Attention turns to Tokyo this coming Tuesday for the next notable Watanabe card, headlined by a world title fight and supported by a number of really interesting prospects.
The main event of the show will see WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) making his first defense and taking on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7). Saludar, who won the title last year when he beat Ryuya Yamanaka, has proven to be a difficult assign for top fighters, with Kosei Tanaka needing to pull himself off the canvas to stop him and his win over Yamanaka. Taniguchi on the other hand is taking a huge step up in class, but is a top class fighter who's only losses have been razor thin ones to Tsubasa Koura and Reiya Konishi. We're really expecting this to be something really special. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saludar returns to Japan to defend against Taniguchi!
The main under-card bout will see former amateur standout Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2) take on Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde (10-5, 5), who is promoted by Nobuhiro Ishida. Utsuki has shown great promise already in his career, but this is a very clear step up in class and will be the first time he has taken on someone with real ring experience. Castroverde on the other hand has lost 3 of his last 6, but has mixed with good competition, including Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov and Tae Il Atsumi. This is a huge step up for the unbeaten man.
Another big supporting bout will see the 2017 Rookie of the year Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1) take on Naoto Mizutani (5-5-1, 2) in a really good looking 8 round bout. We've been impressed by Fuse, who really shined last year on his international debut in Korea, and we're expecting to see huge things from him in 2019. This should be a straight forward win for the youngster, but Mizutani has mixed with so very notable foes, including Kenshin Oshima and Ryo Akaho, so may have a few tricks up his sleeve to teach Fuse.
Teenage sensation Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) will be fighting his second professional bout on his card, as he takes on once beaten 20 year old Thai Gerttipong Kumsahwat (3-1, 3), in what should be another bout to allow Shigeoka to shine ahead of a planned 8 round bout in April.
Talking about low key Thai's it's worth noting that Suzumi Takayama (0-0) will be making his debut against a low key Thai, taking on Nirun Baonok (5-14, 4), who has stacked up losses in Japan. Typically Baonok has given rounds to good fighters and been matched really hard, but given the fact Takayama was a stand out amateur we don't see this being a competitive match up.
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.
The most significant card this coming Sunday will come from Rizal where we get a world title eliminator as well as a card featuring a host of notable Filipino fighters, who are sadly taking on a number of over-matched foes.
The main bout is an IBF Minimumweight final eliminator with unbeaten Filipino sensation Mark Anthony Barriga (8-0, 1) battling against Colombian Gabriel Mendoza (29-5-2, 23). The talented Filipino has been waiting for an eliminator for some time, having seen various foes drop out, and will now be looking to dazzle as he takes on the limited but hard hitting Mendoza. As for Mendoza this will be his second bout since losing to Jose Argumedo in an IBF title fight, and although he's not world class he can hit hard and could test Barriga chin, if he can land on the slippery Filipino. Interestingly the winner of this will likely face Hiroto Kyoguchi later in the year, if Kyoguchi can retain his title against Vince Paras later this year
One of the most notable names on this show is recent world title challenger Genesis Servania (30-1, 13), who fights for the second time since his loss to Oscar Valdez. The talented Servania will be up against Indonesian journeyman Jason Butar Butar (27-23-1, 18), in what should really bee little more than a show case for Servania. Although a mismatch the bout will see Servania fight in the Philippines for the first time since February 2015.
Another very notable name in action is the enigmatic Marvin Sonsona (20-1-1, 15), who looks once again to kick start his frustrating career. The former WBO Super Flyweight champion hasn't fought since May 2015, when he struggled past Jonathan Arrellano. Whilst Sonsona is a genuine talent there is real question marks surrounding the Filipino and his desire to make the most of his skills. He'll be up against Arief Blader (23-27-2, 8) in what should be a really easy ring return, though we really don't know what Sonsona will turn up.
Also on this card are AJ Banal (35-2-1, 23), James Enterina (10-0-1, 4), Lolito Sonsona (21-2-4, 9) and Dave Apolinario (6-0, 4) among others.
A second Filipino show will be held in Bulacan, and will be a much smaller show.
The most notable bout here will see Jose Roda Jr (3-1-1) take on Richard Morales (3-2, 2) in a bout scheduled for 6 rounds. Both men will come into this feeling confident of picking up the win and as a result this should make for an interesting contest, but we're not expecting anything in terms of high quality, at least compared to the other Filipino show which is much, much better than this card.
As well as the action in the Philippines there is also two shows in Japan, one of which is being held in Yamaguchi by Kanmon Japan.
The chief support bout on this card is a terrific match up as the unbeaten Kudura Kaneko (6-0, 4) takes on Change Hamashima (10-2-1, 4) in a rematch of their 2017 clash. In the first bout between these two Kaneko won a wide decision over 6 rounds but will be stepping up to the 8 round distance here. Interestingly this will be the first time either fighter has been scheduled in an 8 round bout, and should be a good test for the stamina of both men. Given how clearly Kaneko won the first bout however it's hard to see why these two are having rematch so soon after their first contest.
The main event of this card is fantastic on paper with Accel Sumiyoshi (10-4-2, 3) taking on Shogo Yamaguchi (11-3-2, 6). Since losing to Masayoshi Nakatani in an OPBF Lightweight title bout back on 2015 we've seen Sumiyoshi go 6-0-1 with notable wins over Tatsuya Yanagi, Allan Tanada, Naotoshoi Nakatani and Motoki Sasaki and really build himself a solid record at this level. As for the 24 year old Yamaguchi we've seen him begin to struggle. Yamaguchi went 9-0-1 (4) to begin his career but has since gone 2-3-2 and was stopped last year by Andy Hiraoka. Given the momentum in both men's careers it's hard to pick against Sumiyoshi, but it is a very good bout on paper.
The second Japanese show is from Ibaragi, where the fans will get the chance to see a number of unbeaten men in action.
One of the unbeaten fighters is Fumiya Fuse (5-0, 1), who is scheduled to face off with an Indonesian visitor. Last year we saw Fuse claim the Rookie of the Year crown at Bantamweight, when he stopped Hiroki Tokuyama in the final, and he'll be looking to build on that success here as he kicks off his 2018 and looks to secure a 6th straight win.
The bout scheduled as the final bout on the card is all unbeaten contest as Hideaki Onuki (3-0) takes on Akihiko Kurita (2-0) in a bout scheduled for 4 round. This looks almost certain to go the distance but should still prove to be a very interesting and well matched bout between two fighters with similar records and similar experience.