We know the new year has began but, without trying to sound moody, the boxing really hasn't. Sure we've had a world title fight, a female world title fight and one or two other bouts but it's still not really back to the usual action we expect to see...or is it? This Saturday may well be the official start to the boxing year with major fights in Asia and in Mexico as we finally get to say the year, has kicked off.
For us the key card is a small one in Japan at the Korakuen Hall. The show, promoted by Kadoebi Jewel, will be their first show of 2014 and will feature the first OPBF title fight of the new year as Yoshitaka Kato (26-4-1, 7) defends his belt against the unbeaten Masayoshi Nakatani (6-0, 5).
Although the more experience fighter, Kato will know that he's in for a tough one against the big hitting Nakatani, a gym mate of Kazuto Ioka and Ryo Miyazaki. Kato, both the OPBF and Japanese Lightweight champion, will only have his OPBF belt on the line though will know that a loss will really hurt his career whilst on the flip-side of that Nakatani will know that a win will put him on the platform to challenge for world honours like his more established gym mates. Whoever wins will certainly have to show how good they are.
On the same card we expect to see Yukinori Oguni (11-1, 2), the former OPBF Super Bantamweight champion, dipping his toe at Featherweight as he takes on Yuki Fujimoto (7-2-1, 2) in a 10 rounder. This bout, the chief support of the show, will be Oguni's second bout since losing his title to he excellent Shingo Wake back in March 2013.
Further down the card is Kenji Kubo (3-2, 1) who takes on Kota Sato (9-5-1, 4). Kubo, who is highly tipped despite his record, will be expected to easily beat Sato despite the relative lack of experience compared to Sato who has lost 3 of his last 7.
This will also be the card which sees former Japanese Light Middleweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida take part in a public sparring session with Yamato Fujinaka. If Ishida can impress the JBC with this sparring session he's expected to receive a Heavyweight ranking and a possible fight with Kyotaro Fujimoto could be made for the Japanese Heavyweight title in April.
In total we are expecting just 5 bouts on this show, but with the 3 mentioned above we're expecting a very solid all-round card with no real weak link, other than the relatively poor poster.
The Philippines-Metro Manila
Whilst we are really excited by the Japanese card we have to admit we're disappointed by the card that we appear to be getting in the Philippines. Originally we were expecting to see Sonny Boy Jaro (34-13-5, 24), the former WBC and Linear Flyweight champion, fight domestic journeyman Pit Anacaya (8-22-2, 1) and Florante Condes (25-8-1, 21), the former IBF Minimumweight champion, return to action to face Rey Morano (8-38-1, 1). Sadly the GAB haven't allowed either of these fights to take place on the grounds that they are mismatches.
Unfortunately this was a chance for both Condes, pictured above, and Jaro to put some losses behind them and get back to winning ways, though the GAB's decision has seen both fights cancelled and left the matchmaker without enough time to find replacement opponents.
Thankfully one bout that has passed the GAB's inspections sees the of the promising Neil John Tabanao (5-0, 4) in action. The unbeaten prospect takes on his biggest challenge so far as he battles Warren Mambuanag (6-3-2, 3) who should ask Tabanao some previously unasked questions in what looks to be a brilliant matched bout, unlike the 2 that were cancelled.
As well as the bout we've mentioned above we're expecting a total of 12 bouts courtesy of Jaro Promotion International. The show, which looks like a deep one, may not be that competitive but with all the bouts we'd expect at least one or two worth watching especially on the under-card.
As well as the fights in Asia we also have a trio of Filipino's in action in Mexico on a special "Mexico v Filipinas" show courtesy of Promociones del Pueblo.
In terms of name value the lowest profile of the bouts sees Adones Aguelo (20-8-2, 12) taking on Nery Saguilan (26-4-1, 10). Although it's a lower profile bout it's probably the best chance the Philippines has of getting a win on the board with both men being relatively well matched on paper and Aguelo being a slightly bigger puncher and the tougher of the two men.
Sadly we find it very hard to see a way to win for Lionel Mark Duran (11-9-2, 5) to over-come Ramon Garcia Hirales (19-4-1, 12), the former WBO Minimumweight champion. Although Garcia isn't great, and was blasted out in 4 rounds by Roman Gonzalez, he shouldn't have many problems with Duran who is tough but limited.
If life will be hard for Duran we expect it to be doubly hard for Vergel Nebran (11-6-1, 7) who will be trying to score a major upset against former WBC Super Flyweight champion Tomas Rojas (41-14-1-1, 27). Rojas, who has wins over Kohei Kono and Nobuo Nashiro, may have lost to both Suriyan Sor Rungvisai and Shinsuke Yamanaka in recent years but it's highly unlikely he loses to Nebran, and in fact the likely outcome is that Nebran doesn't hear the final bell.