Following his win over Milan Melindo last Saturday Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) took a huge step towards a potential world title fight. Despite that win we feel he still needs 1, or maybe 2, more bouts on the fringes of world class to be fully prepared to face best in the division, so we though who better to feature in this week's regular "Five For..."
1-Noknoi Sitthiprasert (71-5, 44)
To prepare for a world title fight we think the best idea for Nakatani is to face someone who has fought for a world title, and proven their toughness. With that in mind we see Noknoi Sitthiprasert as a perfect candidate for Nakatani's next fight. The Thai veteran is no world beater, a long way from it in fact, but his bout with Kazuto Ioka in 2017 proved he was tough and could take punishment. Since losing to Ioka the Thai has reeled off 9 more wins, all against very limited opposition, and is sniffing around a big fight. Nakatani, in a world title eliminator, could well be that big fight.
2-Maximino Flores (25-4-1, 17)
With Nakatani edging towards a world title fight, a good idea would be to take on a top fighter from outside of Asia, getting a chance to face someone with a different style to what he has typically seen. With that in mind Mexican fighter Maximo Flores would be an idea candidate. He's the type of fighter who has shown a willingness to travel, is aggressive, and despite being flawed does have a desire to win. Last time out he travelled to the Philippines and defeated Carlo Caesar Penalosa and if you put him in with Nakatani it would be a great chance to see what Nakatani does under pressure.
3-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12)
Passing of the torch fights are one of the key signs of a fighter moving from prospect to contender, and there may be no better option for Nakatani than facing fellow Japanese fighter Ryoichi Taguchi. The 32 year old Taguchi, like Melindo, is on the slide, but has recently gone 12 rounds in a world title fight with WBO champion Kosei Tanaka, he has the dimensions of a true Flyweight but lacks world class power and should be a safe option but yet a credible step in the right direction. For Taguchi it could be one final big fight, a loss would send him into retirement but a win would leave him in the world title mix.
4-McWilliams Arroyo (19-4, 14)
Staying with the idea that Nakatani should be knocking on the door of a world title fight with his next bout, there may be no better opponent than Puerto Rican fighter McWilliams Arroyo. The talented 33 year old Arroyo is a 2-time world title challenger and has a history against Japanese fighters, with 2 of his 4 losses coming to fighters from the Land of the Rising Sun. Arroyo is a known name in the west, and a win for Nakatani would give him an increase in western attention ahead of a world title bout. Arroyo is of no slouch, and his losses to the likes of Amnat Ruenroeng, Roman Gonzalez and Kazuto Ioka have shown he belongs at world level and he's tough. This would be a real test for Nakatani and is the perfect high risk type of opponent he needs to really see what he has.
5-Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar (14-1, 11)
If Nakatani does want a world title fight the obvious option appears to be a crack at the vacant WBC title against Mexican puncher Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar. The hard hitting Martinez is set to get a world title fight at the vacant WBC belt, a title that he would be holding had it not been for stupidity in August that lead to him hitting a downed Charlie Edwards. Martinez is an absolute monster at 112lbs, he's bull strong, a huge puncher and one of the few contenders who looks like he's actually coming into his peak. With recent wins over Martin Tecuapetla, Victor Ruiz and Andrew Selby he's in form a little wrecking ball. With the WBC title on the line this would be a fight with a high risk and high reward, and seems to be the bout Nakatani wants.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This past weekend Kazakh fighter Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35) reclaimed a portion of the Middleweight crown as he narrowly outpointed Sergiy Derevyanchenko to become the new IBF Middleweight champion. The bout was supposed to be a mismatch for Golovkin, but the 37 year old was pushed all the way by the "Technician" and it now seems like time is running out for Golovkin and his career.
With that in mind we've decided to do a special mid-week "Five For..." for the hard hitting "GGG", along with our regular Friday "Five For...", which will look at options for Japanese Flyweight Junto Nakatani.
1 - Sergiy Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10) II
The most obvious match up for Golovkin is to re-run this weekend's match and give Sergiy Derevyanchenko a rematch. The first bout was fantastic, competitive, and a back and forth war that saw both men digging deep. With that in mind a rematch next time out would be a very marketable bout, though one that may not be something that Golovkin will be rushing head first towards. Whilst the Kazakh does have big money on the table from DAZN Derevyanchenko brings very little to the table, and given how hard he pushed Golovkin the bout is a high risk low reward bout for "GGG", but one that fans may be demanding due to just how close their first contest was.
2 - Ryota Murata (15-2, 12)
For the last few years the Japanese press have been regularly pushing the narrative of Golovkin coming to Japan and fighting 2012 Olympic champion Ryota Murata. The bout has long been mooted as being something that could headline at the Tokyo Dome, something no Japanese fighter has ever done, and would be a big money spinner for both. Murata and his team have been rumoured to have the money to bankroll a Golovkin fight, and throwing the money into the kitty that DAZN would already have set aside for Golovkin would suggest this could be a huge money fight. There are issues with TV, both in Japan and the US, but those issues could be solved relatively easily and we have seen the promoters for the two men working together in recent months. The feeling we get is it's now or never to pull the trigger on this one.
3 - Demetrius Andrade (28-0, 17)
If Golovkin is going to remain in the US, and the rematch with Derevyanchenko isn't going to happen then a possible alternative is a unification bout with WBO champion Demetrius Andrade. The unbeaten American is desperate for a big fight and Golovkin, although looking like a faded force, is still a big fight and remains one of the division's biggest names. For Golovkin it gives him a chance to unify 2 of the Middleweight titles, again, and try to secure one more big win. For Andrade it delivers the big fight he is said be craving and gives him a dance partner who will be looking to beat him. This isn't much a great match up stylistically, but it does tick boxes for both men and would be a compelling match up, even if it's not likely to be a great fight to watch.
4 - Billy Joe Saunders (28-0, 13)
Murata isn't the only fighter to have long been linked to Golovkin, but not yet managed to secure a fight with the Kazakh. Another fighter in a similar situation is English fighter Billy Joe Saunders, who has come close to facing GGG but the never has never ended up being done. Earlier this year Saunders attended an event in Kazakhstan calling for a fight in Golovkin's native country and it seems like that would be a bout that would make sense. Win or lose facing Saunders in Kazakhstan would give Golovkin a home coming bout, and a chance to fight in front of the Kazakh fans. If he's planning on fighting in Kazakhstan before calling it a day on his career this is the bout that makes the most sense, and would work, win or lose, as a great swansong for his career.
5 - Alfredo Angulo (26-7, 21)
A left of field suggestion would be a bout with the hard hitting Alfredo Angulo, who just put himself back on the map with an upset win over Peter Quillin. The reality is that this wouldn't be a big bout, but would see Golovkin going up against a fighter trained by his old trainer, Abel Sanchez. More importantly than that it would be the type of bout that we'd imagine Golvokin win would win with out too many problems, look good doing so and would let him retire on a high. This isn't the sort of bout that would really excite fans, but for a farewell bout, sold as such, this would an ideal way to close out his career next May.
This past Tuesday we saw WBA "super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) [京口 紘人] retain his titles with a thrilling 12 round decision win over Tetsuya Hisada. Following the win Kyoguchi stated that he would be taking the rest of the year away from the ring to rest, whilst visibly sporting a swollen shut left eye. The bout was supposed to be an easy one for the champion, but it was certainly not a walk in the park for the Watanabe gym fighter.
With a rest now booked, it's clear we won't see Kyoguchi rushing back to the ring any day soon, however when he does return there are a lot of options out there for him, with the Light Flyweight division being one of the very best in the sport. Here we're going to look at 5 potential bouts we could see Kyoguchi in when he returns in 2020.
1-Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17)
On paper the most logical match up we could hope for would see the WBA"super" title being unified with the "regular" title. To do that Kyoguchi would need to take on unbeaten Venezuelan Carlos Canizales, in a real divisional dream bout. The Canizales has shown a willingness to travel, twice fighting in Japan and also fighting in China, and seems to put in his best performances whilst in Asia. Stylistically these two should should gel perfectly, and they would beat really hammer each other with hard shots through 12 rounds. From a fans perspective this could be a contender for Fight of the Year, from a logical point of view it makes sense and from the fighter's view it clears up the WBA mess. The only issue is that neither man would likely walk out of this the same fighter they were previous. This could be a career shortening bout for both.
2-Kenshiro (16-0, 9)
Whilst a bout with Canizales makes a lot of sense, there is a good argument that it's not actually the best we could make at the weight involving Kyoguchi. Instead that is an all-Japanese showdown with WBC champion Kenshiro. This bout had been mooted for the end of 2019, though now clearly will have to be pushed back. Two Japanese fighters are good friends, were rivals in the amateurs and are widely regarded as the #1 and #2 in the division, with a bout between them giving clarity over who is the best at Light Flyweight. It would also be a super rare all-Japanese unification bout. The main stumbling block for this one is the fact the two men are linked to different TV networks, with Kenshiro being one of the faces of Fuji TV and Kyoguchi being a TBS fighter.
3-Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30)
Another unification bout that would be highly anticipated would be a clash with IBF champion Felix Alvarado, arguably the most dangerous man in the division. Alvarado is a Nicaraguan puncher who although being crude is incredibly dangerous. He's heavy handed, has an incredible gas tank, is physically terrifying and teak tough. Although Alvarado can be out boxed, out thought, out sped and out manoeuvred he's never going to be an easy out for anyone with his incessant aggression. One type of fighter no one likes to face is the high risk, low reward fighter, but that is exactly what Alvarado is. Yes he has the IBF title, but the risk still out weighs the reward, that's how dangerous he is. From a fans perspective however a Kyoguchi Vs Alvarado fight would be tremendous.
4-Angel Acosta (20-2, 20)
Another of the division's many danger men is Angel Acosta, who has also been willing to travel for fights as seen in his losses, which have both come on the road. Acosta is heavy handed, aggressive, but also skilled and isn't a brawler like many fighters with power, instead he's a really good boxer-puncher with genuine power and he's also durable. He lost the WBO title earlier this year, with a very suspect stoppage loss, and his only other loss came in Japan to Kosei Tanaka. A return to Japan could see him pick up a win in the "Land of the Rising Sun" and would give him a chance to become a 2-time champion. Likewise having Acosta's name on Kyoguchi's resume would do his standing the world of good. A really interesting fight and one that would deserve a lot of attention on both sides of the Pacific.
5-Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
Whilst it's easy to think that unifying with the WBO champion would be a priority we suspect that the WBO title scene will be out of reach for a while. If that's the case then there's no reason why Kyoguchi can't take part in a fan friendly bout against a fighter who should make for a fun, low level, action bout. Ideal for that is compatriot Reiya Konishi, who is aggressive, exciting, throws a lot and will engage in an inside war of attrition, and will do so without having big 1-punch power. On paper this isn't one of the "big bouts" that Kyoguchi would be wanting on his return, but would be a very fun to watch bout, against a rugged, though limited, challenger. A win here would be expected, but would give him an instant comparison to Alvarado and Canizales, both of whom took a decision over Konishi.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Last weekend we saw Filipino fighter Froilan Saludar (30-3-1, 21) resurrect his career as a Super Flyweight with a huge KO win against Tsubasa Murachi at Korakuen Hall. For the "Sniper" this was a huge win, and a much needed win after previous losses to Japanese fighters Takuma Inoue and Sho Kimura. The win not only kept alive Saludar's career but also saw him win the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, putting him in the mix for a WBO world title fight, down the line. Of course he's not going to suddenly become the mandatory, but he has got himself in the queue for a title fight, and will certainly chase a second world title shot.
With his recent win behind him, we're going to look at Saludar and consider 5 options that may be on the table for the once very highly touted Filipino.
1-Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16)
With Saludar having scored a big win in Japan last week we'd love to see him return there in the near future. It would seem a world title fight is unlikely, but that doesn't mean he can't face a world class fighter, and Akira Yaegashi would make for the perfect opponent for Saludar, and for fans. The bout would promise excitement, as every Yaegashi fight does, it could be made for December, when Yaegashi is set to retain and the winner would certainly find themselves on the verge of a title fight. This would be a bout both men would see as winnable, and would provide a lot of excitement.
2-Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14)
If Saludar is to land himself a world title fight in the near future the only real option he has is the WBO champion Kazuto Ioka. The Japanese star is set to defend his title later this year, likely against Jeyvier Cintron on December 31st, but if that fails to come off than Saludar would be an interesting alternative. On the other hand if Ioka gets past Cintron then facing off with Saludar in 2020 wouldn't be an awful choice for a defense. It would seem like a straight forward one for the champion, but is a bout Saludar will be itching for and a bout that could help make Ioka look like a star.
3-Koki Eto (24-5-1, 19)
As with the Yaegashi fight, if Saludar can't land a world title fight he might as well fight against a beatable but exciting opponent, and Koki Eto fits the mould perfectly. In fact Eto may actually come with some extra advantages, given that a fight with Eto could take place Stateside, and this could help increase Saludar's profile. Eto tends to make for fun fights, but is very beatable, and Saludar should be looking to fighters like Eto going forward to build on the win over Murachi.
4-Aston Palicte (25-3-1, 21)
The top Filipino fighters at Super Flyweight are Donnie Nietes and Jerwin Ancajas, and it's unlikely either of those are in a rush to face any other Filipino. As a result the best of the all-Filipino bouts at the weight that we could expect would be a bout between Saludar and Palicte, who would make for a very interesting match up. The edge in power and work rate would certainly favour Palicte but Saludar is no push over and given the fact Palicte was stopped last time out Saludar may well fancy his chances now. This would set the winner up as a legitimate contender for a title and put the other out of the mix. High risk, but high reward.
5-Francisco Rodriguez Jr (31-4-1, 22)
A bit of a while suggestion would be a bout with former unified Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr, in what would be a sensational fight between two men looking to make their mark on the Super Flyweight world scene. In terms of styles this would be compelling, with Rodrgiuez being an aggressive pressure fighter and Saludar being a talented mover, both are looking for a world title fight and the bout has an underlying story. Rodriguez Vs the Philippines. He has fought the likes of Merlito Sabillo, Donnie Nietes, Jomar Fajardo and Elias Joaquino and a bout with Saludar would be another chapter in that story. A brilliant match up for fans and another high risk-high reward one.
Last week we saw Japanese female fighter Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1) make her first defense of the JBC female Atomweight title, stopping Mont Blank Miki. The performance was a long way short of a perfect outing from the unbeaten champion, but it was clear she was happy to show more to her boxing than the outside fighting that we had seen in her first few bouts, and she showed she can hang on the inside if she needs to. Given how she has been matched and moved so far it made her an ideal fighter to cover in our "Five for..." series, as we look at 5 fighters who could be next for Matsuda.
1-Mika Iwakawa (8-5-1, 3)
If you're part of Matsuda's team you surely have to believe the focus is on getting her a world title sooner rather than later, which will be a theme through this article. The easiest of the title holders, on paper, is WBO champion Mika Iwakawa. The champion won the WBO title in July 2018, when she narrowly defeated Nao Ikeyama, and hasn't fought since. Instead of being active the 36 year old has been picking up ring rust on the side line, and has only had 14 rounds since the start of 2017. Given her age, her inactivity and her style, which is aggressive but clumsy, she should be the perfect target for Matsuda to pick up her first world title. Don't get us wrong, Iwakawa is a good fighter, but from the champions in the division she's the weak link, and the one with most flaws for Matsuda to pick apart.
2-Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7)
On paper the most interesting, and toughest, bout out there for Matsuda would be a bout with IBF Atomweight Saemi Hanagata. Hanagata, who defended her title last week, is a heavy handed fighter who has shown an ability to box, brawl, fight and move though her career. She's not a destructive fighter or the best pure boxer, but she does everything well, when she's on form. The biggest issue with Hanagata is her inconsistencies and whilst she is a nightmare when firing at 100% she can come up short against fighters she should beat, like she did in 2017 against Shione Ogata and in 2014 against Mida Oda. If Hanagata is on song she'd likely drag Matsuda into a fight and come out on top, but for Matsuda she'd certainly be interested in facing Hanagata, arguably the division's top fighter now, and planting her flag as the best out there.
3-Monserrat Alarcon (13-4-2)
Mexican fighter Monserrat Alarcon recently unified the WBA Atomweight throne, unifying her "regular" title with the interim title of Ayaka Miyao. Last week the talented Alarcon proved she was willing to travel, that she was world class and solid little fighter. She does however lack power, and despite being a good, aggressive counter-puncher she certainly doesn't look unbeatable. If you're part of Matsuda's team you'll have seen Alarcon in action, you'll have been able to scout her recently and been able to pick up flaws with the champion. You could even turn to Miyao as a sparring partner, getting her insight into Alarcon, her flaws and strengths. If you're Alarcon you likely see a bout with Matsuda as a chance to collect another solid Japanese pay day and take a win over their rising star, before Matsuda matures and builds her experience.
4-Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6)
The one fighter on this list that makes sense for Matsuda to pursue a bout with is fellow Japanese fighter Ayaka Miyao. Miyao lost last week to Alcaron, but is still regarded very highly in the division as a former world champion and someone who has a style which could test Matsuda as a boxer. Miyao, even in her mid 30's, is a speedy fighter who uses her foot speed to control distance and her hand speed to land before opponents can respond. At the moment Miyao's career is struggling, with 3 losses in her last 6, but she would likely see a win here as a chance to remain in the title mix. This would be a high-risk bout for both but the winner would be well deserving of a shot at any of the champions.
5-Fabiana Bytyqi (14-0-1, 5)
The final of the champions in the division is the WBC queen Fabiana Bytyqi, from the Czech Republic. The unbeaten 23 year old is a real unknown, despite being the first world champion from the Czech republic. Bytyqi won the WBC title a year ago, almost to the day, by beating Britain's 47 year old Denise Castle, in what was Castle's second world title bout and first bout for more than 4 years, and since then she has defended the belt once, with a draw against Maria Soledad Vargas. She makes for an interesting match up for Matsuda, but on the other hand it will take a solid offer to get her to Japan for a bout, and that makes her the least likely of the world champions for Matsuda to face next.
Last weekend we saw the exciting Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11) claim the IBF Minimumweight title, with an excellent win over countryman Samuel Salva. The 22 year old Taduran looked like a really exciting fighter, who despite being flawed, really just broke down and beat up Salva for the title and the biggest win of his career.
Following Taduran's win we decided to begin our newest feature, "Five For...", where we we look at 5 potential opponents for a particular fighter, starting with Taduran.
1-Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18)
For these "Five For..." features we won't be focusing on unification fights, as great as they are, because they are so hard to secure, especially in the lower weights. Saying that however one unification makes a lot of sense for Taduran, that's a bout with WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin. The reason fight makes sense, more than a bout between Taduran and either Wilfredo Mendez or Knockout CP Freshmart, is that Taduran and Wanheng have some history. Two the men fought in August 2018, with Wanheng taking a close and competitive win over Taduran. The loss for Taduran was a bout filled with funny business, including Stephen Blea taking 2 points from Taduran without clear warnings, letting Wanheng get away with a lot of holding and generally being on the challenger's back. This potential unification would have a lot going for it, though obviously depends on Menayothin successfully defending his WBC title in his upcoming mandatory against Simpiwe Konkco in October.
2-Jing Xiang (17-4-2, 3)
Chinese fighter Jing Xiang has been really impressing us in recent years, and his style of being a pure boxer is the complete opposite of Taduran. Where as Taduran is an aggressive, straight ahead pressure fighter Xiang is a boxer-mover, he has some combinations in his arsenal, great timing and speed, but is very much a fighter who will try to avoid a tear and instead use his skills to be and win. At 108lbs he looked strong, despite not being a huge puncher, but at 105lbs there is probably more on his punches than his record suggests. His style should make for the perfect foil for Tadruan's pressure, but will also give Xiang openings of his own, to counter the wild mistakes of the Filipino.
3-Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
Japan's Ginjiro Shigeoka has been put on an incredible trajectory and is already on the fringes of the world rankings, after just 4 bouts and a year in the professional rankings. Shigeoka has already beaten the first man to beat Taduran, more about him later, and would likely love to get a world title fight sooner rather than later. According to rules from the JBC he wouldn't bee allowed to fight for a title next in Japan, but could leave the country for a shot at Taduran. Stylistically this would be an amazing fight, with both men being aggressive front foot, offensive machines. In a perfect world this would be something to get very excited about, though we do suspect Shigeoka will have to wait a few fights to get his shot at a world title.
4-Melvin Jerusalem (15-2, 9)
Ranked #7 by the IBF Melvin Jerusalem would, stylistically, make for an excellent match up with Taduran and is a highly ranked contender for his title. Both men have similar mentalities in the ring, both throw a lot of leather and whilst neither is a 1-punch KO artist both fighters they do get stoppages. Both men have also given really tough bouts to Wanheng and both would be facing off with some moment here. Taduran has obviously just won the biggest fight of his career whilst Jerusalem has won his last 4, including wins over good Filipino domestic fighters like Philip Luis Cuerdo and Toto Landero.
5-Joel Lino (10-3-1, 3)
Fellow Filipino Joel Lino was the first man to bear Taduran, taking a split decision over Taduran back in 2016. Than win saw for Lino move to 3-0 whilst Taduran fell to 6-1 (5). Since then Taduran has, of course, gone 8-1 (6) whilst Lino has gone 7-3 (3) but the desire to avenge his first loss must be there for Taduran and this bout should be a really good one, if they re-run it. The only real problem however is Lino's standing in the sport, and it's unlikely many would accept him as being next for Taduran given he's lost his last 3, including a loss to Ginjiro Shigeoka. If Lino can get a couple of wins under his belt however this fight will become something that would make sense.
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).