This coming Wednesday is not only the 1st of May but it is also a day with a stacked card as we begin a busy, and potentially brilliant month of Asian boxing. And if we're being honest we begin the month with a genuinely brilliant card courtesy of Dangan, who put on not only a brilliant title bout, but 3 other bouts worthy of note. This is a good a domestic card, on paper, that we've seen in 2019.
The main event is a Japanese Featherweight title bout, which will pit national champion Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) against mandatory challenger Reiya Abe (19-2, 9), The hard hitting champion really impressed us in his title win, dominating Takenori Ohashi in April 2018, but looked very beatable in his first defense, scoring a late stoppage in a nip and tuck bout against Tatsuya Otsubo. Abe on the other hand has been in impressive through the last few years with 11 straight wins, including victories over Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. This will be a fantastic match up between a boxer-puncher and a brilliant slick boxer and we're really, really looking forward to this. It could be very special. Our full preview of this bout can be read heere Minamoto and Abe clash in mouth watering Featherweight title bout!
In the chief support bout we'll see Hinata Maruta (8-1-1, 7) look to build on his December win over Tsuyoshi Tameda as he takes on Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4). For Hiroto this will be his first bout since fighting to a draw with Ryo Hino in January 2018, during which time he has been kicked out of the Kadoebi Gym for failing to make weight for a bout with Shohei Omori. Hiroto certainly has a point to prove, fighting under the Dangan banner for the first time, but will be the clear under-dog against Maruta, who is a super talent despite the two marks on his record. Our full preview of this bout is available here Maruta and Hiroto clash at Korakuen Hall!
Another brilliant bout on this show will see the hard hitting Masamichi Yabuki (8-3, 8) take on skilled youngster Ryuto Oho (12-4-1, 4), in a bout rearranged from March. The bout had to be delayed due to Oho suffering an injury but he now seems to be healthy in what is regarded as being a Japanese title eliminator. This promises high quality boxing, exciting exchanges and real action. A potential classic, and a bout that may have been helped in it's delay, by being added to such a stacked card, getting more eyeballs on the fighters.
One other bout worthy of note will see former amateur standout out Motoki Osanai (3-2, 1) look to record his third straight win, as he takes on Naoto Fujimoto (11-9-1, 5). Osanai turned professional with big expectations but hasn't yet found his groove in the pro ranks and has been fighting between Super Flyweight and Super Bantamweight. If he can find his place he has the ability to really put this poor start behind him. On paper Fujimoto looks like a bit of a nothing opponent, but the reality is that he's a nightmare to fight and we're expecting him to make this bout ultra-competitive and there could just be a round or 2 separating the men at the end of the scheduled 8.
For a second day running we get title action at the Korakuen Hall, with a relatively strong domestic undercard, featuring former world, Japanese and Japanese Youth title challengers.
The title bout headlining this show will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga (15-2-1, 10) defending his title against mandatory challenger Ryo Kosaka (16-3-1, 8). For the champion the bout will service as his second defense, following his title win last February against Yasutaka Ishimoto, and is expected to be easier than his 10 round war last time out. Kosaka has gotten this shot by being the top ranked contender at the start of the year, following Ishimoto's retirement, but his best wins don't suggest he's ready for someone as hard hitting or as aggressive as Kuga. Whilst Kosaka does have wins against Morihisa Iju, Dado Cabintoy and Satoshi Niwa this is likely to be too much a step up for the challenger, at this point in his career.
The chief support bout will see former world title challenger Shohei Omori (18-2, 13) make his ring return, after 11 months away from the ring. The talented and popular Omori needed serious facial surgery following his second loss to Marlon Tapales last year and will be moving up in weight for his return. Unlike many fighters Omori isn't having an easy bout, instead he will be facing off with Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4), an accomplished domestic level fighter who fought to a draw with Shingo Wake back in 2011 and Ryo Hino this past January. This is a tough test for Omori to return to, and for Hiroto the bout is a very good opportunity to make a name for himself. Interestingly the winner of this bout may find themselves in the mix to face the winner of the main event, in what would be another very interesting match up, and a bout that could see the winners move towards a world title shot.
Another supporting bout will see recent Japanese title challenger Ryoichi Tamura (9-3-1, 5), who gave the aforementioned Kuga fits last July, battle against Yutaka Kamioka (10-5-2, 6). We've been really impressed by the 30 year old Tamura, who is a brutish puncher and much better than his record suggests, and could be a handful at domestic level for the next few years, despite some technical limitations. Kamioka has lost 2 of his last 3, both by decision, and this is a big step up in class for him. Kamioka has scored some decent domestic wins, beating Gaku Aikawa and Naoya Okamoto, but we suspect he will look out of his depth here.
Arguably the most interesting under-card match on this card will see the under-rated 22 year old Ryota Ishida (9-2, 6) battle against the unbeaten Daichi Kawabuchi (4-0-2, 3). Coming into this bout Ishida will be full of confidence following a career best win over Yuki Ozawa last time out, and running Takuya Mizuno razor close in a Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title last August. The unbeaten Kawabuchi has drawn 2 of his last 3, though he does seem to be a dangerous puncher with 3 early stoppages and is the naturally bigger man. This could be very interesting.
The calm to begin the year ends this coming Saturday as we get the first Dangan card of 2017, and it is a brilliantly intriguing card with two OPBF title bouts, and two very good looking support bouts.
The main event of the card will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (18-2, 6) take on Filipino foe Jeffrey Arienza (16-6-1, 10) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Light Welterweight title. The talented Naito will be looking for one of the most significant wins of his career, and whilst he will be favoured here he should be expecting to have a fight against Arienza. The Filipino visitor is far from a world beater but will likely know that one more loss is the end of him at this level, and he really cannot afford another set back if he's to remain relevant.
In a more 50-50 bout we'll see Filipino fighter Carlo Magali (22-9-3, 11) defending the OPBF Super Featherweight title against Japan's Masatoshi Kotani (22-2, 15). On paper this is a very interesting match up and will potentially see the winner move into a very intriguing position as fighters look towards getting a shot at the OPBF title. Magali and a limited but aggressive fighter and will take the fight to Kotani whilst the challenger will look to use his slightly better boxing skills to take the title from the champion. A really even match up.
Another mouth watering match up will see touted Teiken fighter Shuya Masaki (9-0, 5) take on Watanabe gym's Hironori Mishiro (4-0, 2) in what could be the surprise bout of the month. Masaki is ranked #3 by the JBC and will be looking towards getting a title fight later in the year, if he wins, but a win here is certainly no forgone conclusion. Mishiro has only been a professional for 10 months but has shone, and his October win over Shuma Nakazato was absolute incredible. This is set to be a war and should be something very special for fans watching.
Another very strong looking supporting bout will see Coach Hiroto (13-2-1, 4) take on the once beaten Ryo Hino (11-1-1, 6). The talented Hiroto took almost 5 years out of the ring until returning last June, and since then he has scored 2 wins. He will however be up against it here with Hino riding a 6 fight winning streak, including a huge win last time out against Sho Nakazawa. Coming in to this the 27 year Hino looks to be the man in form, and the man going places, but at 26 years old Hiroto shouldn't be over-looked in what appears to be a very competitive looking match up on paper.
In Illinois fight fans will be able to see American based Uzbek hopeful Rustam Tulaganov (1-0) take on the once beaten Martez McGregor (4-1, 4) in a 6 rounder. The 26 year old Uzbek was a former amateur standout, having claimed an Olympic Bronze medal and an Asian Championship's Silver medal and will be favoured here. The heavy handed McGregor has never been beyond 2 rounds and is likely to come out swinging here, win or lose.