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.
This past week has been a somewhat quiet one in the realms of Asian Boxing news. It's not been a silent week, by any stretch, but we didn't see any major stories breaking, instead it was a relatively subdued week of lesser quality news, though plenty of that news is worth catching up on if you did miss it.
Tenshin Nasukawa Vs Gervonta Davis at Rizin 15!
According to multiple sources we'll see Japanese combat sport prodigy Tenshin Nasukawa fight against WBA Super Featherweight Super champion Gervonta Davis in April. The bout wasn't announced officially but sources from both sides of the Pacific did mention the bout as being close to a done deal and should be announced in the coming weeks, if not days. We don't see this ending well for Tenshin, who may end up taking more punishment in boxing exhibitions than is good for him, and it's probably time that he decides whether he wants to remain in kick boxing, or convert to boxing and do it properly, rather than getting beaten up in public exhibitions.
A Monster heading to Scotland?
On a frustrating week for WBSS news it now seems like we're set to see Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) [井上 尚弥] make his European debut, and take on IBF Bantamweight champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) in Scotland, in their WBSS semi-final. It appears that massive scheduling issues will force the bout to be part of the Josh Taylor card on May 18th. This wasn't officially confirmed but both Juan Orengo, the manager of Rodriguez, as well as the Sauerlands, suggested that this would be the case, not long after Hideyuki Ohashi confirmed the possibility of the bout being in the UK. This seems set to be confirmed early this week
Kuroda set to get a shot at Mthalane in May!
Although the specifics weren't announced we do now know that a deal is in place for the IBF Flyweight title bout between Japan's Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之] and world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25). The bout, a mandatory defense for Mthalane, was announced as being done by Kuroda and his team, though they gave no details away of the bout, leaving the specifics set for a future announcement. It sounds like the bout will be in either Kanagawa or Tokyo in May, though Nitta do seem to be keeping their cards close to their chest until the announcement is due.
Katsunari Takayama to begin amateur journey on March 1st!
As for things that were announced, officially, former world champion Katsunari Takayama [高山 勝成] revealed that his amateur journey, which he hopes will result in a medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, will begin on March 1st. The exciting and very likable Takayama will compete in a national selection event, with the winner assured a shot at the Asian Championships, and a potential Olympic berth. We'll be honest and admit we don't imagine Takayama going far in the amateurs, given his age and style, but we do really look forward to seeing him in action again.
Koura to defend OPBF crown in March
The OPBF twitter account is a great soure of news and announcements, and this week they let slip the fact they have sanctioned their Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼] to make his next defense against Filipino challenger Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) on March 31st. On paper this is one that won't excite people, but the reality is that this should be a good test of what Koura can do against a really tough opponent. We don't see it being a competitive bout, but Dante is a battler and won't fold early on to Koura's power. A mismatch, but one likely to have real intrigue.
WBO order Super Flyweight title fight
The WBO held a world title eliminator at Super Flyweight recent, which saw Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) become the mandatory challenger for WBO world champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23). The men have now been ordered to negotiate as the WBO look to keep their title active. The negotiation period for the two men is to end in less than 2 weeks, so we should see these two facing off, for the second time, in the middle of 2019.
Wanheng Vs Fukuhara rematch pushed back
Staying with world level rematches it appears the WBC Minimumweight title bout rematch between unbeaten champion Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) [福原 辰弥] has been pushed back by 4 weeks, to March 29th. No reason was given, though Wanheng will fight in an exhibition with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) [น็อคเอาท์ ซีพีเฟรชมาร์ท] in the mean time, with that set to take place on February 22nd. Every fan of the little guys wants to see Wanheng take on Knockout, sadly however it seems the best we're going to be getting any time soon is this exhibition.
The month of November is a crazy one for fight fans with notable fights taking place through the month, he we look at the most notable bouts set to take place during the first week of the month in the first part of our look towards a brilliant looking month.
Hiroki Okada (13-0, 10) v Valentine Hosokawa (20-5-3, 9)
The first title fight of a thoroughly hectic month will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada defending his title against veteran Valentine Hosokawa,who has come up short in two previous title fights. For Okada the bout will be his 6th title defense,and if he wins there is the thinking he may vacate the title rather than face mandatory challenger Koichi Aso, who he has beaten twice already, and move on to OPBF title bouts instead. For Hosokawa this will likely be his last chance at a title given that he's 35 years old.
Tatsuya Fukuhara (17-4-6, 6) v Genki Hanai (7-0, 5)
We see more Japanese title action early in the month as Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara defends his title against the unbeaten, and fast rising, Genki Hanai. For the under-rated champion this is his third defense of the title and he is likely to fight for a world title in 2017, if he can secure a victory here over Hanai. If he gets that chance it will open big doors for the popular Kumamoto man. For Hanai the bout will be his first title bout, and whilst he could claim the title he may also play party pooper to Fukuhara's world title dreams and get himself in the position for a world title bout. A really intriguing domestic level clash for Japanese fight fans.
Daigo Higa (10-0, 10) v Felipe Cagubcob Jr (6-2-5, 2)
The first OPBF title fight of the month comes on a huge day of action as sees exciting Flyweight contender Daigo Higa look to defend his OPBF title for the first time. The “Romagon of Okinawa” will be up against little known Filipino challenger Felipe Cagubcob Jr. The exciting Higa will be looking to join the mix at world level in 2017 but will need to continue his winning ways to do that, with many expecting him to do just that here with a stoppage. For the Filipino challenger, this will be his first bout away from home and see him taking on his best opponent to date, and a man who has enjoyed mowing through Filipino fights thus far through his career
Zou Shiming (8-1, 2) Vs Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym (39-1-2, 24) II
Staying with the Flyweight division we will not only see an OPBF title fight but also a world title fight as the vacant WBO title goes on the line in a bout between Zou Shiming and Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym. These two men met back in 2014, when Shiming came close to stopping Kwanpichit on route to a wide, and now we have the two men going at it again with a world title up for grabs. A win for Shiming is expected, and if he manages to win he will become the second Chinese world champion, but he has failed to reach the heights expected of him and Kwanpichit has rebuilt well since his loss, winning his last 12 bouts, all by stoppage.
Nonito Donaire (37-3, 24) v Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17)
The Super Bantamweight division hasn't been the most exciting in recent years, but does look like a division that is genuinely interesting with a mix of experience veterans and emerging youngsters. One of the veterans of the division is 33 year old Filipino sensation Nonito Donaire who defends his WBO title against emerging destroyer Jessie Magdaleno in a bout that could turn out to be the bout of night. At his best Donaire is a real sensation but at 33 he's not the fighter he once was. Magdaleno has shown real promise but this is a huge step for the unbeaten American.
Oscar Valdez (20-0, 18) v Hiroshige Osawa (30-3-4, 19)
At Featherweight we appear to be seeing the emergence of a new Mexican star, Oscar Valdez. In his first defense of the WBO Featherweight title Valdez will be facing Japan's Hiroshige Osawa, a relative unknown outside of the Japanese scene. Valdez really does look like a special fighter and his rise to becoming a star is exciting to watch, though here we see him up against a veteran who is fighting in what will likely be his only shot at a world title. For Osawa it's now or never and he'll give everything he's got, whether that's enough or not is the big question and unfortunatley it's hard to see him winning here unless Valdez has completely taken his eye off the ball.
Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10) v Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38)
Whilst Valdez is a rising star of boxing there is still some megastars of the sport out there, including Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, who looks to reclaim the WBO Welterweight title as he takes on once beaten champion Jessie Vargas. The bout will see the 37 year old Filipino attempt to further strengthen his legendary status in the sport, and become a 3-time WBO Welterweight champion which is an incredible feat it's self. For Vargas the bout will give him a chance to score a career defining win. With 10 years age difference between these two there is a possible passing of the torch or further proof that Pacquiao really is a truly special fighter.
Ye Joon Kim (14-1-2, 7) v Yuki Strong Kobayashi (10-5, 5)
To end a hectic weekend attention turns to South Korea where world ranked Super Bantamweight hopeful Ye Joon Kim looks to defend his IBF Asia title. In the opposite corner to the Korean hopeful will be Japanese visitor Yuki Strong Kobayashi, who has previously fought for the OPBF Bantamweight title. Kim is regarded as one of the very few Korean's of any real interest and whilst this won't boost his standing in the sport he is someone who could, potentially at least, create a buzz in Seoul. Kobayashi isn't a terrible fighter, but is Kim fails to win here it's more about Kim being inconsistent rather than Kobayashi suddenly being a massively improved fighter.
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).