We get the first Japanese card of 2019 this coming Saturday, and it's a good one to begin the year with a pair of Japanese title fights.
The main event of the card will see Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) get his long awaited first Japanese title fight as he takes on former title challenger Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) for the vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title, which was vacant by Shingo Wake towards the end of 2018. The 29 year old Nakagawa narrowly missed out on a mandatory shot in 2018, losing an eliminator by split decision to Yasutaka Ishimoto, and perhaps should have had a shot before then. Interestingly Tamura got a shot in 2018 due to Ishimoto, the man who had cost Nakagawa, retiring. In Tamura's previous title fight he gave Yusaku Kuga hell, and has strung together wins since then. Our preview of this bout can be read here Nakagawa and Tamura battle for Japanese crown!
The other title fight will see veterans colliding, as Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) looks to make his second defense of the Japanese Minimumweight title, and takes on Norihito Tanaka (17-7, 9), in a mandatory defense as part of the 2019 Champion Carnival. Ono won the belt in April, beating Ryoki Hirai in Kobe, and made his first defense in August, suffering a nasty cut that now appears to have fully healed. Tanaka had his first title fight way back in 2011, challenging Akira Yaegashi, but took a break soon after losing to Yaegashi and is now essentially taking part in the comeback stage of his career. Neither of these are big punchers, but both are tough, and have a lot of desire, and this should make for a hard 10 round bout, that will take a lot from both men. We've previewed this bout here Ono and Tanaka clash for Japanese title!
Pathum Thani, Thailand
In Thailand fans will be able to see the hard hitting Natthaphong Wannametee (6-1, 6) fighting for the Thai Super Featherweight title, though his opponent is current unknown.
This coming Sunday isn't a big day in Asian boxing but there are a number of bouts of note, with two Japanese eliminators in Fukuoka and a pretty interesting card in South Korea with Koreans, and Korean based fighters, taking on Japanese visitors.
The card in Fukuoka really is lacking in terms of depth, with just 6 total bouts on the card, but the top two bouts are mouth watering Japanese title eliminators, featuring local fighters taking on opponents from Tokyo for the right to compete at the 2019 Champion Carnival.
One of those two eliminators takes place down at 105lbs and will see the once touted Takumi Sakae (19-2-1, 13) take on recent OPBF title challenger Norihito Tanaka (16-7, 9). The 25 year old Tanaka debuted in 2011 and looked on the route to success when he claimed the Rookie of the Year crown in 2013. Sadly since that early success he has faltered, losing in a Japanese title fight in 2016 to Tatsuya Fukuhara, drawing with Lito Dante and losing to Ryoki Hirai. Sakae has won his last 5, but those wins have come against some very limited foes. The 33 year old Tanaka ran up a 14-5 (7) record before walking away from the sport in 2011. He returned to the ring in 2017 and has had mixed success, with a loss last time out to OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura. Given the need for both men to win, and look good, this could be very entertaining. A preview of this bout is available here Sakae and Tanaka face off in Japanese eliminator!
The other title eliminator bout bout will see heavy handed Yuki Beppu (18-0-1, 18) clash with Teiken hopeful Yuki Nagano (14-2, 11) in a Welterweight eliminator. Beppu, like Sakae, is a Rookie of the Year winner but at 27 years old it certainly feels like time for his to step up his competition, following 4 wins over terrible foes. The one time he really stepped, since his Rookie triumph, saw him fight to a draw with Charles Bellamy, and he seemed to bide his time whilst waiting for an opportunity like this. At 29 years old Nagano is slight older but also more tested. He comes into this bout on a 12 fight winning run, including a Rookie of the Year triumph in 2015 and a recent win over Riku Nagahama. Notably this will be Nagano's first bout outside of the Korakuen Hall, and that may be a problem with the crowd behind Beppu, but he'll be confident of continuing his good form. This has the potential to be very explosive. Our preview of this bout can be read here - Heavy handed Beppu and Nagano clash in eliminator!
There will be a second Japanese card, albeit a significantly less significant one.
The main event here will see Ryosei Hamaguchi (6-3, 2) taking on Chiharu Takasuka (5-4-1, 3), in what is a pretty low key bout if we're being honest, especially given the action in Fukuoka.
Daejeon, South Korea
In South Korea fans get a very interesting card, featuring several good looking international bouts and two BoxingM title bouts.
One of those Korean title bouts will see Doo Hyup Kim (10-6-1, 5) take on Gun Woo Gang (4-2-2, 1) for the Korean Light Middleweight title. This will be Kim's first defense of the title, and despite having been stopped in 2 of his previous 3 he will be the man with the champions mentality. On the other hand the 21 year old Gang will be having his third title fight, having come up short in two previous Korean title bouts.
The second title fight will be at 140lbs and will see Jin Soo Kim (3-1, 1) face off with Min Ho Jung (7-1-1, 1) for the vacant title. At 22 years old Kim is the younger, less experienced man but is a promising southpaw, who made an impact on his 2015 debut by scoring a brilliant KO of Andrew Silva. Jung will enter the bout as the older man, but will be the naturally smaller fighter. This could be an entertaining match up, but this will be the first title bout for either man.
On paper the most evenly matched of the international bouts will see unbeaten fighters collide as local Min Jang (6-0-2, 2) takes on Japan's Fumiya Fuse (6-0, 1). The 18 year old Jang debuted last year and has already racked up 8 fights, but this is a big step up for him. At 20 years old Fuse is tipped as one to watch on the Japanese scene, and was the 2017 Rookie of the Year, but this will be his first bout outside of Japan. With neither man being a puncher we are expecting a distance bout, but a very interesting one.
A potentially more explosive match up will see 26 year old Korean Dong Kwan Lee (8-2-2, 4) take on heavy handed Japanese fighter Arashi Iimi (6-1, 6). Coming into this Lee's record doesn't look too interesting, but his short term for has seen him going 4-1 (4) and he hasn't seen the final bell in any of his last 5 bouts. Iimi, the runner up for the 2017 Japanese Rookie of the Year has never seen the final bell, and has scored two wins already this year. Given their recent shows we're expecting to see both men go for the KO and to go for it early!
One other bout of interest will see Korean based Mongolian Batzorig Batjargal (3-0, 2) take on Japan's Hironori Shigeta (5-1, 3). We've been impressed by Batjargal since his debut and he's looked really exciting so far, but this is a notable step up in class for him. Shigeta hasn't fought since December, but was crowned the Japanese Rookie of the Year last year at Welterweight, and he has a very good win over Rikuto Adachi. We can't help but think this could be the best bout on the card.
Fight fans in Japan really do get to see the title action action flow through this month, and for a fourth day in a row those fans are set to get title action, as well as an under-card with some pretty notable names on it.
The first of three notable under-card bouts will see the hard hitting Tetsuya Tomioka (5-2, 5) battle against Ryuto Oho (10-4-1, 2) in a bout to crown the first ever Japanese Youth Light Flyweight champion. The hard hitting Tomioka was involved in a thriller almost a year ago with Katsunori Nagamine, and proved he was one to keep an eye on there, but has been stopped twice in 7 and may well find himself burning out quickly given he has a very exciting and aggressive style. With 15 fights under his belt Oho is more experienced than Tomioka, but has lost 2 of his last 3, including an opening round defeat to Seigo Yuri Akui. This should be a really entertaining mid-card bout, and could well be a bit of a show stealer.
A second under-card bout of note will see former WBC female Minimumweight champion Yuko Kuroki (17-5-1, 8) takes on Momoko Kanda (10-9-2, 4), in what will be Kuroki's first bout since losing the WBC title to the now retired Momo Koseki. At her best Kuroki is a genuine talent, in fact she defended the WBC title 5 times between her May 2014 coronation and her December 2017 loss to Koseki. Though against Koseki she was second best, by quite some margin. As for Kanda she has challenged for world and OPBF honours herself, but looks some way from being class. Kanda will be there to win, but Kuroki shouldn't struggle to get back to winning ways here.
The chief support bout, and probably the biggest mismatch on the card sadly, will see former world title challenger Shingo Wake (23-5-2, 15) take on Filipino visitor Roman Canto (12-10-3, 7). Wake is expected to be moved into a Japanese title fight with Yusaku Kuga later in the year and this bout looks little more than a stay busy contest, just to keep the ring rust off before that fight takes place. Canto is a naturally bigger man, having fought a fair bit at Super Featherweight, but really shouldn't be much of a test for the talented Wake.
The main event of the card will see OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (12-0, 8) making the second defense of his title, as he takes on Norihito Tanaka (16-6, 9) and looks to take a huge step towards getting a world title fight. The exciting champion saw his 5 fight stoppage run come to an end last time out, as he struggled to over-come Masataka Taniguchi in a thrilling and hotly contested bout, but will be looking to impose his power again here. For the 33 year old Tanaka, this will be a second shot at a title, following a 2011 loss to Akira Yaegashi and although he will be the under-dog he is experienced and tough, and has never been stopped. On paper this could be a tough test for Koura, but one we expect him to pass.