This Saturday isn't one of the biggest in Asian boxing but it's still likely to be an interesting day of fighters with several notable names in action.
The biggest bout of the weekend, at least for us, comes from the USA as IBF Featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich (19-0, 9) defends his world title for the 4th time. Gradovich, seen by some as the “weak link” at Featherweight will be defending his belt against fellow unbeaten fighter Jayson Velez (22-0, 16) of Puerto Rico. The bout looks like a really interesting one as both men are trying to prove they they are world class and remain unbeaten though will know this is likely to be the toughest bout of their career so far.
Metro Manila, Philippines
In the Philippines we get a small but notably Johnny Elorde promotions show in Metro Manila.
The main event here will see Juan Martin Elorde (16-1-1, 7) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title against Japan's Hirotsugu Yamamoto (16-10-2, 2). For Elorde this will be the second defence of his title though we do wonder just how far he will really be able to go, we are also unsure just how Yamamoto has qualified for this title fight and he shouldn't give much of a challenge to Elorde.
A second notable fight here will see Juan Miguel Elorde (16-1, 8) fight against a yet to be named opponent. Sadly when we have a "TBA" a few days before the fight we don't expect to see a good opponent and that's likely to be the case here.
Others on this card include Flyweight prospect Giemel Magramo (11-0, 8), who battles the over-matched Ruther Del Castillo (9-20-8, 2) in a 10 round contest, and and the light punching Jeffrey Francisco (10-0-1) who fights Jestoni Autida (5-2, 2) in the most interesting of the bouts scheduled for 8 rounds.
In Australia we will see a trio of Asian's in action, including one in the main event.
On the undercard will see Thailand's win-less Arnon Yuchareon (0-7) fighting against Australian based Brit Darren Askew (12-6-1, 4). The fight is likely to be Arnon's 8th straight loss however he has proven to be very competitive in his last 2 bouts an may well upset Askew who has has undergone a career revival since heading down under where his is now 6-0-1. Another Thai on the under-card is Pramool Boonpok (1-8-1) who will be fighting against Liam Hutchinson (8-1, 4) in what looks to be another clear mismatch against the Thai fighter.
In the main event Indonesian journeyman John Bajawa (12-7, 6) will be in action against Brad Hore (3-1). For Hore this will be first bout in over a year and some will view this as a must win for the 2-time Olympian. Bajawa, for those who recognise his name, has been in with some interesting fighters in recent years including Ryo Matsumoto, who stopped him inside a round, Melvin Gumban, who stopped him in 7, Yushi Tanaka, who stopped him in 8, and most recently Rex Tso who stopped him in 5. It's fair to say Hore will be favoured massively here.
Sometimes in boxing we go days, if not weeks, with out any major fights. On other days it seems like everything is crammed into one day. We get one of those crammed days this Saturday with more notable fights than an average month and most interestingly they are spread across the world and come at us from every angle, almost every division and petty much non stop through out the day!
The busy world title action for the day kicks off in Macau with a number of incredible fights as Top Rank put on arguably their best card of the year so far and really do give the clearest intentions that they are going to be committed to growing their Macau brand.
This card kicks off with Macau's very own prospect Kuok Kun Ng (3-0, 1) battling against Muhammad Imam (9-4, 3) in what looks likely to be the toughest bout so far for the 23 year old "Macau Kid". Imam, also known as "Felix the Cat" is 0-3 outside of Indnesia though has never lost to a fighter as inexperienced as Ng and could well give Ng some problems.
The second bout on this card will see Eun-Chang Lee (7-3, 1) attempt to upset former Ryota Murata rival Esquiva Falcao (2-0, 1). Lee is the current South Korean Super Middleweight champion though we don't see him really testing the talent Falcao who twice met Murata in major competitions including 2012 Olympic final. Falcao was twice beaten by Murata but there is the expectation that he will go on to be the next Brazilian star.
In the third bout we're hoping to see the unbeaten Ik Yang (14-0-0-1, 9) fighting against Geisler AP (5-1, 3) though we've been disappointed in the past with Yang not having the bouts he was scheduled to have in Macau. We do like Yang but feel he's a frustrating fighter to follow at times despite being a joy to watch in action.
The 4th bout for the show has been a bit of a headache for all those involved. Originally the unbeaten Hong Kong star Rex Tso (12-0, 8) was set to fight former world title challenger Atsushi Kakutani, unfortunately last week Kakutani was injured. The Japanese fighter was replaced by Thailand's Tiger Tor Buamas but over the weekend Tor Bumas was himself replaced by his compatriot Ratchasak Kokietgym (22-2-1, 10). On paper this is actually the toughest of the possible bouts for Tso who we believe could be in line for a WBA Super Flyweight title fight with Kohei Kono later this year if he beats Ratchasak here. With the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title up for grabs however Ratchasak may well turn in be inspired to take his big and unexpected opportunity here.
We move seamlessly from one regional title bout to another with the shows next bout being the IBF Pan Pacific Super Bantamweight title fight between Japan's Yasutaka Ishimoto (24-6, 7) and the highly touted Chris Avalos (23-2, 17). This will be Ishimoto's second bout in Macau, returning to the scene of his famous victory over former world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, though we expect it to be a much different one to his first with Avalos being a seriously hard punching on a good run of results. It's a great fight and with an IBF Super Bantamweight title fight up for grabs for the winner this really could be a career changing win for the victor.
The first of three Featherweight world title fights will see unbeaten Russian Evgeny Gradovich (18-0, 9) defending his IBF title against Alexander Miskirtchian (24-2-1, 9) who will be attempting to become the first man from Belgium to become a world champion. Although Miskirtchian's compatriot Stephane Jamoye fell short in his recent world title bid there does seem to be an air of confidence behind Miskirtchain's bout though we really can't see him upsetting Gradovich who has been on tremendous roll in recent bouts and looks to be very difficult to beat due to his toughness and work rate.
Following the IBF title bout we then get a fight for the WBA "regular" Featherweight title that will see the hard hitting Jamaican Nicholas Walters (23-0, 19) defending his belt against the always fun to watch Vic Darchinyan (39-6-1, 28). We tend to feel that Darchinyan is a faded fighter and isn't much of a Featherweight whilst Walters is a hard hitting beast and should run through the Armenian though Darchinyan always has the power to change fights himself and this could be a shoot out in the end. This could be the fight of the show though their is the risk it come become a 1-sided beat down like the recent David Lemieux/Fernando Guerrero bout which had promised to be a shoot out but became a very uneven contest very early on.
The main event sees the very popular Nonito Donaire (32-2, 21) battle against WBA "Super" champion Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16) who famously beat Chris John and Daud Cino Yordan last year. This is a very, very tough bout and although Donaire is a clear betting favourite we think this could well be a third successive notable win for Vetyeka who has the skillset and toughness to make life very hard for the "Filipino Flash". We don't expect this to be a highly entertaining contest but it will be an interesting one with a lot of clever work from both fighters who will each be looking for their own counter shots more often than leading off.
On the undercard of the huge fight in the UK between Carl Froch and George Groves fans will get the chance to see Thailand's Tabtimdaeng Na Rachwat (52-2, 34) battle against former IBF Bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell (23-2-1, 10) in a bout for the vacant WBA Bantamweight title. We view this as a very tough assignment for the Thai though if he wins he'll have scored a huge profile victory and launched himself in to the upper echelons of the Bantamweight division.
Distrito Federal, Mexico
The final world title bout of the day sees WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (27-3-1, 25) taking on Mexico's Carlos Cuadras (29-0, 24) in a potential FOTY candidate. We'll admit we were excited when we first realised that this bout was on the table last December and now with it just a few days away we really can't contain how excited we are about the bout. This has all the ingredients for a really amazing contest.
On the same card as the Srisaket/Cuadras bout is a female world title bout as Honey Mae Bermoy (6-3, 6), AKA Honey Katsumata, battles WBA female Bantamweight champion Irma Garcia (9-1-1-4, 1) on a non-title contest. We really can't see Bermoy winning this contest, especially not when you consider the way Tenkai Tsunami beat her back in March in an OPBF title fight, though we do give her credit for jumping into a tough bout immediately after losing to a world class foe.
We get another female world title fight in Germany as Korea's Dan-Bi Kim (9-2-1, 2) challenges German star Susi Kentikian (32-2, 16) for the WBA female Flyweight title. This is a hugely difficult assignment for the diminutive 23 year old from Anseong City though we can't see her travelling across the world if she didn't believe she could bring back the title.
We get, yet another, title fight on mainland china as the unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight Zhang Junlong (6-0, 6) battles former Japanese title challenger Kotatsu Takehara (10-9-3, 4) in a bout for the IBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight title. This is easily the toughest bout in Junglong's career though a win could put him on the verge of a huge regional bout with someone like OPBF champion Solomon Haumono. Big fight for both men and the loser will feel the loss as a major one.
A third show in the Orient takes place in Japan and even as the third biggest show in the continent it's still a pretty notable one headlined by the return to the ring of recent world title challenger Daiki Kaneko (19-3-3, 12). Kaneko, who was last seen on New Year's Eve losing to Takashi Uchiyama in a very well fought WBA Super Featherweight title bout, will be expected to walk though former OPBF Featherweight challenger Shogo Ishikawa (10-6, 3). We think Kaneko will genuinely destroy Ishikawa in a bout that will be little more than a show case contest for the excellent Super Featherweight contender.
Kaneko isn't the only former world title challenger on this card as former Super Flyweight challenger Ryo Akaho (22-1-2, 15) takes on Thailand's "body donor" Songseanglek Phosuwangym (1-10) in what appears to be little more than a stay busy fight for Akaho who we think may be lining up a title bout later this year and doesn't want to risk anything.
A third bout of note on this show will see former Japanese Middleweight champion Tomohiro Ebisu (12-3, 12) battling against Frenchman Kevin Thomas Cojean (13-5-1, 4) in a bout made just above the Super Middleweight limit. For Ebisu this is a genuinely tough assignment against a former French Light Heavyweight title challenger. Cojean, although a tough opponent for Ebisu, probably doesn't hit hard enough to stop the Japan power house puncher.
As well as the 3 bouts of note already mentioned this card is scheduled to feature a further 3 undercard bouts in what is the last Japanese card of the month.
District of Colombia, USA
In one of the lowest profile bouts of the day Sri Lankan Nuwan Jayakody (2-4-1, 2) battles the very limited David Warren Huffman (4-19-1, 1). We know Jayakody is unlikely to go far in this sport but we've got to confess we do like him and hopes that he manages to improve enough to become an "opponent" in a televised bout somewhere down the line. It's great to see a Sri Lankan fighter no matter how poor here is and with that in mind we really do wish him all the best in hopefully inspiring a generation of young Sri Lankan men in to boxing. We doubt we'll see the sport take off in the Cricket mad country but we'll continue to hope that one day we will see a Sri Lankan world champion.
New South Wales, Australia
Down under fans will get to see Australian based Filipino Michael Dan (3-9-1, 3) attempt to upset the unbeaten Ahmed Dib (13-0, 8) in a bout for the Australia - New South Wales State Light Middleweight title. It's incredibly hard to see anything but a win for Dib here though we do hope that Dan, who has lost his last 6, can put up a good effort even if he is clearly beaten.
Yes, it's a busy, busy, day!
(Image courtesy of http://www.venetianmacao.com/)