We really are closing in on Christmas, and even though we're a few days away we are set for one of the annual treats boxing calendar, the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. As well as the Rookie of the Year's there's a lot of other stuff going on, with a title bout, an eliminator and a host of prospects in action. This Sunday is big for Asian boxing!
Our attention is obvious focused on the All Japan Rookie of the Year final from Korakuen Hall, with G+ airing the show live, and in full. For fans who want to know what makes Japanese boxing special at the lower end this is it. This is the culmination of a tournament that covers the whole country and takes the better part of a year. To get to the final you need to have won your regional final, and you don't get this far by chance. You get here on merit alone, and as a result we get some amazing match ups.
We won't be going through all 12 bouts, but we have picked out favourite match ups from the line.
It's always great to see all-unbeaten fights in the final and at Minimumweight we have one such bout, as Katsuki Mori (5-0, 1) takes on Takumi Chono (5-0, 3). This is a brilliant fight, with both men being young, having very similar records and both proving themselves to get this far. Mori is a sensational pure boxer from the Ohashi gym and will be looking to show case his skills, but Chono is not a push over, and has looked strong and powerful through out. The winner of this will really be one to watch in 2020.
At Featherweight we expect to see fire-works as Kyonosuke Kameda (5-1-1, 4) and Jinki Maeda (3-0, 2) face off. It's been an emotional year for Kameda, the cousin of Koki, Daiki and Tomoki, and only 2 weeks ago there was a a real chance he'd miss out on this bout due to the politics at the Kyoei gym. Now here the hard hitting 21 year old will be wanting to make the most of his opportunity. Maeda has quietly made his way to the final, blowing out his first two professional opponents before shutting out the then 4-0 Hikaru Fukunaga. We expect this one to be the standout bout of the day.
More fireworks are expected up at 140lbs where Kodai Honda (4-1, 3) and Yasutaka Fujita (5-0, 5) will face off. The 20 year old Honda lost on debut, more than a year ago, but has reeled off 4 wins since then, and he has stopped each of his last 3 opponents. Fujita on the other hand has been blitzing opponents and his 5 bouts have lasted just 10 rounds. Expect bombs to be thrown, and to be thrown early here!
Whilst the Rookie of the Year show is the biggest it's certainly not the only show of note, and at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center the Muto Gym will be show casing some of their brightest young talents, as well as a regional champion.
The main event of the show will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) defending his title against Korean challenger Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4). This will be Kobayashi's first defense since winning the title in May with a minor upset against Ben Mananquil, and he'll be looking to go into the new year with some real momentum behind following a bizarre decision loss to Keita Kurihara at the end of 2018. It's really hard to see what Go offers here, and it was only last year that Go was stopped by career Flyweight Masahiro Sakamoto, a stablemate of Kobayashi's at the time. Our full and in depth previous of this regional title bout can be read here Kobayashi defends against Go in Osaka!
In supporting bouts we'll see a trio of Muto gym prospects taking on Filipino foes. The most notable of the trio is Yusuke Mine (2-0, 1), who takes a huge step up to take on veteran Ardin Diale (35-15-4, 17). This is a brilliant bit of match making from the Muto team, who know that Diale is on the slide, but still very live and has been in there with a who's who of the lower weights. A risky match up for their star prospect, but a win here will instantly launch him into the mix for regional titles. High risk and high reward for Mine here.
Another stellar prospect is Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2), who will be fighting as Deka-narudo Torio, who takes on hard hitting Pinoy Ken Jordan (8-1-2, 7). The 23 year old Kuwabata is tipped very highly by those in Japan and has been matched aggressively so far, with this being a pretty logical looking step. Jordan is unbeaten in over 2 years and recently claimed an ABF title, back in August. This is a bout between two youngsters each coming to win, and it should give us some very competitive action over 8 rounds.
The third prospect of note is Ryosuke Nishida (1-0, 1), who made his debut in Thailand back in October. Unlike his fellow hopefuls he won't be in an 8 rounder, but instead he'll be scheduled for 6 rounds against the tough Pablito Canada (7-17-4, 1), and will likely be taken the distance by Canada who has only been stopped twice in his 28 bout career.
A second Osaka, card, this time from the EDION Arena, will also be worthy of some attention.
The main event here is a Japanese Super Flyweight title eliminator, the final of the eliminators to take place this year, and will see former world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-3, 11) clash with Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) for the chance to fight Kenta Nakagawa in the new year. At 34 years old a loss will likely send Kudaka into retirement, ending an incredibly interesting and often exciting career, so we expect to see him being fired up for this. Matsuo is no world beater, but he is better than his record suggests and is hoping to secure a second Japanese Super Flyweight title fight, following a loss to Takayuki Okumoto earlier this year. Our in depth preview of this eliminator is available to read here Kudaka and Matsuo to clash in final Japanese eliminator of 2019!
In an 8 round supporting bout Kenta Nomura (6-3, 3) will battle Ryo Suwa (11-2, 2), in a very interesting looking contest. Nomura is looking to bounce back from an August loss to Toshiki Shimomachi, in a Japanese Youth title fight, and although he's nothing special he does tend to make for good fights. Suwa on the other hand has won 4 of his last 5 and will see this as a chance to take a huge step towards a potential youth title fight of his own.
This show will also feature the debut of former amateur standout Kantaro Juri (0-0), who fought in the Asian and World Youth Championships back in 2014, who will be in a 6 rounder at a contracted 53KG's. Sadly his opponent here hasn't been confirmed, though we have been told it will be an Indonesian opponent.
As well as the Japanese action there is also a low level Indian card in Golaghat.
This card will be headlined by Sagar Narwat (9-1-1, 3) taking on Shiva (9-3, 3) in an 8 round bout. For Narwat this is a chance to get back to winning ways following October's loss to Troy O'Meley in Australia. As for Shiva he's now wheeled off 3 straight wins after he suffered a trio of losses on the road in 2017. Sadly this bout aside the card isn't really worth getting too excited about.
Daejeon, South Korea
Earlier this month we were expecting to see a Korea Vs China card, that card however was forced to massively altered due to visa's issues and only a handful of bouts actually took place on the original day. All of those we did get were all-Korean bouts.
The bout weren't cancelled however and instead they will take place on July 29th, 2 weeks after the originally planned date.
Sadly whilst the Korea Vs China bouts were rescheduled they were never the most interesting on paper, with the most notable being a contest between unbeaten Korean prospect Min Jang (8-0-2, 2) and limited Chinese fighter Xing Xie (1-5, 1) being the most notable on paper. The 19 year old Jang claimed the Korean Super Flyweight title back in April and has previously notched wins against 2 other Chinese visitors. Xie on the other hand has lost his last 3 and will be making his international debut here.
Whilst Xie will be making his international debut there are two Chinese fighters making their debut on this card. One of those is Ting Zhang (0-0), who battles unbeaten Korean Soo Rin Kim (4-0-1, 1) in a 6 round female bout. At 21 years old Kim has shown enough promise early on to show there is something to work with, but it's really unclear how far she can go. Unfortunately it's hard to know what she'll be able to prove here against a debuting Chinese foe.
As well as the Korean action there will also be a show in Tokyo, as part of the Rookie of Year tournament.
Unfortunately for a Rookie of the Year card this isn't great and doesn't have many fighters who are unbeaten on it. The one unbeaten fighter is 22 year old Shunpei Kubo (3-0, 2), who takes on teenage Rui Ikari (4-1-2). It's great that both men are young and promising. The bout sees Ikari coming back a for a second Rookie of the Year, after losing in the East Japan final last year to Shinobu Wakagi, whilst Kubo will be looking for his fourth win of 2019.
One other bout of real note on this show will see Kyonosuke Kameda (3-1-1,2), the cousin of the Kameda brothers, take on Natsuki Kojima (3-2, 3). Kameda isn't half the fighter of his three cousins, but has gone unbeaten in 4 since losing on debut, including a draw with Ryugo Ushijim last time out to earn this match up. Kojima on the other hand has been stopped in his last 2, but has power and will be looking to make the most of his heavy hands here.
The action for April kicks off with a show from the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, which features some Rookie action and some interesting hopefuls.
The main event of this card will see Takayuki Sakai (8-1-2, 6) take on Tomoki Takada (6-4-2, 3) over 8 rounds. For Sakai, the bout will see him hunting a 6th straight win and building on a very good victory over Pharanpetch Tor Buamas, aka Amphol Suriyo. Since losing in August 2016 Sakai has gone 6-0-1 and a solid, if unspectacular run coming into this bout. Takada ont he other hand has won his last 2, but has suffered 3 stoppage losses and doesn't appear to be the most durable fighter out there.
In the main supporting bout Ryuki Ishii (9-3, 5) will look to continue his good form, as he takes on Filipino puncher Reymond Yanong (9-4-1, 8). Last time out Ishii beat Zirolian Riku, and has won 3 in a row since losing to Kazuma Sanpei back in October 2017. Yanong has been stopped in 2 of his last 3, but certainly has the power to trouble Ishii here.
The 2018 Rookie of the Year runner up Haruki Ishikawa (6-1, 5) will be looking to kick off his 2019 as he takes on Alvin Medura (8-3, 7), in what will be his first bout since losing to Yusei Fujikawa in December last year. This has the ingredients of being a very, very explosive and fun encounter!
In a Rookie of the Year bout Kyonosuke Kameda (2-1, 1) will take on Takuya Inamori (1-3). Kameda, part of the clan that has already given us 3 world champions, will be seeking a third straight win since being stopped on debut at the start of 2018, Inamori on the other hand will be looking to bounce back from his third career defeat, earlier this year.
On Monday we kick off a new year and for fans in the Japanese capital it will seem like nothing has chances as Kyoei put on a show at the Differ Ariake.
The show isn't as big as the two shows that ended 2017 but is still a notable one with a splattering of notable fighters.
Arguably the most distinguished of those fighters is Jun Yabuki (9-0, 4), who recently won the Japanese female Minimumweight title with a win over Fuka Komura. The 26 year old won't be defending her title, but will be in an 8 round bout, against a visiting Thai foe.
Yabuki is right in the middle of the card, despite her status as national champion. That's partly because she will be in action before the latest of the Kameda family to turn professional. That's Koki, Daiki and Tomoki's cousin Kyosuke Kameda (0-0) who kicks of his professional career with a bout against Shinnosuke Kimoto (2-1), who has won two bouts since a close loss on debut at the start of 2017.
The other bout on top of Yabuki's is the show's main event, which will see Joe Vlog (0-0) make his professional boxing debut against John Yano (2-3). The debutant is known in Japan for his youtube exploits, and saw his profile balloon in 2017 thanks to an exhibition contest against Koki Kameda on Abema TV, with Koki later taking the role of his trainer. A win for him here would be huge news and kick off a new joint deal with Kyoei and Abema. Yano, a Filipino based in Japan, appears to have been selected as a safe opponent for Vlog to shine against and this should be an easy win if the debutant wants any creditability going forward.
*Note - Joe Vlog is a name taken from the fighter's youtube, he may be fighting under an alternative name going forward