then he could step in to face either Quigg or Santa Cruz. The odds of him being 100% for that date however are slim and we probably should rule that out.
If Wake's wanting a title fight this year, barring blow outs for Quigg or Santa Cruz, that leaves only Rigondeaux as an option. It's a tough ask though could be made relatively easily if Kyoei are happy to put enough money at the Cuban especially given that Rigondeaux has no promoter at the moment and could be an easy man to deal with.
If a deal cannot be worked out with Rigondeaux we'd expect Wake's team to make offers to both Quigg and Santa Cruz, or if the men lose on September 13th who ever beats them. It's clear that whilst Wake would love to avenge Hasegawa's loss to Martinez that's going to be off the books for the better part of a year and it's not worth pursuing that avenue for now and if Martinez loses to Frampton then Martinez's value drops dramatically.
We'd suspect that over the next week or Wake's team are going to get in contact with Gary Hyde, the manager of Rigondeaux, as well as the teams at Golden Boy, the promotional outfit behind Santa Cruz, and Eddie Hearn, the promoter of Quigg. They will likely make offers to all 3 teams and see what comes back in regards to dates and purse demands. Hopefully the demands won't be ridiculous and a date can be later this year.
(Images courtesy of Koguchi Gym and Shingo Wake's own blog)
Earlier this week we broke the news that Hideyuki Ohashi had finally announced the Flyweight dream fight between WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) and Nicaraguan sensation Roman Gonzalez (39-0, 33). The fight was one we had been talking about most of the year and knew fans from around the world were really interested in. It isn't just a Flyweight title bout but is the lower weight equivalent to Manny Pacquiao Vs Floyd Mayweather Jr. It pits the linear champion against the most destructive fighter in the 112lb division and at the end of the day everyone who knows boxing knows this one will be great, especially with the mentality of both men.
In all honesty we rarely get the best men in any division fighting each other but in this case really we do have 2 of the elite fighting each other and better yet it seems very likely that the winner will be moved on to a fight with Juan Francisco Estrada next year in a bout that really would tie up all 3 of the divisions of the elite fighters.
Despite it being such a major bout it does seem highly unlikely that it will be shown in the US or the UK where a vast majority of our readers are from. In my eyes that's a huge shame and it tells us a lot about the boxing media in those two countries and the way they are both missing out on not just some of the best fighters but also some of the best fights.
I understand that channels in both countries have their reasons for not showing the bout but in some cases the arguments seem to be more like excuses.
Firstly the "time zone" of the bout. We understand that Asian fights are a problem, especially for US TV, due to when they take place however they have been showing some footage of the Bob Arm's cards from Macau on tape delay allowing fans in the states to see the fights "as live" the same day. Sure by then the results are out in the open but it's a step they have shown to be willing to take for fighters like Nonito Donaire. With that in mind I can't see a reason for the channels, especially smaller ones like AWE, ESPN or Boxnation, not to be willing to show the Yageashi/Gonzalez bout on tape delay giving an hour of their time for the bout. Incidentally if the bout finishes early they could then include highlights from the co-feature between Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5) and Samartlek Koietgym (16-4, 5), it's self a world title bout.
If the bouts were shown on tape delay it would give the teams on those channels a chance to piece together highlights from the fights and even give the men a small build up before they showed the actual fights, as if introducing the fighters to a new audience.
Of course another problem is the profile of the fighters involved. Whilst Gonzalez is a big name in Latin America he's almost unknown by all but the most hardcore of American fight fans. Yaegashi is even less well known and for many American fans it's a case of of knowing that Yaegashi has beaten Edgar Sosa and lost to Kazuto Ioka whilst also having a thriller with Pornsawan Porpramook. Thankfully however there is more than enough high quality, high octane action involving the two fighters to do excellent build up trailers involving things like Gonzalez's battering of various fighters and Yaegashi's fianl few rounds with Pornsawan Porpramook.
It wasn't too long ago that HBO took a punt on Gennady Golovkin and we all know how well that went, like wise Yoshihiro Kamegai and Nihito Arakawa have been involved in thrillers on US TV giving a chance for a US audience to see just how exciting Japanese fighters are. Whilst I wouldn't say Yaegashi was the same stylistically as Arakawa or Kamegai he is equally fun to watch and in Gonzalez he has an opponent who is also known for putting on a show. With the two of them it's almost guaranteed to be great back and forth action. If you give the fighters a chance to show themselves they will excite fans.
Another argument would be the price of the fights however no one is suggesting the networks send over their own commentators to Tokyo. What the channels would need would be the footage, which is being aired in Japan by Fuji TV, and their own commentators, who could be in a studio anywhere on the planet. Whilst we're not suggesting Fuji TV would just give away the footage for international distribution we wouldn't assume the cost for it would be much and a "token payment" would likely be accepted as the company would be getting a new line of revenue that wasn't previously there. Likewise the channel would likely be happy to build up some good will knowing that the Inoue brother's have seriously long term potential to make the channel long term money in international fees.
Of course one more thing we often hear from fans in the west is that no one cares about the lower weights. Whilst we know that this does apply in some ways a big part of that is due to a lack of exposure. If you don't let someone see something how are they to know they would enjoy it? Funnily this has seen fans missing out on dozens of modern day wars including, but not limited, to: [Note fights with links are to videos of the fights]
Katsunari Takayama Vs Roman Gonzalez (2009)
Giovani Segura Vs Ivan Calderon I (2010)
Akira Yaegashi Vs Pornsawan Porpramook (2011)
Kompayak Porpramook Vs Adrian Hernandez I (2011)
Hernan Marquez Vs Luis Concepcion I (2011)
Roman Gonzalez Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (2012)
Koki Eto Vs Kompayak Porpramook (2013)
Giovani Segura Vs Hernan Marquez (2013)
Kohei Kono Vs Liborio Solis (2013)
Katsunari Takayama Vs Mario Rodriguez (2013)
Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep Vs Takuya Kogawa (2014)
Koki Eto Vs Ardin Diale (2014)
I dare say if fans were given a chance to watch those fights they'd love the little divisions just as much as I do. Maybe it's time that the channels gave the fans a chance to decide for themselves if they enjoy the lighter divisions by letting them watch this one without need to go and hunt it down for a Japanese stream or a youtube video after the fight. Maybe, just maybe, the western media can give Akira Yaegashi and Roman Gonzalez a chance to impress fans on a wider scale than they have been able to in the past. You never know what happens when you give someone a chance and with both of these fighter being fun, action based men a US network could have some very cheap thrillers on their hands in the coming years if they decide to not only show this fight but continue to run with similar fights and fighters.
(Images courtesy of Ohashi Gym and Teiken Promotions)
This past Saturday fans saw the popular Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21) claim the WBA Featherweight "super" title with a technical decision victory over the tricky South African Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-3, 16). The victory saw Donaire claiming a divisional "world title" in his 5th division and saw him becoming one of the few men to successfully move through so may divisions bridging from Flyweight to Featherweight.
Whilst the victory appears to be an excellent one on paper, beating the guy who stopped Daud Cino Yordan and retired Chris John, it's one that has left many questioning the referee, Luis Pabon and the legitimacy of the result. I'm not saying Donaire didn't deserve the victory, far from it in fact I feel that if the bout continued Donaire would have stopped Vetyeka, but the ending certainly left a nasty taste in the mouths of many including myself.
Rather than focus on the past I would like to take this opportunity to instead towards the future and try to see what Nonito Donaire's next step is, where his options lie and what would be the right move for the "Filipino Flash".
The obvious move, and one that does seem plausible given poor ending to his last fight, is a rematch with Vetyeka. Donaire himself hinted at that being something he wanted in the ring after the bout, it's a bout that makes sense and gives the chance for the Filipino to remove the bad taste that we have lingering on our tongues and down our throats.
It's a bout that makes sense to everyone. Donaire, as mentioned, gets to put the bout beyond doubt, Vetyeka gets a chance to avenge the loss, fans get to see the bout come to a natural conclusion and promoter Bob Arum gets to have a rematch of a fight that almost everyone wants to see again. The only man who loses face is Luis Pabon but in all honesty the damage to his reputation is already done and he'll certainly not be getting an invite back to Macau for a major fight any time soon.
Whilst this bout appears to make sense there is always some issues in boxing. This time around those issues could be the WBA who may want to force Donaire to fight someone else, after all they haven't had a Featherweight mandatory title fight since, er...anyone? You just know that after a while without a mandatory someone will be given one just to screw up a bout that makes sense.
There is also an issue regarding purses with Donaire possibly not getting the biggest payday to fight Vetyeka, especially compared with a number of fighters stateside who can draw more money than the hard to market South African.
Having mentioned the WBA briefly above it makes sense to perhaps second guess them and assume they'd want to see Donaire fight their "regular" champion Nicholas Walters (24-0, 20).
Walters, who stopped Vic Darchinyan on the same Macau show that Donaire beat Vetyeka on, is a big puncher though one with little in terms of hype and marketing. Hailing from Jamaica he's not got much of a loyal fan base and doesn't bring in big purses, despite his fun to watch KO's.
If the WBA want to force Donaire to fight Walters it makes sense for them, as they get a nice chunk of the purse and effectively "free up" a title, ergo have a revenue stream that may produce more money than Walters. It's also a bout that the WBA will feel is an easy sell to the promoter of both men, Bob Arum. Arum loves in house fights and this one which would easy to make from his side.
The purse wouldn't be great for Donaire and the bout certainly has danger written on it due to Walters's size and power but if the WBA order it then it could be a difficult one to avoid, especially given that they have the same promoter.
If the WBA is willing to leave Donaire alone then we have several other options that could bring in a lot of attention and possibly even go to pay per view in the US. Pay per view would mean a nice tasty purse for Donaire and a bigger payday for his promoter Bob Arum.
Possibly the most logical unification bout would see Donaire fighting against IBF champion Evgeny Gradovich (19-0, 9), another of Arum's Featherweights who featured on the recent Macau card. The bout would have a lot of sub stories and not just be a basic unification bout. Both men have been trained by Robert Garcia, though there is speculation that Garcia has had little involvement in Donaire's recent training camps and this could either be used as an excuse not to make the bout or as a story used to sell the bout.
If a bout with Gradovich can't be made due to Robert Garcia's relationship with both fighters then the next logical unification bout would be with the monstrously hard hitting Mexican Jhonny Gonzalez (56-8, 47), the current WBC champion. This is the sort of bout that everyone in boxing would be interested in as it pits two solid punchers against each other, both of whom can box and both of which are highly regarded in their division. This would be more than just a typical unification bout, this would be more like the #1 and #2 guys in the division meeting and that doesn't happen very often.
A third option would be a unification bout with the WBO champion. At the moment there is no WBO title holder though on June 21st Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1) will be fighting Gary Russell Jr (24-0, 14) for the vacant belt. Lomachenko is yet another Arum fighter which would make that fight easy to make if the Ukrainian beats the currently unbeaten American. If Russell Jr wins that bout then Arum may pull out the stops to force a unification bout with the purpose of "getting revenge" over Russell Jr and their team with them having out bid Arum for the promotional rights for that fight.
Any of those 4 match ups would be great to see, they'd make sense in the US, they'd help clear up the division, and could all possibly pass for PPV. They'd likely offer bigger pay days than bouts with Vetyeka or Walters and, on the whole, they'd be easy to make.
If Donaire is the biggest name at 126lbs right now then the nearest "rival" is Abner Mares (26-1-1, 14) who appears to have had his path to a Donaire fight opened up by the recently separation of Golden Boy Promotion and their former CEO Richard Schaefer. Schaefer had refused to work with Top Rank, Donaire's promoter, though with Schaefer now gone we could end up seeing Top Rank Vs Golden Boy fighters on a regular basis.
With that in mind what better fight could be made than this one between the two biggest draws in the division?
It's a bout that has been mooted for a while though was always trapped in the political minefield of American boxing. Offers had been made back and forth but a deal was never likely to be made. Now however with the door open this bout could be the biggest Featherweight clash in years. It's just a shame that since the bout was first mooted both men have lost. Donaire was of course out pointed by Cuban slickster Guillermo Rigondeaux whilst Mares was stopped, in a round, by Jhonny Gonzalez, despite those losses it's still a bout almost everyone wants to see and it's the perfect way for Golden Boy and Top Rank to begin what could be a fruitful relationship.
Of course these aren't Donaire's only options but to me they are the ones that make the most sense and seem the most likely. They aren't guaranteed to happen but they do illustrate the fact he has a lot of options out there and, which ever choice he makes, will be a great choice that many fans will likely whilst a small minority will question. He's one of the very few fighters in boxing who has so many options that he really can take his pick based on what he wants rather than what the promoters want, a very powerful position for a fighter to be in right now.
(images courtesy of:
Top Rank -Donaire, Gradovich, Lomachenko and Walters
Boxrec.com-Vetyeka and Mares)
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.