It's been fair to say that boxing has come alive in the past few weeks with major bouts taking place regularly.
The action really kicked off on March 5th with notable bouts in both Japan and Thailand.
The biggest bout of the day came in Thailand where WBA “interim” Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart successfully defended his title against Indonesian veteran Muhammad Rachman with a 12 round decision. Notably this show also saw the return to the ring of Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, who fought for the first time following his loss late last year to Juan Carlos Reveco.
In Japan fans saw Satoshi Hosono retain his Japanese Featherweight title with a hard fought decision over the gutsy Rikiya Fukuhara. The bout saw Fukuhara recovering well from a knockdown to give Hosono a really good test in the end. On the same show fans also saw Ryo Matsumoto make mince meat of a very poor Thai visitor.
Just a day later Thai fans had more action as Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Pungluang Sor Singyu and Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym all picked up stoppage wins over over-matched opponents in Bangkok. The win for Chonlatarn was the most notable as it saw him reclaiming the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, a title he was forced to give up prior to his unsuccessful world title bout against Vasyl Lomachenko.
A third successive day of action left us with a lot to talk about. Most notable there was the action in Macau which included an upset win for Amnat Ruenroeng against Zou Shiming. Amnat, defending his IBF Flyweight title, failed to shine but still made Shiming look clueless in the ring as the Chinese star suffered his first professional defeat. It wasn't all bad for Chinese fight fans however as Ik Yang moved to within a whisker of an IBF Light Welterweight world title bout whilst Rex Tso did the same to a WBA Super Flyweight title bout. It seems almost a given that those two will fight for world honours later this year.
At the same time as the Chinese action Japanese fans had their own show which saw Hiroki Okada and Suyon Takayama defending Japanese national titles at Light Welterweight and Welterweight. Okada looked as good as he has done since he turned professional however Takayama really struggled to over-come Nobuyuki Shindo, which Shindo actually dropping him very early in the fight.
A long weekend continued with another day of action in the Sunday. The most notable bout there saw Jae Ho Kim annex the Korean Super Featherweight title with a 2nd round KO against Ik Soo Han, who was looking to defend the belt for the first time since winning it last November.
After a few hectic days we then got a break before action resumed on March 14th. Sadly however that return was marred with sadness after a bout in Australia between John Vincent Moralde and Brayd Smith resulted in Smith passing away a few days later.
On a better note however March 14th also saw one of the contenders for the Female fight of the year as Naoko Fujioka over-came Mariana Juarez in an amazing fight for the WBC female International Super Flyweight title. The Japanese fighter really gritted her teeth to get a well deserved victory and we hope that we'll see her in another major bout before the year is over.
On the same day in the Philippines fans saw Renren Tesorio claim the GAB Light Flyweight title with a very hard fought win over Benezer Alolod. This was the second meeting between the two men after Alolod claimed a split decision over Tesorio last year in an equally engrossing and competitive match up. A trilogy anyone?
Thankfully there was then another little break before headline action with the next big fight coming on March 20th when Japanese slugger Yoshihiro Kamegai was sadly out boxed by Alfonso Gomez. On paper this had the hall marks of a FOTY contender and although it was fun an engaging it did fall somewhat short of expectation despite having plenty of action.
On March 21st we saw the return to the ring of exciting Korean fighter Min Wook Kim who made extremely light work of Lizandro De los Santos. It was a mismatch from the second it was made but the key was for Kim to shake some rust we he did very easily before blowing away the over-matched Mexican.
The following day saw history repeating as Rey Loreto scored another upset win and took out Nkosinathi Joyi for the second time. The bout was a rematch of their February 2014 bout, which saw Loreto stopping Joyi in 3 rounds, and this time it took less than a round for Joyi to be stopped. The South African, who holds wins over Katsunari Takayama and Florante Condes, now appears set for retirement.
A fourth successive day of action saw the world ranked Kanat Islam over-come Orlando de Jesus Estrada in 1-sided fashion. Although it was an easy win for Islam it was hard to see him really developing into a genuinely world class talented. Power aside there is little that impresses about Islam. Although Islam failed to impress us we did like what we saw of Zhankhozh Turarov who defeated Dunis Linan. Turarov, a Kazakh Light Welterweight recorded his 11th straight stoppage and showed plenty to get us interested in the 24 year old.
On March 25th we saw the Flash Elorde awards ceremony which included an OPBF Featherweight title fight that saw Vinvin Rufino claiming the title on this third attempt. The experienced Filipino managed to take a technical decision over Mark Gil Melligen in a bout for the vacant title that saw Melligen being dropped twice before a headclash took the fighters to the cards at the end of the 8th round.
The following day we saw former world title contender Go Odaira retain the Japanese Minimumweight title with a narrow decision win over Yutaka Sowano on a show that also saw wins for OPBF and Japanese Middleweight champion Akio Shibata and the much touted Ken Shiro, who really looked like a special fighter.
On April 28th we saw a memorable day for Filipino fans with Donnie Nietes continue his reign as the WBO Light Flyweight champion, following an impressive victory against Gilberto Parra and also saw Nonito Donaire return to winning ways with an easy stoppage victory over a horribly over matched Brazilian foe. Sadly however it wasn't a perfect day as it ended with Rommel Asenjo being stopped in his attempt to claim unified Flyweight titles.
On April 29th South Korean fighter Ye Joon Kim claimed the IBF Asia Super Bantamweight title with a narrow victory over Vergil Puton of the Philippines in an incredibly tight bout that saw Kim just taking the win with a split decision.
To end the month we saw the 2015 Rookie of the Year kick off with the preliminary round of bouts from the Rookie of the East. The tournament will end in December with an All-Japan Rookie of the year being crowned.
(Image courtesy of Pepe Rodriguez)
Earlier today we saw Chinese fighter Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) come up short against Thailand's talented but frustrating Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5). If you listened to some members of the boxing press that was the death knell for Chinese boxing. According to them Shiming was the be all and end all of Chinese boxing. For the country to have a boxing scene Shiming needed to be a success.
Strangely however the under-card on the same show seemed to suggest that whilst Shiming was the jewel in the crown of Bob Arum's “Chinese Dynasty” he wasn't the be all and end all of the Macau scene. Never mind the Chinese boxing scene.
Firstly let me just give a mention to what is happening on the Chinese mainland courtesy of Zovi boxing.
If you listened to much of the boxing media you may never have heard of Zovi boxing but the outfit has been “Chinese boxing” before Chinese boxing. They have guided Xiong Zhao Zhong to a world title, the only one won by a Chinese male, and they have guided the career of several other Chinese fighters including the very promising Qiu Xiao Jun. Although a small company in the grand scheme of things they are the ones who are putting in the investment to create a Chinese boxing scene and they are the ones pulling the WBC into China.
Zovi have been around since 2003 though have really grown in recent years with the development of fighters like Zhong, Jun and the Xaing Jiang.
If you've not heard of of Jun or Jiang then you'll probably not think you're missing out on anything however both are world ranked. Jiang is WBO #15 at Flyweight, albeit with the WBO calling him “Xiang Jiny”, whilst Jun is the WBC #3 at Super Bantamweight. The odds are both will end up fighting for world titles in the coming years and both are young enough come again and again.
Going back to Top Rank, it's fair to say they wanted Shiming to become a world champion. They knew that if Shiming became a champion then they would have the key to making Chinese boxing massive. Shiming however failed to capture the imagination of those in the West. Fans watching the shows with Shiming were repeatedly critical of the double Olympic champion. Strangely those same fans were often positive about other fighters on the card that managed to steal the attention and fanfare.
One of those fighters was Super Flyweight action man Rex Tso (16-0, 9). Tso is an infectious fighter with a huge smile, great natural charisma, a happy go lucky attitude and a style that is made for TV. He has recently inked a deal with Top Rank for 2 years and although he's limited there are shades of Arturo Gatti about. He can box, we've seen him box against Ratchasak Kokietgym, but for whatever reason he gets dragged into a war and makes for some of the most fan friendly bouts we've seen in the Super Flyweight division.
The Super Flyweight division is a tough one but Tso can put bums on seats and when a fighter can do that they will get opportunities.
Another of the fighters was Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who is now ranked #2 by the IBF at 140lbs. Yang is a 29 year old boxer-puncher who was described as being a “Chinese Adrien Broner” by British journalist Steve Bunce. We'd say that was a harsh description of Yang but see where Bunce is coming from with Yang's combination of ability and clowning though the guy is pure box office. He punches like a mule, he clowns and taunts and he puts on eye catching performances. He is defensively lapse but has a solid chin and is happy to take one to land one and has been on the radar of some fans for the last 3 years or so, since he beat Elly Ray in fact.
Yang is the type of guy who will appeal to US TV viewers, he will appeal to Chinese fans, he will attract European fans and more tellingly he is fighting in an attractive division. In fact he's fighting in one of the most popular divisions in the West. Add his appeal to Bob Arum's promotional backing and we have a star in the making. Better yet he speaks broken English giving him a “Gennady Golokvin-like” charm.
A third Chinese fighter who has caught the attention on the Bob Arum shows is Macau's very own Kuok Kun Ng (7-0, 3). Ng is the most limited of the 3 but also the least experienced and the man who has had the weakest of teams in his corner. Although he's the biggest “work in progress” he's also a local Macau fighter, exciting and good looking with a notable local fan base. We're not going to say he's mega popular but he does have a loyal fan base and, as shown in his latest bout, he's developing a really exciting aggressive streak.
Ng is unlikely to be moved towards a world ranking any time soon. He's simply too inexperienced and too flawed. He is however a popular local draw who will bring in a crowd and be given time to develop his skills without too much pressure on his shoulders. As long as he can link up with a notable corner team he could, slowly, develop into a contender.
Whilst the loss for Shiming was a big hit to Top Rank's attempt to take over the Chinese boxing market it wasn't the end of the concept. In fact in many ways it was the first set back since they started doing them and with the working relationships to Teiken and ALA I suspect Top Rank will continue to build in the area.
The one major issue is that the cards may need to be more “name heavy” promotions. This could mean that fighters like Nonito Donaire, Brian Viloria, or Manny Pacquiao need to be involved. It could however work to the advantage of boxing fan who may get the chance to see someone like Takashi Miura in Macau to try and tempt over Japanese gamblers. Lets be honest, who'd complain at seeing Miura given a huge profile HBO opportunity in Macau?
Personally I suspect we'll see HBO back in Macau in a few months time with Shiming in a against a world ranked foe as he rebuilds, Tso continuing his pursuit of the WBA Super Flyweight title, though not getting his much talked about title bout, and Yang possibly getting a high profile bout. Maybe I'm wrong but I really hope that's not the end of the Macau shows because they have given us some great, great fights and helped get some Western attention to the Flyweight division, something that we've been very happy about.
(Image courtesy of Chris Farinas/Top Rank)
This year has been a really slow one but now it seems that things are up an running and in March we are set for a really exciting few weeks of action with numerous highlights spread across Asia. We won't pretend the month is perfect but in terms of highlights it has plenty.
Kohei Oba retirement ceremony (March 4th)
The first notable event of the month comes on March 4th when former Japanese Bantamweight champion Kohei Oba takes part in his retirement ceremony. Whilst it may not sounds particularly interesting it does serve another purpose. Oba will take part in a short spar as part of the ceremony and that spar will see him spending time in the ring with Hozumi Hasegawa. We know it's not a real “fight” but it will be the first chance we'll have to see Hasegawa in the ring since his loss to Kiko Martinez, and with his comeback bout in May this could tell us if Hasegawa anything left or not.
Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Muhammad Rachman (March 5th)
Just a day later we get the chance to see unbeaten Thai Knockout CP Freshmart (9-0, 5) attempt to record the first defence of his WBA interim Minimumweight title as he battles Indonesian veteran Muhammad Rachman (65-11-5, 35). This is the first “major” title bout in March and will give Knockout a chance to record his second successive “big win”. For Rahman there's likely a retirement payday up for grabs though little for the 43 year old Indonesia who hasn't fought in more than a year.
Satoshi Hosono Vs Riki Fukuhara II
Also on March 5th is a really interesting Japanese show which is headlined by a bout between Japanese Featherweight champion Satoshi Hosono (26-2-1, 20), a 3-time world title challenger, and domestic rival Rikiya Fukuhara (30-7-1, 22). These two have met before with Hosono winning though some suspect that this one could be a little bit special.
On the same card fans will get the chance to see the brilliant Ryo Matsumoto (13-0, 11) fight in a stay busy bout against a Thai import, who boxrec list as a debutant. This will be Matsumoto's first bout since he won the OPBF Super Flyweight title at the end of last year.
Showdown at Sands (March 7th)
March 7th is the months first truly big day both worldwide and in Asia. The headline action for Asian fans comes from Macau where we get a major world title bout as well as several stepping stone bouts.
The main event here will see Amnat Ruenroeng (14-0, 5) putting his IBF Flyweight title, and unbeaten record, on the line against local star Zou Shiming (6-0, 1) in a potential blockbuster of a Flyweight contest. We won't pretend either guy is a big puncher but the two are big rivals who enjoyed a competitive rivalry when they were amateurs and now look to continue their rivalry in the professional ranks. This could be a very hotly contested bout between two men who have respect for each other but also the belief that they will win.
On of the most interesting support bouts will see Ik Yang (18-0-0-1, 13) battle against Patomsuk Pathompothong (29-2-1, 18) in an IBF eliminator at 140lbs. We've liked Yang since we first saw him though need to appreciate that this is actually a tough bout and the Thai comes into this “unknown” by many, however Japanese fans may recall he gave Takayuki Hosokawa a very tough bout back in 2013. This is a really interesting bout.
Japanese double header
Also on March 7th is a Japanese title double header in Tokyo.
One of those bouts will see Japanese Welterweight champion Suyon Takayama (21-1, 7) attempt to continue his reign and notch his 5th defence whilst his foe, Nobuyuki Shindo (26-2, 6) seeks revenge for a narrow loss back in 2008. We're struggling to pick a winner here and need to be honest in saying that Takayama is among the worst active Japanese champions, if not the worst.
The other title bout comes at 140lbs where the heavy handed Hiroki Okada (9-0, 7) defends his belt against Hayato Hokazono (18-4-1, 11). For Okada it's a difficult test though one he should pass whilt for Hokazono it's a second bit at the cherry after a previous loss to Keita Obara in a bout for the same title.
Female Super Fight (March 14th)
Not many female bouts can be described as super fights but the match up between Naoko Fujioka (12-1, 6) and Mariana Juarez (40-7-3, 17) certainly can come under the description of a super fighter. Fujioka, on the road for the second successive fight, will be looking to score her biggest win so far however she's up against a Mexican boxing queen. The winner here is likely to be moved into another super fight, with Zulina Munoz, and so there is a lot to play for in a very, very good looking bout.
Unbeaten Yemeni Showdown (March 15th)
Yemeni boxing may have it's critics but there is still something strangely alluring about it, especially when Ali Raymi (24-0, 24) is involved. Raymi looks for his biggest win to date as he battles fellow unbeaten Hani Ansi (18-0-1, 16) in a really intriguing Yemeni show down. Raymi is, as we all know, a colourful fellow to say the least but so to is Ansi who seems to channel the spirit of a boxing clown when he's in the ring. This could be really interesting or a quick blow out, one things for sure we can't wait to see the two men in the ring together.
Onjo Steps up (March 16th)
We've been excited by Japanese prospect Kenta Onjo (4-0, 3) for a while but his competition has been lacking. He takes a step up in March as he faces the talented and experienced Jonathan Baat (27-6-3, 13) in an 8 rounder. On paper Baat has the experience but Onjo is the naturally bigger man and will be hoping to use his youth and size to neutralise the Japanese based Filipino veteran.
Kamegai in the US (March 20th)
The popular Japanese Welterweight Yoshihiro Kamegai (25-2-1, 22) looks to kick off his association with Golden Boy Promotions in a big way as he takes on 2-time world title challenger Alfonzo Gomez (24-6-2, 12) in a potentially exciting war. On paper Gomez is the more experienced fighter and the man who has fought at a higher level, Kamegai however has taken less damage and has more power. The one thing that both men share is a fan friendly style and so this could be a really enjoyable tear up between two exciting men both in need of a good win.
Dangan 124 (March 26th)
The final big Japanese show of the month comes in style with a pair of Japanese title fights and a bout involving a notable prospect.
The more recognised of the champions is Akio Shibata (24-8-1, 10) who will not only be risking his Japanese Middleweight title but also his OPBF belt as he goes up against the little known but heavy handed Yasuyuki Akiyama (10-4-1, 8). Shibata is in great form and has won his last 3 against top domestic rivals since being stopped in 2 rounds by the then debuting Ryota Murata. The odds are the champion retains here.
In the other title bout fans will see Japanese Minimumweight champion Go Odaira (11-4-3, 1) defending his belt against Yutaka Sowano (9-5-1, 6). This is Odaira's first bout since he was stopped by Katsunari Takayama at the end of 2014 and although he should win here there are questions about how he will be will following his first stoppage loss.
Although the two title fights are great we suspect the stand out bout will be a Flyweight contest that sees the highly tipped Ken Shiro (2-0, 1) battle against 2012 Rookie of the Year winner Katsunori Nagamine (10-0, 6). This looks to be a massive step up for Ken Shiro though he will be favoured given that he was a stand out amateur and is very highly tipped.
Mall of Asia Arena host Nietes and Donaire (March 28th)
The month comes to an end in exciting fashion with two notable bouts in the Philippines on March 28th.
One of those bouts will see WBO Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (34-1-4, 20) defending his title against Mexican challenger Gilberto Parra (19-2, 17). On paper it looks fine but in reality we suspect this could be very one sided in favour of the very talented Nietes who will have too much of everything Parra, who has an exceptionally padded record.
The other bout will see former multi-weight world champion Nonito Donaire (33-3, 21) return to the ring for the first time since his loss to Nicholas Walters. Donaire, fighting in the Philippines for the first time in almost 6 years, will be up against limited Brazilian foe William Prado (22-4-1, 15) in a bout that really should be an easy comeback for “the Filipino Flash”.
(Image courtesy of http://www.bcmagazine.net)
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).