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.
Metro Manila, Philippines
Ateention turns to the Philippines this coming Saturday as ESPN5 televised their first show of the new year. It's not a bumper card, but does feature some notable names as the channel looks to increase the profile of a number of Filipino fighters.
One of the notable bouts on this card will see the unbeaten pairing of Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) and Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) battle for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Flyweight title. We've been impressed by Apolinario since he made his debut back in 2017 and the 20 year old looks like a dynamite prospect with speed, skills, power and a lot of potential. This however is a step up in class and Vicelles will be coming to do more than just make up the numbers. The 23 year old Vicelles has already ruined 22 unbeaten records, and will be looking to expose another touted domestic rival here. We're expecting real fireworks and excitement here in what should be the show stealing bout.
In a good supporting bout Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) will be taking on Japanese foe Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7) in what should be an interesting assignment. Gaballo will be favoured, he really impressed last year with wins against Stephon Young and Julias Kisarawe, but Nakamura is no push over, and he impressed in December when he should have had a win over Yougu Yu, though the judges found a way to score that a draw. Gaballo should win, but Nakamura won't be there to just make up the numbers.
In another supporting bout the hard hitting Romero Duno (18-1, 14) will face off with Indian Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) in what is expected to be little more than a stay busy bout for Duno. The Filipino puncher is on a 9 fight winning run, including his break out win over Christian Gonzalez from March 2017, and looks like a potential world title contender. Dhanda on the other hand has never previously fought outside of India and lacks a win of any note, suggesting he will be completely unable to cope with Duno's power and skills.
Jeonju, South Korea
In Korea fans will be getting a double title show, with domestic Cruiserweight and Welterweight titles up for grabs. The theme of the show is Korea Vs Japan Vs China, but sadly the international bouts are over shadowed by the title bouts.
The Welterweight title will see either Yong Hwan Jun (4-4-1, 2) or Dong Young Kang (4-5-2) being crowned as the new champion. Neither of these two are great, but the Korean Welterweight scene isn't very good right now and hopefully getting the title scene up and running will kick start that, with fighters vying for a shot.
The Crusierweight title fight on the other hand will see Hyun Tae Bae (5-1-1, 3) battle against Kyung Hak Lee (3-5-1, 1). The 29 year old Bae returned in December, after more than 2 years out of the ring, and stopped Tae San Kil to earn his shot at the title. Lee on the other hand is without a win since March 2011, and it seems like this is little more than a coronation event for Bae.
One other bout of note here will see the unbeaten Dong Myung Shin (1-0), who impressed on debut in September, battle against Chinese fighter Yiping Gao (3-5, 1). Shin looked really good, defeating Hiroyuki Sagehashi on debut, and we're expecting him to shine again here. At the age of 30 Shin will need to be active to make any mark on the sport, but could be one of the few Korean with the skillset to impress internationally.
Another Asian fighter in action in the US is Filipino Genisis Libranza (17-1, 10), who will be looking to make his US debut following an aborted bout in January against Carlos Buitrago, who failed to make weight for a bout with Libranza. He will be up against Gilberto Mendoza (11-6-2, 4), who is a 29 year old who has yet to score a win of note. This should be seen as a showcase to Libranza if we're being honest.
For the second in just a few days Japanese fight fans get a 4 round Dangan show, and like the first, which was on Wednesday, we do get some interesting match ups.
One of the best looking ones on paper will see unbeaten fighters going against each other as 17 year old puncher Jin Sasaki (2-0, 2) takes on Naoyuki Tsumoto (1-0, 1). Sasaki debuted just weeks after his 17th birthday and has picked up a couple of low key wins whilst Tsumoto, who turns 28 just days before this fight, debuted last October with a stoppage win of his own. This could be very entertaining!
Another potentially interesting match up will see Seigo Hanamori (3-3, 1) take on Taku Hashimoto (2-3, 1). This doesn't have the allure of the bout between the unbeaten men, but both have a bit of experience and both will feel like they can pick up a win against a fellow limited fighter. This could be the fight of the show despite the limited records of the men involved.
This coming Wednesday fight fans at the Korakuen Hall will get the chance to watch a Dangan show featuring only 4 rounders.
The show, as is normal with these type of cards, doesn't have any notable names on it, but does feature some potentially interesting match ups. One of those will see Ryuya Nihei (2-0) taking on Yu Kasahara (2-0, 2) in a bout between unbeaten youngsters. Nihei is a 20 year old who debuted in March 2017 and last fought last October. Kasahara, who's 20, debuted in October 2017 and last fought in April 2018. This should be very interesting.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we'll also see Katsutoshi Tomiyama (0-2) and Yusuke Konishi (0-2) battle for their first win, in what should be a hotly contested fight between two men who are wanting to end their winless streaks. These can often be very good fights, albeit fights that perhaps lack a high level of skill.
The month of February kicks off this coming Saturday, and we start to see action return to normal with the second Dynamic Glove card of the year, and a Kazakh prospect in action in the US.
Toyko, Korakuen Hall
The Dynamic Glove card is an interesting one, with a ring return of a fighter who has served a year long suspension, a Japanese title fight and the second bout of a very highly regarded prospect.
The returning fighter is Kenichi Ogawa (22-1-0-1, 17), who will be fighting for the first time since December 2017 when he faced Tevin Farmer. The former Japanese Super Featherweight champion has served a 12 month ban for testing positive for illegal substance and will be looking to put that year behind him as he takes on Filipino foe Roldan Aldea (12-6-1, 6). The Filipino has lost his last 2, but did become the first fighter to take the exciting Shawn Oda the distance, doing that last April, and will be looking to have another solid performance here, even if he does end up coming up short again.
The Japanese title fight will see the unbeaten Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) look to enhance his growing reputation as he takes on Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8) for the vacant Japanese Flyweight title. The title was vacated in late 2018, as Masayuki Kuroda put his focus on preparing for a world title fight, allowing Mochizuki to face Nakatani in the Champion Carnival. The unbeaten Nakatani is a former Rookie of the Year and Japanese Youth Champion who has already broken into the world rankings and is expected to go a very, very, long way. Mochizuki on the other hand is underrated due to his losses, with 2 of those being very competitive and one of those being suffered early in his career. Mochizuki has proven to be tough, have a good work rate and could well spring the upset over the much fancied and very highly regarded 21 year old Nakatani, but many will be tipping the youngster. We've previewed this bout here Nakatani and Mochizuki battle for Japanese title!
Another notable name on this card will be former WBA "interim" Flyweight and OPBF Super Flyweight champion Koki Eto (23-4-1, 18), who will be up against Filipino visitor Rommel Oliveros (9-4-1, 4). This looks like it will be little more than a tune up bout for Eto who is wanting to fight for a world title this year, though is likely to continue just ticking over, as he has done since facing Carlos Cuadras way back in 2015.
Also on this card is the second professional bout of former amateur standout Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) and the professional debut of Gonte Lee (0-0), also an amateur standout. These two Teiken prospects will be up against Thai visitors in what we expect will be little more than show case bouts for the novices, who are expected to achieve great things in the near future, as the Teiken gym rebuild after a few disappointing years.
As well as the Japanese action fight fans will also get the chance to see touted Kazakh fighter Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1) take on Steven Martinez (18-4, 13), in a dangerous looking bout. We were excited to see Alimkhanuly goo full on professional last year, and sign with Top Rank, though his performances in 2018 left us wondering whether he really is suited to the professional ranks. He is very talented, sharp and accurate, but there is a feeling that something hasn't yet clicked, though in fairness he has been matched hard and there is incredibly high expectations on his shoulders. Martinez is a 28 year old who is tough, having never been stopped, but has been beaten by his most notable opponents, such as Terrell Gausha, Denis Douglin and Christopher Pearson. This should be a very good test for the Kazakh.
The biggest bout this coming Thursday is a world title eliminator at 115lbs, with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger for Filipino fighter Donnie Nietes. The match up will see Filipino Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20), who actually fought to a draw with Nietes last year, taking on Puerto Rican foe Jose Martinez (20-0-2, 13), in what looks like a really good match up on paper. Palicte is a huge Super Flyweight, with nasty power and underrated skills, though seemed to lack the ring craft at times against Nietes last year. Martinez on the other hand has 2 draws with recent world title challenger Alejandro Santiago Barrios, who himself fought to a draw with Jerwin Ancajas in 2018. Despite being unbeaten we've yet to be impressed by Martinez and this looks like his toughest bout to date. Palicte may not be an elite level fighter, but this does seem to be a bout that he should be favoured in. We've previewed this bout here Palicte and Martinez battle for world title shot!
In Tokyo fans will get the latest Dangan card, Dangan 221. The show is a low profile one, headlined by a 6 round Flyweight contest between Naoki Inaba (5-5, 2) and Takuya Kihashi (5-6-1, 2), in what is a less than fantastic match up on paper.
Although buried in the middle of the card the show will also feature the once touted Yuichiro Kasuya (10-2-1, 2), who fights for the first time in over a year, as he takes on Thai foe Adisai Chantan (6-4, 2). Kasuya is a 22 year old who looked like a prodigious talent early on, winning the Rookie of the year at the age of 18 way back in 2014. Sadly his career has failed to take off and he'll be hoping a recent move to the Kadoebi Gym will help revitalise his career. Whilst Kasuya is 1-2-1 in his last 4 he is not expected to be tested too much in 2019 as he rebuilds his confidence.
This coming Sunday isn't a big day in Asian boxing but there is a pretty notable KBF card in Korea with a double feature.
One of the two major bouts will see Japanese puncher Masamichi Yabuki (7-3, 7) battle #1 ranked Korean contender Min Chul Bae (5-1-1, 4). This bout is being sold as an OPBF ranking match, suggesting the winner will take a huge step towards an OPBF title fight. We've been impressed by Yabuki, despite losses to Daniel Matellon and Seigo Yuri Akui in 2018, and he is a really talented boxer-puncher. We've not seen much of Bae but the 29 year old has won last 2 bouts by stoppage and will fancy himself to see off Yabuki, in what could be a firefight.
The other notable bout on this card will see KBF Middleweight champion Sung Jae Jo (7-0, 6) defending his title against Gyung Mo Yuh (3-5-3), in what appears to be little more than a mismatch in favour of the hard hitting and unbeaten champion. Despite being unbeaten the 23 year old champion hasn't really been tested yet, with only a single opponent lasted more than 4 rounds with him. The challenger is a natural welterweight, who has avoided defeat in his last 3 bouts, but has done little to suggest he's going to be a real test here.
The Deagu card isn't the only Korean card for the day, as there's also one in Seoul. This one is a card full of novices with no fighters of any name value. The most experienced fighter on the show is Soo Lee (2-4-2, 2), who will be up against the debuting Doo Ri Song (0-0) in a 4 round bout at 154lbs.
Surigao del Norte, Philippines
As well as the Korean cards there will also be a show in the Philippines, which will feature China's Mingcun Chen (5-0, 5) making his international debut, and battling Apisak Puttawong (1-7, 1). The unbeaten 20 year old has yet to be taken more than 2 rounds, and was last seen claiming a minor title. It's really hard to see how Apisak will offer any kind of a test for the youngster, especially given that Apisak a blown up Featherweight and already been stopped 4 times.
In Texas this coming Saturday we'll get a number of Asian fighters fighting on a major Golden Boy card, two of whom will be challenging for major titles
The main event of the card will see unbeaten Mexican Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26) defending his WBO Light Middleweight title against Japanese challenger Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7). The champion really burst onto the scene last year, not only winning the title but also fitting in 2 defenses of the belt in a real break out year. Surprisingly Munguia was an unknown when was denied the chance to fight Gennady Golovkin, but ended the year one with incredible momentum. A real break out star of the year. Inoue, no relation to Naoya Inoue, had a brilliant 2017, scoring 4 wins and unifying the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, but had a frustrating 2018 fighting only once. The expectation is that Inoue will be brushed aside by the excellent Mexican, but he will have travelled to score the upset and seems to be fully aware of how big this opportunity is. Our preview of this contest can be read here Inoue looks to upset WBO champion Munguia!
Thhe other bout will see Puerto Rican puncher Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2-1, 19) take on Chinese challenger Can Xu (15-2, 2), with Rojas looking to defend his WBA "Regular" Featherweight title. Rojas lost last time out to Joseph Diaz, but Diaz failed to make weight resulting in Rojas keeping the, and he'll be looking to make a real statement this coming year. Xu will be looking to become the first Chinese man above 112lbs to win any form of a world title but is up against it here. Rojas is the more experienced man, the hard hitting and the more proven fight, but Xu will certainly be there to win and to put himself at the top of the world scene. This is an interesting match and for many their first real chance to see Xu fighting live. Our preview of this bout can be found here Can Xu become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion?
New York, USA
Staying in the US, though travelling over to New York, we get a real 50-50 match up, as unbeaten Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) take on the explosive Dominican Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) in a bout for the lightly regarded IBO Featherweight title. It's hard to see this bout going the distance, with both being serious punchers and both having been down in recent bouts. For Nyambayar this bout is a big step up in class, and his first against a Featherweight puncher in his prime. On the other hand Marrero has fought just 33 seconds since being stopped by Jesus M Rojas back in September 2017. It's hard to see this as anything but a thrilling contest. Our preview of this fight can be read here Tugstsogt Nyambayar and Claudio Marrero clash!
In Canadian we'll see top Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov (6-0, 6) look to enhance his reputation after a brilliant 2018. He'll be up against Mexican foe Abraham Juarez (13-1, 5) in a bout for the WBC Youth Light Middleweight title. The unbeaten 20 year old Kazakh really impressed us in 2018 and we are expecting him to shine again this year. On paper Juarez is a good step up in class, and he has gone unbeaten in his last 9 bouts, but he is seen as the clear under-dog against the sensational Kazakh.
Baja California, Mexico
In Mexico fans will get the chance to see Kazakh fighter Aida Satybaldinova (4-1-1, 1) begin her 2019 campaign. "Lady Sparta" made he debut in March 2018 and was bust last year, but lost against her only opponent with a winning record and we suspect she's going to be matched softly here, though her opponent hasn't currently been announced.
The more interesting of two Filipino cards will take place in Cavite, in what is being sold a very clear double header.
One of the main bouts will see Alphoe Dagayloan (11-2-5, 5) battle against Danrick Sumabong (7-1, 6) for the WBA Asia Super Flyweight title. We've been impressed by Dagayloan, who showed his power last year with stoppage wins against Madiyar Zhanuzak and Rongguo Wu. Sumabong on the other hand is a 19 year old who hasn't had much attention, but is heavy-handed fighter who managed to give the very highly regarded Jade Bornea real problems last year. This is certainly worth getting excited about.
The other bout of note will see ArAr Andales (8-0, 1) battle Charlie Malupangue (7-3-3, 6) in a bout for the WBA Asia Minimumweight title. The 19 year old Andales is stepping up massively here, but he has shown plenty of promise and has won the LuzProBA title already in his short career. Mulapangue was stopped in his most notable bout, by Robert Paradero, but this is a credible fighter on the domestic scene, as he'll be looking to prove here. It's worth mentioning that neither of these really should be fighting for a WBA Asia title, but it's still an interesting fight all the same.
Paranque City, Philippines
As well as the Cavite show there will also be one at Paranque City. This show will be headlined by an WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title clash between Al Toyogon (9-2-1, 6), the defending champion, and Ryusei Ishii (7-4-1, 4). On paper this is a well matched bout and should be pretty competitive.
The show will also feature a WBC Asian Boxing Council Flyweight title bout, with Ricardo Sueno (8-2-4, 3) and Diomel Diocos (13-2-3, 4) fighting for the vacant title. On paper this is another well matched contest and should provide some excellent action for the fans, who appear to be getting treated well in the Philippines this year with strong low level domestic clashes!
Action returns to the Korakuen Hall this coming Friday for a small, but notable card featuring a few names known around the Asian scene.
The main event of the card will see the teak tough Tatsuya Takahashi (29-8-5, 21) take on the underrated Gaku Aikawa (9-6-1, 3). The 29 year old Takahashi first came to our attention in 2014, when he challenged the then Japanese Bantamweight champion Kentaro Masuda in a thrilling 10 round contest, in which Takahashi was described as a "zombie" afterwards. Since losing to Masuda in their entertaining bout Takahashi has gone 11-1-2 (8) and been in some entertaining contests. Aikawa is a win some, lose some fighter, going 6-6 in his last 12, though has mixed with good fighters. Sadly for Aikawa it's hard to imagine him picking up a win against Takahashi, even if Takahashi is himself rather crude.
Another bout of note on this card will see former Japanese Minimumweight title challenger Masashi Tada (12-5-3, 8) take on former OPBF Light Flyweight title challenger Lester Abutan (13-9-3, 7) in an interesting match up. Coming into this Tada is 1-2-2 in his last 5, dating back 5 years, whilst Abutan has lost 4 of his last 6, though those losses do include defeats by Kenshiro in an OPBF title bout and Ryota Yamauchi in late 2017. Neither of these are a world beater, but this should still be an interesting and competitive contest.
As well as the Japanese card there will also be a show in Thailand, featuring 2 notable Thai fighters.
The main event will see OPBF "silver" Super Flyweight champion Kongfah CP Freshmart (24-1, 13) defending his title against Filipino foe Salatiel Amit (11-5-2, 8). This is a mismatch on paper, but the reality is that Amit is much better than his record suggests, and we suspect that Kongfah will have to work hard for a win here. We don't expect to see the title changing hands, but Amit will certainly give Kongfah a really tough test.
Another bout on this card will see WBA #2 ranked Flyweight Noknoi Sitthiprasert (68-5, 42) take part in what was being promoted as a tune up bout ahead of a potential world title fight later in the year.
H Kelly Woto puts on his next show this coming Thursday, with the main event being a contest between Indonesuan veteran Stevie Ongen Ferdinandus (27-17-1, 14) and Thai visitor Uthit Punsen (20-4, 1), who will be battling for the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Welterweight title. The 38 year old Ferdinandus debuted in 2009 and has already crammed 46 fights into his career, though he has sadly lost his last 3 bouts, including an embarrassing performance against Tim Tszyu. The Thai, also known as Yodkhunpol Nakornluang, has lost his most notable bouts, including a loss last October to Muhamad Farkhan, but is a live fighter here against the local favourite.
As well as the card in Indonesia there is also set to be a card in China, though a very low profile one. Arguably the most intriguing match up will see Canadian Helmand Meran Alekozai (6-0, 2) return to the ring after more than a year out, to take on Chinese based Spanish fighter Jose Vinuelas Borras (0-1), who lost on debut in December.