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.
Earlier today we saw Chinese fighter Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) come up short against Thailand's talented but frustrating Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5). If you listened to some members of the boxing press that was the death knell for Chinese boxing. According to them Shiming was the be all and end all of Chinese boxing. For the country to have a boxing scene Shiming needed to be a success.
Strangely however the under-card on the same show seemed to suggest that whilst Shiming was the jewel in the crown of Bob Arum's “Chinese Dynasty” he wasn't the be all and end all of the Macau scene. Never mind the Chinese boxing scene.
Firstly let me just give a mention to what is happening on the Chinese mainland courtesy of Zovi boxing.
If you listened to much of the boxing media you may never have heard of Zovi boxing but the outfit has been “Chinese boxing” before Chinese boxing. They have guided Xiong Zhao Zhong to a world title, the only one won by a Chinese male, and they have guided the career of several other Chinese fighters including the very promising Qiu Xiao Jun. Although a small company in the grand scheme of things they are the ones who are putting in the investment to create a Chinese boxing scene and they are the ones pulling the WBC into China.
Zovi have been around since 2003 though have really grown in recent years with the development of fighters like Zhong, Jun and the Xaing Jiang.
If you've not heard of of Jun or Jiang then you'll probably not think you're missing out on anything however both are world ranked. Jiang is WBO #15 at Flyweight, albeit with the WBO calling him “Xiang Jiny”, whilst Jun is the WBC #3 at Super Bantamweight. The odds are both will end up fighting for world titles in the coming years and both are young enough come again and again.
Going back to Top Rank, it's fair to say they wanted Shiming to become a world champion. They knew that if Shiming became a champion then they would have the key to making Chinese boxing massive. Shiming however failed to capture the imagination of those in the West. Fans watching the shows with Shiming were repeatedly critical of the double Olympic champion. Strangely those same fans were often positive about other fighters on the card that managed to steal the attention and fanfare.
One of those fighters was Super Flyweight action man Rex Tso (16-0, 9). Tso is an infectious fighter with a huge smile, great natural charisma, a happy go lucky attitude and a style that is made for TV. He has recently inked a deal with Top Rank for 2 years and although he's limited there are shades of Arturo Gatti about. He can box, we've seen him box against Ratchasak Kokietgym, but for whatever reason he gets dragged into a war and makes for some of the most fan friendly bouts we've seen in the Super Flyweight division.
The Super Flyweight division is a tough one but Tso can put bums on seats and when a fighter can do that they will get opportunities.
Another of the fighters was Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who is now ranked #2 by the IBF at 140lbs. Yang is a 29 year old boxer-puncher who was described as being a “Chinese Adrien Broner” by British journalist Steve Bunce. We'd say that was a harsh description of Yang but see where Bunce is coming from with Yang's combination of ability and clowning though the guy is pure box office. He punches like a mule, he clowns and taunts and he puts on eye catching performances. He is defensively lapse but has a solid chin and is happy to take one to land one and has been on the radar of some fans for the last 3 years or so, since he beat Elly Ray in fact.
Yang is the type of guy who will appeal to US TV viewers, he will appeal to Chinese fans, he will attract European fans and more tellingly he is fighting in an attractive division. In fact he's fighting in one of the most popular divisions in the West. Add his appeal to Bob Arum's promotional backing and we have a star in the making. Better yet he speaks broken English giving him a “Gennady Golokvin-like” charm.
A third Chinese fighter who has caught the attention on the Bob Arum shows is Macau's very own Kuok Kun Ng (7-0, 3). Ng is the most limited of the 3 but also the least experienced and the man who has had the weakest of teams in his corner. Although he's the biggest “work in progress” he's also a local Macau fighter, exciting and good looking with a notable local fan base. We're not going to say he's mega popular but he does have a loyal fan base and, as shown in his latest bout, he's developing a really exciting aggressive streak.
Ng is unlikely to be moved towards a world ranking any time soon. He's simply too inexperienced and too flawed. He is however a popular local draw who will bring in a crowd and be given time to develop his skills without too much pressure on his shoulders. As long as he can link up with a notable corner team he could, slowly, develop into a contender.
Whilst the loss for Shiming was a big hit to Top Rank's attempt to take over the Chinese boxing market it wasn't the end of the concept. In fact in many ways it was the first set back since they started doing them and with the working relationships to Teiken and ALA I suspect Top Rank will continue to build in the area.
The one major issue is that the cards may need to be more “name heavy” promotions. This could mean that fighters like Nonito Donaire, Brian Viloria, or Manny Pacquiao need to be involved. It could however work to the advantage of boxing fan who may get the chance to see someone like Takashi Miura in Macau to try and tempt over Japanese gamblers. Lets be honest, who'd complain at seeing Miura given a huge profile HBO opportunity in Macau?
Personally I suspect we'll see HBO back in Macau in a few months time with Shiming in a against a world ranked foe as he rebuilds, Tso continuing his pursuit of the WBA Super Flyweight title, though not getting his much talked about title bout, and Yang possibly getting a high profile bout. Maybe I'm wrong but I really hope that's not the end of the Macau shows because they have given us some great, great fights and helped get some Western attention to the Flyweight division, something that we've been very happy about.
(Image courtesy of Chris Farinas/Top Rank)
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).