Attention turns to Tokyo this coming Tuesday for the next notable Watanabe card, headlined by a world title fight and supported by a number of really interesting prospects.
The main event of the show will see WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) making his first defense and taking on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7). Saludar, who won the title last year when he beat Ryuya Yamanaka, has proven to be a difficult assign for top fighters, with Kosei Tanaka needing to pull himself off the canvas to stop him and his win over Yamanaka. Taniguchi on the other hand is taking a huge step up in class, but is a top class fighter who's only losses have been razor thin ones to Tsubasa Koura and Reiya Konishi. We're really expecting this to be something really special. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saludar returns to Japan to defend against Taniguchi!
The main under-card bout will see former amateur standout Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2) take on Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde (10-5, 5), who is promoted by Nobuhiro Ishida. Utsuki has shown great promise already in his career, but this is a very clear step up in class and will be the first time he has taken on someone with real ring experience. Castroverde on the other hand has lost 3 of his last 6, but has mixed with good competition, including Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov and Tae Il Atsumi. This is a huge step up for the unbeaten man.
Another big supporting bout will see the 2017 Rookie of the year Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1) take on Naoto Mizutani (5-5-1, 2) in a really good looking 8 round bout. We've been impressed by Fuse, who really shined last year on his international debut in Korea, and we're expecting to see huge things from him in 2019. This should be a straight forward win for the youngster, but Mizutani has mixed with so very notable foes, including Kenshin Oshima and Ryo Akaho, so may have a few tricks up his sleeve to teach Fuse.
Teenage sensation Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) will be fighting his second professional bout on his card, as he takes on once beaten 20 year old Thai Gerttipong Kumsahwat (3-1, 3), in what should be another bout to allow Shigeoka to shine ahead of a planned 8 round bout in April.
Talking about low key Thai's it's worth noting that Suzumi Takayama (0-0) will be making his debut against a low key Thai, taking on Nirun Baonok (5-14, 4), who has stacked up losses in Japan. Typically Baonok has given rounds to good fighters and been matched really hard, but given the fact Takayama was a stand out amateur we don't see this being a competitive match up.
Attention turns to Osaka this coming Sunday for a card promoted by Hiroki Ioka.
The main event of this card is a mouth watering clash between unified OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-3, 10) and veteran challenger Yuki Nonaka (32-10-3, 10). The champion is a marauding, puncher, who doesn't know how to take a step backwards, and instead marches forward looking to impose his will on opponents. It was that desire that helped him win the titles last year, as he broke down Yasuyuki Akiyama in the 11th round of a very hard and gruelling fight. Nonaka on the other hand is a technically sound 41 year old southpaw, who gave Takeshi Inoue real problems last year. Nonaka lacks power but is a very smart fighter and will be looking to use his boxing brain here in what could be one last hurrah for the Hiroki Ioka promoted fighter. A full preview of this bout is available to read here Regional champion Hosokawa takes on veteran Nonaka!
Sadly the under-card is a bit lacking, with the best of the under-card bouts being a contest between Japanese ranked Super Flyweight Tatsuya Terada (7-3-2, 1) and recent Japanese youth title challenger Ryosuke Nasu (9-4-3, 2). The 29 year old Terada is 4-1-1 in his last 6 and is in good form, but certainly needs a big win this year if he's wanting to move into title contention. Nasu on the other hand lost in a razor thin bout to Yuto Nakamura in a Youth title fight, and has had really mixed form in recent years, including a KO loss to Masamichi Yabuki and an upset win over Naoto Iwai. Neither of these look like future champions but they should make for an interesting match up against each other.
Dongducheon, South Korea
This coming Saturday we turn our attention to Korea where fans will be able to see Korean title double header along with a number of Korean hopefuls.
One of those title bouts will see Korean Super Featherweight champion Hyun Je Shin (10-8, 2) taking on Dong Kwan Lee (9-2-2, 4). Shin won the title last year, out pointing Chan Young Kim, to record his biggest win to date. At 24 it's unclear how good Shin really will be, but his record doesn't scream anything special. Lee on the other hand is a 26 year old who is 8-1-1 in his last 10 bouts. Unfortunately Lee's opposition so far has been awful and it's really hard to know what he's capable of. The one thing that is clear here is that the bout will tell us something new about both men.
The other title bout on this card will see the Korean Middleweight vacancy being filled as the hard hitting Hyun Min Yang (5-2, 5) takes on the limited Gyu Hyun Lee (2-3-1). Yang is a stop or be stopped fighter, rarely getting beyond 2 rounds in fights due to his power. Lee on the other hand lacks power but will know that he won't get many bigger chances than this. It's an interesting bout, but another weak title bout for the Korean scene, something we're seeing a lot off as they look to give the sport a shot in the arm on the national stage.
Among the bouts on the under-card is a contest between the touted Jeong Han Cha (4-0, 4), one of the most promising Korean prospects, and fellow unbeaten Yun Seong Kim (3-0, 1). The 18 Cha is a very promising puncher, who is raw, but heavy handed, fast, destructive and exciting. There is real promise with Cha but he will need time to develop his skills. Kim on the other hand is 24 years old and this is a step up for him, following a razor thin win last time out against Sang Min Moon.
Another bout between unbeaten men will see 24 year old's clash, as Ha Nok Shim (3-0, 2) takes on Jae Min Kim (3-0, 1). Shim, a southpaw, has shown decent power, but is certainly unproven as a fighter and has only had 7 professional rounds. Kim on the other hand will have the advantage in height, but looks like he lacks power, having gone a combined 11 rounds in his 3 fights to date, and struggled to split decision wins in 2 of them.
This coming Friday out attention turns to Russia for the next RCC card, which features several notable fighters from across Asia.
One of those is Russian based Tajik Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (12-0, 8), who will be looking to make his first defense of the WBC International Super Featherweight title. The unbeaten 23 year old will be up against experienced Mexican Emanuel Lopez (29-9-1, 13), who has had mixed success in recent years, losing 3 of his last 5. If Yaqubov is as good as he has looked in recent bouts then we'd expect him to win here, and take a huge step towards a potential world title eliminator later in the year.
Unbeaten Uzbek fighter Ravshanbek Umurzakov (6-0, 5) had an interesting 2018, going 5-0 (4) but having a big asterisks over his biggest win, a 58 second victory over Eden Sonsona who looked like he didn't want to be in the ring. Umurzakoz will be up against Filipino Rimar Metuda (12-4-1, 7), who has proven himself as durable, though is 2-4-1 in his last 7 and is 0-3-1 outside of the Philippines. We suspect Metuda will put up a good effort against the Uzbek, but not really test him.
Unbeaten Kazakh Stanislav Kalitskiy (6-0, 3) will be risking his unbeaten record against Filipino Venson Delopere (6-3-4, 2). The 21 year old Kalitskiy scored 3 wins last year, including a notable one against Jestoni Autida, but it's unclear what he can really do in the ring and he should be tested here. Delopere is a 23 year old who has proven tricky to beat, but is winless outside of the Philippines. This should be a good test for Kalitskiy and we wouldn't be surprised to see him struggle at times with the Filipino.
Another Filipino on this card is Arnold Garde (10-6-3, 4), who will be up against unbeaten Russian fighter Mekhdi Abdurashedov (5-0, 2). The Russian really impressed last time out, stopping Filipino Prince Andrew Lauro in 5 rounds, and this bout seems to be a good step up for him. Garde has been stopped in 2 of his last 3, but is going to have travelled with some ambition. Sadly for Garde we don't question his desire, but we do doubt he has the skills to handle Abdurashedov
In Hungary fans a bout is scheduled between Russian born Azeri Roman Zakirov (8-0, 7) and Mexican foe Daniel Vega Cota (13-2-1, 10). The unbeaten Zakirov is a 22 year old who only turned professional a year ago but has been ultra active, with fights in Uzbekistan, Georgia and Russia and now looks to add Hungary to passport. Cota on the other hand has only fought outside of Mexico once and should be easy enough for the Azeri, given he has been stopped in both of his losses.
In Thailand we'll see unbeaten Thai hopeful Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (10-0, 4) battle against experienced Filipino Crison Omayao (24-18-4, 8) in a bout for the OPBF Silver Light Flyweight title. This bout will be the Thai's first at 108lbs and it's hoped that he will show what he can really do at the new weight after looking less than great at Minimumweight.
A second title bout on this show will see Kanyarat Yoohanngoh (4-2, 2) take on Japanese fighter Umi Ishikawa (7-2, 5) for the OPBF silver Female Minimumweight title. This is a low key bout but the winner should find themselves moving towards some bigger and better fights in the near future.
Interestingly this Thai card will also feature Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) and Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) playing some part in the show, though the specifics of their appearances seem to be an exhibition or a live public training event rather than any kind of fight.
London, United Kingdom
In London we'll see unbeaten Kazakh Sultan Zaurbek (3-0, 2) take a small step up in class as he takes on Lyuben Todorov (6-3, 2). The unbeaten prospect will be facing his first opponent with a winning record, but the Bulgarian is 0-3 outside of Bulgaria and isn't expected to be much of a threat for Zaurbek, who is scheduled to fight again a week later.
Attention turns to the Korakuen Hall this coming Monday as we get an IBF world title eliminator at 140lbs as well as a must win bout for a former Japanese title challenger.
The main event is the aforementioned world title eliminator, which will see teak tough Japanese veteran Akihiro Kondo (31-7-1, 18) battle against unbeaten Thai Downua Ruawaiking (14-0, 11), with the winner getting a shot at the IBF Light Welterweight title. The Japanese fighter came to the attention of international fans in 2017, when he battled Sergey Lipinets in a surprisingly competitive contest, and since then has scored a couple low profile stoppages whilst staying busy. Downua on the other hand is a touted Thai hopeful who hasn't fought major names, but has impressed and was really sharp in December, when he stopped Sonny Katiandagho in 3 rounds to defend the IBF Pan Pacific Light Welterweight title. The Thai is a heavy handed fighter, with good speed and timing, but this is a big step up for him. We're looking forward to this one, a lot, even if neither man would be regarded as a serious test for any of the current world champions. Our preview of this bout is available here Kondo and Downua battle in IBF eliminator!
The chief support bout will see former Japanese Lightweight title challenger Masashi Noguchi (12-11-1, 6) fighting in a must win contest. Noguchi has lost his last 6, including a stoppage losses to Shuhei Tsuchiya, Satoshi Hosono and Reiya Abe, and another loss likely ends his career. In the opposite corner to Noguchi will be Tasuku Nakagawa (7-4-1, 3), who has lost 3 of his last 4 and needs a win of his own. This is a real must win for both men.
Quintana Roo, Mexico
In theory the most meaningful bout, as it's a world title fight, this coming Saturday will take place in Mexico, as WBC Female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (14-5-3, 6) defends her title against Japan's Erika Hanawa (10-3, 4). For Gomez this will be her first defense, following a big win over veteran Esmeralda Moreno in September, and a good test for what's going to she's going to be able to do as a champion. Hanawa, who is fighting in her second world title bout, is talented but has got a reputation as someone who comes up short in her biggest bouts. Fighting outside of Asia for the first time won't do Hanawa any favours, but she does seem like she's really up for this fight. Our preview of this bout is here Hanawa gets world title shot at Gomez!
Another really meaningful contest will take place in California, as Ryosuke Iwasa (25-5, 16) clashes with Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17) in an IBF Super Bantamweight world title eliminator. Iwasa, a former world champion, will be making his US debut against a very exciting and aggressive Mexican in what could be one of the most exciting bouts at 122lbs this year. Both men are flawed, but both are exciting, and their styles should gel. Iwasa is the bigger puncher, on a single punch basis, but Juarez is tough and sets a higher pace, making this a very hard to call bout. Our preview of this fight can be read here Iwasa and Juarez meet in IBF eliminator!
Also on this card will be former WBO Bantamweight world champion Marlon Tapales (31-2, 14), though his opponent is still yet to be announced and there is a chance this bout could fall through by the time the show takes place.
Metro Manila, Philippines
In the Philippines we get a televised show courtesy of ESPN5, and it's a card with a number of good looking fights on it.
The main event will be a 12 round contest between the unbeaten Dave Penalosa (14-0, 10) and Mexican visitor Marcos Cardenas (19-6-1, 15), who battle for the WBO Oriental Featherweight title. The unbeaten Penalosahas had a stop start career but two quick wins last year has seen him build some momentum to begin 2019 and a win here will give his career the big shot in the arm that it needs. Cardenas however won't be travelling to just lose however and he is riding a 3 fight winning run into this bout. Penalose will be strongly favoured, but Cardenas will have travelled to win, and has sort of proven his toughness, lasting 8 rounds with Miguel Marriaga and 5 rounds with Rey Vargas.
The main supporting bout will see former 2-time world champion John Riel Casimero (25-4, 16) take on exciting Japanese brawler Kenya Yamashita (13-4, 10). The 29 year old Casimero, who won world titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight, hasn't looked great recently, with a loss to Jonas Sultan last time he fought on home soil, but will be under pressure to perform here. Yamashita is crude, but exciting and powerful and will be looking to shine on his international debut. Should be a huge gulf in technical ability, but also a potential gulf in desire and hunger.
A second supporting bout on this card will see teenage prospect Carl Jammes Martin (11-0, 10) take a huge step up in class to face off with Thai foe Petchchorhae Kokietgym (17-2, 8). The unbeaten Martin scored 4 wins last year, all by stoppage, and seems like one of the most promising young Filipino fighters beginning to break out. Petchchorhae on the other hand has failed to impressive despite winning some minor titles earlier in his career. The Thai was last seen being stopped in 3 rounds by Giemel Magramo, and was stopped in his other loss by Iwan Zoda, suggesting he can be taken out, something that Martin will be looking to do here.
Suwon, South Korea
There will also be a domestic card in Korean, albeit at a relatively low level.
The main bouts are 6 round contests, with one of them being a bout between Ki Hyun Park (2-2-2) and Han Bin Suh (3-0-1, 2) whilst the other will be between Jong Won Jung (5-7-1) and Dae Young Lee (2-9-1). We'll be honest and admit that it's hard to get excited about either of these bouts, of the card in general.
In Liege fans will be able to see Belgian based Kyrgyzstan born Faroukh Kourbanov (16-1, 3) battle against Ukrainian 36 year old Volodymyr Matviichuk (4-1). Kourbanov suffered his sole defeat last year, to the experienced Devis Boschiero in Italy, and will be looking to score his second win since that defeat. Matviichuk, who competed at the 2016 Olympics, only debuted as a professional in 2017 and will clearly see this bout as a chance to get into the mix at European level. Whilst Matviichuk does have a loss, it appears to be a suspect one, losing a split decision in Latvia to Ivans Levickis, in a bout that one judge scored 60-55 to the Ukrainian.
In Tokyo on February 17th we'll get a low key card in the Tokyo area, taking place in the Arena Tachikawa Tachihi.
In the main event fans will see hard hitting Japanese ranked Light Welterweight Hayato Ono (8-2, 8) take on the little known Fumisuke Kimura (7-4, 4) in an 8 round contest. Coming into this Ono has been in a rich vein of form, stopping his last 3 opponents, and put a loss in the 2016 Rookie of the Year final well behind him. Ono's not the toughest fighter, but wins over Noriaki Sato and Ryusei Nakajima have put the 22 year old on a good course to a title fight. Kimura, 31, has never been stopped but has been beaten in 3 of his last 4, and was shut out by Andy Hiraoka a year ago. Although tough we do expect this to be a real test of Kimura's chin, grit and determination.
Also on this card is a fantastically competitive looking match up between Shunsuke Isa (6-1-1, 1) and Yuni Takada (6-3-1, 3), in a 6 round contest. The 20 year old Isa has gone unbeaten in 3 fights following an opening round loss to Retsu Akabane during the East Japan Rookie of the Year in 2017, and is a talent even if he is a very light puncher. Takada, who is also 20, has lost to the likes of Tatsuro Nakashima and Tomoki Shibanuma. He's a slightly harder puncher than Isa, but was beaten last time out ending a 5 fight winning run.
Also on this card is Taichi Ueno (6-3, 3), who will be facing Thai visitor Chinathip Thawiphun (1-3-1). The 21 year old Ueno, who looks to bounce back from a stoppage loss to Gakuya Furuhashi, is unlikely to really be tested here as he takes on Chinathip, who is 0-2 outside of Thailand and was stopped last time out.
Our attention turns to the US this coming Friday for a pair of cards featuring Asian fighters.
The more notable of the two cards is from Kansas where we see two unbeaten fighters from Central Asia in action.
The better of the two bouts will see Uzbek Light Welterweight contender Shohjahon Ergashev (15-0, 14) take on unbeaten American Mykal Fox (19-0, 5) in what should be a decent test for Ergashev. The unbeaten Uzbek has ran through almost all of his competition, with only Wang Zhimin managing to stand up to his power. This however should be a test of his skills, and Fox will have significant height and reach advantages over the Uzbek, who may struggle to get into range in the way he has against other opponents. For Fox this is a big step up, and his first bout against a rising contender, and a brutal puncher. We're expect an Ergashev win, but hoping he shows more here than we've seen from him so far. Our full, in depth preview of this fight can be read here - Ergashev to go off Fox hunting, against Mykal
The other bout featuring an Asian will see Kazakh fighter Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-0-0-1, 12) look to extend his unbeaten record. The unbeaten Eyubov hasn't fought since June last year, and has really seen his momentum come to a crashing end. He needs to not only win here, but also to look destructive, impressive and exciting. His opponent will be Mexican Jose Luis Rodriguez (25-12, 13), in what should be little more than a confidence builder for Eyubov.
Another Kazakh on this card is Heavyweight novice Izim Izbaki (1-0, 1), who will be up against American Matt Foster (0-3). Izaki is tipped as one to watch and this should be a showcase for the Kazakh.
On a Top Rank show in Minnesota we'll see Filipino Giovanni Escaner (19-3, 12) take on Joshua Greer Jr (19-1-1, 11) in a bout for the WBC Continental Americans Bantamweight title. The Filipino is currently riding a n 8 fight winning run, including notable wins over Naoto Uebayashi and Rene Dacquel, following a 2014 loss to Jason Canoy. Greer on the other hand has won his last 16, following a 2015 loss to Stephen Fulton, including wins over the then unbeaten pair of Juan Gabriel Medina and James Smith. This is a really interesting match up between two amazingly well matched fighters.Ergashev to go off Fox hunting, against MykalErgashev to go off Fox hunting, against Mykal
This coming Thursday we'll get another brilliant Japanese card, under the Diamond Glove Banner, with a number of fantastic bouts.
The main event of the card will see OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) make his first defense, as he takes on the under-rated Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4). The exciting Teshigawara won the title last year , when he moved up to the weight and stopped Glenn Suminguit. His title win completed a fantastic year, which has also seen him defeat Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita. Although relatively unknown in the west Iriguchi has scored notable wins against Ryohei Takahashi and Takafumi Nakajima, though his 2018 was a frustrating one after he missed for a bout and only actually fought once all year. Our preview of this bout can be read here Teshigawara looks to defend OPBF crown against Iriguchi!
A second bout will see a new Japanese champion being crowned at Light Flyweight, as Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) takes on the little known Satoru Todaka (9-2-4, 3), to fill the vacancy left by Tetsuya Hisada. The 38 year old Horikawa is looking to become a 2-time national champion here, but is certainly up against not just Todaka but also father time and may well himself getting old over-night, though he did look good in October when he faced Koji Itagaki. Little known Todaka is a 29 year old getting his first title fight. Todaka has shown nice speed and movement, but this is a huge up for him and if father time doesn't over-come Horikawa we believe that Todaka will really struggle. Our preview of this bout can be read here Horikawa and Todaka battle for vacant Japanese crown!
Former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama (11-3-2, 5) will be up against former Japanese title challenger Yusuke Sakashita (16-8-3, 11), in a must win for both men. Both have suffered recent setbacks and will need to show that they still have enough in the tank if they are to move back into title fights. At 30 Nakayama is likely on the back end of his career, whilst Sakashita is just 27 but has had a hard career and has been stopped 3 times in his 27 bouts.
One other bout of note on this card will see Yoshimitsu Kimura (10-1, 5) face off with Filipino Allan Vallespin (12-3, 9). Kimura bounced back well from his loss to Richard Pumicpic and will likely see a win here as his chance to take a huge step towards another regional title bout. Vallespin, who is now 0-3 outside of the Philippines, is a live under-dog and he proved his worth in a narrow loss to Musashi More last July. This should be a really interesting match up, and stylistically it should be very exciting.
This coming Monday attention turns to Hiroshima, as we get an OPBF title fight and a very interesting supporting bout, featuring a Japanese Youth champion.
The OPBF title bout will see OPBF Light Flyweight champion Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5) look to defend his title against veteran Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7), in what is set to be Heno's third defense of the title. The unbeaten champion, from the Philippines, won title in Japan in 2017, stopping Seita Ogido, and has impressed since with wins against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. Despite impressing it's clear he still needs some more experience and development before moving on to a world title fight, and we suspect the 26 year old will be looking to make those improvements this year, before a world title fight in 2020. At 35 years old Itagaki is a proper veteran, who debuted back in the summer of 2005. During Itagaki's career he has come up short in bouts for the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific title, but he'll be perfectly aware that this is his last chance. There is do over. For Itagaki this will be the final shot at a title, and if he loses that could well end his career. Sadly for the challenger, it'd be a major surprise if he could over-come the excellent Heno. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Heno returns to Japan to defend OPBF title against veteran Itagaki
In the chief support bout Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Tetsu Araki (12-1-1, 2) will be battling against domestic puncher Morihisa Iju (11-3, 9), with Iju returning to the ring for the first time since September 2017. Araki won the Youth title last time out, upsetting Ryuto Owan, and is riding an 8 fight unbeaten since losing in the 2015 Rookie of the Year to Tenta Kiyose. At the age of 24 Araki is showing genuine promise but this is a good step up and a good chance for him to show what he can do. Iju, as mentioned, has been inactive recently and actually lost 2 of his 3 most recent bouts. Despite limited Iju can bang and with this being his return to the ring we're expect to see him show some real hunger, which should make for a very interesting fight. Araki will be favoured, but Iju is certainly a live under-dog.