This past week has been a somewhat quiet one in the realms of Asian Boxing news. It's not been a silent week, by any stretch, but we didn't see any major stories breaking, instead it was a relatively subdued week of lesser quality news, though plenty of that news is worth catching up on if you did miss it.
Tenshin Nasukawa Vs Gervonta Davis at Rizin 15!
According to multiple sources we'll see Japanese combat sport prodigy Tenshin Nasukawa fight against WBA Super Featherweight Super champion Gervonta Davis in April. The bout wasn't announced officially but sources from both sides of the Pacific did mention the bout as being close to a done deal and should be announced in the coming weeks, if not days. We don't see this ending well for Tenshin, who may end up taking more punishment in boxing exhibitions than is good for him, and it's probably time that he decides whether he wants to remain in kick boxing, or convert to boxing and do it properly, rather than getting beaten up in public exhibitions.
A Monster heading to Scotland?
On a frustrating week for WBSS news it now seems like we're set to see Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥] make his European debut, and take on IBF Bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) in Scotland, in their WBSS semi-final. It appears that massive scheduling issues will force the bout to be part of the Josh Taylor card on May 18th. This wasn't officially confirmed but both Juan Orengo, the manager of Rodriguez, as well as the Sauerlands, suggested that this would be the case, not long after Hideyuki Ohashi confirmed the possibility of the bout being in the UK. This seems set to be confirmed early this week
Kuroda set to get a shot at Mthalane in May!
Although the specifics weren't announced we do now know that a deal is in place for the IBF Flyweight title bout between Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] and world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25). The bout, a mandatory defense for Mthalane, was announced as being done by Kuroda and his team, though they gave no details away of the bout, leaving the specifics set for a future announcement. It sounds like the bout will be in either Kanagawa or Tokyo in May, though Nitta do seem to be keeping their cards close to their chest until the announcement is due.
Katsunari Takayama to begin amateur journey on March 1st!
As for things that were announced, officially, former world champion Katsunari Takayama [高山 勝成] revealed that his amateur journey, which he hopes will result in a medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, will begin on March 1st. The exciting and very likable Takayama will compete in a national selection event, with the winner assured a shot at the Asian Championships, and a potential Olympic berth. We'll be honest and admit we don't imagine Takayama going far in the amateurs, given his age and style, but we do really look forward to seeing him in action again.
Koura to defend OPBF crown in March
The OPBF twitter account is a great soure of news and announcements, and this week they let slip the fact they have sanctioned their Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼] to make his next defense against Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) on March 31st. On paper this is one that won't excite people, but the reality is that this should be a good test of what Koura can do against a really tough opponent. We don't see it being a competitive bout, but Dante is a battler and won't fold early on to Koura's power. A mismatch, but one likely to have real intrigue.
WBO order Super Flyweight title fight
The WBO held a world title eliminator at Super Flyweight recent, which saw Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) become the mandatory challenger for WBO world champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23). The men have now been ordered to negotiate as the WBO look to keep their title active. The negotiation period for the two men is to end in less than 2 weeks, so we should see these two facing off, for the second time, in the middle of 2019.
Wanheng Vs Fukuhara rematch pushed back
Staying with world level rematches it appears the WBC Minimumweight title bout rematch between unbeaten champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] has been pushed back by 4 weeks, to March 29th. No reason was given, though Wanheng will fight in an exhibition with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] in the mean time, with that set to take place on February 22nd. Every fan of the little guys wants to see Wanheng take on Knockout, sadly however it seems the best we're going to be getting any time soon is this exhibition.
Man what a crazy week we've had. We were expecting the WBSS semi finals to be announced, and although that hasn't happened, we have had some notable news across various part of Asian boxing from contract signings to announcements about up coming bouts, to a pretty notable legal case. Unlike last we've we've tried to break our stories in subsections this week, grouping similar stories together.
Srisaket inks deal with DAZN! Details of Feb 8th ring appearance confirmed!
During the week we saw Eddie Hearn announce that he, and Matchroom USA, had inked a deal with WBC and Ring Magazine Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น], making the Thai a DAZN exclusive fighter. This is a huge coup for DAZN who will be showing his rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada, with that bout being eyed for an early April date.
Before Srisaket fights his first bout on DAZN however he will be "fighting" in Thailand in an exhibition bout as part of a stacked February 8th card to raise money for a local hospital. The line up for that card was also announced this week, and more details on that show can be read here:
Muhammad Waseem signs with MTK Global, said to be targeting an April ring return
Another notable fighter signing a contract with a new team was Pakistani Flyweight Muhammad Waseem (8-1, 6) [محمد وسیم] who has now signed with MTK Global ahead of the next chapter of his career. He is best known for his 2018 bout with Moruti Mthalane, and his work with Korean promoter Andy Kim, but it seems like he is needing a promoter with big pockets, and that is what he has got here with MTK Global. Whilst this doesn't explicitly tie Waseem to a particular channel it does seem like it will land him some big fights in the UK, and we're really looking forward to seeing what he can do with MTK Global now guiding his career.
Ryosuke Iwasa to face Cesar Juarez in February!
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) [岩佐 亮佑] will be returning to the ring on February 16th to take on exciting Mexican Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17). This is a bout that was rumoured late last year, but was announced until this week, when Juarez let the cat out of the bag. It was later confirmed by the Iwasa team. The contest will be an IBF world title eliminator, and will also be Iwasa's US debut. The match up was announced at short notice, less than 4 weeks before taking place, but with both men being aware of the bout it's hard to imagine either man being ill prepared for what could be a sleeper FOTY contender.
Eri Matsuda and Nanae Suzuki to battle in unification bout!
We all want to see Champion Vs Champion bouts, fighters unifying titles and looking to prove who is the best. This week we saw the announcement that OPBF Atomweight champion Eri Matsuda (2-0) [松田恵里] would be facing Japanese female champion Nanae Suzuki (8-2-1, 1) [鈴木 菜々江], in a mouth watering unification bout. Matsuda looks to be one of the hottest prospects in female boxing, but will need to show what she can do against a more experienced and equally hungry opponent. This is likely to push the winner on to a world title fight, and should be seen as a very significant match up, at least for the fighters involved.
Musashi Mori Vs Richard Pumicpic II set for April 14th, Tsutsumi, Shigeoka and Takeda on undercard!
Last year we saw Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) [森 武蔵] defeat Filipino Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6) to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, in what is clearly his best win to date.The first bout was curtailed due to a headclash, but the fact we're getting a rematch in mid April is certainly not a bad thing.
Not only was the rematch announced here but the under-card was also a lovely bonus, with Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗], Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) [堤聖也] and Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (4-1) [竹田宙] all announced for the show. Sadly none of them have their opponents announced, but we would be very surprised if at least one of them does face a Japanese ranked opponent. A great main event with a potentially solid under-card.
Yuko Kuroki to face Nao Ikeyama in April!
On the same day as the previously mentioned Mori Vs Pumicpic rematch we'll get a mos win female bout, as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-5-3, 5) [森脇恵子], who is edging towards her 50th birthday, take on former WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-6-1, 8) [黒木優子]. Female boxing might not be huge but that doesn't stop the sport giving us some huge female bouts, and a contest between Ikeyama, a legend who has competed with the best despite being well beyond the retirement age of most fighters, and Kuroki should be sensational. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will be on the verge of another world title fight. A high risk, high reward bout between two recent world champions.
Kasumi Saeki to fight for a world title in April!
Staying with female boxing, unbeaten prospect Kasumi Saeki (3-0, 2) [佐伯霞] got informed, live at an event she was speaking at, that her team were pencilling her in for a world title fight on April 27th. The details are lacking, but the WBO Asia Pacific female Minimumweight champion, looks set for a huge step up in class as her team look to make her into a star. We're expecting more details to be announced in the coming weeks, but it's clear that w could see Saeki announce herself on the world stage in just a few weeks.
Notable the April 27th date is also being rumoured as the date for Reiya Konishi's bout with IBF Light Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado.
Suzumi Takayama passes B license test, set for debut on February 26th!
Former amateur standout Suzumi Takayama [高山 涼深] is pencilled in to fight on February 26, he has been for quite some time, but he didn't actually take his B license test until this past week. He has, as expected, passed all the tests and there isn't any issue with him being licensed, and joining the strong stable of hopefuls at the Watanabe Gym.
Shokichi Iwata takes part in B class pro-test
Japanese youngster Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) [岩田翔吉] may have made his professional debut last year, but he wasn't allowed to fight under a JBC license until this week, when he claimed a B class licensed and linked up with Teiken. It doesn't seem totally clear on what direction Iwata's career is going to take, but he has opened up doors to fight in Japan, as well as the USA.
Golovkin suing former managers
On a really serious issue, former unified Middleweight king Gennady Golovkin (38-1-1, 34) has began court action as he looks to sue former managers Maximilian and Oleg Hermann, who he claims owe him $3.5 million. The legal action has been filed with claims the Hermann's had their contract ended in 2017 but continued to make money off their relationship with Golovkin. It's going to be very interesting to see how this story develops in the coming months.
This past month has been a great one for fights, and we've genuine had an incredible number of fantastic fights. Whilst we can't share all of them, are some that we would like to share in our review of great fights from January. As is the norm for this site, we will only be looking at bouts featuring an Asian fighter.
Note bouts on Boxingraise, DAZN, ESPN+ and PBC won't be included in these features, unless they are made free to view by the relevant outlet. This means that the brilliant contests between Can Xu and Jesus M Rojas, Takeshi Inoue and Jaime Munguia and Ryoichi Tamura vs Mugicha Nakagawa.
Jiang Xiang (15-4-2, 3) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (59-6, 40) - January 5th, Suzhou, China
Talented Chinese Light Flyweight Jing Xiang may not be on the radar of many fight fans, especially those in the west, but his bout against former WBC world champion Kompayak Porpramook was a really exciting bout that should help put him on the map. The bout pitted the skills of Xiang, who is a wonderful sharp punching boxer-mover, against the toughness and pressure of Kompayak in what turned out to be a thoroughly fantastic bout.
Jian Wang (7-1, 2) vs Seong Yeong Yang (6-2-4, 3) - January 5th, Suzhou, China
In the 1980's Korean fighters were among the most must watch fighters on the planet. They weren't, usually, the most skilled but their bouts were often brutal, entertaining, action packed and fought on as much will as skill. Sadly we're not in the 1980's and Korean boxing scene is only a shadow of what it once was. Thankfully in January we saw the Korean spirit shine through with Seong Yeong Yang battling against Jian Wang in a thrilling 10 round war. This is a crude but all action bout that is well worthy of a watch.
Kenshin Oshima (4-1-1, 3) vs Ikuro Sadatsune (9-2-3, 3) - January 19th, Toyko, Japan
Novices have been putting in great fights in Japan recently, and a great example of this was shown in the middle of the month with the hard hitting Kenshin Oshima battling against the under-rated Ikuro Sadatsune. This 8 round bout started as a tactical affair but became a war with both guys landing big shots on each other and the later rounds were thrilling tests of heart, resolve and will to win. Sadly neither of these guys are likely to get much attention outside of Japan, but are both worth following at we go forward.
Alphoe Dagayloan (11-2-5, 5) vs Danrick Sumabong (7-1, 6) - January 26th, Cavite, Philippines
In the Philippines fight fans got a real treat when Alphoe Dagayloan battled against domestic foe Danrick Sumabong. This wasn't a war, by any stretch, but it was a thrilling, action packed, highly competitive fight. There was little to split the two men, in what was arguably the most meaningful bout for both men so far.
Over the last few weeks we've seen DAZN snapping up talent and building a very strong stable of fighters to work with through different promotional tie ups, notably working hand in hand with Matchroom US, World of Boxing and Golden Boy Promotions. They have seen the streaming service become more talked about than almost any fighter in the sport right now. One market they've not yet cracked, at least for boxing, is the Japanese market, despite being available in the country for quite a while now.
DAZN is available in Japan, and is relatively big there with rights for things like the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), UEFA Champions League, La Liga, Premier League, the J League, F1, various Tennis and Rugby competitions, a number of MMA companies and even some professional darts. Their content library is solid in several areas, but not in boxing.
They do also show some boxing, but by some I really do mean "some". Most of their boxing content is from the US, and whilst that has shown some Japanese fighters, including Ryota Murata, Ryohei Takahashi and Takeshi Inoue, they haven't exactly been shown at prime time. Instead they have been shown live, at the same time as their bouts have taken place in the US, giving them a mid-day type of time slot. The idea seems to be for the channel to appeal to Japanese audiences on the value of Western fighters, which does have it's place with Japanese fight fans, though maybe not as big of a place as DAZN would like.
This means that not only are the fans rarely able to see Japanese fighters on the service, but that a lot of the fights they get on the service aren't at a great time for their audience numbers, and there is actually a pretty good reason for this.
The rather unique thing about Japanese boxing is that, for the most part, their biggest fighters are available on free TV. Fighters like WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue, WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito, WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro, WBC "interim" Bantamweight champion Takuma Inoue and former WBA "regular" Middleweight champion Ryota Murata are all linked to Fuji TV, for fights held in Japan. On the other hand WBA "super" Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi, former 3-weight champion Kazuto Ioka, former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi are all inked to TBS, and WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka is inked with TBS' affiliate CBC, which allows TBS to show his fights.
Notably it does look like it's not just the present tied up with TBS and Fuji TV but also the future with TBS having a working relationship with Watanabe, who promote prospects like Ginjiro Shigeoka and Seiya Tsutsumi as well as up coming world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi, whilst Fuji's deal with Ohashi Gym is likely to see Fuji having exclusivity on Satoshi Shimizu and Taku Kuwahara, among others.
The only real outlier to this is Tomoki Kameda, who does have a streaming deal, albeit with Abema TV, who have shown his last few fights for free. They appear to be working strongly with Kyoei and the Koki Kameda TFC series of shows, so Kameda is also off the table, at least for now.
Unlike in the US Japanese fight fans aren't accustomed to paying for boxing, especially not for their top guys. They also see their fighters fighting on free TV in front of a multi-million people audiences, with their profiles becoming huge as a result
Saying that however they have had the ability to pay for some boxing, with Boxingraise offering some VOD and live domestic action, G+ being a premium service that shows a monthly live domestic card and WOWOW showing some international content, but on the whole it's rare to see boxing on pay TV in Japan. Even services that did once offer paid options, such as GAORA and Sky A+ have now all but stopped their boxing content. GAORA hasn't shown anything in years and we believe the last Sky A+ boxing card featured Naoko Fujioka against Shindo Go.
If we do look at the available pay options for Japanese fans they cater to 2 different markets.
Boxingraise is outlier in a lot to how boxing content works in Japan, with it being a combination of a streaming and Video on Demand service. It is run by Dangan, who promote a number of shows every month, and is available online. It is a boxing only service, that typically shows 1 live card a month and adds 4 or 5 new shows on a delay basis, whether it's a classic card or a recent one is dependent on the activity of any given month. At ￥980 it's affordable, but it is boxing only content, and will cater to those who are hardcore fans only. Notable this is actually available outside of Japan though is one that only hardcore fans are ever likely to be interested in.
WOWOW is a general premium service, showing a combination of movies, live content, musical concerts and things like the Oscars. Basically if you get WOWOW you're unlikely to get it mainly for the sport. It has a traditional fan base, having been around since the 1990's and it's boxing content is not significant enough to get the channel just for boxing. Think of it as the Japanese Showtime, without PPV if you will, with plenty of wide ranging contest. In regards to boxing it only shows big US bouts, often on delay. Some fighters are live but usually it's a delay broadcast.
G+ is a more clear premium sports channel, and is a channel that is linked with free TV giant NTV. This is more of your Sky Sports type of thing, showing sport through the day with things like classic wrestling, golf, NASCAR, Boxing, a combination of classic, live and magazine shows. On average they do 1 live boxing card a month, though there is some leeway with that, and it's on a Saturday afternoon/evening, as part of their long established Dynamic Glove series. To add the channel on to a typical satellite package is ￥900, though of course you will need a satellite package to begin with.
When DAZN launched in Japan it's main rival likely was SKY A+ and G+, both of which are premium sports channels. As mentioned SKY A+ no longer seems to show boxing, or haven't done for a while, but as a general sports channel it is DAZN's rival.
When DAZN launched in Japan it did so at a price point of ￥1750. Yet for a boxing fan, who already has a CS Satelite set up, that's not significantly cheaper than paying for G+ and Boxingraise, and getting a couple of live domestic cards, some archive stuff and getting the other benefits that come with G+.
The pricing for SKY A+ is a bit more complicated than for DAZN or G+, due to it's tiers, but on the whole it does cost more than DAZN. It offers multiple channels, through the TV with multiple services on some of it's packages. With it not showing boxing however it's difficult to really talk about them as competition here, as in for this particular market, but they are certainly rivals in terms of general sports content. What DAZN is likely to do is to make SKY A+ cut their pricing and perhaps even force them to offer more versatility to their services, just to compete with what DAZN are offering. However that seems like it will just benefit consumers more than anything, at least in the short term.
The big issue that DAZN is facing when breaking into the Japanese market, for boxing, is that it lacks live content in prime time. We suspect that we'll see Matchroom and Goldenboy using more Japanese challengers, to try help their broadcast partner's Japanese arm. What DAZN needs to make it in Japanese boxing market is a deal with a domestic promoter, at least one. Unfortunately for them it's hard to see where they go in regards to inking with a top promoter but there are options out there.
A starting point could be World of Sport Boxing, who promote Takeshi Inoue, Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako and a couple of promising prospects. Along with Shinsei Gym, who promote Etsuko Tada, Reiya Konishi, Shun Kubo and Yuki Yamauchi, though they have had a working relationship with Fuji TV in recent times. As well as the likes of Yokohama Hikari and Ichi Riki, who have worked together a lot recently. Between them they have not only Ryohei Takahashi but also Akihiro Kondo, Ryo Akaho and Keita Kurihara. It's also worth noting that Naoko Fujioka has worked on the same shows as the Ichi Riki and Yokohama Hikari fighters in recent times, which would give them a chance to continue that relationship
If DAZN could link with those promoters they wouldn't have male world champions, but they would have 2 female world champions, a regular and steady stream of live shows in and around prime time, with the potential to build the names of fighters who could fight for world titles. For example Inoue is likely to get another shot down the line, Konishi is set to get a second world title fight, Kubo is world ranked and a former world champion, Kondo is set for a world title eliminator, and the prospects that they would tie up would give them a longer term plan. It would also allow DAZN's international arms a chance to showcase Japanese fighters before they get big fights, meaning that the likes of Takahashi and Inoue would have been more well known before making their US debuts recently.
Will DAZN link up with Japanese promoters?
There hasn't been much rumour about it, but we wouldn't be surprised if it happens in the future. It does make sense from a boxing point of view, and would be beneficial to the fighters, the promoters and DAZN as a whole, not just the Japanese arm, allowing them more content for their various international services, and help entice Japanese fight fans to buy into the service.
One of the many things we're wanting to try in 2019 is a weekly news review, looking at the most interesting news stories from the last 7 days. For the same of this news won't include things like weigh ins and results, but instead things like announcements of fights, comebacks, deaths and other more general news from the week that's been.
We won't go into any of the stories in depth, leaving a link to the relevant story, but will quickly give our take on the news.
So without further ado, let us bring the 1st Asian Boxing Weekly News Review!
Srisaket to DAZN not yet a done deal! Still set to return in February
After strong speculation that WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) [ศรีสะเกษ นครหลวงโปรโมชั่น] had inked a deal with DAZN it was revealed he hadn't....yet! He is in deep negotiations with the streaming service but hasn't inked anything yet, with a decision expected to be made shortly. What was also confirmed is that he would be fighting in a tune up bout on February 8th, in Thailand, before facing mandatory challenger Juan Francisco Estrada in the Spring. At the moment the opponent for Srisaket's opponent hasn't been announced, but will be before the end of the month, suggesting it's a limited foe, potentially an experienced regional journeyman.
WBSS announcements to be made next week!
After weeks of fans asking when the WBSS semi-final bouts would be taking place we finally saw the Sauerlands react, and announce that an announcement would be made next week. It's unclear when in the week the announcement will be made but to have a time frame of "next week" is good enough to get us a little bit excited. The rumours were that early March had been targeted but it now seems like the shows have slipped to April or May, though we're genuinely glad that we'll see things being made public very shortly! We'll file this in the rarely used "Glad there was an announcement about an announcement", folder
Sirimongkol to return to the ring...as a Heavyweight!
The biggest "What the fuck?" story of the week came from Thailand, as multiple sources informed us that former WBC Bantamweight and Super Featherweight champion Sirimongkol Singwancha (96-4, 61) [ศิริมงคล สิงห์วังชา] would be back in the ring in the coming weeks, as a Heavyweight! The enigmatic Thai was a fantastic fighter in his prime, but he is more than a decade removed from his prime and more than 20 years removed from losing the WBC Bantamweight to Joichiro Tatsuyoshi in an amazing fight in 1997! Sirimongkol, now in his 40's, is only 5'6" and will look ridiculous fighting at over 200lbs, but we suspect he's going to be very softly matched.
Mishiro to defend OPBF title against Watanabe!
A pretty good, though possibly missed, announcement came out over the weekend from Dangan, who announced the OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) [三代大訓] will defending his title on March 27th against OPBF "silver" champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) [渡邉卓也]. Whilst neither man is a huge name outside of Asia it's hard to not be excited here. Both are fun to watch, have plenty of skill and throw a lot of punches. Neither is world class, though Mishiro has certainly shown the potential to get their already in his short career, but they should make for a genuinely spectacular fight to headline Dangan 221.
Ryohei Takahashi will continue his career following loss to TJ Doheny!
Former IBF Super Bantamweight challenger Ryohei Takahashi (15-4-1, 6) [高橋竜平] revealed that his career will not end following his loss to world champion TJ Doheny earlier this month. Although it's not a huge surprise to hear that the 28 year old, soon to be 29 year old, would be continuing his career it's still good to hear and he will certainly be a good addition to the Japanese domestic scene. Bouts between Takahashi and the likes of Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Hidenori Otake would be very enjoyable, whilst rematches with Kazuki Tanaka and Yuki Iriguchi would certainly be more than welcome.
Denver Cuello set to return in March!
Former world title challenger Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) was once touted as a future star of the smaller divisions. Sadly injuries hampered him, badly, and clearly harmed his chances against Xiong Zhao Zhong in 2013. Since then he has hardly fought, due to in part to his being banged up. This week however Ian Melodillar reported that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, as fights for the first time in years. It's hard to know what Cuello has left but if the 32 year is half the fighter he once was he could make for another interesting addition to the ranks in any of the lower weights. He's likely missed out on getting a world title, but adds some name value and more Filipino interest to the lower weights.
Ivan Dychko eyeing March 1st return!
Also looking at a March return is Kazakh Heavyweight Ivan Dychko (7-0, 7) [Дычко Иван]. Dychko's manager revealed that his charge would be looking to return in March 1st, likely in Florida. The bout will be Dychko's first since July 2018, and frustratingly his activity seems to have been with his promotional team as he's not been injured, and instead has been seeing bouts fall through due to reasons outside of his hands. It's been a very frustrating year for the fighter and his fans. Given his amateur credentials there is no reason for him to have been matched the way he has, and hopefully 2019 will see him being busy and taking on some serious tests, rather than continuing to waste time with mismatches and promotional frustrations.
Iwao Hakamada manga to be released
Former fighter Shigemi Mori along with Hideko Hakamada held a news conference this week to reveal a new Manga being released this year to try and raise the attention of Iwao Hakamada's, Hideko's brother, situation. Mr Hakamada, now 82, served 48 years for a quadruple murder in 1966 and spent much of that time in solitary confinement on death row. Although he was released in 2014, Hakamada is still awaiting a retrial, which could see his sentence being reinstated. The manga is set to be released in 8 page sections on a monthly basis from February 15th and will be translated for an international audience with the plan also being to put it on to youtube, to further international attention.
Right now the Thai boxing scene is a bit of a strange one. It has 3 standout fighters at the top of the proverbial tree, with a trio of world champions that are head and shoulders above everyone else in the country. You then have a a rag tag bunch of challengers, who are a mix of emerging talent and veterans still in and around the world title scene. The prospects are an even more varied bunch, from former amateur stands to a 15 year old prodigy.
Sadly though there is a feeling that the Thai scene has faded just a touch over the last few years to give us a rather weak looking domestic picture, though one that could easily see a break out star emerge.
The World Class Trio
The most notable names in Thai boxing right now are clearly Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41), Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) and Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18). They are the 3 world champions from the country and the 3 names that really are head and shoulders above anything else the country has to offer.
WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket is clearly the most recognisable name the country has to offer in boxing, and with good reason. He is widely regarded as a top 10 pound for pound fighter and holds notable wins against Roman Gonzalez, twice, Juan Francisco Estrada, Yota Sato and Jose Salgado. To many he came out of nowhere to beat Roman Gonzalez in March 2017, and again 6 months later, but he had previously held the WBC Super Flyweight title and the win over Gonzalez saw him reclaim the title he had lost via technical decision to Carlos Cuadras. He's big, strong and extremely powerful, with under boxing skills.
Wanheng set the boxing world talking last year when he matched Floyd Mayweather's 50-0, getting coverage on things like Sky Sports, and since then he has notched 2 more wins. He is the WBC Minimumweight champion, having held that title since November 2014, and has racked up 10 defense. His current reign is the longest of any active world champion, coming in at 2 months longer than Deontay Wilder's. Although not an amazingly destructive fighter Wanheng is a defensively smart fighter who can change the tempo of a fight, neutralise pressure well and has under-rated speed and combinations. He doesn't look like he's unbeatable, but very few have really pushed him close. The one big issue however is that he's had just a touch of luck from officials at times, deducting points, or giving him the benefit of the doubt in close rounds.
The other champion is Knockout CP Freshmart, the WBA Minimumweight champion. He won the WBA interim title in 2014, before taking the main title in 2016. Since winning the WBA's top title he has made 6 defenses. Looking through his record things look impressive, with wins against Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Shin Ono, Rey Loreto, Toto Landero and Xing Zhao Zhong. Sadly however, his performances have been less than great and there has been a real lack of action at times in his bouts. He's very talented, but can be very dull. It also seems unlikely that we'll see him and Wanheng unify, despite how intriguing that bout is on an international basis.
As mentioned, the contenders in Thai, and are a varied bunch of fighters. Some are well on their way to their first world title fight whilst others are looking to get a second, or even third, shot at a belt.
We'll start with Flyweight Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15), who has been ordered to negotiate a bout with WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian, which is expected to take place in the Spring. Dennapa, also known as Sarawut Thawornkham, is a 27 year old puncher who lost on debut in 2014 but has rebuilt on the regional level. Despite being the #1 WBA Flyweight contender is competition has, mostly, been pathetic, which has helped him stop his last 11 foes.
Whilst Dennapa has a shot being negotiated Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11) will be getting a world title eliminator, which is set to take place in February. The Light Welterweight is a talented boxer-puncher, who has shown a lot more than many Thai contenders do. He will however need to show a lot more to over-come Akihiro Kondo when the two men meet next month. Downua is a heavy handed fighter with good timing, a good jab, and the basis to build a very promising career, though may be getting his shot just a little too early.
Possibly the best of the Thai contenders is Palangpol CP Freshmart (16-2, 9), who is lacking an outstanding record, but has shown what he can do on the world stage, and what he can do isn't too shabby. The hard hitting Palangpol is best known for his 2017 bout with Kosei Tanaka, when he dropped Tanaka and fractured both of the Japanese fighter's orbital bones, before being stopped in the 9th round. Although the rest of his record is poor his performance against Tanaka showed he belonged in the world title mix. Unfortunately however he is 33 and in the deepest division in the sport, so may well miss out on another shot, if his team can't open up the purse strings.
Another standout contender is Panya Pradabsri (26-1, 15), aka Petchmanee Kokietgym, who is in the mix between Minimumweight and Flyweight. His sole loss was a controversial one against Xiong Zhao Zhong, in a WBA world title eliminator, and since then he has been handing out beatings, including an impressive KO win against Dexter Alimento in a Flyweight bout. It's not 100% clear where he sees his future, as he fought at Minimumweight as recently as last September, but he's ultra active, highly talented and a real threat to the top guys, at least at 105lbs.
Having started his career with an incredible looking 36-0-1 big things were expected from Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34). Sadly a loss to Juan Hernandez Navarrete in 2007 was a huge set back and since then he has very much failed to really become a threat at world level again. Currently on a 8 fight winning run Nawaphon has only really scored 1 big win since his loss to Hernandez, stopping veteran Amnat Ruenroeng last year. If he's serious about getting a second world title fight it does feel like he needs to have investment in his development and hope his team are willing to open the purse strings to get him better opponents. He's talented, physically imposing and from a good team, but the jury is still out on whether he can make it to the top.
Few Thai's in the sport today have had chances that Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking (25-5, 16) have had. Eaktwan, also known as Komgrich Nantapech, lost in a 2017 world title fight to Donnie Nietes, then lost to Juan Carlos Reveco later that same year, in an eliminator. He was supposed to have another eliminator in 2018 but suffered an injury forcing him out of a bout with Masayuki Kuroda. Whilst he has had chances shouldn't write off the 29 year old, who is a big, strong, powerful and talented fighter. He asked real questions of Nietes and has got good wins on the regional scene, but it very much feels like he's one of those unfortunate fighters who is stuck between regional class and world class.
In December we saw Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-1, 33) suffer his first loss, coming up second best against Takuma Inoue in a WBC "interim" Bantamweight title fight. Despite losing that bout, widely, he showed he belonged on the fringes of world class, with his determination, toughness and stamina. Prior to facing Inoue he had gone 48-0 but his record lacked any sort of quality, and it showed as he lacked the skills needed to really push Inoue, but had the tools that could be built on. If Petch can get good training, work on his flawed technical skills then there is huge potential for him to become a fixture on the world stage. He's only 25 now and really shouldn't be written after the Inoue bout, even if it was a pretty wide loss for the Thai.
Another fight who showed their toughness in a world title bout, and has remained a fringe contender, is WBA #2 ranked Flyweight Noknoi Sitthiprasert (69-5, 42), aka Nare Yianleang. He began his career 1-4 but has since gone 68-1 and scored wins over the likes of Rey Loreto, Kenichi Horikara, Renoel Pael and Donny Mabao. His sole in his last 69 fights was a decision loss to Kazuto Ioka in a WBA Flyweight title bout, and he has reeled off 7 low key wins since then, whilst doing enough to remain in the title mix with the WBA. He's proven himself as a very tough fighter, but does lack in terms of big wins, and at 32 years old he is battling against time for another big fight.
The pick of the Thai prospects making waves at the moment is 29 year old, former amateur standout Apichet Petchmanee (2-0, 2), who should be regarded as one of the best prospects in boxing, even if he is older than a typical prospect. Apichet made his professional debut last year, beating Attanon Kunlawong in 2 rounds, then defeated Sadudee Tor Bumas just 2 months later, claiming the OPBF Silver Light Welterweight with that second win. Given his advanced age it's clear Apichet hasn't got time to waste, and he's showing he's aware of that having fought 13-0 and 8-0 opponents in his first 2 bouts, and looking brilliant against both. He's skilled, strong, has a good varied attack and will almost certainly be in the world rankings by the end of 2019. Sadly though he may have left the start of his professional career a little bit too late
Another 29 year old hopeful is Atchariya Tor Chantaroj (12-0, 5), also known as Atchariya Wirojanasunobol. He has been a professional since 2014 and looked promising early on, with wins against Heri Andriyanto and Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus in his first 4 bouts. Since that impressive start he has built with wins against the likes of Kaewfah Tor Buamas and Taisho Ozawa. There is plenty of promise with Atchariya but it seems more likely he will actually end up being fed to Apichet rather than advancing to major fights of his own.
At the age of 15 Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (3-0, 2) looks to be a prodigy and was mixing boxing with Muay Thai in 2018, notably winning a silver medal at the Muay Thai 2018 Youth World Championships. Sadly his boxing bouts haven't yet surfaced on to the net, but it is well know that Thailand are looking more and more at kids to become their stars, with the likes of Stamp Kiatniwat being groomed from a young age. Sadly these experiments with teenagers rare develop the stars in boxing that the Thai boxing promoters will be looking for, but it's hard to ignore anyone who debuted at the age of 14 and has reeled off 3 before their 15th birthday.
Another teenager worthy of note is 18 year old Thanongsak Simsri (5-0, 5), who debuted in June, just 3 days after his 18th birthday, and fought regularly in the second half of 2018 to move to 5-0 (5). His competition so far has mostly been debutants, as we do often see with Thai fighters,. As with Phoobadin it's hard to know what Thanongsak really has in his locker, but the Thai promoters are clearly looking to develop young talent, and with a handful of fights already under his belt Thanongsak is someone to make a note of.
This coming weekend we'll see Takeshi Inoue attempt to dethrone Jamie Munguia, the WBO Light Middleweight champion, in Texas. The Japanese fighter is regarded as a huge under-dog and few are giving him much of a chance.
With the bout just days away we thought it would be an interesting time to look at 5 occasions where a Japanese fighter has taken a world title whilst fighting on US soil. Given that it's only happened 5 times, in history, it shows how rare it really is. Even more telling is that we've only seen 3 occasions where a Japanese fighter has dethrone a reigning champion on US soil, and Inoue, if successful, would be the first since 1980!
Raul Rojas v Shozo Saijo II - September 27th 1968
The first Japanese fighter to win a world title on foreign soil was Shozo Siajo, back in September 1968. The Cinderella Boy had a less than remarkable start to his professional career, beginning his career 3-1-2, and being 13-4-2 (2) when he made his debut in January 1968. Amazingly Shozo would defeat the then WBA Featherweight champion Raul Rojas in a non-title bout in June of that year, over 10 rounds. That bout then resulted in a rematch 3 months later for the WBA title.
Heading into their rematch Rojas was 35-2-1 (22), he had only lost in the first bout with Shozo and to the legendary Vicente Saldivar, having gone 12-1 since that loss. Saijo was 16-5-2 (3), and other than the win over Rojas there was little of note on his record.
Surprisingly Saijo repeated his win over Rojas, defeating him over 15 rounds to win the WBA Featherweight title. The bout was a clear win for Saijo, who dropped Rojas on route to a unanimous decision. Sadly for Rojas his career would never truly recover and he would retire in 1970 with a record of 38-7-2 (24). Saijo on the other hand, who was Japan's 7th world champion, would hold the title until 1971 and make 5 defenses, losing to Antonio Gomez in 3 rounds. He would retire after that loss with a 29-7-2 (8) record.
Samuel Serrano vs. Yasutsune Uehara - August 2nd 1980
Having just mentioned Samuel Serrano, as being the man who ended Villaflor's second reign, it's worth noting that he was actually the third champion to be dethroned by a Japanese fighter on US soil. The talented Puerto Rican had defended the belt 10 times since the win over Villaflor, and was going in with Japan's Yatsusune Uehara.
Although relatively forgotten now Uhara was a former standout in Japan. He had gone 117-8 (87) in the amateurs, had claimed medals on the international stage and had turned professional with a then Japanese record signing fee, going with the Kyoei Boxing gym. Despite being highly touted he would lose his second professional bout, and come up short in a world title bout with Villaflor in 1974. Heading into this bout the allure that Uehara once had, had faded. He was 25-4 (20), aged 30 this was seen as him getting a shot that he wouldn't win. Serrano on the other had was 27 years old, 42-4-1 (14), and unbeaten in 26 bouts!
Uehara was the big under-dog and the reasons for that showed early on, with Serrano winning the rounds using his boxing skills. Uehara however believed in his power and pressure and managed to land an occasional bomb. Although being outboxed Uehara was dangerous and he showed just how dangerous in the final seconds of round 6, when he landed a dynamite right hand when Serrano was on the ropes. The dropped Uehara who failed to beat the count. The result was the Ring Magazine Upset of the year for 1980. Sadly though Uehara would lose in a rematch the following year, having recorded just 1 defense. Uehara would retire after their rematch with a record of 27-5 (21), Serrano on the other hand would make 3 defenses before losing to Roger Mayweather in 1983. He would retire the following year, before making a strange comeback in the 1990's, eventually hanging them up with a record of 50-6-1 (17).
Ben Villaflor vs Kuniaki Shibata I - Mach 12th 1973
It would take 4 years until a Japanese fighter following in Saijo's footsteps and claim a world title on American soil, with Kuniaki Shibata being the man to achieve the feat. The "Genius Puncher" was one of the protege's of the great Eddie Townsend and had distinguished himself as a top fighter in 1970, when he became the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Mexico, dethroning Vicente Saldivar in December 1970.
Despite winning the WBC Featherweight title from Saldivar we wouldn't see Shibata have a long reign, losing in his third defense to Clemente Sanchez in 1972. The following year he would move up in weight challenge WBA Super Featherweight champion Ben Villaflor, a Filipino born fighter who had held the WBA belt since April 1972. Villaflor had recorded 1 defenses, and had amassed an excellent record of 48-4-3 (25), whilst Shibata was 37-4-3 (23).
In the ring the two were amazingly well matched, though Shibata would take a narrow decision, winning by a point on 1 card and 2 points on the others, to take the title and become a 2-time world champion. Sadly for Shibata his reign was again a short one, losing inside a round 7 months later in a rematch with Villaflor. Villaflor's second reign would continue until 1976, when he lost to Samuel Serrano, then retired with a record of 56-6-6 (31). Shibata on the other hand would bounce back from his title loss to win the WBC title, which he would defend 3 times before losing to Alfredo Escalera in 1975. He would continue on but retire in the late 1970's with a record 47-6-3 (25).
Tadashi Mihara v Rocky Fratto - November 7th 1981
Amazingly we've not seen a Japanese fighter dethrone someone on American soil since Uehara's win over Serrano. We have however seen two Japanese fighters pick up vacant titles on US soil. The first of those was Tadashi Mihara, who had a very short reign ,but a notable one all the same.
Mihara was 14-0 (11) when he faced fellow unbeaten fighter Rocky Fratto, then 24-0 (9) for the WBA Light Middleweight title. Mihara was looking to become the third Japanese champion 154lbs, following Koichi Wajima and Masashi Kudo, and managed to achieve the feat by narrowly outpointing Fratto over 15 rounds. Notably this is at the same weight that Inoue will be challenging the unbeaten Munguia at, and like Mihara was at the time Inoue is also unbeaten after 14 fights
Sadly for Mihara his reign was a very short one, losing in his first defense against Davey Moore, less than 3 months after his big win. The loss to Moore would be Mihara's sole defeat however and he would fight on until 1985 before retiring with a record of 24-1, 15). Fratto on the other hand would never win a big one, and retire following a loss to Harry Daniels, with a record of 28-4 (9).
Masayuki Ito v Christopher Diaz - July 28th 2018
The second vacant title to be won by a Japanese fighter on US soil came almost 37 years after Mihara's win and saw Masayuki Ito announce himself on the world stage with an excellent performance to claim the WBO Super Featherweight title, defeating Christopher Diaz. Going into this bout it was supposed to be a coming out party for Diaz, the unbeaten Puerto Rican who was promoted by Top Rank. Ito however ripped up the script and out boxed the betting favourite.
Entering the bout Ito was 23-1-1 (12), he had unified the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, and had been on the verge of a world title fight for a while. Diaz on the other hand was 23-0 (15), touted as a rising star from Puerto Rico and had scored notable wins over Bryant Cruz and Braulio Rodriguez on route to his shot. Sadly for Diaz he was unable to cope with Ito's size, range and variation, being dropped in round 8 and never really managing to get a foot hold in the bout.
Since this contest, which was just last summer, both men have fought once, with both scoring a stoppage win. Ito over-came mandatory challenge Evgeny Chuprakov and is expected to be back in the ring in the US later this year, to defend against Jamel Herring.
Fight fans around the planet have probably never heard of either Mikhail Lesnikov or Afrizal Tamboresi. Neither are big names, neither have fought in the west and if we're being honest neither are likely to ever be big names.
If you have heard of either man, the most likely reason is that Indonesian fighter Tamboresi has fought a few notable names in Asia. He's lost by stoppage to the likes of Rocky Fuentes (KO2), Takuma Inoue (TKO2), Mike Tawatchai (TKO4) and Juan Miguel Elorde (KO1). What you know from those names is that those who we have named fight between Super Flyweight and Super Bantamweight.
This past Sunday Tamboresi fought the aforementioned Mikhail Lesnikov. The Russian fighter is a Light Welterweight-come-Welterweight. He looked huge in comparison to Tamboresi, in fact according to boxrec there was over 5" in height advantage, needless to say significant reach difference.
It was clear when the men stepped into the ring that there was a huge physical disparity. The two didn't belong in the same ring together, this was a 23 year old natural Light Welterweight, against an old, 33 year old, blown up Super Flyweight, who had never shown the best punch resistence, with 6 stoppage losses in his last 6 bouts. He had been flattened by the light punching Takuma Inoue at Super Flyweight and should never have been in the ring against Lesnikov.
From the moment they walked to center ring to get the final instructions from the referee it was obvious the two shouldn't have been allowed in the ring together. Lesnikov had every advantage, and could well have really hurt Tamboresi.
Unsurprisingly Lesnikov (now 3-2, 1) scored his first stoppage victory, not just beating Tamboresi, but icing him in rather brutal fashion. It was Tamboresi's 7th stoppage loss in 21 bouts, and even worse it was his 7th straight stoppage loss. It wasn't just a knock out, it was one of the most graphic this year. First the Russian wobbled his man with an uppercut before finish the show with a brutal hook. The only positive, was that Tamboresi managed to get to his feet without being down too long and seemed to be in charge of his senses when he congratulated Lesnikov. This could have been much, much worse.
Whilst weight classes in some countries are adhered to, and restrictions will be put in place to stop such disgusting physical mismatches that wasn't this case this weekend in Vietnam. The country is wanting to develop it's boxing scene, and we really do hope they succeed, but they do need to stop things like this happening. They can't allow a wild west system of significant size differences and putting fighters at risk.
Tamboresi (now 11-10), really needs to wonder who set this fight up and whether that person has his best interest at heart. The commission behind the bout need to have a close look at this sort of thing in the future. Lesnikov isn't a notable fighter, but he should still never have been in the ring with someone who was so much smaller and had been stopped in his 6 previous bouts. Boxing has a duty of care to the fighters involved in it, and the duty of care here was simply ignored. All involved, from the commission, to promoter Cocky Buffalo, to Tamboresi's team should all feel ashamed by this "fight" and should make sure to not allow such an horrific physical mismatch in the future.
For those who missed the bout, we've included it below, and you can see how different the fighters were in terms of size, and how much of a mismatch this was.
We've yet to see the giant of China really make its mark on professional boxing in the way that some had anticipated, but there has been a few notable fighters from the country, and it does look like we're set to see rise in competition from the country over the coming years. So let's look at where we stand today with Chinese boxing.
We'll start by looking at Can Xu (15-2, 2), the biggest hope of the country now, and the next Chinese fighter set to fight for a world title. The 24 year old Featherweight will be getting a WBA "regular" world title fight on January 26th. Xu has genuinely impressed at times, and is a better fighter than many would expect. Wins over the likes of Neomar Cermeno, Jelbirt Gomera, Hurricane Futa, Spicy Matsushita and Corey McConnell show he's, at worst, Oriental level. Sadly though he does seem to be getting a world title fight a little bit too early in his career. He's an exciting, high output guy with a good pressure style, but his lack of power is an issue, and will certainly be a problem with bouts at world level. Notably he's one of about 60 Chinese Featherweights, with the next best, arguably, being Yiran Li (4-0, 3), a 22 year old who has shown early promise, but needs real work to develop to being close to Oriental level.
Of course whilst Xu is looking to become a world champion China does still have Xiong Zhao Zhong (27-8-1, 14) as an active fighter, or at least he was active last year, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart in a WBA title fight, and has been linked to another fight later this year. The 36 year old is the first ever Chinese man to win a world title and should be regarded as the aging veteran of the Chinese scene. Whether he fights again or not is unclear but he will continue to be involved in the sport following various investments and developments in the wider Chinese scene. To many he will be one of the figure heads of the next wave if Chinese boxing, and will be regarded as a key figure.
From the little guy to the big guys, the country has a couple of notable Heavyweight punchers who seem to get attention internationally. The more notable of the two is Zhilei Zhang (20-0, 16), who has shown a willingness to travel for fights, was a stellar amateur and has been linked to a potential future bout with Anthony Joshua. "Big Bang" is a 35 year could southpaw with surprising speed and movement, a solid straight left hand and nice combinations for such a big guy. There are however fears of his durability, and he turns 36 this coming May, so time is not on his side. The other Chinese Heavyweight of some note is 37 year old Zhang Junlong (20-0, 20), though his career appears to be meandering towards an anti-climatic end with nothing other than a pretty looking record.
Staying with the heavier weights China has a notable fighter at both Crusierweight and Light Heavyweight. The Cruiseweight of note is Peng Qu (14-2-1, 10), the current OPBF "Silver" Cruiserweight champion. Qu was fighting at Light Heavyweight until recently, and has since scored 2 opening round wins at 200lbs, including a freak 62 win over Joey Vegas who injured his knee. At Light Heavyweight they have the very talented, though somewhat chinny, Meng Fanlong (14-0, 9). The unbeaten Fanlong is a 30 year old who appears to be on the verge of something big after stopping Frank Buglioni last November in Monaco. Fanlong does have a serious question mark over his chin, having twice been dropped by Zura Mekereshvili, but is a sharp punching, smart boxer-mover and has the potential to fight for a world title this year.
There's an interesting Chinese trio at 168lbs, who aren't likely to fight at world level but are all very interesting names on the regional scene, and could one day face off to decide who the best Chinese Super Middleweight is. The fighters in question are Ainiwaer Yilixiati (14-1, 11), Wuzhati Nuerlang (11-2, 9) and Ahatelike Muerzhabieke (8-1-1, 5). All are pretty young, aged between 20 and 25, all are in China and all are going to be looking for things like the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, which could make for a very interesting dynamic.All 3 are aggressive, exciting and well worth following, even if they aren't going to be fighting against the divisional elite.
The exciting, but flawed, Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) has shown a willingness to fight at either Welterweight or Light Welterweight. There's no one else of note at Welterweight but there is the promising Lei Wang (2-0, 1) competing at 140lbs, and could be either a rival for Baishanbo down the line, or could China a 2-pronged attack in the division. Wang was a top amateur and a WSB participant who made his debut last year, and looked really good on debut, but did struggle against Ricky Sismundo on his second outing and there will need to be time given for his professional development before stepping in too deep.
One of the most interesting divisions in China is the Lightweight division, where there are a number of different unbeaten and promising fighters all coming through at the same time. One of the most interesting is Xiangxiang Sun (15-0, 10), who is unbeaten and has notable wins over Nelson Tinampay, Roldan Aldea and Roy Mukhlis among others. There is also Yongqiang Yang (11-0, 8), who has a huge 2018 with wins against Takuya Watanabe and Harmonito Dela Torre, and hard hitting prospect Xiang Li (4-0, 3), who kicked off the year with a good win over Arvin Yurong. As well as the unbeaten fighters there is also Wang Zhimin (11-3, 3), a 33 year old fighter who is teak tough and although unlikely to fight for a world title, he is good gatekeeper to the stars and a solid test for any emerging prospect.
A forgotten man in the Chinese boxing world is Qiu Xiao Jun (23-4, 11), a former world title challenger. Jun is a talented and exciting, yet flawed, fighter who could well climb the rankings again and find himself fighting for titles once more. However having lost twice to Nehomar Cermeno, and having fallen out with his old promoter it does feel like Jun's career is in limbo at the moment, and his last fight was in Thailand, whilst the one before that saw him failing to make weight.
At Super Bantamweight, the division that Jun first made his name out, we have the unbeaten Zhong Liu (13-0, 5) making his mark. The 27 year old Southpaw is a former WBO Greater China Super Bantamweight champions and has scored wins over experienced Indonesian foes in recent fights, picking up a regional title last time out. Hopefully 2019 will see him stepping up.
The lower weights have not only the aforementioned Zhong but also several other notable fighters. At Flyweight there is Wulan Tuolehazi (9-3-1, 4), who scored a huge 2018 win over Jayr Raquinel, and is unbeaten in 8 bouts. Also at Flyweight is Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6), who was recently stopped by Giemel Magramo but proved his toughness in that loss and could certainly rebuild following his defeat, though is never likely to be a threat at world level. Whilst Magramo is unlikely to fight for world titles it's hard to imagine Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) not getting to that level, following some excellent recent performances against former world champions Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook. There is also Lu Bin (1-1, 1), though his future is very unclear following his 2018 loss to Carlos Canizales.
The Chinese boxing might not be setting things on fire right now, but there is clearly a wave of fighters making a name for themselves, and it's not going to be long until the country does provide us a constant stream of contenders, challengers, prospects and, eventually, champions. One thing those involved in Chinese will need to do however, is sort out their internal politics and work together to push Chinese boxing forward, rather than to hold it back.
(Images courtesy of Max Power Boxing)
Right now the Filipino scene is red hot with a number of top class world champions at the top of the sport, some brilliant fighters in the title mix and some prodigious prospects starting their journey to the top. The scene may not get the attention of the Japanese one, but it is a very underrated one, and one that will be a major player again in 2019. So with that in mind we'd like to look at some of the most notable stories in Filipino boxing as we head into the new year.
Veterans on Top
As we've entered 2019 we see 3 familiar Filipino names at the top of the world level. WBA "regular" Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39), WBO Super Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) and WBA "super" Bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25). At a combined 112 years old the trio are certainly veterans, but all 3 looked really good last time out, and we wouldn't be surprised by at least 1 of them ending 2019 as a world champion.
Of the three we know that Pacquiao will defend his title on January 19th, against Adrien Broner, and that Donaire is lined up for a WBSS bout with Zolani Tete. The plan is unclear for Nietes, though he looked very impressive in taking a decision win over Kazuto Ioka on New Yea's Eve, and has certainly still got a lot to offer the sport, even at the age of 36.
It's not just the veterans who are coming into 2019 as world champions but also two men in their physical primes. These are IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) and WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (18-3, 10).
Whilst Ancajas had a relatively disappointing 2018, despite defending his title 3 times, there are notable fights on the horizon for him. He has an expected mandatory defense against Ryuichi Funai and has also been linked to a bout with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Both of those would be bouts for him to get his juices flowing. As for Saludar he had a career defining win last year, dethroning Ryuya Yamanaka, and is now expected to make his first defense in the Spring.
Hard hitting Interim Twosome
As well as the full, or regular, champions there are also two Filipino fighters who start the year with WBA "interim" titles, and both of those are unbeaten heavy handed hopefuls. One is Bantamweight Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) whilst the other is Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17), the Featherweight champion. Both of these fighters impressed us in 2018 and we're expecting to see huge things from both in 2019.
Tepora has his first defense set for January 19th, against Hugo Ruiz, whilst Gaballo will be in a none-title fight in February, his second since winning the title in the US. If they come through their next bouts both are expected to be moved onto big things before the year is out.
Just below the champions we see a host of contenders. Just a short list of these contenders includes the likes of Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1), Melvin Jerusalem (14-2, 8), Pedro Taduran (13-2, 10), Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5), Rey Loreto (24-14, 16), Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22), Christian Araneta (17-0, 14), Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19) and Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20).
Barriga, Jerusalem, Taduran, Taconing, Palicte and Loreto have all come up short in recent world title fights, but all proved they belonged on that level and we suspect that they will all be getting another world title fight sooner rather than later. In fact Palicte has a world title eliminator sorted fro the end of this month whilst Taconing is expected to get a world title shot very shortly.
Whilst Araneta, Magramo and Heno haven't yet had their shot at world honours it seems that all 3 are only a fight or two off and we could well see all 3 challenging for world titles before the end of the year. Magramo has already fought this year, stopping Wenfeng Ge in China, Heno has an OPBF title defense set for February whilst Araneta last fought in December, beating Vincent Bautista over 8 rounds.
Our list above also misses out fighters like Albert Pagara (31-1, 22), Mark Magsayo (18-0, 13), Johnriel Casimero (25-4, 16), Genesis Servania (32-1, 15) and Marlon Tapales (31-2, 14) who are also in the mix for a title this year. The depth at this level from the Philippines is genuinely incredible and it's hard to not imagine at least a handful of these fighters getting a shot.
Promising Pinoy Prospects
Arguably the most exciting part of the Filipino scene right now is the prospects. These include the hard hitting Romero Duno (18-1, 14), 21 year old Samuel Salva (16-0, 10), the sensational KJ Cataraja (9-0, 7), former amateur standout Jade Bornea (13-0, 9), teenager Carl Jammes Martin (11-0, 10) and southpaw puncher Richard Bulacan (6-0, 4).
Whilst we're not expecting any of these fighters to compete in massive bouts this year we do expect to see them all take a huge step forward towards big bouts in 2020. Of the ones listed it's Cataraja who excites us the most, and he really should be seen as one of the sports best prospects globally, but the others are all well worthy of attention from fans following the Filipino boxing scene.
Whilst the present is interesting for the Filipino scene we can't help but feel that the future is even more exciting. We're going to be seeing Pacquiao, Donaire and Nietes hanging up the gloves in the near future, and while the generation of fighters following in their footsteps have got huge shoes to fill, we can't help but get excited about the sheer quantity of fantastic Filipino's set to make their mark at the highest level.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).