Having beaten Crison Omayao, the Filipino champion, on his debut and the Thai champion Ngaoprajan Chuwatana, in his second bout Naoya Inoue took a huge step in bout #3 by taking on former Japanese title challenger Yuki Sano.
Sano had, less than 2 years prior, taken Masayuki Kuroda to a split decision and it was expected that he would really test the young Inoue, especially considering he had never been stopped. Instead what we got was a bit of a masterclass by Inoue, who had seemingly become a star considering the huge reaction he was getting from the fans.
Inoue started slowly though used his jab excellently to get a feel of Sano and quickly seemed to realise that Sano had no answer for his very educated jab that landed almost at will. As the fight progressed Inoue became more and more impressive effectively showing off every part of his game including some brutal straights, devastating uppercuts and a very sharp left hook. It seemed obvious by round 8 that if Inoue couldn't do it it wasn't worth doing.
Whilst the first 2 performances from Inoue were amazing this one was breath taking and one of the combinations he threw late in the fight (around 37:02) may be one of the most beautiful things ever seen in a boxing ring. If you've never seen Inoue but want to know how good he is, this fight is probably the most complete of his performances so far.
It's hard to argue with those who say Naoya Inoue's debut win over Crison Omayao was very impressive. For others however the true genius of Inoue wasn't visible until his second professional bout, a contest with Thailand's Ngaoprajan Chuwatana.
Chuwatana had come to the ring with a 19 fight record, it wasn't particularly impressive with 10 losses and 9 wins but he had proven tricky to stop with Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Ryo Miyazaki and Jonathan Taconing all going the distance with him and Katsunari Takayama taking 9 rounds to stop him. And he had also shown serious power with 9 stoppages, stoppages that had helped him win the Thai national title.
The Thai's reputation as a tough and heavy handed fighter really didn't seem to help him and within 2 minutes if the fight starting Inoue landed one of the most perfect left hooks you are ever likely to see. It sent Chuwatana down like he'd been shot and although he showed amazing heart to get his feet he was unfit to continue as he stumbled for a few moments and forced the referee to stop the bout.
November 24th 2012 will go down as an historic day in world boxing. It was the day that boxing saw it's first ever man from China winning a world title, the WBC Minimumweight title.
That man was Xiong Zhao Zhong who over-came Mexico's Javier Martinez Resendiz for the previously vacant belt. The bout was a controversial one in many ways with people feeling Zhong had been given his opportunity ahead of Denver Cuello just so that the WBC could crown the first Chinese champion though in reality the WBC did keep Cuello as the mandatory to face the winner and allowed Chinese boxing to have a rare moment in the sun.
Zhong, in all honesty, looked much like he has always looked. Bullish. He didn't show off great technical boxing but did land the better shots on his game Mexican foe who wasn't there just to make up the numbers and actually gave a very good account himself. We'd suggest that if you've not seen this fight before it's well worth watching even if it's not one of the most amazing of recent times.
Of course whilst Zhong became the first Chinese world champion he was also the first Chinese fighter to lose a world title, some thing he did in early 2014 when he was shocked by Oswaldo Novoa. It's interesting to note that prior to Novoa/Zhong Mexican fans had had the chance to see Novoa stopping Resendiz in 4 rounds, that result probably should have run alarm bells ahead of Novoa/Zhong.
For history fans it's interesting to note that this wasn't the first world title bout held in China. It actually came 29 years after Leeonzer Barber defended the WBO Light Heavyweight title Mike Sedillo, we believe that bout, in 1993, was the first.
(Video courtesy of Ryan Bivins)
In September 2008 Yuki Nonaka claimed his first professional boxing title, the Japanese Light Middleweight title. Just 3 months later he looked for the first defence of the the belt and took on the very heavy handed Takao Onda. The bout, on paper, was brilliant with a skilled and tough but light hitting champion fighting against a heavy handed and determined challenger with the winner set to end the year as the champion.
Although the bout looked great on paper it turned out not to be so great in reality with the power puncher often struggling to have much success against a man who was simply a level or two above him. In fact the bout proved how good the champion really was as he put on a bit of a masterclass at times with beautiful counter shots, intelligent movement and great variety in shots. It wasn't quite punch perfect but it did show off just how good Nonaka was, despite taking 7 losses into this fight.
Nonaka's reign sadly came to an end less than a year after this bout when he was out pointed by Akio Shibata and lost both the Japanese title and the OPBF title. By then however no one doubted his ability like they did earlier in his career when he had suffered a disproportionate number of losses.
(Footage courtesy of shibatakenji2517)
When we talk about "domestic legends" every country has it's own. One of the Japanese domestic legends, at least one of the few active ones, is Tadashi Yuba who has won titles from Lightweight to Middleweight, becoming the first, and so far only, Japanese fighter to claim 5 divisional titles.
Prior to winning the Light Middleweight title in 2013 Yuba had a couple of bouts to help him prepare for the 154lb division. One of them saw him battled against the limited but tough and heavy handed Kengo Nagashima. On paper it was a mismatch to help Yuba get used to the weight. In reality it turned out to be a fairly tough bout for Yuba.
In the opening round Yuba dropped Nagashima who was up before 2. From then on it never really looked like Yuba's power troubled the tough Nagashima who had Yuba on the back foot continually. Unfortunately for Nagashima he lacked the skills to really make the taller, faster and more talented Yuba pay for his negativity.
Just a fight later Yuba claimed the Japanese title at 154lbs with an opening blow out against Yosuke Kirima to claim a 5th divisional title. Nagashima however recorded a pair of wins and will be in his first ever title fight on August 10th as he battles Yuki Nonaka, incidentally that bout will be for the now vacant Japanese Light Middleweight title.
(We are very sorry for the poor quality of this video though need to thank 5412380 for uploading it)
When we tend to think of Japanese boxers we often think of fighters who were raced to world titles, including fighters like Naoya Inoue and Kazuto Ioka. One other fighter who won a world title early in their career was Nobuo Nashiro who claim a world title in just his 8th professional. Nashiro's first reign as champion didn't last long though just 16 months after losing his belt he returned to world level and became a 2-time world champion.
In the first defence of his second reign Nashiro battled against little known Japanese fighter Konosuke Tomiyama. Tomiyama was a former OPBF champion but was taking a huge step up in class and viewed as a talented fighter but not one who should really trouble Nashiro. What the champion got however was trouble, in fact he got almost instant trouble as he was dropped inside a minute of the fight beginning.
Nashiro, despite his world class credentials, struggled to get to Tomiyama and often looked rushed and reckless when he attacked. It was as if Nashiro was trying to make life difficult for himself and Tomiyama was taking his chance to land shots regularly.
Nashiro was dropped again in round 6 as Tomiyama seemed set to claim a major upset though eventually the champion found success in and in round 8 he hurt the challenger was never given time to recover as Nashiro jumped on him eventually breaking him down to force the referee to stop the action.
When we discuss bouts with everything this really did have it all. Skills, shocks and a major turn around. Unfortunately for Tomiyama his career since this bout as been inconsistent and he has lost many of his more notable bouts, including a highly exciting war with Genesis Servania. Nashiro on the other hand has retired and is currently working to try and prepare young amateurs for the 2020 games in Tokyo.
When we think of fighters who are disliked by the boxing public at large we think of fighters who do something out of the ring to make us hate them or people who do something in the ring to frustrate us or even turn us against them. It's rare however for a man to turn the boxing community against him by trying to help his country get a foot hold in the boxing world. Sadly for Xiong Zhao Zhong he seems to be an exception to the rule and is genuinely disliked by vast swathes of the boxing community who don't tend to usually pay any interest in the division that he competes in. It seems that the hatred of Zhong can actually make people care about the Minimumweight division.
We know a a lot of the hatred aimed at Zhong surrounds the way he won his title with the WBC delaying the opportunity that Denver Cuello had rightfully earned. We understand that for many that was a reason to hate Zhong though at the end of the day it was political decision by the WBC who make decisions we dislike regular, we rarely however turn our anger on the fighter. We know it was a move to help crown the first Chinese world champion but that alone is an achievement and a move towards further globalising our great sport, something we surely want to see happen.
What few seem to know about Zhong is that before his world title fight he was actually an established fighter himself. He wasn't some novice getting a title fight to gift wrap China a world title but was a fighter who had been a professional for over 6 years and had taken part in over 20 contests, including the one featured below which saw Zhong travel to Japan and fight against Shin Ono.
Ono, although the more correct boxer, was given a very tough test by Zhong who showed a number of the traits that make him more difficult to beat than people think and in fact a case could be made for Zhong to have gotten at very least a draw against Ono who later went on to claim the OPBF Light Flyweight title and fought for the IBF Minimumweight title giving Katsunari Takayama a tricky fight.
We know it sounds like we are Zhong apologists but we're not, we just tend to feel he gets a lot more hate than he is due when we have numerous other fighters getting undeserved opportunities almost weekly. And of course those who hate Zhong would have loved his fight with Oswaldo Novoa.
In 2013 Filipino fighter Jimrex Jaca linked together a trio of wins. Whilst none of them were against a high level of opposition they were all clear wins, the clearest of which was the final of those 3 bouts, an opening round blow out of Indonesian journeyman Wellem Reyk.
Reyk went to the Philippines with a lot of experience and although he had been stopped several times he had never been blown out inside a round. It was likely he wouldn't be blown out here either and would manage to go a few rounds before eventually succumbing to Jaca. Sometimes however a fighter lands a peach and that's what Jaca did with a beautiful straight left to the midsection that buckled Reyk down in agony where he took the count.
Body shots can look devastating with immediate effect whilst at other times they have a delayed but crippling effect. This was one of those from the second category but still a stunning and painful one all the same.
When it comes to what makes a good journeyman we tend to think they have to be tough, they have to be able to fight a bit and they have to come to win. There is no point in a journeyman who simply cannot be bothered to try and win and in fact the JBC seems to try and root out fighters who don't try and gives them some form of a ban.
With that in mind we need to give a lot of credit to good journeymen and one of the best in Asia is Marjohn Yap who isn't the most skilled fighter, or the best fighter but he is a very capable and tough opponent who never folds easily or gives away a fight. In fact if anything Yap has proven more than happy to pull the upset as he has done in a couple of visits to Japan.
One of the losses for Yap on the road came when he travelled and fought the highly skilled Ryosuke Iwasa in what was supposed to be an easy nights work for Iwasa but turned into a very good test for "Eagle Eye".
Yap came to win and made sure that Iwasa knew it in the opening round. Unfortunately for Yap he was unable to match the skills of Iwasa though continued to keep up effort from the bell to the final bell and actually took one or two rounds from Iwasa despite the hostile crowd cheering on Iwasa who began landing counters at will later on.
It was a clear loss for Yap but he made sure that Iwasa fought for the win as opposed to being given it without working for it. Courtesy of this fight Yap was later invited back for several other bouts, including a contest with the hotly tipped Naoto Uebayashi. Again Yap was out classed but he gave a solid account of his skills and heart by forcing Uebayashi to stay sharp through out the bout
People with heavy hands are exciting to watch, especially when those heavy hands have seen a fighter have success through a number of divisions. In the case of Tadashi Yuba his power has certainly bailed him out of some difficult situations and helped him win Japanese national titles from Lightweight all the way up to Middleweight. Despite having numerous flaws defensively that really should have limited his success.
As Middleweight champion Yuba made just a solitary successful defence, this one against Fukutaro Ujiie. It was, on paper, a solid defence against a former national and OPBF title challenger though it turned out to be a bit of a mismatch in the actual ring as Ujiie, who had been stopped in his 2 previous title bouts, was simply unable to cope with the power of the dangerous Yuba who dropped him hard and then closed the show soon afterwards.
This was Yuba's third successive stoppage victory following his title winning effort against Carlos Linares, in what was a thriller, and his very good win over the heavy handed Tomohiro Ebisu in his bout before the Linares fight. Sadly for Yuba he would lose his next fight to Sanosuke Sasaki. Interestingly for Ujiie he would lose his final 2 contests, an opening round KO loss to Koji Numata and a 3rd round TKO to Hikaru Nishida, before effectively calling quites on his career.
Note-for those wanting to skip the TV build up the fight starts at around 13:30
Here we include some of the best, most interesting, most exciting or most eye catching videos from around the Asian boxing world.