This coming Friday is a major day in Japan, despite not being a day that will get much international attention. The reason for this is that in Tokyo there will be an incredible 6 Japanese title eliminator contests, with the winners booking their place in the 2019 Champions Carnival.
At Light Flyweight we get a rematch between Kenichi Horikawa (37-15-1, 11) and Koji Itagaki (18-12-3, 7). These two are both veterans who have come up short in a recent Japanese title bout to Tetsuya Hisada and both are clearly and wanting another shot at the belt. The winner will get a title fight next year, meaning the reward for a win is huge, though the loser will likely be pushed into retirement. The full preview of this bout is here Horikawa and Itagaki rematch with a title fight on the line!
At Super Flyweight we see recent Japanese title challenger Yuta Matsuo (14-3-1, 7) take on Japanese based Filipino veteran Rey Orais (20-17-2, 5), who has only fought once in the last 10 years. The talented Matsuo came up short in 2017 against Masayuki Kuroda but has notched up a couple of wins since then and looks to be hungry for a second shot. Orais on the other hand is a boxer-come-trainer-come part time boxer, who looks to be rolling the dice for one final charge at a title. An in depth fight preview for this bout can be read here Matsuo and Orais battle for shot at Super Flyweight gold!
At Super Bantamweight we may be getting a small treat at Mugicha Nakagawa (23-5-1, 14) takes on Naoya Okamoto (13-6-1, 6). Both men are under-rated outside of Japan and both should make for a very interesting match up here. Nakagawa caught our eye in a 2017 loss to Yasutaka Ishimoto, and despite losing has since bounced back with a pair of stoppages. Okamoto on the other hand comes into the bout on the back of big wins over Daisuke Watanabe and Yuta Saito, who has since won the Japanese Bantamweight title. This could be the hidden gem on the card and technically the winner will be ordered to fight current champion Shingo Wake, though he is expected to vacate before the Champion Carnival. A fight breakdown for this contest is available here Nakagawa and Okamoto to fight in Japanese eliminator!
A second rematch on this card, this time at Super Featherweight, will see Ken Osato (14-2-1, 4) and Satoru Sugita (14-5-1, 9) face off for the second time inside a year. Interestingly these two fought last December in a Japanese title eliminator that Osato narrowly won. Sadly for Osato he would come up short in his eventual title fight, losing to Masaru Sueyoshi earlier this year. This should be a technically compelling match up, even if it fails to be one of the more exciting bouts on the card. A preview of this bout can be read here Osato and Sugita go again, in title eliminator!
Talking about exciting it's hard not to have pulses racing about the Light Welterweight bout between the unbeaten and heavy handed pairing of Koki Inoue (11-0, 10) and Marcus Smith (6-0-1, 6). Inoue, the cousin of both Naoya and Takuma Inoue, is one of the most avoided fighters on the Japanese domestic scene and with good reason, having left good good opponents battered and broken. Smith, the 2017 Rookie of the Year, is an American born Japanese fighter who has looked very destructive and heavy handed, but is taking a massive step up in class here. This is going to be something very fun and despite favouring Inoue we think this could be the bout of the show. The preview for this contest is available here Inoue and Smith clash in Japanese title eliminator!
The heaviest bout on this card will take place at Light Middleweight and will see veteran Koshinmaru Saito (24-9-2, 13) battle against Hironobu Matsunaga (13-1, 7), in what could be another very entertaining bout, and one that could see the winner join a mixed up situation in the Japanese Light Middleweight scene. The 39 year old Saito has come up short in 7 title bouts during his 35 fight career, but outside of title fights he is an impressive 24-3-1. Matsunaga comes in to this on the back of 7 straight wins, including notable wins over Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Patomsuk Pathompothong. Saito will know he can't afford another set back, given that he turns 40 early next year, but Matsunaga won't be looking to lose his own career momentum. Our preview for this bout is available here Veteran Saito takes on Matsunaga for Japanese title shot!
This coming Thursday fight fans in Tokyo will get an interesting card with a world title eliminator headlining the show, and two undercard bout featuring Japanese ranked fighters.
The main event will be a Light Middleweight bout featuring former unified Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific champion Takeshi Inoue (12-0-1, 7) battling against former Japanese OPBF champion Yuki Nonaka (31-9-3,10), with the winner of this getting a #2 ranking with the IBF and taking a huge step towards getting a world title. The 28 year old Inoue, no relation to the likes of Naoya Inoue, has been incredible impressive turning professional in 2014 and has really began to shine in the last 18 months or so, with 2017 being a sensational year for the Tokyo fight. Last year Inoue defeated Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama and Ratchasi Sithsaithong and really put himself on the map. At 40 years old this really will be Nonaka's last chance, and unfortunately his only bout in the last 12 months was a clear 10 round loss to Dennis Hogan, which doesn't bode well for him here. Nonaka is a very skilled fighter, but with ring rust and age catching up to him this will be a big ask for the Osakan veteran.
The chief support bout will see Naoyuki Tsukada (8-3-5, 3) risk his Japanese ranking as he takes on Satoru Todaka (7-2-4, 3) in a Light Flyweight bout. On paper this is a really competitive looking bout, and it features two men with very similar records, but records which have come in very different ways. Tsukada began his career with 3 wins before falling to 3-3-1 after 7 bouts. Now Tsuakada is riding a 9 fight unbeaten run, including a win over Yuto Takahashi and a draw with Kenji Ono. Todaka on the other hand lost on his debut before running up a 9 fight unbeaten that ended last year against Hikaru Ota. This should be really competitive, and both men will see this as a chance to take a huge step towards getting a Japanese title fight.
Another supporting bout will see Japanese ranked fighters Yuta Matsuo (13-3-1, 7) and Ryoji Fukunaga (10-2, 10) face off in what looks like a really interesting match up. Last year Matsuo challenged Masayuki Kuroda for the Japanese interim Flyweight title and put up a good effort, though has since moved up to Super Flyweight where it seems he may well have more success. As for Fukunaga he's a very dangerous fighter, he's not beaten anyone of real note, even on the domestic level, but he's a heavy handed fighter who has scored his 10 wins in just 28 rounds. Fukunaga will have his power tested here but if it's as good as it looks on paper Matsuo will be in for real problems here.
There's quite a lot of title action this coming Friday with title fights in both Japan and the Philippines. Of those two shoes it's the Japanese card that looks the much better show.
The most significant bout on the card sees Japanese Light Middleweight champion Takeshi Inoue (11-0-1, 6) challenge OPBF champion Ratchasi Sithsaithong (9-3, 7), in a bout which will see the winner also claim the WBO Asia Pacific title. On paper it looks like a bout where Inoue should be favoured, and in all honesty if he wins he could be regarded as the Japanese break out fighter of the year, but Ratchasi is no mug. Coming into this Ratchasi has scored 3 wins in a row against Japanese fighters, including a 12th round TKO of Yutaka Oishi and an 11th round TKO of Jumbo Oda Nobunaga Shoten Petagine, who subsequently retired. Whilst Inoue has had a great year a win for Ratchasi would see him going 3-0 in Japan and have a very legitimate claim to being the best 154lb fighter in Asia.
Although the bout above is the biggest bout of the card it's technically not the main event. Instead that will be a Japanese Flyweight title bout between defending champion Masayuki Kuroda (27-7-3, 15) and the limited but entertaining Mako Matsuyama (8-12-2, 3). The bout will be Kuroda's first defense of the title he won earlier this year, when he beat Takuya Kogawa, to become a 2-weight Japanese champion. Matsuyama is best known for his 2014 FOTY contender against Rex Tso, though has some how gotten this title shot having won just once in his last 7 bouts. Kuroda should easily retain his title here if we're being honest, but this should be a fun fight all the same.
A third title bout will see former world champions collide, with Naoko Shibata (17-4-1, 6) and Etsuko Tada (16-3-2, 5) facing off for the WBO Asia Pacific female Minimumweight title. These two fought back in September 2012, with Tada defeating Shibata to retain the WBA female Minimumweight title. Since then both women have held IBF titles, with Tada holding one at 105lbs and Shibata at 108lbs. Since there first bout Tada has gone 5-3 whilst Shibata has gone 8-3-1 but both have been fighting at the top level and know that a win here will help them remain relevant, whilst a loss could end their career as a world class fighter.
The only bout of note from the under-card sees the big punching Kazuto Nakane (8-2, 8) take on former Kuroda opponent Yuta Matsuo (12-3-1, 6), in what could be an entertaining lower tier scrap. Nakane has fought at a lower level, but has show natural power and is the bigger man, whilst Maysuo is more tested man, having shared the ring with Kuroda, Ardin Diale and Ryuto Oho. This is arguably the most well matched bout on the card, despite no title being on the line.
There is also a show in the Philippines full of title bouts, though if we're being honest it's not the most attractive of shows, despite 4 “title bouts”.
The most interesting looking title bout will see the once beaten Carlo Caesar Penalosa (9-1, 3) take on Salatiel Amit (10-3-2, 7) for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Flyweight title. Neither man is very well known, even in Filipino boxing circles, but Penalosa is notable not just for his famous surname but also the fact he's one of the few to stop tough journeyman Vincent Bautista. As for Amit he's best known for losing to notable opponents, suffering losses to Jade Bornea, Jonathan Taconing and Froilan Saludar, though should prove to be a very solid opponent for Penalosa here.
In an interim OPBF Featherweight title fight we'll see Venezuelan Omrri Bolivar (5-0, 3) take on Filipino Jelbirt Gomera (12-4, 6), in a bout that makes very little sense. The OPBF champion, Satoshi Shimizu, won the full title in October and he's not injured, Bolivar isn't from the OPBF region and Gomera has lost his last 3. For the OPBF to sanction this bout is a mystery and really beggars belief. The one positive is that Bolivar will find himself involved in more notable bouts going forward, after he beats Gomera, and we'd quite like a Bolivar Vs Shimizu bout in 2018.
One actual "full" OPBF title bout will see Yuko Henzan (5-6-3, 2) take on Kongsang Palum (2-3, 1) in a bout for the OPBF female Bantamweight title. It's fair to say that this isn't a very attractive bout given the limited records of both fighters, but given that both fighters are limited the bout at least be relatively competitive. Coming in Henzan has won her last 3, and is unbeaten in her last 4, but has faced limited foes in that run. As for Palum she has never scored a win over a fighter with a positive record.
In another female title bout we'll see former world title challenger Erika Hanawa (7-1, 2) take on Thai foe Sornsawan Sarakarngym (2-4, 1) for the OPBF interim Female Minimumweight title. Last time out we saw Hanawa lose to Japanese veteran Kayoko Ebata, in a bout that showed up Hanawa's limitations at that point, but it's hard to see anything but a win for her here. The Thai has been stopped in 3of her losses, including the aforementioned Ebata, and we wouldn't be shocked to see her being stopped again here.
In Australia we'll see a notable Filipino and a novice Indonesian.
The Filipino in action is the world class Randy Petalcorin (27-2-1, 20), who returns to Australia for his first bout in the country since his controversial loss to Omari Kimweri in 2016. The talented Filipino will be up against faltering Indonesian Oscar Raknafa (13-15, 5), who was once world ranked but has gone 2-12 in his last 14 bouts and is now essentially a record padder on the Asian scene.
In the other bout on the card we'll see Daniel Huculak (1-0, 1) take on Indonesian novice Mujiyono (0-1). It's hard to say much about these two, but Huculak won his debut with an opening round stoppage and it's clear that he will be favoured here.
To end February Dangan give us a nice looking card with a title double header and several fighters of note on the under-card.
One of the title bouts will see Yuta Matsuo (12-2-1, 6) and Masayuki Kuroda (25-7-3, 15) battle for the “interim” Japanese Flyweight title. The two men, who are facing off whilst Flyweight champion Takuiya Kogawa recovers from an ear injury, will be guaranteed a shot at the full title later in the year if they win here. Of the two men Kuroda is the more well known, he's a former Japanese Light Flyweight champion and has fought for a WBA Flyweight world title in the past, he is however a fighter who has struggled recently, with a 4-4-3 record in his last 11 dating back 5 years. Matsuo on the other hand is getting his first title fight, though has beaten solid fighters like Yota Hori and Ryuto Oho so far in his career, and fought to a very narrow loss against Ardin Diale. This should be a very competitive and fun to watch contest.
The other title bout sees Watanabe's fast rising Hiroto Kyoguchi (5-0, 5) take on Filipino veteran Armando dela Cruz (25-14-3, 11) in a bout for the OPBF Minimumweight title, recently vacated by Ryuya Yamanaka. The bout seems to suggest that Watanabe are going to be pushing hard for Kyoguchi to get a world title fight this year, and although this fight was put together on about a month's notice it's hard to see the unbeaten youngster coming up short against the veteran.
The main under-card bout looks like a genuine treat as the under-rated Reiya Abe (13-2, 7) takes on the once beaten Joe Noynay (12-1-1, 4). Although relatively unknown outside of Japan Abe has been impressing fans in Tokyo recently with notable wins over Ryo Hino, Hikaru Marugame, Shingo Kusano and Tsuyoshi Tameda, showing poise, skills and power. Noynay, also known as Joe Misako, will be looking to score his first win outside of the Philippines and although he has got a good looking record this is a big step up for him here.
Another of the under-card bouts will feature the debuting Kaiki Yuba (0-0) making his debut, as he takes on Thai visitor Petchmahalert Eminent Air (0-4). Yuba is the son of the popular Tadashi Yuba, a 5-weight Japanese national champion and is expected to have a strong career going forward. His interest hasn't recieved massive attention but it is clear that those in Japan are hoping that he can have a similar level of popularity to his father.
The wonderful Boxingraise give us their next live show this coming Tuesday with a really good looking, and deep, card from the Korakuen Hall. The show doesn't look like an outstanding one on paper, but fans who know the fighters involved will know that the card will deliver some real highlights.
The main event of the card sees Japanese Flyweight champion Takuya Kogawa (27-4, 13) defending his title against Yudai Arai (8-3-3. 4), in what will be Kogawa's second main event on the Boxingraise service. The veteran champion will be looking for his 4th defense of the belt and it's possible that a win here could see him getting a long awaited third world title fight in 2017. For Arai the opportunity is a rather unearned one but one that he was never going to turn down and we hope that he puts up a credible effort in what will almost certainly be a fun fight, as all Kogawa contests are.
The chief support bout will see #1 ranked Japanese Flyweight Yuta Matsuo (11-2-1, 6) take on Ryuto Oho (9-2-1, 2) in an intriguing 8 rounder, that will likely serve to build up a a potential Matsuo Vs Kogawa bout in 2017, as part of the Champion Carnival if both fighters win. Oho is unranked coming into this bout but is a real potential banana skin and has shown his ability against the likes of Jo Tanooka, Shuji Hamada and Katsunori Nagamine, and was a 2013 Rookie of the Year. Matsuo cannot over look his foe here.
In another supporting bout the highly experienced Masaki Saito (13-11-5, 4) faces the unbeaten Yuichiro Kasuya (9-0, 1) in a bout between two men with Japanese rankings. Saito is really experienced and holds notable results against the likes of Seiichi Okada, Tsuyoshi Tojo and can be a handful on his day. Kasuya on the other hand is rising prospect but this could be, potentially, his toughest bout to date, as he looks to build on a win over Kazuma Sanpei.
Talking about Kazuma Sanpei (12-3, 4) he will himself be in action as he goes up against the JBC and OPBF ranked Masaru Sueyoshi (12-1, 7) in possibly the best looking bout on the card. Sanpei has lost 3 of his last 6, including a 7th round TKO to Sueyoshi and a split decision to the aforementioned Kasuya, but he is certainly better than those results would suggests. Seuyoshi on the other hand looks like a man heading for titles and comes into this on a career best win over Shingo Eto. Good bout that sees Sanpei seek revenge and Sueyoshi look continue his solid run of 9 wins.
A final out of note sees former OPBF title contender Dai Iwai (18-4-1, 7) battle Takehiro Shinohara (7-4-2, 7). Iwai is looking for his second win since last year's stoppage loss to Masayuki Ito and although he'll be the favourite he is facing a real puncher in Shinohara, who stopped Daisuke Watanabe last year, but has sadly been inactive for more than a year coming in to this.