This coming Sunday isn't a big day in Asian boxing but there are a number of bouts of note, with two Japanese eliminators in Fukuoka and a pretty interesting card in South Korea with Koreans, and Korean based fighters, taking on Japanese visitors.
The card in Fukuoka really is lacking in terms of depth, with just 6 total bouts on the card, but the top two bouts are mouth watering Japanese title eliminators, featuring local fighters taking on opponents from Tokyo for the right to compete at the 2019 Champion Carnival.
One of those two eliminators takes place down at 105lbs and will see the once touted Takumi Sakae (19-2-1, 13) take on recent OPBF title challenger Norihito Tanaka (16-7, 9). The 25 year old Tanaka debuted in 2011 and looked on the route to success when he claimed the Rookie of the Year crown in 2013. Sadly since that early success he has faltered, losing in a Japanese title fight in 2016 to Tatsuya Fukuhara, drawing with Lito Dante and losing to Ryoki Hirai. Sakae has won his last 5, but those wins have come against some very limited foes. The 33 year old Tanaka ran up a 14-5 (7) record before walking away from the sport in 2011. He returned to the ring in 2017 and has had mixed success, with a loss last time out to OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura. Given the need for both men to win, and look good, this could be very entertaining. A preview of this bout is available here Sakae and Tanaka face off in Japanese eliminator!
The other title eliminator bout bout will see heavy handed Yuki Beppu (18-0-1, 18) clash with Teiken hopeful Yuki Nagano (14-2, 11) in a Welterweight eliminator. Beppu, like Sakae, is a Rookie of the Year winner but at 27 years old it certainly feels like time for his to step up his competition, following 4 wins over terrible foes. The one time he really stepped, since his Rookie triumph, saw him fight to a draw with Charles Bellamy, and he seemed to bide his time whilst waiting for an opportunity like this. At 29 years old Nagano is slight older but also more tested. He comes into this bout on a 12 fight winning run, including a Rookie of the Year triumph in 2015 and a recent win over Riku Nagahama. Notably this will be Nagano's first bout outside of the Korakuen Hall, and that may be a problem with the crowd behind Beppu, but he'll be confident of continuing his good form. This has the potential to be very explosive. Our preview of this bout can be read here - Heavy handed Beppu and Nagano clash in eliminator!
There will be a second Japanese card, albeit a significantly less significant one.
The main event here will see Ryosei Hamaguchi (6-3, 2) taking on Chiharu Takasuka (5-4-1, 3), in what is a pretty low key bout if we're being honest, especially given the action in Fukuoka.
Daejeon, South Korea
In South Korea fans get a very interesting card, featuring several good looking international bouts and two BoxingM title bouts.
One of those Korean title bouts will see Doo Hyup Kim (10-6-1, 5) take on Gun Woo Gang (4-2-2, 1) for the Korean Light Middleweight title. This will be Kim's first defense of the title, and despite having been stopped in 2 of his previous 3 he will be the man with the champions mentality. On the other hand the 21 year old Gang will be having his third title fight, having come up short in two previous Korean title bouts.
The second title fight will be at 140lbs and will see Jin Soo Kim (3-1, 1) face off with Min Ho Jung (7-1-1, 1) for the vacant title. At 22 years old Kim is the younger, less experienced man but is a promising southpaw, who made an impact on his 2015 debut by scoring a brilliant KO of Andrew Silva. Jung will enter the bout as the older man, but will be the naturally smaller fighter. This could be an entertaining match up, but this will be the first title bout for either man.
On paper the most evenly matched of the international bouts will see unbeaten fighters collide as local Min Jang (6-0-2, 2) takes on Japan's Fumiya Fuse (6-0, 1). The 18 year old Jang debuted last year and has already racked up 8 fights, but this is a big step up for him. At 20 years old Fuse is tipped as one to watch on the Japanese scene, and was the 2017 Rookie of the Year, but this will be his first bout outside of Japan. With neither man being a puncher we are expecting a distance bout, but a very interesting one.
A potentially more explosive match up will see 26 year old Korean Dong Kwan Lee (8-2-2, 4) take on heavy handed Japanese fighter Arashi Iimi (6-1, 6). Coming into this Lee's record doesn't look too interesting, but his short term for has seen him going 4-1 (4) and he hasn't seen the final bell in any of his last 5 bouts. Iimi, the runner up for the 2017 Japanese Rookie of the Year has never seen the final bell, and has scored two wins already this year. Given their recent shows we're expecting to see both men go for the KO and to go for it early!
One other bout of interest will see Korean based Mongolian Batzorig Batjargal (3-0, 2) take on Japan's Hironori Shigeta (5-1, 3). We've been impressed by Batjargal since his debut and he's looked really exciting so far, but this is a notable step up in class for him. Shigeta hasn't fought since December, but was crowned the Japanese Rookie of the Year last year at Welterweight, and he has a very good win over Rikuto Adachi. We can't help but think this could be the best bout on the card.
Metro Manila, Philippines
This coming Thursday our attention turns to the Philippines where we get the chance to see one of the best prospects in world boxing, a regional female title fight, a runner up in the 2017 Japanese Rookie of the Year and experienced local hopeful.
That top prospect is Hinata Maruta (7-1, 6) who is stepping back up in class for the first time since losing in an OPBF title challenger against Hidenori Otake. The talented youngster form the Morioka gym will be taking on OPBF Silver champion Ben Mananquil (16-1-2, 4). Although the bout will be a non-title fight it is a very interesting match up and we suspect the winner of it will be moved into an OPBF title fight towards the end of this year, or very early next year. The Japanese fighter, as mentioned, as only been beaten by Otake whilst the Filipino's only loss has come to Jing Xiang, with that defeat coming in China. We suspect this could be a very special bout between two young, hungry and driven fighters looking to take a huge step forward with their careers.
In a female title bout fans will see Umi Ishikawa (6-2, 4) battle against Wassana Kamdee (3-3, 2) for the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council Female Minimumweight Title. Ishikawa has come up short at title level before, losing to Norj Gurop earlier this year, but she should have too much for Kamdee, who is 0-3 against fight a win on their record. Kamdee has faced the better opponents, including the likes of Yuko Kuroki and Hee Jung Yuh, but we'd still be surprised to see her put that experience to real use here.
Another Japanese fighter with potential on this card is the hard hitting Arashi Iimi (6-1, 6), hwho came runner up in the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Bantamweight. The hard hitting 22 year old will be up against limited Filipino Danny Tampipi (8-8-2, 5). Tampipi isn't terrible but as his record suggests he's nothing special either and it's hard to see anything but a win for Iimi, who we think will hit too hard for the local.
Outside of the bouts with Japanese fighters it's worth noting that Glenn Porras (31-7, 19) will be up against Renante Suacasa (7-19, 1). The 32 year old Porras is now a faded force, having lost 3 of his last 5, but should see this as a straight forward win over a man he dropped 3 times less than 2 years ago. Suacasa is a very limited opponent and should be a safe win for Porras, even at this stage of his career.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This coming Sunday we get one of the biggest shows of the year, possibly in fact the show of the year, as Pacquiao fever takes over Malaysia for a stacked card with 4 world title fights, and a number of notable under-card fights.
The main event will see Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38) challenge WBA Welterweight champion Lucas Martin Matthysse (39-4-0-1, 36) in what is really a must win for both men. The Filipino icon, 39, hasn't fought in over a year with his last outing being a controversial decision loss to Jeff Horn in Australia. In fact we now need to go back to November 2016 to find Pacquiao's last win, which came against Jessie Vargas. At his best Pacquiao was a destructive dervish in the ring, but he is several years beyond his best. Matthysse also looks to be on the slide, and looked like a shadow of himself last time out against Teerachai Kratingdaenggym. Although a dynamite puncher, with under-rated skills, Matthysse can be out boxed, and can be made to look slow and predictable. We're not sure what to expect here, but with both men being past their prime neither can really afford a loss.
In another of the world title bouts we'll see former IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (35-2, 24) look to reclaim that title as he faces South Korean based Pakistani Muhammad Waseem (8-0, 6). The IBF Flyweight title became when Donnie Nietes vacated it, to move up to Super Flyweight, and as a result we have a brilliant match up here. At his best Mthalane was a leading Flyweight, an aggressive but technically sound fighter with wins against the likes of Hussein Hussein, Julio Cesar Miranda, Zolani Tete, Johnriel Casime and Ricardo Nunez. Sadly though the former champion is now 35, ancient for a Flyweight. Waseem on the other hand was on the fast track to the top to begin his career, but financial issues have slowed his rise and he's spent the last year treading water to keep off ring rust. At his best Waseem is an excellent boxer, but this is easily his toughest test to date. This could be a really high class contest.
Another of the title fights could, potentially, be an historic one. The bout in question sees WBA Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16) defending his belt against Chinese novice Lu Bin (1-0, 1). The Chinese 23 year old is looking to become the new record holder for the fewest fights to win a world title, doing so in 2 fights, and the confidence of Bin suggests he believes he can do it. He was a former amateur stand out and, like Vasyl Lomachenko, wanted to be fast tracked in the professional ranks. A win for Bin really would raise the bar for what is expected of true “super prospects”. Canizales on the other hand is looking for his first defense, after winning the title against Reiya Konishi earlier this year. The Venezuelan puncher is a fearsome fighter who's only set back was a split decision draw with Ryoichi Taguchi, and coming into this bout he may well be the best fighter at 108lbs, though obviously has stiff competition from the likes of Ken Shiro. We suspect Canizales will be the favourite but Bin is not there to roll over and lose.
The 4th world title bout will see Filipino Jhack Tepora (21-0, 16) battle against Mexican Edivaldo Ortega (26-1-1, 12) for the WBA “interim” Featherweight title. The talented Tepora has long been tipped as one of the most promising young Filipino fighters and has picked up a number of minor titles in recent years but this is a big step up from the likes of Lusanda Komanisi, who Tepora stopped in eye opening fashion last September. The Filipino is flawed but has lights out power and will be a very dangerous fighter to go toe-to-toe with. Ortega is an all-action fighter with a come forward pressure style. He has scored notable wins over the likes of Juan Carlos Carlos Sanchez Jr, Tomas Rojas and Drian Francisco, but has never been in with someone who has power like Tepora. We're expecting to see Ortega bring the action and Tepora look for counters in what could be an absolute barn burner.
The under-card here is littered with great match ups, including a bout between unbeaten Chinese fighter Yongqiang Yang (10-0, 7) and once beaten Filipino Harmonito Dela Torre (19-1, 12), in what really could be a very special bout. Another good looking contest will see the hard hitting Filipino Jayar Inson (16-1, 11) taking on Aussie foe Terry Tzouramanis (20-3-3, 3) in what could be a very exciting contest.
As well as the big Malaysian show there will also be a smaller, though somewhat notable, card in Aichi.
The main event of this Aichi card will see 2017 Super Featherweight Rookie of the Year Musashi Mori (6-0, 5) battling against Filipino foe Allan Vallespin (12-2, 9). The 18 year old Mori is one to watch, blessed with natural power, speed and skills he appears to be a fighter who could find himself in the title mix in 2 or 3 years, if he can continue to rack up wins. On paper this is a notable step up in class for the Japanese teenager, given that Vallespin's only losses have come to very decent fights in the form of Masaru Sueyoshi and Denys Berinchyk. This is a a really interesting bout and a very tough test for Mori.
Also on this card is the hard hitting Arashi Iimi (5-1, 5), who takes on Suntorn Panhom (2-2, 1) on Thailand. The Japanese fighter came runner up in the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Bantamweight and has since bounced back with a stoppage over Shuto Takase in April. This will be his first bout against a non-Japanese fighter. Panhom comes into this on the back of back-to-back losses and we're not expecting him to to handle the power of Iimi, at all.
There is also a small card in Korea courtesy of the KBA.
The headline bout here will see WBA female Super Featherweight champion Hyun Mi Choi (15-0-1, 4) defending her title against Argentinian challenger Mayra Alejandra Gomez (18-7, 4). Choi, the only current Korean world champion, will be looking to extend her reign and increase her profile with this win as she attempts to make her 6th defense of the title. The champion, a tall and rangy fighter, should be strongly favoured, but Gomez has fought at world level before and has proven to be no push over against the likes of Jackie Nava.
Also on this card will be Ji Hyun Park (22-3, 6), who will be up against a Thai foe. The Korean is a IFBA, WIBA and WIBF world champion who will be looking to add a WBF International Minimumweight title to her collection. Although she's a multi-time title winner Park was beaten last time out in a WBO world title fight by Kayoko Ebata, in what was her first defeat in over a decade. We suspect she'll be back to winning ways here.