This coming Sunday is an incredibly hectic day in Japan with 4 different shows across the country, and when we talk about them being across the country we do mean that with hundreds of miles separating some of the shows.
The most notable card, in many ways, is in Kumamoto in the South West of Japan, where Yakushiji Promotions will be putting on a very significant card.
The main event of this show will be a rematch between Musashi Mori (8-0, 5) and Richard Pumicpic (21-9-2, 6). These two fought last November, when Mori took a technical decision over Pumicpic to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title, and he will be looking to make his first defense of that national title here. Pumicpic, a real under-rated Filipino warrior, will be hungry to avenge his loss. This is set to be a very, very tough bout and will be shown live on local TV channel TKU. Sadly for those outside of Kunamoto this appears to be a bout we won't be getting. A full preview of this bout can be read here Mori and Pumicpic battle again!
Whilst the main event is brilliant it's not the only bout of note and the show features a number of notable prospects. Among those is the very highly regarded Ginjiro Shigeoka (2-0, 2) who steps into his first 8 round bout, and takes on once beaten Filipino Joel Lino (10-1-1, 3). Lino's only loss came to Shigeoka's stablemate, and recent world title challenger, Masataka Taniguchi. This is a very serious test for Shigeoka, but also a bit that gives him a chance to gain immediate comparisons to Taniguchi, whilst Lino gets the chance to perform in front of a notable Japanese crowd.
Another Japan Vs Philippines bout will see the aggressive Seiya Tsutsumi (4-0, 3) take on the tough Ryan Rey Ponteras (22-13-3, 11), in what could be a really fun war. Tsutsumi has one of the most fan friendly, aggressive and exciting styles out there whilst Ponteras is a criminally under-rated veteran, who has never been stopped and can be a banana skin for better known fighters. Thhis could be a very, very exciting bout.
Another notable fighter on this card was 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Sora Takeda (4-1, 1), who will be up against Sanchai Yotboon (4-2, 4), the man the aforementioned Shigeoka made his debut against. We suspect Takeda will have the skills to over-come the Thai visitor, but this could be a good test of Takeda's metal.
Another of the more notable Japanese cards comes form Hyogo, in a female orientated card.
The biggest match up here here will see former WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-6-1, 8) take on former WBO Atomweight champion Nao Ikeyama (18-5-3, 5) in what is a must win bout for both fighters, who both have suffered 2 recent losses. Kuroki is the younger fighter, and certainly the one with more upside, though at 49 Ikeyama has proven that age really is just a number and she will be looking to extend her career in to her 50's with a win. This should be a very interesting bout, though Kuroki should enter as the clear favourite. A full preview of this bout can be read here Kuroki and Ikeyama battle in must win bout!
As well as the Kuroki Vs Ikeyama bout, there will be two title bouts on this show. One of those bouts will see Japan's in form Shione Ogata (10-6, 2) face once beaten Filipino foe Charimae Salvador (4-1, 1) for the vacant OPBF female Light Flyweight title. Ogata has won her last 3, claiming a WBA Asia and WBO Asia Pacific title in her last 2 bouts, As for Salvador she was beaten last time out, at Atomweight, but will be fighting at her natural weight here. We're expecting Ogata to pick up another win, but this isn't going to be a walk in the park.
The other title bout on this card will be a bizarre KBM and JBC female title bout, the first since a new OPBF rule was brought into play. The bout will pit Japan's Tamao Ozawa (15-5, 6) up against Korean Hye Soo Park (5-7-1, 1). The winner will become a unified 2-nation champion, albeit temporarily, with the winner likely to immediately vacate the other nation's title. The idea to this is to create depth to thinner divisions, but leads to some odd situations like this.
At the L-Theatre in Osaka fans will see a small card with a few notable names involved.
The main event of this card will see OPBF, JBC and WBO Asia Pacific ranked fighter Dynamic Kenji (10-3, 7) take on a Thai foe, who we believe will be Sophon Klachun (4-2, 1). We don't see this being much of a test for Kenji, who is edging his way towards a title fight, and will look to take the visitor out as he advances his march towards a career defining bout.
In an 8 round supporting bout fans will see Noboru Osato (10-7-4, 2) and the once beaten Ryotaro Motohashi (8-1, 2) battle in a very interesting match up. Neither of these men are big names, but they should make for a very competitive contest, much more saw the than records suggest.
Another 8 round supporting bout on this card will see Daijiro Yuki (8-5-1, 4) battle against Japanese ranked Welterweight Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-6, 4). This will be Okumoto's first bout since losing to Japanese champion Ryota Yada, and he will be looking to end a 2 fight losing run. Yuki on the other hand will be seeking a career best win.
The least notable of the Japanese cards takes place in Tsu and will be headlined by a Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title bout, with Yuto Nakamura (9-5, 7) defending his title against Toma Kondo (7-4, 1). This should be a hotly contested bout, though it's hard to doubt Nakamura and his edge in power. A full preview of this bout is available here Nakamura seeks first defense of youth crown, faces Kondo.
A notable supporting bout here will see former OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Roli Gasca (24-8-1, 8), who recently signed with Osaka Teiken, take on the once beaten Shuma Sugawara (6-1, 4). This looks like a huge step up for Sugawara, but a win puts him on the title hunt, whilst Gasca will be fighting for the first time in well over a year.
Gimhae, South Korea
The most notable show of the day comes from Korea, where the we get top Korean female fighter making a defense of one of her titles.
The aforementioned female fighter is Hee Jung Yuh (20-3, 10), who will be defending her WBF Intercontinental Female Super Flyweight title against Thai foe Saowaluk Nareepangsri (7-14, 1). Yuh is an interesting and skilled fighter, though she is well below elite level, and her only loss in the last 10 years has come to Naoko Fujioka. Despite only losing once in 10 years her competition, Fujioka aside, has been appalling. Saowaluk has lost her last 5, including 3 by stoppage. She's very much a fight who will travel to pick up a loss, and that seems to be the case again here as she returns to Korea for the fourth time in her career, still seeking her first win in the country.
There will also be a bout featuring Seung Ho Lee (4-0, 4). Lee will battle for the WBF Asia Pacific Welterweight title as he takes on Thai visitor Girapan Boonpeng (4-1, 4), who was last seen losing inside a round to Rivo Kundimang in Indonesia in November. We'll get a chance to compare Lee to Kundimang, but that's about the only thing this bout will actually do.
As well as the title action in Korea there will also be a small, yet noteworthy, card in Osaka featuring two bouts of interest.
In a bout that genuinely excites us we'll see the inform Dynamic Kenji (10-3, 7) take on the once touted Naoto Iwai (5-2, 3). Coming in to this Kenji has won his last 5 by stoppage, including big wins over Futa Akizuki and Shota Kawaguchi. That winning run has taken him from 5-3 to 10-3 and he's quickly climbing up the rankings towards a potential title fight. Iwai was tipped highly as a prospect from Hyogo but the youngster suffered back to back defeats in 2017 and he's yet to really recover from those set backs. He's notched a couple of wins over Thai's since suffering his defeats but this is a clear step up, and it feels like Morioka will be looking to see if he sinks or swims against someone as good as Kenji.
The other bout of note will see 2016 Rookie of the Year runner up Hibiki Jogo (7-2, 4) take on Tricky Kumagai (9-8, 6). The 25 year old Jogo was stopped in 4 rounds in the Rookie of the Year final and was also stopped last time out, by Yoshihiro Utsumi, suggesting that perhaps he's lacking in durability. Kumagai has also been stopped, in fact 4 of his 8 losses have been inside the distance, and he is 2-6 in his last 8, meaning he can ill afford another loss here. This isn't a massive fight for the Japanese domestic scene, but is massive for both fighters, who will have a long road to climb if they come up short here.
Metro Manila, Philippines
In the Philippines fans get a small card, expected to be headlined by the unbeaten Marlon Paniamogan (8-0-1, 5) taking on Jimmy Borbon (7-6-4, 4). This is a less than great match up, but the card looks like it will feature a bunch of more recognisable names.
Listed for the show are Wilbert Berondo (12-3-2, 5), Juan Miguel Elorde (26-1, 14), Arvin Magramo (8-1-1, 5) and Delmar Pellio (5-0, 3). Sadly none of those fighters have had their opponents named at the time of writing.
Kazakh fans get the chance to end the year on a high with a number of their fighters in action on a special card promoted by the Astana Arlans and Qazaq Promotions. The show will be free to attend, but sadly the level of bouts is a bit of a mystery.
Whilst full details on this card haven't been announced we do know that is it will feature Aidar Sharibayev (7-1, 6), Yelieqiati Nihemaituola (14-0-1, 5), Askhat Ualikhanov (4-1, 2), Ablaikhan Khussainov (9-0, 6) and Ruslan Myrsataev (5-0, 5), all of whom likely to be up against limited opponents in what we suspect will be little more than show case bouts.
Action returns to Japan this coming Sunday with two shows. One in Osaka, where we get the chance to see a few domestically ranked fighters in action, and one in Aichi where we get Rookie of the Year action.
Although Rookie of the Year is great we'll begin by looking at the Osakan card, which has the more notable fighters in action.
The main event of thus card will see the in form Dynamic Kenji (9-3, 6), previously known as Kenji Kihisa, taking on the more experienced Kenta Sugimoto (12-11-2, 1). Although Kenji's record might not be incredible on paper but he is currently in the form of his career with recent stoppage wins over Futa Akizuki and Shota Kawaguchi. Those wins have taken Kenji into the WBO Asia Pacific, OPBF and JBC rankings and he won't be wanting to give those up. Sugimoto on the other hand is tough but limited domestic level fighter who, on his day, can be a nightmare. Sugimoto's best performance was in a losing battle to Tetsuya Hisada, show he;t tough and can be banana skin, but wit a 2-4-1 record in his last 7 we don't expect him to really push Kenji too close here.
Another ranked fighter on this card is JBC ranked fighter Ken Osato (13-2-1, 4), who takes on Retsu Kosaka (9-3, 3) in what looks like a competitive match up on paper and is a rematch of a very competitive 2016 bout. This will be Osato's first bout since his loss to Masaru Sueyoshi in a Japanese Super Featherweight title earlier this year and he'll be looking to bounce back with a win here. Kosaka showed some early promise, going 7-0 (2), but has since gone 2-3 with one of those losses being a razor thin one to Osato back in 2016. Given how close their first bout was this should be a very interesting match up.
A third bout of some interest here will see Tae Soo Kim (6-4, 1) take on Katsunori Imai (6-9-3, 1) in what looks like it could be a pretty competitive bout on paper. We suspect Kim will come out on top but he will certainly be forced to work for it against the normally tough Imai, who's only stoppage loss has come to Takuya Watanabe.
As for the Rookie of the Year card, which will be the Central Japan Rookie of the Year final, there will be 8 bouts, taking place from Light Flyweight to Welterweight.
The Welterweight bout pits real novices against each other, as Atsushi Matsui (1-0, 1) battles against Daisuke Hironaka (1-0, 1). Just to explain how inexperienced these two are they have less than 4 complete rounds of shared experience, with Matsui having just 21 seconds of ring time. We know the Welterweight division, particularly on the local level inside of Japan, is thin but this is really odd, though should be very entertaining.
At the other end of the weight spectrum is a Light Flyweight bout between 19 year old Mammoth Kazunori (5-1, 5) and 23 year old Alex Ota (2-2), who meet for the second time. These two fought last November, with Kazunori stopping Ota in 3 rounds, and since then both men have fought once, scoring a win each. The power edge certainly lies with Kazunori, who has scored 5 wins inside 3 rounds, and 3 inside the opening round, but Ota will have the drive of avenging his loss in what should be a very interesting match up.