Japanese boxing has many stars, and of the most well known is 4-weight world title holder Kazuto Ioka. The nephew of former 2-weight world champion Hiroki Ioka has been a star in Japan for years, he has been strongly backed by TV giant TBS and has regularly featured on their end of year broadcasts.
There's lots that is known about Ioka but here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Kazuto Ioka
1-In junior high school Ioka first boxed out of the Green Tsuda gym, a gym that had trained his father and uncle. Despite training at Green Tsuda gym as an amateur Kazuto wouldn't actually fight out of it as a professional, instead he would actually leave to join the gym his uncle, Hiroki Ioka, had set up.
2-Although a very successful amateur on the Japanese domestic scene Ioka's international amateur success was limited with his most notable achievement being a bronze medal at the 2008 King's Cup, where he lost to Amnbat Ruenroeng in the semi-final.
3-After failing to make the Japanese team for the 2008 Olympics Ioka dropped out of university and decided to turn professional instead, debuting less than a month after his 20th birthday.
4-In his professional debut Ioka defeated Thongthailek Sor Tanapinyo in 3 rounds. At the time Thongthailek was the Thai Flyweight champion, having won the belt 2 months earlier. Interestingly Thongthailek's previous bout in Japan had seen him face off with future Ioka opponent Akira Yaegashi.
5-Ioka retired from boxing at the end of 2017, in fact he did so on December 31st live on Japanese TV channel TBS, following the end of year bouts that TBS had shown as part of their Kyokugen event. The retirement hadn't been a total shock, but his retirement notice had only been accepted by the JBC (Japanese Boxing Commission) 1 day earlier.
6-Outside of boxing Ioka has been married twice. His first marriage was to singer Nana Tanimura whilst the name of his second wife hasn't been widely reported, though she was revealed to have been a model in the past. With his second wife Ioka has a son, who was born on August 17th 2019.
7-As an amateur Ioka went 95-10 (64), one of his few losses on the Japanese scene came in the 2008 All Japan Championship finals to Taro Hayashida. Hayashida is notable for not only this win but also for giving Naoya Inoue one of his very few amateur losses.
8-Early in his career Ioka was referred to as "Golden Boy", taking the nickname of one of his favourite fighters, Oscar De La Hoya.
9-Ioka was dropped in his 4th professional bout by Indonesian foe Heri Amol. The knockdown came in the 9th round from an over-hand right with only seconds of the bell left. Although the shot that sent him down was clean as a whistle he didn't seemed hurt, looked clear headed when he got back to his feet and went on to win the following round.
10-In just his third bout he fought a former world title challenger. His opponent there was Takashi Kunishige, who had challenged Edgar Sosa just 18 months earlier. Ioka took a wide and clear 10 round decision over Kunishge who would remain a notable fighter on the Asian scene right through to his final bout in 2013. Following the loss to Ioka he would go on to lose decisions to Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Norihito Tanaka, Go Odaira, Denver Cuello and Ryuji Hara.
Extra fact - He's very good friends with Japanese musician AK69 and his bout against Aston Palicte saw AK69 do a live performance.
Over the last few years Japan has gained a reputation for ending the boxing year in style, with major shows in the final few days of the year. Typically those bouts get announced through November, as promoters officially announce the bouts and put their shows together along with major domestic television companies.
As we enter November we thought it would be fun to look at some of those rumours for the month, and some of the confirmed bouts, as well as those that have been mentioned as possible, and those on the verge of being officially announced.
We'll start by looking at what we know, with the confirmed notable bouts from the month.
December 1st is set to be a crazy day with several major shows.
In Tokyo we'll get a card televised by G+ which will be headlined by Valentine Hosokawa (23-6-3, 10) defending his Japanese Light Welterweight title against Takashi Inagaki (20-17-2, 9). The card will also feature a brilliant match up between Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) and Matcha Nakagawa (13-1-1, 5) as well as the ring return of former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (19-2-1, 7)
On the same day in Osaka we get two Shinsei Gym cards, featuring a combined 6 title bouts. The shows will be Real Spirits vol 60 and Real Spirits vol 61, with the first card featuring 4 female title bouts, including a WBO female Minimumweight title bout between Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) and Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) and an OPBF Atomweight title bout between Eri Matsuda (1-0) and Minayo Kei (6-3, 1).
The second card will see former world title challenger Reiya Konishi (16-1, 6) defending the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title against Richard Rosales (13-7-2, 7) and a potentially thrilling contest between Masao Nakamura (24-3, 23) and Carlo Magali (23-10-3, 12) for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title.
December 3rd will give us a single big show, headlined by OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) and Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10), with a brilliant supporting bout between Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6) and Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16), which is one of the bouts we're most looking forward to!
On December 9th things get a bit crazy again. We will get a Japanese Welterweight title fight, as Ryota Yada (17-4, 14) defends his belt against Shusaku Fujinaka (16-9-2, 10), and a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout, with Takayuki Okumoto (21-8-3, 10) making his first defense against Masayoshi Hashizume (16-0-1, 10). These bouts have been officially announced and confirmed.
The same day we're set to see to see Shohei Omori (19-2, 14) taking on Takahiro Yamamoto (21-5, 17) and Sho Ishida (26-1, 15) taking on Warlito Parrenas (26-8-1, 23). These bouts haven't been formally announced, though teams from both have confirmed they are taking place, and will be at the EDION Arena Osaka. It's unclear if they will share the same card as the other bouts or if the EDION will host another double dose of boxing with two shows. There is also some speculation that if this is a second show there will be one more big bout to add to the card.
On December 13th we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) defending his belt against Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6) at the Korakuen Hall and a week later we'll see Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-1, 8) and Akinori Watanabe (37-7, 31) fight to unify the Japanese Light Middleweight title.
The only other show of real significant that has been confirmed is the Japanese Rookie of the Year final on December 23rd. Nothing after Christmas, but before the start of 2019, has really been announced. But we have had a lot of rumours, speculation for December!
One bout that is supposed to be, finally, made is the long awaited IBF Light Middleweight world title eliminator between Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) and Julian Williams (25-1-1-1, 15), a bout that has seemingly been delayed, rescheduled and redelayed several times already this year. Fingers crossed this is actually made before the year is over, as it seems both fighters have wasted a lot of this year waiting for this bout to take place. Interestingly this could be the only bout to actually take place outside of Japan.
Another IBF eliminator which is rumoured to take place in December is a Super Bantamweight title eliminator between Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) and Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17). This bout is supposedly set to take place in Tokyo, though no date has been made public. If this is confirmed then we are in for a treat as these two, together, should be an amazing contest, with both being heavy handed and flawed. Fingers crossed we get this one announced shortly!
Staying on the subject of IBF title fights there has been speculation in Japan that Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) may get an unexpected shot at Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24). This rumour has come about after a scheduled eliminator with Kuroda and Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking fell through after the Thai suffered an injury. Kuroda's seemed to suggest this would be a long shot, but they are chasing the bout and it could, potentially, be on.
The first of the rumoured big cards to end the year is expected to be on December 30th and is expected to be the Fuji TV card. The strongest rumour for this show is a WBO Super Featherweight title defense for Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12), with the named linked to him being Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10). This bout is expected to be confirmed in the coming days, or at the very least Ito's part of it is, with Chuprakov perhaps not being the opponent. The same date is also pencilled in as a potential date for Kenshiro (14-0, 8) to make his next defense of the WBC Light Flyweight title, though no opponent has been linked to him.
The December 30th Fuji card has also been set as the potential date for a WBC Bantamweight title bout between Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) and Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3). This bout depends on another bout not taking place, as per an order at the WBC convention in early October, so we should see this bout being either confirmed or not very quickly. There is also a rumour that Takuma's stable mate at the Ohashi gym, Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) may also be involved on the same show.
If the rumours for December 30th are a bit of an exciting mess things get even crazier for New Year's Eve. For weeks we've been hearing that WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) would be defending his title against Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6). This was rumoured to be part of a triple header, which has changed a few times but new seems most likely to feature a rematch between Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) and Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10), with Taguchi looking to reclaim the WBA Light Flyweight title from the South African. Along with that rematch is rumoured WBO Light Flyweight title bout between Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) and Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8). If this triple header is done, then TBS would be expected to show at least 2 bouts live on their Kyoguken show.
Things get more complicated when we consider the other rumours, which include a potential WBO Flyweight world title defense by Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7). His could be squeezed on TBS as an early bout, or could be used to stack the show to a quadruple header or could end up being only CBC live, with TBS showing it on tape delay. It's really unclear how he fits in, but he will almost certainly be wanting to fight on a year ending show, after missing out on the chance last year due to injury.
Last, but certainly not least, is the rumoured WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) and Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23), a bout so big that TBS have seemingly given Ioka the option to take the date and broadcast if he wants it. This was rumoured strongly in September, and Japanese sources were suggesting that it could take place in the Philippines with TBS still airing it live, however the rumours did quieten quickly. It should be noted that Ioka's not been one for leaking news in the past, this could be well in the works. Given how silent things have gone however we may well see this bout being delayed into 2019, potentially as part of the next Superfly card.
(Bottom image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This past Monday we had the chance to see an excellent All Japanese world title fight, with Kosei Tanaka narrowly defeating Sho Kimura to claim the WBO Flyweight world title. It was the latest in a long line of amazing All Japanese world title fighters dating back over 50 years. Here we take a look at 5 memorable all Japanese world title bouts.
Yoshiaki Numata (33-4, 9) Vs Hiroshi Kobayashi (50-6-2, 7)
December 14th 1967 - Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
The first ever all Japanese world title fight saw Yoshiaki Numata battle against Hiroshi Kobayashi. Coming in the the bout Numata was the WBC and WBA Super Featherweight champion, having taken the titles from the legendary Flash Elorde. When he won the titles he was the 5th ever Japanese world champion. In his first defense Numata faced off with the much more experienced Kobayashi. Kobayashi had made his name on the Japanese domestic scene mainly, where he had been the Featherweight champion, making 7 defenses before moving up in weight to challenge Numata.
The bout was an action packed one and would be award the Japanese fight of the year. Notably both men went on to have success after this bout and when the WBC and WBA titles split there was an 18 months time window when the two men were both world champions. The bout also got 41.9% of the audience tuning in from the Kanto region, one of the highest ever for a boxing contest!
Masao Oba (31-2-1, 13) vs Susumu Hanagata (34-10-8, 4) II
March 4th 1972-Nihon University Auditorium, Tokyo, Japan
Amazingly it would be more than 4 between the first and the second all-Japanese world title fight, though the wait was worth it with WBA Flyweight champion Masao Oba, one of the greatest Japanese fighters of all time, battling against Susumu Hanagata. This was a rematch of a bout the two men had had in 1968, when an 18 year old Oba was beaten by Hanagata, suffering his second career loss. Following their first bout Oba had become one the best fighters in the division, reeling off 15 straight wins and making two world title defenses. Hanagata had gone 10-2 following their first bout, with both losses coming on the road in world title bouts. This was high work rate and very exciting from both men.
Interestingly Oba's bout with Orlando Amores was voted the Japanese fight of the year for 1972 and unfortunately Oba would pass away less than a year after this bout, following a motor vehicle accident. Hanagata would go on to fight for a few more years and would actually score a huge win over Chartchai Chionoi in 1974 to put his name in the history books.
Yasuei Yakushiji (22-2-1, 16) Vs Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (10-1-1, 8)
December 4th 1994-Rainbow Hall, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Almost 30 years after the first ever all Japanese world title fight we had the first “unification” bout between two Japanese fighters as WBC Bantamweight champion Yasuei Yakushiji and Interim champion Joichiro Tatsuyoshi faced off at the Rainbow Hall. This bout was massive for Japanese boxing with Tatsuyoshi being the face of boxing in Osaka, due to his charismatic and exciting style. Yakushiji on the other hand was the more technically correct boxer, but was over-looked by some due to the popularity of Tatsuyoshi. That was despite the fact Yakushiji was the “real” champion and was looking to make his third defense.
This bout would achieve an audience number of 39.4% in the Kanto region, another of the highest ever in Japan, and like the Tanaka Vs Kimura bout it would live up to all the expectations with high tempo action, heavy shots landed by both and very little to split the men, both of whom were looking worse for wear at the end of the bout. This would be another winner of the Japanese Fight of the Year award.
Takanori Hatakeyama (23-1-2, 18) vs Hiroyuki Sakamoto (35-4, 25)
October 11th 2000-Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
In 2000 Japanese fight fans had another all-Japanese Fight of the Year as WBA Lightweight champion Takanori Hatakeyama and Hiroyuki Sakamoto beat the ever living snot out of each other in a bloody, violent, thrilling clash. Hatakeyama was the champion going into the bout, he enjoying his second reign as a world champion having previously held the WBA Super Featherweight title, and had won the Lightweight belt in brilliant fashion stopping Gilberto Serrano, with this being his first defense. Sakamnoto had lost two other world title fights, including one to Serrano, but had won the OPBF and Japanese titles. This was mostly an inside war fought between two men who did not want to hear the final bell.
As mentioned this was a Japanese Fight of the Year and seemingly took a lot out of both men. Neither man would go on to score a win of note, and in fact between them the only real good result was a draw in 2001 between Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura. This fight essentially ruined both men.
Kazuto Ioka (9-0, 6) Vs Akira Yaegashi (15-2, 8)
June 20th 2012-Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Almost 20 years after the brilliant Yakushiji/Tatsuyoshi bout we had the first true unification bout, as WBC Minimumweight champion Kazuto Ioka faced off with WBA champion Akira Yaegashi. The bout was a brilliant contest with a combination of skills and heart, with Yaegashi fighting through badly swollen eyes for much of the fight and managing to drag Ioka into his fight. Ioka always looked like the guy with more rounded skills, and speed, but Yaegashi's heart, determination and sheer will to win made this into a fantastic bout. It managed to give us some of the best rounds of the year and was another of the All-Japanese world title bouts to be awarded the Japanese Fight of the Year.
In the years since this bout both men have moved through the weights, with both claiming world titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight, and now, remarkably, both are competing at Super Flyweight as they look to become 4-weight champions.
It's worth noting that there has been a lot All Japanese title bouts than we've covered. These range from the controversial, such as Daisuke Naito's bout with Daiki Kameda, to the frankly massive contest between Daisuke Naito and Koki Kameda which got a ridiculous 43.1% audience share. They also include other Japanese fights of the year, such as Takashi Uchiyama's bout with Daiki Kaneko.
Amazingly there has only ever been one all-Japanese world title fight to end in the first round, and that was the second bout between Masamori Tokuyama and Katsushige Kawashima. Interestingly the trilogy between Tokuyama and Kawashima saw Tokuyama win 2-1 taking decisions in both of his wins. Amazingly there has only ever been 1 draw in an all Japanese world title fight, that came in 2001, in the aforementioned bout between Takenori Hatakeyama and Rick Yoshimura.
For those who care about TV numbers all 3 of the high rating bouts were screened on TBS.
Whilst Christmas is fast approaching the action doesn't really end for Asian fight fans with Japanese and Filipino fighters being in a number of notable before the year is out. Here we look at those big upcoming bouts.
Shun Kubo Vs Lloyd Jardeliza
The first of the “post Christmas” bouts comes just a day after the festivities and sees one of Japan's most promising prospects, Shun Kubo (8-0, 6), battle against a Filipino puncher, Lloyd Jardeliza (7-2-3, 6), for the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. The bout looks to be, on paper, a late Christmas present, and one that could well be a cracker. Kubo is seen as the next fighter of note from the Shinsei Gym, the gym that has managed Hozumi Hasegawa, and Kubo is supposed to the fighter who follows in Hasegawa's footsteps. Jardeliza has lost 2 of his last 4 but is regarded as a serious puncher and could well follow in the footsteps of Marlon Tapalese, who recently upset Shohei Omori in Japan. This could be a shoot out, an exposure or a break out win.
Kenichi Horikawa Vs Ken Shiro
Just a day after the Kubo/Jardeliza fight we get two Japanese title fights. In our eyes the more interesting of the two comes down at 108lbs where veteran Kenichi Horikawa (30-13-1, 7) defends his title, for the first time, against the fast rising Ken Shiro (5-0, 3). The men have a good friendship but have a local rivalry, with both being Kyoto fighters, and are likely to have that rivalry over-rule their friendship in what could be a real coming out party for the talented Ken Shiro, or a statement win for Horikawa, who looked better than ever last time out when he stopped Shin Ono.
Yuki Nonaka Vs Koshinmaru Saito
The other Japanese title fight on December 27th sees Light Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (27-8-3, 9) defending his title against Koshinmaru Saito (22-7-1, 12). Nonaka, now in his second reign as champion, will be hoping to secure his third successive defense of the title whilst also making his ring return for the first time since his controversial draw against Takayuki Hosokawa back in April. Saito is an experienced title level fighter though has gone 0-4 in title bouts so far, and isn't really being given much of a chance to end that run.
Riku Kano Vs Pigmy Kokiegym
Whilst the two title bouts on December 27th are worthy or attention there is another bout which perhaps deserves to be more than just a foot note. That bout will see teenage hopeful Riku Kano (7-1-1, 4) go up against former world title challenger Pigmy Kokietgym (58-8-2, 23). For Kano, 18, this is a monstrous step up in class however it's one his team will believe he's capable of making, especially considering they are talking about Kano challenging the record for the youngest Japanese world champion. Notably Pigmy is just 4 months removed from his upset loss to Jaysever Abcede.
Naoya Inoue Vs Warlito Parrenas
Whilst December 26th and 27th are notable days it's fair to say that December 29th over-shadows the earlier action. That is mostly due to the ring return of wunderkind Naoya Inoue (8-0, 7) who defends his WBO Super Flyweight title against Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas (24-6-1, 21). On paper this shouwl be a win for Inoue, especially if he's as good as we believe, however Parrenas is a huge puncher and Inoue's inactivity and injuries could well take their toll and he might not be the fighter he once was, or become he fighter we all wish he would become.
Akira Yaegashi Vs Javier Mendoza
The Inoue/Parrenas bout isn't the only world title fight on December 29th as Inoue's stablemate and close friend Akira Yaegashi (22-5, 12) attempts to become a 3-weight world champion. The popular Yaegashi will be up against aggressive Mexican fighter Javier Mendoza (24-2-1, 19), who will be defending his IBF Light Flyweight title. Yaegashi, a former champion at 105lbs and 112lbs, lost twice last year and will likely know that a loss here will be the end of his career at the top level. He has however got the experience and skills to give Mendoza a tough one, if his body can hold up at 108lbs.
Takuma Inoue Vs Rene Dacquel
Takuma Inoue (5-0, 1), Naoya's younger brother, is also on the card defending a title as he risks his OPBF Super Flyweight title against talented, yet under-rated, Filipino Rene Dacquel (15-5-1, 5). This will be the first defense by Inoue of a title he won earlier this year, when he out pointed Mark Anthony Geraldo, and an impressive showing could see his team push him towards a world title fight in 2016. For Dacquel, a former GAB champion, this is a chnce to really make a name for himself, and add another belt to his collection, as well as improving his 1-1-1 record in Japan. This really could be a tough ask for Inoue.
Satoshi Hosono Vs Akifumi Shimoda
One other title bout here sees a former world champion take on a former world title challenger in a bout that could, very easily have, have headlined a lesser show. That bout will see former 3-time world title challenger Satoshi Hosono (29-2-1, 20) defending his Japanese Featherweight title against former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Akifumi Shimoda (30-4-2, 12).. The loser of this really can kiss their dreams of another top level fight good bye, however the winner will be regarded as a genuine world title challenger for 2016. This bout will be over-shadowed but is incredibly significant.
Takashi Uchiyama Vs Oliver Flores
We get a host of title bouts on New Years Eve, in fact there are 5 world title bouts on the day. Of the bouts in action the biggest mismatch is in Tokyo where long term WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) defends his belt against limited Nicaraguan challenger Oliver Flores (21-1-2, 17). On paper this looks like an interesting match up for the unbeaten 36 year old champion though footage of Flores really doesn't impress and we suspect Uchiyama finishes off the challenger quickly before moving towards a major bout in early 2016.
Ryoichi Taguchi Vs Luis De la Rose
Staying in Tokyo fans get the chance to see Uchiyama's stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) defending his WBA Light Flyweight title against the horribly limited Luis de la Rosa (24-5-1, 14). The talented champion is looking for his second defense and shouldn't have to look too hard given the Colombian challenger has lost every time he has faced a notable opponent, and is 3-4 in his last 7. Sadly for Taguchi's fans this is a farce and they will know it, especially given the talent that is in the division and hopefully Taguchi will be facing a much better opponent in early 2016.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Juan Carlos Reveco II
Although both the title bouts in Tokyo are poor we have to admit that Osaka has got a great title fight to end the year as Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) defends the WBA Flyweight title against Juan Carlos Reveco (36-2, 19). Ioka beat Reveco, by majority decision, to win the title earlier this year in a really good bout. This rematch was ordered by the WBA but it really is almost certainly going to be one of the most exciting bout to end the year. Both men have a lot on the line here and both will bring the action in what should be something very special.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Jose Argumedo
Staying in Osaka it's also the venue for an IBF Minimumweight world title bout between defending champion Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) and little known challenger Jose Argumedo (15-3-1, 9). This will be Takayama's 3rd defense of the year but seems like a significant step backwards following a win last time out against Ryuji Hara. For Argumedo this is his first bout in 13 months and he enters the bout 1-1 in the last 2 years, leading to real questions as to why he's managed to get a world title fight.
Kosei Tanaka Vs Vic Saludar
Takayama isn't the only Minimumweight champion defending his title as WBO champion Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2) makes the first defense of his title, in Aichi. The talented 20 year old will be up against Filipino puncher Vic Saludar (11-1, 9) in what looks like a solid first defense on paper. The talented Tanaka has been frustratingly inactive since winning his title in May but is likely to get a chin check here against a man who has serious power and will be looking to continue a 9 fight unbeaten run.
Takahiro Yamamoto Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi
Going back to the Osaka card, the same show also has two lower level title fights on it, with an OPBF and a JBC title up for grabs. In the OPBF title fight we see Bantamweight kingpin Takahiro Yamamoto (16-4, 13) defending his crown against Yuki Strong Kobayashi (9-4, 5). For Yamamoto this will be his first defense since winning the title, with a TKO victory against Yu Kawaguchi, sadly however it is a bit of a “gimme” against a man we don't see posing any threat to the champion.
Sho Ishida Vs Ryuta Otsuka
As for the Japanese title fight, that comes at Super Flyweight where unbeaten champion Sho Ishida (20-0, 10) defends his belt against Ryuta Otsuka (15-8-2, 5). The talented Ishida will be looking for his 4th title defense whilst Otsuka will be hoping to claim a title in his shot. It's hard to see what Otsuka really offers, given he has lost 3 of his last 5, though it's clear that Ishida still needs a little bit more experience and seasoning before he moves onto the next level.
Although August was exciting there a lack of big name action. That changes however in September when we get a host of world level bouts with other rising contenders in action across a number of weights.
Masanobu Nakazawa Vs Masayoshi Kotake (Japanese)
The month kicks off with title action in Japan as the once beaten Masanobu Nakazawa (17-1-1, 7) battles Masayoshi Kotake (9-9-2, 5) in a bout for the Japanese interim Light Welterweight title. This bout has come about due to an injury to Hiroki Okada and we're expecting a good one here. On paper it's easy to side with Nakazawa though he's taking a huge step up in class to face the much more proven Kotake in what really looks likely to be a very competitive match up.
Tomoki Kameda Vs Jamie McDonnell II (WBA)
One of the best bouts this year saw Japan's Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19) suffer his first loss in a brilliantly competitive 12 round bout with Englishman Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12). Now the men will do it again with McDonnell hoping to prove his win wasn't a fluke and Kameda looking to avenge his sole defeat. Up for grabs isn't just personal gratification but also the WBA Bantamweight title and the claim of being the #2 fighter in the division.
Jonathan Taconing Vs Jomar Fajardo (OPBF)
Some bouts are guaranteed to give excitement and action. Any bout that features Jonathan Taconing (21-2-1, 18) is likely to be worth a watch. Taconing will be defending his OPBF Light Flyweight title against compatriot, and fellow slugger, Jomar Fajardo (14-8-2, 7) in a bout that could be the sleeper bout of the month. Stylistically this one promises to be really exciting, though we do suspect that Taconing will be too big, too strong and too powerful for the gutsy Fajardo.
Shohei Omori Vs Hirofumi Mukai (Japan)
Fast rising Japanese Bantamweight Shohei Omori (14-0, 9) impressed us all when he won the Japanese Bantamweight title earlier this year. He makes his first defense of that title as he takes on former 2-time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (11-3-2, 1) in what looks like a solid, though unspectacular, defense for the man dubbed “Demon of Left”. Whilst the bout isn't a great one it does see Omori up against his most accomplished southpaw opponent
Kota Tokunaga Vs Yuhei Suzuki (Japan)
On the same card as Omori's Bantamweight title fight his stablemate Kota Tokunaga (15-2, 10) will make the first defense of the Japanese Lightweight title. In the opposite corner is heavy handed challenger Yuhei Suzuki (16-4, 12). This one promises to be explosive with both guys able to through heavy leather, though neither has shown a real ability to cope with being tagged hard meaning that this could be over at any moment.
Shin Ono Vs Kenichi Horikawa (Japan)
Former world title challenger Shin Ono (18-6-2, 2) looks to claim his first domestic title as he faced veteran pro Kenichi Horikawa (29-13-1, 6). For Horikawa this will be a 4th Japanese title fight and although he's come up short in first 3 shots he'll be determined to make the most of this one. With both fighters being in their 30's this could be a case of now or never, especially with the fast rising Ken Shiro waiting in the wings for the winner.
Xiong Zhao Zhong Vs Crison Omayao (OPBF)
China's only man to claim a world title, Xiong Zhao Zhong (25-6-1, 14) will look for one of his most notable wins as he takes on Filipino fighter Crison Omayao (17-9-3, 5) in a bout for the OPBF Minimumweight title. On paper this looks like a mismatch but Omayao has got a spotty record due to facing some of the most talented little men on the planet, including Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. This really should be the Chinese highlight of the month.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Anselmo Moreno (WBC)
The Asian wide highlight of the month, and one of the world wide bouts of the month, will see WBC Bantamweight kingpin Shinsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17) defending his belt against former WBA “super” champion Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12). For some this bout is to decide the facto #1 Bantamweight on the planet, for others how it's just a bout to savior and features one of the most talented pure boxers in the sport battle against one of the sports most natural punchers. This really is something very special.
Less than a week after the Yamanaka/Moreno bout we get another of the month's highlights as we get a real huge bumper show in Osaka.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Roberto Domingo Sosa (WBA)
The main event will see Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10) defending his WBA Flyweight title against Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2-1, 14). This will be Ioka's first defense of the title, that he won against Juan Carlos Reveco earlier this year, and if he comes through this, as is expected, he will be facing Reveco in a bout penciled in for December 31st. A lot riding on this one for the 26 year Japanese youngster.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Ryuji Hara (IBF)
Another world title bout on the same card will see IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (29-7-0-1, 11) defending his title Ryuji Hara (19-1, 11) in what looks to be a genuinely mouth watering match up. For Takayama this will be the second defence of his title whilst Hara fights in his first world title fight, having previously been the Japanese and OPBF champion.
Sho Ishida Vs Hayato Kimura (Japan)
On the same card the Ioka bout will be three other title bouts. One of those will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (19-0, 10) defending his belt against Hayato Kimura (23-7, 15). This doesn't look great on paper but it's a good test for Ishida who will be hoping to move on to world level in his upcoming bouts. Alstough a big favour there are some questions marks about the champions stamina which will hopefully be tested again here.
Kei Takenaka Vs Krikanok Islandmuaythai (OPBF-Female)
A lower title fight on this card will see Kei Takenaka (9-0, 3) defending her OPBF female Light Flyweight title against Thai visitor Krikanok Islandmuaythai (4-4-1, 2). This is a weaker bout than the other two major fights on this card but it's expected to be one of Takenaka's final bouts before stepping up to world level.
Eun Hye Lee Vs Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (WBC-Female)
The final world title bout comes towards the end of the month as South Korean fighter Eun Hye Lee (7-0, 2) battle Thai visitor Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (12-5-1, 1) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. This bout has been rescheduled twice following various issues and is finally looking like it's all sorted, finally.
Yukinori Oguni Vs Taiki Minamoto
The final notable action of the month takes place at the end of the month where Japanese fans get a couple of national title fights. The most interesting of those will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (14-1-1, 4) defending his belt against the heavy handed Taiki Minamoto (10-4, 9). This will be Oguni's second defense and if he comes through he'll be expected to face a rematch against Yasutaka Ishimoto.
Suyon Takayama Vs Ryoji Tanaka
The other title fight at the end of the month will see Suyon Takayama (22-1, 7) defending the Japanese Welterweight title against Ryoji Tanaka (8-4-1, 2). This is a weak looking match up, if we're being honest, but the significance of the bout is worth noting and if Takayama keeps defending his title we may, one day, see him take part in a more interesting match up than his recent ones.
(All Images courtesy of boxmob.jp
Many Western fans who follow boxing make a horrible mistake in not following the lower weight divisions whilst maintaining the mentality that none of the best fighters fight each other. Whilst it's true that the big names in some divisions don't fight the concept simply doesn't hold water in the lower weights where we keep seeing the top fighters battling each other time and time again.
Over the next 6 weeks or so we are expecting to see a frenzy of activity in the Flyweight division with every major title on the line, 4 big bouts and another bout of significance. It's fair to say that over the next few weeks we will see a divisional reshuffle and the division transform in ways that should make it clearer who is really the best in the division.
Akira Yaegashi Vs Roman Gonzalez (September 5th)
The "Flyweight Frenzy" kicks off this coming Friday as the WBC and Linear champion Akira Yaegashi (20-3, 10) defends his belt against one of boxing's most highly regarded little men, Roman Gonzalez (39-0, 33). The bout is one of those that really should excite every single boxing fan whether you're Japanese, Nicaraguan American, British, Thai, Filipino, Mexican or from any other country. It is one of those dream fights and is as close to a sure fire war as you can get.
For those who haven't seen these two guys in action the question is "why not?" Gonzalez has long been one of the sport's most exciting fighters. He has great power, fights with intense pressure and throws some of the sports most brutal combinations. Whether you're typically a fan of the lower weights or not Roman Gonzalez is a fighter who really should transcend any feeling of ill will or contempt towards the sport's smaller men. As for Yaegashi the Japanese fighter is a man with a warrior's heart who has been involved in thrillers with Pornsawan Porpramook, for the WBA Minimumweight title, and Kazuto Ioka, in a Minimumweight unification bout. Unlike many warriors Yaegashi doesn't have power to bail him out of a war though has the toughness to hang in with anyone from the first round to the last and doesn't know the meaning of the world quit.
Both men go against the grain in boxing as both are highly respectful of each other and the sport. Both have the mentality of "let the best man win" and neither has ducked a rivalry. These two are what the sport of boxing really is about and it's little wonder international fans are talking about this bout in the way they are. This is a special bout and the perfect way to kick off "Flyweight Frenzy"
Juan Francisco Estrada Vs Govani Segura (September 6th)
If we suggest that Flyweight has 3 major fighters in the division we can openly state that two of them are Gonzalez and Yaegashi, the other is Juan Francisco Estrada (26-2, 19). Estrada is a former foe of Gonzalez though has managed to leap frog the Nicaraguan in terms of where he stands in the Flyweight division. Gonzalez, who took a very hard fought decision over Estrada, decided to remain at Light Flyweight whilst Estrada made the move to Flyweight and claimed the WBA "super" and WBO title with an excellent victory over Brian Viloria.
This Saturday, just a day after the Yaegashi/Gonzalez bout, we see Estrada defending his belts against WBO mandatory challenger Giovani Segura (32-3-1, 28), a major puncher with bad intentions in every shot and a real mentality of beating his opponents up as opposed to just winning. When Segura is in the ring we are guaranteed excitement and his battles with Ivan Calderon and Hernan Marquez tell you everything you need to know about him.
As with the bout on Friday this contest promises a lot and it fails to deliver a FOTY contender many fans will disappointed, no matter how good it actually is. The styles of the men involved should make for a thriller, the mentality of the men should make for a war and with it being an All-Mexican bout we know there is going to be a real show of machismo in the ring.
Notably for many reading this there is no Asian involved in the bout. Despite that the bout means a lot to the division and it's likely that the winner could end up fighting an Asian fighter in the near future. This bout is a vital one to division and deserves all the attention given to the other bouts.
Amant Ruenroeng vs McWilliams Arroyo (September 10th)
Less than a week after the bouts we've already mentioned we will see the IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng (13-0, 5) in action. Ruenroeng is the dark sheep of the division and isn't a warrior or a puncher though is one of those talented boxers who no-one will ever look good against. A typical member of the "who needs him" club. Gifted with very long arms, excellent skills, impressive speed and an astonishing sense of calmness Ruenroeng has the ability to beat anyone in the division though is clearly regarded by many as a secondary champion to the other fighters in the division.
Having won the title earlier this year Ruenroeng will be defending his title against mandatory challenger McWilliams Arroyo (15-1, 13), a Puerto Rican with major power. Last time out Arroyo impressed by knocking out Froilan Saludar and he'll be hoping to do the same here however Ruenroeng looked incredibly skilled as he over-came Japanese star Kazuto Ioka and he'll be hoping to showcase those same skills here.
Whilst the previous two bouts are sure fire excitement with two action fighters this one looks like a boxer vs puncher bout and those sorts of contests are usually not entertaining as when two warriors battle. Saying that however this bout could show how good Ruenroeng is at neutralising a big puncher or could launch the career of a future Puerto Rican star. Another key point about this bout is that if Ruenroeng wins he's expected to fight Chinese star Zou Shiming in early 2015, another major bout to add the list of great possibilities at Flyweight.
One thing to note about this bout is that lacks the name value of some of the others however both are talented fighters and their styles should make for an interesting bout, even if it's not the most exciting.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Pablo Carrillo (September 16th)
The only non-title bout listed here takes place less than a week after Amnat's fight and see's his former foe Kazuto Ioka (14-1, 9) returning to the ring for the first time since his loss to the Thai. Ioka, a former 2-weight world champion will be fighting against the WBA #14 ranked Flyweight Pablo Carrillo (15-2-1, 8).
Although Carrillo is world ranked he is relatively unknown however this bout is all about Ioka. It's thought that if Ioka wins he'll be moved towards a world title bout on New Years Eve. If the unthinkable happens and he loses however then his career will really be in tatters and many would be assuming that he'll have to rethink his future, and maybe even return to Light Flyweight where he is a somewhat more physical fighter than he appeared to be last time out.
I enjoy watching Ioka though need to admit that he is still a very flawed fighter for a 2-weight world champion. He looked like he was fighting to the wrong game plan against Ruenroeng and almost as if his experience and relative immaturity came back to haunt him. This bout coming up will be a chance for Ioka to get some experience as a Flyweight, to fill into a Flyweight and to help rebuild some confidence be fore another big bout in the division.
Whilst the Colombian is being over-looked he has proven his toughness in twice going the distance with the vicious Luis Concepcion who has disposed of the likes of Denkaosan Kaovichit, Manuel Vargas, Odilon Zaleta and Eric Ortiz. This will be tougher than it looks for Ioka though the Japanese fighter should, if he has his head straight, take a wide decision.
Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep Vs Juan Carlos Reveco (October 17th)
The final major bout comes on October 17th in Argentina as WBA interim champion Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (34-2, 20) travels in an attempt to unify his belt with the regular title held by Juan Carlos Reveco (34-1, 18). This bout, like the Ruenroeng/Arroyo bout, is clearly a second tier title bout but is one that will help shape the division over the next year or two.
For Yodmongkol it's a chance to upgraded his standing boxing and to prove himself on the international stage. It's a chance to prove that he belong at world level and that his controversial decision last time out over Takuya Kogawa wasn't the real Yodmongkol. Sadly for the Thai however he can be lazy in the ring and that could bite him in the back side as he becomes the away fighter for this upcoming contest against one of the sports most impressive body punchers.
As for Reveco he too needs a big win after failing to impress against Felix Alvarado last time out. In that bout Reveco got the win though many felt he didn't deserve it and that the title should have gone to the Nicaraguan, who was incidentally beaten in a Light Flyweight title bout by Kazuto Ioka. Reveco has blown hot and cold at times though will be built up as an enemy of Thailand courtesy of his win over Nethra Sasiprapa more than 7 years ago.
This bout might not have the allure of some bouts on this list but both men will know that they will be linked to really big fights if they win this one.
Other upcoming bouts at Flyweight include:
Takuma Inoue (2-0) Vs Chanachai Sor Siamchai (0-0)-This bout will be this coming Friday and will see Takuma Inoue return to the ring. Many have described Takuma as a future world champion and he is already world ranked after just 2 bouts. Don't be surprised if he becomes a star over the net few years.
Atsushi Kakutani (14-4-1, 7) Vs Dawut Manopkanchang (0-1)-This bout is supposedly an OPBF prelude for for Kakutani, a former world title challenger. Although we'd not describe Kakutani as a future world champion he could very easily be involved in memorable contests on the regional level and that's never a bad thing.
Renan Trongco (15-4, 9) Vs Hayato Yamaguchi (12-4-1, 2)-In a bout for the WBC International title fans in the Philippines will get to see Trongco take on Yamaguchi. This is for a world ranking though neither man has shown the traits needed to become a world champion, it should however be competitive.
Moruti Mthalane (30-2, 20) Vs Odilon Zaleta (15-4, 8)-Although this is a bout with no Asian link it's a key divisional bout as Mthalane attempts to defend his IBO title. Although only the IBO title holder at the moment Mthalane is a divisional dark horse and appears to have gotten his career back on track after a horror run as the IBF champion and being ordered into some horrific mandatory defences.
Suguru Muranaka (20-2-1, 6) Vs Yusuke Sakashita (12-4-2, 7)-The world ranked Muranaka defends his Japanese title against the little known Sakashita. The bout isn't a major one though we do expect to see Muranaka working his way towards bigger and more prestigious belts in the near future so for him this is an important bout, even if the wider boxing world will see it as a mismatch.
Ardin Diale (23-9-3, 10) Vs Renerio Arizala (11-0-1, 4)-On the same day that Muranaka defend his Japanese title we also get to see former world title challenger Diale defend his Philippines Games & Amusement Board title. Diale, who was last seen in a thriller with Koki Eto will know that Arizala will be putting his unbeaten record on the line in what appears to be a very significant bout for both men, at least domestically.
Valery Yanchy (23-3-2, 7) Vs Kevin Satchell (12-0, 2)-Another none Asian bout will see Spanish based Belorussian Yanchy defending the European title against unbeaten British hopeful Satchell. The bout will be Satchell's second since he struggled past Iain Butcher in 2013 and although Yanchy is in his late 30's he looks like he has plenty left in the tank. A great fight even if it's not got any Asian connection.
Zou Shiming (5-0, 1) Vs Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym (27-0-2, 12)-Going into the future a bit further for this one but the bout is pivotal for 2015. Shiming, the biggest money draw in the division, is thought to want a fight with Amnat though first he will need to get past Kwanpichit. As for Kwanpichit we're not impressed by him but his edge in experience and unbeaten record will look pretty up against Shiming's "inexperience".
(Images courtesy of:
As boxing fans we are always talking about the matches we want to see. Whether the bouts are possible or not there are 100's of match ups that we'd like to see ranging from international super fights such as Adonis Stevenson Vs Sergey Kovalev or Floyd Mayweather Vs Manny Pacquiao to fights that we want for selfish purposes such as Kosei Tanaka Vs Takuma Inoue or Ryo Matsumoto Vs Sho Ishida.
One bout emerged this past weekend and became a real talking point in both the Japanese press and the online community, including the English speaking boxing forums. Naoya Inoue against Kazuto Ioka.
We know some fans in Japan have mentioned this bout for a while and fans in the west have also thought about it, but since this past Sunday the bout seems to have almost become the "Super Fight of Japan" and it's already become more spoken about than a Takashi Uchiyama Vs Takashi Miura rematch or a Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Tomoki Kameda bout. It has become the most wanted fight in Asian boxing.
Interestingly we've spend the past few days thinking about the contest, staying quiet and just thinking about it.
Like everyone else we're insanely excited about the prospect of the bout though for now we think the talk is premature. It's a bout that has us licking our lips but we're not likely to get it for at least a year, if not two.
The reasons for why we'd have to wait are numerous but lets look at the key ones.
Inoue is signed to Fuji TV who have helped him become a sensation. The broadcast of his fight with Adrian Hernandez this past weekend got a high of 10% TV share and with the work they've put into help him become a star it's unlikely they'll be in a rush to let him go. We're unsure on how many fights he's got left with Fuji TV but we'd imagine they are more than happy in their working relationship.
With only Inoue and Ryota Murata currently signed to deals with Fuji TV we can't imagine the channel handing over any rights to televise Inoue's fights.
On the other hand Ioka is signed with TBS who have been broadcasting most of his career so far and are likely to show however many fights Ioka wants as long as the multi-weight world champion continues to remain a big TV draw and an unbeaten fighter.
For TBS Ioka is their only current star. They do televise Kameda fights and will show the next Takayama fight, though with the Kameda's not being able to fight in Japan the channel's live coverage is certainly limited right now and they'd refuse to let Ioka go just as Fuji would refuse to let Inoue go.
Secondly we have the issue of weight.
We all know that Ioka has moved to Flyweight for his next bout, a challenge for the IBF title against Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng. The strong reports are that Ioka will then immediately vacate to move up to Super Flyweight. The idea seems to be that Ioka wants to become the first Japanese fighter to become a 4 weight world champion. If he can't become the first he'll instead "just" become the fastest.
Of course Ioka's plans depend a lot on Koki Kameda and what Kameda does next. If Koki, as expected, can get a fight with Kohei Kono for the WBA Super Flyweight title we'd expect Ioka to do all he can to get the winner. Koki, by then, could have become the first 4-weight world champion in Japanese history but Ioka will still look towards become the fastest whether he needs to beat Koki or Kono.
For Inoue the rumours are that he'll also be at Super Flyweight by the end of the year.
For some that's a sign that they'll be negotiating for a Super Flyweight title fight by the start of 2015 though the reality is that Inoue is unlikely to stay at 115 for long if he's already taking a lot out of his body to make 108. The likely outcome is that Inoue ends up at 118 in the next 2 to 3 years as he himself attempts to win more world titles, almost chasing Ioka's records as they get created.
It's an interesting question of which weight the bout would be at, though it does appear to make sense that it will be at 115 or 118 with Ioka stating in the past that he wants to be a 5 weight world champion, Bantamweight would be the probable 5th division.
If we take what we know about both men and their current plans and expected plans there could be a serious issue of timing. We know Ioka is fighting in May and we expect him to fight on New Years Eve. We also expect him to move to 115 either in the summer or the winter.
For Inoue the plans seem to be rest and then move to 115 by December. Their is no plans, from what we are aware, for Inoue to attempt to grab a slice a slice of the Flyweight crown, though if Ioka does vacate we could see Inoue's plans changing and he could well make a quick stop at Flyweight to pick up a second divisional title.
If Ioka dumps off the Flyweight title as expected and moves on to 115 his first fight there would need to be a big one. Fights with Koki and Kono are of course the obvious options though possibilities do lie in Omar Andres Narvaez, or a fight for the IBF title against the winner Zolani Tete/Suguru Muranaka. If Ioka doesn't dump the Flyweight title then those options are open for Inoue if he feels ready for them. Those options would be hugely appealing for both fighters and likely make a lot of sense for them to becoming champions at another weight.
We're not trying to be offensive to Tete, Narvaez, Koki, Kono or Muranaka but we'd imagine either Inoue or Ioka would beat them, especially if Inoue and Ioka got another fight of experience at 115 before fighting one of the championship fighters.
What we're effectively saying is that they won't meet whilst there other options out there and unless one of them holds a title at 115 the fight wouldn't make a great deal of sense. Why fight a non-title fight when you could face your nemesis for the gold? Better yet, why fight in just a title fight when you could fight in a unification contest? The timing does need to be considered.
Finally the promoters
Unlike in the US and the UK promoters in Japan have to work together. The "Cold War" between Top Rank and Golden Boy or the refusal between Matchroom and Frank Warren to really work together isn't possible in Japan. That means promotionally this bout would be easier to make than, for example, Pacquiao Vs Mayweather.
Two the promoters involved here would by Hiroki Ioka of Ioka Gym, the promotional outfit that promoters Kazuto Ioka, and Hideyuki Ohashi, the chairman of Ohashi gym. Interestingly the two promoters have had a long rivalry which almost saw them fighting each other back in the 1990's in what would have been a fight similar to this, a huge domestic fight that would have been something special at the time.
The last time the promoters worked together on a big fight, similar to this, was back in June 2010 was Ioka promoted the Minimumweight unification bout between Kazuto Ioka and Akira Yaegashi. That bout was brilliant though some, including ourselves, felt Ioka got the decision because he was still unbeaten and because he was the promoters fighter, in fact he was the promoters nephew.
Would Ohashi be willing to send his newest star into an Ioka promoted show? Would Kazuto Ioka be willing to fight on an Ohashi show? Would the fight only happen with a neutral promoter, say Teiken or Top Rank?
It may seem silly due to the way Japanese promoters have to work together but yet we could still have the promoters making life difficult as they protect their interests.
When it comes to the actual fighters we don't imagine either man has a problem fighting the other. We think that, Roman Gonzalez aside, they'd happily fight anyone between 108lbs and 115lbs and aside from the odd exception we'd think they'd be favourites against most in those weight classes, perhaps only Juan Francisco Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai would be too much at the moment. They'd not mind fighting each other but at the moment it's a case of neither being in the position where the other is the obvious opponent. It's a bout we all want but not one we're expecting in the next 12-18 months.
Top-Inoue courtesy of Ohashi Gym
Second from Top-Fuji TV Logo, courtesy of Fuji TV
Middle-Ioka v Ruenroeng poster, courtesy of Ioka Gym
Second from Bottom-Kohei Kono, courtesy of Watanabe Gym
Bottom-Ioka v Yaegashi poster, courtesy of Ioka Gym)
It's widely accepted that Japan is the 10th most populated country on the planet. It's got around 128,000,000 people living on it and this places it between Russia with around 144,000,000 and Mexico 118,000,000.
In terms of comparing it with some other boxing countries, the US is the 3rd most populated country with around 317,000,000, the Philippines is the 11th most populated with 99,000,000, Germany is the 16th most populated with around 81,000,000, the UK is the 22nd most populated with around 64,000,000 and Argentina is 32nd with 40,000,000.
This means that Japan has less than half as many people as the US, marginally more than Mexico, 50% more than Germany, twice as many as the UK and thrice as many as Argentina. Despite the population being what it is, there seems to be so many more top youngsters coming from Japan than anywhere else.
The big question then, is how come so many Japanese youngsters look so talented, so young?
At the moment Japan has a wealth of young talent under the age of 25. This includes world champions such as Tomoki Kameda, 22 and Kazuto Ioka, 24, OPBF champions Ryosuke Iwasa, 24 and Masayoshi Nakatani, also 24, up coming world title challenger Naoya Inoue, 20 and more outstanding prospects than I can possibly list such as Kosei Tanaka, 18, Takuma Inoue, 18, Sho Ishida, 22 and Ryo Matsumoto, 20.
Maybe, as we've said in the past, Japanese boxing is on the verge of a Golden Age of young talent, a once in a life time boom of youngsters who are all breaking through at the same time. Something tells me this isn't really the case though as 6 is years is a notably long time between the oldest of these guys and the youngest. Personally I think the the real answer lies in the amateur boxing system of Japan and the match making of Japanese fighters .
It may be a surprising to mentioned the amateur scene considering that Japanese amateur boxers haven't been a key fixture at world meets. We rarely see Japanese fighters taking home medals from either the World Amateur Championships or the Olympics, however what we do tend to see is that the top Japanese amateurs don't tend to remain amateur for much longer than they need to. There are, of course, counter examples such as Satoshi Shimizu who has announced plans to compete at the 2016 Olympics, though these are rare.
What we have instead are youngsters who have come through the Japanese amateur ranks by fighting regularly in high school and then turning professional at a young age before bad habits and amateur traits are engrained in their style.
As well as turning professional at a young age these youngsters also seem to have adapted more professional styles than fighters from around the world. In many countries top amateurs take a number of bouts to learn to adapt. They are basically retrained in how to walk again against a much lower calibre of opponent than they were beating in the amateurs. In Japan however their styles are often fairly professional and they aren't taking huge steps back in their early professional outings.
What is the point in going from fighting the elite, either domestically or on the world stage, as an amateur to then fighting domestic level journeymen as a professional? Are we really suggesting that top amateurs, such as Luke Campbell in the UK or Rau'shee Warren in the US need to learn by taking 10 steps backwards?
If we look, for example, at Ryo Matsumoto. He did start like a typical "western" prospect fighting a string of weak opponents though by fight #5 he was facing a decent opponent in the form of John Bajawa and in fight #10 Matsumoto will be fighting a multi-time title challenger. As for Luke Campbell's 5th fight he's fighting Scott Moises, a guy who holds an 8-8-1 record. Still Campbell did do better than Warren who faced Jiovany Fuentes, a blown up Flyweight who had been inactive for 2 years.
Warren, who now sports a record of 10-0, fought his 10th professional contest earlier this year and faced the very experienced German Meraz who at the time sported a decent looking 46-28-1 record. Unfortunately Meraz hadn't beaten a fighter with a winning record since late 2009 and had only beaten a handful in total. Meraz was the proverbial can crusher with a boosted record that allowed other fighters to look impressive though in reality served as little more than a record padder himself.
So as well as having more professional styles the Japanese youngsters are also matched better. They are matched progressively on the whole and take steps up. There is no point in wasting time in this sport as one good shot could finish your career and if you're good enough you're good enough.
Possibly the biggest reason for the boom in Japanese youngsters however is that promoters are willing to take a risk or two. They aren't hiding their talented youngsters in the shallow end of a swimming pool with water wings but are willing to let them swim with sharks. If they get bitten early then it's a rebuilding process and they can cycle things down a gear, as seen in the career of Keita Obara who lost on debut though is now fighting for an OPBF title just a few years later.
If a youngster doesn't get bitten however then let them swim with more sharks. Kazuto Ioka is probably the best example right now. In fight #6 he faced an experienced domestic level campaigner, then in fight #7 he faced a highly experienced and unbeaten world champion then in fight #10 he faced a fellow world champion in a world title unification. These were risky fights but Ioka believed in himself, his team believed in him and he showed his worth.
In so many places keeping a fighters unbeaten record is actually more important than developing their skills and legacy. You develop by fighting better fighters, you develop by fighting in competitive matches and you develop by needing to prove yourself. Taking a loss along the way is just part of a fighters development.
In the US fans are already starting to turn on Gary Russell Jr who has had 24 fights but no risks, Deontay Wilder is similar though has 33 wins with no risk and Sean Monaghan is 20-0 though has again had no risks. Between them these three fighters have had 77 fights yet we have no idea how good they are. Between Ioka, Tomoki, and Naoya Inoue there is a combined 48 fights and already there 2 world champions and a future title contender.
US promoters might want to protect their investment and that makes sense, but do you really think Japanese promoters aren't doing the same? The difference is Japanese promoters don't tell you they have a wonder talent then protect him, instead they tell you they have a super talent and they prove it. They don't use smoke and mirrors to sell us a prospect they let the prospect talk with their actions.
So why does Japan have so many good, talented youngsters?
Well their amateur system seems to promote a more professional style to boxing at a young age, they don't waste time staying in the unpaid ranks for too long, they are developed quickly as professionals and they are allowed to prove their talent rather than merely defeat over-matched foes for years. This is a combination of "ignoring" the amateur scoring system that has plagued amateur boxing for so long, great training, great desire of the individual fighters to prove themselves and brave promoting.
This isn't a golden age of Japanese boxing, but the start of a revolution which I feel will continue for a long time.
(Pictures-Top is courtesy of Boxrec.com and is Tomoki Kameda, middle is from Ohashi Gym and features Naoya Ioue and bottom is from Kosei Tanaka courtesy of Boxingnews.jp)
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).