Although the iconic Korakuen Hall is one of, if not the, busiest venue in world boxing it doesn't actually play host to many world title fights. This coming Monday we get one of those rare world title bouts in the headline of a pretty notable card put on by the Nitta Gym.
The world title bout in question will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) defending his title against mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16). It's a clash of veterans and a very, very interesting match up. Mthalane impressed last time out, when he made his first defense of his second reign, and stopped Masahiro Sakamoto in Macau, defending the belt he had won when he narrowly beaten Muhammad Waseem in July. In title win Mthalane did look sharp to begin with but his age began to get to him late and it's unclear what he really has left at the age of 36. Kuroda, himself 32, is getting his second crack more than 6 years after battling Juan Carlos Reveco for the WBA title. Kuroda has had mixed fortunes at Flyweight but has won 6 in a row to earn this shot. A full preview of this bout can be read here Kuroda goes up against IBF champ Mthalane!
In a really good supporting bout we'll see the once beaten Ryo Hino (12-1-2, 7) go up against Tasuku Suwa (6-3-1, 1). On paper it's easy to think Hino is in for an easy night, but in reality we're expecting a very, very close bout. Hino's sole loss came to Reiya Abe way back in 2015, and since then he has gone 7-0-1 (5), with a notable win over Sho Nakazawa and a draw against Coach Hiroto. Suwa on the other hand has lost 3 of his last 4 is no push over and does have skills to test fighters, as we saw when he gave Ryo Sagawa a good battle last year. Hino's the clear favourite, but Suwa is a live under-dog.
One other bout of interest on this card is a well matched contest pitting Yui Oikawa (7-4-1, 1) against Shinnosuke Hasegawa (8-2-1, 6). Neither of these men are expected to be major stars, but both will enter this bout with the belief they can win. Oikawa was stopped last time out, but is 5-2 (4) in his last 7 and is certainly a man with some belief. Hasegawa on the other hand has won his last 7, but they have come against some very poor opposition, and it will be him stepping up in this bout.
Also on this card is 2018 Middleweight Rookie of the Year Nath Nwachukwu (3-0-2, 1) who takes on the once beaten Yasunori Mihara (4-1, 3) in what will be Nwachukwu's first bout since his Rookie triumph in December.
This coming Monday attention returns to the Korakuen Hall for a title double header courtesy of the Kawasaki Nitta gym.
The main event of the card will see Japanese Flyweight champion Masayuki Kuroda (29-7-3, 16) take on the under-rated Akinori Hoshino (13-7-2, 9). For Kuroda this bout will be his third defense of the title, which he won in June 2017 with a split decision win over Takuya Kogawa. Last time out the champion narrowly over-came Katsunori Nagamine in a thrilling 10 round war and he's currently in the form of his career as he chases a second world title bout, following on from a 2013 shot at the WBA Flyweight title. Hoshino fought in a title eliminator last year, fighting to a frustrating and sloppy draw with Nagamine, That draw ended a 3 fight winning run from Hoshino, who had upset both Kenya Yamashita and Shun Kosaka in recent contests. Hoshino is likely to be a stylistic nightmare for Kuroda, but we do suspect that the experience edge he has will help him score the victory.
The chief support bout will also be a title fight, with OPBF female Featherweight champion Kimika Miyoshi (13-10-1, 5) defending her belt against Wakako Fujiwara (5-2-2, 2). The champion has held this title since June 2016 but this will be her first defense. Since winning the belt Miyoshi has fought twice, but lost both of those contests to Shannon O'Connell and Hyun Mi Choi. Although Miyoshi has lost at the higher level she is very good at Oriental level and has won titles at 3 weights. The 37 year old Fujiwara is the Japanese Female Featherweight champion, having won the title this past March, but this is a huge step up in class for her, and one we suspect she'll come up short in.
In one of the leading supporting bouts fans will see Japanese ranked Featherweight Ryo Hino (11-1-2, 6) take on Toshizane Kinoda (6-4, 2). On paper it's hard to see how the talented Hino comes up short here. Hino has impressed against the likes of Sho Nakazawa, who he out boxed last September, and Coach Hiroto, who he drew with in January. Hino, from what we've seen of him, is a technically solid fighter who uses his jab brilliantly. Kinoda is pretty limited, and has lost 3 of his last 4 bouts, but has never been stopped so will be expected to go the 8 round scheduled with Hino, albeit come up clearly short.
Another good looking bout on this card is a very evenly matched contest between Kosuke Arioka (7-3, 6) and Yui Oikawa (7-3, 4), who battle in an intriguing 8 rounder. The heavy handed Arioka won the 2017 Japanese Rookie of the Year at Lightweight, stopping Rikki Naito's younger brother Mirai Naito along the way. Although Arioka has nasty power he has been stopped in 2 of his 3 losses and can certainly be hurt. On the other hand Oikawa doesn't have a reputation as a puncher but has stopped his last 3 so seems to be developing belief in his power, and he's yet to be stopped, suggesting he could be a nightmare for Arioka.
The calm to begin the year ends this coming Saturday as we get the first Dangan card of 2017, and it is a brilliantly intriguing card with two OPBF title bouts, and two very good looking support bouts.
The main event of the card will see former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (18-2, 6) take on Filipino foe Jeffrey Arienza (16-6-1, 10) in a bout for the vacant OPBF Light Welterweight title. The talented Naito will be looking for one of the most significant wins of his career, and whilst he will be favoured here he should be expecting to have a fight against Arienza. The Filipino visitor is far from a world beater but will likely know that one more loss is the end of him at this level, and he really cannot afford another set back if he's to remain relevant.
In a more 50-50 bout we'll see Filipino fighter Carlo Magali (22-9-3, 11) defending the OPBF Super Featherweight title against Japan's Masatoshi Kotani (22-2, 15). On paper this is a very interesting match up and will potentially see the winner move into a very intriguing position as fighters look towards getting a shot at the OPBF title. Magali and a limited but aggressive fighter and will take the fight to Kotani whilst the challenger will look to use his slightly better boxing skills to take the title from the champion. A really even match up.
Another mouth watering match up will see touted Teiken fighter Shuya Masaki (9-0, 5) take on Watanabe gym's Hironori Mishiro (4-0, 2) in what could be the surprise bout of the month. Masaki is ranked #3 by the JBC and will be looking towards getting a title fight later in the year, if he wins, but a win here is certainly no forgone conclusion. Mishiro has only been a professional for 10 months but has shone, and his October win over Shuma Nakazato was absolute incredible. This is set to be a war and should be something very special for fans watching.
Another very strong looking supporting bout will see Coach Hiroto (13-2-1, 4) take on the once beaten Ryo Hino (11-1-1, 6). The talented Hiroto took almost 5 years out of the ring until returning last June, and since then he has scored 2 wins. He will however be up against it here with Hino riding a 6 fight winning streak, including a huge win last time out against Sho Nakazawa. Coming in to this the 27 year Hino looks to be the man in form, and the man going places, but at 26 years old Hiroto shouldn't be over-looked in what appears to be a very competitive looking match up on paper.
In Illinois fight fans will be able to see American based Uzbek hopeful Rustam Tulaganov (1-0) take on the once beaten Martez McGregor (4-1, 4) in a 6 rounder. The 26 year old Uzbek was a former amateur standout, having claimed an Olympic Bronze medal and an Asian Championship's Silver medal and will be favoured here. The heavy handed McGregor has never been beyond 2 rounds and is likely to come out swinging here, win or lose.
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.