This coming Sunday isn't a big day in Asian boxing but there are a number of bouts of note, with two Japanese eliminators in Fukuoka and a pretty interesting card in South Korea with Koreans, and Korean based fighters, taking on Japanese visitors.
The card in Fukuoka really is lacking in terms of depth, with just 6 total bouts on the card, but the top two bouts are mouth watering Japanese title eliminators, featuring local fighters taking on opponents from Tokyo for the right to compete at the 2019 Champion Carnival.
One of those two eliminators takes place down at 105lbs and will see the once touted Takumi Sakae (19-2-1, 13) take on recent OPBF title challenger Norihito Tanaka (16-7, 9). The 25 year old Tanaka debuted in 2011 and looked on the route to success when he claimed the Rookie of the Year crown in 2013. Sadly since that early success he has faltered, losing in a Japanese title fight in 2016 to Tatsuya Fukuhara, drawing with Lito Dante and losing to Ryoki Hirai. Sakae has won his last 5, but those wins have come against some very limited foes. The 33 year old Tanaka ran up a 14-5 (7) record before walking away from the sport in 2011. He returned to the ring in 2017 and has had mixed success, with a loss last time out to OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura. Given the need for both men to win, and look good, this could be very entertaining. A preview of this bout is available here Sakae and Tanaka face off in Japanese eliminator!
The other title eliminator bout bout will see heavy handed Yuki Beppu (18-0-1, 18) clash with Teiken hopeful Yuki Nagano (14-2, 11) in a Welterweight eliminator. Beppu, like Sakae, is a Rookie of the Year winner but at 27 years old it certainly feels like time for his to step up his competition, following 4 wins over terrible foes. The one time he really stepped, since his Rookie triumph, saw him fight to a draw with Charles Bellamy, and he seemed to bide his time whilst waiting for an opportunity like this. At 29 years old Nagano is slight older but also more tested. He comes into this bout on a 12 fight winning run, including a Rookie of the Year triumph in 2015 and a recent win over Riku Nagahama. Notably this will be Nagano's first bout outside of the Korakuen Hall, and that may be a problem with the crowd behind Beppu, but he'll be confident of continuing his good form. This has the potential to be very explosive. Our preview of this bout can be read here - Heavy handed Beppu and Nagano clash in eliminator!
There will be a second Japanese card, albeit a significantly less significant one.
The main event here will see Ryosei Hamaguchi (6-3, 2) taking on Chiharu Takasuka (5-4-1, 3), in what is a pretty low key bout if we're being honest, especially given the action in Fukuoka.
Daejeon, South Korea
In South Korea fans get a very interesting card, featuring several good looking international bouts and two BoxingM title bouts.
One of those Korean title bouts will see Doo Hyup Kim (10-6-1, 5) take on Gun Woo Gang (4-2-2, 1) for the Korean Light Middleweight title. This will be Kim's first defense of the title, and despite having been stopped in 2 of his previous 3 he will be the man with the champions mentality. On the other hand the 21 year old Gang will be having his third title fight, having come up short in two previous Korean title bouts.
The second title fight will be at 140lbs and will see Jin Soo Kim (3-1, 1) face off with Min Ho Jung (7-1-1, 1) for the vacant title. At 22 years old Kim is the younger, less experienced man but is a promising southpaw, who made an impact on his 2015 debut by scoring a brilliant KO of Andrew Silva. Jung will enter the bout as the older man, but will be the naturally smaller fighter. This could be an entertaining match up, but this will be the first title bout for either man.
On paper the most evenly matched of the international bouts will see unbeaten fighters collide as local Min Jang (6-0-2, 2) takes on Japan's Fumiya Fuse (6-0, 1). The 18 year old Jang debuted last year and has already racked up 8 fights, but this is a big step up for him. At 20 years old Fuse is tipped as one to watch on the Japanese scene, and was the 2017 Rookie of the Year, but this will be his first bout outside of Japan. With neither man being a puncher we are expecting a distance bout, but a very interesting one.
A potentially more explosive match up will see 26 year old Korean Dong Kwan Lee (8-2-2, 4) take on heavy handed Japanese fighter Arashi Iimi (6-1, 6). Coming into this Lee's record doesn't look too interesting, but his short term for has seen him going 4-1 (4) and he hasn't seen the final bell in any of his last 5 bouts. Iimi, the runner up for the 2017 Japanese Rookie of the Year has never seen the final bell, and has scored two wins already this year. Given their recent shows we're expecting to see both men go for the KO and to go for it early!
One other bout of interest will see Korean based Mongolian Batzorig Batjargal (3-0, 2) take on Japan's Hironori Shigeta (5-1, 3). We've been impressed by Batjargal since his debut and he's looked really exciting so far, but this is a notable step up in class for him. Shigeta hasn't fought since December, but was crowned the Japanese Rookie of the Year last year at Welterweight, and he has a very good win over Rikuto Adachi. We can't help but think this could be the best bout on the card.
This coming Wednesday attention turns to the Korakuen Hall for the next Dynamic Glove show, headlined by a Japanese title fight with a number of notable fighters through the under-card.
The main event of the card will see Japanese Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi (17-1, 11) defending his title against veteran Tsuyoshi Tojo (14-15-5, 3), in what will be the champion's second defense. The talented, yet frustrating, Sueyoshi made his first defense earlier this year, when he over-came Ken Osato, but had to pull himself off the canvas to record that win and looked pretty beatable at times, before finding his rhythm in the second half of the fight and stopping Osato. As for Tojo he is a pretty limited fighter at this level, but when he clicks he can be a frustrating night for decent fighters, having run Satoru Sugita close in 2016, and given stiff tests to the likes of Koji Umetsu and Hisashi Amagasa.
The main support bout will see the once beaten Shuya Masaki (9-1, 5) look to bounce back from a recent loss to Hironori Mishiro as he takes on Korean visitor Hyun Je Shin (8-7, 2). Masaki has shown touches of genius but has also flattered to decieve, and it's hard to really know how good he is. He might get in the ring be the fighter who looked poor against Vergil Puton or he might be the man who dominated Shingo Eto. At his best Masaki is very good, but we're not sure how well he can put a performance together going forward. Saying that however we doubt Masaki will need to be at his best here, as Shin is unlikely to have
In a Welterweight bout we'll see Japanese ranked fighters face. In one corner is JBC ranked Welterweight Yuki Nagano (13-2, 10) whilst the other will have JBC ranked Light Middlesbrough Riku Nagahama (8-1-1, 4). The hard hitting Nagano comes into this bout in great form, having won his last 11 in a row after a 2-2 (2) start to his career, but does lack wins of note during that running and really doesn't look ready for a title fight, yet. Whilst not ready to fight for a title Nagano will know that a win here against Nagahama will help prepare him for a shot. As for Nagahama he won the 2015 Rookie of the year and was unbeaten until last August, when he lost in a Japanese title fight to Takeshi Inoue. Since the loss to Inoue we've seen Nagahama fight just once, scoring a straight forward confidence boosting win over a a very poor Thai foe.
Also on this card is exciting Super Flyweight prospect Hayate Kaji (9-0, 7), who takes on Indonesian visitor Kichang Kim (8-5-1, 2). The explosive Kaji failed to shine last time out, when he narrowly over-came Jun Blazo in what was a poor performance from the 20 year old Teiken man. It's fair to say his team will not have been happy with that outing and and he really will have to show more here than he did there if he expects his team to push him towards a title fight. As for Kim, he has been stopped in 3 of his last 5, and should be the perfect foil for Kaji to look good against. The Indonesian is 0-4 outside of his homeland and we'd be genuinely shocked to see him claim a win here.
The Super Flyweight division is widely regarded as one of the best in the sport, even with Naoya Inoue leaving the division to make a mark at Bantamweight. Sadly though the division is a frustrating one with a number of fighters making themselves unavailable for big fights.
One such fighter is IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19), who signed with Top Rank in late 2017 and froze himself out of fights against the likes of Inoue and the fighters who are currently tied to HBO. As a result of being frozen out of specific fights we won't see Ancajas in with a notable name, and instead he will be kicking off his 2018 with an IBF world title defense against Israel Gonzalez (21-1, 8). The talented Ancajas had an excellent 2017, Going 3-0 (3) for the year and beating the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita and Jamie Conlan and will be looking to continue his great momentum here. Sadly though Gonzalez, who the IBF miraculously ranked #10, feels like a huge step backwards, with the Mexican challenger really doing little to show he belongs at this level. The bout has been put together as a showcase for Ancajas on US TV and should be a real chance to shine for the Filipino, who will hopefully get better competition later in the year.
At the Korakuen Hall we see the first of this year's Champion Carnival bouts, as Japanese Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi (16-1, 10) defends his title against Ken Osato (13-1-1, 4). The bout will be Sueyoshi's first defense of the title, which he won last October with a decision over Ribo Takahata whilst Osato will be having his first title bout. In 2017 we saw Sueyoshi have a great year, going 3-0 (2) but left questions to be asked with some of his performances and he will look to answer them here. Osato had a great 2017 himself, going 3-0 (1) with notable wins Sho Nagata and Satoru Sugita, with the Sugita win earning Osato a shot at the title. This should be a very skilled bout, with both men being very talented, and a very evenly matched bout, between two top domestic fighters.
In the chief support bout Japanese ranked Welterweight Yuki Nagano (12-2, 9) will face off with Thai visitor Najilek Sor Boonlieng (0-1). Coming into this Nagano is riding a 10 fight winning run, and is closing in on a title fight. Although not the greatest of fighters Nagano is a big puncher and should have significant size over the Thai, who will be lucky to last more than 3 rounds.
A second supportig bout of note will see unbeaten hopeful Haruaki Kamiya (7-0, 3) take on win-less Thai Chatchai Phonlemueangdee (0-3). Kamiya has had a real slow burn of a career, fighting only 4 times since the end of 2014, but if he gets sorted he could go quite far. Sadly bouts like this won't help him develop or move towards the bigger bouts than his early promises suggested he could end up having. As for the Thai he has been stopped in all 3 of his defeats.
In the Thai capital fans will be able to see Chinese puncher Pui Yu Lim (5-0, 5) take on Indonesian journeyman Ramadhan Weriuw (17-9-1, 15) in a bout for the WBC Interim Asian Boxing Council Middleweight title. On paper this is a step backwards for Lim, who has already scored wins over better fights than Weriuw, but with 5 fights last year Lim is a busy fighter and could use this interim title to help secure more meaningful bouts down the line.
This coming Saturday is set to be a busy, yet thrilling, day with a show of note in each Japan and Hong Kong. Not only do both countries get a card of note, but both cards are genuinely significant as we go forward.
Hong Kong S.A.R, China
The Hong Kong card, put on by DEF HK and Watanabe as they continue to work together, has a trio of title bouts and potentially a fight of the year contender.
That fight of the year contender will see local star Rex Tso (21-0, 13) take on former 2-time world champion Kohei Kono (33-10-1, 14), in a bout for Tso's WBO International Super Flyweight title. The local is one of the sports most exciting fighters, and although he has improved markedly in recent years he is still, at heart, a fighter there for the fans, and a man who enjoys a thrilling tear up at every opportunity. Kono on the other hand is a bit of a faded force, and has lost 2 of his last 3, but has a style that is very fan friendly, and should gel with Tso's here. Do not be surprised by this one being a little bit special.
In a second title bout we'll see Kono's stable mate Ayumi Goto (7-0, 5) battle with Indian teenager Kirti (3-0, 2). Reports have stated that this will either be a female OPBF Super Bantamweight title fight, with Goto defending her title, or a WBO Asia Pacific title bout, for a vacant title. On paper this should be an easy win for the Japanese fighter, but it is fair to say that Kirti is an unknown, and could be a surprise package of sorts.
The third title bout on this card will see the always fun to watch Takuya Watanabe (32-7-1, 17) battle against Chinese foe Leshan Li (13-2-1, 8) for the WBO Oriental Super Featherweight title. Watanabe is one of the many under-the-radar Japanese fighters who is guaranteed to put on good fight, no matter who he is facing, and we're expecting another fun one here. As for Li he's a bit of an unknown but is a heavy handed fighter and has won his last 7 bouts, suggesting good form and good confidence coming into this one.
One other bout on this card, which looks set to be explosive, will see Thai based Dutchman Nick Frese (6-0, 5) take on heavy handed Filipino Prabhjot Singh (7-1-1, 7). Given that these two have 12 stoppages in 13 wins we're expecting to see bombs away, though it's hard to see anything but a win for Frese, who looks like a genuine prospect.
In Japan we'll be getting a card that will be aired live on G+ and will be promoted by Teiken.
The main event of this card will see the in-form Masaru Sueyoshi (15-1, 10) take on Ribo Takahata (13-7-1, 5) for the vacant Japanese Super Featherweight title, in what will be the first title fight either man has been in. The bout, for the title vacated by Kenichi Ogawa, will see Sueyoshi coming in to it with a 12 fight winning run dating back more than 5 years, whilst Takahata has been inconsistent, alternating between wins and losses over his last 15 bouts. It's hard not to favour Sueyoshi but it is his most meaningful bout to date.
In a supporting bout we'll see the unbeaten Shuya Masaki (8-0, 4) take on Filipino foe Ciso Morales (19-4-1, 12). It's fair to say that Masaki has shown touches of brilliance through his early career, but he has been inconsistent and it always seems like there is just something missing from his performances so far. We expect to see him show his maturity here against a visiting foe who shouldn't be over-looked and will be a very live under-dog. Morales might not be a sensational fighter, but he's a good enough fight to test someone like Masaki at this level.
In a really interesting under-card bout we'll see the once beaten Ryo Matsubara (7-1, 7) take on the unbeaten Kai Chiba (6-0, 5), in a bout between punchers. Coming in to this one Matsubara has won his last 6 bouts in a combined 7 rounds, and has well and truly put his sole defeat behind him, with that loss coming back in his second professional bout. Chiba on the other hand went 6 rounds last time out, ending his own stoppage run. Both of these men like to throw heavy leather, and this could be a very explosive contest.
Japanese ranked Welterweight Yuki Nagano (11-2, 8) will be risking a 9 fight winning run as he takes on Thai foe Kriengkrai Tor Silachai (3-0*) in what could be a potential banana skin for the local. Although ranked by the JBC it's hard to know how good Nagano really is, whilst the Thai is a bit of an unknown, and it's unclear really whether we even have his complete record here.
A second Japanese ranked Welterweight on this card is Ryota Toyoshima (7-1-1, 5), who risks his ranking against domestic rival Masaharu Kaito (5-2, 2). Coming in to this bout the 21 year old Toyoshima has won his last 5, though he did suffer a decision defeat to Kaito back in 2015, and it's obvious he is seeking to avenge that set back. Sadly for Kaito he has lost 2 of his last 3, including one to the previously mentioned Nagano and seems to be struggling for form coming in to this bout.
*-Record reported as being differed to the 3-0 figuire.