The month of May promised a lot for Japanese fighters, with a staggering 8 world title fights featuring Japanese fighters during the first month of the new Reiwa period of Japanese history. Sadly what could have been a huge month for Japanese fighters was a nightmare, with their fighters going 1-7 for the month at the top level. Whilst history was made in Europe, Japanese fighters suffered losses on Japanese, Chinese and American soil, and some defeats were horribly one sided.
The first of the Japanese fighters to fall short was Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22) who was stopped in the 7th round by Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) on May 4th, in an IBF Super Flyweight title bout. Ancajas was a big under-dog, but his performance saw him being totally out classed, and used as a punch bag by Ancajas, who had one of his best performances. Whilst Fuani showed his toughness his lack of defense, speed and movement really cost him hard here and allowed Ancajas one of his best performances so far.
Just over a week later, on May 13th, we saw Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) put up a brave effort as he lost to Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25), in an IBF Flyweight title bout. To credit Kuroda he was always seen as the under-dog and was really competitive in the first half, though ended the bout as the clear loser, suffering awful facial swelling in the process. Kuroda's effort deserves so many plaudits, but at the end of the day Mthalane was too good, too sharp and too skilled.
The third man to lose again put up a brave effort, with Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7) coming up short in an IBF Light Flyweight title fight with Felix Alvarado (35-2, 30) on May 19th. Again the Japanese challenger put up a great effort, and was competitive at times, but was unable to match the champion overall, and was rocked hard late on as Alvarado came close to dropping the Shinsei man. All credit to Konishi for his effort, but he was clearly second best here to the excellent champion
The weekend of May 25th and 26th was a nightmare for Japanese fighters, a real nightmare, with a 0-3 run over the weekend. The first of those to lose was Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13), who lost the WBO Super Featherweight title to Jamel Herring (20-2, 10), in what was regarded as a 50-50 bout. Herring really boxed to a fantastic gameplan to out point Ito, who failed to ever get a read on the southpaw stance of Herring.
Just a day later we saw back to back losses for Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) and Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11).
Kubo put in a fan friendly performance, though was stopped by Chinese fighter Can Xu (17-2, 3) in a WBA "regular" Featherweight title fight. Kubo came to win, and gave a good account of himself, but was worn down by Xu, who made his first defense.
Kimura on the other hand was lacklustre, and very disappointed in himself, as he lost to WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales (22-0-1, 17). Kimura, who dropped down in weight, looked like he had lost 25% of his usual hunger, desire and energy and was rarely a threat to Canizales.
The final set back came on May 31st when former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-7-6, 7) lost a technical decision to WBC champion Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18). This rematch was expected to be hotly contested, but Fukuhara was just doing enough to lose competitive rounds to Wanheng, who extended his unbeaten record.
The only shining light for Japanese boxing at the world level this past month was the sensational Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16), who created history in Glasgow by stopping Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1,12) in 2 rounds to add the IBF Bantamweight title to his WBA regular belt. This bout, on May 18th, saw a Japanese fighter win a world title bout on European soil for the first time, after 20 losses, and proved to be their only success at world level this past May.
Whilst many of those who lost were clear under-dogs, such as Funai, Mthalane and Kubo, others weren't. Kimura was the betting favourite and Ito was a 50-50 shot. To see such a band month is a real worry and one that will linger in the mind of Japanese fans for the foreseeable future, as all the countries other top fighters, several of which have big fights in June and July.
Whilst the month promised a lot, it was a disaster for Japanese fighters, and hopefully not a sign that the Reiwa era will be a bad one for the Land of the Rising Sun.
The action for November continues over the coming week or saw with 7 title bouts in the space of just 4 days, and whilst some of the bouts aren't great they do tend to feature at least one fighter of real note in every one of the bouts.
Of those 7 title bouts 5 come on November 23rd's show in Osaka, with the title number selling the show as being something special, though the reality is that the show just simply has some well matched, or interesting looking fights on it.
Dwight Ritchie (14-0-0-4, 1) v Koki Tyson (10-2-2, 10)
One of those title bouts will see the unbeaten Dwight Ritchie defending his OPBF Middleweight title against Japanese puncher Koki Tyson, with Ritchie looking for this first defense of the belt and Tyson looking to become an OPBF champion at the second time of asking. Ritchie impressed in Japan earlier this year, when he ripped the title form Hikaru Nishida but will be facing a totally different stylistic match up here against the crude but heavy handed Tyson, who has shown fragility but can certainly bang.
Takayuki Hosokawa (28-10-5, 9) v Yutaka Oishi (13-5, 7)
The other OPBF title bout on the card will see OPF Light Middleweight champion Takayuki Hosokawa defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Yutaka Oishi. For Hosokawa the bout will be his second defense of the title and see him trying to put a very poor performance against Koshinmaru Saito behind him, with many feeling that Hosokawa was lucky to get the draw in that bout. For Oishi the bout is his first for an OPBF title, though he has previously fought for a regional title in Australia, and he could genuinely play a spoiler to Hosokawa's hopes of fighting for a world title in the future.
Hinata Maruta (3-0, 2) v Joe Tejones (6-1, 2)
In a WBC Youth title fight we'll see fast rising Japanese prospect Hinata Maruta take on Filipino southpaw Joe Tejones. For Maruta this will be his first title defense, and he will be looking to build on an excellent win over Wilbert Berondo. The bout will however be Maruta's first against a southpaw and the focus will be on getting some rounds against a lefty. For Tejones the the opportunity is a big one, but it's hard to imagine him living with a fighter as naturally talented as Maruta and it is the visitor taking a huge step up in class.
Hirofumi Mukai (12-4-3, 2) Vs Inthanon Sithchamuang (30-8-1, 18)
In a WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title fight we'll former world title challengers collide as Hirofumi Mukai, a former 2-time world title challenger, faces Inthanon Sithchamuang in a really intriguing type of match up. Mukai is probably one of the least qualified 2-time world title challengers of recent times, having faced Pongsaklek Wonjojngkam and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, but is still talented and is a nice pure boxer. Inthanon challenged Kohei Kono earlier this year in a gutsy, but out gunned, performance and given the limitations of the two men this should prove to be a really interesting bout.
Masahiro Sakamoto (8-0, 4) v Sho Kimura (12-1-2, 6)
A second WBO Asia Pacific title bout comes at Flyweight where the unbeaten Masahiro Sakamoto takes on the once beaten Sho Kimura in a wonderfully well matched bout that should test the ability of both men and their potentials. Sakamoto is stepping up in a big way here but was impressive last time out, taking a wide win over Il Che, and was the 2015 Flyweight Rookie of the Year. Kimura hasn't really scored a win of any note, but does come in to this bout on a 14 fight unbeaten run following a knockout loss on debut.
Milan Melindo (34-2, 12) Vs Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (31-4-1, 16)
On December 30th we'll see IBF Light Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi return to the ring, his supposed opponent will be either Milan Melindo or Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, who face off just 5 weeks earlier for the interim title. This bout will see Melindo getting a third shot at a “world title” and his first t home having had to travel to Macau and Mexico for his previous bit bouts. For Fahlan the bout is his second shot at a world title, after his controversial loss to Katsunari Takayama, and a win could see him return to Japan for another big bout, following bouts with Takuma Inoue, Ryo Miyazaki and the aforementioned Takayama. This bout will be a fun one and we wouldn't be shocked by any result.
Muhammad Waseem (4-0, 3) v Giemel Magramo (17-0, 13)
To end the month our attention turns to Korea where fast rising Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem takes on the unbeaten Giemel Magramo. Waseem, the most notable Pakistani born boxer since Hussain Shah, is looking to make his first defense of the WBC Silver Flyweight title and move towards a 2017 world title bout. For Magramo the bout is a huge step up and his first bout away from home, he's unbeaten but has never faced anyone with the pedigree or ability of Waseem, likewise Waseem has never faced anyone as hungry as Magramo.
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).