The 2018 Rookie of the Year comes to an end this coming Monday as the East Japan and West Japan representatives face off in the All Japan final. The competition isn't a prestigious as the WBSS, for example, but is a major launchpad for Japanese novices, many of whom go on to make a mark in the years that follow a Rookie of the Year triumph, such as Masayuki Ito.
As with the regional finals we won't go through the whole show with a break down but we will look at some selected bouts.
The Light Flyweight bout will see East Japan champion Daiki Kameyama (6-2-1, 2) take on the unbeaten Tetsuya Mimura (6-0), who was crowned the West Japan champion. This bout isn't expected to be the most explosive, with just 2 stoppages among their 15 career bouts, but should be a hotly contested one, with a lot of skills on show. Also, given that both are in their early 20's, the winner here will have a lot of time to develop and move into bigger fights down the line.
On paper one of the best bouts is the Super Bantamweight clash between Koki Mioya (5-1-1) and Hiroki Hanabusa (5-0-1, 2). Again both men have similar looking records, a lack of power and both are in their earlier 20's. The Super Bantamweight division is currently one of the most stacked in Japan and we don't expect to see either of these two being fast tracked following the Rookie tournament, but to see them in the mix with Japanese ranked fighters over the coming years will certainly be something to keep an eye on.
Probably the best match up is at Featherweight, as East Japan and West Japan MVP's collide. The East Japan representative is the unbeaten 22 year old Hikari Mineta (5-0, 3), who debuted in October 2017 and has gone 4-0 (3) this year. From the West is the once beaten southpaw Yuri Takemoto (4-1-1, 3), who also debuted in 2017, but has come into his own this year, going 3-0 (2). This is the most mouth watering bout given the fighters records, performances in the regional finals, with both men stopping their opponents.
Interestingly the Middleweight final pits unbeaten fighters against each other, with Nath Nwachukwu (3-0-1, 1) taking on Kazuki Kyohara (3-0, 2). Given how relatively thin the Japanese scene is at Middleweight we do tend to see the All-Japanese Rookie of the Year at 160lbs move into title contention quite quickly, with 2017 Rookie of the Year winner Shuji Kato now lined up for a national title fight in 2019. It does need saying however that Nwachukwu and Kyohara aren't likely to be moved that aggressively over the coming 12 months.
Agusan del Norte, Philippines
We're set to have a small card in the Philippines. The most notable bout on the card appears to be a bout between Angelito Merin (9-9-3, 3) and Holly Quinones (3-10-1, 1). Given this is the main event of the card it shows how low key the show is, even if it is the final Filipino card before Christmas
As well as the Rookie of the Year action in Japan there is also a bout of note in Russia, as Kazakh Nursultan Zhangabayev (5-0, 4) faces off with experienced Filipino Arnel Tinampay (25-22-1, 11) in a bout for a WBC regional title. On paper this looks like a mismatch, but the Filipino has never been stopped and has scored more than his share of upsets, especially against Japanese fighters. Zhangabayev is a very good prospect, but this is by far his stiffest test to date.
Zhangabayev isn't the only Kazakh on this card. Another, in a title bout, is Aidos Yerbossynuly (9-0, 7), who will be taking on Belgian national champion Ilias Achergui (12-3-1, 6) for a minor WBO title. This looks a decent bout on paper, though in reality it's a huge step up in class for Achergui, who has never fought anyone with the quality of Yerbossybuly.
In a supporting bout the Kyrgyzstan born Kazakh Ali Baloyev (7-0, 6) will battle Ecuadorian Jean Carlos Mina (6-1, 2) in a bout we suspect will be very competitive. Baloyev will be favoured, but Mina is no push over and he could give the Kazakh puncher some real questions to answer here.
Also announced for this show is debutant Konstantin Brusensky (0-0), though his opponent isn't currently known.
This coming Saturday our attention turns to the US as we get the chance to see a Japanese fighter compete for the WBO Super Featherweight title in Florida.
The match up in question will see former OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (23-1-1, 12) take on the unbeaten Christopher Diaz (23-0, 15) in what looks like an excellent match up to fill the void left when Vasyl Lomachenko moved up in weight. The 27 year old Ito has been waiting a while for a shot at a world title, and although his last couple of fights have been stay busy contests he does hold good wins against the likes of Shinto Eto, Takuya Watanabe and Lorenzo Villanueva. This will however by Ito's first bout outside of Japan. At 23 years old Diaz is the younger fighter and also the bigger puncher but his competition has been slightly softer than that of Ito and he's yet to prove he can go 10 rounds, something that Ito has done in the past. This really could be one of the highlights of the month.
Another title bout Stateside of note will take place in Kentucky, as Uzbek born Russian based Batyr Akhmedov (4-0, 3) defends his WBA Inter-Continental Light Welterweight title against the heavy handed Ismael Barroso (20-2-2, 19). This is another tough test, on paper at least, for Akhmedov but he has shone since making his debut in February 2017 and looks like one of the most exciting prospects in world boxing. Barroso was highly touted a few years ago, and claimed the WBA "interim" Lightweight title with a win over Kevin Mitchell. Since then however he has gone 1-2 and is an old 35 year old.
Staying in the US there will also be a couple of bouts of note in Texas.
One of those will see Kyrgyzstan born Kazakh fighter Ali Baloyev (5-0, 4) battle against American foe Richard Urquizo (3-4-2, 1) for the lightly regarded NABF Junior Cruiserweight title. It's hard to imagine anything but a Baloyev win here, especially given his power and 3 stoppage losses that Urquizo has suffered in his 4 losses.
Another Kazakh in action on this show is Askhat Zhantursynov (0-0), who will be making his debut against American Michael Coronado (1-1-1). Hard to say too much about this bout, but we have been informed that Zhantursynov was a former kick boxer and could end up being the next guy to switch codes with some genuine success.