The big focus this Saturday is in the Kazakh Capital of Nur-Sultan, where the country will be celebrating Capital City day. To celebrate the day MTK will be putting on a stacked card in the city with a world title fight main event, several interesting support bouts and a host of prospects.
The main event will see WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11) defending his title, for the first time, as he takes on Filipino challenger Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18). The talented French-Moroccan is a real talent, and he was one of the many top Bantamweights frozen out of the WBSS, but is getting on in age and won't remain the skilled boxer-puncher that he's looked for much longer. Despite being the older fighter Oubaali will be strongly favoured here against a challenger who has lost his 3 biggest bouts, and would need a career best performance to even come close against the Frenchman. Villanueva isn't a bad fighter, but his ability is more that of a gatekeeper than a true contender. A full preview of this bout is available here Villanueva takes on Oubaali for WBC Bantamweight crown
In the main supporting bout we'll see unbeaten Kazakh Zhankosh Turarov (23-0, 16) take on Mauro Maximiliano Godoy (31-4-1, 16) in a bout for the WBO Inter-Continental Light Welterweight title. The unbeaten Turarov returned to the ring in June after almost 21 months out of the ring, and took a really disappointing win over Richmond Djarbeng, who sat in his corner complaining of stomach cramps after the second round. Godoy should prove to be a good test for Turarov, but the Argentinian has lost 3 of his last 7 and may be on the slide from the fighter he once was. Still this is easily Turarov's best test on paper, so far.
Another notable supporting bout will see the unbeaten Viktor Kotochigov (9-0, 4) taking on Jairo Lopez (24-10, 16), who was once regarded as a fringe contender. On paper this is a step up for the unbeaten Kazakh but Lopez is 3-4 in his last 7 and has been stopped in 3 of those 4 losses. This should be easier than it looks on paper for Kotochigov.
This card will b stacked with other Kazakh prospects, as MTK go all out to put on a show for local fans with Kazakh talent. Among the prospects are Ali Baloyev (8-0, 7), Sultan Zaurbek (7-0, 5), Nurtas Azhbenov (5-0, 1), Abay Tolesh (2-0, 2) and Abilkhaiyr Shegaliyev (5-0, 4), who are in relatively easily here and won't face too much of a test as they continue to build their careers and move towards bigger bouts.
As well as the Kazakh show there is also a notable card in Tokyo thanks to Teiken. This card is a really interesting one, with a notable name in the main event, a really good chief support bout, and a host of notable prospects
The main event will see Kenichi Ogawa (23-1-0-1, 17) take on limited Filipino visitor Glenn Medura (10-5-1, 6) in what will be little more than a stay busy bout for Ogawa. Originally the Japanese puncher was scheduled to have an IBF world title eliminator eliminator with South African Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8), but Fuzile failed to secure a visa in time for the bout leading to Medura, who is 0-4 in Japan, getting the bout. We don't see this going very long at all.
A much better Japan Vs Philippines bout will see Shuya Masaki (12-1, 5) take on Al Toyogon (10-3-1, 6) in an excellent match up. The once beaten Masaki, who's only loss came to Hironori Mishiro, hasn't really shined as Teiken would have wished and this is a long way from a gimme. Masaki is talented, but really needs to get prove he can put on good performances, something we don't really see from him with any consistency. Toyogon on the other hand is looking to bounce back from a recent loss to Ryo Sagawa, and will be coming into this out with a point to prove. A very interesting bout contest.
One of the other main supporting bouts will be a Welterweight bout between Masaya Tamayama (12-1, 6) and Riku Nagahama (9-2-1, 4), with both men wanting to tak a big step towards a potential Japanese title fight in the near future. Nagahama is looking to secure a second win since his TKO loss last year to Yuki Nagano, who has since gone on to win the Japanese title, whilst Tamayama is looking for a 9th straight win, and a chance to take a huge step towards a big bout.
Among the other supporting bouts we will see Japanese Super Flyweight prospect Hayate Kaji (12-0, 9) take on Japanese based Filipino veteran Rey Orais (20-18-2, 5), in what looks to be a chance for Kaji to take a huge step towards a Japanese title fight. It feels like Kaji has been on the verge of a break out fight for a while and whilst this isn't going to be it, it seems like a win and his next one will be his long awaited break out bout. For Orais questions should be asked why he's continuing to fight, rather than focus more on the training role he has at the Flare Yamagami gym.
Lower down on this card we'll see two more touted Japanese prospects both take big steps up in class against Filipino foes. One of those is the fantastic Mikito Nakano (2-0, 2), who takes on Arvin Yurong (12-2, 3) in a genuinely good test. Nakano looks like he has the ability to move through the rankings quickly, and could fight for a title as early as late 2020, and Yurong is a very under-rated young fighter who should force answers from Nakano.
The other is Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1), who's debut saw him look fantastic against an opponent who didn't want to be there. Here Lee takes on unbeaten Filipino Marlon Paniamogan (9-0-1, 5) in what should be a much, much better match up. Sadly not much is known about the visitor, so it's unclear what type of a test he will actually pose for the very talented Lee.
A smaller show takes place in the Phillipines where we see a few interesting Filipino fighters in action with a really good main event.
The main event will see the unbeaten Mark Vicelles (10-0-1, 5) take on the once touted Jesse Espinas (19-3, 11). The 23 year old Vicelles isn't well known but comes into this on the back of an excellent win over Robert Onggocan, and this is a logical step up in class. As for Espinas this is a slight step backwards, but is one that makes sense given he was beaten last time out in an OPBF title bout against Edward Heno. A very interesting match up, and rightfully the main event of the card.
In a good supporting bout Ponciano Remandiman (10-4-1, 5) and Prince Andrew Laurio (10-2-1, 7) will face off for the Philippines Visayas Professional Boxing Association Super Flyweight title. The 22 year old Remandiman has turned around a 2-4-1 start with 8 straight wins and has great momentum coming into this bout, as well as a good win last time out against Renz Rosia. Interestingly Lauio's career is going in the opposite direction, and he is 2-2-1 in his last 5, with stoppage losses in his last 2 bouts. His early potential appears to have been massively over-hyped and he is now really faltering.
One other bout of note here will see the one beaten Tomjune Mangubat (10-1-1, 9) take on Joffrey Garcia (6-10-4, 5), in what should be another straight forward win for Mangubat.
Gimhae, South Korea
The most notable show of the day comes from Korea, where the we get top Korean female fighter making a defense of one of her titles.
The aforementioned female fighter is Hee Jung Yuh (20-3, 10), who will be defending her WBF Intercontinental Female Super Flyweight title against Thai foe Saowaluk Nareepangsri (7-14, 1). Yuh is an interesting and skilled fighter, though she is well below elite level, and her only loss in the last 10 years has come to Naoko Fujioka. Despite only losing once in 10 years her competition, Fujioka aside, has been appalling. Saowaluk has lost her last 5, including 3 by stoppage. She's very much a fight who will travel to pick up a loss, and that seems to be the case again here as she returns to Korea for the fourth time in her career, still seeking her first win in the country.
There will also be a bout featuring Seung Ho Lee (4-0, 4). Lee will battle for the WBF Asia Pacific Welterweight title as he takes on Thai visitor Girapan Boonpeng (4-1, 4), who was last seen losing inside a round to Rivo Kundimang in Indonesia in November. We'll get a chance to compare Lee to Kundimang, but that's about the only thing this bout will actually do.
As well as the title action in Korea there will also be a small, yet noteworthy, card in Osaka featuring two bouts of interest.
In a bout that genuinely excites us we'll see the inform Dynamic Kenji (10-3, 7) take on the once touted Naoto Iwai (5-2, 3). Coming in to this Kenji has won his last 5 by stoppage, including big wins over Futa Akizuki and Shota Kawaguchi. That winning run has taken him from 5-3 to 10-3 and he's quickly climbing up the rankings towards a potential title fight. Iwai was tipped highly as a prospect from Hyogo but the youngster suffered back to back defeats in 2017 and he's yet to really recover from those set backs. He's notched a couple of wins over Thai's since suffering his defeats but this is a clear step up, and it feels like Morioka will be looking to see if he sinks or swims against someone as good as Kenji.
The other bout of note will see 2016 Rookie of the Year runner up Hibiki Jogo (7-2, 4) take on Tricky Kumagai (9-8, 6). The 25 year old Jogo was stopped in 4 rounds in the Rookie of the Year final and was also stopped last time out, by Yoshihiro Utsumi, suggesting that perhaps he's lacking in durability. Kumagai has also been stopped, in fact 4 of his 8 losses have been inside the distance, and he is 2-6 in his last 8, meaning he can ill afford another loss here. This isn't a massive fight for the Japanese domestic scene, but is massive for both fighters, who will have a long road to climb if they come up short here.
Metro Manila, Philippines
In the Philippines fans get a small card, expected to be headlined by the unbeaten Marlon Paniamogan (8-0-1, 5) taking on Jimmy Borbon (7-6-4, 4). This is a less than great match up, but the card looks like it will feature a bunch of more recognisable names.
Listed for the show are Wilbert Berondo (12-3-2, 5), Juan Miguel Elorde (26-1, 14), Arvin Magramo (8-1-1, 5) and Delmar Pellio (5-0, 3). Sadly none of those fighters have had their opponents named at the time of writing.
Kazakh fans get the chance to end the year on a high with a number of their fighters in action on a special card promoted by the Astana Arlans and Qazaq Promotions. The show will be free to attend, but sadly the level of bouts is a bit of a mystery.
Whilst full details on this card haven't been announced we do know that is it will feature Aidar Sharibayev (7-1, 6), Yelieqiati Nihemaituola (14-0-1, 5), Askhat Ualikhanov (4-1, 2), Ablaikhan Khussainov (9-0, 6) and Ruslan Myrsataev (5-0, 5), all of whom likely to be up against limited opponents in what we suspect will be little more than show case bouts.