This coming Thursday Japanese fight fans at the Korakuen Hall get a triple header of title fights, and whilst none are massive, all three look like they will be solid bouts, where both men have some to gain and something to lose.
One of the main bouts will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara (16-2-2, 9) defends his belt for the second time, battling against former 2-time world title challenger Teiru Kinoshita (26-2-1, 9). For the hard hitting, and really exciting, Teshigawara this will be his second defense following a win in a brilliant bout against Jason Canoy back in February. The champion will know that a win here moves him a step closer to a world title fight, but a loss will be a massive hit to his career, and be a major set back. As for Kinoshita, who has lost in world title fights to Zolani Tete and Jerwin Ancajas, this is a must win. A loss for Kinoshita now would essentially kill any dreams of getting another shot at a world title, and would be his third loss against a notable fighter in less than 4 years, which is sadly a 4 year period without a single win of note. We don't imagine Kinoshita will pose much of a threat to Teshigawara but could have the skills to ask some questions of the champion.
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight will be at Super Flyweight, as former Japanese national champion Ryuichi Funai (29-7, 20) takes on former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (26-7-1, 23) for the currently vacant title. On paper this is probably the best of the three title bouts and features two talented fighters each looking to work their way towards a potential world title bout. Coming in to this Funai is world ranked by all 4 title awarding bodies and he'll be interested in getting a world title fight later this year. Parrenas is best known for losing to the then WBO champion Naoya Inoue in 2015, and since then he has beaten 2-low key Thai foes whilst becoming a trainer at the Morioka gym. Given that Parrenas is a big puncher he has a real shot here, but he will be the under-dog against the more active, and more rounded, Funai.
The third title bout will see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino (7-0, 5) make his second defense, and take on the hard matched challenger Genki Maeda (6-2-1, 2). The talented Yoshino has been fast tracked through the Japanese ranks and claimed the national title last year, when he stopped Spicy Matsushita in the 7th round of their bout. The champion made his first defense this past February, blowing out Masaki Saito in 156 seconds, and has looked like a sensational prospect since making his debut in 2015. Whilst the champion is a former amateur standout and expected to go on to be a huge success the same can't be said for Maeda. Despite the fact he has been matched incredibly hard. So far Maeda has shared the ring with Yoshimichi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Fujita and Shogo Yamaguchi, in just 9 bouts. Maeda is a pretty good fighter, but is going up against a really good fighter here, and we can't help but think this bout will be a case of levels, and Yoshino is several levels above Maeda.
As well as the action in Japan there will also be a notable bout in California, as Filipino Mercito Gesta (31-2-2, 17) takes on the once touted Robert Manzanarez (36-1, 29) in a bout for the NABO Lightweight title. This will be Gesta's first bout since losing in January to Jorge Linares, in what was Gesta's second loss in a world title fight. Despite losing to Linares the Filipino did acquit himself much better than he did in his other loss, a terrible performance against Miguel Vazquez. Manzanarez has rebuilt excellently since his sole loss, back in 2012, with 15 straight wins, but this is a big step up in class for him, and it could be too much too soon for the 23 year old American.
Belfast, United Kingdom
In regards to Asian fighters the biggest single fight is a Bantamweight unification contest, as Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18) takes on Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9) in Belfast. Coming in to that bout the heavy handed Zhakiyanov will be looking to defend the WBA title, however the Kazakh will be up against a real boxing talent in the form of the excellent Burnett. For both men this will not only be a unification world title bout, but also their first defense, making this a very tricky assignment for two men who only won their title's earlier this year. The Kazakh upset Rau'shee Warren for his title earlier this year, out hustling the American in a very competitive bout, whilst Burnett completely schooled fellow Brit Lee Haskins, despite one judge some how confusing the two fighters. This should be a really good bout,and could well crown the heir apparent for the Bantamweight division.
Whilst the biggest single fight, from an Asian perspective, takes place in Northern Ireland it's hard not to feel like a card from Tokyo is actually the more interesting show. Not only does it have a Japanese title fight, but it also has 4 Japanese title eliminators, and really does promise a fantastic value show.
The main event sees fast rising prospect Shuichiro Yoshino (5-0, 3) battle against veteran Spicy Matsushita (17-9-1, 2) for the Japanese Lightweight title, with both men competing for their first national titles. The unbeaten Yoshino has been touted since his debut, and really has looked like a champion in the making thanks to wins over Chaiyong Sithsaithong, Yoshitaka Kato and Kenta Onjo, and a win here is likely to see him begin a notable reign as a national champion, with not many domestic fighters looking up to the task of beating him. As for Matsushita the bout really is a must win, and he does come into the contest on the back of a huge win over a then unbeaten Yuichiro Kasuya. Sadly for Matsushita form has been an issue and his recent wins have all been razor thin decisions, which won't bode well against the talented Yoshino.
At Featherweight we see an elimination bout as Dai Iwai (21-4-1, 7) and Taiki Minamoto (13-5, 11) battle for the right to challenger for the national title next year. Of the two men Iwai is the more experienced and the more technically gifted fighter, but Minamoto certainly has the edge in power, and acquitted himself well in a 2015 loss to the then Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni. Coming into this Iwai will be the favourite, we suspect hat the bout will be incredibly competitive.
In a potential thriller at Welterweight we'll see the tough and hard working Moon Hyun Yun (18-4-3, 4) take on the big punching Ryota Yada (14-4,12), in possibly the best bout of the card. Yun is coming in to this after a Japanese FOTY contender against Shusaku Fujinaka and he's unbeaten in 6, including a draw with former champion Nobuyuki Shindo. The heavy handed Yada has blown out his last 2 opponents, but has a lot of question marks lingering over him following last years stoppage loss to Jayar Inson, who moved up in weight and bullied him. We're expecting this one to be a little bit special, and can't see anything but an action bout.
Another potential action bout will be at Bantamweight and see veteran Eita Kikuchi (21-4-4, 8) take on the exciting Yusuke Suzuki (8-3, 5). The 31 year old Kikuchi lost 2 of his first 11, before rebuilding his career and has subsequently only been beaten by Shingo Wake, in an OPBF title fight, and the aforementioned Minamoto, with both of those losses coming at Super Bantamweight. On paper Suuki's record is less than great, but to date his losses have all come to very good fighters, with the first coming to Yusaku Kuga back in 2013, the second to Ryoichi Tamura in 2015 and the third coming to Jeffrey Francisco in the Philippines last year. All 3 of those losses were close and were losses which will aid the development of the 28 year southpaw.
Another eliminator will take place Flyweight, and sees the always fun to watch Katsunori Nagamine (14-1, 10) battle against the in-form and very under-rated Akinori Hoshino (14-7-1, 9). The heavy handed Nagamine began his career 10-0 before being beaten by the excellent Ken Shiro in 2015. Since that loss Nagamine has bounced back with 4 stoppages, including thrilling wins over Kenya Yamashita, Mako Matsuyama and Tetsuya Tomioka, which have all been all out wars. Around a year agoHoshino was 11-7-1 (8) and it looked like his career was going no where. Since then however he has moved down in weight and reeled off 3 big wins, including a stoppage of Kenya Yamashita and a decision over Shun Kosaka. We're expecting another good one here, though it's hard to see a win for Hoshino.
Gümligen bei Bern, Switzerland
There's yet more notable action featuring a Japanese fighter as Aniya Seki (31-3-2, 5) takes on Hungarian Kleopatra Tolnai (13-12-1, 4) in Seki's adopted homeland of Switzerland. The bout will see Seki defending her WBC Silver female Bantamweight title, for the second time, and in all fairness this be a simple defense against an opponent who has won just 1 of her last 5.
Attention turns to Tokyo again this coming Thursday, ending a few days of quietness for the sport in the Land of the Rising sun.
The main event of the card will see the heavy handed Keita Obara (17-2-1, 15) take on Thai visitor Saddam Kietyongyuth (26-2, 21) in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. For Obara this will be his first title bout since losing in a world title fight to Eduard Troyanovsky last September. It will also confirm that he is now a full time Welterweight, finally letting his body ditch the crippling limits of Light Welterweight. For Saddam this looks like a really tough contest, with the Thai scoring 3 low key wins in the last 6 years. Losses to Alisher Rahimov and Cole Smith don't bode well for Saddam and we suspect Obara will break him down in the middle rounds.
In the co-feature we'll see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Takeshi Inoue (10-0-1, 5) making the first defense of his title, as he takes on fellow unbeaten Riku Nagahama (7-0-1, 3) in a really mouth watering clash. Coming in to this Inoue is riding a 9 fight winning run, including notable wins over Chan Ho Lee, Akinori Watanabe and Koshinmaru Saito, who he beat for the title earlier this year. The champion is an exciting fighter who can box, or brawl, and is looking to make a statement by taking on such a tough challenger in his first defense. As for Nagahama, the #1 ranked contender, he comes in on a 7 fight winning run, including victories over Brandon Lockhart and Hideo Mikan, with his last 3 by stoppage. Given the recent performances by both men this should be a really fan friendly contest.
The most notable of the under-card bouts will see the fast rising Shuichiro Yoshino (4-0, 2) take on Thai visitor Katika Saithonggym (0-1), in what is a stay busy fight for the Japanese fighter. Yoshino will know that he's supposed to win here with not issues, but can't over-look the Thai as he has got a Japanese title eliminator bout with Spicy Matsushita lined up for October. If Yoshino suffers a cut here he will be kicking himself, so expect to see the talented youngster show some caution, but see off the visitor relatively early.
In another supporting bout we'll see the unbeaten Yoshimitsu Kimura (7-0, 3), who claimed the Rookie of the Year crown at Featherweight last year, take on Kanehiro Nakagawa (4-4, 3) in what looks like a decent for the unbeaten 20 year old. Nakagawa is a very beatable fighter, but he does have plenty of sting on his shots and should give the unbeaten man a chin check, at the very least.
Next Thursday we see another notable card from the Korakuen Hall, and this one really is a rather exciting one with a number of notable names features.
The main event of the card will see the criminally under-rated Masayuki Ito (20-1-1, 8) defending his WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title against big punching Filipino title challenger Lorenzo Villanueva (32-2-0-1, 28). For Ito the bout will be his first defense, since he claimed the title at the very end of 2016, and he should be looking to extend a current 4 winning run which which includes really good wins over Shingo Eto and Takuya Watanabe. For the Filipino the bout is his first outside of the Philippines since his thrilling 2012 loss to Daud Yordan in Singapore. The challenger will have the big edge in power, but he's up against a very talented boxer, and will need to show more than just brute force to over-come Ito.
In a major supporting bout we'll see former world title challenger Keita Obara (16-2-1, 15) take on Indonesian Larry Siwu (24-7, 20) in a Welterweight bout. For Obara the contest will be his first since losing in a world title bout to Eduard Troyanovsky last September. The talented Obara is taking off the shackles of making Light Welterweight and it seems likely that he will be continuing his career at 147lbs going forward. Although Siwu is a decent fighter he really shouldn't have anything to really test Obara, who will be looking to shake some ring rust and make a statement.
Arguably the most intriguing match up on the card will see former Japanese and OPBF Lightweight champion Yoshitaka Kato (30-7-2, 9) take on touted former amateur standout Shuichiro Yoshino (3-0, 2) in what looks like a must win for the veteran and a potential coming out party for the novice. Although now a faded force Kato, who is more than 2 years removed from a win of note, is tough, skilled and a nightmare for fighters who look to have a war. If Yoshino can avoid a war and rely on his amateur skills then he could announce himself as a serious play on the Japanese scene at 135lbs, but this is a huge step up for the 25 year old.
Another former champion on this card is former 2-time Japanese Bantamweight champion Kentaro Masuda (26-7, 14), who vacated his title around the start of the year. The world ranked Masuda will be up against Filipino visitor Romel Oliveros (8-3-1, 3), who is fighting in Japan for the third time. The talented Masuda is hunting a world title bout later in the year and this is clearly a stay busy bout for him, but one that should help him get some rounds under his belt. Oliveros has been stopped in 2 of his last 3 bouts, being stopped in 2 rounds by Daigo Higa and in 5 rounds by Jonas Sultan, and it's hard to see him lasting the distance here against Masuda.
Yoshino isn't the only touted novice on this card as former amateur star Motoki Osanai (1-0) returns to the ring for his second professional outing, and takes on fellow unbeaten Takeshi Kaneko (4-0-1). The talented Osanai turned professional last year, along with Hiroto Kyoguchi and Masataka Taniguchi, but has failed to shine like those two and will be looking to make up for lost time here. As for Kaneko he is unbeaten, but his 0 has certainly come under challenger during his career and it'd take a career best performance to keep that 0 here.
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.
The main action of the day sees action return to the Korakuen Hall for what looks to be a genuinely interesting looking card.
The main event will be a real treat for fight fans as punchers collide in a bout for the OPBF 140lb title. The match up will see former Japanese champion Shinya Iwabuchi (26-5, 22), fighting in his third OPBF title fight, face off against Filipino puncher Al Rivera (14-2, 12), who comes into the bout on the back of a stoppage win over Adones Cabalquinto last November. This will almost certainly be a fire fight and, given the power and style of the two men involved we wouldn't be surprised if this ended with an eye catching KO.
As well as the mouth watering main event this card features 3 other bouts of note. One of those is an evenly matched Flyweight bout between Yuta Matsuo (9-2-1, 5) and Seiya Fujikita (8-2, 1). This is a wonderfully matched bout between two fighters with similar looking records. Matsuo has won his last two bouts but was beaten last May by Ardin Diale whilst Fujikita has been very close in both of his losses. This really could be a very competitive and exciting bout.
A less competitive, yet still very relevant match up, will see the unbeaten Daishi Nagata (5-0-1, 3) battle against Kentaro Endo (5-6, 4). It's hard to see anything but a win for the unbeaten 26 year old here, however Endo is no push over and could test Nagata.
Possibly the most eye raising bout on the card will see the much touted Shuichiro Yoshino (1-0) battle against Thai veteran Chaiyong Sithsaithong (39-14-4, 28) in what will almost certainly see Yoshino answering questions about his potential. This really is a risky match up for the unbeaten 24 year old.
As well as the action in Japan there is also set to be a very interesting card in Chin where two codes of professional boxing collide in what is being regarded as a very unique show to begin the Chinese new year.
The main event of the card will see former WBC Minimumweight champion Xiong Zhao Zhong (26-6-1, 14) face off with APB champion Lu Bin. The bout between the two has been hyped by Chinese boxing sources as a “Super Bowl” of boxing and is a real oddity in boxing where the “normal” professional fighters and the “APB” professionals have stayed away from each other. Unfortunately a lack of clear details on this bout do leave us wondering if the contest will be counted officially on either man's record.
The show will feature three other, similar bouts, one of which will be between the under-rated Xinghua Wang (12-13-1) and Jiawei Zhang.
This coming week kicks off in great fashion as the Korakuen Hall plays host to a really fantastic card courtesy of reason promotions who, once again, who just how good boxing can be when fighters want to prove themselves and match makers have foresight to put the fans first.
One of two main events will see Japanese Super Featherweight champion Rikki Naito (13-0, 5) defending his title against the big punching Kenichi Ogawa (16-1, 14). Coming in to this one Naito is, on paper at least, on a great run with wins over the likes of Kento Mastushita, Shingo Eto, Masayuki Ito and Nihito Arakawa. Whilst that is a great run it should be noted that the fights were all close, much closer than the cards suggest, and Naito has had some questions raised about just how far he really can go. Ogawa comes in to this as a man who has beaten everyone he has faced, avenging his sole loss in just 134 seconds. Coming into this the challenger is riding an 8 fight T/KO run and full of confidence in his skills and his power. This really will be speed Vs power and could be a brilliant way to kick off a few weeks of insanely good action in Tokyo.
The other main event sees two former Naito foes going head to head as Masayuki Ito (17-1-1, 8) takes on Shingo Eto (17-3-1, 9) in the first defense of Ito's OPBF Super Featherweight title. Of the two fighters it's Ito who has impressed us the most so far, however this is a tough test for the 24 year old, who won the title stopping Dai Iwai in August. Eto is an under-rated fighter but may have the toughness and stamina to really push Eto all the way.
Interestingly all 4 men in the main bouts here are between 24 and 27 and are part of the new wave of Japanese Super Featherweights. It's hoped a unification will happen in 2016 though with fighters like Masao Nakamura waiting in the wings, it's fair to say there are other options in a very competitive division.
The main events are both great, but so to is the under-card which features several notable bouts, One of those will see former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Yohei Tobe (8-2-1, 5) taking on Filipino visitor Ryan Bito (22-15-3, 8). The bout will be Tobe's first since he lost the Japanese title, in August 2014 to Sho Ishida, and he'll be hoping to avoid back-to-back defeats, however 16 months of inactivity will certainly not help him here. Bito will be coming into this one with a lack of former, including 7 losses in his last 8, however he will know what to expect from Tobe, with this being a rematch of their 2012 encounter, which Tobe won via unanimous decision. Tobe will be favoured but Bito will feel he has a point to prove and a great chance to avenge one of his losses.
Another undercard bout of note will see Japanese ranked Shuji Hamada (13-6-4, 2) battle against the once beaten Hiroaki Teshigawara (9-1-2, 4) in a brilliantly matched 8 round supporting match up. Last time out Teshigawara fought to a controversial draw with Hideo Sakamoto and is riding a 5 fight unbeaten run since his sole loss, more than 3 years ago. Hamada is 1-1-1 in his last 3, though those have been to capable fighters with his win coming last time out against Yota Hori, a win that got him his Japanese ranking. This really is a finely matched bout with the winner likely in the running for a Japanese title fight by the end of 2016.
Also on the under-card for this brilliant show is Shuichiro Yoshino (0-0) who makes his debut against Petchjah Sithphasean (0-4) in a 6 rounder. Yoshino was an amateur standout who is tipped to be the next star of the Misako gym. Whilst this bout isn't a tough one, especially not due to typical Misako standards, we are excited to see the 24 year old Welterweight kick off his life in the professional ranks.