The month of December is massive in Asian boxing with the end of year run in being crazy. As a result we've had to split our “things to look forward to...” for December article into two pieces, a pre-Christmas and a post-Christmas article, which is to be posted around Christmas time.
When we say December is busy, we really aren't kidding.
The new month gets off to an almost immediate start with an OPBF title fight coming on just the second day of the month. The bout in question is all Filipino bout for the OPBF title, recently vacated by Koki Eto, and will see Eto's former foe Ardin Diale (26-9-3, 15) take on the once beaten Renoel Pael (19-1-1, 9). It was of course Diale Vs Eto that saw Eto win the title, claiming an amazing 8th round win over Diale in a FOTY contender, but since then Diale has gone 6-0 (5) ans really rebuilt his career. For Pael this is his biggest bout to date, though he did fight to a very controversial loss to the world ranked Noknoi Sitthiprasert back in 2014 in what his only loss to date. This really could be something special for Filipino fans.
Fast rising Japanese prospects seem to be the “in thing” at the moment with numerous youngsters racing through the ranks. One of those is Kazuki Tanaka (3-0, 3) who takes a huge step up in class to face Monico Laurente (27-12, 6) in what should be regarded as a genuine test for the unbeaten 22 year old. Tanaka is regarded very highly, and some view him as a potential star of the Green Tsuda gym, however Laurente is no push over and should test the youngster in ways that he has never been tested before.
Last year we saw several Asian fighters emerge and go from being relatively unknown to being names that were on the tip of the tongue for fight fans. Obviously the biggest example was Naoya Inoue, who really became an internationally recognised name, another was Amnat Ruenroeng (16-0, 5) who claimed the IBF Flyweight title and defended it twice, including a shock win over Kazuto Ioka. He looks to secure his third defense of 2015 as he takes on Japanese challenger Myung Ho Lee (19-4-1, 6) in what looks like a stay busy fight for the Thai before a big fight in 2016, possibly against Roman Gonzalez or a rematch with Ioka.
The first of two “WBA Flyweight title” rematches this month sees Thailand's unbeaten Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6) defending his interim title against Dominican slugger Gregorio Lebron (13-3, 11). Their first bout saw Stamp claim a majority decision to win the title though a petition by Lebron's team has helped their fighter get a rematch for the title. Their first bout was decent and we're expecting another good contest, though we suspect we'll see a better Stamp than we saw the first time around.
The second of the OPBF title fights this month is a farcical one Super Middleweight champion Yuzo Kiyota (28-4-1, 26) battles Indonesian challenger Michael Speed Sigarlaki (16-15-2, 14). Kiyota, who is best known for losing in a WBO Super Middleweight world title fight against Robert Stieglitz, might not be world class but is a solid puncher who really should be defending his title against the best OPBF challengers out there., In Sigarlaki however we have a challenger who is 4-6 (3), according to boxrec, in his last 10. It's worth noting that the challenger was in Japan back in March, losing to OPBF/JBC Middleweight champion Akio Shibata and we can't see anything but a repeat of that journey for Sigarlaki.
Whilst Kiyota's OPBF title defense is the most significant “male” bout of the day it's not the highest level bout in Japan. Instead that's an IBF female Minimumweight world title bout between two former champions. The home fighter is Etsuko Tada (14-2-2, 4) who is looking to become a 2-time world champion as she battles former title holder Victoria Argueta (13-2, 4) in what appears to be a very matched bout. Both fighters have suffered recent losses, with Argueta losing 2 of her last 6 and Tada losing 2 of her last 4, but all of those loses have come to fellow world class fighters. This really could be a fantastic fight for fans in Kobe
On the same show as the Tada/Argueta bout fans will also get a chance to see the fantastic Hozumi Hasegawa (34-5, 15) continue his career, a career we thought was over last year. The former 2-weight world champion will be dipping his toes into the Super Featherweight division as he goes up against the world ranked Carlos Andres Ruiz Machuca (14-1, 5). On paper Machuca looks to be a young, fresh and promising fighter, coming into this on the back of his best win however there is some thinking that Hasegawa's team have hand picked the Mexican to help further Hasegawa's career.
Arguably the most famous Asian in action on December 11th is Filipino star Nonito Donaire (35-3, 23) who faces off against Puerto Rican Cesar Juarez (17-3, 13). The bout, which takes place in Puerto Rico is rumoured to be a potential WBO Super Bantamweight title clash, though that's unconfirmed at the moment. For Donaire this is a great chance to make a statement and move towards potentially big bouts with Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg and Julio Ceja whilst for Juarez it's a chance to notch up a third notable win in a row.
The first of two Super Featherweight title fights on December 14th sees OPBF champion Masayuki Ito (17-1-1, 8) battle against Shingo Eto (17-3-1, 9) in what seems like a brilliant fight on paper. Ito, who won the title last time out stopping Dai Iwai, will be looking to establish himself as another in the long like of brilliant Japanese Super Featherweights however Eto is a very capable fighter looking to claim his first title, after having previously come close to winning the Japanese title last year.
Talking about the Japanese Super Featherweight title we see that champion in action as well as Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defends his title against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). Naito is tipped to go far though we've been less than impressed by his recent performances, which have seen him struggle past Eto, Ito and Nihito Arakawa. Ogawa on the other hand has impressed us and has racked up 8 straight stoppages, whilst also avenging his sole defeat. This is a boxer against a puncher and will almost certainly be a great contest with both men putting it all on the line.
Over the last 12 months we've seen the Bantamweight division change a lot with titles changes hands and new contenders breaking through. Arguably the most exciting of those contenders is the heavy handed Shohei Omori (15-0, 10) who looks to move towards a world title as he fights in a WBO world title eliminator against Filipino fighter Marlon Tapales (27-2, 10). The winner of this will get a shot at either Pungluang Sor Singyu or Jetro Pabustan in 2016 and is a key bout looking forward, and should be a final test for either man before being legitimately considered a threat at the top level.
On the same card as the good looking world title eliminator we will see a Japanese title fight as Omori's stablemate Kota Tokunaga (16-2, 11) defends his Japanese Lightweight title against the little known Kazuhiro Nishitani (15-3-1, 7). This will be the second defense from the heavy handed Tokunaga who will be favoured going into the bout though Nishitani will know there is no pressure on him to perform, in what is a huge, and somewhat undeserved, opportunity.
WBA “interim” Cruiserweight champion Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10) looks to make the first defense of his title as he takes on former WBC champion Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-3-1, 35) in what is a really good match up. We know Shumenov, originally from Kazakhstan though now based in the US, is the favourite but Wlodarczyk will see this as a great chance to become a 3-time “world champion”. As a match up this is a good on and would legitimise Shumenov as a Cruiserweight,something his last win, against BJ Flores didn't really do.
History is made on December 19th as Sri Lankan fans in Colombo get the chance to see professional boxing for the first time since the country gained independence from the British in the late 1940's. The show will be headlined by a female world title fight as WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (16-3-1, 4) looks to defend her title against Filipino Jujeath Nagaowa (13-15-1, 8). The bout is an historic one for the Sri Lankan people and great chance for the two fighters to help introduce the sport to a new audience.
WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (14-4-1, 7) isn't one of the sports biggest names but she is a potential star if she keeps racking up the wins and retaining her title. On December 20th she'll look to do both of those as she battles against former IBF champion Nancy Franco (14-6-2, 4) in one of the best female bouts of the year. Kuroki, 24, has the looks of a movie star and if she can keep building her career momentum there is a chance that she will help become the star that some were hoping Tomomi Takano would be. Franco however is a tough test for anyone and could well derail the Kuroki climb.
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals
On the same day we get the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year finals which will feature a number of bouts with fighters looking to take a huge step towards becoming a star. We won't pretend any of the men are sensational yet, but some of the bouts are great, such as a Light Flyweight bout between Hiroyasu Shiga (6-0, 3) and Masahiro Sakamoto (5-0, 3) as well as a Featherweight bout between Shuma Nakazato (5-0, 4) and Teppei Kayunuma (6-0, 4). This really will be a treat for fans in Tokyo.
The final Japanese title fight before Christmas comes on December 21st and is a genuinely brilliant match up between two men who are both looking to prove themselves, whilst also being at very different stages in their career's. In one corner will be relative newbie Yusaku Kuga (11-1-1, 7, a really promising Watanabe Gym fighter with solid power and a point to prove, in the other corner will be veteran Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8, 7), a Teiken fighter who will be getting his third shot at a Japanese title and will be hoping that it is third time lucky given that he's now years old and may not get another opportunity like this.
For those who celebrate Christmas, we wish you a great one before the big action returns on December 26th with an OPBF title fight, and then things really go into over-drive as the year comes to a close in wonderful style!
We have to say that January 2015 was one of the least memorable starts to the year that we can remember, in a very long time. Thankfully however things get under-way properly in February and here are the bouts that we suspect will be the highlights.
WBC Minimumweight Title Fight [February 5th]
The month kicks off in style as Thai boxing get it's first world title fight of the year. That fight will see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (36-0, 12) defending against unbeaten Filipino fighter Jeffrey Galero (11-0, 5). This bout looks a bit like a mismatch, given the competition Galero has faced so far, though we did see Wanheng step up big time last year and Galero may well feel he can do the same in his first world title shot.
Pinoy Pride 29 [February 7th]
The first major Filipino show of the year closes out the first week of February and although there are no world title bouts on the card there are 3 highly ranked Filipinos, and a former world champion all in action.
The stand out fighter in action is Genesis Servania (25-0, 11) who is one of the most naturally talented Filipinos currently making his name on the boxing scene. Servania, who is very highly ranked in the Super Bantamweight division, is expecting to get a world title fight later this year though will have to get past Juan Luis Hernandez (17-3-1, 9) on this show first.
Another man who will need to record a win if he's to get a chance at a world title somewhere down the line is Jason Pagara (34-2, 21), the older brother of the monstrously talented Albert Pagara. Pagara will be taking on Cesar Chavez (24-7, 12) and a win here us likely to lead him to a big bout in the US, though a loss will set him back big time.
Talking about a man who cannot bare to take a loss right now it's fair to say that Arthur Villanueva (26-0, 14) cannot even think about losing. Ranked #3 by the WBO at Super Flyweight Villanueva has a lot to lose and little to gain as he takes on former WBO Flyweight champion Julio Cesar Miranda (38-11-2, 29). Miranda needs a win to keep his career alive and Villanueva needs a win to open up a chance at getting a world title fight later this year. It's fair to say that this is the most important bout of the day, by some margin.
On the same day, albeit in Japan, we see the return to the ring of former WBC and Lineal Flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi (19-2-1, 11) who fights against Mexico's Efrain Perez (17-5, 12) in what looks to be a must win bout for the Japanese fighter. On paper this looks like an easy win however Perez is a gutsy fighter who will almost certainly bring the best out of Igarashi in what could be a very tough 10 rounds for the Japanese southpaw who had only 9 rounds of action in the last 17 months.
DANGAN 121 [February 9th]
We get the first Japanese title fight of the year on February 9th as unbeaten men collide in a really enticing looking contest of speed and skills for the Japanese Super Featherweight title. Going into the bout the champion is the much touted Rikki Naito (11-0, 5) however his challenger is the equally as touted Masayuki Ito (16-0-1, 7) and the winner will almost certainly emerge as yet another Japanese Super Featherweight to keep an eye on. With both men being in their early 20's a loss isn't a major set back though neither will be wanting anything but a win in a contest that just looks a little bit special
Legend Fight Vol 3 [February 18th]
We've been fans of Ryosuke “Eagle Eye” Iwasa (18-1, 11) for a long time and finally he's getting his shot at the big time as he battles in an IBF Eliminator against American fighter Sergio Perales (24-2, 16). It's hard to see anything but a win for Iwasa here who will move towards a world title fight with Randy Caballero if he comes out on top here. Iwasa has been patiently waiting for a shot a world title and we suspect he'll be fully prepared for what is certainly the most important bout of his career so far.
Earnest Efforts 3 [February 19th]
Just a day after we get a world title eliminator we get a world title double.
The key bout here is an all-Japanese bout for the IBF Light Flyweight title as Naoko Shibata (13-3, 4) battles against Saemi Hanagata (9-5-2, 4) in what looks like to be a really intriguing battle of wills. Shibata, entering as the champion, will be looking to record her 3rd defence of the title whilst Hanagata will be hoping to claim her first world crown.
On the same show the legendary WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki (19-2-1, 6) will be hoping to keep her record setting run going as she hunts title defence #15. Rough, tough and a real handful it's hard to see anyone at 102lbs beating Koseki and we can't see Aisah Alico (5-4, 5) even coming close to beating her here.
Thunderbolt [February 21st]
The always exciting Gennady Golovkin (31-0, 28) returns to the ring for his first bout of 2015 and looks to defend his WBA “super”, IBO and WBC interim Middleweight titles against the touted Martin Murray (29-1-1, 12) of the UK. Murray is seen as being one of Golovkin's toughest tests so far and is expected to give him a tough bout however Golovkin does carry a sensational run of 18 straight stoppages and it's hard to see Murray ending that run which dates back more than 6 years!
Wake Vs Paypa-OPBF Title Fight [February 27th]
In Asia the last fight of note comes from Japan where the world ranked Shingo Wake (17-4-2, 10) attempts to defend his OPBF Super Bantamweight title for the 5th time. Wake will be battling against Filipino challenger Jimmy Paypa (16-2-1, 6) in a bout that was originally penciled in, though never formally announced, for December 30th 2014. It's thought that a win here for Wake will put him into a world title fight in Summer.
Loreto Vs Joyi II-The Rematch [February 28th]
In 2014 we saw a major shock as the then unheralded Rey Loreto (19-13, 11) knocked out the highly regarded South African Nkosinathi Joyi (24-3-0-1, 17). Not only did Loreto shock the boxing world with the win but he also claimed the IBO Light Flyweight title and left fans around the world talking about him. Sadly the momentum of that win faded however the memory hasn't and the two will get it on again to close out February 2015. We suspect Joyi will be more aware of the man he is up against whilst Loreto will know a win here could take him on to a “real” world title fight later in the year.
(Image courtesy of www.sportsviewlondon.com)
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).