The key action for us this coming Sunday comes from California where Top Rank will be putting on a show with two notable Asian fighters, each looking to take a huge step towards a world title fight.
One of those fighters is Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13), who will be taking on Mexican veteran Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21) in a Light Welterweight bout. For Okada this will be his second bout Stateside, after a disappointing and close win over journeyman Cristian Rafael Coria in September. On paper this is a massive step up from that bout, but a win almost surely secure him a shot at the WBC champion later in the year. For the 37 year old Beltran this bout is a return to the ring after being beaten last year by Jose Pedraza, and losing the WBO Lightweight title. Beltran has certainly seen better days and his long career, which began back in 1999, looks to be catching up with him given his last 3 performances were less than stellar. A move up in weight, as this is, may give Beltran a new lease of life, or could be what sends him into retirement. A real must win for both men. Our preview of this bout can be found here - Okada and Beltran set to battle in must win bout!
The other Asian fighter on this card is talented Filipino Genesis Servania (32-1, 15), who takes on unbeaten American Carlos Castro (21-0, 9). Servania has been a staple on the Asian scene long before he made his US debut in 2017, when he faced off with Oscar Valdez in a WBO Featherweight title bout. Despite losing to Valdez the Filipino impressed and this will be his third bout on US soil, following a 2018 win over former world title challenger Carlos Carlson. Servania is a sharp puncher with good defense and a lot of experience, not just his 33 pro bouts but also numerous sparring sessions with the likes of Naoya Inoue. Castor is a bit of an unknown, despite having a good-looking record. His career began way back in 2012 and his best wins against the likes of Alexis Santiago, a shot to bits Juan Palacios and German Meraz. For Castro this is a chance to raise his profile, massively, but he is very clearly the under-dog.
As well as the action Stateside there will also be a somewhat notable card in Hyogo, headline by a regional title.
That regional title bout will see local hopeful Tenta Kiyose (15-2-1, 7) battle against Filipino Ben Mananquil (16-1-3, 4) for the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, which was vacated by Hiroaki Teshigawara last year. The match up sees both men knowing that a win will push their career forward, massively, but both will also be aware that this won't be an easy bout. Kiyose's career was given a huge boost last year when he stopped Oleydong Sithsamerchai, and that's really the stand out win on his ledger. His other wins of note include decisions over Tetsu Araki and Takuya Mizyuno, in the 2015 Rookie of the Year, a stoppage victory over Ryuta Otsuka and a decision win over Joe Tejones. As for the Filipino his best results are draws against Kwanpichit OneSongchaigym, Jing Xiang and Hinata Maruta, with his best wins coming against compatriots Glenn Porras and Jess Rey Waminal. Both are solid fighters, but both will enter this bout know that a win pushes them a lot close to a major bout. We suspect it'll be a tough and compelling match up and a real chance for both to show what they are made of. Our preview of this bout can be read here Mananquil and Kiyose battle for WBO regional honours!
A second title bout on this card will see Yumi Narita (3-2-3, 1) taking on Chie Higano (7-7-1, 2) in a bout for the Japanese Female Minimumweight title, in what is actually a rematch of a draw from last October. The 29 year old Narita has gone unbeaten in her last 4 bouts, but that includes 3 draws, including one with Higano and 2 with Kaori Nagai, As for the more experienced Higano, who is now 34, she has actually gone 1-3-1 in her last 5, but has fought at a high level with losses to Momo Koseki and Eun Hye Lee. We suspect this will be competitive, and be a very hard one to call, just given how their previous meeting went.
As well as the card in Hyogo there will also be a card in Shizuoka. This is a much smaller card, with the main event being a contest between Japanese female Flyweight champion Yumemi Ikemoto (6-1) and Filipino foe Gretel de Paz (5-4-1, 2), in what is supposedly a world title warm up bout for Ikemoto.
The only other bout of any note on this card will see Shogo Yamaguchi (11-4-2, 6) take on Masafumi Ando (5-8-1, 2) in a 6 round bout. Yamaguchi is better than huis record suggests, despite losing 4 of his last 7. He has shared the ring with Akihiro Kondo, Genki Meada, Accel Sumiyoshi and Andy Hiraoka, so he's certainly a solid fighter. Ando on the other hand will be the naturally bigger man and could use his natural size to make this more interesting than it looks on paper.