The new year is fast approaching and I'll be honest I'm really excited about the coming year. It's fair to say that 2018 has been a great year for boxing, despite being a pretty poor year on a personal level, but I'm expecting 2019 to be even better as the sport continues to develop, and be reshaped into something more and more spectacular. If I'm being honest I suspect 2019 may well be one of the best year's the sport has had in a very long time, building on the momentum of a great 2018.
With that in mind I've put together 5 predictions for the new year, and how I think they will effect the boxing world in general
Naoya Inoue wins the WBSS
An obvious one to start with. Japan's Naoya Inoue is strongly favoured to win the WBSS Bantamweight series and for good reason. "The Monster" is one of the few fighters who really lives up to his reputation every time he steps in the ring, and in 2018 he quickly despatched recognisable foes Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano without breaking a sweat. I suspect that his current impressive run takes him to the Muhammad Ali Trophy in the coming year, beating Emmanuel Rodriguez in the Spring before winning the final in the Summer. After that it's unclear whether he'll immediately look for bigger challenges at Super Bantamweight or will look to clean up at Bantamweight, with a potential fight against Luis Nery certainly a possibility.
Fast Tracking continues
If we've seen anything really come to the fore these past few years it's been that fast tracking has really exploded. No longer is it just a Japanese and Thai thing but we're seeing Europeans, and Central Asian's fighters all stepping up incredibly quickly. I suspect that actually intensifies in the coming year, with more and more fighters shrugging off the usual preliminary stages of their professional careers and being moved aggressively. Lu Bin was too aggressively matched, but I expect others, like Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Apichet Petchmanee, Ginjiro Shigeoka and Israil Madrimov, to be competing for world titles within 7 fights. Top amateur fighters making their debuts next year will also be pushed hard early on.
A big year for India
Top Rank have made a very conscious effort in signing two of the most notable Indian fighters, Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan, and I suspect that will only be the start for what could be a massive year for Indian boxing. The market is ripe for surge, and top young amateur fighters like Amit Panghal and Gaurav Solanki could well have professional promoters trying to snap them up as key figures for the long term growth of Indian boxing. The sport isn't huge in India, yet, but with over 1,000,000,000 people living there the potential is massive, if a promoter can sign the right fighters and work well with the local media. It will be a risky market to jump into but given the right promoter it could end up being a game changer. I also expect to see aforementioned Vijender Singh challenge for a world title before the end of 2019.
Boxing Grows in non-Boxing Countries
It's not just India that I expect to see boxing grow in but also Vietnam, Teipai, Malaysia and Singapore. We've certainly seen Singapore and Malaysia develop their scenes recently, but Vietnam and Teipai will likely follow suit, albeit for different reasons. Malaysia and Singapore are key hubs for the area, and money in those countries towards boxing has grown due to the promoters wanting to build the scenes. For Vietnam and Teipai however it seems likely that the OPBF will be the fulcrum behind their growth, and the development of the OPBF Silver titles, specifically in those two countries, will be key. In fact we could see that extending into other locations like Mongolia as the OPBF become more than just a title body but also, in association with the JBC, an overseer of several, non-boxing countries as they plant seeds of potential growth.
An Uzbek Take Over
It's hard to believe that only two Uzbek fighters have ever won world titles, Artur Grigorian and Ruslan Chagaev. This coming year I'm expecting that to change and wouldn't be massively surprised to see that number double in 2019, with the likes of the aforementioned Akhmadaliev along with Shakhram Giyasov, Elnur Abduraimov and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov all likely to be fighting for world titles by the end of the year. The Uzbek take over will be a hostile one, as the fighters look to put not only themselves on the boxing map, but also their country and we suspect the number of Uzbek amateurs turning professional will grow substantially in not only 2019, but also 2020. Uzbek fighters who miss out on the 2020 Olympics will likely jump at the chance to turn professional, and I expect them to do so with a lot of ambition to climbing the rankings as quickly as possible.
It's fair to say that the month of August was relatively quiet for Asian fight fans. It wasn't “silent” by any means, but it was certainly quiet with the boxing turning down down during the Olympic period. That silence however ends tomorrow and we move in to a very busy, exciting and active September.
With so much action during the month we've decided to try and mark off some key dates for the month with a 3-part article of the upcoming Asian bouts. This is the first of those three parts and briefly covers fights between September 1st and September 12th.
Jerwin Ancajas Vs McJoe Arroyo
The action kicks off on the first Saturday of the month as Filipino star Jerwin Ancajas (24-1-1, 16) takes on IBF Super Flyweight champion McJoe Arroyo (17-0, 8). The bout will be the first defense by the Puerto Rican fighter, who won the title last year with a technical decision win against Arthur Villanueva. On the other hand Ancajas will be riding an 11 fight stoppage run into what is his first world title bout.
Naoya Inoue Vs Petchbarngborn Kokietgym
Just a day after the IBF Super Flyweight title be we see the WBO version of the title being fought for as Naoya Inoue (10-0, 8) looks for his third defense of the title. The “Monster” will be battling against Thai veteran Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (38-7-1, 18) in what looks like a straight forward defense for the champion. Whilst Inoue will be strongly favoured the Thai isn't travelling to just pick up a pay cheque and will instead be looking for one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Takuma Inoue Vs Froilan Saludar
On the same show on September 4th we will have several other bouts of note, including a mouth watering test for youngster Takuma Inoue (7-0, 2), who takes on Froilan Saludar (23-1-1, 14). This is a genuinely tough test for Inoue, who goes up against a man many tipped a few years ago to win a world title. Saludar knows that a loss here could be the end of his career whilst Inoue knows a win will help open the door to a world title fight either later this year or early next year.
Koki Inoue vs Heri Andriyanto
A third Inoue in action on September 4th is Koki Inoue (4-0, 3) who takes a step up in class as he faces Indonesian veteran Heri Andriyanto (22-22-2, 10) in an 8 round bout. The talented and exciting Inoue hasn't set the world on fire yet but has shown real potential and a win here against Andriyanto may be able to push him towards a domestic title fight. For the visitor the bout is likely to be painful but he's certainly proven his toughness in the past.
Satoshi Shimizu vs In Kyoo Lee
Still staying on that September 4th 4th card we'll finally see the professional debut of Satoshi Shimizu (0-0) who goes up against Korean visitor In Kyoo Lee (3-2, 1). The Japanese debutant is 30 years old and is expected to be fast tracked to the top so will almost certainly be looking to look fantastic here. But Lee is no push over and won't be travelling to just fall over in front of the 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner.
Keita Obara Vs Eduard Troyanovsky
One of the most interesting bouts this month takes place in Russia and sees Japanese puncher Keita Obara (16-1-1, 15) battle against IBF Light Welterweight champion Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0, 21). The bout hasn't got much attention but looks almost certain to be a war between two massive punchers each looking to score a career defining win. We don't see this one going the distance but it will be fire works from start to end and should be a bit of a hidden gem.
Kenichi Ogawa vs Kento Matsushita
The month really steps up on September 10th, a day where an avid fan gets the chance to watch hours, and hours, of fights. The first of the many title bouts featuring Asian fighters takes place in Japan and sees Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (18-1, 15) defending his title against veteran Kento Matsushita (34-9-7, 13). The bout should be a straight forward defense for the champion but he did look poor last time out before stopping Satoru Sugita.
Johnriel Casimero vs Charlie Edwards
The first of a number of world title fights involving an Asian fighter will see Filipino fighter Johnriel Casimero (22-3, 14) defending his IBF Flyweight title against unbeaten British novice Charlie Edwards (8-0, 3) in London. On paper this looks like an opportunity that has come too for Edwards however it's good to see Western fighters on the fast track and testing themselves against world class fighters like Casimero rather than padding their records.
Gennady Golovkin vs Kell Brook
Staying in London we'll also see a battle of unbeaten men trading blows for the Middleweight crown, as well as the WBC, IBF and IBO titles. The bout in question will see Kazakh star Gennady Golovkin (35-0, 32) taking on British fighter, and IBF Welterweight champion, Kell Brook (36-0, 25). Golovkin will be heavily favoured though some have suggested that this could be Golovkin's hardest bout so far and it could well open real doors in the UK for “GGG”.
Jesus Soto Karass vs Yoshihiro Kamegai II
Potentially the Fight of the Month is rematch as Japan's popular Yoshihiro Kamegai (26-3-2, 23) battles against Jesus Soto Karass (28-10-4, 18). These two men faced off in an all out war earlier this year and we're expecting something similar here with the two men both having styles which will always be fun to watch. Kamegai seemed to do enough to claim a win in their first bout, but the judges disagree and we'd not be shocked to see both putting it all out there for the win here.
Carlos Cuadras vs Roman Gonzalez
In a rare all-Teiken bout we'll see WBC Super Flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras (35-0-1, 27) defending his belt against pound-for-pound sensation Roman Gonzalez (45-0, 38). For Caudras the bout is great chance to legitimise his world title reign, which has been disappointing so far, whilst Gonzalez will be looking to become a 4-weight world champion. The bout is a rare title bout between unbeaten fighters and we can't help but be excited by this one.
Genesis Servania vs Alexander Espinoza
Action continues through Japan for much of the much and on September 11th fans in Ishikawa will get the chance to see world ranked Filipino Genesis Servania (27-0, 11) take on the heavy handed Alexander Espinoza (11-7, 10). Servania has had a frustrating career recently with inactivity, fighting only twice last year and not fighting this year, but will have to be careful here against a big punching Venezuelan who has gone the world distance with two former world champions.
Given the activity during the month part will be posted in the upcoming days and feature bouts from the 12th of September and onwards, including several world title bouts, the first of the WBO Asia Pacific title bouts to be held in Japan and a lot more!
Over the next 12 months we're expecting to see a lot of changes in the world of professional boxing. As a result we have put together a list of 30 Asian fighters to keep an eye out for 2016. These range from champions to novices but all are expected to make a mark on the sport over the next 12 months. Here is part 2 which looks at 5 young novices who have impressed in 2015 and look likely to do the same over the next year.
For those who missed them the previous parts are available below-
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
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.
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 fair to say that 2013 has been a great year for both ourselves and for boxing. Sure for us it's been our first year as a site, for boxing though it's been an excellent year with a number of brilliant fights almost on a weekly basis, plenty of controversies, a handful of upsets and some great KO's. In all honesty it's been on of the best years that we can remember with everything a boxing fan could dream about.
With that in mind we've decided to celebrate 2014 with our first ever “Annual Awards”. This award system will be our way of recognising the key fights, fighters and performances of the year. Of course, with this site being “Asian Boxing” we have tried to keep things to fights in Asia for the most part.
Fighter of the Year
Kazakhstan's Middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin has possibly been the stand out fighter this year despite stiff competition from a number of fighters. Any year where a world champion defends his world title 4 times is impressive, even more when he stops all 4 men and never looks in any trouble. Not only did Golovkin defeat Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens but he also did it without losing more than a round or 2 between those 4 fights.
Sure the opponents weren't great for Golovkin but the WBA Middleweight champion is quickly proving to be an avoided fighter and with good reason. He's taking out the B grade Middleweights whilst the top guys seem happy to avoid a clash with him. If he continues to take out all willing challengers in 2014 he may well be forced to go to Super Middleweight just to look for willing dance partners.
Notable mention (1)
One man who has arguably impressed everyone this year has been Takashi Miura who has had a career defining year no matter what happens in 2014. He began the year by becoming the WBC Super Featherweight champion courtesy of a demanding victory over Gamaliel Diaz and since then has gone from strength to strength. In his first defense he went to Mexico and won a thriller with Sergio Thompson then ended the year by dominating Dante Jardon in what we expected to be a tough bout. Not only has Miura had a year to remember but he's also become the new Mexecutioner.
Notable mention (2)
After losing to Kazuto Ioka in a Minimumweight title unification bout in 2012 some may have expected to see Akira Yaegashi slowly fade away. Instead Yaegashi has had a 2013 to remembered and a year to genuinely celebrate. He jumped from Minimumweight to Flyweight and despite struggling with Thailand's Saenmuangloei Kokietgym in his first fight at the weight Yaegashi would end the year as the WBC and Linear champion. Yaegashi's year saw him scoring 4 wins including really notable ones over Toshiyuki Igarashi and Edgar Sosa and a very credible one over Oscar Blanquet.
Prospect of the Year
There was little doubt who'd be getting this award this year because Naoya Inoue was the one stand out candidate. The 20 year old from Kanagawa scored 4 wins this year and showed everything a fighter had to show. He destroyed Thailand's Ngaoprajan Chuwatana, boxed the socks off Yuki Sano, beat up the brave Ryoichi Taguchi and then dismantled Jerson Mancio. In the process of those 4 victories Inoue became the Japanese and OPBF champion whilst also becoming world ranked and viewed as one of the worlds fastest rising stars.
Although the 18 year old Kosei Tanaka only made his debut this year he's already looking like a fighter heading to the top. Tanaka took on the well regarded Oscar Raknafa on debut and made a statement dropping Raknafa en route to a comfortable 6 round decision. His year wasn't as impressive as Inoue's but his performance showed the hall marks of a young fighter going a very way in the sport. Don't be shocked if this youngster is mentioned as the stand out prospect at the end of 2014.
Female Fighter of the Year
This was one the easier categories with Japanese Super Flyweight Naoko Fujioka having a year to really remember. She may have only fought twice this year but her win over Naoko Yamaguchi for the WBC female Super Flyweight title was the stand out performance of any Asian female this year. The former Minimumweight champion appears to be like a fine wine and despite being 38 years old she is still improving as shown as she defeated Yamaguchi and proved to be our female fighter of the year.
Korean boxing might not be riding a crest of a wave but they do have a shining light in the form of WBO Minimumweight champion Su-Yun Hong who defended her title twice this year. He first defense, over Buangern OnesongchaiGym, may not have been anything great but the fact that she then followed that up with a victory over Mari Ando left us with no doubt that Hong deserved a mention on here. What made her victory over Ando so impressive is that Ando herself went up and finished the year a world champion herself.
Performance of the Year
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (v Yota Sato)
Back at the start of May we expected Yota Sato, the then WBC Super Flyweight champion, to travel over to Thailand and defeat Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a man who we admittedly knew little about at the time. Instead of Sato defending his belt and creating history we instead saw Srisaket have the break out performance of the year and stamp his name on the sport with one of the most notable and outstanding performances of the year.
Notable mention (1)
Koki Eto (v Pornsawan Porpramook)
Japan's Koki Eto may be little known outside of Japan and Thailand and might never again make a statement on the world stage but his memorable battle with Pornsawan Porpramook was one of those great performances and the type of thing that will live on. Eto went in to the bout with everything against him. No Japanese national had won a world title bout in Thailand, he was facing an experienced and well known world level fighter and the crowd were certainly behind Porpramook. Despite the deck being stacked against him Eto managed to upset Porpramook with a stirring performance.
Notable mention (2)
Takashi Miura (v Sergio Thompson)
Japan's Takashi Miura travelled around the planet to make the first defense of his WBC Super Featherweight title and take on mandatory challenger Sergio Thompson. Miura was the under-dog and the partisan crowd were clearly behind Thompson though they didn't prevent Miura from putting on a performance to remember as he and Thompson traded leather with reckless abandon. The fight wasn't Miura's first world title fight but was the fight that put him on the map as a real champion and a fighter who wasn't to be taken lighting.
Revelation of the Year
(The fighter than came out of nowhere to become a top tier fighter in 2013)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
To start 2013 Srisaket Sor Rungvisai was an unknown fighter with a record of 16-3-1 (15). The only notable things about him were his early career losses to Akira Yaegashi and Kenji Oba. In 2013 however Srisaket went 7-0 (6) won the WBC Super Flyweight title dominating Yota Sato and made a defense of that title stopping Hirofumi Mukai.
The American based “Siberian Rocky” Ruslan Provodnikov was viewed by many as a second tier fighter, an “ESPN fighter” if you will. This year though we saw Provodnikov proving that he was a world level warrior as he put on 2 fight of the year candidates. Although he came up short, narrowly, against Timothy Bradley his performance against Mike Alvarado solidified him as one of the revelations of 2013.
KO of the Year
Takashi Uchiyama (v Jaider Parra)
We all know that Takashi Uchiyama is one of the hardest punchers pound-for-pound on the planet though earlier this year we saw just how hard he hits as be destroyed the mid-section of Venezuelan challenger Jaider Parra with a single thunderous body shot. The shot may be forgotten by many but for us it was one of the best body shots in recent memory, destructive.
Notable mention (1)
Gennady Golovkin (v Nobuhiro Ishida)
Like Uchiyama we all know that Gennady Golovkin is a major puncher and he showed it with 4 stoppages this year including 2 KO of the Year candidates. Of those 2 KO's we've gone with his single right hand KO of Japan's Nobuhiro Ishida, a shot that was vicious, concussive and spiteful. We're not sure what was more striking, the shot or the way Ishida went down with half of his body lying out of the ring. It was devastation of the highest order.
Notable mention (2)
Ryo Miyazaki (v Carlos Velarde)
Although Ryo Miyazaki may have ended the year with an unexpected loss to Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr one thing that no one can take away from him was his KO of the year contender against Carlos Velarde. This KO, which came way back in May, was probably the best 2-punch combination Miyazaki has ever landed and was simply a perfect combination that sent Velarde crumbling instantly to the canvas. It genuinely was a beautiful highlight to Miyazaki's first world title defense.
Fight of the Year
Takashi Miura v Sergio Thompson
This was by far the hardest category out there though we've gone with Miura v Thompson as the winner. This war, fought in Mexico was nothing short of breath taking with both men being sent down, both men being hurt, both men unloading and both men needing to dig deep. Neither man looked likely to survive the distance and neither man looked likely to be the same fighter ever again. This was one of those wars that will live on with all those that saw it and will grow and grow as the men themselves become more famous.
Notable mention (1)
Ruslan Provodnikov v Timothy Bradley
When we talk about Fight of the Year we think of bouts with momentum shifts, styles that contrast well and a mix of the action. That's exactly what we got when Provodnikov put his name on the boxing map with his performance against Timothy Bradley. Of course Bradley played his part as had to battle through a serious shellacking and showed off the classy boxing we know he has in his arsenal. The bout had it all and best of all seemed to cause the birth of a new boxing star in Provodnikov.
Notable mention (2)
Koki Eto v Pornsawan Porpramook
Japanese youngster Koki Eto was a relative unknown to the world stage until he travelled to Thailand and put on a real show with Thai tank Pornsawan Porpramook. The both saw both men going to war in a real battle of attrition that eventually saw Pornsawan dropped to the canvas in round 12. It turned out that it was the knockdown that sealed the deal for Eto and won him the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. Unfortunately Eto would lose the title in his first defense showing that the bout had taken it's toll on him.
Notable mention (3)
Kohei Kono v Liborio Solis
We said it was a tough category and the fact that Kohei Kono's war with Liborio Solis is all the way down in the 3rd notable position says it all. This fight could well have been our fight of the year in previous years as both men went to war, both men gave it their all and both men got knocked down in a bout that saw Solis unifying the WBA and WBA “interim” Super Flyweight titles.
Comeback of the Year
When a fighter goes 1-3-0-1 in their previous fights you tend to feel their career is on the wane and that it's time to think about retirement. For Katsunari Takayama however 2013 has been his year as he's scored 2 wins and put himself back on the map. Not only did he claim a world title, the IBF Minimumweight belt, with a memorable performance against Mario Rodriguez in Mexico but he then returned to Japan to win his first fight in the country since 2009. Takayama, aged 30, looks to be a man who has turned his career around this year and now looks like a very difficult man to beat.
Before we close out our awards we want to say thank you to all the fighters, promoters, organisations and everyone else that has made our sport so great over the last 12 months. It's been an honour to watch these warriors in action.
One more thing before we end this, we'd also like to say, from the entire team, thank you to...you. Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting the site and thank you for supporting boxing, the greatest sport in the world. Hopefully 2014 will be an even better year with more great fights, more amazing KO's and more of the action that has made us all love this fantastic sport.
Earlier this year Fuji TV ran a show featuring Naoya Inoue and dubbed it "Exciting Time". The show, which featured not only Inoue but also the public exhibition of Ryota Murata, really did suggest that we were at the beginning of a very exciting time in Japanese boxing.
When you recall that actual card, on April 16th this year, you'll also remember that it saw the 7th straight stoppage victory for the highly touted Ryo Matsumoto further adding to the idea of "Exciting Time".
Since then however things have just become a little more exciting, in fact we'd go as far as to suggest Japanese boxing is on the verge of a Golden Age thanks to all the young talent coming through. There are so many good youngsters that we felt the need to talk about them, though unfortunately we're bound to over-look some just due to how many there are right now.
The most obvious of the promising Japanese youngsters is clearly Naoya Inoue (4-0, 3). The youngster has already claimed the Japanese national title and will be looking to add the OPBF title next time out as he takes on Jerson Mancio of the Philippines.
Whilst there is still a lot development to be done with Inoue, who's been fast tracked so far, there is so much to like about the kid that it's easy to see why so many are excited about him. He has wonderful shot selection, great movement, very hurtful power and one of the best boxing brains of any youngster in the sport. In fact it's fair to say that he's just a flat out natural in the ring and there is no doubt that he'll be a world champion sooner rather than later.
Whilst we all know about the talent of Naoya Inoue it's also worth noting that his 17 year old brother has just turned professional himself.
Takuma Inoue (0-0) has followed in his brother's footsteps by signing up with the Ohashi stable of fighters and although he's yet to fight as a professional there is a lot of expectation surrounding him. In fact the rumour is that Takuma will be trying to claim a Japanese national title in just 3 fights, beating his older brother by a fight.
Takuma Inoue is expected to make his professional debut on December 6th on the same show as Naoya attempts to claim the OPBF title and we'd be very shocked if he was given an easy opponent looking at how Naoya has done so far.
Whilst the Inoue brothers are youngsters with as much time as they want to build a career it's fair to say that Ryota Murata (1-0, 1) has a bit less time to reach his potential.
Aged 27 Murata has huge expectation on his shoulders though has the talent to go as far in the sport as he wishes. In fact in the case if Murata it's not just talent but the personality, the looks and the natural charisma to be a genuine star in either the west or the east.
Murata is a former amateur standout who claimed both an Olympic Gold and World Amateur Champion silver and that appears to have served him well. He made his professional debut back in August and dominated OPBF champion Akio Shibata and looked like he was made.
Incidentally Murata will also return on December 6th on the same show as the two Inoue brothers.
It's easy to fall in love with a puncher and we hope that's not what we're doing here but Masayoshi Nakatani (6-0, 5) looks like a monster.
Stood at 5'11" the Ioka trained Nakatani is a Lightweight with serious power, lovely body punches and a great jab, when he uses it. Although still fairly raw he looks like someone who has the potential to be very special.
Nakatani came to our attention earlier this year when he stopped fellow puncher Shuhei Tsuchiya in 3 rounds and we'll admit we're very excited about his future, which will hopefully see him fighting for either a Japanese of OPBF title in the next 12 months.
It's not just the debut of Takuma Inoue that is getting Japanese boxing fans excited but also the debut of Kosei Tanaka (0-0) who debuts on November 10th against the world ranked Oscar Raknafa of Indonesia.
Tanaka is just 18 but is seen as one of the future stars of Japanese boxing thanks to his excellent amateur career which saw him picking up 4 High School titles before turning to the professional ranks.
Tanaka is viewed as a "super prospect" like Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka before him and on the showing of his test bout against Yuji Shimizu there really is no limit to what this youngster could produce in the ring.
As well as the five names mentioned above we'd also advise keeping an eye on the following fighters:
Sho Ishida (14-0, 7) is a Super Flyweight who at just 21 is starting to make a name for himself. Although more experienced than the names above he is still young and has already started to move up in terms of the quality of his opponents. We'd like to see him take another step up but he certainly doesn't need rushing at his age.
Shohei Omori (9-0, 5) is a southpaw currently campaigning in the Bantamweight division. Aged 20 he's slowly making a name for himself and really made an impact last time out stopping Kiron Omura in 92 seconds in by far his most notable victory to date. Stood at 5'8" he certainly could fill out in to a solid looking Featherweight at full maturity and is looking likely to move up the domestic Bantamweight rankings in the near future.
Hiroki Okada (6-0, 6) is another puncher much like Nakatani though one not likely to go as far as the Lightweight hopeful. Stood at 5'9 Okada is a sightly shorter than average Light Welterweight though he really impressed us by stopping Heri Andriyanto in 2 rounds earlier this year. Although it was the fifth stoppage of Andriyanto it's worth noting he had taken both Shuhei Tsuchiya and Yoshihiro Kamegai the distance in his two previous bouts in Japan.
Ryo Matsumoto (8-0, 7) is another Bantamweight prospect who is worth keeping a close eye on. The Ohashi fighter is 19 years old though already showing his man strength with a quick victory over the likes of John Bajawa. As well as his power he has also shown the ability to pace himself as he did out pointing Takuya Miyamori over 8 rounds last time out. Being in the Ohashi gym will see him maturing quickly and the rub of fellow stablemate will help him develop into a very good young fighter
With the likes of the fighters we've mentioned here, and of course the top youngsters who are already established like Kazuto Ioka and Tomoki Kameda, it really is a very exciting time for Japanese boxing. The next decade or so could give us a truly golden age in Japanese boxing.
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).