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 middle of November is hectic with fights involving Asians at domestic, regional and even world level. The huge names might not be in action lots of solid fighters are.
On November 11th Japanese fans get a real treat with an OPBF title Quadruple header.
Merlito Sabillo (25-3-1, 12) v Ryuya Yamanaka (12-2, 3)
The lowest weight title being competed for on the OPBF quadruple header show is the Minimumweight title and will see former world champion Merlito Sabillo take on Japanese youngster Ryuya Yamanaka for the vacant title. Sabillo. In recent years Sabillo has struggled, and has gone 2-3-1 in his last 6 bouts, suggesting his career is hanging by a thread. Yamanaka is much less well known, but has been suggested as a possible future WBO title challenger and will have to win here if he's to get a shot in 2017. It should be noted however that this is a huge step up for the 21 year old Japanese fighter who is being thrown in with a proverbial shark here.
Takahiro Yamamoto (18-4, 15) v Mark John Yap (24-12, 10)
A much more interesting bout comes at Bantamweight where we'll see heavy handed champion Takahiro Yamamoto defending his title against Japanese based Filipino veteran Mark John Yap. On paper this doesn't look hugely interesting given that Yap has double digit losses, however his record, like that of many Filipino's, is misleading and in recent years he has been stringing together good wins, including two over Hiroyuki Hisataka and one over Tatsuya Ikemizu. Saying that however Yamamoto is a talented fighter, with heavy hands and an ultra aggressive style which makes him look like a fighter who is going to be very hard to beat at this level.
Shun Kubo (10-0, 7) v Jin Wook Lim (8-4-5, 2)
At Super Bantamweight we'll see the unbeaten, and world ranked, Shun Kubo attempting to defend his title against Korean visitor Jin Wook Lim. Kubo is talented and is seen as the future of the Shinsei gym however it does seem like his team are wanting to develop him at OPBF level before having him follow in the footsteps of stablemate Hozumi Hasegawa, and this will be his second defense of the OPBF title. Lim will be making his international debut here and comes in to the bout as a former Korean Bantamweight champion, and one who holds a win over Sa Myung Noh and a draw with Ye Joon Kim, this is however a huge step up for Kim and one that he's making on the road. A very tough assignment for him against a very talented hopeful.
Masayoshi Nakatani (12-0, 7) v Allan Tanada (14-5-3, 6)
At Lightweight we have OPBF champion Masayoshi Nakatani looking to extend his reign, and take it into a third year, as he takes on former OPBF Super Featherweight champion Allan Tanada. The under-rated Nakatani holds notable wins over the likes of Yoshitaka Kato, Ricky Sismundo and Shuhei Tsuchiya and will likely be adding another notable win to his record here. Tanada holds goof wins himself over the likes of Jose Ocampo, Rikiya Fukuhara and Roy Mukhlis but has lost 3 of his last 4 and few would back him here against the much taller Nakatani, however he is upset minded and won't fear Nakatani's reputation.
Momo Koseki (22-2-1, 8) v Chie Higano (6-4, 2)
On a separate Japanese card fight fans will be able to see Japan's longest reigning active world champion. That's WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki who has held her title for more than 8 years and looks to extend that reign with her 17th defence! The frightening Koseki will be up against domestic foe Chie Higano in what should be a straight forward win for Koseki who looks to extend various Japanese records here. For Higano the bout is a huge step up from facing domestic class foes to facing a nightmarish world champion in what really should be a mismatch.
Toshio Arikawa (13-4, 11) v Yasuhiro Okawa (14-12-3, 5) II
On November 14th we go back to Japanese title action here as Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa attempts to make the first defense of his title. On paper this looks like a mismatch, and Arikawa is in great form winning his last 4 bouts with stoppages against Akinori Watanabe and Nobuyuki Shindo in his last 2 bouts. Saying that however Okawa holds a relatively recent win over Arikawa, and has lost only once in the last 5 years. This looks like a mismatch but should turn out to be a very interesting bout.
Iwan Zoda (11-1, 10) v Jeronil Borres (7-1-1, 5)
Our favourite Indonesian prospect returns to the ring on November 18th to defend his IBF Youth Flyweight title, and move towards a potential world title fight. The exciting Iwan Zoda will be up against fellow youngster Jeronil Borress, a once beaten Filipino who has has never been stopped and recent took on former world title challenger Richard Claveras. This is far from an easy defense for Zoda and instead it's a chance for him to prove himself, and his power, and the bout could end up telling us a lot about both fighters.
Ryosuke Iwasa (22-2, 14) v Luis Rosa (22-0-0-2, 10)
One of the most notable non-title bouts of the month for Asian fight fans sees former world title challenger Ryosuke Iwasa take on the unbeaten Luis Rosa in an IBF world title eliminator at Super Bantamweight. On paper this is a must win for Iwasa, who is best known for losing to Lee Haskins and Shinsuke Yamanaka, For Rosa the bout is a step up following a string of bouts against relatively limited opponents, like German Merez and Luis Hinojosa, but he's touted as a potential world champion and will be wanting to show his ability here. Interestingly the winner of this could find themselves up against the winner of the upcoming Jonathan Guzman/Yukinori bout.
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.
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)
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).