This coming Tuesday in Tokyo we see the highly anticipated God's Left Bantamweight tournament kick off, with the quarter final bouts all taking place on the card, along with one other notable and interesting domestic match up.
On paper the best of the 3 quarter final bouts will see the unbeaten Jin Minamide (3-0, 3) taking on the once beaten Tetsu Araki (14-1-1, 2). Araki was is a former Japanese Youth champion and also fared pretty well in the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Although not a man with stellar amateur pedigree he has proven himself in the pros, with notable wins against the likes of Yuto Nakamura and Ryuto Owan. Minamide on the other hand was a top amateur, with over 40 amateur wins, and has been put on the fast track as a professional, with some quick wins including a very impressive one against Marjun Pantilgan. This is a really interesting match up, and one we're really looking forward to.
The winner of the Minamide Vs Araki bout will face off with either Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5) or Kenichi Watanabe (8-4-1, 4), who battle in the same half of the tournament. Nakajima, like Minamide, is a highly regarded prospect following a very good stint as an amateur, and will be regarded as one of the tournaments favourites. Watanabe on the other hand is a live under-dog though will looking for a career best win. Although Watanabe is the under-dog he has shared the ring with the likes of Hiroaki Teshigawara and Koki Eto, so has mixed with good company.
The remaining quarter final bout will see Gaku Aikawa (9-7-1, 3) battle against the all action Kenya Yamashita (13-5, 10). On paper this is the "lesser" quarter final, but in reality it's one of the more even bouts with both being flawed fighters who can upset better foes. On paper Yamashita is the favourite, but the aggressive youngster has taken a lot of punishment through his career and it's unclear what he has left to offer. Aikawa on the other hand has picked up losses recently but has shown an upset minded mentality and could well pick up an another upset win here. The winner of this bout will face Seiya Tsutsumi in the next round, with Tsutsumi getting a bye to the semi-finals.
One other bout of interest will see Shogo Yamaguchi (11-4-3, 6) take on the highly regarded Masanori Rikiishi (5-1, 3). Yamaguchi is a "win some, lose some" fighter but on his day he's a solid fighter who has scored a draw with Genki Maeda, went 8 pretty competitive rounds with Akihiro Kondo, and is far from a pushover. Rikiishi on the other hand is a highly regarded prospect solid wins over the likes of Genki Maeda and Kei Iwahara and will be strongly favoured here.
This coming Monday Japanese fight fans get a genuinely exceptional card, headlined by an OPBF Featherweight title fight, between unbeaten fighters, and stacked with several other notable bouts, including 2 genuinely brilliant support bouts.
The main event of this card will 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) take on Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10). The bout will be Shimizu's 4th defense of the OPBF Featherweight title and if he wins he's expected to be moved aggressively into a world title fight in the new year. Despite being a stand out amateur Shimizu has looked like a flawed professional, but with his unbeaten record and perfect T/KO run it's hard to double the results, even if the performances haven't been the best. The 23 year old Uehara is a former WBC Youth champion but this is a massive step up in class, and is likely to be his first bout against a genuine puncher. This could be a good test for Shimizu, but one he'll be expected to pass. A full preview of this bout can be found here - Olympic hero Shimizu takes on Uehara in next OPBF title defense!
The co-feature looks even better than the main event, and is a really well balanced match up that should give us a combination between explosive heavy handed blows and skills. The match up pits the very heavy handed Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16) against the incredibly highly skilled Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6), in a bout that will likely lead the winner to a regional title fight in 2019. Tameda is the more raw fighter, but also the hard hitting and the one with real explosive power. Maruta is the more skilled man, but has failed to deliver on the promise he has in recent bouts, and some are perhaps not doubting the Morioka man. This really could be something very, very special. A preview of this can be read here - Preview - Maruta and Tameda to fight on December 3rd!
Another interesting all prospect match up is a mouth watering 8 rounder between Taku Kuwahara (2-0, 2) and Takamori Kiyama (2-0, 2), which may well go down as the best match up between a couple of 2-0 fighters ever. As an amateur Kuwahara was a 2-time national champion and the Ohashi gym view him as a potential major player in their gym, this is however a massive step up in class from the Indonesian fighters he has faced in his first two bouts, neither of which have lasted a round. Kiyama, from the Atsumi gym, was also an amateur standout, and he's has looked fantastic since turning professional as well. This is really a risky bout for both fighters but they should both be admired, for willing to risk their "0" against a fellow prospect this early on.
Former Japanese Supe Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada (21-6-1, 12) looks to record his 4th straight win, as he takes on the limited Takahiro Araki (12-7, 4). Okada is a faded force to the man who had pushed Takashi Miura hard in 2010 and had gone on to win the Japanese title the following year, running up 3 defenses before losing to Daiki Kaneko. He is however capable against the lower level domestic fighters and will see this as a good chance to score his 22nd professional win. The 31 year old Araki however is no push over and will see this an opportunity to get a win against a former national champion.
The once touted Sho Nakazawa (11-2, 5) looks to continue rebuilding his career after a 2017 loss to Ryo Hino. The former amateur standout will be looking for a second straight win as he takes on Filipino journeyman Jhon Gemino (17-11-1, 7). On paper this looks like a mismatch but Nakazawa really has failed to shine as a professional and Gemino is the sort of fighter who can be a very tricky out. We suspect Nakazawa gets the win, but Gemino won't have travelled to just roll over.
Another prospect on this card is the highly touted Kazuki Nakajima (5-0, 4), who takes a notable step up in class to fight the experienced Yoshihiro Utsumi (15-8-3, 10). So far Nakajima has only been tested one, with Taiga Higashi giving him issues last December, and has otherwise had things all his own way. Utsumi on the hand has collected losses, but has faced tough competition with losses to Yasutaka Ishimoto, Ye Joon Kim and Hiroaki Teshigawara. It's worth noting that coming into this bout Utsumi scored a huge upset win over Hibiki Jogo and is riding a 3 fight stoppage run into this contest.
Our attention turns to Tokyo this coming Friday as Ohashi gym put on a notable card at the Korakuen Hall, in what is being sold as a double main event card.
One of the main event bouts will see Satoshi Shimizu (6-0, 6) defending the OPBF Featherweight title against Shingo Kawamura (16-3-1, 8). The heavy handed champion will be making his third defense of the title that he won last October, when he stopped Sa Myung Noh. The Olympic bronze medal winner has looked destructive but clumsy so far though is unlikely to be made to pay for his clumsiness here. The 28 year old challenger will be having his second title shot, following a loss to Mike Tawatchai in an IBF Pan Pacific Super Bantamweight title fight. Kawamura comes into this on the back of a 6 fight winning streak, including a win over Tae Il Atsumi, but this is certainly a big step up from that level of competition.
The co-main event will see former 3 weight world champion Akira Yaegashi (26-6, 14) take on former world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (16-5-3, 6) in an interesting must win bout for both men. Yaegashi is hunting a Super Flyweight world title and although that is a huge task for the popular warrior he does seem to believe in himself and will know that a win over Mukai will open doors. As for Mukai the bout will see him looking to continue a 3 fight stoppage run, but this is his first step up in class since a 2017 loss to Rex Tso. The loser of this will have to seriously consider their future, whilst the winner will move towards one more notable bout.
The best of the under-card bouts will see the hard hitting Tsuyoshi Tameda (17-3-2, 15) take on Japanese based Korean Tae Il Atsumi (14-2, 7) in what should be a genuinely fantastic match up. The destructive Tameda, has stopped his last 4 opponents, and is unbeaten since a 2016 loss to Reiya Abe. He'll be looking to continue that form and move towards a potential Japanese or OPBF title fight in the future. As for Atsumi this bout will see him looking to rebuild from his aforementioned loss to Kawamura, who beat him just 2 fights ago. At his best Atsumi is a talented and hard hitting fighter, who holds notable wins over Sho Nakazawa, Dennis Tubieron, Burning Ishii and Neil John Tabanao. This should be a very exciting bout for the fans in the venue, even if it's unlikely to be televised.
Interestingly former Atsumi victim Sho Nakazawa (10-2, 4) is also on this card, as he fights in a straight forward match up against Ahmad Lahizab (3-5-1, 1) of Indonesia. It's hard to see anything but a win for Nakazawa, though he hasn't actually scored a win since April 2017 and has fallen a long way short of the promise he had shown as an amateur.
On the subject of people who showed promise as an amateur the fans will also see former amateur stand out Kazuki Nakajima (4-0, 3) take on the tough but light hitting Takuya Fujioka (8-8-1, 1). The talented Nakajima is tipped for big things thought he will need to get past the under-rated Fujioka here if he's to reach the heights expected of him. It's worth noting that Fujioka is a real potential banana skin and scored a big upset win in February when he defeated Futa Akizuki.
There's more Japanese action in the US as popular tough brawler Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-4-2, 24) takes on American foe Greg Vendetti (19-2-1, 12) in California. For Kamegai this will be his first bout in almost a year, with the iron chinned warrior not having fought since his August 2017 loss to Miguel Cotto in a world title fight. Part of the long break for Kamegai was due to a shoulder injury earlier this year, but with that now healed he's looking to get back to winning ways. As for Vendetti he's looking for his 4th win of 2018, but this is a big step up for "The Villain's who has won his last 15 bouts against limited opposition.
This coming Monday attention turns to Japan as Ohashi put on their next notable show, headlined by an OPBF title fight and featuring several fighters of note on the supporting card.
The main event of the card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (5-0, 5) defending his title, for the second time, against Korean challenger Kyung Min Kwon (6-3, 3). The 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner has been fast tracked like few before him, even for the often fast tracked Japanese, and won the OPBF title after just 13 months as a professional. He made his first defense back in December and will be looking to score his third win in less than 6 months as he takes on Kwon. The Korean challenger is a bit of an unknown, though his record doesn't suggest he'll be much of a threat for the heavy handed Japanese fighter, who is expected to get a world title fight by the end of 2018.
The chief support bout will see former 3-weight world champion Akira Yaegashi (25-6, 13) take on Indonesian foe Frans Damur Palue (15-18-2, 10) in a bout at Super Flyweight, as Yaegashi chases a 4th world title. For the popular Yaegashi this will be his first bout since he lost the IBF Light Flyweight title inside a round to Milan Melindo last May. He's moving up 7lbs from that loss, though the general feeling is that he's pretty much a spent force as a fighter, after having had a career of wars. Palue is expected to lose, and to be stopped, but given how much damage Yaegashi has taken through his career, this could be his chance to score a career defining victory, and retire the very exciting Yaegashi. The visitor is the naturally bigger fighter, the younger man, and although the far less skilled he has a chance to define his career here.
Shimizu isn't the only fast rising unbeaten fighter on this card, as OPBF and JBC ranked Light Welterweight Koki Inoue (10-0, 9) is also on the card. Sadly the talented, destructive, Inoue isn't yet getting his first title bout, but will instead be fighting in a stay busy bout against a Thai visitor. The plan seems to be based around keeping Inoue busy as he prepares for a Japanese title fight, likely later this year. Koki is the cousin of Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue, and like those two he is an excellent talent who really doesn't need any more easy bouts after this one, though in fairness he has already scored 3 very solid domestic level wins and is just staying busy here.
Another unbeaten prospect on this card will be former amateur standout Kazuki Nakajima (3-0, 2), who takes part in his first 8 round bout. The talented Japanese hopeful failed to shine last time out, narrowly over-coming Taiga Higashi, and will be up against a Thai novice here in what should be little more than a show case for Nakajima, who has a lot of talent, but can't be rushed in the way Shimizu was. Instead he's maybe 2 or 3 years away from a title fight.
As with the last few years this year is set to end with a spate of Japanese action. The first of two big shows to end 2017 is in Yokohama, where Ohashi and Fuji TV put on an interesting looking show.
The main event of this year closer will be the end in the latest chapter of Naoya Inoue's (14-0, 12) career, as he makes his 7th, and likely final, defense of the WBO Super Flyweight title. The talented Japanese fighter had been ruining out of willing opponents and will close 2017 with a bout against the inform Frenchman Yoan Boyeaux (41-4, 26). On paper it looks good but the reality is that this is a huge step up in class and likely serves as a dummy run for the “Monster” before he moves up to Bantamweight in pursuit of a third divisional world title.
A second world title bout on this show will see WBC Light Flyweight champion Ken Shiro (11-0, 5) make his second defense, as he goes up against confident Panamanian visitor Gilberto Pedroza (18-3-2, 8), who fights in his first world title bout. The talented Ken Shiro has had a career defining year with wins over Ganigan Lopez and Pedro Guevara and closing out the year with a third win would, in fairness, put him on the fringes of the Fighter of the Year shortlist. As for Pedroza this is a huge opportunity to claim a world title and make a name for himself ahead of the near year.
A third title bout on this card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu (4-0, 4) make his first defense as he looks to move towards a world title fight. The talented Japanese fighter, who came to international attention in 2012 when he claimed a Bronze medal at the London Olympics, will be up against Filipino challenger Eduardo Mancito (15-7-2, 9). The champion won the title in impressive fashion earlier this year, when he stopped Korean Sa Myung Noh and is expected to make an easy first defense here. Although limited Mancito is tough and is expected to get some rounds out Shimizu, who can prove whether his power is legitimate or not here.
In one of the leading support bouts Takuma Inoue (9-0, 2) will take on 2-time Japanese Bantamweight champion Kentaro Masuda (27-8, 15), in what looks likely to be a mismatch. The talented Takuma was supposed to fight for a world title a year ago, but an injury ruled him out and he now seems to be trying to get back to fully fitness and shake off any ring rust before moving back into the world title picture. Masuda is an exciting fighter, but with recent stoppage losses to Shohei Omori and Mark John Yap his limitations have been shown, and he's a fun but crude fighter who should be easily out boxed by Inoue.
A third Inoue on this card is the fast rising Koki Inoue (9-0, 8), who takes on Korean visitor Dong Hee Kim (8-1-2, 3). The Korean enters the bout as the Korean Light Welterweight champion and an OPBF ranked fighter and it's clear that Inoue is chasing titles, with this bout potentially opening the door for an OPBF title fight in 2018. Inoue has been very impressive, very exciting and very aggressive since his debut however the Korean has never been stopped, looks to be tough and durable and will not have travelled to just roll over to Inoue.
Also on this card as Ohashi novices Katsuya Yasuda (1-0, 1) and Kazuki Nakajima (2-0, 2), who will both be in 6 rounders and will be looking to have big 2018's.
A second Asian show will take place in Kazakhstan where we get a number of interesting, though lower key bouts.
One of the key bouts from the show will see once beaten Kazakh hopeful Firuza Sharipova (7-1, 4) battle against Belgian fighter Djemilla Gontaruk (13-4-1, 2) in a bout for the WBC silver Female Super Featherweight title. The bout looks like a good one on paper, but coming in to this the Kazakh has won 7 in a row whilst Gonturak has lost against every notable opponent she has faced, including a loss last time out to Ramon Kuehne and her wins have been against very limited foes.
Another title bout on this card will see Aidyn Yelzhanov (4-0, 3) take on Sergey Dudinsky (4-1, 3) for a WBC regional title at Super Bantamweight. The 24 year old Yelzhanov has impressed so far,but has been fighting at a very liw level and will have to show something new to over-come the hungry Dudinsky, who has won his last two.
One other bout of note will be the home coming, of sorts, for Light Heavyweight prospect Ali Akhmedov (10-0, 7), who takes on Ismat Eynullayev (12-2, 8). Akhmedov has fought 5 of his last 6 outside of Kazakhstan, where he is incidentally 5-0 (5), and will be looking to put on a show here. Eynullayev, from Azerbaijan, has won his last 3 but will not be expected to put up much of a challenge against the home town hero.
In the Russian capital fan will be able to see Russian Uzbek Ulugbek Khakberdiev (4-0, 2) look to build on his solid 2017 as he takes on Ugandan puncher Med Sebyala (17-10-1, 14). The unbeaten Kazakh has gone under the radar this year, despite stopping Dmitry Sukhotsky in September and looks to end his year with a 5th straight win. The 37 year old Sebyala has lost 2 of his last 3, but does appear to be a legitimate puncher and could chin check the powerful Kazakh.
This coming Wednesday in Japan fight fans have an interesting Ohashi card to look forward to. We'll be honest and not pretend that it's full of 50-50 bouts, but it keeps the gym's fighters busy, whilst a number them begin to move towards bigger and better bouts.
The main event of the card is the best looking contest on paper and sees Takuma Inoue (8-0, 2) return to the ring following almost a year out, to take on 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (25-16-1, 11) in a solid test for the youngster. Inoue was supposed to fight for a world title at the end of 2016, but an injury forced that bout to be cancelled and now he's in need of a warm up bout before looking at bigger and better things. For Kudaka, previously known as Hiroyuki Hisataka, the bout is a chance to score a career defining win after some recent struggles in the ring, including losing 7 of his last 11. Kudaka's record isn't great but he's a tough out for most and should ask questions of rInoue.
Another relatively attractive bout will see Koki Inoue (8-0, 7), Takuma's cousin, step up to take on former Japanese title challenger Cristiano Aoqui (11-6-2, 7) in what is essentially a Japanese title eliminator. Inoue enters the bout ranked #3 and Aoqui is #8, with the winner almost certainly looking to get a crack before the end of the year. For Inoue the bout is a slight step up, but it's a logical step as he continues to impress and leave a wake of battered and beaten fighters in his wake. For Aoqui the bout serves as a chance to get back in to the mix after 3 losses in his last 4.
When it comes to fighters who are looking at bigger and better things, it's fair to say that Ryo Matsumoto (20-1, 18) is on the verge of a world title fight. As a result he's having a stay busy contest on this show against Indonesian foe Jason Butar Butar (25-22-1, 16), in what should be another straight forward win for the likeable Matsumoto, who is looking to put health issues well and truly behind him.
Another fighter looking for bigger things is Go Onaga (27-3-3, 18),who also faces an Indonesian journeyman as he takes on John Bajawa (13-14, 7). Onaga is looking to get himself a Japanese title fight in the near future, and the veteran cannot afford another set back. This should be a straight forward win for the Ohashi man, but he is now 37 and 18 months removed from his last victory.
Rounding out the notable fights on this show are two Ohashi novices tipped for big things. One of those is Kazuki Nakajima (1-0, 1), who looks for his second professional win as he takes on Resnu Sundava (2-1, 2) whilst the other is debutant Katsuya Yasuda (0-0), who faces Reno Arizona (1-2). Neither Ohashi man should worry here about winning, but both will want to impress Mr Ohashi, who we suspect wants to fast track both men following their impressive amateur careers.
The Ohashi gym is one of the hottest in Japan right now and this coming Sunday they are hosting probably the most notable Asian card of the weekend, even if it's top matches are unlikely to be even slightly competitive.
The main event will see Ohashi fighter Koki Inoue (7-0, 6) take on a Thai foe in what is supposed to be a Japanese title prelude for Inoue. It's thought that Koki, the cousin of world champion Naoya Inoue and world level contender Takuma Inoue, will face Koichi Aso before the end of for the Japanese Light Welterweight title fight but will have to make sure he doesn't over-look his foe here in what is expected to be a mismatch.
In the chief supporting bout former Japanese Flyweight title challenger Yusuke Sakashita (14-8-2, 9) will be facing a Thai foe, in what should be a straight forward win for Sakashita, who has lost his last 2 and 4 of his last 6. Sakashita was once 12-4-2 but with losses piling up his career really cannot afford another setback.
Although Inoue and Sakashita are both well know the most interesting fight on this card may well be the debut of Kazuki Nakajima (0-0), a former amateur standout who will look to make an impact against a Thai opponent. The plans for Nakajima do seem to be about putting him on the fast track, and he is pencilled in to fight again in August, and he may well be fighting for a title in his first 5 or 6 fights. Little is known about his Thai foe, but the reality is that this is about Nakajima introducing himself to professional boxing.
In Fukuoka we'll see former Japanese Minimumweight title challenger Takumi Sakae (15-2-1, 10) continue to try to rebuild his career. The talented Japanese fighter looked like a man on his way to the top until he ran into Tatsuya Fukuhara, and since then he has gone 2-2-1. Sakae needs a win here and is likely to get it, as he takes on a limited Thai foe. It'd be a shock to see Sakae lose, but he really can't afford any more easy bouts after this one, given his last two wins have also been against limited Thai's.
A third Japanese card comes from Hokkaido, and features a very international card with the top three bouts all featuring a visitor against a local.
The main event of the card sees Japanese ranked Featherweight Junki Sasaki (17-3, 6) take on Korean visitor Sang Hoo Gil (6-5-2, 3). On paper this should be an easy win for Sasaki, who has won 6 of his last 7, but it's fair to say all Korean fighters will be travelling to Japan with their minds set on an upset following the recent shock win for Sa Myung Noh.
Also on this card will be Masaya Tamayama (8-1, 4), who will also be taking on a Korean foe, and Kyosuke Sawada (6-2-1, 3), who will battle a Thai visitor. Sadly the names of these two visitors haven't been as easy to get as Gil in the main event.
Lanao del Norte, Philippines
The biggest name in action is actually in the Philippines, and that's 2-weight world champion Johnriel Casimero (23-3, 15), who takes on former world title challenger Richie Mepranum (31-6-1, 8). The talented Casimero will be moving up to Super Flyweight, as he hunts a third divisional world title, and will be looking to do so against a notable yet safe foe. Casimero has lacked activity in recent years, with just 4 fights in 3 years and non since last September. Saying that however Mepranum has lost his last two bouts, and hasn't scored a win since November 2015.