Earlier today Matchroom announced their return to Uzbekistan, now set for December 17th at the Renaissance Hall in Tashkent. No only that but they almost announced that the card would be one stacked with Uzbekistani hopefuls, and feature a world title eliminator.
That world title eliminator will see Israil Madrimov (7-0, 5) [Исроил Мадримов] taking on French veteran Michel Soro (35-2-1, 24) in a WBA world title eliminator at 154lbs. On paper the bout is a major step up for Madrimov who is has looked class at times, but has also put in some frustrating and underwhelming performances in recent contests, and looks, possibly, like a man who may come un-done when fighting at a higher level. As for Soro he is a top class fighter, but at the age of 34 we do wonder if, or when, father time will begin to get to him.
Not only is the main event a great bout, but the under-card is also stacked with top Uzbek talent, featuring the likes of Shakhram Giyasov (11-0, 9) [Shahram G‘iyosov], Bektemir Melikuziev (7-1, 6) [Бектемир Мелиқўзиев], Hasanboy Dusmatov (3-0, 3) [Ҳасанбой Дўсматов] and Ikboljon Kholdarov (1-0, 1) [Иқболжон Холдоров]
Back in November 2019 unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Janibek Alimkhanuly (11-0, 7) [Жанибек Алимханулы], made it known that he wanted to face WBO Middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade (31-0, 19).
At the time Alimkhanuly was 8-0 (4) and a relatively unproven, but hungry professional, with a big reputation following his days as an amateur. Since then he has picked up three wins and scored stoppages over both Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, two former world champion, proving his ability in the process.
Now it seems like those wins have helped him secure the fight he wanted with the WBO ordering the fight, as reported by Carlos Toro.
As reported by Carlos, the two teams have been given 20 days to negotiate for the bout, or purse bids will be called.
For Andrade the bout would serve as his 6th defense since winning the title back in October 2018. Sadly despite having a reign dating back more than 3 years he still lacks a defining defense, with his defenses coming against Artur Akavov, Maciej Sulecki, Luke Keeler, Liam Williams and Jason Quigley. The most recent of those, against Quigley, came earlier this month in a farcical mismatch that served no purpose other than to get Andrade an easy win.
As for Alimkhanuly the bout would be his first for a world title, though as mentioned his last two wins have seen him stopping former world champions in Brant and N'Dam, and he would be the most proven challenger for Andrade.
It seems likely that this bout will take place early 2022 and is certainly something to look forward to in the Middleweight division, which has certainly not been a great one to follow over the last couple of years.
This past weekend we saw Japan's Kenichi Ogawa (26-1-1-1, 18) [尾川 堅一] score the biggest win of his career, as he defeated South African fighter Azinga Fuzile (15-2, 9) and won the IBF Super Featherweight title.
Today, following that win, Ogawa arrived back in Japan where several interesting bits of news were reported regarding his future, and the ridiculousness of the IBF.
Ogawa sadly wasn't able to take the IBF world title back to the Japan as the IBF had failed to prepare the right title for the fight. Instead of preparing the IBF world title, they had some how managed to only get an IBF Intercontinental title ready for the winner in an embarrassing mistake that makes it clear that the title bodies really do have too many titles. Thankfully Ogawa seemed to take it in good spirits and will be getting a world title in the future.
Whilst he was unable to get a title on the way home, he did get congratulations from around the world, and apparently from those working his flight back to Japan after the bout.
Regarding his future, the plan now is for Ogawa to make his first defense in March in Japan. His opponent for that bout hasn't been announced as of yet, but it's likely that his opponent will not regarded as a top contender with plans for his second defense also being spoken about.
That second defense is planned to take place in the UK later in 2022, with Joe Cordina regarded as the most likely opponent for that bout.
As we're sure everyone reading this will be aware, last week saw a discovery of a new mutation of Covid19, with the mutation now being called Omicron. After that news Japan has changed it's policy in regards to international travel, now essentially heading towards closing it's borders once again.
With big international fights pencilled in to take place in Japan in December this could be a major problem, and force several bouts to be cancelled. At the moment it's not completely clear which bouts may be off, though announcements are expected in the coming week or so.
Despite the full impact of Japanese changes not being known there are some things we do know regarding upcoming bouts.
Firstly the December 14th card, headlined by WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue (21-0, 18) [井上 尚弥] defending his titles against Thai challenger Aran Dipaen (12-2, 11) [แก่นนคร ศักดิ์กรีรินทร์] will go ahead as previously planned. That card not only features Dipaen as an international visitor but also WBO Minimumweight champion Wilfredo Mendez (16-1, 6), who will defend against mandatory challenger Masataka Taniguchi (14-3, 9) [谷口将隆].
At the time of writing it's known that both Dipean and Mendez, from Puerto Rico, are in Japan, with both men arriving in Japan on November 28th, before the rule changes were announced.
Now on to what we don't know.
The first bout to be in doubt at the time of writing is the December 16th contest between Masanori Rikiishi (9-1, 5) [力石 政法] and Filipino Roldan Aldea (16-8-1, 9), which was planned to be the first non-world title bout with an international fighter in Japan since they first closed the borders in 2020. This bout is still listed on one of the Japanese schedules, but others list Rikiishi as now being set to face an opponent "to be decided".
Of course the Rikiishi Vs Aldea bout isn't a massive one, and there are three much bigger bouts set to take place later in the year.
The most notable of those is set for December 28th and will see IBF Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (41-1-1, 36) [Геннадий Геннадьевич Головкин] battle WBA "Super" Middleweight champion Ryota Murata (16-2, 13) [村田 諒太]. This bout is the one of most concern, due to how big of a bout it is. Sadly it's very unclear on whether it will take place or not, though Akihiuro Honda has told Japanese press that they are seeking to get Golovkin's entrance into Japan any way they can, including requesting permission with Golovkin as a special case. On the same card WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani (22-0, 17) [中谷 潤人] has his second defense scheduled against 22 year old Mexican challenger Cristian Gonzalez (14-1, 4). It would seem a lot less likely for Gonzalez to special permission than Golovkin, and we wouldn't be surprised to see that bout as being called off, if any of the scheduled world title bouts were to be cancelled.
The other major bout planned is the December 31st clash between WBO Super Flyweight champion, Kazuto Ioka (27-2, 15) [井岡一翔] and IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas (33-1-2, 22). At the moment no comments to the media have been released about this contest, which was only announced last week. Like the Golovkin bout this is a huge bout for Japan, and the promoters are likely to seek special considerations for the contest to go ahead. We suspect news will break about this contest later in the week, which could include it being moved to 2022, being move from Japan, or taking place as planned, with special permission.
Zhilei stops Lewis in 2
Some 9 months after he scored a very fortunate draw against Jerry Forrest, we saw Chinese Heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (23-0-1, 18) [张志磊] claim his latest victory, as he stopped American journeyman Craig Lewis (14-5-1, 8). Sadly despite the win, Zhilei did little to suggest he was a real threat in the Heavyweight division, instead it showed the limitations of Lewis, and the propaganda like commentary of DAZN.3
The bout started slowly, with neither man doing much of note in the opening round. The one highlight was a right hook from Zhilei, though it was clear that Lewis really wasn't any sort of a threat.
Aged 37 and having note fought in over 2 years, and having only fought once in the last 3 years, Lewis was out of shape, around 30lbs heavier than he was in his last bout. That showed here in round 2 when Zhilei opened up for the first time and dropped Lewis, who beat the count but looked about done. He was allowed to continue, but it wasn't for long with Zhilei dropping him again with a left hand for the second knockdown, and the stoppage.
Whilst Lewis was terrible, and shouldn't have been regarded as any sort of a test, the DAZN commentary, as it usually is, was dreadful, trying their best to polish Zhang as a top fighter, despite the fact it's very clear the 38 year old isn't anywhere near the quality of fighter they were trying to paint him as. Talk about Zhilei facing Anthony Joshua has done the rounds for years now, and it really out to have stopped when Zhilei struggled past Forrest, or when Joshua lost to Usyk, though for some reason DAZN seem to want to bang a drum that no one wants to listen to.
Zhilei is talented, but at 38 he's wasted his prime and a bout like this did nothing to make up for lost time. Any potential big fight in China needs to stop being spoken about, as Zhilei isn't the draw that some seem to pain him as for Chinese boxing. As for Lewis, we do need to wonder what he thought he'd accomplish given the long lay off coming in to this.
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