Hong Kong S.A.R., China
For once it's Hong Kong that gets our attention for a notable show, one of the first notable ones there since Rex Tso decided that he would be aiming not for a world title but for Olympic success in 2020. That card isn't hugely stacked, but has the biggest current hopes from Hong Kong, Macau and Nepal as well as a mouth watering clash between unbeaten fighters from Japan and China.
The Hong Kong hopeful is the once beaten Raymond Poon KaiChing (7-1, 4), who looks to inherit the hopes that one hung on the shoulders of Rex Tso. Although not as talented or as exciting as Tso the 23 year old KaiChing is talented and will be looking to defend his WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Light Flyweight title, and claim the WBO Youth title. The man in the opposite corner to the local favourite will be China's Xiang Li (6-2-1, 2), who has lost 2 of his last 4 but will come into this bout as a live under-dog, an a man with a point to prove.
Macao's big hope on this card is the very talented and exciting 22 year old Lap Cheong Cheong (5-0, 4), who is a Flyweight with a lot of upside. Cheong Cheong has impressed when we've managed to see him and he's stopped his last 4, in fact he's now got 3 straight pening round wins. In the opposite corner to the Macau prospect is Indonesian visitor Muhammad Wahid (4-1, 1). This looks like it will be Cheong Cheong's toughest bout to date, and Wahid showed he was a pretty decent lower level fighter last time out, when he gave Bin Zhou a pretty competitive bout in China.
Hong Kong based Nepalese fighter Nibesh Ghale (4-1, 3) seeks his 5th straight win, when he takes on Shogo Yamamoto (4-3, 1). The once beaten Ghale lost on debut, to Kuok Kun Ng back in 2013, and since then has reeled off some wins at a low level. Interestingly Yamamoto saw his own 4 fight winning run come to an end last November, when Yamamoto was stopped in 5 rounds by George Tachibana. This could be a lot more interesting than the records of the fighters suggest.
The best match up on the card will see unbeaten Japanese hopeful Ren Sasaki (8-0, 5), who won the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Featherweight, take on China's Ge An Ma (6-0-0-1, 1). The Japanese fighter, 24, has impressed and has won not only the Rookie of the Year but also a B class tournament, doing that in 2018. The Chinese fighter on the other hand comes into this bout on the back of a career best win over Diarh Gabutan. This looks like a fantastic match up on paper and something we're really looking forward to.
As well as the card in Hong Kong there will also be a Rookie card in Okayama. This card is scheduled to feature 8 bouts, all 4 rounders, and we're not expecting anything too notable to happen. On paper the show is a pretty forgettable one, though we wouldn't be surprised by some fun action across the card, albeit at a very low level.
To end 2018 we turn to Macau for a monstrous show featuring 3 world title fights, as well as bouts featuring prospects from Hong Kong and Macau.
The main event of the card is one of the best match ups we could imagine, as Japan's Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) and Filipino Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) battle for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. The winner of this bout will become a 4 weight champion, with Ioka battling to become the first Japanese man to win 4 divisional world titles and Nietes looking to become the third Filipino, and both men attempting to become just the third man to win titles in the 4 lowest divisions in the sport. Both are gifted boxers, with Ioka being the more aggressive and Nietes being the more patient, and both know that a win here could end up defining their careers. To end the year with such a massive bout really is something special. Our excellent preview of this fantastic fight can be read here Neites Vs Ioka - The pursuit of destiny!
A Flyweight title fight will see IBF champion Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24), from South Africa, make his first defense, as he takes on once beaten Japanese fighter Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9). The South African champion won the title in July, when he defeated Muhammad Waseem with a close decision, and became a 2-time champion. At the age of 36 we do wonder what Mthalane has left, but against Waseem he did, for the most part, look great and should be favoured. Sakamoto is an unknown outside of Japan, and even then he's only really known in Osaka, but will know this is a huge chance to make his mark on the sport and become a notable name. It's a huge ask for Sakamoto, but he has nothing to lose. Our preview of this bout can be read here Sakamoto looks to shock the Flyweight division, faces Mthalane!
Another bout pitting South Africa against Japan will see Japanese fighter Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) challenge WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10). This will be Budler's first defense of the title, which he won from Kyoguchi's stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi, and it's an incredibly tough first defense. Although a tough bout Budler is a genuinely world-class fighter, one of the sport's most underrated fighters in fact, and certainly has the experience and skills to be trouble for anyone in the division. Kyoguchi, a former IBF Minimumweight champion, will be looking to become a 2-weight champion and is one of the most exciting little men in the sport, however this is a really tough test so soon after moving up. This is a hard bout to call and a really special contest, much like the Ioka Vs Nietes one. We've previewed this bout here Kyoguchi challenges Budler in Macau!
One of the prospects on this card is Light Flyweight Raymond Poon KaiChing (6-1, 3), who is from Hong Kong and is regarded as the country's most promising professional following Rex Tso's announcement that he was going back to the amateur ranks. Another is Macau's exciting Lap Cheong Cheong (4-0, 3). Both of these fighters will be up against novices.