This coming Monday attention turns to Hiroshima, as we get an OPBF title fight and a very interesting supporting bout, featuring a Japanese Youth champion.
The OPBF title bout will see OPBF Light Flyweight champion Edward Heno (13-0-5, 5) look to defend his title against veteran Koji Itagaki (18-13-3, 7), in what is set to be Heno's third defense of the title. The unbeaten champion, from the Philippines, won title in Japan in 2017, stopping Seita Ogido, and has impressed since with wins against Merlito Sabillo and Jesse Espinas. Despite impressing it's clear he still needs some more experience and development before moving on to a world title fight, and we suspect the 26 year old will be looking to make those improvements this year, before a world title fight in 2020. At 35 years old Itagaki is a proper veteran, who debuted back in the summer of 2005. During Itagaki's career he has come up short in bouts for the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific title, but he'll be perfectly aware that this is his last chance. There is do over. For Itagaki this will be the final shot at a title, and if he loses that could well end his career. Sadly for the challenger, it'd be a major surprise if he could over-come the excellent Heno. Our full preview of this bout can be read here Heno returns to Japan to defend OPBF title against veteran Itagaki
In the chief support bout Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Tetsu Araki (12-1-1, 2) will be battling against domestic puncher Morihisa Iju (11-3, 9), with Iju returning to the ring for the first time since September 2017. Araki won the Youth title last time out, upsetting Ryuto Owan, and is riding an 8 fight unbeaten since losing in the 2015 Rookie of the Year to Tenta Kiyose. At the age of 24 Araki is showing genuine promise but this is a good step up and a good chance for him to show what he can do. Iju, as mentioned, has been inactive recently and actually lost 2 of his 3 most recent bouts. Despite limited Iju can bang and with this being his return to the ring we're expect to see him show some real hunger, which should make for a very interesting fight. Araki will be favoured, but Iju is certainly a live under-dog.
The biggest show, for us, on Thursday will take place at the Korakuen Hall and feature a trio of title bouts.
The headlining bout will see OPBF Light Welterweight champion Rikki Naito (20-2, 7) defending his title for the second time, as he takes on fellow Japanese fighter Daishi Nagata (11-1-1, 5), in his first title bout. Naito won the title in January, when he stopped Jeffrey Arienza, and only just managed to retain the belt in May, when he narrowly defeated Jheritz Chavez in what was a very fortunate win that saw the Japanese fighter having a torrid final few rounds. Coming in to this Nagata is riding a 3 fight winning run, but was dominated in April 2017 when Vladimir Baez walked through him and stopped him in 7 rounds. That bout showed that Nagata wasn't the toughest, but he is skilled and this could be a lot more competitive than many suspect. Neither is much of a puncher but both are highly skilled and this should make for a really good contest. A preview of this bout can be read here Naito takes on Nagata in next OPBF title defense!
The co-main event of this card is an OPBF Super Bantamweight title fight, as the exciting Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2-2, 10) takes on the inform Glenn Suminguit (21-3, 11) of the Philippines. The hard hitting always fun to watch Teshigawara is currently riding a 5 fight winning run, including wins over Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita, but this bout will see him moving up in weight, following his impressive run at Bantamweight. Suminguit on the other hand is 9-1in his last 10, with notable wins of his own over the likes of Lloyd Jardeliza, Renoel Pael and Alvin Bais. The Filipino will be the under-dog here, but will not be in Tokyo to make up the numbers and really could give Teshigawara fits in an action packed contest. - A full preview of this bout can be read here - Teshigawa hunts OPBF title as he faces Suminguit!
A third title bout on this card will see the unbeaten Ryuto Owan (5-0, 3) take on fellow youngster Tetsu Araki (11-1-1, 2) in a bout for the JBC Youth Bantamweight title. The 20 year old Owan was a stand out amateur at the youth level before making his professional debut last year. Since debuting he has shined and scored notable wins already over both Alvin Medura and Jun Blazo, leading to some in Japan getting very excited about him. Coming in to this Araki has won his last 7, since a split decision loss to Tenta Kiyose in September 2015. Araki isn't as highly regarded as Owan, but he does have the edge in experience and at 23 he should be just a tough more physically mature.
As well as the exciting card in Tokyo there is also a notable card in China with a couple of title fights.
One of those title fights will see the unbeaten Mingcun Chen (4-0, 4) face off with Clint Alderton (8-2-1, 6) in a bout for the WBF international Light Heavyweight title. The unbeaten Chinese fighter made his debut last November and has never gone between 2 rounds thanks to his power. This is however a huge step up in class for the 20 year old. Alderton is himself a solid puncher, but is 1-1-1 (1) in his last 3 and whilst he can bank there are question marks about his heart and his overall ability.
The other title bout will see the unbeaten Ziqiang Huo (7-0-1) taking on the limited Gregory Bell (4-3, 1) in a bout for the WBC Australasian Welterweight title. Aged 29 Huo is in his physical prime, but really lacks power and is without a stoppage through his 8 fight career. Bell on the other hand has shown a little bit of power, but the reality is that he's proven his ability either and we suspect that this could have messy distance bout written all over it.
In the US Kazakh prospect Ali Akhmedov (12-0, 9) will essentially be fighting in a stay busy bout, as he faces off against the limited Jovany Javier Gomez (17-14, 11). Gomez is a blown up Light Welterweight and shouldn't pose any threat at all to the excellent Akhmedov, who deserves a much better opponents than Gomez.
The main chunk of action this coming Sunday is from Kanagawa as Fuji TV put on a world title double header, with a couple of notable prospects packing out the under-card.
The headline bout of this show will see WBA Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (13-1, 10) make his first defense, as he battles Italian veteran Emanuele Felice Blandamura (27-2, 5), who is getting his first world title fight at the age of 38. Murata won the title last year, when he stopped Hassan N'Dam in their second meeting, and looked sensational doing it, literally picking and breaking N'Dam down through 7 rounds. The Japanese fighter has already been linked to a summer defense against Esquiva Falcao but will be aware that Blandamura is no push over. The Italian is a former European champion who has only lost to world class fighters, in Billy Joe Saunders and Michel Soro, and should give Murata some real questions. Blandamura has solid speed, timing and skills and should force Murata into showing something new here, but the challenger hasn't shown the best chin and that will likely be his down fall here, because Murata can certainly punch.
The other world title fight will see WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (15-0, 15) defending his title against Nicaraguan challenger Cristofer Rosales (26-3, 17. For Higa this bout not only serves as his 3rd defense but will also see him, potentially, set a Japanese record for the most successive stoppages, a record that he tied earlier this year when he stopped Moises Fuentes. The youngster from Okinawa has been a destructive force since his 2014 debut and and another win here will likely see him begin the hunt towards a Super Flyweight title. As for Rosales, the Nicaraguan has never been stopped and has only been beaten by Keyvin Lara, Khalid Yafai and Andrew Selby, with all 3 men having some problems with the Nicaraguan. Coming in to the Rosales has won his last 3, since the loss to Seby, including a win over the tricky Martin Tecuapetla and a big win in Italy against Mohammed Obbadi. This looks likely to be Higa's hardest fight so far, but a win will really legitimise him as a world class talent.
A notable prospect on this card is Junto Nakatani (14-0, 11), the Japanese Youth Flyweight champion. The unbeaten 20 year old, who went 4-0 (3) last year will be going up against WBC world ranked Mario Andrade (13-6-5, 3). On paper this is a huge step up in class for Nakatani, but he has looked sensational for the most part, with only Masamichi Yabuki and Yuma Kudo even testing the youngster so far. Andrade has a rather weird looking record, though much of that weirdness has come from a bizarre 3-5-4 start to his professional career. Since that odd started he has gone 10-1-1 with a win against Masayuki Kuroda, a draw against Oswaldo Novoa and a loss to Jesus Silvestre. This should be a really good test for Nakatani and win will put him on the fast track to a title fight.
Another prospect on this card is 2016 Rookie of the Year Shawn Oda (7-0, 7), who takes on Filipino foe Roldan Aldea (12-4-1, 6). The talented Oda is one of Japan's most promising Lightweights and at just 19 years old he looks to be well on his way to mixing at title level in the near future. So far his 7 fight career has lasted just 17 combined rounds and he is a pure natural puncher. Aldea on the other hand has been stopped in 3 of his 4 losses, and was taken out in December 2016 by Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov. Despite lacking toughness Aldea has stopped his last 2 and will have some momentum coming into this one.
There inst much action of note in Yamaguchi, but fans will see the exciting and heavy handed Teiru Atsumi (13-2, 6) return to the ring for his first bout since his 2017 loss to Shingo Kawamura. The loss to Kawamura ended Kawamura's 7 fight winning run, which featured 5 stoppages including wins over Sho Nakazawa and Burning Ishii, and we expected to see the Japanese based Korean out to make a statement as he faces Katsuhiko Kanno (10-10-7, 4). Kanno has a lot of losses but he's only been stopped once in 27 bouts and should prove to be the tough foil that Atsumi needs to make a statement against.
In the main of a card in Mie fans will see Yuto Nakamura (7-4, 6) challenge OPBF ranked Bantamweight Tetsu Araki (10-1-1, 2) in what could be one of the unheralded bouts of the day. The 21 year old Nakamura is a gutsy youngster who gave the under-rated Matcha Nakagawa a good test last year, and has only close decisions other than that loss. Araki on the other hand is riding a 6 fight winning run, but does lack any real quality in terms of his wins and could be given a surprisingly tough test here.
Another potentially good bout on this show will see the once beaten Shuma Sugawara (4-1, 3) take on Yudai Imada (6-2-3, 3) in a solid and competitive 6 rounder. Both men have some power, and both have ambition so this should make for a very hotly contested contest.
This coming Sunday is a relatively quiet day in Asian boxing, with only a couple of shows of note.
The most notable of those shows comes from Hokkaido where Dangan take their show on the road and put one a rare card outside of Tokyo.
The main event of this card is a genuinely intriguing one, as the under-rated Daisuke Watanabe (6-2, 3) battles Naoya Okamoto (11-6-1, 5) in a really good match up. Of the two men it's Watanabe who has impressed us more, with notable wins against Ryuto Araya and Yosuke Fujihara, and he's currently riding a 4 fight winning run since back-to-back losses in 2015. Okamoto is a decent fighter but a 1-1-1 record in his last 3 seems like like he's now found his level and he looks like he'll always be a decent fringe domestic level guy. Watanabe should win and move a step closer to a title fight, but he should have to work for his win here.
Another bout on this card worthy of a note is a contest between Kiyohei Endo (0-1) and Ninmongkol Phetphumgym (0-1). The bout looks like it should be ignored on paper, but Endo is a real talent and he showed that on his debut, before being stopped by a real lucky punch. Endo will likely show a bit more caution here and it'd be amazing to see anything but an Endo win, as he looks to score his first win as a professional.
The other show comes from Kochi and will be headlined by the once beaten Tetsu Araki (9-1-1, 1) taking on the heavy handed Akira Ono (7-5-1, 6). Araki has won his last 5, since losing a split decision to Tenta Kiyose in the 2015 Rookie of the Year tournament, and looks to be a promising youngster slowly making a name for himself. Although promising Araki hasn't really been too much of a chin checking, and we're expecting that to change here as Ono can really bang. Although not the most talented Ono can bang, and we're expecting to see that again here. This will be skills against power, and should be very intriguing.
This coming Saturday is far from a busy day in Asian rings, but we get some action in Japan and in Malaysia.
The Japanese action is from Osaka where we get a title bout, along with under-card bouts featuring a Japanese and an OPBF ranked fighter.
The main event will see OPBF Atomweight champion Masae Akitaya (11-6-2, 4) making her first defence of the title as she takes on fellow Japanese fighter Akari Arase (5-3, 1), in what really looks like a bit of a mismatch. Aged 39 Akitaya is a veteran of the sport but is a multi-time world title challenger and is a genuine talent, despite what her record suggests. Arase, aged 35 herself, on the other hand is a limited fighter who lost last time out, and lacks a win of any note. It's hard to see past Akitaya here but Arase could be the naturally bigger fighter and try to make advantage of that.
In the chief supporting bout we'll see Japanese ranked Yuta Maruoka (12-4, 6) take on a Thai foe in a bout at 140lbs. The bout is about keeping Maruoka busy before he gets a more significant bout down the line.
In another supporting bout the OPBF ranked Bantamweight contender Tetsu Araki (8-1-1, 1) facing off with fellow non-puncher Hiroshi Konoura (8-6, 1) in an 8 rounder, that probably will go the distance.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The other show, from Malaysia, isn't a particularly notable one either, though does feature two men of interest.
The most notable of those is Uzbek prospect Azizbek Abdugofurov (6-0, 4), who looks for his 4th win of the year as he takes on Tanzania's Ibrahim Tamba (20-8-1, 14). The Uzbek has impressed through his short career though likely knows he needs some more seasoning before stepping up to and will be hoping to rack up some rounds here. In saying that however we are expecting a stoppage win for Abdugofurov.
The other bout of interest will see in-form Filipino Jeson Umbal (14-5, 9) seek an 8th straight win, as he takes on Indonesian journeyman Arief Blader (23-23-2, 8). Umbal is now 18 months since his last loss and is rising though the ranks thanks to a number of solid wins and he should win this one with out any problems, though he did struggle last time out with the limited Fadhili Majiha.