This coming Friday is a pretty big day in Asian boxing, with a female world title bout in Japan and the US debut of a notable Japanese hopeful.
The female world title fight will take place at the Korakuen Hall on a small but interesting card.
That title fight will see Japanese female star Naoko Fujioka (17-2, 7) defending her WBA Female Flyweight title against interim champion Irma Sanchez (30-7-1, 8) of Mexico. The talented Fujioka, the first ever 5 weight world champion from Japan, is a veteran at 43 years old but is the golden girl of Japanese boxing and is widely regarded as one of the top pound for pound female fighters. Aged 30 the Mexican challenger won the interim title last time out, narrowly defeating Brenda Ramos, and is an accomplished world class fighter who has faced a number of top foes, including Jessica Chavez, Carina Moreno and Mariana Juarez in her 12 year career. We suspect Fujioka will come out on top, but this is a genuinely tough match up and should be a really good test of what Fujioka has left.
The best of the supporting bouts on this card is a mouth watering domestic clash, as veteran Takafumi Nakajima (29-10-1, 13) takes on under-rated youngster Yuki Iriguchi (9-2-1, 4). Last time out Nakajima pushed Mark John Yap all the way in an OPBF Bantamweight title fight and us a proven quantity around title level, with notable contests against the likes of Shingo Wakes, Kinshiro Usui, Kosuke Saka, Hidenori Otake and Jonathan Baat. Although a proven fighter Nakajima is now 34 and it's unclear much longer he can go on.
Another under-card bout of some inter-rest will bee between Yutaka Motoyoshi (7-12, 5) and Ryuto Araya (11-7-1, 3). The 30 year old Motoyoshi has lost 4 of his last 5, including his last 3, and will know that he cannot afford another loss if he's to move his career to the next level. Also aged 30 Araya was once regarded as a promising fighter, but has himself struggled recently, losing in an OPBF title fight last year and suffering back to back loss to Tatsuya Otsubo. Whilst neither of these men will be competing at world level before they retire, both will come into this fight with belief they can win and that should give us a good contest.
In California we see two Asian fighters in action.
The more notable of the two is Japanese Light Welterweight hopeful Hiroki Okada (18-0, 13), who is a former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific champion and is currently the owner of several world rankings. The Japanese fighter, who recently signed a promotional deal with Top Rank, will be making his US debut as he takes on Argentinian fighter Cristian Rafael Coria (27-6-2, 11). Amazingly this bout will Okada's first outside of the Korakuen Hall but it does appear that he's been matched safely so he can get a win on the road and then begin going through the final stages before a world title fight. The 35 year old Coria is a 12 year veteran who has never been stopped, but has lost to a number of recognisable names, such as Paulus Moses, Daud Yordan and Custio Clayton. Okada should win, but it's less about the result and more about whether he can impress Top Rank enough to push him straight into a world title bout, or whether he will have wait to get his shot at a world title.
On the same card fans will be able to see touted American Jamel Herring (17-2, 10) take on Filipino prospect John Vincent Moralde (20-1, 10). Herring was a 2012 US Olympian who had been touted as a potential professional star, but he has lost 2 of his last 4, suffering a 10th round TKO to Denis Shafikov and a 10 round unanimous decision Ladarius Miller. Moralde has promised a lot, and he finally lived up to that promise last time out, when he defeated Ismail Muwendo over 8 rounds. If Moralde can put it together again here he'll give his career a huge boost, and claim the USBA Super Featherweight title.
A second card with some interest comes from Pennsylvania as unbeaten Kazakh Shyngyskhan Tazhibay (6-0, 2) battles against Yasmani Pedroso (2-4, 1), in what looks like a straight forward win for the unbeaten 26 year old. Tazhibay has had some fanfare, but inactivity in 2017 and 2018 has really hampered his development, much like mismatches like this. We hope to see him face better competition shortly, but at this rate it looks like it could take a long time before he faces someone of any note.
It's not just Japanese and Filipino fight with something to get excited about as Chinese fans in Zhengzhou also get a notable card with a couple of title fights and a couple of interesting looking support bouts.
The main event will see the unbeaten Yelieqiati Nihemaituola (13-0-1, 5) take on Filipino visitor Eranio Semillano (16-8-3, 5) in a bout for the WBA Asian Boxing Council Bantamweight title. The unbeaten local will be looking to make his first defense of the title, which he won in April by stopping Conrado Tanamor, but is facing one of the most notable opponents of his career. The 26 year old Semillano is no world beater but is a solid opponent on his day, as shown with wins over the likes of Wilbert Berondo. Sadly for Semillano he doesn't seem to have the consistency needed to score good wins on a regular basis, and it's hard to imagine him putting it together against Nihemaituola.
Another title bout will see Youli Dong (12-0-1, 8) battle Adam Diu Abdulhamid (12-6, 5), in what will be Dong's first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Welterweight title. The unbeaten Chinese drew in his debut but has built fantastically afterwards claiming a couple of WBO regional titles along the way. Although Dong failed to score a stoppage in his first 4 bouts he has stopped 8 of his last 9 and looks to be building the tools he needs for a bright future. On the other hand Abdulhamid was touted as an amateur but has failed to come good, losing 3 of his last 4, and it's unlikely a bout on the road against a hard hitting Welterweight prospect will be good for his career.
Talking about fighters who were once touted it's good to see that Chinese Light Heavyweight Peng Qu (12-2-1, 8) will be returning to the ring 10 months after a surprise loss in China to Gasan Gasanov. The Chinese local has been inactive since losing to Gasanov last November but will be looking to bounce back with a win here, as he takes on Tanzanian visitor Benson Mwakyembe (11-4-1, 6), who should be an easy comeback opponent. Mwakyembe has been stopped in 3 of his last 5 and is naturally smaller than the Chinese fighter, who will likely be looking for a quick blowout.
An interesting support bout here will see Mongolian debutant Tsendbaatar Tsendbaatar (0-0) face off with Joseph Omana (12-5-1, 6) in a 6 round bout. We're unsure about Tsendbaatar's background, though we always love to see Mongolian fighters in action so we hope his bout against his Chinese based Filipino foe will be available online. Coming in to this one Omana has lost his last 4, and is without a win in a little over a decade! Despite that he is still only 28.
There will also be Japanese action in Germany, as former WBC Light Flyweight title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (19-6-1, 12) takes on promising German prospect Mirco Martin (12-0, 6) in a Flyweight bout. Kakutani was once a promising fighter but losses in his 3 most significant bouts doesn't bode well for him here, especially given he's now 33 and has been inactive for over a year. Martin comes into this bout on a good run of results, including a bit win last time out against former world title contender Jose Antonio Jimenez.
The most notable card of the day comes from Shanghai and is a really weak card, which has got all it's interest based on the main event alone, and if we're being honest we really hope this isn't the type of thing Chinese boxing will become when it develops more stars.
That main event will see WBO Flyweight champion Zou Shiming (9-1, 2) making his first defense of the title as he takes on Japanese challenger Sho Kimura (14-1-2, 7). We saw Shiming win the title last year, when he beat Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym in their second bout, and he will be favoured here against the relatively unknown Japanese challenger. However Shiming has been inactive since November, has seen a number of dates for a bout fall through this year and is now 36. Although Kimura is unknown outside of Asia he's a decent fighter on a 16 fight unbeaten run, which includes a notable regional title win over Masahiro Sakamoto, and he is 4-0 (3) outside of Japan, with a win in Hong Kong in his most recent outing.
A second Chinese show comes form Jinan and is a much less card, with little of real appeal.
On paper the best match up looks to be a 6 rounder between the unbeaten pairing of Aikeremujiang (4-0, 3) and Yongchao Sheng (2-0, 1). Aged 20 it appears that Aikeremujiang is a promising puncher but this could be a genuine test and the 24 year old Sheng won't be wanting to give up his unbeaten record.
The only other 6 rounder on this card will see highly experienced Filipino Richard Garcia (26-24-1, 7) take on the win-less Yangyang Wang (0-4-1) in a bout that could be competitive, but is unlikely to excite too many fans on paper.
As well as the action in China there will also be a show in Osaka, with a title bout headlining this card too.
That title bout will see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Tetsuya Hisada (28-9-2, 17) defending his title, for the first time, as he takes on veteran Atsushi Kakutani (19-5-1, 12), who gets his third shot as a national title. Coming in to the bout Hisada is on a sold run of 7-0 (6) including wins over Shun Kosaka, Hayato Yamaguchi and, most notably, Kenichi Horikawa. It's not a world class run, by any stretch, but it is a solid domestic run and one that has seen him really earn the title. Kakutani on the other hand looks like a man in last chance saloon, having been blown away by Ken Shiro 15 months ago. Aged 32 it's likely now or never for Kakutani, who is best known for dropping Adrian Hernandez in a WBC title fight almost 4 years ago. This should be a good fight and a really competitive one, but it's hard to see Hisada losing against this aged version of Kakutani.
In a supporting bout the once beaten Yuki Takahashi (8-1, 4) will take on the limited but heavy handed Tatsuya Miyazaki (8-9-1, 8), in a bout that could see the 22 year old Takahashi being given a chin checking.
Eastern Cape, South Africa
Outside of Asia we get yet another title fight as Gideon Buthelezi (19-5, 4) defends his IBO Super Flyweight title against Filipino foe Ryan Rey Ponteras (20-11-1, 9) in what could be a much better bout than it looks on paper. On paper Buthelezi is the clear favourite, but the Filipino has placed the role of the up-setter in the past, and will be looking to do so again here, against the under-rated Buthelezi.
This coming Sunday is set to be a very busy day in Japanese boxing circles
The most interesting card of the day comes from the EDION Arena Osaka where Green Tsuda put on what looks like a really interesting show.
The main event of the card will see Japanese and OPBF ranked Takayuki Okumoto (18-7-2, 8) battle against Filipino visitor Eranio Semillano (13-7-2, 4), with the Filipino himself holding a top 10 OPBF ranking. Both fighters will be entering this bout with the knowledge that a good performance could move them to an OPBF title fight, and both will also know that their opponent can be beaten, and can be stopped. Interestingly this is an southpaw bout with both men being 25 years old, but it's the visitor who will be the taller man.
In the chief support bout we'll see the hotly tipped Kazuki Tanaka (6-0, 5) take on world ranked Thai Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (16-6, 11). Although inexperienced Tanaka is tipped for the top and is a former stand out amateur who has long been viewed as a future world champion in the making. On paper this could be a step up, given that Sukkasem has a #15 ranking with the IBF, but the Thai has lost every time he's faced a notable fighter, and was stopped in 5 rounds last year by Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga, with that likely being the marker that Tanaka will be looking to beat.
Another Japan Vs Philippines bout will see exciting local Ryuto Kyoguchi (14-1-1, 10) takes on former world title challenger Silvester Lopez (27-12-2, 9). For Kyoguchi this is a real gut check with the youngster, the older brother of Hiroto Kyoguchi, having only had 1 round of in ring action in almost 2 years. At his best Kyoguchi is a real talent, but this is a genuinely tough test. Lopez, who fought for the WBC Super Flyweight title in Japan back in 2012, has picked up a lot of losses recently but is still a test at this level and did drop Sho Nakazawa back in 2015. Sylvester has power and could well be a banana skin if Kyoguchi over-looks him.
Also on this card will be former OPBF champion Yu Kawaguchi (25-8, 12) and rising female star Fuka Komura (2-0, 1), who will both be up against low key Thai foes.
Staying at the EDION Arena in Osaka there will also be a Dangan card. Originally it was set to be headlined by Ken Shiro defending the Japanese Light Flyweight title against Tetsuya Hisada but Ken Shiro chose to vacate the title, with a rumoured WBC title fight set to be announced, forcing that bout to be cancelled. Despite that the show will still go ahead and Hisada will get a shot at the Japanese title on April 21st.
As a result of Ken Shiro vacating the Japanese title we now see the main event as a bout between defending OPBF Super Flyweight champion Rene Dacquel (18-6-1, 6) and Japanese challenger Shota Kawaguchi (20-7-1, 8). The bout is a pretty good one on paper, but one where Dacquel will be favoured and one that feels like a disappointing main event given that Ken Shiro was supposed to be headlining.
In supporting bouts we'll see former world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (18-5-1, 11) and unbeaten teenager Daiki Tomita (8-0, 2), both of whom will be battling against limited Thai visitors.
We also get a small card in Okinawa. The card really doesn't have much of note on it, but does feature one man who we suspect will be one to watch over the coming decade or so.
The fighter is Lightweight puncher, and 2016 Rookie of the Year, Shawn Oda (5-0, 5). The teenager really impressed last year, debuting in May and winning the Rookie of the Year in December, and will be looking to kick off 2017 with a bout against Thai visitor Tienchai Sor Kanitsorn (2-8, 1). Tienchai is a regular in Japan, fighting his 10th bout in the country, and although he's there to be beaten by Oda we suspect the local will still be looking to give the fans a show before stopping the Thai.
There will also be a low key card in Shizuoka.
In the main event of this card we get a really good match up as former Japanese title challenger Cristiano Aoqui (11-5-2, 7) takes on the under-rated Noriaki Sato (4-1-1) in a bout at Welterweight. Aoqui's best success has been at 140lbs, where he fought the then Japanese champion Hiroki Okada last year, but it looks like he's moving up to continue his career. Sato on the other hand was forced up in weight after failing to make weight for last year's Strongest Korakuen, when he was unable to make 140lbs to face Koichi Aso. The bout should be an exciting one and a real crowd pleaser.
In a supporting bout on this card the 21 year old Daiki Ichikawa (8-2, 6) will be risking his OPBF ranking against Takaki Sakurai (7-7-1, 3). Coming in Ichikawa is ranked in the top 15 by the OPBF at Lightweight and may well feel like he is just a few fights away from getting a title shot, something he is ill prepared for at the moment. As for Sakurai he's lost his last 5, but could still be a problem for the heavy handed Ishikawa, if the youngster is over-looking Sakurai.
Daejeon, South Korea
There is also set to be a very low profile card in South Korea. This card doesn't have anyone of any note on it , with the main event being a 6 rounder between Hyun Min Yang (4-1, 4) and Heuk San Lee (1-0-1).
After a short quiet period in Japan over Christmas we see action return this coming Wednesday in Osaka.
In the main event of the card we'll see former world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (17-5-1, 10) face off against fellow veteran Atsushi Aburada (11-10, 6) in what looks like a must win bout for both men. Kakutani will be fighting for the first time since suffering an opening round stoppage loss to Ken Shiro back in April, in a Japanese title fight, whilst Aburada has lost 3 of his last 4 and cannot afford another loss if he's to be in a notable fight next year.
In the chief support bout we'll see the exciting Kosuke Saka (14-3, 11) attempt to end a break year. So far in 2016 has stopped Burning Ishii and Takafumi Nakajima and will be looking to add Thai Denyaso Sithkhrumak (1-3), who has lost in his 3 previous visits to Japan, to his victim list for the year. Although not a huge name we do love watching Saka and wouldn't be surprised to see him in the title mix by the end of 2017 and the 24 year old really does look like an exciting prospect.
April is a great month for Japanese fight fans with a host of notable shows through the month. One of the most notable come on April 14th where we see a number of bouts with notable fighters.
One of those bouts is a Japanese Light Flyweight title bout between unbeaten champion Ken Shiro (6-0, 3), who looks to make his first defense, and mandatory challenger Atsushi Kakutani (17-4-1, 10). The youngster won the title late last year, when he over-came Kenichi Horikawa in a brilliant bout, and will be looking to notch a win over a world title challenger. For Kakutani however this is a long over-due shot and one that could make or break his career.
Another title bout on this card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (13-3-1, 7) defending his title against Akira Shono (9-7-2, 5). This match up is somewhat hard to get excited about, with Shono seemingly stepping up in a huge way, though it does need to be noted that Takenaka has been in active since August, when he won the title courtesy of a 5th round TKO win over Vinvin Rufino. On paper this is an easy first defence for the champion, but one that he will be hoping he'll be expected to shine.
In a very notable non-title bout fans will see Keita Obara (15-1-1, 14) in a stay busy bout against Petchdam Tor Buamas (0-1). Although a huge mismatch the aim of the bout is for Obara to shake some ring rust as he looks to build towards an IBF Light Welterweight world title fight with unbeaten Russian Eduard Troyanovsky. This will be Obara's first bout since his controversial draw against Walter Castillo and it should be a very easy show case for the heavy handed Japanese fighter.
In another under-card bout fans will see Japanese Rookie of the Year Tsubasa Koura (6-0, 3) kick off his 2016 by facing Thailand's Yai Phuket Topteam (0-0). The 21 year old Koura impressed last year with 5 wins, and won the All Japanese Rookie of the year. He'll be hoping to continue to build on his promising career this year, though should be up against better tests than Yai before the year is over.
Whilst fans in the west will be talking about the action from the rematch between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana there will actually be some pretty interesting and notable bouts taking place out East with two Japanese shows.
The most interesting of the two Japanese cards is at the Bodymaker Colosseum and features a trio of Japanese fighters all looking to put a recent loss behind them and move towards bouts of redemption.
The most well known of those 3 fighters is Light Middleweight-come-Heavyweight Nobuhiro Ishida (25-10-2, 10) who continues his Heavyweight campaign with a bout against Frenchman David Radeff (5-7-2, 2). For Ishida this will be his first bout since his controversial loss to Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto earlier this year. When Ishida first announced plans of campaigning at Heavyweight many thought he was crazy though it seems that he has the intentions of winning the national title come hell or high water. A win here will set him up for a title bout likely to be on New Years Eve.
Whilst Ishida's loss was controversial and competitive the same cannot be said of the loss suffered last time out by former Japanese Bantamweight champion Kohei Oba (35-3-1, 14), who was dominated and then stopped by American-Nicaraguan Randy Caballero in an IBF Bantamweight title eliminator. Oba's return to the ring will see him matched easily as he takes on domestic foe Keigo Soma (6-10-1, 3) in what appears to be a confidence building bout following the stoppage loss to Caballero. As for Soma he has lost 4 of his last 5 and this is likely to be little more than another clear defeat on his record.
The third man returning to the ring following a loss is Yu Kawaguchi (20-6, 9) who suffered his loss in a technical decision defeat to Kentaro Masuda for the then vacant Japanese Bantamweight title. Although Kawaguchi was a clear loser on the cards his team haven't wrapped him in cotton wool here and instead of taking on a no hoper he'll be up against Seizo Kono (14-6-1, 9). Kono is no world beater though he's certainly a capable fighter on the domestic scene and could give Kawaguchi a solid work out here.
The rest of this card will feature 5 other bouts, all scheduled for 4 rounds.
A second Osaka show will feature the Rookie of the Year West finals. This show was scheduled to see 12 bouts though we've seen 2 of the contests, bouts at Super Featherweight and Lightweight both aborted.
From the 10 bouts left on the show 4 of them have been scheduled for 5 rounds whilst the other 6 will be 4 rounders. The winners will be expected to make a name for themselves and compete, at some point, for a Japanese or OPBF title.
Whilst the bouts in Osaka are the most interesting we also have a meaningful bout in Hyogo as former world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani (14-4-1, 7) battles Thailand's Dawut Manopkanchang (0-1) in what is thought to be a warm up bout before an OPBF title challenge. On paper the bout is a mismatch though the only recorded bout for Dawut saw him battling against Kohei Kono on last New Years Eve, he lost that one by TKO in 3 but Kono is a much more imposing fighter than Kakutani and shouldn't be beaten that easily. Kakutani, best known for his fight with Adrian Hernandez, should over-come Dawut with out too many problems though he'll know that a bout with OPBF Light Flyweight champion Jonathan Taconing won't be an easy one and this may not be the best warm up for that bout.
This show will feature a further 5 bouts, the most notable of which will be an 8 rounder between Yuichi Arai (8-8-1, 2) and Thai visitor Saensak Sithvarunee (0-1). On paper this looks like a stay busy fight for Arai though it's hard to be certain and with a lot of these Thai's it's hard to really know just how correct their records are. What we do know about Saensak is that he's fought in Japan before, losing a wide decision to Ken Achiwa and probably should lose here given that result.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)