Our attention to the US this coming Saturday with two different US shows featuring Asia fighters. One of those shows is in Nevada whilst the other is in Massachusetts, and interestingly both cards feature a major Middleweight title bout and a combined 3 Olympic gold medal winners!
For us the more significant card is in Nevada, with two Olympic gold medals winners from Asia on the show.
One of those Olympic gold medal winners is 2012 Middleweight gold medal winner Ryota Murata (14-1, 11) who takes on Rob Brant (23-1, 16). The Japanese fighter will be making his second defense of the WBA “regular” Middleweight title as he faces his first mandatory challenger. Murata has got huge plans for 2019, including a potential bout with Gennady Golovkin. We're really not sure how Brant has managed to work his way into a mandatory position but in his most notable bout to date he was clearly beaten by Juergen Braehmer, who was too good and too smart. We're expecting to see Murata being too power, too determined and too strong for the American challenger. A preview of this bout can be read here - Japanese star Murata takes on the challenge of Rob Brant
The other Olympic gold medal winner is 2016 Light Welterweight Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (5-0, 2), who takes a huge step up in class to battle American based Mexican Wilberth Lopez (23-9, 15). It's fair to say that whilst Gaibnazarov is a talented fighter he hasn't, yet, set the world on fire as a professional and there are worries that he won't live up to the expectations on his shoulders. This should be a great chance for his to prove his value as a professional. Lopez is no world beater, but is the sort of fighter that gives prospects a good test, and we expect to see him perform that duty again here, as he's done against the likes of Ivan Baranchyk, Alex Saucedo and Batyrzhan Jukembayev.
Amazingly we have another gold medal winner in action in Massachusetts as Kazakh fighter Daniyar Yeleussinov (3-0, 1), the 2016 Welterweight gold medal winner will be up against Matt Dougherty (8-5-1, 4). This should be a straight forward win for Yeleussinov, as he takes on a rugged but under-sized foe, though it's been a disappointing and uninspiring start to his professional so far given that former amateur rival Shakhram Giyasov is already fighting notable foes.
Notably this card in Massachusetts will be headlined by a WBO Middleweight title fight, though there is no direct Asian interest in that bout.
In Asia we get a card from Thailand televised by Workpoint. The main event here will see Pongsaklek Sithdabnij (16-5-11, 13) defending his WBC Asian Boxing Council Light Flyweight title against Japanese challenger Seita Ogido (12-3-3, 3). This isn't a huge bout, but it is a very interesting one and a well matched one, with the winner certainly boosting their chance of getting a notable fight in 2019.
New Jersey, USA
Our attention will mostly be on New Jersey this coming Saturday as one Central Asian fighter defends a world title, and two others look to progress there careers.
The champion in question is the extremely talented and really exciting WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11), who defends his title against Malawi born challenger Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2, 10). The heavy handed and exciting Bivol comes into this bout on the back of his excellent victory over Sullivan Barrera this past March, in what was Bivol's 5th straight stoppage win. The Kyrgyzstan born fighter is making a name for himself and a win over Chilemba will help him there. Sadly for Chilemba it does feel like his career is coming to an en and he has lost 3 of his last 4, including a stoppage loss in November 2016 to Oleksandr Gvozdyk. At his best Chilemba was a handful for anyone but he's now a very old 31 who has been in a lot of wars during his career.
One of the guys looking to move forward with their career is unbeaten Kazakh Madiyar Ashkeyev (9-0, 5), who is set for a notable step up in class to take on Cleotis Pendarvis (21-4-2, 9). The Kazakh has looked close to flawless in recent bouts and has been impressing on US soil through his career. American southpaw Pendarvis has had a stop-start career, and his last 4 bouts really haven't been great to know what he has left, but at his best he was a solid fighter who managed to stop Michael Clark, though that was almost 6 years ago now. A prime Pendarvis would have made for an interesting test, but we now expect Ashkeyev to step up and put on a showcase performance against his more experienced foe.
Another Kazakh on this card is Middleweight prospect Meiirim Nursultanov (7-0, 6), who will be looking for this third win of 2018. His opponent for this bout hasn't been announced but we're not expecting anyone too testing for the 24 year old, who we think will be stepping up in class at this end of this year, or early next year. Heavy handed, talented and exciting Nursultanov has a lot going for him, but we wouldn't be surprised if he team just waited a year or two before throwing him in with notable names.
In Japan fans only get a single show from Okinawa, and even that show isn't massively great with two low key title fights and some small fights on the under-card.
One of those title fights is a WBO Asia Pacific female Bantamweight title fight, which will see Yuko Henzan (6-6-4, 2) take on unbeaten Chinese fighter Fan Yin (3-0, 1). The Japanese fighter started her career 0-3-1 but has managed to turn things and had gone 4-0-2 in her last 6 bouts, and claimed the OPBF female Bantamweight title, so a win here for Henzan would see her become a unified champion. The Chinese fighter made her professional debut last December, and scored 2 wins in the space of 2 weeks, but her activity has slowed significantly and she has only fought once since the turn of the year.
The other title fight will see Japanese Youth Light Flyweight champion Ryuto Oho (11-4-1, 3) defending his belt against the promising Hiroki Inamine (2-1, 2). The 23 year old champion won the 2013 Rookie of the Year at Flyweight but has since struggled, going 5-4-1 (1). To help rectify things Oho has dropped to Light Flyweight which appears to be a more suitable weight class for him, given his relative lack of power. Inamine's record suggest he's a heavy handed fighter but he's only stopped two Thai's since making his debut, though he was a well regarded domestic amateur. Inamine was beaten last time out, by the ultra promising Rikito Shiba, but will feel he has the power to take care of Ono, in what could be the fight of the day.
In a supporting bout fans will see once touted youngster Seita Ogido (11-3-3, 3) look to get his career back on track after going 0-1-2 in his last 3. Ogido hasn't been softly matched but he has failed to win any of his last 3 bouts, which were all title contest, and is clearly being matched softly here to get some confidence back. He'll be up against Takayuki Teraji (9-15-1, 4) who has won just 3 of his last 10 and should manage to give Ogido rounds with out really coming close to winning them.
One other fighter on this card worthy of note is American born Japanese fighter Marcus Smith (5-0-1, 5), who looks to secure his second win of 2018 as he takes on Koji Igarashi (4-2, 3). It's hard to see Igarashi coming out on top here, given both of his losses have been by stoppage, but he does have power of his own and could well chin check Smith here.
After a huge day for boxing our attention turns to Okinawa for the only Asian show this coming Sunday, and if we're being honest, it's not a big one, despite every fighters of note being in action.
The most notable bout of the show is a rematch as unbeaten Filipino Edward Heno (10-0-5, 4) takes on local hopeful Seita Ogido (11-2-3, 3) for the OPBF Light Flyweight title. Earlier this year these two fought to a close bout, which Heno seemed to win, and was announced as the winner, before an issue with the scorecards saw the bout being announce as a draw, well after the original decision. The unbeaten Heno will be looking to avoid the judges this time around and we expect him to go out hunting a stoppage. For Ogido, who has drawn his last two bout, this is a must win and another set back will be hard to come back from, despite the fact he is only 24.
In an supporting bout we'll see OPBF ranked Super Featherweight Masatoshi Kotani (21-2, 14) take on Filipino ranked foe Jason Egera (23-17-1, 11). On paper the bout looks like a mismatch, with Kotani coming into the bout on an 11 fight winning run dating back more than 4 years whilst Egera has gone 2-9-1 in his last 12, however Egera can be a handful at times and has scored notable upsets through his career, including a win earlier this year against Glenn Suminguit.
Also on this card in a supporting bout is the unbeaten Shuma Nakazato (6-0-1, 5), who takes a notable step up against veteran Masaki Saito (13-12-6, 4). The unbeaten Nakazato, the son of 3-time world title challenger Shigeru Nakazato, reached the final of the 2015 Rookie of the Year, fighting to a draw with Teppei Kayanuma, but has only fought once since then. The 32 year Saito is a proper servant of Japanese boxing and whilst his record is messy he has been a true gatekeeper at the top of of the domestic scene. He has notable wins against the likes of Seiichi Okada and Takashi Inagaki and has held fighters like Tsuyoshi Tojo, Masashi Nogiuchi and Yuichiro Kasuya to draws. This might not look much of a fight on paper, but it is a real test for Nakazato.
For a second day running Japanese fans in Tokyo get a huge show at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo.
The main event here sees Japanese superstar Naoya Inoue (12-0, 10) defending his WBO Super Flyweight title against Mexican born American based challenger Ricardo Rodriguez (16-3, 5. The bout will be Inoue's 5th defense of the title and it's likely to be his last with his team talking about vacating the title later in the year, ahead of his US debut. The pressure is on the youngster to shine here but Rodriguez is tough and has never been stopped, and will be looking to score a career defining victory here.
The other world title fight here will see IBF Light Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (25-5, 15) battle against interim champion Milan Melindo (35-2, 12). The bout is, on paper at the very least, the most interesting of the 6 world title fights taking place this coming weekend and it looks like a genuine 50-50 match up. Of the two fighters Yaegashi is the more proven and the more well known, but he's also the older man and the man with a lot more miles on the clock. Melindo, the less proven fighter, is probably the more technically sound fighter, but a win here would be the biggest of his career by some margin.
The biggest mismatch on this card will see the once beaten Ryo Matsumoto (19-1, 17) battle against Hendrik Barongsay (29-25-3, 18) in what is little more than a stay busy fight for Matsumoto. The talented Japanese youngster looked better than ever last time out, blowing out Hideo Sakamoto in less than 2 minutes, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Barongsay last a similar amount og time here.
One of the biggest names on the under-card is former multi-time world title challenger Satoshi Hosono (32-3-1, 21), who will take on Masashi Noguchi (12-6-1, 6) in an 8 rounder. This will be Hosono's first bout since losing in October to Jonathan Victor Barros in an IBF world title eliminator. Aged 33 this will probably be the start of Hosono's last run, and he really can't afford another set back. Noguchi is a former Japanese title challenger, who lost in December to Shuhei Tsuchiya, and is the naturally bigger man, but a win here would be his best to date.
In another notable under-card bout we'll see 2012 Olympic Bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu (2-0, 2) take on his first domestic opponent, Takuya Yamamoto (8-6, 4). The bout should be a straight forward win for Shimizu, though it's probably fair to say that his eyes are on the future and it's hard to imagine him not fighting for a domestic title before the end of 2017, especially given that he's now 31 and doesn't have much time to waste.
Also on the under-card is the re-re-scheduled meeting between talented youngster Andy Hiraoka (8-0, 5) and Shogo Yamaguchi (10-2-1, 5), who were originally meant to meet in the 2014 Rookie of the Year. The two were also meant to fight earlier this year. Sadly Hiraoka was forced to pull out of both the previous dates but will be looking to prove a point here. As for Yamaguchi he's going to be wanting to take his frustrations out on the younger man in what could be an under-card classic.
There will also be title action in Okinawa, albeit at a lower level as fans get an OPBF title fight.
That that OPBF title fight will see Japan's Seita Ogido (11-2-2, 3) battle unbeaten Filipino Edward Heno (10-0-4, 4) for the vacant Oriental Light Flyweight title. The title was vacated earlier this, by Ken Shiro ahead of his WBC world title fight with Ganigan Lopez, and the bout to crown a new champion does look like an interesting one. Ogido is seen as a promising youngster in Japan, and fought to a draw with the under-rated Jonathan Refugio earlier this year, suggesting there is talent there. Heno on the other hand is a bit of an unknown quantity, despite being unbeaten in 14 bouts, though he did impress last time out as he claimed the PBF title. This bout really could answer questions about both men.
The chief supporting bout here will see Masatoshi Kotani (20-2, 13) hunt an 11th straight win as he takes on Indonesian visitor Musa Letding (12-6-4, 6) in an 8 rounder. Kotani has been unbeaten since a 9th round stoppage loss to Filipino Cirilo Espino in 2012 and looks to have improved significantly since then. As for Letding he's 0-4 out side of Indonesia and will be looking for his first win on the road.
In another under-card bout we'll see the heavy handed Morihisa Iju (10-2, 8) battle against Masaya Kohama (6-5-1, 3). This bout will be Iju's third of the year, but will see him returning to the ring following a March loss to Ryo Kosaka and it's clear he'll be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats. Despite losing last time time out Iju should be favoured given that Kohama has been stopped in his last 3, with the most recent of those coming last July to Yohei Tobe.
There will also be a small card in the Philippines. The card here is very poor overall but the main event does look interesting as Pedro Taduran (10-1, 7) and Philip Luis Cuerdo (9-3-1, 4) battle for the PBF Minimumweight title in a good looking 10 rounder. Coming in the once beaten Taduran has won his last 4 and has rebuilt well following his first loss however Cuerdo was stopped last time out, whilst leading on the score cards.
The first show of 2017 in Japan takes place in Okinawa, and is an interesting one with 3 bouts of real note.
The most significant of those is the show's main event, which will see Seita Ogido (11-2-1, 3) battle with Filipino Jonathan Refugio (16-5-4, 4) for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title, a title that was last held by Ken Shiro. For Ogido this is a second successive fight against a notable Filipino, following his August win over Jeffrey Galero, and will see him fighting over the 10 round distance for the first time. For Refugio the bout is a chance to claim a second WBC minor title, having won the WBC International Light Flyweight title last year, when he upset Richard Claveras. This is a really well matched bout and a great test for the two young men.
In the chief support bout we'll see Japanese veteran Go Onaga (27-3-2, 18) take on Filipino youngster Jake Bornea (11-2, 5). Both men are coming into this on the back of a loss, but they are bother at very different points of their careers. Onaga was last seen in August losing in an OPBF title fight against Rene Dacquel and it seems likely that his career will come to an end in the next year or two. For the 21 year old Bornea the bout sees him returning to the ring following a November loss in the UK to Andrew Selby. The Filipino will know that a win here will potentially get him in to the mix for an OPBF title fight whilst a loss for Onaga will speed up his retirement.
The third bout of note is also another Japan Vs Philippines bout and will see Masatoshi Kotani (19-2, 13) battle against Rey Laspinas (21-14-6, 12). Coming in to this bout Kotani is riding a 9 fight winning run and is slowly moving towards a title bout of his own, potentially later this year. Laspinas will be fighting in Japan for the 4th time, though is still looking for his first win in the country. It's hard to see a n upset here, but Kotani has been stopped by a Filipino under-dog before and will be looking to avoid that happening against here