Attention turns to Tokyo this coming Tuesday for the next notable Watanabe card, headlined by a world title fight and supported by a number of really interesting prospects.
The main event of the show will see WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) making his first defense and taking on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7). Saludar, who won the title last year when he beat Ryuya Yamanaka, has proven to be a difficult assign for top fighters, with Kosei Tanaka needing to pull himself off the canvas to stop him and his win over Yamanaka. Taniguchi on the other hand is taking a huge step up in class, but is a top class fighter who's only losses have been razor thin ones to Tsubasa Koura and Reiya Konishi. We're really expecting this to be something really special. Our preview of this bout can be read here Saludar returns to Japan to defend against Taniguchi!
The main under-card bout will see former amateur standout Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2) take on Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde (10-5, 5), who is promoted by Nobuhiro Ishida. Utsuki has shown great promise already in his career, but this is a very clear step up in class and will be the first time he has taken on someone with real ring experience. Castroverde on the other hand has lost 3 of his last 6, but has mixed with good competition, including Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov and Tae Il Atsumi. This is a huge step up for the unbeaten man.
Another big supporting bout will see the 2017 Rookie of the year Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1) take on Naoto Mizutani (5-5-1, 2) in a really good looking 8 round bout. We've been impressed by Fuse, who really shined last year on his international debut in Korea, and we're expecting to see huge things from him in 2019. This should be a straight forward win for the youngster, but Mizutani has mixed with so very notable foes, including Kenshin Oshima and Ryo Akaho, so may have a few tricks up his sleeve to teach Fuse.
Teenage sensation Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) will be fighting his second professional bout on his card, as he takes on once beaten 20 year old Thai Gerttipong Kumsahwat (3-1, 3), in what should be another bout to allow Shigeoka to shine ahead of a planned 8 round bout in April.
Talking about low key Thai's it's worth noting that Suzumi Takayama (0-0) will be making his debut against a low key Thai, taking on Nirun Baonok (5-14, 4), who has stacked up losses in Japan. Typically Baonok has given rounds to good fighters and been matched really hard, but given the fact Takayama was a stand out amateur we don't see this being a competitive match up.
This coming Wednesday is a notable day in Asian boxing, with a big fight in Thailand, and a small yet noteworthy card in Japan.
The Thai show will be headlined by the rematch between WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart (18-0, 7) and Nicaraguan foe Byron Rojas (25-3-3, 11), who he actually beat for the title in 2016. Knockout had been the interim champion prior to taking the full title from Rojas, and since winning the full title he has made 5 defenses including wins over Shin Ono, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong. In recent fights the champion has looked solid and dependable, rather than sensational and exciting, with an going joke that his name should be Unanimous Decision CP Freshmart. As for Rojas he comes into the bout on an 8 fight winning streak, though those wins have come at a much lower level than Knockout's and it's unclear how he will cope with the step back up in class. Given their first bout we're not anticipating a thrilling clash here. A preview of this bout is available here Knockout and Rojas meet in rematch for WBA crown!
In Tokyo we'll get another in the Japan Vs China series of shows that Dangan have been putting on.
Among the fighters included on this card is former amateur stand out Shu Utsuki (2-0, 1), who we believe is taking on fellow unbeaten Da Xu (3-0-1, 1) in an 8 round Super Featherweight bout. Utsuki is tipped to be a star and we have to strongly favour him to defeat the Chinese teenager.
Another unbeaten Japanese prospect on this card is Tsubasa Murachi (2-0, 2), who faces off with limited visitor Sheng Peng (3-5, 2), in another that should go Japan's way however we are interested to see what Murachi can show here.
One other Japanese prospect on this card is Kaiki Yuba (3-0-1, 2), though sadly we don't have the name of his opponent.
Arguably the best of the Japan Vs China bouts is a match up between the limited pairing of Shun Wakabayashi (8-3, 1) and Xian Qian Wei (13-6-1, 1). Both of these fighters are very flawed, lack power, but do make for entertaining contests and we wouldn't be surprised to see this being the potential bout of the day, with a high intensity and the belief that either man can win.
This card will also include an OPBF female title bout as Erika Hanawa (9-3, 3) battles Jujeath Nagaowa (13-18-1, 8) for the Minimumweight title. Both of these fighters have come up short at the top level, but they should make for a competitive bout against each other, with both being flawed and limited fighters. Despite their limitations they aren't actually bad fighters and this could be a very entertaining distraction from the Japan Vs China competition.
A third card for the day will come from Shenzhen in China, with a trio of title bouts on the card.
In a WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental Crruiserweight title fight Chinese local hopeful Peng Qu (13-2-1, 9) will take on the hard hitting Abraham Tabul (14-1-1, 12). This will be Qu's second bout since abandoning the Light Heavyweight division at the turn of the year, following a loss to Gasan Gasanov, and we suspect his frame will suit Cruiserweight much better than it did at 175lbs. Saying that however Cruiserweights do hit significantly harder than the Light Heavyweights he had previously been fighting and we expect to see him being chin checked here. Tabul, from Accra in Ghana, is 0-1 outside of his homeland, and his competition so far lacks any real quality and it's very hard to know what he brings to the ring.
A second title fight on this show will see Cheng Su (12-2-1, 6) battle against Thai foe Panturak Namtong (10-4-1, 7) for the WBO Oriental Super Welterweight title. It's hard to know what either man has done to get a shot at this belt, given that neither has notched a win of note and both have suffered a recent stoppage loss to a poor opponent. All things considered we suspect the local will pick up the win, but he's not going to go much further as a professional.
Sadly the biggest name on the card, OPBF Silver Super Featherweight champion Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) is actually a man involved in the biggest mismatch on the card, as he defends his title against Wisitsak Saiwaew (6-7, 5), who is best known for being stopped by Watanabe's stablemate Sho Kimura, at Flyweight. We are huge admirers of Watanabe, and his career has been a thoroughly entertaining one as well as one which has seen him fighting in Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taipei and China, but this is his third limited foe in a row. This really is little more than a show case for the talented. tough and exciting Watanabe.
This coming Tuesday is another big day for Japanese boxing. The Watanabe Gym will be putting on a card with 5 notable match ups, including a former world champion looking to make his mark on a new division, a pair of former amateur standouts and a unified regional and national champion.
The former world champion in action on this show is former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7), who moves up to the Light Flyweight division to begin his pursuit of a second world title. The talented youngster will be facing off against fellow unbeaten Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2, 8) in what looks like a really good test for Kyoguchi at the new weight. The Japanese fighter raced through the ranks at 105lbs and has his eyes on a potential world title bout in the not so distant future. Monabesa will know that an upset win here opens the doors for huge fights, but this is a monster step up for the Indonesian fighter, who is the very clear under-dog. A full preview of this bout can be read here - Hiroto Kyoguchi kicks off Light Flyweight campaign against Tibo Monabesa!
The chief supporting bout will feature former amateur stand out Ginjiro Shigeoka (0-0) take on Sanchai Yotboon (4-0, 4) in a scheduled 6 rounder. The Japanese debutant posted a sensational 56-1 (17) record in the amateur ranks and is tipped as being something very special as he comes into the professional ranks. The Thai visitor has a good looking record, but is expected to be little more than fodder for the Japanese youngster.
The only title bout on the show with see Japanese Heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1, 11) defending his OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles against Suthat Kalalek (12-9, 11), aka Kajornsak Sithsaithong. This is a really poor defense by the Japanese fighter, who has got far better regional foes out there to face. If Kyotaro is serious about getting a world title fight he really needs to start facing better fighters than this. The visitor has fought at OPBF level before, though that at Super Middleweight where he was stopped in 10 rounds by Yuzo Kiyota, and he really shouldn't be getting a Heavyweight fight at this level. A preview of this bout can be read here -Kyotaro defends unified Heavyweight crowns against Thai foe!
Also on this card will be former amateur standout Shu Utsuki (2-0, 1), who moves into 8 round bouts, and former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama (10-3-2, 4), who will be facing off with a Thai foe in his first bout since losing the OPBF title to Jayr Raquinel.
This coming Thursday sees Dangan put on a really low key but very interesting card stacked with B license fighters, in really well matched bouts as well the ring return of a former world champion.
The best of the bouts on this card will see the very promising Junpei Inamoto (1-0, 1) take on the promising Taiga Higashi (5-2, 2) in a really mouth watering bout B class tournament bout at Bantamweight. We caught Inamoto's debut last year and were immediately raving about the teenager, who appeared to have the aura of a star in the making and the confidence of someone who would be fast tracked. This is however a very tough assignment for Inamoto give than Higashi's two losses were very close bouts, to good fighters, in the form of Matcha Nakagawa and Kazuki Nakajima. The winner of this is scheduled to take on Seiya Tsutsumi later this year, in another fantastic bout.
Another of the B Class tournament bouts, this time at Featherweight, will see 20 year old Tasuku Suwa (5-2-1, 1) battle against out form 22 year old Nakagawa Kanehiro (4-5, 3). Suwa has lot 2 of his last 3, but strangely he has never lost a bout scheduled for less than 6 rounds, being 4-0-1 in 4 rounders and 1-0 in 5 rounders, which is notably here given that this bout will be fought over 5 rounds. Coming in to this Kanehiro has lost his last 3, and 4 of his last 6, but could see this as a chan e to get back to winning ways. It's a really good match up between two men who will both feel like they can win here. The winner of this bout will be facing Ren Sasaki in the tournament final.
The least interesting looking of the B class tournaments bouts is at Flyweight and feature Yasuhiro Tanaka (4-3-2) battling namesake Satoshi Tanaka (4-4, 1). The 26 Satoshi Tanaka has lost his last 3 bouts, and can be hurt, with a couple of stoppage losses against him. Yasuhiro Tanaka has also lost his last 3, bit has really struggled more generally, winning just 2 of his last 7. These is by far the weakest of the B class tournament bouts, but both men will feel they can score the win here, and it should be competitive, even if it does perhaps lack in term of quality. The winner of this is set to battle former amateur stand out Rikito Shiba.
One of the most intriguing bouts on this card will see former amateur stands collide. In one corner will be Watanabe gym's Shu Utsuki (1-0, 1) whilst the other man will be Kadoebi debutant Yoji Saito (0-0), with the two men clashing in a 6 rounder. Utsuki had a reported amateur career of 81-27 and is tipped to be a star of the future. We've not been given Saito's amateur record, but we have been informed that he was also very accomplished in the amateur ranks which makes this a really baffling bout, but one we're really interested in and can't wait to see.
Another really interesting bout will see 2017 Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year Mirai Imagawa (8-3, 2) battle for the first time since his Rookie of the Year win over Katsuki Matsuura. The 22 year old Imagawa will take on Koya Sato (10-4-1, 2), who has won his last 3 and started to turn his career around following a 4 bout losing streak. This is a good test for Imagawa but one that he should be able to pass, if he's as good as the Rookie win suggests.
Also on this card will be former female world champion Ayaka Miyao (21-7-1, 5), who returns to the ring for the first time since being stopped against Nao Ikeyama. The former WBA Atomweight champion suffered a serious leg injury in that bout, back in December 2016 and has been out of the ring ever since. Her return will see her battle against Filipino foe Aisah Alica (7-8, 5), who has lost in 7 of her last 9, including a stoppage loss to the then WBC Atomweight champion Momo Koseki. This should be a easy match up for Miyao, but we can't begrudge her that after the injury she suffered.