The day we've all been waiting for is finally upon us and we finally get the WBSS Bantamweight final, in what is, by far, the most high profile card in Japan this year. In fact it's one of the highest profile cards in Japan in a very long time.
The Saitama Super Arena plays host to the biggest show in Japan this year, with more than 20,000 fans in attendance and international TV exposure as DAZN show the bout in the US. This is a card we've literally been waiting for since May and is a true highlight for the year.
The big bout will see Filipino legend Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26) take on rising Japanese mega star Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) in what is not only the WBSS Bantamweight final but also a bout for the IBF and WBA "super" titles at Bantamweight. Entertaining the bout Donaire is the WBA "super" champion and is going through an unexpected late career surge, though one that has been helped with injuries to Ryan Burnett and Zolani Tete. Although not the fighter he once was Donaire is still a huge puncher and a massive through, if he lands clean. Inoue, the IBF and WBA "unified" champion, will know a win cements his place as one of the new faces of boxing, and the pressure really is all on him given the attention the bout is getting in Japan. If the "Monster" picks up a win here it really open up huge doors for him going forward, whilst a win for Donaire will almost certainly secure his place as a first ballot hall of famer. A full and very comprehensive preview of this bout can be read here The WBSS Final - Inoue Vs Donaire
In an excellent supporting bout we'll see the WBC Bantamweight title being unified as French-Morrocan Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) takes on Japan's Takuma Inoue (13-0, 4). Entering the bout Oubaali will be looking for his second defense of the title, whilst Inoue will be looking to become a full world champion after reigning as the WBC interim champion since December. Whilst the attention will be on the main event this is an excellent match up, and will see the calculated and intelligent pressure and power of Oubaali up against the intelligent boxing and movement of Inoue. This could have headlined a normal show and makes for a sensational supporting bout. An in depth preview of this bout can be read here Takuma Inoue goes up against Nordine Oubaali for WBC crown
Also on this show will be a couple of Teiken prospects. One of those will be Katsuya Fukui (1-0, 1), who goes up against Thai foe Chakkit Ratchakhot (2-3, 2) and the other will be Shokichi Iwata (3-0, 2), who will take on Mexican visitor Alejandro Cruz Valladares (5-1). Both of these bouts are scheduled for 6 rounds, with Iwata expected to be moved into title bouts in 2020, if he gets past Valladares here.
As well as the action in Japan there is also a bout of note for us in the US where the unbeaten Santiago Dominguez (19-0, 15) takes on Uzbek fighter Ravshan Hudaynazarov (17-2, 13). The unbeaten Dominguez has scored stoppages in his last 7 bouts and has looked destructive going through recent competition in the US and Mexico. Sadly Hudaynazarov has no form coming into this, following back to back losses, in 2018 to Ronald Cruz and 2019 to John Vera, in what are his only 2 bouts over the last 5 years. We really can't see the Uzbek picking up a win here.
Seoul, South Korea
Last year we saw a Korea Vs Japan card being announced. Sadly however that card had to be delayed and will now take place this coming Saturday.
One of most interesting bouts on this card will see the once beaten Woo Min Won (9-1, 5) take on under-rated Japanese visitor Noriaki Sato (5-2-1). The Korean is a former national Light Welterweight champion who is 2-0 (1) against Japanese fighters, having beaten Daiki Koide and Taisho Ozawa, though has been inactive since the win over Ozawa back in October 2016. Sato was stopped on debut, way back in 2008, but started a real running in 2015, and has gone 4-1-1, including wins over Valentine Hosokawa and Cristiano Aoqui. This should be a very entertaining and exciting action fight.
Another bout that promises a lot of action will see former Korean Welterweight champion Ma Roo Jung (7-4-1, 2) take on the tough and exciting Moon Hyun Yun (18-5-3, 4). Neither of these fighters are going to be world beaters, but both will be eager to win here, and claim a WBA regional title., and potentially open the doors to other good fights. Jun has won his last 3 and look like a man in form whilst Hyun has been inconsistent with results, but always makes for fun action fights.
We'll also see a number of Asian fighters in action in Russia, where there will be titles and prospects on the card.
The main event of the card will see Russian based Tajik prospect Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (11-0, 8) take on South African veteran Malcolm Klassen (33-7-2, 17) for the IBO Super Featherweight title. The 23 year old Rakhimov had an excellent 2017, going 3-0 (2) and winning the IBO title, which he'll be defending for the first time here. The 36 year old Klassen was in action this past September, when he ran Mikhail Alexeev close. Although Klassen might be past his best he will still serve as an excellent test for Rakhimov.
Another Russian based Tajik on this show will be Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (10-0, 7), who takes on the once beaten Mark Urvanov (12-1, 6). Yaqubov was active in 2017, fighting 5 times and ended the year with 4 stoppages showing an improvement in power and he now looks like a real prospect going places. Urnaov is a Russian fighter who is riding a 12 fight winning run, but has failed to shine, and was very fortunate against Jin Miura last July. This should be a win for Yaqubov given recent performances, but certainly not an easy win for the unbeaten man.
In another title fight we'll see Filipino fighter Ardie Boyose (18-1-2, 14) taking on Russian fighter Zaur Abdullaev (7-0, 5) for the WBO Youth Lightweight title. Boyose lost last time he was in Russia, being stopped by Rustam Nugaev in December 2016, but that loss aside he has shown plenty of promise and at 22 years old the future is still pretty bright for Boyose. Whilst Boyose is still a fighter with hope it's fair to say that the unbeaten Abdullaev is seen as something a bit special. The Russian turned professional in March 2017 and racked up 7 wins last year, including a notable stoppage of Roberto Gonzalez which should fill him with confidence heading into this bout.
One other bout here will see Uzbek novice Ravshanbek Umurzakov (1-0, 1) take a massive step up to face Rustam Nugaev (29-8-1, 19). Aged 35 Nugaev is a fighter towards the end of his career, and was dominated last time out by Deiner Berrio. Despite that he is experienced and know his way around the ring. Umurzakov, who only debuted this past December, was a former amateur stand out but this is still a monster leap up in class. If Umurzakov can pick up the win here then he really will make a statement, but it's a very dangerous bout for such a novice.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
On a second Russian card fans get another really interesting match up as the unbeaten pairing of Ulugbek Khakberdiev (4-0, 2) and Aidos Yerbossynuly (7-0, 6) face off. Russian based Uzbek Khakberdiev only turned professional last year, and has made an impact on the sport already, stopping Dmitry Sukhotsky in September to really announce himself on professional scene. The Uzbek will be up against a Kazakh foe in the form of Yerbossynuly, who is himself a touted prospect tipped to go a long way. This really could be something very special, a real indicator of belief from both men.
Metro Manila, Philippines
In Metro Manila fans will see young puncher Jino Rodrigo (3-0, 3) look to build on his recent win over former OPBF champion Vinvin Rufino. Having dropped Rufino 3 times in round 4 of their clash Rodrigo will be full of confidence as he takes on Glenn Bismanos (3-1, 2), who has bounced back from his first defeat with 2 straight wins.
North Dakota, USA
In the US fans will see once beaten American Ronaldo Cruz (12-1, 10) takes on unbeaten American based Uzbek Ravshan Hudaynazarov (17-0, 13). Coming in to this one Cruz is riding a 10 fight winning run and will be full of confidence, but has been matched very softly with this looking like a huge step up in class for the 26 year old. Hudaynazarov on the other hand has been matched quite hard and will know that, at the age of 33, he can't afford any slip ups. It's hard to see past the Uzbek here, though it could be a case of just how impressive he can look, rather than just whether or not he can win.