Kohei Oba retirement ceremony (March 4th)
The first notable event of the month comes on March 4th when former Japanese Bantamweight champion Kohei Oba takes part in his retirement ceremony. Whilst it may not sounds particularly interesting it does serve another purpose. Oba will take part in a short spar as part of the ceremony and that spar will see him spending time in the ring with Hozumi Hasegawa. We know it's not a real “fight” but it will be the first chance we'll have to see Hasegawa in the ring since his loss to Kiko Martinez, and with his comeback bout in May this could tell us if Hasegawa anything left or not.
Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Muhammad Rachman (March 5th)
Just a day later we get the chance to see unbeaten Thai Knockout CP Freshmart (9-0, 5) attempt to record the first defence of his WBA interim Minimumweight title as he battles Indonesian veteran Muhammad Rachman (65-11-5, 35). This is the first “major” title bout in March and will give Knockout a chance to record his second successive “big win”. For Rahman there's likely a retirement payday up for grabs though little for the 43 year old Indonesia who hasn't fought in more than a year.
Satoshi Hosono Vs Riki Fukuhara II
Also on March 5th is a really interesting Japanese show which is headlined by a bout between Japanese Featherweight champion Satoshi Hosono (26-2-1, 20), a 3-time world title challenger, and domestic rival Rikiya Fukuhara (30-7-1, 22). These two have met before with Hosono winning though some suspect that this one could be a little bit special.
On the same card fans will get the chance to see the brilliant Ryo Matsumoto (13-0, 11) fight in a stay busy bout against a Thai import, who boxrec list as a debutant. This will be Matsumoto's first bout since he won the OPBF Super Flyweight title at the end of last year.
Showdown at Sands (March 7th)
March 7th is the months first truly big day both worldwide and in Asia. The headline action for Asian fans comes from Macau where we get a major world title bout as well as several stepping stone bouts.
The main event here will see Amnat Ruenroeng (14-0, 5) putting his IBF Flyweight title, and unbeaten record, on the line against local star Zou Shiming (6-0, 1) in a potential blockbuster of a Flyweight contest. We won't pretend either guy is a big puncher but the two are big rivals who enjoyed a competitive rivalry when they were amateurs and now look to continue their rivalry in the professional ranks. This could be a very hotly contested bout between two men who have respect for each other but also the belief that they will win.
On of the most interesting support bouts will see Ik Yang (18-0-0-1, 13) battle against Patomsuk Pathompothong (29-2-1, 18) in an IBF eliminator at 140lbs. We've liked Yang since we first saw him though need to appreciate that this is actually a tough bout and the Thai comes into this “unknown” by many, however Japanese fans may recall he gave Takayuki Hosokawa a very tough bout back in 2013. This is a really interesting bout.
Japanese double header
Also on March 7th is a Japanese title double header in Tokyo.
One of those bouts will see Japanese Welterweight champion Suyon Takayama (21-1, 7) attempt to continue his reign and notch his 5th defence whilst his foe, Nobuyuki Shindo (26-2, 6) seeks revenge for a narrow loss back in 2008. We're struggling to pick a winner here and need to be honest in saying that Takayama is among the worst active Japanese champions, if not the worst.
The other title bout comes at 140lbs where the heavy handed Hiroki Okada (9-0, 7) defends his belt against Hayato Hokazono (18-4-1, 11). For Okada it's a difficult test though one he should pass whilt for Hokazono it's a second bit at the cherry after a previous loss to Keita Obara in a bout for the same title.
Female Super Fight (March 14th)
Not many female bouts can be described as super fights but the match up between Naoko Fujioka (12-1, 6) and Mariana Juarez (40-7-3, 17) certainly can come under the description of a super fighter. Fujioka, on the road for the second successive fight, will be looking to score her biggest win so far however she's up against a Mexican boxing queen. The winner here is likely to be moved into another super fight, with Zulina Munoz, and so there is a lot to play for in a very, very good looking bout.
Unbeaten Yemeni Showdown (March 15th)
Yemeni boxing may have it's critics but there is still something strangely alluring about it, especially when Ali Raymi (24-0, 24) is involved. Raymi looks for his biggest win to date as he battles fellow unbeaten Hani Ansi (18-0-1, 16) in a really intriguing Yemeni show down. Raymi is, as we all know, a colourful fellow to say the least but so to is Ansi who seems to channel the spirit of a boxing clown when he's in the ring. This could be really interesting or a quick blow out, one things for sure we can't wait to see the two men in the ring together.
Onjo Steps up (March 16th)
We've been excited by Japanese prospect Kenta Onjo (4-0, 3) for a while but his competition has been lacking. He takes a step up in March as he faces the talented and experienced Jonathan Baat (27-6-3, 13) in an 8 rounder. On paper Baat has the experience but Onjo is the naturally bigger man and will be hoping to use his youth and size to neutralise the Japanese based Filipino veteran.
Kamegai in the US (March 20th)
The popular Japanese Welterweight Yoshihiro Kamegai (25-2-1, 22) looks to kick off his association with Golden Boy Promotions in a big way as he takes on 2-time world title challenger Alfonzo Gomez (24-6-2, 12) in a potentially exciting war. On paper Gomez is the more experienced fighter and the man who has fought at a higher level, Kamegai however has taken less damage and has more power. The one thing that both men share is a fan friendly style and so this could be a really enjoyable tear up between two exciting men both in need of a good win.
Dangan 124 (March 26th)
The final big Japanese show of the month comes in style with a pair of Japanese title fights and a bout involving a notable prospect.
The more recognised of the champions is Akio Shibata (24-8-1, 10) who will not only be risking his Japanese Middleweight title but also his OPBF belt as he goes up against the little known but heavy handed Yasuyuki Akiyama (10-4-1, 8). Shibata is in great form and has won his last 3 against top domestic rivals since being stopped in 2 rounds by the then debuting Ryota Murata. The odds are the champion retains here.
In the other title bout fans will see Japanese Minimumweight champion Go Odaira (11-4-3, 1) defending his belt against Yutaka Sowano (9-5-1, 6). This is Odaira's first bout since he was stopped by Katsunari Takayama at the end of 2014 and although he should win here there are questions about how he will be will following his first stoppage loss.
Although the two title fights are great we suspect the stand out bout will be a Flyweight contest that sees the highly tipped Ken Shiro (2-0, 1) battle against 2012 Rookie of the Year winner Katsunori Nagamine (10-0, 6). This looks to be a massive step up for Ken Shiro though he will be favoured given that he was a stand out amateur and is very highly tipped.
Mall of Asia Arena host Nietes and Donaire (March 28th)
The month comes to an end in exciting fashion with two notable bouts in the Philippines on March 28th.
One of those bouts will see WBO Light Flyweight champion Donnie Nietes (34-1-4, 20) defending his title against Mexican challenger Gilberto Parra (19-2, 17). On paper it looks fine but in reality we suspect this could be very one sided in favour of the very talented Nietes who will have too much of everything Parra, who has an exceptionally padded record.
The other bout will see former multi-weight world champion Nonito Donaire (33-3, 21) return to the ring for the first time since his loss to Nicholas Walters. Donaire, fighting in the Philippines for the first time in almost 6 years, will be up against limited Brazilian foe William Prado (22-4-1, 15) in a bout that really should be an easy comeback for “the Filipino Flash”.
(Image courtesy of http://www.bcmagazine.net)