The Super Flyweight division is widely regarded as one of the best in the sport, even with Naoya Inoue leaving the division to make a mark at Bantamweight. Sadly though the division is a frustrating one with a number of fighters making themselves unavailable for big fights.
One such fighter is IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19), who signed with Top Rank in late 2017 and froze himself out of fights against the likes of Inoue and the fighters who are currently tied to HBO. As a result of being frozen out of specific fights we won't see Ancajas in with a notable name, and instead he will be kicking off his 2018 with an IBF world title defense against Israel Gonzalez (21-1, 8). The talented Ancajas had an excellent 2017, Going 3-0 (3) for the year and beating the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan and will be looking to continue his great momentum here. Sadly though Gonzalez, who the IBF miraculously ranked #10, feels like a huge step backwards, with the Mexican challenger really doing little to show he belongs at this level. The bout has been put together as a showcase for Ancajas on US TV and should be a real chance to shine for the Filipino, who will hopefully get better competition later in the year.
At the Korakuen Hall we see the first of this year's Champion Carnival bouts, as Japanese Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi (16-1, 10) defends his title against Ken Osato (13-1-1, 4). The bout will be Sueyoshi's first defense of the title, which he won last October with a decision over Ribo Takahata whilst Osato will be having his first title bout. In 2017 we saw Sueyoshi have a great year, going 3-0 (2) but left questions to be asked with some of his performances and he will look to answer them here. Osato had a great 2017 himself, going 3-0 (1) with notable wins Sho Nagata and Satoru Sugita, with the Sugita win earning Osato a shot at the title. This should be a very skilled bout, with both men being very talented, and a very evenly matched bout, between two top domestic fighters.
In the chief support bout Japanese ranked Welterweight Yuki Nagano (12-2, 9) will face off with Thai visitor Najilek Sor Boonlieng (0-1). Coming into this Nagano is riding a 10 fight winning run, and is closing in on a title fight. Although not the greatest of fighters Nagano is a big puncher and should have significant size over the Thai, who will be lucky to last more than 3 rounds.
A second supportig bout of note will see unbeaten hopeful Haruaki Kamiya (7-0, 3) take on win-less Thai Chatchai Phonlemueangdee (0-3). Kamiya has had a real slow burn of a career, fighting only 4 times since the end of 2014, but if he gets sorted he could go quite far. Sadly bouts like this won't help him develop or move towards the bigger bouts than his early promises suggested he could end up having. As for the Thai he has been stopped in all 3 of his defeats.
In the Thai capital fans will be able to see Chinese puncher Pui Yu Lim (5-0, 5) take on Indonesian journeyman Ramadhan Weriuw (17-9-1, 15) in a bout for the WBC Interim Asian Boxing Council Middleweight title. On paper this is a step backwards for Lim, who has already scored wins over better fights than Weriuw, but with 5 fights last year Lim is a busy fighter and could use this interim title to help secure more meaningful bouts down the line.
The most significant bout, at least from an Asian perspective, this coming Saturday will see Puerto Rican legend Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33) take on Japanese warrior Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-3-2, 24) in a bout for the WBO Light Middleweight title. For Cotto the bout will be a return to the ring after almost 2 years out of the ring, and he will be looking to prove there is still something left in the tank. For Kamegai the bout will be his first world title bout and could put the icing on the cake in regards to his career, which has been an incredibly fun one to following a lot of wars and exciting brawls.
Uthai Thani, Thailand
Another notable name will be in action in Thailand, on a less than exciting card.
The notable fighter is Amnat Ruenroeng (17-1, 5), with the former IBF Flyweight champion taking on the limited Petchthongchai Singmanasak (6-12, 2). This will be Amnat's first professional boxing contest since he lost the world title 15 months ago, and at the age of 37 it's hard to know what he has left, however his foe is very limited and should pose no real threat.
In another mismatch we'll see the promising Atchariya Virotesunobon (7-0, 4) take on Birdy Tor Buamas (0-6-1) in what should be a very straight forward win for Atchariya.
In China fans will see the fast rising Pui Yu Lim (4-0, 4) take on highly experienced Indonesian fighter Alexander Bajawa (41-4-4, 14) in a bout for the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Light Heavyweight title. Lim is a heavy handed southpaw who looks like a fighter who is on a very fast track through the ranks, and he shouldn't struggle here, but it's hard to know just how good he is. As for Bajawa he's been stopped in his last two and his record is certainly a padded one.
In Kazakhstan we have a card with a number of title bouts.
One of those title bouts will see see Firuza Sharipova (6-1, 4) take on the battle hardened Milena Koleva (9-9-1, 3) in a contest for the WIBA Lightweight title. Sharipova suffered a loss on her debut but has gone 6-0 since then, however the level of her competition has been dire. Koleva has been fighting stiff competitive through her career and her last two bouts saw her suffer decision losses to Svetlana Kulakova and Katie Taylor. This could be much more competitive than the records may suggest.
Another title bout on this card will see Russian fighter Apti Ustarkhanov (15-2-3, 5) taking on Georgian Soso Abuladze (11-6-1, 8) for the IBO Inter Continental Super Middleweight title, and in another title bout we'll see Russian Aslambek Idigov (11-0, 4) fighting for the IBO Youth Super Middleweight title.
There will also be a small card in the Philippines.
On of the major bouts here will be a 10 rounder between Jerome Clavite (8-4-2, 4) and the out of form Roque Lauro (13-22-5, 3). Coming in to this Clavite has won 3 of his last 4, and at 21 has shown some promise to make a mark on the domestic scene going forward. That 3-1 run might not be amazing but it's likely to be extend as he takes on a low on confidence Lauro, who has lost his last 6. As his best Lauro was a potential banana skin, fighting to a draw with Edward Heno and scoring wins over the likes of Ryuya Yamanaka, Ronelle Ferreras and Young Gil Bae, but he appears to have slipped significantly as a fighter in recent contests.
In another interesting looking bout on this card we'll see Alphoe Dagayloan (6-2-4-1, 2) take on the once touted Renerio Arizala (13-7-1, 5). Arizala began his career 11-0-1, but has slipped significantly since then going 2-7-1 and finds himself really struggling to get his career back on track, with a 5 fight losing streak coming in to this. Dagayloan is nothing special but coming into this both fighters will believe they can come out on top and pick up a win.
In Australia we'll see former OPBF Middleweight champion Dwight Ritchie (15-1-0-4, 2) look to record his second win since losing the title to Koki Tyson last November. He'll be widely expected to score a win here as he takes on Thai journeyman Paitoon Jaikom (7-32, 2), who has never been stopped in 39 bouts, but doesn't tend to pick up many victories as he takes the role of a fighter intent on getting his opponents some rounds.
In Azerbaijan we'll be getting a low key card, with one of the most notable fighters on it being Rauf Aghayev (21-6, 9), who is facing off with a yet to be named foe in a 4 rounder. Aghayev has won his last 4, all this year, and is keeping up his high level of activity whilst looking to go 5-0 for the year so far.
Another fighter of some note on this card is 27 year old Light Heavyweight hopeful Malik Mammadzade (11-0, 6), who will be in an 8 rounder. The unbeaten man has shown some promise, and has picked up international experience in Germany and Georgia, but is a long way from attention on the wider scene. IF he keeps racking up the wins, which he has 3 of already this year, he will however work his way towards a title fight of some kind. Sadly Mammadzade hasn't yet had his opponent for the bout announced.
Attention turns to Australia this coming Sunday as Top Rank host a major card, headlined by one Filipino star, and acting as a potential show case for the another.
The main bout will see the iconic Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38) defending the WBO Welterweight title against unbeaten Australian challenger Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11). Although Pacquiao is coming to the end of his great career he is expected to still have too much for Horn, who is stepping up massively to face the “Pacman”. Although the bout does see Pacquiao defending his title the contest has lacked the big fight feel of most Pacquiao bouts and it certainly hasn't caught the attention of international fans, but is set to do big numbers in Australia where demand for the tickets has been high.
A second world title fight on this card will see talented Filipino fighter Jerwin Ancajas (26-1-1,17) defending his IBF Super Flyweight title against Japanese challenger Teiru Kinoshita (25-1-1, 8), who enters the bout as the mandatory challenger. Coming into this Ancajas will be seeking his second defense of the title that he won last year, when he upset McJoe Arroyo, and he will be hoping that an impressive win here opens the door to major bouts in the red hot Super Flyweight division. For Kinoshita the bout will see him making his international debut, and getting his second world title fight, following a loss to Zolani Tete. The bout is potentially a huge opportunity for the winner to move into divisional super fights but it a bout where the champion will be strongly favoured.
Also on this card is Filipino youngster Jonel Dapidran (8-1, 4), who will be making his international debut. The Filipino youngster will be looking to score his second successive win here as he takes on Australian local Brent Dames (5-3), who was beaten last time in a 10 rounder. This is a tough ask for Dapidran, but he has shown plenty of promise and will be coming in to this one with the hope of scoring a huge win on a card headlined by his older cousin Manny Pacquiao.
As well as the action in Australia there will also be a small card in China. The most notable bout on the card will see rising local puncher Pui Yu Lim (3-0, 3) battling against Indonesian foe Skak Max (8-14, 7). Although Lim is relatively unknown he has impressed so far, and last time out the confident Chinese fighter stopped Chaloemporn Singwancha in Thailand and will now be looking to continue his rise here. Max has never won outside of Indonesia and it's hard to see him winning here.