The big focus this Saturday is in the Kazakh Capital of Nur-Sultan, where the country will be celebrating Capital City day. To celebrate the day MTK will be putting on a stacked card in the city with a world title fight main event, several interesting support bouts and a host of prospects.
The main event will see WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11) defending his title, for the first time, as he takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18). The talented French-Moroccan is a real talent, and he was one of the many top Bantamweights frozen out of the WBSS, but is getting on in age and won't remain the skilled boxer-puncher that he's looked for much longer. Despite being the older fighter Oubaali will be strongly favoured here against a challenger who has lost his 3 biggest bouts, and would need a career best performance to even come close against the Frenchman. Villanueva isn't a bad fighter, but his ability is more that of a gatekeeper than a true contender. A full preview of this bout is available here Villanueva takes on Oubaali for WBC Bantamweight crown
In the main supporting bout we'll see unbeaten Kazakh Zhankosh Turarov (23-0, 16) take on Mauro Maximiliano Godoy (31-4-1, 16) in a bout for the WBO Inter-Continental Light Welterweight title. The unbeaten Turarov returned to the ring in June after almost 21 months out of the ring, and took a really disappointing win over Richmond Djarbeng, who sat in his corner complaining of stomach cramps after the second round. Godoy should prove to be a good test for Turarov, but the Argentinian has lost 3 of his last 7 and may be on the slide from the fighter he once was. Still this is easily Turarov's best test on paper, so far.
Another notable supporting bout will see the unbeaten Viktor Kotochigov (9-0, 4) taking on Jairo Lopez (24-10, 16), who was once regarded as a fringe contender. On paper this is a step up for the unbeaten Kazakh but Lopez is 3-4 in his last 7 and has been stopped in 3 of those 4 losses. This should be easier than it looks on paper for Kotochigov.
This card will b stacked with other Kazakh prospects, as MTK go all out to put on a show for local fans with Kazakh talent. Among the prospects are Ali Baloyev (8-0, 7), Sultan Zaurbek (7-0, 5), Nurtas Azhbenov (5-0, 1), Abay Tolesh (2-0, 2) and Abilkhaiyr Shegaliyev (5-0, 4), who are in relatively easily here and won't face too much of a test as they continue to build their careers and move towards bigger bouts.
As well as the Kazakh show there is also a notable card in Tokyo thanks to Teiken. This card is a really interesting one, with a notable name in the main event, a really good chief support bout, and a host of notable prospects
The main event will see Kenichi Ogawa (23-1-0-1, 17) take on limited Filipino visitor Glenn Medura (10-5-1, 6) in what will be little more than a stay busy bout for Ogawa. Originally the Japanese puncher was scheduled to have an IBF world title eliminator eliminator with South African Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8), but Fuzile failed to secure a visa in time for the bout leading to Medura, who is 0-4 in Japan, getting the bout. We don't see this going very long at all.
A much better Japan Vs Philippines bout will see Shuya Masaki (12-1, 5) take on Al Toyogon (10-3-1, 6) in an excellent match up. The once beaten Masaki, who's only loss came to Hironori Mishiro, hasn't really shined as Teiken would have wished and this is a long way from a gimme. Masaki is talented, but really needs to get prove he can put on good performances, something we don't really see from him with any consistency. Toyogon on the other hand is looking to bounce back from a recent loss to Ryo Sagawa, and will be coming into this out with a point to prove. A very interesting bout contest.
One of the other main supporting bouts will be a Welterweight bout between Masaya Tamayama (12-1, 6) and Riku Nagahama (9-2-1, 4), with both men wanting to tak a big step towards a potential Japanese title fight in the near future. Nagahama is looking to secure a second win since his TKO loss last year to Yuki Nagano, who has since gone on to win the Japanese title, whilst Tamayama is looking for a 9th straight win, and a chance to take a huge step towards a big bout.
Among the other supporting bouts we will see Japanese Super Flyweight prospect Hayate Kaji (12-0, 9) take on Japanese based Filipino veteran Rey Orais (20-18-2, 5), in what looks to be a chance for Kaji to take a huge step towards a Japanese title fight. It feels like Kaji has been on the verge of a break out fight for a while and whilst this isn't going to be it, it seems like a win and his next one will be his long awaited break out bout. For Orais questions should be asked why he's continuing to fight, rather than focus more on the training role he has at the Flare Yamagami gym.
Lower down on this card we'll see two more touted Japanese prospects both take big steps up in class against Filipino foes. One of those is the fantastic Mikito Nakano (2-0, 2), who takes on Arvin Yurong (12-2, 3) in a genuinely good test. Nakano looks like he has the ability to move through the rankings quickly, and could fight for a title as early as late 2020, and Yurong is a very under-rated young fighter who should force answers from Nakano.
The other is Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1), who's debut saw him look fantastic against an opponent who didn't want to be there. Here Lee takes on unbeaten Filipino Marlon Paniamogan (9-0-1, 5) in what should be a much, much better match up. Sadly not much is known about the visitor, so it's unclear what type of a test he will actually pose for the very talented Lee.
A smaller show takes place in the Phillipines where we see a few interesting Filipino fighters in action with a really good main event.
The main event will see the unbeaten Mark Vicelles (10-0-1, 5) take on the once touted Jesse Espinas (19-3, 11). The 23 year old Vicelles isn't well known but comes into this on the back of an excellent win over Robert Onggocan, and this is a logical step up in class. As for Espinas this is a slight step backwards, but is one that makes sense given he was beaten last time out in an OPBF title bout against Edward Heno. A very interesting match up, and rightfully the main event of the card.
In a good supporting bout Ponciano Remandiman (10-4-1, 5) and Prince Andrew Laurio (10-2-1, 7) will face off for the Philippines Visayas Professional Boxing Association Super Flyweight title. The 22 year old Remandiman has turned around a 2-4-1 start with 8 straight wins and has great momentum coming into this bout, as well as a good win last time out against Renz Rosia. Interestingly Lauio's career is going in the opposite direction, and he is 2-2-1 in his last 5, with stoppage losses in his last 2 bouts. His early potential appears to have been massively over-hyped and he is now really faltering.
One other bout of note here will see the one beaten Tomjune Mangubat (10-1-1, 9) take on Joffrey Garcia (6-10-4, 5), in what should be another straight forward win for Mangubat.
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.