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.
Distrito Federal, Mexico
Arguably the biggest bout in Asia this weekend will come from Mexico as WBC female Bantamweight champion Mariana Juarez (49-9-4, 18) rematches Japanese challenger Terumi Nuki (10-3, 7). These two fought in 2017, with Juarez taking a clear win, and since then Nuki has gone 1-1, losing a wide decision to Debora Anahi Dionicius. This is likely to be Nuki's final shot at a world title for a while if she comes up short, so we're expecting a very fiery effort here from the challenger. At the age of 38 Juarrez is an old fighter, especially given she's had 62 bouts and fought in 455 rounds. Despite her age she is on a 6 fight unbeaten run and will not be handing over her title over without someone ripping it from her hands.
The biggest Asian show comes from the City Sogo Gym in Osaka, as we get a Japanese title fight, a hotly tipped female fighter and a mouth watering domestic clash.
The main event will see Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada (16-4, 3) make his first defense as he takes on Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-5, 4). The hard hitting Yada claimed the title back in April, when he stopped fellow puncher Toshio Arikawa in 8 rounds, in what was a brutal and hard hitting bout. The win over Arikawa was the 4th straight victory for Yada who has bounced back very well from his 2016 loss to Jayar Inson. The challenger will be in his first title fight, though unfortunate for Okumoto he was stopped last time out by Vladimir Baez and hasn't notched up a win since April 2017. The challenger really would need a career defining performance here to even test Yada.
The chief support bout actually looks likely to be the bout of the show as the once beaten former amateur stand out Kazuki Tanaka (9-1, 6) takes on the inform and very hard hitting Keita Kurihara (11-5, 10). Coming in to this bout Tanaka has a #3 ranking with the JBC and is looking to build on good wins over Hikaru Marguame and Seizo Kono. On the other hand Kurihara, who is ranked by the OPBF, JBC and WBO Asia Pacific, is looking to build on devastating wins over Ryan Lumacad and Tetsuya Watanabe. We're expecting this to a brutal clash and could go either way.
Once beaten Japanese ranked Super Bantamweight Toshiki Shimomachi (8-1-1, 5) will be in action against Filipino fighter Renan Portes (10-6, 6). Shimomachi has rebuilt well following a 2-1-1 start to his career and claimed the Super Bantamweight Rookie of the Year crown last year. Despite his ranking this is a slight step up in class the Japanese fighter. As for Portes he has been picking up loses on the road for the last 2 years, including a stoppage loss to Hayate Kaji last year and Mike Tawatchai earlier this year.
Also on this card will be former female stand out Kasumi Saeki (1-0) who steps up to 8 round bouts as she takes on a Thai visitor in what is likely to be her final bout before a title shot.
A second show in Osaka will be held at the Sumyoshi Ward Center and will be a relatively low key card with only 4 bouts worthy of any mention.
The main event will see WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight champion Masahiro Sakamoto (12-1, 8) fighting in a non-title bout against South Korean Super Flyweight champion Ki Chang Go (6-2, 2). On paper this doesn't look the best of match ups, but with Sakamoto moving up in weight for this contest he could be pushed hard by the Korean visitor, who has won his last 6 after a 0-2 start to his professional career.
In the chief support bout fans will see OPBF ranked Super Bantamweight Shachihoko Dragons Keita (8-5-4, 1) face off with Yosuke Taniguchi (6-5-1, 1), in what should be a very safe bout for Keita, who has gone 3-0-3 in his last 6 bouts. Although we wouldn't fancy Keita to claim an OPBF title he should manage to pick up a win here.
Another ranked fighter on this card is Kota Fujimoto (8-2-1, 2), who risks his JBC and OPBF rankings against Tatsuya Terada (6-3-1, 1). Coming in to this Fujimoto is riding a 3 fight unbeaten run, including a draw with the touted Masayoshi Hashizume from last December. As for Terada he was beaten last time out and his wins have, for the most part, come against very limited opponents.
Also on this card is the debuting Riku Kunimoto (0-0), who makes his debut against a Korean opponent. Kunimoto is tipped to have a big future but it will be interesting to see how he kicks off his career, and how he looks as a professional fighter.
As well as the action in Osaka there is also an interesting card set to take place in Laguna, featuring an OPBF champion defending his title, and a couple of unbeaten prospects.
The OPBF champion is the inform Light Flyweight contender Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5), who defends his title against the fringe world class Jesse Espinas (19-2, 11) in what looks like an amazing match up. This will be Heno's second defense, following a excellent win over Merlito Sabillo this past February, and another win here will push him well up the world rankings towards a world title fight. Espinas comes into this bout riding an 8 fight winning run, with notable wins over Joey Canoy, Paipharob Kokietgym and Elias Joaquino. This is set to be a very special bout and should see the winner announce themselves as a leading contender in one of the deepest divisions in the sport.
On the under-card fans will see Enrique Magsalin (4-0-2, 1) risk his unbeaten record against the once beaten Adrian Lerasan (6-1, 1) whilst Prince Andrew Laurio (9-0-1, 6) will take on Jopher Marayan (7-11-2, 3). We expect to see the unbeaten men continue to keep their “0” in tact, but Magasalin looks like he has a genuine test on his hands.
The most notable show this coming Sunday, Easter Sunday, comes from the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka.
The main event will see WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight champion Masahiro Sakamoto (11-1, 7) make his first defense of the title, as he takes on highly experienced Thai Pigmy Kokietgym (60-9-2, 24). The Japanese fighter won the title last December, when he stopped Kwanthai Sithmorseng, and he'll be looking to score a second successive win over a Thai veteran here. For Pigmy another loss might well spell the end of his career, especially given he's already 36 years old and has been a professional for closing in on 19 years! A win for Sakamoto will take him a step closer to getting a rematch with Sho Kimura, the only man to beat him so far.
In a supporting bout former world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (15-5-3, 5) looks for a stay busy win as he takes on Thai visitor Kathawut Saikaew Boxing Camp (0-1). Mukai has score back to back wins since his 2017 stoppage loss to Rex Tso in Hong Kong, and although bigger fights are around the corner we can't grumble too much about him staying busy given the competition he has faced through his career so far.
Arguably the most even looking match up on the show is a contest between Yuki Strong Kobayashi (12-7, 6) and Taichi Sugimoto (6-4, 2). We're not expecting anything too special here, but it does see Kobayashi risking his OPBF Bantamweight ranking.
Another show in Osaka, this time at the EDION Arena Osaka, will be promoted by Green Tsuda and looks a very interesting card with several bouts of note.
The main event is the most notable contest on the show and will see once beaten hopeful Kazuki Tanaka (8-1, 6) battle recent OPBF title challenger Seizo Kono (19-9-1, 12). The talented Tanaka was expected to be fast tracked into becoming a star however a 3rd round TKO loss last year to Ryohei Takahashi really did set him back, despite a bounce back win over Hikaru Marugame. Last time out Kono battled against Mark John Yap, and despite a solid effort he was stopped in 10 rounds. Given that both men need a win this should be a very hotly contested bout.
In a supporting bout Takayuki Okumoto (19-8-3, 9) will take on Indonesian Frengky Rohi (5-3-1, 1). The 26 year old Okumoto has gone 3-2-1 (3), with set backs to Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, Eranio Semillano and, most recently, Ryuichi Funai in a Japanese title fight. The Indonesian visitor when 5-0-1 to begin his career, but has lost his last 3 bouts, and will struggle to over-come Okumoto here, in what looks like a very tough bout on Japanese soil.
A great match up between 24 year old fighters will see Ryo Sagawa (3-1, 2) take on the hard hitting Tsuyoshi Sawai (5-2-1, 5). Sagawa caught out eye on debut and looked very impressive, though was stopped in his second bout by Retsu Kosaka in a Japanese Youth title fight. Since that loss he has bounced back with two credible wins and will be looking for another one here. As for Sawai he's a very dangerous puncher at this level, and despite being flawed he can bang, with his power taking him to the 2016 Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to Yoshimitsu Kimura. This is a very interesting bout, and the winner could well go a very long way, despite already having a loss on their record.
Another bout pitting men with one loss against each other will see 2017 Super Bantamweight Rookie of the year Toshiki Shimomachi (7-1-1, 4) take on former amateur stand out Kiyohei Endo (1-1, 1). Shimomachi started his career 2-1-1 but is now riding a 5 fight winning run and has broken into the Japanese rankings. Endo, a former amateur stand out, suffered a surprise loss on debut but looks a class fighter and a win here would move him to the fringes of a Japanese ranking. A very interesting bout and one that both will be wanting to win, and win impressively.
There will also be a low key card in Aichi, as Yakushiji put on a show.
The main event of this card will see teenager Musashi Mori (5-0, 4) take on a Thai foe. The 18 year old Mori won the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight and enters this bout ranked by the JBC. A win for the teenager won't push him up the ranking, but will kick off a year which should push him towards a title fight, if not see him in the mix for a Japanese youth title before the end of 2018.
A pretty interesting supporting bout on this card will see Rookie of the Year runner up Katsuki Matsuura (5-1, 1) take on Toma Kondo (6-2, 1). These two men are both 21 years old, both have very similar looking records and whilst neither is much of a puncher they should make for a very exciting contest against each other. This could be a very interesting bout between two men each looking to bounce back from a loss. Very good match making here.
This coming Sunday is a busy day in Japan with 3 shows in the country, with 2 of those taking place in Osaka.
The most significant of those is a multi-title show from Muto promotions, with the card being headlined by OPBF Middleweight champion Koki Tyson (13-2-2, 11), who faces off with veteran Yasuyuki Akiyama (11-7-1, 8). The bout will see Tyson defending his OPBF title and also look to add the WBO Asia Pacific title, which is currently vacant but on the line for this bout. It's hard to see past a win for Tyson, given he holds almost every advantage, but the bout is likely to be the final one of Akiyama's career, and he will almost certainly give everything he has here.
A second OPBF title fight will see Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap (27-12, 13) seek his second defense, as he puts his title on the line against Japanese foe Seizo Kono (19-8-1, 12). The Japanese based Filipino champion will be making his second defense of the title, following his dramatic win over Kentaro Masuda, and knows that if he can continue on his current winning streak there is a chance he will be able to move towards a world title fight. For Kono the bout perhaps comes at the perfect time, with the Japanese man having won his last 4, and seemingly ended his blotchy form, which saw him going 2-5. Despite being on a bit of a run this is still a big ask for Kono.
In a rematch we'll see former multi-time world title challengers collide, as Hirofumi Mukai (14-5-3, 4) and Inthanon Sithchamuang (31-9-1, 19) battle for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, just as they did in November 2016. In their first meeting Mukai stopped the Thai in 3 rounds, but since then he has gone 1-1, beating a novice Thai and being stopped in a war with Rex Tso. As for Inthanon, he's fought once since losing to Mukai, also a win over a novice Thai. It's fair to say that Mukai will be favoured, given how easily he won the first contest between the two, but it'll be interesting to see what the Tso bout took out of him.
A second Japan Vs Thailand bout for a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title will see the once beaten Masahiro Sakamoto (10-1, 6) take on veteran former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng (50-4-1, 27). Aged 26 Sakamoto is just coming into his prime and the Flyweight will be looking to claim the biggest win of his career here. His only loss came in a bout for this very same title last year, when he suffered a very close loss to current WBO world champion Sho Kimura, and he will know that a win against Kwanthai could push him into the world title mix. As for Kwanthai, he's a long way removed from the man who claimed the WBA Minimumweight title in 2010. He has gone 19-4 since that win, but suffered 2 stoppages and only beaten very limited opposition. This should be a win for Sakamoto, but the question is really “how impressive does he look here?”
A second show in Osaka will be promoted by Green Tsuda and although not a big card does have one of the day's most interesting contests on it, as well as the continued push of a man who has been matched hard through his career.
That hard matched man is Takayuki Okumoto (18-8-3, 8), who's record doesn't suggest anything special but he did recently challenge Japanese Super Flyweight champion Ryuichi Funai, and ran Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking close in 2016. The Japanese fighter will be up against a Thai foe here, and should, easily, pick up the win in the card's main event.
Arguably the most interesting match up of the day is a supporting contest between two once tipped amateur stars, both in need of a big win after recent set backs. In one corner will be Kazuki Tanaka (7-1, 5), a Green Tsuda man who was tipped as a star but was stopped last time out by Ryohei Takahashi. Like Tanaka we saw Hikaru Marugame (6-2-1, 4) turn professional with high expectations, having competed on the international stage in the amateurs, but with 2 losses and a draw in his last 4 bouts those expectations are quickly dying. A loss here for either man would likely spell the end of any hope of them becoming a notable name, and the bout really is a must win for both.
A third card from Japan this coming Sunday is from Aichi, and is certainly one with an international feel, given the three most notable bouts all feature a visitor.
The main event sees former Japanese Light Middleweight title challenger Ryosuke Maruki (14-4-1, 9) take on Indonesia's Filipus Rangga (10-17, 1). The Japanese fighter looked like one to watch when he lost to Yuki Nonaka, with some suggesting just a tiny bit of seasoning was needed, and since then he has picked up two stoppage wins and looks like a genuine domestic contender, with a second title fight perhaps only a few bouts away. Rangga began his career 5-1 but since then has gone 5-16 and really is a very limited fighter on the domestic scene, and has fought at much higher weights. Not only is Rangga smaller, older, and less talented but he is also making his international debut. In all honesty Maruki should be disappointed if this goes beyond 6 rounds.
In an interesting support bout fans will see the pretty solid Shogo Yamaguchi (10-3-2, 5) take on domestically ranked Indonesian Lightweight Sam Puadi (7-8, 5). Yamaguchi has gone 1-3-1 in his last 5, though has faced the likes of Akihiro Kondo and Andy Hiraoka during that run, and really needs a win to kick start his once fledgling career. The visitor is 0-2 outside of Indonesia, including a loss earlier this year in Japan to Yuki Harada, though it's fair to say that the visitor will feel he has half a chance here against a very out of form Yamaguchi.
Also on this card will be a Heavyweight bout, as top ranked Japanese Heavyweight Kotatsu Takehara (13-11-3, 7) takes on Korean visitor Hoo Won Lee (4-3). The 39 year old Takehara is a 2 time Japanese title challenger and although he came up short in both bouts, to Kyotaro Fujimoto, he is a game fighter. Interestingly Takehara will be fighting for the first time since May 2016, when Japanese rules actually forbid him from fighting, and will surely be wanting to prove age is just a number. The 24 year old Korean visitor has age on his side, but the former Korean Heavyweight champion is stepping up in a big way here, and was stopped in a round back in June. If Takehara is half the fighter he was he should win, if he loses however it's got to be the end for him.
Seoul, South Korea
Fans in Korea will get their own title bout, as the unbeaten In Duck Seo (8-0-1, 5) takes on the limited Joong Kyung Lee (3-2) in a bout for the KBF Light Middleweight title. Seo is unbeaten, but could only a manage a draw last time out, in a very good match up against Dong Hee Kim down at 140lbs. As for Lee, who will be having his 6th bout of the year, this bout follows an 8 round loss to Moon Sung Choi and he will certainly be coming into this one looking to score a big domestic win.
The best show of the week, and one of the best of the month, comes on Wednesday when Morioka and Mutoh co-promote a great show with 5 title bouts in Osaka.
The “main event” of the show will see OPBF Light Middleweight champion Takayuki Hosokawa (28-10-5, 9) look for his second defense of the title as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Yutaka Oishi (13-5, 7). The bout will see Hosokawa looking for a much better performance than his last one, a hard fought struggle for a draw with Koshinmaru Saito, however there are some suggesting he is at the very end of his career with injuries and accumulated damage adding up. For Oishi this is a great opportunity to claim a major title, but he will be the big under-dog here.
The most exciting fighter on the card is 19 year old hopeful Hinata Maruta (3-0, 2), who looks to make his first defense of the WBC Youth Bantamweight. The talented Japanese youngster will be up against Filipino southpaw Joe Tejones (6-1, 2) in what should be a chance to Maruta to get rounds against a southpaw. From what we under-stand a win here will see Maruta progress towards either a Japanese, an OPBF or a WBO Asia Pacific title fight in 2017 with his team actively chasing tougher assignments. For Tejones the bout is a big step up and it's hard to see what he'll have to test Maruta.
The other OPBF title fight will see Middleweight champion Dwight Ritchie (14-0-0-4, 1) make the first defense of his title as he takes on the limited but heavy handed Japanese slugger Koki Tyson (10-2-2, 10). Ritchie won the title earlier this year in Japan, where he defeated Hikaru Nishida, and will be hoping for more success here. He is however up against a very different type of fighter here with Nishida being a basic pressure fighter whilst Tyson is a boxer-puncher, sadly for Tyson he is rather limited and comes into this on the back of a very poor performance against Joon Yong Lee.
In a WBO Super Flyweight Asia Pacific title bout we'll see former world title challengers face off as Japan's Hirofumi Mukai (12-4-3, 2) battles Thailand's Inthanon Sithchamuang (30-8-1, 18). Mukai has twice fought for world titles in Thailand, having a technical draw with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam and suffering a stoppage loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and has struggled against other notable opponents like Shohei Omori and Mark Anthony Geraldo. Inthanon on the other hand is best known for losing to Kohei Kono earlier this year, and has suffered other losses in Japan, where he is yet to score a win.
At Flyweight we'll see the unbeaten, and genuinely promising, Masahiro Sakamoto (8-0, 4) take on the once beaten Sho Kimura (12-1-2, 6) for the WBO Asia Pacific title. Sakamoto has been unbeaten since his debut back in December 2014, and has won the 2015 Rookie of the Year and holds wins over Atsushi Aburada and Il Che. As for Kimura he was beaten in his debut but has gone 14 fights unbeaten since fighting 3 of those bouts in Thailand. This is the first title bout for both men and should tell us a lot about both fighters.
In a notable non-title bout on the card we'll see exciting prospect Naoto Iwai (2-0, 1) take on Filipino veteran Donny Mabao (22-27-3, 4) in a 6 rounder. The bout is a good step up for Iwai, who was last seen beating Juan Purisima in the Philippines, and a win here is likely to see Iwai move into 8 rounders in 2017, with the teenager already showing glimpses of real talent like stablemate Maruta
This coming Sunday sees Japanese attention turn to Osaka with the Sumiyoshi Ward Center playing host to two different shows, one after the other. The first is a Morioka card whilst the second is a Mutoh card.
To us the most interesting bout from the first show will see fast rising Japanese teenager Hinata Maruta (2-0, 1) go for his first professional title, as he faces unbeaten Filipino Wilbert Berondo (10-0, 4) for the WBC Youth Bantamweight title. The bout is, on paper, a huge step up for Berondo but the pressure will be on Maruta, who is tipped by many to be one of the next stars of Japanese boxing. Unfortunately very little is known about Berondo with even our Filipino friends admitting they know very little about him and the footage available shows a raw slugger.
Another interesting bout on this card will see Japanese based Korean fighter Teiru Atsumi (10-1, 4) battle Filipino visitor Dennis Tubieron (19-7-2, 8). Tubieron has been picking up losses recently, including a loss earlier this year to Ryosuke Iwasa. Atsumi is relatively unknown but impressed last time out when he stopped the touted Sho Nakazawa and some are suggesting he is one of the top two Korean prospects still in Asia, along with Ye Joon Kim. If he can add Tubieron to his record Atsumi really will be riding a high into the end of the year, and may well see his team try secure him a title fight in the near future.
On the second card we have another title bout, but one that perhaps doesn't quite have the same excitement as the Maruta/Berondo bout.
This time it's the case of OPBF Light Middleweight champion Takayuki Hosokawa (28-10-4, 9) facing off against multi-time title challenger Koshinmaru Saito (23-8-1, 13). For Hosokawa this will be his first defense, following his career defining victory late last year against Dennis Laurente to claim the Oriental title. For Hosokawa a good performance here may help open the door to a world title fight, with the Japanese fighter very highly ranked by the IBF, however Saito enters this bout knowing this will be his last chance at winning a world title.
In a supporting bout fans will see former world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (12-4-2, 2) battle against Ryotaro Kawabata (11-2-1, 5) in what is a really good, well matched contest. The bout sees two well matched men facing off in a bout that neither can really afford to lose. For Mukai the bout is his second since losing to Shohei Omori in a Japanese title fight whilst Kawabata looks to extend a 4 fight unbeaten run.
In a small step up the unbeaten Masahiro Sakamoto (7-0, 4) will be up against Il Che (7-11-5, 1). Che has lost his last 3, and only, has a single win in his last 8 but has proven to be a good test for prospects and gave Genki Hania Hanai a good run out back in March, we suspect the same will be the case here.
One fight we're not expecting to go the distance will see Japanese Middleweight puncher Koki Tyson (10-2-1, 10) face Korean Joon Yong Lee (5-4-3, 3). This will be Lee's second bout in Japan, following a loss in May to Ryosuke Maruki and although he went the distance, in a competitive bout with Maruki, we don't see him being able to take Tyson's power here.