The big headline bout this coming weekend sees us focus on Glasgow, Scotland, as the WBSS moves towards the final bouts. The bout of interest for us is the highly anticipated WBSS Bantamweight semi-final bout between WBA "regular" champion Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) and IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12). The bout is a clash between unbeaten world class fighters, who are both looking to move one step closer to proving they are the best Bantamweight on the planet. For Inoue this will be his first bout in Europe, and he will be looking to become the first Japanese fighter to win a world title bout in the continent, whilst Rodriguez returns to the country that he won the IBF title in, when he beat Paul Butler. Coming in both are in great form, though it should be noted that Rodriguez went 24 rounds last year, Inoue has only gone 20 rounds combined in his last 6 fights. If Rodriguez can survive the early going Inoue's lack of activity could be a problem here, as could history. A full review of this bout can be read here Inoue and Rodriguez go one on one in semi final!
Before the action in the UK there will be some action in Asia, including a notable show at Korakuen Hall in Toyko.
The main event of this show will see Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) make his first defense, as he takes on former champion Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11), in what will be a second bout between these two. Thee two men fought in 2017, with Kuga taking a narrow decision win over Tamura to retain the title, since then however Kuga has been stopped by Shingo Wake and Tamura has bounced back from losing to Kuga to win the title. Given their first bout was a brilliant and violent fight we're expecting something really special here. A full preview of this bout is available here Tamura and Kuga to meet again, potential war set?
In a major supporting bout we'll see Tatsuya Yanagi (15-5-2, 6) and Koichi Aso (23-8-1, 15) clash at Lightweight, in a bout that should be very fan friendly. Coming in to this Yanagi is unbeaten in 5 bouts, including a draw in a Japanese title eliminator last year with Accel Sumiyoshi, but this is likely to be a really tough bout for him. Aso, a veteran and former Japanese Light Welterweight champion, will be dropping down in weight but always brings intense pressure and will be looking to break down Yanagi. This could be an all out war if Yanagi can't keep Aso at range.
At Super Bantamweight we'll see ranked fighters clash, as Naoya Okamoto (13-7-1, 6) and Yosuke Fujihara (17-6, 4) face off in a bout that could well set up a future title fight with the winner of the main event. Okamoto narrowly missed out on a title fight, when he lost a technical decision in October in a Japanese title eliminator, and will be hungry here to shine. Fujihara on the other hand is someone who has challenged for a title before but has lost 3 of his last 4 and really needs a good performance here.
Another bout featuring domestic ranked fighters will see Kenta Nakagawa (16-3-1, 11) take on Ryosuke Nasu (10-4-3, 2). Nakagawa is a former Japanese Super Flyweight champion, holding the title in 2016-2017, and has won 3 in a row since losing the belt to Ryuichi Funai. Nasu on the other hand is a former Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion who will know that a win here will prove to be a huge step towards a potential senior title fight later in the year.
Another name worthy of noting on this card is Kazuki Saito (6-1, 5), though our understanding is a planned bout has been cancelled and he will instead compete in a spar rather than an actual fight.
Bang Phun, Thailand
At the Workpoint Studio we'll former world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34) take on former champion Sonny Boy Jaro (45-14-5, 32), in what looks almost certain to be a fun fight. Nawaphon, at 27, is the much younger man and needs a big win, and a win over Jaro would be among his very best. Jaro, who is known in Thailand due to his shock win over Pongsaklek Wonjongkam back in 2012. At the age of 37 it's hard to know what Jaro really has left, though he was stopped in 2017 by Jonas Sultan, a none puncher, and surely has to be coming very close to the end of his career.
In Russia we'll see a couple of hard hitting Uzbek fighters in action.
One of those fighters is Ravshanbek Umurzakov (7-0, 7), who takes on Anthony Moloisane (11-3-1, 7) in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds. The talented Umurzakov has shown a lot of promise but isn't being moved up through the levels yet, sadly, and that shows again here, with South African fighter Moloisane, who isn't bad, but also isn't a clear step up for the Uzbek who should be taking on much better opponents now.
A second Uzbek on this show will see Elnur Abduraimov (4-0, 4) in action, as he hunts his 5th straight stoppage. He's stepped up in his last two bouts, but it's clear he needs a real test in the near future, so fingers crossed that happens sooner rather than later. He's too good to be wasting his time against limited opposition and would be served much better by take on someone to extend him some rounds and help prepare him for bigger and better bouts. At the time of writing the opponent for this bout hasn't been named, suggesting a limited and late notice opponent for the Uzbek.
Also on this card is unbeaten Kazakh youngster Stanislav Kalitskiy (7-0, 3), who will be stepping into his first 8 round bout. Sadly there is not currently an opponent confirmed for Kalitskiy, and as with Abduraimov it seems like he will be matched softly with a late notice foe.
Another Asian card will take place in Taiwan, though this is a very low level card, headlined by an 8 round bout between Chia Ching Hung (4-1-1, 4) and Anurak Madua (6-3, 4). Hung is a local to Taiwan, but hasn't fought in over a year, and is 1-1-1 in his last 3. Madua on the other hand was stopped in 77 seconds last time out, when he fought in Osaka against Kyosuke Tsutsumimoto.
The rest of this card is mostly novices bouts with debutants.
This coming Friday out attention turns to Russia for the next RCC card, which features several notable fighters from across Asia.
One of those is Russian based Tajik Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (12-0, 8), who will be looking to make his first defense of the WBC International Super Featherweight title. The unbeaten 23 year old will be up against experienced Mexican Emanuel Lopez (29-9-1, 13), who has had mixed success in recent years, losing 3 of his last 5. If Yaqubov is as good as he has looked in recent bouts then we'd expect him to win here, and take a huge step towards a potential world title eliminator later in the year.
Unbeaten Uzbek fighter Ravshanbek Umurzakov (6-0, 5) had an interesting 2018, going 5-0 (4) but having a big asterisks over his biggest win, a 58 second victory over Eden Sonsona who looked like he didn't want to be in the ring. Umurzakoz will be up against Filipino Rimar Metuda (12-4-1, 7), who has proven himself as durable, though is 2-4-1 in his last 7 and is 0-3-1 outside of the Philippines. We suspect Metuda will put up a good effort against the Uzbek, but not really test him.
Unbeaten Kazakh Stanislav Kalitskiy (6-0, 3) will be risking his unbeaten record against Filipino Venson Delopere (6-3-4, 2). The 21 year old Kalitskiy scored 3 wins last year, including a notable one against Jestoni Autida, but it's unclear what he can really do in the ring and he should be tested here. Delopere is a 23 year old who has proven tricky to beat, but is winless outside of the Philippines. This should be a good test for Kalitskiy and we wouldn't be surprised to see him struggle at times with the Filipino.
Another Filipino on this card is Arnold Garde (10-6-3, 4), who will be up against unbeaten Russian fighter Mekhdi Abdurashedov (5-0, 2). The Russian really impressed last time out, stopping Filipino Prince Andrew Lauro in 5 rounds, and this bout seems to be a good step up for him. Garde has been stopped in 2 of his last 3, but is going to have travelled with some ambition. Sadly for Garde we don't question his desire, but we do doubt he has the skills to handle Abdurashedov
In Hungary fans a bout is scheduled between Russian born Azeri Roman Zakirov (8-0, 7) and Mexican foe Daniel Vega Cota (13-2-1, 10). The unbeaten Zakirov is a 22 year old who only turned professional a year ago but has been ultra active, with fights in Uzbekistan, Georgia and Russia and now looks to add Hungary to passport. Cota on the other hand has only fought outside of Mexico once and should be easy enough for the Azeri, given he has been stopped in both of his losses.
In Thailand we'll see unbeaten Thai hopeful Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (10-0, 4) battle against experienced Filipino Crison Omayao (24-18-4, 8) in a bout for the OPBF Silver Light Flyweight title. This bout will be the Thai's first at 108lbs and it's hoped that he will show what he can really do at the new weight after looking less than great at Minimumweight.
A second title bout on this show will see Kanyarat Yoohanngoh (4-2, 2) take on Japanese fighter Umi Ishikawa (7-2, 5) for the OPBF silver Female Minimumweight title. This is a low key bout but the winner should find themselves moving towards some bigger and better fights in the near future.
Interestingly this Thai card will also feature Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) and Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) playing some part in the show, though the specifics of their appearances seem to be an exhibition or a live public training event rather than any kind of fight.
London, United Kingdom
In London we'll see unbeaten Kazakh Sultan Zaurbek (3-0, 2) take a small step up in class as he takes on Lyuben Todorov (6-3, 2). The unbeaten prospect will be facing his first opponent with a winning record, but the Bulgarian is 0-3 outside of Bulgaria and isn't expected to be much of a threat for Zaurbek, who is scheduled to fight again a week later.
This coming Sunday fans in Ishikawa and in Ekateringburg will be able to see a number of notable Asian talent in action.
We'll start with Ishikawa as we get a notable exhibition on a card that really feels like it had promise but failed to deliver, outside of the exhibition.
That exhibition is a 3 round show case between 3-weight world champion Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) and recent world title challenger Genesis Servania (31-1, 14). This bout was announce around the same time as the show was confirmed and will see two men who have shared the ring a lot recently putting on something special for the fans, before Inoue looks towards his upcoming WBSS bout with Juan Carlos Payano. This bout won't matter to either man's record or be featured on boxrec but is notable given the quality and profile of the men involved.
The main card will be headlined by the hard hitting Hurricane Futa (24-7-1, 15) battling Indonesian Roy Tua Manihuruk (19-18-2, 15) in what looks like a mismatch. Although Futa is no world beater he has scored notable wins over the likes of Will Tomlinson and Vage Sarukhanyan in recent years and certainly should be matched tougher than this. The Indonesian visitor is 0-11 on the road and it's hard to imagine him scoring a win against someone as talented as Futa.
In a supporting bout Omrri Bolivar (6-1, 3) will face off with Filipino foe Lorence Rosas (9-1-2, 3). Bolivar, now fighting under the Kashimi Gym, was a former Venezuelan amateur standout with more than 80 amateur bouts and it's clear that his team in Japan want to test him immediately, which is why he's been matched with Rosas. The Filipino is a hungry fighter himself, who was very competitive in his sole defeat, and will certainly be in Ishikawa to pick up a win.
In a female bout Asami Jinnari (5-3-1, 2) will battle against Miki Mitsuda (3-4, 2). On paper this looks competitive but the reality is that Jinnari enters the bout as a JBC and OPBF ranked fighter looking to pick up a win and chase a third bout with current OPBF title holder Wakako Fujiwara.
In Russia we get a number of Asian fighters in some pretty interesting looking match ups.
The pick of the bunch will see IBO Super Featherweight champion Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (12-0, 9) defending his title against the criminally under-rated Robinson Castellanos (24-13, 14). The unbeaten champion, from Tajikistan, will be making his second defense and will be looking to build on impressive wins over Emanuel Lopez and Malcolm Klassen. Although clearly favoured the champion is up against a tough opponent with Castellanos having really big wins over the likes of Celestino Caballero, Ronny Rios, Rocky Juarez and Yuriorkis Gamboa. If Castellanos is on form here he could end up with another major upset win, but he does blow hot and cold.
Another title fight will see Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (11-0, 7) take on Victor Alejandro Gonzalez (18-1, 9) in a bout for the WBC International Super Featherweight title fight. The 23 year old Yaqubov, also from Tajikistan, is looking to build on an impressive win over Mark Urvanov and claim yet another title in his early career. The unbeaten man is stepping up slightly here, but will feel he's got the moment as he goes up against 19 year old Mexican fighter Gonzalez. The visitor has won his last 5, since being stopped by Salvador Briseno, but will clearly need a career best performance to pick up a win here.
Another unbeaten prospect is Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov (4-0, 3), who takes a huge step up to take on experienced Filipino Eden Sonsona (36-8-2, 13) in what looks like a a massively testing bout for Uzbek “Prince”. The unbeaten man made his debut last December and hasn't faced anyone of real note, but this time out he'll be facing a genuine veteran. Sonsona is a veteran, with over 14 years of professional experience, but has lost his last 2 bouts and has shown some genuine wear and tear in recent years. He should give the Uzbek some good rounds, but we can't see him coming out on top against the fresher man.
In Moscow fans will get the chance to see another unbeaten Uzbek prospect, as Shohjahon Ergashev (12-0, 11) headlines the show and take on Ugandan foe Juma Waswa (10-2-1, 4). The exciting Ergashev impressed in January, when he destroyed Sonny Fredrickson, and has since added a notable win over Zhimin Wang. Waswa on the other hand has lost his last 2 and at 37 years old is well beyond his prime. Notably the Ugandan has never been stopped, but he has never shared the ring with a fighter like Ergashev.
This coming Sunday is set to be a busy day for fight fans following the Asian boxing scene. There is 3 cards in Japan and a number of Asian fighters in action in Russia.
The most notable of the Japanese cards comes from Kobe where fans will get a Japanese title fight at Minimumweight, with both of the fighters involved looking to claim the vacant title.
That title bout will see the under-rated Ryoki Hirai (10-4-1, 4) battle against former multi-time world title challenger Shin Ono (21-9-3, 5) for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title. These two are ranked #1 and #2 by the JBC and are fighting for the title that Reiya Konishi vacated earlier this year, so that he could move up in class to fight for the WBA title. Hirai's record is a bit of a mess, but that's because he started his career 3-3-1, before rebuilding and going 7-1. In recent bouts Hirai has beaten the likes of Takumi Sakae and Ryoya Ikema and has really deserved a shot at the title and a chance to shine. As for Ono he has really struggled in recent years, going 4-4-1 in his last 9, though has mixed at a high level with losses to Katsunari Takayama, Kenichi Horikawa, Knockout CP Freshmart and Reiya Konishi. The bout really pits Hirai's youth and hunger against Ono's experience and should be very interesting.
In a supporting bout we'll see Japanese and OPBF ranked Giraffe Kirin Kanda (11-2, 6) take on the limited but heavy handed Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-10-1, 9). Although Kanda should be favoured he has has been stopped before and Miyazaki will have the belief that he has the power to stop Kanda, just like Yuki Nagano did in 2015.
Staying in Hyogo, though going from Kobe to Kawanishi, fight fans will be able to see the next Morioka card, featuring several noteworthy fighters in what will likely be some horrific mismatches.
The main event of the card will see former OPBF title challenger Hinata Maruta (6-1, 5) battle against Indonesian visitor Arega Yunian (6-9, 1), in what looks like a really disappointing match up for the talent Maruta. Despite losing to Hidenori Otake last November Maruta is an exceptional talent and a bout like this will do little to help build that talent, and it feels like he would have been much better off taking on a domestic level fighter than someone like Yunian. The Indonesian has already suffered 6 stoppage losses, all of which have come when he's fought on the road and include stoppages to Ryo Matsumoto and Takashi Igarashi in Japan
As well as Maruta fans will also be able to see former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (25-7-1, 22) and former Japanese Youth title challenger Naoto Iwai (4-2, 2) both in action, as they each face Thai opponents. Parrenas will be seeking his second win since a 2015 loss to Naoya Inoue, in a bout for the WBO Super Flyweight title, whilst Iwai will be looking to put a poor 2017 behind and begin to rebuild his career.
As well as the action in Hyogo there will also be a low key card in Fukuoka. This card is a pretty weak one in all honesty, but will be headlined by former WBO Minimumweight champion Tatsuya Fukuhara (19-6-6, 7), who will look to bounce back following back-to-back defeats to Ryuya Yamanaka and Wanheng Menayothin. The former champion, will be up against domestic foe Yuto Takahashi (8-3, 4) in what looks to be a big step down in class. Despite stepping down in levels Fukuhara does deserve an easy one given his run from winning the Japanese title in 2015 to today has seen him facing 3 unbeaten men, two current world champions and two other fringe world class fighters. Takahashi hasn't shown he can compete at the top of the domestic level and although this is a big chance for him to make a mark, it's very hard to see how he can over-come the under-rated Fukuhara.
As well as the Japanese action there is also a lot of Asian interest in a Russian card, with several notable fighters in action.
The main event of the card looks set to be a special kind of bout, as Indonesian warrior Daud Yordan (37-3-0-1, 25) takes on unbeaten Russian Pavel Malikov (13-0, 5) in a really good looking 12 round bout. Yordan seems to have been around around forever but at 30 years old he still has some time on his side to get a second world title fight, following a set back against Chris John back in 2011, and a win against Malikov might be what he needs to get a crack at a world champion. As for Malikov he has been in some great bouts recently, and his last two have been razor thing wins over Daiki Kaneko, in an under-rated 2017 war, and Deiner Berrio. Malikov is certainly beatable, but whether Yordan will be the man to beat him is yet to be seen. It's worth nothing that both of these men hold world rankings and the bout is essentially a world title eliminator.
In a great support bout we'll see unbeaten men collide, with Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (10-0, 5) battling Leonardo Padilla (16-0, 12) for the vacant WBA Asia Super Featherweight Title. Uulu is a Kyrgyzstan born Russian based fighter who has struggled at times but appears to be improving and has got the talent to go a long way, if he can correct some defensive flaws. Those defensive flaws could be a major problem here however as Padilla, like many fighters from Venezuela, can bang with 8 stoppages in his last 10. We'll be honest and admit we're unsure how the Venezuelan qualifies for a WBA Asia title but that can't take away from what looks like a really exciting match up.
Another battle of unbeaten men will see Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov (2-0, 2) take on Georgian Merab Turkadze (5-0, 2). The Uzbek looks to be a natural prospect and was a solid amateur before making his debut at the end of last year. So far Umurzakov has fought only 2 rounds, taking both of his opponents out with brutal left hands to the body in the opening round. It's always hard to know what you get with a Georgian fighter but given that Umurzakov is scheduled to fight again in May it seems like his team are confident of another quick win here.
One other bout of note will see Russian novice Mekhdi Abdurashedov (1-0) take on the once touted Iwan Zoda (14-3-1, 13) of Indonesia. At one point Zoda looked like a star in the making, and his 2015 win over Petchchorhae Kokietgym was a sensational performance. Sadly though he has gone 1-2-1 in his last 4 and really is fighting an up hill battle to remain relevant. It's unclear how good Abdurashedov is, but this is a big step up for the Russian and hopefully Zoda will show of the skills that got many of us excited when he was younger
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.