The final two days of 2018 are set to be huge for Asian combat sports, with several major shows. For us it's the boxing that is key and this coming Sunday we'll see a triple header being shown on Fuji TV.
Technically the main event of the show will see WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) make his first defense, as he takes on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10). The talented Ito won the title earlier this year in the USA, defeating the touted Christopher Diaz, and now looks to build on that win. The unbeaten Chuprakov didn't look great last time out, being pushed very hard by Ernie Sanchez, but is a good fighter and should make for an interesting first defense by the popular Japanese fighter. This is a really good bout on paper, but one where we suspect the champion has to be favoured. Our full in depth preview of this bout can be read here - Masayuki Ito faces mandatory Evgeny Chuprakov
The second champion defending their title on this show is WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro (14-0, 8), who will be looking to make his 5th defense of the title. The talented champion will be up against Mexican foe Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13). On paper this isn't an awful bout, especially given that Juarez is proven at world level, but is 1-4-1 in his last 6 bouts, dating back more than 2 years. Kenshiro has been one of Japanese's boxing big success stories of the last few years, and looked sensational in beating Milan Melindo earlier this year. If Kenshiro can put on a similar performance here to the one he put on against Melindo he has to be in the running for the Asian Fighter of the Year. A preview of this bout can be read here Kenshiro seeks 5th defense, takes on Baby Juarez
The third bout of note on this card will see unbeaten fighters collide, as Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) battles Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33), who is also known as Petch CP Freshmart and Tasana Salapat, for the WBC "Interim" Bantamweight title. Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue, is well know in Asian boxing circles and has a number of good wins, beating the likes of Tatsuya Fukuhara, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Rene Dacquel, Froilan Saludar, Hiroyuki Kudaka and Mark John Yap already in his short career. Petch on the other hand has one of the longest unbeaten records in the sport, but totally lacks in terms of quality, with his best wins coming against Jestoni Autida and Jeson Umbal. A preview of this bout can be read here - Petch Sor Chitpattana and Takuma Inoue clash for WBC interim title!
This coming Saturday our attention turns to the US as we get the chance to see a Japanese fighter compete for the WBO Super Featherweight title in Florida.
The match up in question will see former OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (23-1-1, 12) take on the unbeaten Christopher Diaz (23-0, 15) in what looks like an excellent match up to fill the void left when Vasyl Lomachenko moved up in weight. The 27 year old Ito has been waiting a while for a shot at a world title, and although his last couple of fights have been stay busy contests he does hold good wins against the likes of Shinto Eto, Takuya Watanabe and Lorenzo Villanueva. This will however by Ito's first bout outside of Japan. At 23 years old Diaz is the younger fighter and also the bigger puncher but his competition has been slightly softer than that of Ito and he's yet to prove he can go 10 rounds, something that Ito has done in the past. This really could be one of the highlights of the month.
Another title bout Stateside of note will take place in Kentucky, as Uzbek born Russian based Batyr Akhmedov (4-0, 3) defends his WBA Inter-Continental Light Welterweight title against the heavy handed Ismael Barroso (20-2-2, 19). This is another tough test, on paper at least, for Akhmedov but he has shone since making his debut in February 2017 and looks like one of the most exciting prospects in world boxing. Barroso was highly touted a few years ago, and claimed the WBA "interim" Lightweight title with a win over Kevin Mitchell. Since then however he has gone 1-2 and is an old 35 year old.
Staying in the US there will also be a couple of bouts of note in Texas.
One of those will see Kyrgyzstan born Kazakh fighter Ali Baloyev (5-0, 4) battle against American foe Richard Urquizo (3-4-2, 1) for the lightly regarded NABF Junior Cruiserweight title. It's hard to imagine anything but a Baloyev win here, especially given his power and 3 stoppage losses that Urquizo has suffered in his 4 losses.
Another Kazakh in action on this show is Askhat Zhantursynov (0-0), who will be making his debut against American Michael Coronado (1-1-1). Hard to say too much about this bout, but we have been informed that Zhantursynov was a former kick boxer and could end up being the next guy to switch codes with some genuine success.
This coming Saturday we get a world title in the West and we'll also see two very interesting and notable Japanese cards, both taking place in the Kanto region of Japan.
New York, USA
The world title bout is one of a trio of bouts at Madison Square Garden to feature Asian fighters, in what should be a great chance for a number of fighters to shine.
The world title bout will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Light Heavyweight Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10) defending his title against once beaten Cuban Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14). For both men the bout is a major step forward for their career with Bivol facing his most notable opponent to date and Barrera really fighting in a must win, against his second most significant opponent to date,only behind Andre Ward who beat him 2 years ago. The bout pits two top Light Heavyweights against each other, and could well be a very special bout.
This card will also feature a pair of Kazakh hopefuls. One of those is Meiirim Nursultanov (5-0, 4), who risks his unbeaten record against Alejandro Torres (9-3-2, 4). Nulrsultanov has looked really good since his debut in late 2016 and will be looking to launch himself up towards the world rankings by the end of 2018, with Torres being his first bout of the year. As for Torres the Mexican 24 year old has proven to be tough and should serve a good test for the Kazakh, who will be hunting his 5th straight stoppage.
The other Kazakh on this show will be Madiyar Ashkeyev (8-0, 4), who faces live under-dog Jose Antonio Abreu (13-3, 8). The Kazakh isn't as touted as his aforementioned countryman but is a skilled operator who will be looking to make up for lost time after having fought just once in 2017. Abreu, from the Dominican Republic, has lost 3 of his last 4, all in the US, and will likely come up short again here, though has been matched hard in those losses and is certainly no push over.
New York, USA
On a separate US card in New York, fans will see Kazakh hopeful Shyngyskhan Tazhibay (5-0, 2) risk his unbeaten record. At the time of writing his opponent hasn't been announced, but it's unlikely to be too much of a step up in class for the unbeaten man.
On paper the Japanese card with the best single bouts take place in Kanagawa on a Kawasaki Nitta promoted card where fans will get two Japanese title fights and another solid support bout.
The main event of the card is a Japanese Flyweight title bout between defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (28-7-3, 16) and mandatory challenger Katsunori Nagamine (14-1-1, 10), who meet in a Champion Carnival bout. The champion will be seeking his second defense of the title, and will be expecting a much tougher bout than his last defense, which saw him dominate the limited but entertaining Mako Matsuyama. Nagamine on the other hand will be getting his first title bout, and, on paper, his toughest bout since his sole loss to Ken Shiro.
The other title bout is likely to be even better and will see teak tough Japanese Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8) take on the explosive Kazuto Takesako (7-0, 7) in another of the 2018 Champion Carnival bouts. Nishida has held the title for almost 2 years, but has only managed a single defense, due to an out of the ring accident which forced him out of the ring for a while. Despite the lack of defenses he's a tough, aggressive and exciting champion with a solid mentality and style. Takesako is a talented slugger, and should take the fight to Nishida in a potential war. We are expecting this bout to be a potential Japanese fight of the year and something very special.
Also on this card will be the always fun to watch Gakuya Furuhashi (20-8-1, 9), who faces Masashi Kamon (7-2-1, 4) in an 8 rounder. Furuhashi has long been one of the fringe contenders on the domestic scene, and is far better than his record suggests, despite 3 losses in his last 6. Kamon on the other hand began his career 1-2 but has gone on a good run, going 6-0-1 in his last 7. Despite being on a good run Kamon is taking a notable step up in class here.
The other Japanese card will be televised on G+ and despite being higher profile in it's coverage it's arguably a lesser card, despite having a number of notable fighters on it.
The main event here will see WBO #1 ranked Super Featherweight contender Masayuki Ito (22-1-1, 11) take on under-rated Filipino Vergil Puton (17-9, 8), in a bout which appears to be a world title prelude for Ito. The talented Japanese fighter, a former OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion, will be expected to easily over-come Puton but the visitor is no push over, and has asked genuine questions to the likes of Paul Fleming, Ibraham Balla, Shuya Masaki and Ye Joon Kim. Ito should win, but this will be much tough than a public spar for the Japanese fighter.
In a really good chief support bout fans will see former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Yohei Tobe (12-2-1, 8) take on Hajime Nagai (15-9-2, 5), with both men risking JBC rankings. Coming into this Tobe is ranked #7 by the JBC and Nagai is ranked #10. Tobe is riding a 4 fight winning run since losing the Japanese title to Sho Ishida, in a very competitive bout back in 2014, and despite issues with activity he is still a top domestic talent. Nagai on the other hand has lost 2 of his last 3, bith technical decisions,but does have under-rated skills, as he's shown against the likes of Yuji Shimizu back in 2016. This should be Tobe's to lose, but is a very good test on paper for the Misako gym fighter.
Another support bout will see the often fun to watch Koki Eto (21-4-1, 16) take on Filipino journeyman Marzon Cabilla (16-15-1, 5). Eto is currently riding a 4 fight winning run, albeit against limited competition, since his 2015 loss to Carlos Cuadras. Despite his low level of competition the Japanese fighter is a fringe world class talent, and is well known for his thrilling bouts against the likes of Kompayak Porpramook, Yodmongol Vor Saengthep and Ardin Diale. Cabilla enters this bout in the form of his career, riding a 7 fight winning run, but is stepping back up in class here and is likely to see that run of success come to an end.
One other bout of note will see Japanese ranked Light Flyweight Kenji Ono (11-2-1, 6) take on former Japanese Minimumweight contender Masashi Tada (11-5-2, 7). Ono is best known for his up-and-down war with Jun Takigawa from 2016, and has gone 1-1-1 since that bout, suffering an opening round loss to Seigo Yuri Akui in late 2016. He needs a win if he's to move into a title bout. As for Tada he has gone 0-2-1 in his last 3, and over 4 years removed from his last win, however at the age of 28 he does still have time to rebuild his career and a win here would see him move into the JBC rankings.
The main show for us this coming Saturday is a televised card from the Korakuen Hall, which will be covered live by G+.
The main event of the card will see talented Super Featherweight contender Masayuki Ito (21-1-1, 10) take on Filipino foe Glenn Enterina (11-2-1, 8) in what is expected to be one of Ito's final bouts before a potential world title clash. The talented Japanese fighter, who unified the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles at the end of 2016 is regarded as top 15 fighter by 3 of the alphabet organisations and will be seeking a title fight sooner rather than later. In his way will be the big punching Enterina, who will be seeking his first win outside of the Philippines, but will be regarded as a huge under-dog against the highly schooled Japanese hopeful.
Arguably the best bout on this card will see the touted Sho Nakazawa (10-1, 4) take on Ryo Hino (10-1-1, 6) in a very even looking match up on paper. Nakazawa was once seen as a top prospect in Japan but a loss last year to Teiru Atsumi put the breaks on that and two subsequent wins have scarcely excited the fans who seem to know that he is talented, but isn't quite as exciting as they had first hoped. As for Hino he's a bit of an unknown, though he did give Reiya Abe a tough bout a couple of years ago and has stopped his last 4. This could be skills against power, and should be the best bout on the card.
Another competitive looking contest will see the Japanese ranked Yuta Horiike (12-5-3, 3) take on Kyosuke Sawada (7-2-1, 4) in what should be a good supporting contest, just like the bout between Yosuke Fujihara (16-5, 4) and Keita Nakano (14-11-6, 4), which is likely to be much better than it looks on paper. Both of these bouts will be over 8 rounds and could be very interesting contests for fans watching at the venue and on TV.
In Osaka we'll see the unbeaten Takuya Uehara (12-0, 7) look to extend his unbeaten record as he takes on a Thai visitor in an 8 rounder. Uehara, the WBC Youth Featherweight champion, will not be risking his belt here but shouldn't have any problems beating the Thai, who we have been informed is naturally smaller and is typically fighting as a Super Bantamweight.
Ansan, South Korea
There will also be a show in Ansan, South Korea, with this show being part of the rising Boxing M series of shows. The theme of the show is that it's the last 8 of a Korean Lightweight tournament, however those bouts are joined by an interesting 6 rounder between Jae Woo Lee (4-2, 4) and Young Hwan Jun (3-3-1, 1), who we believe will be fighting for the right to challenge for a Korean title.
Next Thursday we see another notable card from the Korakuen Hall, and this one really is a rather exciting one with a number of notable names features.
The main event of the card will see the criminally under-rated Masayuki Ito (20-1-1, 8) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title against big punching Filipino title challenger Lorenzo Villanueva (32-2-0-1, 28). For Ito the bout will be his first defense, since he claimed the title at the very end of 2016, and he should be looking to extend a current 4 winning run which which includes really good wins over Shingo Eto and Takuya Watanabe. For the Filipino the bout is his first outside of the Philippines since his thrilling 2012 loss to Daud Yordan in Singapore. The challenger will have the big edge in power, but he's up against a very talented boxer, and will need to show more than just brute force to over-come Ito.
In a major supporting bout we'll see former world title challenger Keita Obara (16-2-1, 15) take on Indonesian Larry Siwu (24-7, 20) in a Welterweight bout. For Obara the contest will be his first since losing in a world title bout to Eduard Troyanovsky last September. The talented Obara is taking off the shackles of making Light Welterweight and it seems likely that he will be continuing his career at 147lbs going forward. Although Siwu is a decent fighter he really shouldn't have anything to really test Obara, who will be looking to shake some ring rust and make a statement.
Arguably the most intriguing match up on the card will see former Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion Yoshitaka Kato (30-7-2, 9) take on touted former amateur standout Shuichiro Yoshino (3-0, 2) in what looks like a must win for the veteran and a potential coming out party for the novice. Although now a faded force Kato, who is more than 2 years removed from a win of note, is tough, skilled and a nightmare for fighters who look to have a war. If Yoshino can avoid a war and rely on his amateur skills then he could announce himself as a serious play on the Japanese scene at 135lbs, but this is a huge step up for the 25 year old.
Another former champion on this card is former 2-time Japanese Bantamweight champion Kentaro Masuda (26-7, 14), who vacated his title around the start of the year. The world ranked Masuda will be up against Filipino visitor Romel Oliveros (8-3-1, 3), who is fighting in Japan for the third time. The talented Masuda is hunting a world title bout later in the year and this is clearly a stay busy bout for him, but one that should help him get some rounds under his belt. Oliveros has been stopped in 2 of his last 3 bouts, being stopped in 2 rounds by Daigo Higa and in 5 rounds by Jonas Sultan, and it's hard to see him lasting the distance here against Masuda.
Yoshino isn't the only touted novice on this card as former amateur star Motoki Osanai (1-0) returns to the ring for his second professional outing, and takes on fellow unbeaten Takeshi Kaneko (4-0-1). The talented Osanai turned professional last year, along with Hiroto Kyoguchi and Masataka Taniguchi, but has failed to shine like those two and will be looking to make up for lost time here. As for Kaneko he is unbeaten, but his 0 has certainly come under challenger during his career and it'd take a career best performance to keep that 0 here.
The final day of 2016 is one of the most notable on the boxing calendar as Japanese TV promoters, and TV channels put on a number of shows. This year we get three shows, each with multi-ple title bouts and notable prospects.
The most notable of the three shows takes place in Kyoto and will be aired on TBS as part of their huge end of year celebrations.
The headline bout here will see the WBA regular and interim titles at Flyweight being unified. The bout sees regular champion Kazuto Ioka (20-1, 12) battle with unbeaten interim champion Stamp Kiatniwat (15-0, 6) from Thailand. The bout is an interesting match up with Stamp's team showing confidence in their man, who seemed to believe he was travelling to Japan to stop the champion. The experience Ioka will be looking to show that experience is key here and will likely be looking to prove he's the best Flyweight on the planet in 2017, after getting this mandatory defense out of the way.
A second world title fight on this card will see IBF Super Bantamweight chamion Jonathan Guzman (22-0-0-1, 22) defending his title for the first time. The heavy handed Dominican will be up against once beaten Japanese challenger Yukinori Oguni (18-1-1, 7), who is looking to add a world title to his collection which already includes a Japanese and OPBF title. Guzman, who won the title in Japan with a stoppage win over Shingo Wake, has looked relaxed but some have felt that he is over-looking Oguni who has started to find his own power in recent bouts.
Sadly an IBF Bantamweight title bout between Lee Haskins (34-3, 14) and Shohei Omori (17-1, 12) was cancelled in the weeks leading up to the bout, as Haskins suffered an injury that forced him out. Omori's team, who are promoting the show, managed to find their man a solid late replacement in the former of multi-time world title challenger Rocky Fuentes (32-8-2, 20). The bout isn't a bad one given the short notice but it should be noted that Fuentes is best known for his run at Flyweight and will be dwarfed by Omori who is around 5” taller than the Filipino.
Another bout pitting a Japanese fighter against a Thai will see the unbeaten, and world ranked, Sho Ishida (22-0, 11) up against the hapless Petchnamnung Sor Thiebkhun (0-10). The Thai has been stopped 8 times in his 10 defeats and will be unlikely to test Ishida who has made it clear that he's wanting world title fights in 2017. A bout like this won't prepare him for world class opposition but serves the task of keeping him busy and ticking him over whilst looking for a big fight.
Another Ioka gym hopeful on this under card is the unbeaten, and exciting, Super Flyweight Masayoshi Hashizume (11-0, 8). Hashizume won the Rookie of the Year in 2014 and although we had hoped to see him in notable fights since he actually this year facing unknown Thai Chatpetch Saithonggym (0-0). Hopefully 2017 will be a better year for the Osaka man who hasn't progressed like some had hoped.
Another notable multi-title show will come from Tokyo and be promoted by Watanabe promotions, who continue their association with TV Tokyo.
The headline bout of this is the “revenge or repeat” bout between Panama's tricky Jezreel Corrales (20-1-1, 8) and Takashi Uchiyama (24-1-1, 20). Earlier this year Corrales blitzed Uchiyama in 2 rounds to give “KO Dynamite” his first professional defeat and to claim the WBA Super Featherweight “super” title and shocked the boxing world. Now the champion will be looking to repeat the feat as he returns to a Japanese ring whilst Uchiyama will be looking to prove the result was an anomaly. At 37 years old however the view is that Uchiyama is several years removed from his prime and will likely be over-whelmed by the speed and movement of Corrales once again.
The second of the world title bouts on this card will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-1, 11) defending his belt against unbeaten Venezuelan puncher Carlos Canizales (16-0, 13). On paper this looks like a good defense for Taguchi but in fairness Canizales hasn't yet fought anyone of any name recognition and it's hard to know how good he really is. He could be the next gem of a talent from Venezuela or he could be a crude domestic fighter, as the footage suggests, either way we'll see questions answered about him, even if we don't learn anythign new about Taguchi.
Arguably the most interesting bout of the whole day is an OPBF / WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title unification bout as the once beaten Masayuki Ito (19-1-1, 9), the current OPBF champion, takes on the teak tough and criminally under-rated Takuya Watanabe (30-6-1, 16), the current WBO Asia Pacific title holder. This bout is one for the hardcore but is something we expect to actually leave the fans the happiest with. Both men are incredibly talented, have under-rated power and skills and the winner really does deserve some other major bouts in 2017. We think Ito is the more proven but Watanabe is always a handful and appears to be getting better with every fight.
One of the hottest young talents in Japanese boxing will be looking to secure his 5th straight stoppage win. That is the wonderfully aggressive Hiroto Kyoguchi (4-0, 4), who will be up against Filipino visitor Junuel Lacar (7-3-3, 5). The bout should be a test for Kyoguchi but the reality is that he has made supposed tests, like Kenichi Miyazaki and Michael Camelion, look poor courtesy of his speed and power. A win here could see Kyoguchi begin to fight for titles in 2017.
Another fast rising prospect on this card is the really exciting Masataka Taniguchi (5-0, 4), who is looking to build on his recent win over Dexter Alimento as he takes on Vicent Bautista (5-5-3, 1) in what looks like a straight forward bout for the much fancied Taniguchi. It's thought that 2017 will see Taniguchi battle for titles and this could be his final bout before he gets to wear his first strap.
For those interested in final 3 bouts mentioned here they will be features on tape delay as part of the Boxingraise service.
A third show, in fact the first of the three, takes place in Gifu where Hatanaka will be promoting a card. The main event of this will have a legal stream broadcast world wide for fans interested.
The main event of this card will see former WBO Minimumweight champions collide as Kosei Tanaka (7-0, 4) takes on Moises Fuentes (24-2-1, 13) for the vacant WBO Light Flyweight. For Tanaka this is a huge chance to match Naoya Inoue's Japanese record of becoming a 2-weight world champion in 8 bouts however it's a tough bout against a very talented Mexican who many feel should should have scored a win a win over Donnie Nietes in his first bout with the talented Filipino. On paper this is probably the most interesting of the bouts from the day, at least at world title level.
At Japanese title level we'll see Shota Hayashi (28-5-1, 17), making his first defense of the Japanese Featherweight title, taking on former world champion Akifumi Shimoda (31-5-2, 14). For Hayashi, who won the title back in September, a win here would legitimise his reign and prove him to be a worthy champion. For Shimoda this is a second shot at this title following a narrow loss to Satoshi Hosono last year.
In a supporting bout we'll see former Japanese Bantamweight title contender Yushi Tanaka (18-1-3, 12) face off with Takuya Taniguchi (6-9-2, 1). For Tanaka this is a chance to record a third straight win following his March loss to Kentaro Masuda for the Japanese title. The little known Taniguchi will be looking to score his biggest win, though he has gone just 1-3 in his last 4 bouts dating back more than a year.
Another supporting bout will see Kento Hatanaka (1-0, 1), the son of former former world champion Kiyohi Hatanaka, battle against Yukihiro Asahara (2-4, 1). The 18 year old Hatanaka will be seeking to score his second win in the space of just 5 weeks! On his debut Hatanaka score a quick blow out over an over-matched foe and will be looking to do the same again here.
The only show this Thursday is an interesting one from the Korakuen Hall.
In the main event fight fans will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito (18-1-1, 8) defending his title against Filipino foe Ernie Sanchez (15-7-1, 6). The talented, yet criminally under-rated Ito, will be making the second defense of his title and looking to make a successful ring return following a hand injury, that already scuppered and arranged bout with Sanchez. For Sanchez the bout is an undeserved opportunity given he has gone 1-4-1 over the last 3 years but he has mixed with some very good fighters like Oscar Valdez, Sergey Lipinets and Rey Vargas.
In a supporting bout we see the wonderfully fun to watch Katsunori Nagamine (11-1, 7) take on the very credible Yuki Yonaha (7-2, 5), who enters the bout with an OPBF rating and the hunger to move forward with his own career. For fans this is the sort of match up that makes Japanese boxing so brilliant, there is no waiting for either Nagamine, who comes in following two tough bouts, or Yanaha to get on with securing themselves a big fight and the winner of this could well move in to the mix for a title bout.
Another man looking to move to a title fight is the unbeaten 21 year old Tsubasa Koura (7-0, 4), who claimed the Rookie of the Year crown last year. The unbeaten youngster will be taking on his most experienced foe to date, Bimbo Nacionales (14-11-1, 3). The experienced Filipino is nothing special but should be a good test for the hotly tipped Japanese youngster.
Talking about fighters looking for titles there is also a former Japanese national champion on this card, that's former Japanese Super Flyweight, and current WBA International, champion Yohei Tobe (10-2-1, 6), who takes on the limited Masaya Kohama (6-4-1, 3). For Tobe this bout will be his first since his excellent win over Luzuko Siyo and should see him scoring a third successive win. For Kohama it's hard to see him winning but he'll get a chance to face a notable opponent.
This coming week kicks off in great fashion as the Korakuen Hall plays host to a really fantastic card courtesy of reason promotions who, once again, who just how good boxing can be when fighters want to prove themselves and match makers have foresight to put the fans first.
One of two main events will see Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defending his title against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). Coming in to this one Naito is, on paper at least, on a great run with wins over the likes of Kento Mastushita, Shingo Eto, Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa. Whilst that is a great run it should be noted that the fights were all close, much closer than the cards suggest, and Naito has had some questions raised about just how far he really can go. Ogawa comes in to this as a man who has beaten everyone he has faced, avenging his sole loss in just 134 seconds. Coming into this the challenger is riding an 8 fight T/KO run and full of confidence in his skills and his power. This really will be speed Vs power and could be a brilliant way to kick off a few weeks of insanely good action in Tokyo.
The other main event sees two former Naito foes going head to head as Masayuki Ito (17-1-1, 8) takes on Shingo Eto (17-3-1, 9) in the first defense of Ito's OPBF Super Featherweight title. Of the two fighters it's Ito who has impressed us the most so far, however this is a tough test for the 24 year old, who won the title stopping Dai Iwai in August. Eto is an under-rated fighter but may have the toughness and stamina to really push Eto all the way.
Interestingly all 4 men in the main bouts here are between 24 and 27 and are part of the new wave of Japanese Super Featherweights. It's hoped a unification will happen in 2016 though with fighters like Masao Nakamura waiting in the wings, it's fair to say there are other options in a very competitive division.
The main events are both great, but so to is the under-card which features several notable bouts, One of those will see former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Yohei Tobe (8-2-1, 5) taking on Filipino visitor Ryan Bito (22-15-3, 8). The bout will be Tobe's first since he lost the Japanese title, in August 2014 to Sho Ishida, and he'll be hoping to avoid back-to-back defeats, however 16 months of inactivity will certainly not help him here. Bito will be coming into this one with a lack of former, including 7 losses in his last 8, however he will know what to expect from Tobe, with this being a rematch of their 2012 encounter, which Tobe won via unanimous decision. Tobe will be favoured but Bito will feel he has a point to prove and a great chance to avenge one of his losses.
Another undercard bout of note will see Japanese ranked Shuji Hamada (13-6-4, 2) battle against the once beaten Hiroaki Teshigawara (9-1-2, 4) in a brilliantly matched 8 round supporting match up. Last time out Teshigawara fought to a controversial draw with Hideo Sakamoto and is riding a 5 fight unbeaten run since his sole loss, more than 3 years ago. Hamada is 1-1-1 in his last 3, though those have been to capable fighters with his win coming last time out against Yota Hori, a win that got him his Japanese ranking. This really is a finely matched bout with the winner likely in the running for a Japanese title fight by the end of 2016.
Also on the under-card for this brilliant show is Shuichiro Yoshino (0-0) who makes his debut against Petchjah Sithphasean (0-4) in a 6 rounder. Yoshino was an amateur standout who is tipped to be the next star of the Misako gym. Whilst this bout isn't a tough one, especially not due to typical Misako standards, we are excited to see the 24 year old Welterweight kick off his life in the professional ranks.
There are a lot of Japanese shows during August but, for our money, the stand out one comes on August 10th as fans get a trio of interesting bouts as well as a show case contest for a man who is one of the hardest punchers in Asia.
The pick of the match ups is an OPBF Super Featherweight title bout between the once beaten Masayuki Ito (16-1-1, 7) and fellow contender Dai Iwai (17-3-1, 6), who will be trading blows in a bout for the vacant title. The bout doesn't promise a knockout, far from it in fact, but it does promise high quality action from two men who are both very well schooled and who are both looking for the biggest win of their career. Ito enters on the back of a controversial loss to Japanese champion Rikki Naito whilst Iwai enters on an 8 fight winning streak. This really could be a stand out bout with an emphasis on high speed chess.
Another notable bout on this card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Vinvin Rufino (37-16-3, 16), a hard nosed veteran from the Philippines, defending his title against local favourite Ryo Takenaka (12-3-1, 6). This will be Rufino's first defense and although his record is “blotchy” to say the least he is a very good fighter and will be looking to continue his reign of champion. For Takenaka this is his second bite at the OPBF apple having come very close last year against Hisashi Amagasa, when he was stopped in the final round whilst ahead on the cards. This should be a really exciting and competitive 12 round bout between two men who simply cannot afford to lose.
Another highlight on this card is youngster Ken Shiro (3-0, 2) who looks to move a step towards a Japanese title fight as he takes on Takashi Omae (13-4-5, 1). Coming in both men are ranked by the JBC but it's fair to say that this is supposed to be “one final test” for Ken Shiro who looked sensational last time out, when he stopped Katsunori Nagamine. Omae hasn't been stopped in his 22 fight career so a stoppage win for the 23 year old prospect would be a huge statement before a title fight, possibly in December.
The show case fight here sees OPBF Light Welterweight champion Keita Obara (14-1, 13) fight in a non-title bout against Thai visitor Khompetch Sithsaithong (5-5, 5) in what should be no more than an easy win for the world ranked Obara. From what we understand this bout is being fought between the Light Welterweight and Welterweight limits with the intention being for Obara to gradually make a move to 147lbs, possibly by the end of this year.
As well as the 4 bouts mentioned this card will feature 2 others making it perhaps the best “non-world title” show in Japan this year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
February 9th- Naito Vs Ito kicks off the Champions Carnival whilst Go Onaga faces former world title contender
The Champions Carnival is one of the many traditions in Japanese boxing that other countries, especially those with valued domestic titles, should make a note of and try to replicate. It forces the domestic champion to defend their belt against the top contender once a year, effectively to begin the year.
This year's champions carnival kicks off with one of the best looking domestic title bouts that have been announced as the unbeaten Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (11-0, 5) defends his belt against fellow unbeaten fighter Masayuki Ito (16-0-1, 7). For Naito this is his third defence of his title and looks likely to be very tough with Ito looking to maintain his unbeaten record and claim his national title after having previously held the WBC Youth Lightweight title. For those wondering what the Champions Carnival gives us, it's brilliant match up like this.
The main event isn't the only bout of note here with two really good under-card bouts, both scheduled for 8 rounds.
One of those bout will see world ranked fighter Go Onaga (22-2-2, 16) battles against former inter world title contender Breilor Teran (13-10-1, 6). Teran was last seen in the ring losing a decision to David Sanchez in a battle for the WBA interim Super Flyweight title and despite his record his a very capable fighter who should be able to really test Onaga who was once regarded as one of the top Ohashi gym fighters, at 34 however Onaga's career is at the sink of swim stage and he needs a clear win here.
The other good looking under-card bout will see Super Flyweight-come-Bantamweight Yusuke Suzuki (5-1, 3) battles against Akinori Hoshino (11-6-1, 8). Suzuki is unbeaten since losing a razor thin 5 round decision to Yusaku Kuga back in 2013 and since racked up 3 wins, including a notable decision over Monico Laurente. Hoshino hasn't impressed in the same way as Suzuki but he has run good fighters close, including Tatsuya Takahashi and Ryuichi Funai. This could be a very good bout between two men wanting to take a big step towards a title fight.
One third under-card bout that has caught our eye comes at 140lbs where the unbeaten Daishi Nagata (1-0-1) battles against Ryoji Miyagi (7-5-1, 4). The 25 year old Nagata scored an impressive, but controversial, win last time out against Jeffrey Arienza and will be hoping to build on that against Miyagi who has lost his last 3, though faced stiff competition with bouts against Hiroki Okada and Koki Koshikawa
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)