This coming Saturday is an incredibly busy day for Asian fight fans.
We get the show of the day in Tokyo, with the Korakuen Hall hosting a title double header and a really good under-card.
The main event sees a trilogy come to a close as Yuko Kuroki (18-5-1, 8) and Saemi Hanagata (14-7-4, 7) fight for the IBF female Atomweight title. So far Hanagata is winning the series, 1-0 due to a draw in their second bout. Since their bouts together both fighters have proven to be world class, with Kuroki holding the the WBC female Minimumweight title for over 3.5 years, whilst Hanagata would hold her own in 3 world title fights but never manage to get the win. Given how competitive their first two bouts were and how both have developed since 2013 we're expecting a very exciting contest with a lot of leather being thrown between two fighters who know each other very well. - A full preview of this bout can be read here Kuroki looks to settle the score with third bout against Hanagata!
The second title bout on this card promises fire works as heavy handed OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) takes on talented youngster Daiki Tomita (12-0, 4). The champion will be looking to record his third defenses of the title, following very good wins over Masataka Taniguchi and Norihito Tanaka, and this promises to be another very tough test. Tomita, the 2016 All Japan Rookie of the Year has had a frustrating time since his Rookie win, being matched against some very poor opponents and having one fight cancelled, but he is a talent and should give Tomita a lot of questions to answer. A full preview of this bout can be read here Unbeaten men Koura and Tomita collide for OPBF honours!
The leading support bout will see hard hitting Japanese Flyweight prospect Masamichi Yabuki (7-2, 7) take on Panamanian based Cuban Daniel Matellon (7-0-2, 4). The Japanese puncher has only gone beyond 2 rounds once in his career, a 4 round decision loss to Junto Nakatani, and he is naturally very heavy handed. On the other hand Matellon is a world ranked fighter with real skills, but he will be the smaller man here. This will put power against speed, and should be a very compelling contest.
Former OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (16-3-1, 9) will be returning to the ring following his title loss, in June 2017, as he takes on the always testing Vergil Puton (17-10-1, 8). The talented Takenaka was going through a solid run run when he was the OPBF champion, making 3 defenses of the title, before losing via KO to Sa Myung Noh last year. On his return he will be moving up in weight to face Puton. The Filipino visitor doesn't have a great looking record, and has failed to win in his last 3 bouts, but he's tough and has proven to be a very good opponent at this type of regional level. Takenaka should be able to win, but this is a tough return for the man from the Misako gym.
Another really notable under-card bout on this card will see the all action Kenya Yamashita (12-4, 9) take a huge step up in class to face off with former world title challenger John Mark Apolinario (20-11-3, 5) in a Bantamweight bout. The exciting, but flawed, Yamashita has often been in some thrilling contests, but has shown issues with his chin and has lost 3 of his last 7 inside the distance. On the other hand Apolinario has won just twice in the last 30 months, with 5 losses in that same time period.
As well as the big show in Japan there is also a very notable card in Singapore, with two title bouts and several other bouts of note.
The main event of the card will see unbeaten local Muhamad Ridhwan (11-0, 8) take on former world champion Paulus Ambunda (26-2, 11) in a contest for the IBO Super Bantamweight title. The unbeaten Ridhwan, regarded as Singapore's biggest hope, has already noted two wins this year and his team will be seeing this as a logical step up in class. As for Ambunda this is probably his last chance saloon, and at the age of 38 it's hard to see where he would go if he lost here. Saying that however Ambunda has only lost to world class fighters, Tomoki Kameda and Moises Flores, and he could well have one final performance left in him.
Another major bout on this card will see Filipino Bantamweight contender Michael Dasmarinas (28-2, 19) face off against Ghanaian puncher Manyo Plange (17-0, 15). Coming in to this Dasmarinas has won his last 10, with 8 stoppages, including a big victory over Karim Guerfi last time out. Not much is known about Plange, however this will be his first bout outside of Ghana, and will be a massive step up in class for him.
In another title bout Malaysian fighter Muhammad Meeraj (8-2-1, 4) will take on teenager Natthawut Masamin (7-3, 5). The 28 year old Meeraj has won his last 2 bouts, including a win that saw him become the WBC Asian Boxing Council Light Heavyweight champion. He will be defeating that title here against his Thai foe. Masamin, the Thai Middleweight champion, has a very misleading record and gave Yuki Nonaka real issues earlier this year. We think Meeraj should have the size to win, but this is no gimme and could be a very tough contest to call.
In a potentially fan friendly contest fans will see Keng Fai Hui (4-0-1, 4) take on Abdelelah Karroum (3-0, 3). Both men have a reputation for being heavy handed and it seems likely that both will come out swinging here. Hui, a 23 year old from Malaysia, was held to a draw last time out, against Alexander David. Karroum on the other hand is a Singaporean based French born fighter who has stopped his first 3 opponents in a combined 4 rounds. Expected explosive action here!
History is set to be made in Taiwan as the country hosts it's most notable show in history, with a couple of title fights in Taipei.
The main event of the card will see teak tough Japanese Super Feather Takuya Watanabe (34-8-1, 19) take on Thai foe Paiboon Lorkham (19-10, 8), aka Maxsaisai Sithsaithong, fight for the OPBF Silver Super Featherweight. Although his record doesn't show it Watanabe is a very talented fighter who has mixed at a very good level, losing to the likes of Masayuki Ito, Satoshi Hosono, Jae Sung Lee and Hisashi Amagasa. Although a talented boxer Watanabe is best known for his insane toughness, which saw him fight through a crimson mask against Lee for almost the entire fight. The Thai is much less well established, despite being 39 years old. His most notable bout to date have been losses to the likes of Hisashi Amagasa, AJ Banal and Joel Brunker, and they were all several years ago. Lorkham at his best might have been an interesting test for Watanabe, but this version or Lorkham is little more than body for Watanabe to beat in the main event of the show.
The other title fight will see Chinese fighter Wensi Huang (9-3-1, 3) take on Thai foe Jutamas Jitpong (4-2, 2) in a bout for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental female Super Flyweight title. The 29 year old Huang lost 3 of her first 6 bouts, including a contest against Ji Hye Woo, though has since gone unbeaten, albeit against dreadful opposition. Aged 20 the Thai is the younger fighter by far, but she has also come up short, losing to Yuko Henzan and Olga Gurova. This is a very limited match up, but does give the fans in Taipei a chance to see a female title bout, as well as the male one.
Over in the US we get the chance to see once beaten Filipino prospect Romero Duno (17-1, 14) look to build on his growing reputation. The 22 year old Filipino fighter will be up against Mexican foe Ezequiel Aviles (16-2-3, 6), who will be fighting outside of Mexico for the first time. It's worth noting that Aviles has only been stopped once in 21 bouts, but that loss was last time out, when Oliver Quintana stopped him in 10 rounds. It's also worth noting that Aviles has also been out of the ring for over a year following that loss
The card will also set to feature the debut of Uzbek prospect Elnur Abduraimov (0-0), though his opponent hasn't yet been announced.
New York, USA
Staying in the US fans in Brooklyn, New York, will be able to see Uzbek Heavyweight hopeful Bakhodir Jalolov (1-0, 1) continue his career. The highly touted Jalolov, a former amateur standout, will be up against Thomas Hawkins (4-3-0-1, 1) who has lost his last 3 and is without a win in over 4 years. Given how we have seen Uzbek fighters handled we're hoping this will be Jalolov's last bout at this level before he goes up against someone who can test him. He's too good to spend time against fighters like Hawkins.
Attention in Japan this coming Thursday focuses on a Misako promotion in Tokyo, where fans get two title bouts.
The first of those title bouts will see Japanese Light Welterweight champion Koichi Aso (21-7-1, 14) making the first defense of his title as he takes on Yusuke Konno (11-3, 5), who comes into the bout as the #1 ranked challenger. Aso won the title earlier this year, in what was his third shot at the belt, and will be looking to keep a tight grasp on it given his long and hard career, though it's fair to say he has taken punishment during his career and it's hard to know how much he has left in the tank. This will be Konno's first title bout, and he'll come into the contest very hungry,but will be the under-dog. Interestingly the winner of this could be the next target for the really talented Koki Inoue.
The other title bout will see world ranked OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (16-3-1, 9) defending his title against Korean challenger Sa Myung Noh (10-3, 3). The under-rated Takenaka is a very talented boxer who has built from losses to good fighters, like Hisashi Amagasa, and looks to be one of the rising contenders in the packed Featherweight division, though he would be the big under-dog against any of the current world champion. Noh is a pretty good fighter, but his technical flaws should see him be easy pickings for Takenaka, who we suspect will box his way into control, before closing the show in the middle rounds.
In an interesting under-card bout we'll see the under-rated Yusuke Suzuki (7-3, 5) battle against the more experienced Keita Nakano (14-10-6, 4). On paper Suzuki might not look anything special but he's a genuine talent, and was a very good amateur before turning professional in late 2012. He has been matched hard through his career, losing to Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco, though could well have been 10-0 (5) with a bit of luck. Nakano, fighting for the 31st time as a professional has mixed at a good level and will be the under-dog here, but he is certainly a live under-dog.
In Thailand on the same day fight fans will see former world title title challenger Stamp Kiatniwat (16-1, 6) battle against Filipino foe Michael Enriquez (13-6-1, 9) in what looks like an interesting match up. The Thai youngster will be favoured, and he showed he was legitimate in his 2016 loss to Kazuto Ioka, but Enriquez will go to war with him and the bout could be very, very fan friendly, as Enriquez's bout against Rex Tso was back in 2015.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo
Title action returns to the Korakuen Hall on February 9th as we get a title double header, as part of a Diamond Glove card.
The main event of the card sees OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (15-3-1, 8) defending his title against fellow Japanese fighter Ryuto Araya (11-4-1, 3). The champion will be seeking his third defense here and is looking to build on recent wins over the likes of Vinvin Rufino, Akira Shono and Randy Braga. Although the OPBF champion Takenaka is relatively unknown outside of Japan, though may well be looking to break out this year and move towards a potential bout of international note. Whilst Takenaka is heading places the same can't really be said of Araya, who has won his last 3 but is 6-4 in his last 10, including stoppage losses to Daisuke Watanabe and Takuya Yamaguchi. This is a big opportunity for Araya but a huge step up in class and likely another loss for the struggling 29 year old.
A potentially thrilling co-feature will see the all action Koichi Aso (20-7-1, 13) face off with the heavy handed Kazuki Matsuyama (13-7-1, 7) for the vacant Japanese Light Welterweight title, a title that was vacated by Hiroki Okada last year. The under-rated Aso has lost in two title fights at this level, losing twice to former champion Okada, but does deserve to remain in the title mix and is one of the better Japanese fighters at 140lbs. For Matsuyama this will be his first title fight and gives him a great chance to claim a title, though recent stoppage losses to Shuhei Tsuchiya and Daishi Nagata don't bode well against a fighter like Aso who will come out swinging here.
A good looking under-card bout sees the under-rated Yusuke Suzuki (6-3, 4) take on Ken Kodama (8-2-1, 3). Suzuki might not have a great record but his losses have come to good fighters in the shape of Yusaku Kuga, Ryoichi Tamura and Jeffrey Francisco and he was a talented amateur who could well bounce back from this less than stellar start. As for Kodama he probably isn't quite as good as his record suggests and a win here would be the best of his career so far.
An interesting supporting bout will see veteran Norihito Tanaka (14-5, 7) end a 5 year break from the ring, as he takes on Yuto Takahashi (6-2, 4). Although inactive Tanaka was once a good fighter, and has shared the ring with the likes of Kenichi Horikawa, Ryoichi Taguchi and Akira Yaegashi. As for Takahashi he has bounced back from back-to-back losses to Tsubasa Koura and Naoyuki Tsukada and could prove to be too young and too fresh for Tanaka.
On the under-card we'll teenage hopeful Izuki Tomioka (1-0) take on Korean visitor Joon Woo Park (4-6, 2). Tomioka looked impressive in his debut, back in December against fellow debutant Tatsuki Shinozuka, and will be looking to impress against here. Park has lost 3 of his last 4 but hasn't been stopped since his debut, more than 8 years ago, and should prove to be sturdy if nothing else.
This coming Monday we get the second Diamond Glove show of the month, with an OPBF title being the headliner and two wonderfully interesting support bouts with prospects being given serious tests and giving us a chance to really know what their careers will have to offer.
The OPBF title bout will see OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (14-3-1, 8) defending his belt against once beaten Filipino Randy Braga (19-1-1, 5). For the champion this will be his second defense of the title, though his 14 month reign has been a frustrating one plagued by injuries. Takenaka looked great when he won the title, scoring an eye catching KO of Vinvin Rufino but a defense against Akira Shono proved little. Although relatively unknown Braga is a really credible challenger who proved himself last year, losing a controversial one to Macbute Sinyabi and taking the unbeaten record of Neil John Tabanao
In one of two really mouth watering supporting bouts we'll see unbeaten Light Welterweight hopeful Shuichiro Yoshino (2-0, 1) face the once touted Kenta Onjo (6-2, 3) in an intriguing 8 rounder. Yoshino has looked good so far, and made a statement in his second bout out boxing the highly experienced Chaiyong Sithsaithong but Onjo is a man now fighting for his career after 2 losses in his last 4. This could end up being a really great bout.
Although the two bouts mentioned above are really interesting the bout of the show, in our eyes at least, sees Masataka Taniguchi (4-0, 4) take on the world ranked Dexter Alimento (11-0, 7) in a bout fit to headline a card. Taniguchi is a young Watanabe fighter who has looked sensational so far, stopping his first 4 opponents in a combined 8 rounds, he is however taking a huge leap up in class. Alimento, a 20 year old Filipino,really impressed us earlier this year with a break out win against Chanachai CP Freshmart. Some might think these two are being thrown against each other too early but we love that the teams want to test their men, and that the fighters are willing to put their 0's on the line! Real credit to both fighters and we're expecting something very, very special.
Unbeaten Kazakh Ruslan Madiev (7-0, 3) continues his career after a spell of inactivity. Madiev will be up against Baltazar Ramirez (3-1, 3), who either stopped his opponents or been stopped in the first 3 rounds of his fights so far. We suspect with Ramirez's style this might not last long, one way or the other.
Glasgow, United Kingdom
In the UK fight fans will see Iranian born Scottish based fighter Mohammad Babazadeh (4-0, 1) look to build on his unbeaten record. This will be Babazadeh's first bout this year, after 3 bouts in 2015, and it seems he may be too inactive to build much career momentum at this stage.
April is a great month for Japanese fight fans with a host of notable shows through the month. One of the most notable come on April 14th where we see a number of bouts with notable fighters.
One of those bouts is a Japanese Light Flyweight title bout between unbeaten champion Ken Shiro (6-0, 3), who looks to make his first defense, and mandatory challenger Atsushi Kakutani (17-4-1, 10). The youngster won the title late last year, when he over-came Kenichi Horikawa in a brilliant bout, and will be looking to notch a win over a world title challenger. For Kakutani however this is a long over-due shot and one that could make or break his career.
Another title bout on this card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Ryo Takenaka (13-3-1, 7) defending his title against Akira Shono (9-7-2, 5). This match up is somewhat hard to get excited about, with Shono seemingly stepping up in a huge way, though it does need to be noted that Takenaka has been in active since August, when he won the title courtesy of a 5th round TKO win over Vinvin Rufino. On paper this is an easy first defence for the champion, but one that he will be hoping he'll be expected to shine.
In a very notable non-title bout fans will see Keita Obara (15-1-1, 14) in a stay busy bout against Petchdam Tor Buamas (0-1). Although a huge mismatch the aim of the bout is for Obara to shake some ring rust as he looks to build towards an IBF Light Welterweight world title fight with unbeaten Russian Eduard Troyanovsky. This will be Obara's first bout since his controversial draw against Walter Castillo and it should be a very easy show case for the heavy handed Japanese fighter.
In another under-card bout fans will see Japanese Rookie of the Year Tsubasa Koura (6-0, 3) kick off his 2016 by facing Thailand's Yai Phuket Topteam (0-0). The 21 year old Koura impressed last year with 5 wins, and won the All Japanese Rookie of the year. He'll be hoping to continue to build on his promising career this year, though should be up against better tests than Yai before the year is over.
There are a lot of Japanese shows during August but, for our money, the stand out one comes on August 10th as fans get a trio of interesting bouts as well as a show case contest for a man who is one of the hardest punchers in Asia.
The pick of the match ups is an OPBF Super Featherweight title bout between the once beaten Masayuki Ito (16-1-1, 7) and fellow contender Dai Iwai (17-3-1, 6), who will be trading blows in a bout for the vacant title. The bout doesn't promise a knockout, far from it in fact, but it does promise high quality action from two men who are both very well schooled and who are both looking for the biggest win of their career. Ito enters on the back of a controversial loss to Japanese champion Rikki Naito whilst Iwai enters on an 8 fight winning streak. This really could be a stand out bout with an emphasis on high speed chess.
Another notable bout on this card will see OPBF Featherweight champion Vinvin Rufino (37-16-3, 16), a hard nosed veteran from the Philippines, defending his title against local favourite Ryo Takenaka (12-3-1, 6). This will be Rufino's first defense and although his record is “blotchy” to say the least he is a very good fighter and will be looking to continue his reign of champion. For Takenaka this is his second bite at the OPBF apple having come very close last year against Hisashi Amagasa, when he was stopped in the final round whilst ahead on the cards. This should be a really exciting and competitive 12 round bout between two men who simply cannot afford to lose.
Another highlight on this card is youngster Ken Shiro (3-0, 2) who looks to move a step towards a Japanese title fight as he takes on Takashi Omae (13-4-5, 1). Coming in both men are ranked by the JBC but it's fair to say that this is supposed to be “one final test” for Ken Shiro who looked sensational last time out, when he stopped Katsunori Nagamine. Omae hasn't been stopped in his 22 fight career so a stoppage win for the 23 year old prospect would be a huge statement before a title fight, possibly in December.
The show case fight here sees OPBF Light Welterweight champion Keita Obara (14-1, 13) fight in a non-title bout against Thai visitor Khompetch Sithsaithong (5-5, 5) in what should be no more than an easy win for the world ranked Obara. From what we understand this bout is being fought between the Light Welterweight and Welterweight limits with the intention being for Obara to gradually make a move to 147lbs, possibly by the end of this year.
As well as the 4 bouts mentioned this card will feature 2 others making it perhaps the best “non-world title” show in Japan this year.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
April is a busy month for Japanese boxing fans this year with bouts at every level, from Rookie of the Year qualifying bouts to world title bouts featuring some real stars of the sport. One of the best shows is this coming Monday at the Korakuen Hall, despite the fact there is no world title on the line.
In total the show will feature 6 bouts. And although the first couple won't grab the attention of many fans they are both expected to be interesting 8 rounders. The first will feature Kyosuke Sawada (2-2, 1) taking on a Thai visitor whilst the second will see Yosuke Kawano (8-4-1, 3) face Hiroyuki Sagehashi (7-7-2, 1). We won't pretend these bouts are worth getting too excited about but they are just you're standard under-card bouts.
The third bout however sees things stepping up as former OPBF Featherweight title challenger Ryo Takenaka (11-3-1, 6) takes on Junki Sasaki (13-2, 5). Takenaka, who gave Hisashi Amagasa all sorts of problems last October, will be fighting for the first time since losing his biggest bout to date. In that bout he showed a lot of ability and befuddled Amagasa for the better part of 12 rounds before being stopped with less than 2 minutes to go. Sasaki on the other hand is relatively unknown southpaw who will come in to this bout knowing that a good win will really move career onwards. We think this is a really well matched bout.
The 4th bout on the card will see a bout between ranked fighters as Dai Iwai (16-3-1, 5) battles against Noriyuki Ueno (17-12-5, 5). Ueno is the more well known of the two men having come up short in 4 titles bouts, 3 Japanese and 1 OPBF, and is better than his record indicates. Unfortunately for Ueno he is now 33 and didn't look his best last time out, losing a decision to Kazunori Takayama. Iwai on the other hand is looking to get a shot at either a national title or a regional title after having previously held a WBC Youth belt, back in 2012. At the moment Iwai is on an excellent 7 fight winning streak though it does appear his lack of power may be an issue down the line. On paper this is an excellent match up, despite the fact it probably won't be the most exciting.
On paper the stand out bout, by a long way, is the Japanese Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Kentaro Masuda (21-6, 11) and the unbeaten Shohei Omori (13-0, 8). For Masuda this is the 3rd defence of the title that he won exactly a year ago and since winning the title he has looked fantastic blowing away the charismatic Konosuke Tomoiyama in 3 rounds and then having an enthralling 10 round war with Tatsuya Takahashi. Aged 32 however it's time for Masuda to record a statement win then move towards the next level. Unfortunately for the champion this one won't be an easy win as he goes up against the wonderfully talented Omori who we view as one of the best prospects in Japan. Omori is a wonder-boxer puncher who scored his break out win last year when he stopped Christian Esquivel and the 22 year old southpaw is a viewed as a fighter with the potential to go all the way. Brilliant match up between two men who are on the fringes of world class, despite only fighting for the Japanese title.
The final bout on the card will see the heavy handed Keita Obara (13-1, 12) defending his OPBF Light Welterweight title against the horribly over-matched Yuya Okazaki (14-7-1, 4) in a match up that appears disgustingly one sided. We like Obara and we understand he wants to make the move to Welterweight shortly though in all honesty he should have just made the move instead of defending his title against Okazaki who isn't fit to step in to the ring with him. Sadly Okazaki is one of the worst OPBF title challengers in recent memory and we'd be shocked if he managed to really give Obara any sort of a fight.
Gauteng, South Africa
In South Africa fans get the chance to see promising Kazakh Roman Zhailauov (13-0, 8) risk his unbeaten record against Luyanda Jako (9-9-2, 4). The 18 year old from Astana has recently signed a promotional contract with Golden Gloves in South Africa and this will be his first bout under that contract with the hope of developing him into a Welterweight contender. If Zhailauov wins here then it's expected that he will be put him on a Hekkie Budler undercard in June.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)