One of the things about boxing that we all agree on is that promoters could, and should, do more to grow the sport, rather than try to line their own pockets and make excuses for fights not taking place. Whether it's Bob Arum, Oscar De La Hoya, Eddie Hearn, Frank or any number of others we could pretty much rant about them all. There isn't many promoters putting the sport first and themselves second.
Thankfully however there are some, and for us the stand this year, and the worth winner of The 2020 Asian Boxing Awards - Promoter of the Year is Ichitaro Ishii, a man who has consistently thought outside the box, developed the sport, put on great shows and made people care about fighters.
A few months ago we wondered what made a promoter a "good promoter" and for us it's not the money, it's not how many PPV's they put on or how much they pay their fighters. To be quite frankly honest we'd like 0 PPV's please and we're not seeing a penny that a fighter makes we don't care about their purses.
For us a good promoter's gives fans consistently good shows, makes them care, and buy in for the journey, and proves to have shows that are reliably good. Ishii, along with Issei Nakaya of the Hachioja Nakaya Gym, have been doing that. Show after show the A-Sign brand have been making us care, making us want to follow the story of emerging fighters and getting us to feel like bouts are going to be special.
A lot of that is down to the match making, making bouts that look interesting and should deliver something worthy of note. That is one thing the A-Sign shows have done, notably with their end of year show, where we had Masayuki Ito Vs Hironori Mishiro and Jin Sasaki Vs Aso Ishiwaki, but it's not the only thing.
A-Sign have been giving shows to fans via YouTube, using YouTube as a very significant part of their platform. It would be easy to sit here and talk about how excellent the A-Sign streams of events are, and they are, but that's only a fraction of what A-Sign do with Youtube. They also talk about boxing, with Ishii doing sit down talks about recent bouts and events, and they do a "day in the life" style documentaries, to try and make fans learn more about the fighters. It's through that style of documentary that they accidentally helped Takuya Yamaguchi become a star of sorts, despite his limitations in the ring. They gave a relative nobody the chance to shine as a person, and he did just that. They have also allowed for sparring to be shown on YouTube, further allowing fans a chance to see the fighters and even get a read on the styles of the men involved.
Maybe more importantly than any of that however is the way he has made crowd sourcing one of the key facets of boxing. Yes boxing has crowd funding before A-Sign boxing, and will have it for years to come, but the way A-sign have done it is genius, and they used the documentaries as a reason to for fans to essentially donate to fighters directly. The was game changing during 2020, allowing fighters to essentially sell themselves directly to fans.
That was also helped by the online Salon's that Ishii was responsible for, and the way they mixed the fighters and key Japanese boxing media, like Daisuke Sugiura and Naoki Fukuda.
One other facet is that the A-Sign brand is now synonymous with quality events. That is the sign of a good promoter. He has made the A-Sign brand matter, and he has done so by working closely with other promoters, building essentially a team of promoters to put on events under his banner, in a mutually beneficial agreement.
In a year where live TV events were few and far between for Japanese fans Ishii filled a void, and did so, so much more.
Take a bow Sir, you are our promoter of the year and we suspect in 4 or 5 years fans internationally are going to be talking about what you've been doing for boxing and how the A-Sign YouTube channel has helped sow seeds of what boxing promotion can, and should, be about.
With the year now over we're going to slowly be putting out our awards over the coming days. To start with we're going to go with the Prospect of the Year award, and there a lot of fighters considered here, from right across Asia.
We had fighters like Rentaro Kimura, Ryosuke Nishida, Tursynbay Kulakhmet, Kamshybek Kunkabayev, Jin Sasaki, Odiljon Aslonov and Sung Min Yuh all in the running for what they've done in the past 12 months.
In the end however we thought "which prospect has got us to the point where we are more excited about their future than any other fighter, due to what they have done in 2020?"
When we asked ourselves that question the answer suddenly became quite easy, and that was Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5).
The 16 year old Thai went into 2020 with an 8-0 (4) record, and the reality was that he hadn't actually faced anyone. He had won TL's promotion's rather low key "The Fighter" tournament in 2019, but other than that, and being super young nothing was too notable about him. By the end of 2020 however he had become the youngest fighter to ever claim a WBA regional title, at the age of 16, and he had impressed in different ways in his two bouts.
His first bout of the year, in July, saw him out point Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai over 10 rounds, proving his stamina, his mental attitude, his composure and and his boxing skills. It was an excellent boxing performance.
In his second bout of the year he again showed composure, showed he could cope with pressure and box. But he also showed killer instinct, and after figuring out Atchariya Wirojanasunobol over the first 3 rounds, he completely dismantled him in round 6, showing a much more destructive side to his boxing.
Fighting at 140lbs Phoobadin looks like he has everything need to develop into a genuine world class contender. He's not a Thai feasting on scraps to make his name, but is someone who is impressing against decent fighters, showing a lot to his boxing and is still only 16 years old. Sure there is a very real chance his promoters rush him, and push him, and he slips up in the next year or two, like other Thai youngsters, but there is also a chance that TL Promotions hold back on him a little, get him decent competition and, in 2024 for example, get him into the world rankings with 20 or so bouts behind him and move him towards a big title fight.
In 2020 this youngster proved he was an absolute prodigy and is, in our eyes, the deserving prospect of the year, and one of the most exciting youngsters in the sport today.
2019 - Sadriddin Akhmedov.
2018 - Ulugbek Sobirov
2016 - Hinata Maruta
NOTE THIS WILL FEATURE SPOILERS FOR A BOUT WHICH HAS NOT YET BEEN AIRED IN THE UK, LATIN AMERICA OR AUSTRALIA. IT HAS JUST BEEN AIRED IN JAPAN AT THE TIME OF WRITING. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO KNOW THE RESULT CLOSE THE PAGE AND DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS PARAGRAPH. THIS IS ALL ABOUT THE WBO ASIA PACIFIC BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE BOUT BETWEEN YUKI STRONG KOBAYASHI AND DAIGO HIGA.
Later today we'll see WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] defending his belt against Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成] in the highly anticipated year ending Japanese super fighter. Before that bout however there were several under-card bouts taking place at Ota-City General Gymnasium.
The bout that opened the show was an 8 round Super Flyweight bout which saw Yuki Nakajima (4-1-1, 4) [中嶋 憂輝] fight to a majority decision draw again Toma Kondo (8-6-1, 1) [近藤 冬真]. The opening round saw Nakajima using his feet whilst Kondo looked to get inside. Kondo managed to gain some early momentum in rounds 2 and 3 before Nakajima finally began to settle down, and go to the body in round 4, with with some real success. The body work seemed to see Nakajima take control through the middle rounds, but in round 7 Kondo began to find his second wind as he dug deep. With the fine finely poised they went to war in round 8, fighting tooth and nail with each other.
After 8 rounds the judges couldn't split them, with two judges having the bout even, at 76-76, and the third having the contest 77-75 to Kondo.
The second bout was the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title bout, which saw the title change hands as Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-9, 9) [ストロング小林佑樹] was destroyed by former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) [比嘉 大吾].
Higa, who had looked less than stellar in his two previous Bantamweight bouts, including his October draw with Seiya Tsutsumi, found a home for his uppercut almost immediately, and he couldn't miss with it. Round after round his uppercuts connected cleanly, to both head and body. This looked more like the Higa we had all fallen in love with when he was a Flyweight, and not the man who had been forced up to Bantamweight. Kobayashi seemed to feel that the smartest gameplan was to try and get in close to Higa, which just played into Higa's strengths, and short concise combination punching and stiff shots on the inside. It was, potentially, the right game plan, but the gulf in speed, power and the crispness of the shots from the two men, saw Kobayashi punished round after round.
In round 5 Higa landed 2 brilliant right uppercuts, sending Kobayashi down for the count at the 45 second mark of round 5.
For those unsure whether Higa can cut it at Bantamweight, this bout suggests he might be able to, at least against the right fighters.
Following Higa's win Japanese fans in the venue were treat to what was described as a spectacular bout, as Ryohei Arakawa (7-4-1, 4) [荒川 竜平] out pointed 36 year old Wolf Nakano (6-8-4, 2) [中野ウルフ]. The bout was exciting from the off, with Arakawa setting a high tempo and Nakano trying to to respond. Nakano was dropped twice early on, but refused to quit, and came back strong as he looked to avenge the knockdowns. This caused an already exciting fight to feel even more dramatic, especially at the end of round 5, when Arakawa was in all sorts of trouble and seemed to be saved by the bell. Arakawa was hurt again in round 6, but survived the scare and survived to the final bell.
Despite Nakano's late fight back all 3 judges had the bout scored 57-55 to Arakawa, who takes an excellent win over the #15 ranked Japanese Flyweight.
To end a pretty awful 2020 we get a genuine super fight as WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) [井岡一翔] defends his title against 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9) [田中恒成] in Tokyo tomorrow.
With the big fight taking place in less than 24 hours, we've decided to take a look at the updated odds, and see who the favourite is, what the bookies see the most likely outcome as, and what other markets are available on the fight.
As we've seen pretty much from the start Tanaka is the betting favourite. When we looked at the odds just over a week ago he was 8/15 to win. Since then his odds have drifted somewhat and he's now available at 8/13. He's still the favourite, but less of one than he was. As for Ioka he has shortened from a 7/4 under-dog to a 3/2 under-dog. They aren't huge shifts, but they are notable shifts.
Interestingly the draw is still available at 16/1, the same price it was a week ago, though some bookies have seeming had money on the market, with one online website pricing it at 12/1 now.
A decision win for Tanaka a week ago was 21/20, it's still essentially the same, at 11/10, and is still regarded as the most likely outcome. A decision for Ioka is now 9/4, after having been 5/2 last week, again a small change but not a massive one. A Tanaka stoppage was 15/4 a week ago, and that has now drifted massively up to 5/1, perhaps a sign that picking Winning gloves isn't going to result in a stoppage for the "KO Dream Boy". A stoppage for Ioka is the same as it was a week ago, at 9/1, a genuinely huge price.
With neither man expected to score a stoppage the bout is expected to go the distance. A week ago the bout was 2/7 go the complete scheduled and it's pretty much the same now, at 1/3. It was 5/2 to end early a week ago, and that's typically the same price we've found, though one bookie is an outlier at 14/5.
As with a week ago the "total rounds" market is set high, at 10.5 rounds and the over is still 1/4. The under is however available at 10/3 for those who look around, slightly better than the 11/4 that you could get a week ago.
Arguably the most interesting market here is the "To be Knocked down" market. Here we see Ioka at 2/1 to be dropped at any point, and Tanaka at 3/1. We can't help but feel that's a little bit confusing as Ioka has only been down twice in his career, once against Heri Amol back in 2010 and once Stamp Kiatniwat in 2016. With Tanaka wearing Winning gloves, which are well known for protecting hands and not for their power, we would be fairly surprised to see Ioka hit the canvas. Tanaka however has been down against Vic Saludar, Palangpol CP Freshmart and Jonathan on Gonzalez, and has been been hurt in other fights, including those against Sho Kimura and Ryoichi Taguchi. Given the move up in weight that 3/1 is something perhaps worth thinking about.
Related-The end of year clash - Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka
(Image courtesy of Ambition Gym)
Tomorrow we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) [ストロング小林佑樹] look to make his second defense of his regional title, as he faces the challenge of former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16) [比嘉 大吾].
Despite entering as the champion Kobayashi is regarded as a very, very clear under-dog. Just over a week ago, when the betting markets in the UK opened on the fight, he was 6/1 to pick up the win whilst Higa was an unbackable 1/10. Since then things have changed, and no only have the odds shifted a little bit but extra markets on the fight have been opened up as well.
As we write this odds on Higa have gone from 1/10 to 1/5, a significantly better price for Higa backers. As For Kobayashi he has been bet down from 6/1 to 4/1, suggesting that there is belief in the the under-dog. Incidentally the draw has drifted massively, from 22/1 up to 28/1.
Now, along with the "To win" market we have several other markets. Included among them is the "Method" of victory market, which strongly backs a Higa T/KO win, with pricing that at 4/9. The next most likely outcome is regarded as a Higa decision, at 10/3.
For Kobayashi backers, a stoppage by the champion can be backed at 8/1 whilst a decision for Kobayashi is a huge 10/1! A very, very attractive price in our eyes.
Another market now available on the bout is the "Total rounds" market, which set at 6.5 rounds, where both the over and under are priced at 5/6. Unsurprisingly the bout is not expected to go the distance, with a price of 3/10 on the bout finishing early and 12/5 on the bout completing the 12 round schedule.
For fans wanting to watch this, Japanese TV channel TBS, along with streaming service Paravi, are show the bout at 5PM Japan time, whilst Box Nation and international broadcasters are expected to air the bout after the main event.
Related - WBO Asia Pacific champion Kobayashi takes on Higa as the year comes to an end!
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