This coming Saturday sees a new month begin, and it kicks off in stylee with a strong card from the Korakuen Hall.
The main event of card will see the Japanese Bantamweight title finally have a champion crowned, after having been vacated in January by Ryo Akaho and having seen several bouts to crown a new champion fall through. The void at the top of domestic scene will be filled by either Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) or Eita Kikuchi (21-5-4, 8) who will both see this as a massive opportunity to claim a national title. Saito was supposed to face Suguru Muranaka for the title earlier in the year before Muranaka pulled out due to making weight. Kikuchi on the other will be getting his first title bout since losing to Shingo Wake in an OPBF title fight way back in 2013. The winner of this will likely enter 2019 with a target on their back, but will have claimed the biggest win of their career.
The leading support bout will see former Japanese and OPBF champion Charles Bellamy (27-3-2, 18) taking on Yuto Shimizu (12-3-2, 5) in a bout between Japanese ranked fighters. The hard hitting Bellamy has struggled for activity in recent years but is devastating at this level and will know, at the age of 36, that he really only has more run left in his body. A win over Shimizu will not assure Bellamy of a title shot, but will move him much closer to one. As for Shimizu this will only be his third fight since the start of 2016, and his first of note since losing to Yuki Nonaka more than 2 years ago. At 30 years old Shimizu has got youth on his side but would need a career best performance to pick up a win here.
In another notable supporting bout we'll see the very talented Reiya Abe (17-2, 8) battle against Masashi Noguchi (12-10-1, 6). Originally the plan had been for Abe to fight in a Japanese Featherweight title eliminator but with no suitable opponents being able and free he's fighting a bit of a stay busy bout whilst awaiting for a title fight, likely in 2019. Abe is currently riding a 9 fight winning streak, which saw him avenge one of his defeats and over-come the likes of Tsuyoshi Tameda and Satoshi Hosono. Noguchi is a former Japanese title challenger, but comes into this bout on the back of 5 straight losses. Noguchi has no momentum coming into this and has been hand selected to keep Abe busy, but won't be expected to offer much competition.
Arguably the biggest single name on this card is recent world title contender Akihiro Kondo (30-7-1, 17), who will be looking to tick over with a stay busy fight of his own. The teak tough Kondo will be up against domestic journeyman Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-11-1, 9) in what should be Kondo's second victory since losing in 2017 to Sergey Lipinets in an IBF title fight. Miyazaki has been stopped in 8 of his 11 losses and we suspect to see another loss here for the 34 year old. Miyazaki has got power, but given the toughness of Kondo we don't think that will matter too much in this bout.
On paper one of the more even match ups will see the in form Ryohei Takahashi (15-3-1, 6) take on Shingo Kusano (11-6-1, 4), who is one of the two men to hold a win over the aforementioned Reiya Abe. Takahashi has rebuilt well since suffering an August 2017 defeat, and was last seen scoring an upset win in Thailand against Mike Tawatchai for a regional IBF title. Kusano on the other hand has been stopped in his last 2 bouts and is without a win since February 2016, when he defeated a Thai novice. It's hard to see past a Takahashi victory here, but he should get some good rounds in against a usually durable foe.
One other fighter of note on this show is Hayate Kaji (10-0, 8), who will be taking on a Thai foe. The talented Kaji has looked fantastic at times, but a disappointing performance last December against Jun Blazo has left some serious questions for him to answer. If Kaji can commit himself to the sport his potential is huge, but her really does just need to make sure he can focus on his training and what he needs to do in the ring. We're not expecting him to be tested here, but we are hoping to see an impressive performance from the Japanese youngster.
Pathum Thani, Thailand
In Thailand fight fans will be able to see veteran Sirimongkol Singwancha (95-4, 60) continue his journey to being a centurion as he take on Muhammad Nsubuga (0-6-1) in a bout for the vacant Thai Light Heavyweight title. The 41 year old Sirimongkol, who had world title reigns at Bantamweight and Super Featherweight more than a decade ago, is long past his prime but clear still has hunger and that shows by the fact he'll be fighting at 175lb for the first time in his career. Ugandan born Thai based Nsuubuga has been stopped in 6 of his 7 bouts and we suspect he'll be stopped again here as Sirimongkol marks his 100th professional bout!
Action returns to the Korakuen Hall this coming Thursday as we, finally, crown a new Japanese Bantamweight champion.
That title bout will see former Japanese Flyweight champion, and former Super Flyweight world title challenger, Suguru Muranaka (26-3-1, 8) battle against Yuta Saito (10-9-3, 7) to fill the Bantamweight vacancy. The title has been vacant since Ryo Akaho vacated due to health reasons in January. A proposed bout between Muranaka and Yosuke Suzuki fell through earlier this year, extending the length without a national champion at 118lbs. Of the two fighters it's Muranaka who is the more well known and the more distinguished, given he had a pretty notable reign at the domestic level before his world title fight against Kal Yafai. Despite that he may actually go into this as the under-dog, given that Saito is a natural Bantamweight, who has even mixed at Super Bantamweight, and is much, much better than his record suggests. Of his 9 losses 7 have been very close decisions, with only Mugicha Nakagawa and Ryo Akaho holding clear wins over him. On paper this is mismatch, but in reality it's a very close to call bout and is excellently matched.
Sadly other than the main event the rest of this card is very weak, with 8 bouts, all of which are 4 rounders, acting in support of the very exciting headline bout.
Umtata, South Africa
In South Africa fan swill be able to see Simphiwe Khonco (18-5, 7) battle against Filipino foe Toto Landero (10-2-2, 2) for the IBO Minimumweight title. The South African will be defending the title for the third time and will looking to get a shot at a big 4 title in the near future. Although Khonce doesn't have the most amazing of records he is a talented fighter who gave Hekkie Budler fits in 2015 and has gone unbeaten since then, scoring a notable win over Nkosinathi Joyi. Landero challenged Knockout CP Freshmart earlier this year, and gave the unbeaten Thai some real issues before losing a decision. Other than that result Landero also holds a win over Vic Saludar and could well have the skills and desire to rip the IBO title from Khonco. This could be an excellent match up and one with a lot of leather being thrown by both men.
This coming Monday fight fans in Japan get the chance to see a really intriguing domestic level card combining competitive match ups, youth and and fighters looking to prove themselves.
The main event of the show should be something very special as the always fun to watch Kenya Yamashita (12-3, 9) takes on the experienced Hayato Kimura (26-10, 17). It's hard to think of a dull fight featuring Yamashita, who is an ultra-aggressive fighter always looking for the KO and in Kimura he should find someone able to take his power early on and have a war. Coming into this Yamashita is ranked #5 by the JBC at 115lbs whilst Kimura is ranked #6 and both men will know that a win here will move them close to a shot at the national title.
Talking about titles there will be a JBC Youth Lightweight title fight on the card, as Izuki Tomioka (5-0, 1) takes on Kaiki Yuba (3-0, 2). The talented Tomioka will be seeking his 2nd defense of the title, and although a genuine talent there is a feeling that he lacks the power needed, at the moment, to move on to the next level. If, or when, Tomioka adds that power then there is a huge ceiling for him to aim for. As for Yuba he looks like a man with that power already there and will be looking to prove that he really is the future in this bout. Aged 19 Yuba has the potential to go much further than his father, a 5-weight Japanese national champion, but this is certainly a step up for him.
A really interesting match up will see recent Japanese Bantamweight title challenger Yuta Saito (10-8-3, 7) take on Naoya Okamoto (12-6-1, 6). Saito came up short last time out, suffering a 9th round TKO loss to Ryo Akaho, but was competitive prior to the stoppage, and is certainly better than his record suggests. Okamoto is also better than his record suggests, and comes in to this bout on the back of wins against Gaku Aikawa and Daisuke Watanabe, two of his very best. This should be a very intriguing and exciting match, despite their records suggesting otherwise.
Another interesting bout on this show will see Kenichi Watanabe (7-3-1, 4) end an almost 2 year break from action as he takes on the light punching Joe Tanooka (14-4-4, 1). Watanabe was stopped in 2 of his last 3, with Akinori Hoshino and Hiroaki Teshigawara both stopping him, but with some time out of the ring there is a chance we will see him revitalised here. Tanooka was stopped inside a round last time out, by Yamashita, and will be looking to get his career back on track here in what should be a very competitive contest.
In Tokyo we get one of two notable cards, with a title bout in the headliner and some interesting supporting bouts.
That title bout at the top of the card will see Japanese Bantamweight champion Ryo Akaho (30-2-2, 19) defending his title against the #1 ranked contender Yuta Saito (10-7-3, 7), in a bout that doesn't look great on paper. Saito is an upset minded fighter, and is better than his record suggests, but this is a massive step up in class and Akaho, a 2-time world title challenger, should comfortably win here. For the champion this will be his first defense of a title he won earlier in the year against Yushi Tanaka and we can't see him giving up the title easily, especially not to a fighter like Saito.
The chief support bout will see Teiken prospect Shuya Masaki (7-0, 3) fighting against a Thai foe, as Masaki continues his rise towards a potential title fight. Although he hasn't set the world on fire like we had hoped Masaki does look a talent, and we expect him to make a statement here, as he looks to convince Teiken that he deserves a title fight of some kind.
A really solid looking support bout will see Masashi Noguchi (12-7-1, 6) take on Tatsuya Yanagi (12-5-1, 4) in a bout that has a real 50-50 feel. Coming in Noguchi has been stopped in his last two, but those stoppages have been to very good fighters in the form of Shuhei Tsuchiya and Satoshi Hosono. Yanak on the other hand has gone 2-5-1 in his last 8, though did score a notable win over Ryusei Nakajima last time out. This has two men who need a win and we expect them to fight like men who really need to perform.
Another good looking support bout will see Ryohei Takahashi (11-2-1, 3) take on Yuki Iriguchi (8-1-1, 4). Coming in to this Takahashi is on a 3 fight winning run with wins against Kazuki Tanaka and Wataru Takeda. Interestingly Iriguchi has also won his last 3, including an upset win over Kenshin Oshima last October.
One other bout of interest will see KO article Kai Chiba (5-0, 5) take on teenager Ikuro Sadatsune (6-1-2, 2). Both men appear to be stepping up here, with both being pretty untested, but they should answer some questions as they face off in a good looking match up, and a nice supporting contest for the show.
We also get a genuinely huge show in India, as two super powers go against each other with both fighters looking to put their country on the boxing map.
In one corner will be unbeaten Indian Vijender Singh (8-0, 7), a huge hero to his homeland, whilst his opponent will be big punching Chinese fighter Zulipikaer Maimaitiali (8-0-1, 6). Coming in the the bout both men hold different WBO regional titles, with Singh defending the WBO Asia Pacific title and Maimaitiali looking to defend the WBO Oriental crown. The winner will unify the titles and move a long way towards getting a world title fight, so this really is a huge bout, for both Indian and Chinese boxing.
On the under-card we'll see 25 year old Indian hopeful Neeraj Goyat (8-2-2, 2) take on former OPBF Super Featherweight champion Allan Tanada (15-6-3, 7). On paper the bout looks like a good test for Goyat, but the Indian is naturally much bigger and will be using that size in what will be his first defense of the WBC ABC Welterweight title, which he won back in October.
In Cebu we'll get a low key card featuring a couple of notable names in what look like horrible mismatches.
One of those mismatches wlll see once beaten prospect Cris Ganoza (12-1, 6) take on Garry Rojo (7-10, 4). Ganoza was stopped in 9 rounds last time out by Edward Heno and it's clear that his team want him to get an easy win under his belt as he begins rebuilding his career, and in many ways it's hard to complain about them giving him an easy comeback win.
The other mismatch will see the out of form, but very talented, Rey Labao (27-9, 18) take on Jhun Ryan Quimbo (5-14-2). Although Labao's record doesn't show it, he was a real handful on the fringes of world class a few years ago, with power that stopped Jay Solmiano and Masao Nakamura and a toughness that always made him a nightmare. Labao has lost his last 3, and 4 of his last 5, and is coming to the end of his roller coaster career, but should have far too much for Quimbo, who is little more than a domestic journeyman.
New Jersey, USA
In the US we see another Chinese fighter in action as Heavyweight hopeful Zhilei Zhang (16-0, 12) takes on Nick Guivas (13-7-2, 9). This will be Zhang's fourth fight this year, following 3 first round stoppages, and it's great that he's staying so busy, but it's time he took a step up in class and hopefully next time out he'll take on someone a bit more notable than Guivas, who has been stopped 4 times in 22 bouts already
The Japanese show to take place at the “Holy Ground” of the Korakuen Hall takes place on January 13th and although it's not a blockbuster card it does feature two very notable bouts.
The first of those will see the very experienced former OPBF and JBC title holder Charles Bellamy (26-3-1, 17) take on the rising and big punching Yuki Beppu (14-0, 14) in a massively significant 8 rounder. The experienced Bellamy will be looking to move towards a title fight in 2017 but at 35 some have questioned just what he has left, and he fought just 8 rounds in 2016 and only 6 in 2015. Beppu, a destructive puncher, has failed to really impress since winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year and this is set to be his biggest test, by far.
In a Bantamweight clash we'll see JBC #1 ranked contender Yuta Saito (10-7-2, 7) battle against former title challenger Tatsuya Takahashi (25-6-4, 18) in a bout that will likely decide a 2017 domestic title challenger. Saito has won just 3 of his last 8 bouts but is looking to get a title fight in the near future, and has been competitive in many of his losses. Takahashi impressed us massively when he took on Kentaro Masuda in 2014 and he's pursuing a rematch with Masuda, knowing that a win here will assure him of that bout later in the year. Potentially this could be a really exciting war.
Da Lian, China
There will also be a low key show in China.
In the main even of the card fans will see Chinese local Xing Xin Yang (11-5-3, 8) take on once beaten Thai Romnakit Technopoly Bangkok (8-1, 5). The Chinese 24 year old has won one of his last 4, a stoppage win against Takamori Akita, though will be coming into this bout on the back of a loss to the then debuting Nursultan Zhanabayev. Ronnakitsuffered his first loss last year, when he travelled to China and lost to American Rogelio Casarez. This could be an interesting bout, but we suspect the naturally bigger local fighter will come out on top.