One of the world champions who defended their world title at the very end of 2019 was WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9). The man from Chukyo made his third defense of the title in impressive fashion, putting on a near punch perfect display against Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi, before clinically closing the showing with some sensational uppercuts.
With 3 defenses behind him and a potentially massive 2020 ahead of him it seems we're now at an ideal time to give Kosei Tanaka the "Five For" treatment, and look at five potential match ups for the "KO Dream Boy". Here are 5 options he, and manager Kiyoshi Hatanaka, should be looking at if they want to have a huge year!
1-Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26)
A bout between Tanaka and South African Moruti Mthalane would be a sensational match up between two men who are incredibly talented and smart in the ring, but go about things very differently. Mthalane, the current IBF champion, is a defensively sound fighter, with clean punches and a willingness to press forward behind a tight guard to force mistakes and open up counter opportunities. Tanaka on the other hand is a speedy fighter who likes to let his hands go, and will involve himself in a war far too easily. This could end up being a brilliantly exciting, yet high skill, war, though with Mthalane now in his late 30's we'd want this sooner rather than later.
2-Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
Leading into the end of year show to close out 2019 it seemed TBS and the WBO were both building to a potential all Japanese show down between Tanaka and WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka. The bout would see Tanaka leaving the Flyweight division, just as it seems to be heating up, but for a bout against a Japanese icon like Ioka, with a 4th divisional title on the line it'd have been hard to fault Tanaka for going this route. Sadly since the show on New Year's Eve this bout has began to seem unlikely, at least for now. It seems both are on different paths, and if they do cross, it could well be 2 or 3 years from now.
3-Julio Cesar Martinez (15-1, 12)
Although it seems WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez won't be available until the middle of the year, given he's pencilled into defend his title in late February, this is still a match up that genuinely intrigues us. On one hand you'd have Tanaka, a lightning quick boxer-puncher, blessed blink and you miss it speed. On the other hand you have "El Rey", a destructive freak of nature, who walks through opponents, with intense pressure and brutal power. Speed against power is always fun to see, and we can't help but view this as a super competitive bout between men with very different abilities, but abilities that would gel well. Oh and it'd be a unification bout!
4-Artem Dalakian (19-0, 14)
Another unification bout, and another we'd have to wait until summer for, would be a clash between Tanaka and WBA champion Artem Dalakian. Tanaka might not yet have truly shined as a Flyweight, though has beaten decent competition in his defenses, but Dalakian has completely wasted the good will of his title win. Despite being an excellent fighter Dalakian has done little of note since winning the belt in the US against Brian Viloria. Dalakian set to make his 4th defense in February, against Josber Perez, and that should be his final easy bout. With Dalakian turning 33 in August he needs big bouts, and he needs them soon, what better than facing Tanaka, in a unification bout in summer?
5-Sho Kimura (18-3-2, 11) II
The dark horse bout, though it really shouldn't be, would see Tanaka take on former foe Sho Kimura in a rematch of their 2018 Fight of the Year. Their first bout was a sensational war that helped put Tanaka on the map, and for him to give Kimura a chance to reclaim his title would be the right thing to do. If we ended up with a rematch half as good as their first contest then we wouldn't be complaining at all! We do imagine Tanaka would win a rematch easier than he won their first bout, but we'd still absolutely love to see these two share the ring one more time!
With our recent facts articles all focusing on single fighters we've decided to do one with a twice this weekend as we look at Asian fighters who won a world title but failed to win their professional debuts! We were surprised to find so many of these, but there was actually quite a few, in fact there was more than 25 world champions from Asia who either lost on debut, or drew on debut. Many of these aren't big names, but on the whole they all deserve a lot more attention than they get
1-Whilst we found lots of champions who have debuted in 6 rounders and even a few who debuted in bouts scheduled for 8, such as Naoya Inoue very recently. It is rare, so rare in fact that we could only find two world champions from Asia who debuted in an 8 rounder and lost, before winning a world title. The first of those was Frank Cedeno, the British Filipino fighter who beat Charlie Magri in Wembley for the WBC Flyweight title in 1983, we'll get on to the second later in this article!
2-Korea's second ever world champion Soo Hwan Hong, who is also the first Korean to win titles in more than 1 weight class, draw on his debut to the debuting Sang Il Kim. Coincidentally his career also ended on a draw, as he fought to a stalemate with fellow former world champion Dong Kyun Yum, in what was Hong's 51st bout. That was also Yum's final bout. Incidentally Sang Il Kim's record is 0-1-1.
3-Former WBA Super Flyweight champion Hyung Chul Lee lost 3 of his first 4 bouts, including his debut. Strangely his career ended going full circle and he would also lose his final 2 bouts, both against Alimi Goitia, with only 1 loss in the middle of his career. He would end up with a career record of 19-6 (15)
4-China's first ever male world champion, Xiong Zhao Zhong, fought to a draw on debut. Aged 23 at the time Zhong fought to a 4 round draw with Lingfeng Yu. Yu ended his career 0-6-1, and his only non-loss was the bout to Zhong!
5-Another world champion who fought to a draw on debut was Kwanthai Sithmorseng, who fought to a draw with Nakhon Muensa in June 2005. Kwanthai last fought in June 2019, and despite a draw on his debut he had now gone 56 straight fights without another draw, going 49-7 since that debut draw.
6-Our research suggests that Sho Kimura is the only Asian world champion to have been knocked out on debut! Even more surprising is the fact that Kimura has since built a reputation on being an incredibly tough competitor with a great gas tank. Not the type of fighter you'd think was blown away in 75 seconds on debut!
7-Filipino fighter Manny Melchor retired with a record of 38-35-6 (6), following a loss on his debut. This record makes the former IBF Minimumweight champion one of the very few world champions with a sub 50% winning record.
8-Staying with Manny Melchor, he won just 1 of his first 9 bouts! Starting his career 1-6-2. Things actually took a long time to get better for the Filipino who was 8-8-2 (2) after 18 bouts and didn't have more wins than losses until his 27th bout, when he beat Angelo Escobar to advance his record to 13-12-2 (4)
9-Incidentally the man that Melchor beat for the IBF Minimumweight title, Fahlan Sakkreerin Snr also lost on his debut, losing an 8 round decision, to Chana Porpaoin, who was fighting for just the second time. What makes this bout rather remarkable is that BOTH men would go on to win world titles! Porpaoin would would be a 2-time WBA Minimumweight champion whilst Sahlan would be an IBF Minimumweight champion. Yes, Fahlan was the second of the fighters to lose in an 8 rounder on debut, though of course the more notable fact here was who he lost to!
10-Korean fighter Sung Jun Kim strangely began his career 0-1-1, with his debut being a loss and then his second being a draw, both to the same opponent, In Soo Lim. As with some of the other opponents mentioned these were Lim's only bouts Kim also had a loss and a draw, later in his career, to Hong Soo Yang, and ended his career in 1982 with a loss, book ending his career with losses.
In 2017 Japanese fighter Sho Kimura travelled to China and dethroned local hero Zou Shiming to claim the WBO world title. Many know that was the first time a Japanese male had won a world title in China, and he went on to become a genuine star in Chinese boxing circles. He would lose the title less than 14 months later, in an instant classic with Kosei Tanaka, in what was regarded by many as the 2018 Fight of the Year.
Whilst a lot is known about Kimura, we now bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about...Sho Kimura
1-Following Kimura's win over Shiming he was referred to in some circles as the Heisei Cinderella man, referring to the Japanese Heisei era and his journey to a world title, which was unexpected and saw him essentially coming from nowhere to win major title.
2-Kimura's first stoppage win came in his 10th professional bout against Kamon Singram, who had a record of 0-24 with 12 stoppages losses before facing Kimura. Following this win Kimura scored 10 stoppages in his 11 subsequent wins!
3-Kimura's entrance song is “Forever Young” by Japanese folk singer Takehara Pistol, the full version of this song has been included at the bottom of this article.
4-Prior to winning the WBO Flyweight world title he had worked in a liquor store, a job he began doing in 2016
5-Although known as a tough and rugged fighter Kimura was dropped twice on his debut, a 75 second loss to Shosuke Oji.
6-Kimura's September 2014 draw against Akira Kokubo saw him being eliminated from the Rookie of the Year due to the rules of the Rookie of the Year. Incidentally this was Kokubo's third straight draw before he suffered 4 straight defeats.
7-When he won the world title in 2018 he became the first male world champion for the Aoki gym, which had been founded in 1945. Prior to Kimura's success the most notable fighter at the gym was female fighter Momo Koseki, who holds the record for the most world title defenses by a Japanese world champion.
8-Kimura's mother died when she was 44 and he was 20. After winning the WBO Asia Pacific and WBO world titles he took them to his mother's grave.
9-Whilst we all know Kimura's career defining win is his victory in China against Zou Shiming, what's fairly forgotten is that entering that bout he was a total unknown and you could get odds of 9/1 on Kimura beating Shiming!
10-Kimura won his first professional title, the WBO Asia Pacific title 1 day before his 28th birthday. Coincidentally his third professional bout came on his 25th birthday.
BONUS FACT-In beating Zou Shiming and Toshiyuki Igarashi, in back to back fights no less, Kimura actually beat 2 men who competed in the Light Flyweight division at the 2004 Athens Olympics!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
One year ago we were lucky enough to work with CBC for the first time. We agreed terms to carry the official stream of their international broadcast for the WBO Flyweight world title bout between Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10 at the time) and Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7 at the time).
Entering the bout Kimura was looking to make his third defense of the title, building on not only his title win against Zou Shiming but also wins against Toshiyuki Igarashi and Froilan Saludar. He was looking to continue his remarkable ascent from obscurity to star and build on real momentum that had been generated by his 3 wins at world level.
Tanaka on the other hand was looking to etch his place in history and match the record for fewest fights needed to become a 3 weight world champion, a record of 12 fights set just months early by Vasyl Lomachenko. He was looking to become a 3 weight champion at the age of just 23 and less than 5 years after making his debut.
We had high hopes for the bout. Kimura had been wonderfully impressive in recent bouts, not just his world level wins but also his win against Masahiro Sakamoto. He had shown real grit and determination,a great work rate, under-rated power and amazing energy. In fact he seemed to get stronger the longer fights went on. Tanaka on the other hand was an extremely skilled boxer, who got dragged into fights willingly, he had a reputation for getting into wars and had been dropped dropped twice just 2 fights previous by Palangpol CP Freshmart. Despite being skilled their was a sense of vulnerability about Tanaka that could have been his down fall here.
What we ended up getting was something exceeded expectations. It wasn't just a great fight, instead it was a bout that was widely hailed FOTY contender. A back and forth war that left fans on their seat, they styles of the two men gelling, the mentality of the two battling at the top. The fight was the sort of battle that makes people realise just how good fights with the little men can be.
On this anniversary of the bout we suggest you all relive this instant classic!
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).