Over the last few years Japan has gained a reputation for ending the boxing year in style, with major shows in the final few days of the year. Typically those bouts get announced through November, as promoters officially announce the bouts and put their shows together along with major domestic television companies.
As we enter November we thought it would be fun to look at some of those rumours for the month, and some of the confirmed bouts, as well as those that have been mentioned as possible, and those on the verge of being officially announced.
We'll start by looking at what we know, with the confirmed notable bouts from the month.
December 1st is set to be a crazy day with several major shows.
In Tokyo we'll get a card televised by G+ which will be headlined by Valentine Hosokawa (23-6-3, 10) defending his Japanese Light Welterweight title against Takashi Inagaki (20-17-2, 9). The card will also feature a brilliant match up between Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) and Matcha Nakagawa (13-1-1, 5) as well as the ring return of former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (19-2-1, 7)
On the same day in Osaka we get two Shinsei Gym cards, featuring a combined 6 title bouts. The shows will be Real Spirits vol 60 and Real Spirits vol 61, with the first card featuring 4 female title bouts, including a WBO female Minimumweight title bout between Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) and Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) and an OPBF Atomweight title bout between Eri Matsuda (1-0) and Minayo Kei (6-3, 1).
The second card will see former world title challenger Reiya Konishi (16-1, 6) defending the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight title against Richard Rosales (13-7-2, 7) and a potentially thrilling contest between Masao Nakamura (24-3, 23) and Carlo Magali (23-10-3, 12) for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title.
December 3rd will give us a single big show, headlined by OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) and Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10), with a brilliant supporting bout between Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6) and Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16), which is one of the bouts we're most looking forward to!
On December 9th things get a bit crazy again. We will get a Japanese Welterweight title fight, as Ryota Yada (17-4, 14) defends his belt against Shusaku Fujinaka (16-9-2, 10), and a Japanese Super Flyweight title bout, with Takayuki Okumoto (21-8-3, 10) making his first defense against Masayoshi Hashizume (16-0-1, 10). These bouts have been officially announced and confirmed.
The same day we're set to see to see Shohei Omori (19-2, 14) taking on Takahiro Yamamoto (21-5, 17) and Sho Ishida (26-1, 15) taking on Warlito Parrenas (26-8-1, 23). These bouts haven't been formally announced, though teams from both have confirmed they are taking place, and will be at the EDION Arena Osaka. It's unclear if they will share the same card as the other bouts or if the EDION will host another double dose of boxing with two shows. There is also some speculation that if this is a second show there will be one more big bout to add to the card.
On December 13th we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (8-0, 6) defending his belt against Kazumasa Kobayashi (10-7-1, 6) at the Korakuen Hall and a week later we'll see Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-1, 8) and Akinori Watanabe (37-7, 31) fight to unify the Japanese Light Middleweight title.
The only other show of real significant that has been confirmed is the Japanese Rookie of the Year final on December 23rd. Nothing after Christmas, but before the start of 2019, has really been announced. But we have had a lot of rumours, speculation for December!
One bout that is supposed to be, finally, made is the long awaited IBF Light Middleweight world title eliminator between Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) and Julian Williams (25-1-1-1, 15), a bout that has seemingly been delayed, rescheduled and redelayed several times already this year. Fingers crossed this is actually made before the year is over, as it seems both fighters have wasted a lot of this year waiting for this bout to take place. Interestingly this could be the only bout to actually take place outside of Japan.
Another IBF eliminator which is rumoured to take place in December is a Super Bantamweight title eliminator between Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) and Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17). This bout is supposedly set to take place in Tokyo, though no date has been made public. If this is confirmed then we are in for a treat as these two, together, should be an amazing contest, with both being heavy handed and flawed. Fingers crossed we get this one announced shortly!
Staying on the subject of IBF title fights there has been speculation in Japan that Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) may get an unexpected shot at Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24). This rumour has come about after a scheduled eliminator with Kuroda and Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking fell through after the Thai suffered an injury. Kuroda's seemed to suggest this would be a long shot, but they are chasing the bout and it could, potentially, be on.
The first of the rumoured big cards to end the year is expected to be on December 30th and is expected to be the Fuji TV card. The strongest rumour for this show is a WBO Super Featherweight title defense for Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12), with the named linked to him being Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10). This bout is expected to be confirmed in the coming days, or at the very least Ito's part of it is, with Chuprakov perhaps not being the opponent. The same date is also pencilled in as a potential date for Kenshiro (14-0, 8) to make his next defense of the WBC Light Flyweight title, though no opponent has been linked to him.
The December 30th Fuji card has also been set as the potential date for a WBC Bantamweight title bout between Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) and Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3). This bout depends on another bout not taking place, as per an order at the WBC convention in early October, so we should see this bout being either confirmed or not very quickly. There is also a rumour that Takuma's stable mate at the Ohashi gym, Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) may also be involved on the same show.
If the rumours for December 30th are a bit of an exciting mess things get even crazier for New Year's Eve. For weeks we've been hearing that WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) would be defending his title against Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6). This was rumoured to be part of a triple header, which has changed a few times but new seems most likely to feature a rematch between Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) and Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10), with Taguchi looking to reclaim the WBA Light Flyweight title from the South African. Along with that rematch is rumoured WBO Light Flyweight title bout between Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) and Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8). If this triple header is done, then TBS would be expected to show at least 2 bouts live on their Kyoguken show.
Things get more complicated when we consider the other rumours, which include a potential WBO Flyweight world title defense by Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7). His could be squeezed on TBS as an early bout, or could be used to stack the show to a quadruple header or could end up being only CBC live, with TBS showing it on tape delay. It's really unclear how he fits in, but he will almost certainly be wanting to fight on a year ending show, after missing out on the chance last year due to injury.
Last, but certainly not least, is the rumoured WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) and Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23), a bout so big that TBS have seemingly given Ioka the option to take the date and broadcast if he wants it. This was rumoured strongly in September, and Japanese sources were suggesting that it could take place in the Philippines with TBS still airing it live, however the rumours did quieten quickly. It should be noted that Ioka's not been one for leaking news in the past, this could be well in the works. Given how silent things have gone however we may well see this bout being delayed into 2019, potentially as part of the next Superfly card.
(Bottom image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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!
Although August was exciting there a lack of big name action. That changes however in September when we get a host of world level bouts with other rising contenders in action across a number of weights.
Masanobu Nakazawa Vs Masayoshi Kotake (Japanese)
The month kicks off with title action in Japan as the once beaten Masanobu Nakazawa (17-1-1, 7) battles Masayoshi Kotake (9-9-2, 5) in a bout for the Japanese interim Light Welterweight title. This bout has come about due to an injury to Hiroki Okada and we're expecting a good one here. On paper it's easy to side with Nakazawa though he's taking a huge step up in class to face the much more proven Kotake in what really looks likely to be a very competitive match up.
Tomoki Kameda Vs Jamie McDonnell II (WBA)
One of the best bouts this year saw Japan's Tomoki Kameda (31-1, 19) suffer his first loss in a brilliantly competitive 12 round bout with Englishman Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12). Now the men will do it again with McDonnell hoping to prove his win wasn't a fluke and Kameda looking to avenge his sole defeat. Up for grabs isn't just personal gratification but also the WBA Bantamweight title and the claim of being the #2 fighter in the division.
Jonathan Taconing Vs Jomar Fajardo (OPBF)
Some bouts are guaranteed to give excitement and action. Any bout that features Jonathan Taconing (21-2-1, 18) is likely to be worth a watch. Taconing will be defending his OPBF Light Flyweight title against compatriot, and fellow slugger, Jomar Fajardo (14-8-2, 7) in a bout that could be the sleeper bout of the month. Stylistically this one promises to be really exciting, though we do suspect that Taconing will be too big, too strong and too powerful for the gutsy Fajardo.
Shohei Omori Vs Hirofumi Mukai (Japan)
Fast rising Japanese Bantamweight Shohei Omori (14-0, 9) impressed us all when he won the Japanese Bantamweight title earlier this year. He makes his first defense of that title as he takes on former 2-time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (11-3-2, 1) in what looks like a solid, though unspectacular, defense for the man dubbed “Demon of Left”. Whilst the bout isn't a great one it does see Omori up against his most accomplished southpaw opponent
Kota Tokunaga Vs Yuhei Suzuki (Japan)
On the same card as Omori's Bantamweight title fight his stablemate Kota Tokunaga (15-2, 10) will make the first defense of the Japanese Lightweight title. In the opposite corner is heavy handed challenger Yuhei Suzuki (16-4, 12). This one promises to be explosive with both guys able to through heavy leather, though neither has shown a real ability to cope with being tagged hard meaning that this could be over at any moment.
Shin Ono Vs Kenichi Horikawa (Japan)
Former world title challenger Shin Ono (18-6-2, 2) looks to claim his first domestic title as he faced veteran pro Kenichi Horikawa (29-13-1, 6). For Horikawa this will be a 4th Japanese title fight and although he's come up short in first 3 shots he'll be determined to make the most of this one. With both fighters being in their 30's this could be a case of now or never, especially with the fast rising Ken Shiro waiting in the wings for the winner.
Xiong Zhao Zhong Vs Crison Omayao (OPBF)
China's only man to claim a world title, Xiong Zhao Zhong (25-6-1, 14) will look for one of his most notable wins as he takes on Filipino fighter Crison Omayao (17-9-3, 5) in a bout for the OPBF Minimumweight title. On paper this looks like a mismatch but Omayao has got a spotty record due to facing some of the most talented little men on the planet, including Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. This really should be the Chinese highlight of the month.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Anselmo Moreno (WBC)
The Asian wide highlight of the month, and one of the world wide bouts of the month, will see WBC Bantamweight kingpin Shinsuke Yamanaka (23-0-2, 17) defending his belt against former WBA “super” champion Anselmo Moreno (35-3-1, 12). For some this bout is to decide the facto #1 Bantamweight on the planet, for others how it's just a bout to savior and features one of the most talented pure boxers in the sport battle against one of the sports most natural punchers. This really is something very special.
Less than a week after the Yamanaka/Moreno bout we get another of the month's highlights as we get a real huge bumper show in Osaka.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Roberto Domingo Sosa (WBA)
The main event will see Kazuto Ioka (17-1, 10) defending his WBA Flyweight title against Roberto Domingo Sosa (26-2-1, 14). This will be Ioka's first defense of the title, that he won against Juan Carlos Reveco earlier this year, and if he comes through this, as is expected, he will be facing Reveco in a bout penciled in for December 31st. A lot riding on this one for the 26 year Japanese youngster.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Ryuji Hara (IBF)
Another world title bout on the same card will see IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (29-7-0-1, 11) defending his title Ryuji Hara (19-1, 11) in what looks to be a genuinely mouth watering match up. For Takayama this will be the second defence of his title whilst Hara fights in his first world title fight, having previously been the Japanese and OPBF champion.
Sho Ishida Vs Hayato Kimura (Japan)
On the same card the Ioka bout will be three other title bouts. One of those will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (19-0, 10) defending his belt against Hayato Kimura (23-7, 15). This doesn't look great on paper but it's a good test for Ishida who will be hoping to move on to world level in his upcoming bouts. Alstough a big favour there are some questions marks about the champions stamina which will hopefully be tested again here.
Kei Takenaka Vs Krikanok Islandmuaythai (OPBF-Female)
A lower title fight on this card will see Kei Takenaka (9-0, 3) defending her OPBF female Light Flyweight title against Thai visitor Krikanok Islandmuaythai (4-4-1, 2). This is a weaker bout than the other two major fights on this card but it's expected to be one of Takenaka's final bouts before stepping up to world level.
Eun Hye Lee Vs Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (WBC-Female)
The final world title bout comes towards the end of the month as South Korean fighter Eun Hye Lee (7-0, 2) battle Thai visitor Ploynapa Sakrungrueng (12-5-1, 1) in a bout for the WBO female Light Flyweight title. This bout has been rescheduled twice following various issues and is finally looking like it's all sorted, finally.
Yukinori Oguni Vs Taiki Minamoto
The final notable action of the month takes place at the end of the month where Japanese fans get a couple of national title fights. The most interesting of those will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni (14-1-1, 4) defending his belt against the heavy handed Taiki Minamoto (10-4, 9). This will be Oguni's second defense and if he comes through he'll be expected to face a rematch against Yasutaka Ishimoto.
Suyon Takayama Vs Ryoji Tanaka
The other title fight at the end of the month will see Suyon Takayama (22-1, 7) defending the Japanese Welterweight title against Ryoji Tanaka (8-4-1, 2). This is a weak looking match up, if we're being honest, but the significance of the bout is worth noting and if Takayama keeps defending his title we may, one day, see him take part in a more interesting match up than his recent ones.
(All Images courtesy of boxmob.jp
By now any boxing fan worth their salt has heard of Naoya Inoue (8-0, 7), they should also be aware of Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) and Naoya's little brother Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1). Aside from those 3 fighters however it's easy to be unaware of the numerous Japanese fighters breaking through the ranks, often at an incredible speed.
We have a lot of second generation fighters out there and they've certainly had mixed fortunes. One who hasn't had much of a mention in the west is Ken Shiro (2-0, 1), AKA Kenshiro Teraji. Ken Shiro is the 23 year old son of former Japanese and Oriental champion Hisashi Teraji and is tipped by many to exceed his father's achievements, with relative ease. The Japanese youngster made his debut last August when he dominated Indonesian veteran Heri Amol and then saw off a Thai opponent to move to 2-0. He'll look to continue his impressive streak on March 26th when he fights former Rookie of the Year winner Katsunari Nagamine (10-0, 6) in a massive bout between unbeaten fighters. If Ken Shiro is as good as he looks he'll see off Nagamine and then begin his hunt for titles.
The Ioka gym has been a conveyor belt of talent recently with a number of notable of names including former world champions Kazuto Ioka and Ryo Miyazaki. The gym also boasts one of the best selection of prospects out there with the most over-looked of those being 18 year old hopeful Takeru Kamikubo (8-0, 5). Kamimubo hasn't stepped up like some of the fighters on the list and in fact his best opponent so far was a domestic journeyman, however at just 18 years old he has a lot of time on his hands. Not only is he incredibly young but he also seems to have replicated a style that has worked for a number of his gym mates, including OPBF Lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani and Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida, and sees him boxing on the move behind a clever and busy jab. Keep a serious eye out for this youngster over the coming 5 or 6 years.
Many fans likely haven't heard of the “Woz Boxing” gym in Kyoto but they may well have developed one of the sports most promising prospects in the shape of 22 year old Shohei Omori (13-0, 8). The eagled eyed may have seen Omori's name pop up in the world rankings recently, in fact at the time of writing he is ranked #14 by Boxrec.com and #12 by the WBC, but yet you're unlikely to have seen much about him unless you're a really hardcore fan. If you are a hardcore fan you may have seen him announce himself as one to watch when he dominated Christian Esquivel last May if you didn't then I need to advise you to keep your eye out for his upcoming bout against Japanese Bantamweight champion Kentaro Masuda (21-6, 11) on April 13th as that is a brilliant test and should launch Omori towards a world title bout in the next 18 months or so. Poised, talented, intelligent and a southpaw this kid has a really bright future ahead of him.
The Super Bantamweight division has had it's detractors and it's issues recently though all those issues have really done is lead to a bottle neck at the top with more notable contenders now than there have been in years. I wouldn't quite call Shun Kubo (6-0, 4) a contender as of yet, though it's clear he's heading that way and quickly. In his 6 fight professional career he has faced opponents with a combined record of 44-22-2 and has already beaten an OPBF ranked Filipino and a world ranked Mexican, or at least they were before Kubo got to them. He has also gone 8 rounds twice and is being readily tipped as the best Shinsei Gym fighter since Hozumi Hasegawa. Fighting out of the southpaw stance and stood at 5'7” Kubo will almost certainly be a nightmare for the 122lb division in the coming years, though footage of his is unfortunately scarce.
Another notable fighter to keep an eye on at Super Bantamweight is 25 year old hopeful Hikaru Marugame (3-0, 2) who some are tipping as one of the dark horse prospects, despite the fact he was a very good amateur fighter and has an excellent team behind him. He made his debut in July 2013 and although he's not been hugely active he has looked better in every subsequent fight. He was supposed to be “the other prospect” to the touted Naoto Uebayshi though from what I've seen Marugame is the better of the two prospects at the gym run by former world champions Shinji Takehara and Takanori Hatakeyama.
Super Featherweight, much like Super Bantamweight, appears to be on the verge of a brilliant few years. Among those expected to make an impact in the division is 25 year old Kenta Onjo (4-0, 3). Onjo isn't a big name, nor is he with a big promoter in Tokashiki, but he is among the fast rising prospects in world boxing and is expected to “come good” in 2015 as he moves up a level. To date his best win is over Kazuya Soma though he has already shown he can do 8 rounds, has spiteful power and appears to have all the skills needed to go a very long way. On March 16th we will see Onjo face his stiffest test so far as he goes up against Filipino veteran Jonathan Baat (27-6-3, 13) in what should tell us a lot about Onjo.
It's well known that there aren't many Japanese fighters who look capable of competing at the world level above the typical “lower weights” but one man who looks like he has the potential to buck that trend is Celes prospect Koki Koshikawa (4-0, 2). Koshikawa made his debut in a 6 rounder, where he defeated current OPBF ranked fighter Quaye Peter and he has since gone on to defeat 3 more opponents while scarcely losing a round. Not only has Koshikawa been winning fights but he has been showing a real spitefulness in his punching which saw him blow away Sandi Korga inside a round last time out, in a bout scheduled for 8. Aged 24 it's likely that Koshikawa will be fast tracked to a Japanese title at the very least.
One more notable fighter to mention here is a man who hasn't yet made his domestic debut despite having won his first professional title. That is Riku Kanou (5-1-1, 3) who is a 17 year old youngster who has been making his name in Thailand. Kanou, who is known as Riku Kano on boxrec.com, made his debut in the Philippines in 2013 soon after his 16th birthday and lost to a local fighter. Since then he has gone 6 fights unbeaten and claimed the WBA Asian Minimumweight title. It may only be a regional title but it's the first step towards something major. The way Kanou's team is talking is as if they have a real target on their mind, taking their man to become the youngest Japanese world champion in history. At the moment that record is held by Hiroki Ioka, the uncle of Kazuto Ioka, and Kanou certainly has time to break the record, the question is whether or not he has the ability to do it.
For those wondering why many other fighters, such as Masayoshi Nakatani or Ryo Matsumoto weren't included, there has been a conscious effort to ignore current notable title holders here.
Images courtesy of-
http://www.Boxingnews.jp (Ken Shiro)
http://www.wozboxing.com (Shohei Omori)
http://box-fitness-gym.com (Hikaru Marugame)
http://www.tokashikigym.com (Kenta Onjo)
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).