Over the next 12 months we're expecting to see a lot of changes in the world of professional boxing. As a result we have put together a list of 30 Asian fighters to keep an eye out for 2016. These range from champions to novices but all are expected to make a mark on the sport over the next 12 months. Here is part 2 which looks at 5 young novices who have impressed in 2015 and look likely to do the same over the next year.
For those who missed them the previous parts are available below-
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
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!
We'll pretend July was the greatest of months but we have had more than enough notable action over the last 4 weeks!
The month began with action in Thailand as the unbeaten Knockout CP Freshmart (11-0, 6) retained his WBA interim Minimumweight title with a 4th round TKO of the previously unbeaten Alexis Diaz (16-1, 10). Diaz was expected to put up a real fight against the Thai but was made to look second rate as he beaten by the defending champion. Following the win talk began of a contest between Knockout and Hekkie Budler.
On July 4th we turned our attention to Mexico where Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas (24-6-1, 21) found himself feeling robbed as he was held to a very debatable draw against David Carmona (19-2-5, 8) in a bout for the WBO interim Super Flyweight title. It seemed like Parrenas did far more than enough to claim the win here but he failed to convince the judges that he deserved the win. A really unfortunate outcome, but one that still keeps him in the hunt for a potential show down with Naoya Inoue later this year.
We saw Japanese youngster Takuma Inoue (5-0, 1) claim his biggest win to date as he out pointed Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-6-3, 14) and claimed the OPBF Super Flyweight title. This was Takuma's toughest bout to date but also his most impressive and it appeared he has now filled into a full blown Super Flyweight. For Geraldo it's a second successive loss but at 23 he has plenty of time to rebuild and we'd be shocked not to see him at this level again in the near future
On July 7th we had one of the months most interesting match ups as Donnie Nietes (36-1-4,21) took on Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-3-1, 11). The bout saw Nietes have some problems, especially early, but take a clear decision over the former unified Minimumweight champion. Nietes looks to be the standout Filipino fighter at the moment but at 33 he really is getting on for a lower fighter and although he looked youthful in the ring some are wondering how long he really has left.
On the same day fans saw WBA Heavyweight champion, well “regular” champion, Ruslan Chagaev (34-2-1, 21) retain his title with a very easy win again Francesco Pianeta (31-2-1, 17). Chagaev dropped Pianeta twice inside a round to retain his title.
July 12th saw talented Korean teenager Kyoo Hwan Hwang (2-0, 2) claim his first professional title, the South Korean Light Middleweight title, as he scored a 6th round KO against Chan Hee Park (5-6-1). Hwang, tipped by some as the future face of Korean boxing, showed some really notable skills but it was very clear that he needs a lot of work before stepping up in class.
We saw a new Japanese Flyweight champion being crowned on July 17th as Takuya Kogawa (24-4, 13) clearly out pointed the tough Hiroki Saito (9-5, 5). Kogawa, who previously held this title, is now looking at some excellent domestic show downs, including a potential rematch with Suguru Muranaka, or alternatively passing up the title to chase world honours. For Saito it seems clear that he will come again, though does need some more seasoning against lower level competition rather than continuing to be matched this hard.
On July 18th we unfortunately saw Ik Yang (19-1-0-1, 14) being given a schooling by talented Argentinian Cesar Rene Cuenca (48-0-0-2, 2) in a out for the IBF Light Welterweight title. Yang was attempting to become a the second Chinese world champion though came up very short in this bout, which really showed how good Cuenca was.
On the same card we saw Nonito Donaire (35-3, 23) destroy the completely out gunned Anthony Settoul (20-4, 8). Now it seems likely that Donaire will move towards a WBA title fight with Scott Quigg.
Unfortunately the night ended in disappointment for Filipino fans as Arthur Villanueva (27-1, 14) was controversially beaten by McJoe Arroyo (17-0, 8). The Filipino seemed to do enough to rack up the rounds but the judges all disagreed, giving Arroyo a very wide technical decision when the bout was stopped in round 10.
The same card also saw the US debut of Korean slugger Min Wook Kim (13-1, 10), who easily took care of Luis Alberto Pelayo (11-6, 7). Kim will hopefully return to the US later this year for a more notable bout.
On July 20th we saw the much touted Sho Nakazawa (7-0, 4) take a huge step up in class as he defeated former world title challenger Silvester Lopez (25-10-2, 18). Nakazawa was dropped early in the bout but managed to regroup and clearly out boxed Lopez who proved that whilst he isn't the most skilled he is still very dangerous.
On the same day we also saw South Korean hopeful Ye Joon Kim (12-1-2, 6) retain his IBF regional title as he stopped Yoshihiro Utsumi (12-7-3, 7) in 7 rounds. Kim, the face of the KBF, is one of Korea's most talented youngster and this performance showed that he does have real promise but really needs to be given more progressive tests.
We saw a new star emerge on July 24th as Daigo Higa (7-0, 7) went to Thailand and surprisingly picked up a 7th round KO win against Kongfah CP Freshmart (14-1, 8). The bout was one of the best of the month and lived up the high expectations that we had for the contest. The hope is now that Higa will be defending his belt in Autumn before possibly being matched with a world class foe next year.
Kazakh fighter Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10) became a 2-weight world champion on July 25th as he claimed the WBA “interim” Cruiserweight title with a clear win over American fighter-come-analyst BJ Flores (31-2-1, 20). Flores showed good power early but Shumenov showed a completely revised style that saw him moving more than he had in the past. It was that movement that allowed Shumenov to claim the win with Flores later complaining about the Kazakh not standing still.
The month ended, in terms of major action, with Thai teenager Stamp Kiatniwat (14-0, 6) claiming the WBA interim Flyweight title with a majority decision win over Gregorio Lebron (13-3, 11) on July 29th. The win has seen Stamp receive some international attention but domestically he's really boosted his popularity and it seems that the 17 year old is being pushed as the new face of Thai boxing.
We'll be honest the month of June wasn't the most exciting of months to follow Asian boxing but it does seem like July promises a lot, and hopefully will deliver on that promise.
Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Alexis Diaz
The month kicks off with a WBA interim title fight in Thailand as the home favourite Knockout CP Freshmart (10-0, 5) battles against unbeaten Venezuelan Alexis Diaz (16-0, 10). On paper this might only be an “interim” title fight but it's still a mouth watering match up between highly regarded and unbeaten fighters. The winner becomes the top contender for Hekkie Budler in what would be another very attractive match up.
Warlito Parrenas Vs David Carmona
We get a second “interim” world title bout in a matter of a few days as Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas (24-6, 21) takes on Mexico's David Carmona (19-2-4, 8) in a contest for the WBO interim Super Flyweight title. On paper it looks like a well matched bout between a vicious puncher and a decent boxer and styles should give us a very good contest. The winner of this one will be the mandatory to the sensation Naoya Inoue, and a sizeable payday in Japan,
Takuma Inoue Vs Mark Anthony Geraldo
On July 6th we get the chance to see Japanese super prospect Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1) fight in his first title bout as he battles experienced Filipino Mark Anthony Geraldo (31-5-3, 14) in a bout for the OPBF Super Flyweight title. Takuma, the younger brother of the sensational Naoya Inoue, is hoping to claim a world title in his 6th professional bout will need to win here first in what is a genuinely excellent match up.
Yuzo Kiyota Vs Kajornsak Sithsaithong
OPBF Super Middleweight champion Yuzo Kiyota (27-4-1, 25) looks the make the next defense of his title as he takes on Thai challenger Kajornsak Sithsaithong (7-5, 7) in what looks to be a hugely disappointing match up on paper. Although Kiyota isn't a world class fighter, despite some world rankings, he isn't a bad fighter by any means and to fight Kajornsak merely shows how few viable contenders there are in the division. Kajornsak enters the bout on two losses and it'd be amazing for it not to become 3 in a row.
Donnie Nietes Vs Francisco Rodriguez Jr
WBO Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (35-1-4, 21) looks to continue his long reign as he takes on the highly capable, former unified Minimumweight champion, Francisco Rodriguez Jr (17-2-1, 11) in a mouth watering bout. The contest is a mandatory defense for Nietes and looks to be one of his toughest on paper as he goes up against a fantastic young Mexican. It does need noting however that Rodriguez didn't look good in his last 2 bouts, both against Filipino Jomar Fajardo, and he'll need to do much better here than he did in either of those bouts.
Ruslan Chagaev Vs Francesco Pianeta
A rare Heavyweight bout of note sees WBA “regular” champion Ruslan Chagaev (33-2-1, 20), from Uzbekistan, defending his title against German based Italian born fighter Francesco Pianeta (31-1-1, 17). On paper this looks really matched, and in fact on paper it looks like a fantastic match up, in reality however Pianeta hasn't scored a win of note in quite some time whilst Chagaev appears to be less than half the fighter he once was. It should be competitive but we're not holding our breath on this being a fun one.
Takuya Kogawa Vs Hiroki Saito
The vacant Japanese Lightweight title is up for grabs in what looks like like a sure fire FOTY contender. The bout will see former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (23-4, 13) attempt to reclaim a title he once held as he goes up against the tough and rugged Hiroki Saito (9-4, 5). On paper we confess this one doesn't look great, in reality however we have very high hopes for the action with both men being aggressive, tough and enjoying a tear up. This really is one of the best bouts we've seen made this year and we're jealous of those who are going to be in attendance for it.
Naoko Shibata Vs Esmeralda Moreno
Japan's Naoko Shibata (14-3, 4) goes on the road, travelling to Mexico, to defend her IBF female Light Flyweight title against experienced Mexican Esmeralda Moreno (30-7-1, 10) in a mouth watering match up between two world class fighters. Originally this bout was scheduled for late June though got pushed back just days before Shibata was set to fly over to Mexico. The fight is a brilliant on paper and we really don't think many female bouts will be better than this.
Ik Yang Vs Cesar Rene Cuenca
Chinese boxing is on the up and that's seen again in the next of the Macau cards as Chinese slugger Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) takes on tricky Argentinian Cesar Rene Cuenca (47-0-0-2, 2) in a bout for the IBF Light Welterweight title. The title, which was stripped from Lamont Peterson earlier this year, is up for grabs and could see the second Chinese champion being crowned. Strangely a win for Cuenca would see him picking a world title in his 50th fight!
On the same card as Yang Vs Cuenca fans will see an interesting card featuring the likes of Rex Tso (16-0, 9) and Filipino icon Nonito Donaire (34-3, 22), both of whom are against over-matched foes.
Arthur Villanueva Vs McJoe Arroyo
Another all-unbeaten title fight takes place in the US as Filipino fighter Arthur Villanueva (27-0, 14) takes on McJoe Arroyo (16-0, 8) for the vacant IBF Super Flyweight title. This is a really intriguing match up between two talented fighters who are each looking for a break out win, a win that would take them from contender to champion. The title, which was vacated by Zolani Tete earlier this year, is almost certainly going to put the winner in the mix for some big fights and this is really a fantastically matched contest.
Stamp Kiatniwat Vs Gregorio Lebron
The final bout of note for us will see unbeaten Thai Stamp Kiatniwat (13-0, 6) take on Dominican puncher Gregorio Lebron (13-2, 11) for the WBA “interim” Flyweight title. The bout will see the 17 year old Stamp attempt to move on to the next level, though it's hard to be sure how good Lebron is given that his competition so far has been poor, in fact Stamp's win over Kwanthai Sithmorseng is far better than anything on Lebron's ledger. This bout, for those interested, will be on Thai channel 3.
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).