Christmas is creeping up on us and on December 24th we have a really intriguing card from Osaka, which features an OPBF title fight and two hotly tipped Japanese prospects.
The title bout promises to deliver explosive action, as the heavy handed Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) take on the limited but hard hitting Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) for the OPBF Bantamweight title, which was vacated by Mark John Yap earlier this year. On paper the bout doesn't look like anything special, but given the styles of the two fighters we're expecting a very exciting brawl. Coming in Kurihara has scored 3 straight wins of note, stopping Ryan Lumacad, Tetsuya Watanabe and Kazuki Tanaka, all since a 5th round TKO loss to Hiroaki Teshigawara. As for Kobayashi he is himself riding a 4 fight winning run, including a win last time out against Vincent Astrolabio on the Manny Pacquiao Vs Lucas Matthysse under-card. Both of these guys are defensively flawed, but both can bang and that should make this fight very exciting. A preview of this bout is available here Kurihara and Kobayashi battle for OPBF title in Christmas Eve treat!
One of the prospects on this card is Rio Kuwabata (1-0, 1), who takes a notable step up in class to face off with Yosuke Taniguchi (7-5-1, 2). The 22 year old Kuwabata made his debut back in China, in a 4 rounder, and this is a notable step up for a man who is tipped to be a success. As for Taniguchi he has gone on a 5 fight unbeaten run, including a win over Shachihoko Dragons Keita last time out. Although this is expected to be another win for Kuwabata it's fair to say he's in with a live opponent here and should consider this a serious test.
The other prospect of note on this show is Riku Kunimoto (2-0), who has shown touches of genius, but really appears to be lacking just one or two things at the moment. Aged 21 Kunimoto is a Japanese Middleweight worth making a mental note of, though it could be a few years before we see him really being tested. Saying that however he's not being matched softly and his third bout will see him in with the experienced Toshihiro Kai (6-10-2, 2), who has gone 2-4 in his last 6 bouts but has scored a notable win over Yutaka Oishi.
One other bout of note on this card will see former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) take on Japanese based Filipino Jayar Estremos (11-14, 4). This is Kudaka's first bout since losing the Japanese title to Takayuki Okumoto in August and we do wonder what the highly experienced 4-time world title challenger has left in his 33 year old body, after what has been a relatively exciting yet over-looked career. Estremos on the other hand has won just 1 of his last 10 bouts, but he has been matched hard with bouts against notable foes in Thailand. If Estremos has found his desire to fight he could make for a tough opponent for Kudaka, but the reality is that Kudaka should be strongly favoured here, and should be able to come out on top of an exciting contest.
A second card will also take place in Osaka, albeit a much less notable card.
The main event of the card will see Tomoko Okuda (4-2-1) taking on Thai visitor Anchalee Mankong (2-3), in what looks like a very weak main event contest. It's hard to imagine Okuda losing, despite her limitations, but regardless it's not a main event that will draw much interest.
Despite not being the main event, the best match up, on paper at least, will see Hirokazu Okajima (8-6-2, 4) battle against the hard hitting Kazuaki Miyamoto (6-2, 5). The 33 year old Okajima has been out of the ring for over a year, following a 5th round KO loss to Masashi Wakita, and is more than 6 years removed form his last win, against Akira Shono in 2012. Miyamoto is limited himself, and both of his losses have been by stoppage, including one early this year to a very faded Seiichi Okada. This is one where we expect both men to have the power to stop the other in what could an entertaining lower level scrap.
The most notable show this coming Sunday, Easter Sunday, comes from the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka.
The main event will see WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight champion Masahiro Sakamoto (11-1, 7) make his first defense of the title, as he takes on highly experienced Thai Pigmy Kokietgym (60-9-2, 24). The Japanese fighter won the title last December, when he stopped Kwanthai Sithmorseng, and he'll be looking to score a second successive win over a Thai veteran here. For Pigmy another loss might well spell the end of his career, especially given he's already 36 years old and has been a professional for closing in on 19 years! A win for Sakamoto will take him a step closer to getting a rematch with Sho Kimura, the only man to beat him so far.
In a supporting bout former world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (15-5-3, 5) looks for a stay busy win as he takes on Thai visitor Kathawut Saikaew Boxing Camp (0-1). Mukai has score back to back wins since his 2017 stoppage loss to Rex Tso in Hong Kong, and although bigger fights are around the corner we can't grumble too much about him staying busy given the competition he has faced through his career so far.
Arguably the most even looking match up on the show is a contest between Yuki Strong Kobayashi (12-7, 6) and Taichi Sugimoto (6-4, 2). We're not expecting anything too special here, but it does see Kobayashi risking his OPBF Bantamweight ranking.
Another show in Osaka, this time at the EDION Arena Osaka, will be promoted by Green Tsuda and looks a very interesting card with several bouts of note.
The main event is the most notable contest on the show and will see once beaten hopeful Kazuki Tanaka (8-1, 6) battle recent OPBF title challenger Seizo Kono (19-9-1, 12). The talented Tanaka was expected to be fast tracked into becoming a star however a 3rd round TKO loss last year to Ryohei Takahashi really did set him back, despite a bounce back win over Hikaru Marugame. Last time out Kono battled against Mark John Yap, and despite a solid effort he was stopped in 10 rounds. Given that both men need a win this should be a very hotly contested bout.
In a supporting bout Takayuki Okumoto (19-8-3, 9) will take on Indonesian Frengky Rohi (5-3-1, 1). The 26 year old Okumoto has gone 3-2-1 (3), with set backs to Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, Eranio Semillano and, most recently, Ryuichi Funai in a Japanese title fight. The Indonesian visitor when 5-0-1 to begin his career, but has lost his last 3 bouts, and will struggle to over-come Okumoto here, in what looks like a very tough bout on Japanese soil.
A great match up between 24 year old fighters will see Ryo Sagawa (3-1, 2) take on the hard hitting Tsuyoshi Sawai (5-2-1, 5). Sagawa caught out eye on debut and looked very impressive, though was stopped in his second bout by Retsu Kosaka in a Japanese Youth title fight. Since that loss he has bounced back with two credible wins and will be looking for another one here. As for Sawai he's a very dangerous puncher at this level, and despite being flawed he can bang, with his power taking him to the 2016 Rookie of the Year final, where he lost to Yoshimitsu Kimura. This is a very interesting bout, and the winner could well go a very long way, despite already having a loss on their record.
Another bout pitting men with one loss against each other will see 2017 Super Bantamweight Rookie of the year Toshiki Shimomachi (7-1-1, 4) take on former amateur stand out Kiyohei Endo (1-1, 1). Shimomachi started his career 2-1-1 but is now riding a 5 fight winning run and has broken into the Japanese rankings. Endo, a former amateur stand out, suffered a surprise loss on debut but looks a class fighter and a win here would move him to the fringes of a Japanese ranking. A very interesting bout and one that both will be wanting to win, and win impressively.
There will also be a low key card in Aichi, as Yakushiji put on a show.
The main event of this card will see teenager Musashi Mori (5-0, 4) take on a Thai foe. The 18 year old Mori won the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight and enters this bout ranked by the JBC. A win for the teenager won't push him up the ranking, but will kick off a year which should push him towards a title fight, if not see him in the mix for a Japanese youth title before the end of 2018.
A pretty interesting supporting bout on this card will see Rookie of the Year runner up Katsuki Matsuura (5-1, 1) take on Toma Kondo (6-2, 1). These two men are both 21 years old, both have very similar looking records and whilst neither is much of a puncher they should make for a very exciting contest against each other. This could be a very interesting bout between two men each looking to bounce back from a loss. Very good match making here.
This coming Saturday is set to be a very busy day for boxing fans, with some huge action taking place over the weekend.
The biggest bout of the day, featuring an Asian fighter, is in Nevada and will be a bout for the currently vacant IBF Super Featherweight title. The bout will see Japan's Kenichi Ogawa (22-1, 17) take on defensive American Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5) in a bout that pits a puncher against a slickster. The bout will be for the title recently stripped from Gervonta Davis, who failed to make weight for a defence back in August, and looks like a really intriguing match up, even if it's unlikely to be the most exciting fight of the weekend.
In Osaka we're set to get a pretty interesting lower level card.
The main event will see ranked fighters facing off, with the unbeaten Daiki Tomita (10-0, 3) risking his JBC, WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF rankings against Desierto Nagaike (10-2-1, 2), who will be putting his own OPBF ranking on the line. The winner of this will clearly move closer to a title fight, and there is a lot to be fighting for in a bout that both will believe they can win.
A second bout of intrigue will see the capable Shingo Kawamura (14-3-1, 7) battle against Japanese based Korean Teiru Atsumi (13-1, 6). On paper Kawamura seems like the lesser fighter but with wins over the likes of Shun Ishibashi, Kota Fukuoka and Shingo Kusano he's proven to be a credible domestic fighter through his career so far. Atsumi has been on a role in recent fights, beating the likes of Sho Nakazawa, Dennis Tubieron, Burning Ishii and Neil John Tabanao but cannot be over-confident coming in to this bout.
A second show in Osaka will also take place, and this one features some slightly bigger names, albeit again foes who aren't likely to pose much of a threat.
One of those notable names is former world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (24-7-1, 21), who fights for the first time since his December 2015 loss to WBO Super Flyweight champion Naoya Inoue. The Filipino,who is now based in Japan and part of the Morioka Gym, will be up against a limited Thai foe and will be expected to pick up a relatively straight forward win here and begin to get his career back on track.
Another notable man on this card is youngster Tatsuya Ikemizu (16-2, 7), who who looks to continue the rebuilding profess of his career. Ikemizu lost 2 bouts in a run of 3 but is now on a 3 fight winning streak, albeit against limited Thais. Sadly this bout will also see him up against a limited opponent from the Land of Smiles.
The main event of this card will see OPBF ranked Bantamweight Yuki Strong Kobayashi (11-7, 6) take on Noboru Osato (8-5-4, 1) in what looks likely to be a pretty competitive bout. Kobayashi is less than 2 years removed from an OPBF title fight, but with a 6-7 record in his last 13 he's certainly no world beater, and despite having the skills to upset fighters on the domestic scene. Osato has had better recent form, going 7-4-2 in his last 13, but he has been competing at a lower level. This could be a very intriguing bout.
Fans in Indonesia will get their own card, albeit a small one, which will be headlined by a bout between the experienced Heri Andriyanto (22-26-2, 10) and the very limited Benny Tamaela (3-7, 1). The reality is that this is a weak bout, but it could well be a competitive one, between two limited fighters.
There will also be Asian fighters fighting in Russia.
One of those bouts will see Russian fighter Isa Chaniev (11-1, 5) take on Filipino visitor Juan Martin Elorde (23-1-1, 10). The bout, for the IBF Inter-Continental and WBO International Lightweight titles, will be Elorde's first bout outside of the Philippines and marks a clear step up for the 33 year old Pinoy, who now seems set to sink or swim. The Russian was beaten back in May but has scored a win since and will know that a win here will help establish him as name to watch at 135lbs.
Another is Thai fighter Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (18-7, 12), who takes on the unbeaten Vyacheslav Mirzaev (9-0, 1). The Thai is a former world ranked fighter but is 5-5 in his last 10 and looks like a man who simply can't do it against fighters with something to them. This bout will serve as a test for Mirzaev, but a win won't propel him too far, more prove that he has the ability to go further than the likes of Sukkasem.
We again see action in Osaka, and once again it's a relatively small card getting out attention, though it is a small card with 4 ranked fighters on it and a pretty even looking main event.
The main event will see former OPBF Bantamweight title challenger Yuki Strong Kobayashi (10-7, 5) facing off with former Japanese title challenger Satoshi Ozawa (13-7-1, 2), in a bout that both men really must win to remain even semi-relevant on the domestic scene. Kobayashi has lost 4 of his last 6, including an opening round blow out loss last time out to Rey Megrino in Hong Kong, but was once regarded as a promising fighter. On the other hand Ozawa has been stopped in 3 of his last 7, and has struggled with close decision wins in many of his recent victories. Interestingly this will be the second meeting between the two men, who fought back in September 2013, with Ozawa claiming a split decision, and both will have a serious point to prove.
The chief support bout will see OPBF ranked Light Flyweight Rikito Hattori (8-1, 3) battle against unbeaten Japanese ranked Minimumweight Daiki Tomita (9-0, 3) in a bout being fought at a contracted weight above the Light Flyweight limit. Hattori has won his last 3, following a setback last year to Kenta Matsui, but has been facing relatively limited opponents in those bouts.
In a really well matched contest we'll see OPBF and JBC ranked Super Featherweight Shachihoko Dragons Keita (7-5-2, 1) take on Yu Konomura (7-5-2, 1), in a second meeting between the two men who fought last year. On paper this doesn't look amazing, but given their first bout this should be really good and really well contested.
The remaining ranked fighter is OPBF ranked Super Flyweight Futa Akizuki (9-0, 7), who takes on his biggest test to date as he faces Shun Ishibashi (10-21-1, 4). The 19 year old Akizuki debuted in Japan less than a year ago and has already racked up 3 wins in his homeland including an impressively one-sided win over Vincent Bautista. The 29 year old Ishibashi looks like a journeyman on paper but he's a solid stepping stone at domestic level and should serve as a really good test for Akizuki here, but a test that the youngster should be able to pass.
Hong Kong, China
The most notable card this coming weekend comes from Hong Kong of all places.
The headline bout on the card will see three secondary titles being unified as local star Rex Tso (20-0, 12) takes on former 2-time world title challenger Hirofumi Mukai (13-4-3, 3) in a bout that both men will see as a must win. The aggressive Tso will be favoured here, especially given the home advantage, but Mukai has impressed recently and stopped Inthanon Sithchamuang in 2 rounds back in November. The bout will be brawler against boxer and could a very compelling contest.
In an all Filipino support bout we'll see the talented, but currently struggling, Mark Anthony Geraldo (33-7-3, 15) take on countryman Kenny Demecillo (12-3-2, 7) in a bout for the WBO Oriental Bantamweight title. Coming in to this Demecillo is on a solid 5 fight fight unbeaten run with two wins against Daryl Basadre and another win against Jestoni Autida. That run will fill Demecillo with a lot of confidence but it's fair to see that Gerlado will come into this knowing he needs a win. The experienced man has lost 3 of his last 5 and desperately needs to steady the ship.
In a Philippines Vs Japan bout we see big punching Filipino Rey Megrino (23-20-4, 20) take on Japan's Yuki Strong Kobayashi (10-6, 5). Megrino has gone 8-0-1 (7) in his last 9, with notable wins against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Myung Ho Lee and Ernesto Saulong, and will be expecting to continue that rich vein of form here. Kobayashi has struggled in recent fights, going 2-3, but has mixed at a good level with losses to Ye Joon Kim and Takahiro Yamamoto and will be looking to use those experiences against Megrino.
Another bout with a metropolitan feeling will see Japan's teak tough Takuya Watanabe (30-7-1, 16) take on Thai veteran Khunkiri Wor Wisaruth (24-18-2, 16). The bout should be a mismatch in favour of Watanabe, though the Japanese fighter will be looking to make a statement following a wide loss to Masayuki Ito at the end of 2017.
There will also be action in Queensland featuring some Asian fighters.
One of those bouts will see local fighter Steve Spark (4-1, 4) take on Chinese fighter Zhen Yang Cai (4-2-1, 2). On paper this looks really well matched, though it should be noted that Cai has gone 1-2-1 in his last 4 and has never fought outside of China prior to this contest.
Another bout pitching a local against a Chinese visitor will see the unbeaten Brent Rice (5-0, 2) take on Li Fu Hu (4-2, 2), with Hu taking on his biggest test so far. The Chinese fighter, has proven to be limited and shouldn't pose many questions for Rice, but will be a trier and certainly will come to test the local
It's also worth noting that Hero Tito (22-12-2,8) and Jack Asis (35-19-5, 18) as both set to fight on this card, against different opponents, but neither man has had their foe named as of yet.
The first show on a busy day is a Hatanaka promoted card, which will have it's headline bout broadcast on TBS.
That main bout will see WBO Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka (5-0, 2) defend his crown, for the first time, against Filipino puncher Vic Saludar (11-1, 9). On paper this looks a good test for the 20 year old Tanaka, who has sadly been inactive since winning the belt back in May. Saludar is genuinely dangerous and could well upset Tanaka if the Japanese champion has taken his eye off the ball, as compatriot Shohei Omori did recently.
On the under-card we see several interesting bouts. One of those features the unbeaten Yushi Tanaka (15-0-3, 9), who is tipped as a future champion. The unbeaten 24 year old will be up against Indonesian visitor Zun Rindam (11-8-1, 5), who is hoping to score his first win in Japan having twice been blown out in the country, losing in the opening round against both Yasutaka Ishimoto and Ryo Matsumoto.
Another bout of note sees world ranked Filipino fighter Genesis Servania (26-0, 11) makes his Japanese debut as he takes on Hendrik Barongsay (29-23-3, 18) in what should be little more than a showcase for the excellent Servania. The year has been a frustrating one for the Filipino and we suspect that frustration will come out here against an opponent who will have very little too offer in terms of competition.
On paper the show of the day is the Ioka promoted card from Osaka, which is also set to be televised by TBS.
The main event, and one of two world title fights, will see Kazuto Ioka (18-1, 10) defending the WBA Flyweight crown against former champion Juan Carlos Reveco (36-2, 19). Ioka beat Reveco for the belt back in April, claiming a majority decision, and will be hoping for a more conclusive result this time against the Argentinian visitor. For Reveco it's a chance to avenge his second professional loss whilst Ioka gets the chance to further strengthen his claim as a top Flyweight, and possibly move towards a potential unification bout with conqueror Amnat Ruenroeng.
The other world title bout will see IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (30-7-0-1, 12) defending his title against Mexican foe Jose Argumedo (15-3-1, 9). For Takayama this will be the 3rd defense of the title that he won a year ago, when he stopped Go Odaira, and he will be hoping to build on his last win, back in September against Ryuji Hara. The all action Takayama will be hoping to retain the title here to set up a unification bout in 2016. For Argumedo this is a huge opportunity but one that he does enter as a clear under-dog and isn't expected to really present much of a challenger
As well as the two world title bouts this card also features an OPBF title fight and a Japanese title fight. The OPBF title bout comes at Bantamweight where heavy handed champion Takahiro Yamamoto (16-4, 13) defends his title against Yuki Strong Kobayashi (9-4, 5). This will be Yamamoto's first defense of the title that he won earlier this year, when he stopped Yu Kawaguchi in a 7 round thriller. It's fair to say the champion is more proven, heavier handed and will go in to this one as a clear favourite. For Kobayashi, who was battered around by Hinata Maruta's in Maruta's pro-test, this is a huge opportunity bur one he's not expected to win, especially given that he is 3-3 in his last 6.
As for the Japanese title fight, that will see Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (20-0, 10) defending his title against Ryuta Otsuka (15-8-2, 5). Ishida, another member of the prestigious Ioka gym, will be hunting his 4th defense of the title and continue what has been a good year for the Osaka based gym. For Otsuka this is a second shot at the title, having previously lost to Teiru Kinoshita in November 2011. Despite being given a second shot at a title it's fair to say Otsuka will; be regarded as a major under-dog following recent losses to Malcolm Tunacao and Ryuichi Funai.
On the under-card fans get the chance to see former world champion Ryo Miyazaki (23-1-3, 14) take on Thai visitor Thongchai Chaiyonggym (0-1) in what is a stay busy fight for the highly ranked Osakan warrior. A win here is expected for Miyazaki who will be hoping to fight for a world title, at 108lbs, in 2016, he was however famously upset on the same date 2 years ago by Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr and will know that he cannot afford another set back like that.
Another under-card bout will see the very exciting Masayoshi Hashizume (9-0, 6) battle against a Thai novice, thought to be “Ken Meanyothin”. We have been impressed by Hashizume and are hoping to see him step up in class in 2016, with a potential title fight coming towards the end of the year.
As well as the action on TBS there is also a TV Tokyo card thanks to Watanabe.
The main event of this show sees WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (23-0-1, 19) defending his belt against Nicaraguan challenger Oliver Flores (27-1-2, 17). This botu is widely regarded as a huge mismatch and it's hard to see Flores upsetting the long term champion, who looks for his 11th defense. If Uchiyama wins there is serious talk from his team about taking him to the US for 2016, with a bout against Nicholas Walters looking very likely.
Uchiyama's world title defense is one of two on the card with stable mate Ryoichi Taguchi (22-2-1, 9) defending his WBA Light Flyweight title against Colombian challenger Luis de la Rosa (24-5-1, 14). On paper this too is an awful mismatch with nobody giving de la Rosa any chance, and in fairness it's hard to see what he has to compete with the talented Taguchi, who could be looking at unification bouts in 2016 if he comes through this one.
Sadly this under-card is lacking with the most notable name on it being former Japanese title challenger Hayato Kimura (23-8, 15), who is in an awful mismatch against Thai visitor Petchnamnung Sor Thiebkhun (0-11), who is likely to suffer his 10th “recorded” stoppage loss.
As a bonus we also get a small bit of Indonesian action with the very promising Iwan Zoda (7-1, 6) battle in a 10 rounder against Thai visitor Phupha Por Nobnom (11-9-1, 10). The visitor's record isn't great but he has shared the ring with Tepparith Kokietgym, Richie Mepranum and Albert Pagara, so he has mixed at a good level, albeit he has been stopped by those 3 men. For Zoda this is his first bout since he stopped Petchchorhae Kokietgym in September, in what was an incredible win for the 19 year old Indonesian.
On the under-card of this show is an Indonesian title bout between Agus Kustiawan (13-4, 5) and Boido Simanjuntak (18-33-1, 7), who will be recognised by people who follow the Thai fight scene.