We get some notable action this coming Sunday with a world title fight, in Ukraine featuring an Azeri-Ukrainian and a Thai, as well as a Japanese Rookie card with a very notable main event.
The world title bout will see the unbeaten Artem Dalakian (16-0, 11) making his first defense of the WBA Flyweight title, as he takes on former interim WBA champion Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep (50-3, 35). The Ukrainian based Azeri born champion won the title back in February, when he defeated veteran Brian Viloria for the title which Kazuo Ioka had vacated in late 2017. In that title win Dalakian impressed, though it did look like Viloria was well past his best and was a shadow of the fighter he had once been. Yodmongkol is best known for his wins over Koki Eto and Takuya Kogawa along with his loss to Juan Carlos Reveco. Since losing to Reveco the Thai has been ultra active, going 16-0 (15), but has been matched incredibly lightly and will need a career best performance here against the impressive Dalakian.
In Aichi fans will get a Rookie of the Year card for Central Japan. In total there will be 7 Rookie bouts with arguably the best of the bunch being a Featherweightbout between Masaki Sasaki (3-1-1, 1), who fights for the first time since March 2017, and the hard hitting Terutaka Shimada (1-0, 1).
Despite this being a Rookie card much of the attention will actually be at the main event, where the hard hitting Masamichi Yabuki (6-2, 6) will take on former world title challenger Gilberto Pedroza (18-4-2, 8). Yabuchi has stopped all 6 of his victims in the first 2 rounds, in fact he he has scored 5 opening round stoppages in his 8 bouts. Despite those wins Yabuki has suffered notable domestic defeats to Junto Nakatani and Seigo Yuri Akui and a win here would be a career best. As for Pedroza he is coming in to this bout on the back of December's 4th round TKO loss to Ken Shiro in a bout for the WBC Light Flyweight title. A win for Pedroza would help him get his career back on track however a loss will set the Panamanian back a long way, and destroy his hopes of getting another world title fight any time soon.
This coming Sunday fight fans in Japan get 3 different shows across the country. On paper the most notable of those is from Okinawa, where fans will get three title fights and several notable fighters from recent Rookie of the Year competitions.
The main event of the card will see hard hitting Ryoya Ikema (12-4, 11) take on fellow puncher Mongkol Kamsommat (6-2, 5) in a bout for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. The 20 year old Ikema had a 2017 to forget, with losses to Koki Ono and Ryoki Hirai, but will feel confident of claiming his first title here as he takes on an opponent who has been stopped in both of his losses. The Thai however will fancy his chances to make a name for himself and will be coming in to this on the back of 4 straight wins.
A second title fight on this card will see Yuko Henzan (5-6-4, 2) battle Phannaluk Kongsang (3-4-1, 2) for the OPBF female Bantamweight title, in a less than great looking bout which will actually be a rematch from a bout back in November. When these two first fought, in the Philippines, they fought to an 8 round draw, and given how competitive that bout was we're expecting another close one here, but it's unlikely to be a high quality match up.
A really mouth watering bout will see Tatsuro Nakashima (7-0-1, 5) face off with Kai Ishizawa (3-0, 3) in a bout for the Japanese Youth Minimumweight title. Nakashima got all the way to the 2017 Rookie of the Year West final, where he fought to a draw with Yuga Inoue, and certainly looks like a talented youngster with power and ambition. As for Ishizawa he was a pretty solid amateur, going 28-14, and turning professional with a B class license. Since turning professional last June Ishizawa has looked sensational, and the 21 year old will be looking to continue to demonstrate his brutal power, which has seen him stop his first 3 foes in a combined 5 rounds. This could be a very explosive and exciting match up.
Other fighters of note on this card are 2016 Light Welterweight Rookie of year winner Ukyo Yoshigai (5-2, 4) and 2017 winner Marcus Smith (4-0-1, 4), though both men are up against relatively weak opponents and not each other, in what would have been a genuinely notable bout.
In Okyama we'll be able to see two really interesting match ups on the Japanese domestic scene, despite neither fight being a hugely significant one, for now.
The more interesting of those two bouts will see talented 22 year old Seigo Yuri Akui (11-1-1, 7) return to the ring since his first loss, to Junto Nakatani, and battle against the heavy handed Masamichi Yabuki (6-1, 6). The promising Akui was looking like a star in the making before running into the naturally bigger Nakatani last August and simply being out power by his foe. As for Yabuki he's a big puncher who lost in the 2016 Rookie of the year final, with that loss also coming to Junto Nakatani. It's clear both men will be looking for a statement win here, and a chance to work their way towards a rematch with Nakatani. This could be very exciting with both men having hands, and both looking to push themselves to a bigger and better fight.
The other bout of note on this card will see Kota Fujimoto (7-2-1, 2) battle against Shunji Nagata (11-16-2, 3). Coming in to this Fujimoto is ranked by the OPBF, and will be favoured here, but Nagata could be a banana skin, and certainly not be there to roll over though will be giving away significant size to Fujimoto.
At the L-Theatre in Osaka fans will get a relatively notable card featuring several fighters with some form of ranking, and 3 bouts worthy of some note.
The main event will see OPBF ranked Super Flyweight Kenji Kihisa (8-3, 5) take on WBO Asia Pacific ranked fighter Shota Kawaguchi (21-9-1, 9). Coming in to this Kihisa is on a 3 fight stoppage run, including a career best win over Futa Akizuki which pushed him into the OPBF rankings. If we remove the run from Kihisa he doesn't have much else on his record, but the 27 year old does look like he is hitting his stride now. Kawaguchi is a former WBO Asia Pacific “Interim” champion, but has gone 4-5 in his last 9, including a stoppage last time out to Ryuichu Funai in a Japanese title fight. Kawaguchi needs a win to remain relevant whilst a victory for Kihisa will put him into the title mix, a really key bout at this regional level.
In a supporting bout fans will see OPBF ranked Super Flyweight Tatsuya Ikemizu (17-2, 7) take on Naoto Fujimoto (9-8-1, 4). The 25 year old Ikemizu has rebuilt well from losses to Mark John Yap and Jonas Sultan, scoring 4 straight wins, but this bout is a step up from the 4 Thai's he has faced over the last 18 months. Although a step up for Ikemizu from recent bouts, it's hard to imagine Fujimoto providing any sort of real test for the 2013 Rookie of the Year winner.
One other bout of note on this card will see Noboru Osato (8-6-4, 1) take on Takuya Yamamoto (8-8, 4) in a bout that both men really need to win. Osata has gone 3-3-1 in his last 7, including a close loss to Yuki String Kobayashi last time out, and really needs a win to give his career any sort of momentum. As for Yamamoto he has lost his last 2, including a 109 second blow out loss to Satoshi Shimizu, and has gone 2-5 in his last 7, showing just how much he needs another win.
In Japan we get a small card in Aichi, featuring three pretty good looking bouts.
One of the bouts will be a clash between two Japanese ranked fighters, as see Yota Hori (13-5-2, 8) takes on Shun Kosaka (14-3, 4). Coming into this Hori is a top 10 ranked fighter at Light Flyweight whilst Kosaka holds a similar Flyweight ranking. Neither man is a world beater, but both will be looking to get a Japanese title fight in 2018, and know that a win here will help them move towards a shot at the domestic crown.
The supposed chief support bout of the card will see talented novice Masanori Rikiishi (1-0) take on Ryo Tanimoto (4-1, 3) in what a very tough second bout for Rikiishi. The novice made his debut in July, impressing in a win over Korean visitor Sa Ya Lee, a former Korean Lightweight champion, but this is a genuinely interesting test. Tanimoto was stopped last time out, in an upset against Yuta Teruya, but prior to that has looked destructive and can certainly bang, which could mean a chin checking for Rikiishi here.
The min event will see the heavy handed Masamichi Yabuki (5-1, 5) take on Masashi Tada (11-4-2, 7). The hard hitting Yabuki has needed just 6 rounds to score his 5 stoppage, and his only loss came in last year's Rookie of the Year to the brilliant Junto Nakatani. Although limited Tada has got far more experience than Yabuki and he has yet to be stopped, having fought for a Japanese title and going 10 rounds, which is actually the total rounds of Yabuki's career. Despite Tada being a good opponent it should be noted he's not scored a win in over 4 rounds.
There is also a very low profile card in the Philippines.
The main event of the card will see the unbeaten KJ Natuplag (5-0-1, 4) face off with veteran Danilo Pena (27-28-5, 11) for the PBF Featherweight title. The 21 year old Natuplag will be looking to claim his second title, after having previously claimed the LuzProBA Bantamweight title, and will be strongly favoured here. Pena on the other hand has is looking to stop the rot, and he has gone 0-7-1 in his last 8, going back more than 2 years.
This coming Friday Japanese fans get two different shows, one of which is a major domestic event, whilst the other is just a low profile card.
The key event of the day comes from the Korakuen Hall and is the final of the 2017 Rookie of the Year, with the winners of the bouts being crowned the All-Japanese champion. In total their will be 12 bouts, taking place from Minimumweight to Middleweight and will likely set the scene for several notable prospects going into 2017. We won't go through all 12 bouts, but we have picked some of the most interesting on paper.
At 140lbs we'll see unbeaten punchers collide as 20 year old Hayato Ono (5-0, 5) risks his perfect KO record against 19 year old Ukyo Yoshigai (4-0, 3). The bout is almost certainly going to see both guys letting bombs go from the off. Ono has stopped his 5 opponents in a combined 10 rounds, with 3 opening round victories, Yoshigai has also fought just 10 rounds, though has scored a trio of 2nd round wins. This is going to be explosive!
Another potentially explosive bout between unbeaten fighters will see 18 year old Junto Nakatani (8-0, 7) battle with Masamichi Yabuki (3-0, 3) in a Flyweight contest. Nakatani has scored 5 stoppages this year, in a combined 9 rounds, and looks to be a natural born puncher. Yabuki has amazingly fought less than 6 minutes as a professional and has stopped his first 3 opponents in the opening round. This could be another enthralling and explosive contest.
Whilst not all the bouts promise the same explosive action as the two about the bouts are all significant and not a single fighter involved has a losing record!
The low profile card comes from Hyogo and is promoted by Amagasaki Promotions.
In the main event of this card we'll see the once beaten Yuki Iriguchi (6-1-1, 3) facing off with an unknown Thai foe, in what is expected to be little more than a confidence builder for the Japanese fighter. Iriguchi has gone 1-1-1 in his last 3, with that loss being an opening round blow out to the really exciting Hibiki Jogo. With so little known about the Thai we can't say much, but it's clear that Iriguchi's team are wanting him to end the year with a second successive win.
In the chief support bout we get a competitive looking contest between Tomoya Itosu (6-2, 3) and Shoji Nakamura (4-2-1, 2). Itosu has won his last 3 but those 3 bouts have come over the last 3 years and his career has really lacked activity and consistency, Nakamura has won his last 2, and is unbeaten in more than a year. This could be a genuinely enjoyable bout.