During 2020 we had a lot of great performances from fighters right through Asia, and at pretty much every level of the sport, from great novice performances to great performances at the top of the sport.
For us a great performance is more than just winning, it's about making people sit up and take notice. It's about showing what you can do and grabbing the attention of fans and creating a buzz, or rather increasing the buzz, around you. For us that was actually something we saw a lot of during the year. Fighters like Naoya Inoue, Masayoshi Nakatani and Junto Nakatani all did this excellently from Japan, Murodjon Akhmadaliev did it from Uzbekistan, Gennady Golovkin put in a surprisingly solid performance in December and hopefuls like Shohjahon Ergashev and Zhanibek Alimkhanuly left us desperately wanting more.
For us however the fighter had the best performance was John Riel Casimero, who left fans talking about him back on September 26th when he took to the ring at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, and battered Duke Micah into submission in 3 rounds.
The performance was far from a perfect one from the Filipino slugger, but the WBO Bantamweight champion knew going in that if he put on a punch perfect display they wouldn't remember him. Instead he had to go out and put on a show, and that was exactly what he did. From the opening seconds he fought like a man with a point to prove, swinging heavy leather from the off at his unbeaten challenger.
Micah, to his credit, played his part in trying to fight back against Casimero, but it only resulted in him taking more shots and being dragged into a wild, Casimero dominated, slugfest that left Micah on the end of some serious punishment before Steve Willis had to stop the fight in round 3.
Earlier in 2020 Casimero had been scheduled to face Naoya Inoue, before their bout fell apart as a result of Covid19. As a result of that Casimero knew he had to shine, he had to do something special, he had to do more than just win against the then 24-0 Micah. He knew he had to look exciting, and explosive, and maybe even a bit cocky and confident. He needed to make people in the West continue to watch to see him take on Inoue, no matter how long it was going to take. With a performance like the one he had against Micah, and the flamboyance he showed through out the bout, he did just that.
Yes there was more polished performances. There was smarter and more educated performances. But Casimero knew what he had to do, and he did that, putting on a show and making fans clamour for more of him. This was brilliant by Casimero and smart from his team, who continued to pressure Inoue for a bout.
Yesterday website "elnuevoherald.com" reported that we may be set for a huge Bantamweight bout in early 2021 between two very notable fighters, who have both been seeking a big, career defining, bout with Japanese star Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥].
The site reports that WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (30-4, 21) and WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1-0-1, 13) are in negotiations to face off in March or April next year, in what would be a genuinely excellent match up on a PBC broadcast.
The article has a quote on it from Memo Heredia explaining "John and Guillermo would bring a tremendous clash of styles. From what I've been told, the talks are on the right track."
The two men have both called out Inoue in the last year or two, and Casimero was signed to fight him in April before him before the global situation scuppered those plans and saw the bout being postponed, and then cancelled. Since then Casimero has gone his own way, defeating Duke Micah on Showtime to record his first defense of the WBO title. As for Rigondeaux he's not fought since February, when he won the WBA "regular" title with a split decision over Liborio Solis.
For Rigondeaux the bout would be his biggest since losing to Vasyl Lomachenko in 2017, and would give him a chance to show what he can do against a prime Bantamweight, something many do query about him at his current age.
The talented Cuban looked like a slow started last time out, but when he got going he looked super sharp, albeit against a 37 year old former Super Flyweight who hadn't faced a notable opponent himself in over 2 years. At his best Rigondeaux is an excellent boxer, an brilliant counter puncher and a frustrating genius in the ring.
As for Casimero it would be a great chance foe him to score a win against a notable name, and build his reputation as a destructive Bantamweight after recent wins over Micah and Zolani Tete. It would also help him put pressure on Inoue to help secure that divisional super fight.
Whilst Rigondeaux is well known for his pure boxing Casimero is very much an offensive fighter, with explosive power, and although he can be inconsistent he is, typically, a fun fighter with an aggressive mindset andd a finishers mentality.
Again it should be noted that a deal isn't yet done, but the talks are that it's heading in the right direction, and fingers crossed this is signed and sealed in early 2021, as it is a mouth watering fight and the winner will almost certainly be the leading contender for a bout with Inoue in late 2021.
For those wanting to read the article on elnuevoherald that can be read here.
Earlier today Japanese star Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) [井上 尚弥] returned to Japan after successfully defending his WBA "Super", IBF and Ring Magazine Bantamweight titles against Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-2, 18) over the weekend.
The fighter arrived at Narita airport today and spoke to local press, along with promoter Hideyuki Ohashi. Between them the two men revealed quite a few interesting things.
Talking about the victory Inoue revealed:
"First of all , I want to thank you for being able to play in the situation of Corona, and I think I was able to do everything I could. The finish punch is 100 points out of 100". He also admitted that the punch that finished off Moloney was one they had been practicing in the build up to this fight, likely spotting a flaw with Moloney for him to capitalise on.
Ohashi mentioned that he had spoke to Bob Arum about wants to do next and that Arum was excited about Inoue's next bout. Sadly however it appears that there could be disappointing news for those looking forward to a unification bout next time out. It now seems likely that both Inoue and WBO champion John riel Casimero (30-4, 21) may end up having to have mandatory defenses, though of course that's not really what either fighter wants. In regards to unifying Inoue added "I think we have to unify the four groups in this bantamweight class, so I want to work toward that."
If those mandatories are forced, like Ohashi seemed to suggest, then it would be great if they were held on a show featuring both Inoue and Casimero to help build towards their potential super fight down the line.
One other thing that Inoue seemingly wants to work on is his English. Sports Hochi in Japan have quoted Inoue as admitting "English is all that is needed", suggesting that when the "Monster" learns English he will become an even bigger star in the West. That seemed to be something that was agreed with Arum, who seems to realise the importance of language with his international fighters. It is worth noting however that Inoue's cheekiness did show in clips from his interview with Mark Kreigel, and whilst English would certainly help him connect with a Western fanbase directly we do hope it won't come at the expense of that humour.
(All Quotes - Translated from Japanese to English)
At the very end of this month we'll see Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] defending his WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight titles against Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18) in Las Vegas. Today, ahead of that bout, Hideyuki Ohashi, the Chairman of the Ohashi Gym, took part in an online interview on Inoue's behalf.
Ohashi revealed that his star fighter is currently sparring 4 or 5 rounds a day and that he was improving, stating "The development of techniques such as footwork and steps to the side is remarkable,". Ohashi also stated that Inoue hasn't lost any motivation, despite the way 2020 has gone and the cancellation of his planned bout with WBO champion John Riel Casimero.
One of the big talking points from Ohashi's comments wasn't how Inoue is training, but how much he is being paid, with Ohashi stating that his man would get $1,000,000. He even stated that that was more than expected, explaining, "I thought it was unavoidable that the opponent changed and it would be 30% to 50% down in the unattended game, but it is as it is" . Ohashi revealed that Inoue is getting that same amount that he was going to get for a bout with Casimero.
Interestingly Naoya won't be the only member of the family travelling from Japan to the US. Among other members of the Inoue family travelling is former fighter, and Naoya's cousin, Koki Inoue, with the plan being to try and keep a comfortable environment in the US, just as they'd have had in Japan.
As for sparring that has proven trickier than usual, with no sparring partners being flown in, however he has been sparring with fighters from the Ohashi gym. This has included Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) [桑原拓], Ryo Matsumoto (24-3, 21) [松本亮] and Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) [松本圭佑]. From outside of the Ohashi Gym Inoue has sparred with former 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-8-3, 16) [黒田雅之] and is also planning to spar with Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2) [石井渡士也] next week.
The hope is to still unify all 4 world titles in 2021, with the plan being to get ast Moloney and then have the long awaited bout with Casimero in the new year, then face the winner of the WBC title bout between Nordine Oubaali and Nonito Donaire, with Ohashi stating "Next year, we will unify the four groups. We intend to do so".
One final thing to add, is it's now confirmed that Inoue will leave Japan in October 18th, with the plan being to enter the MGM Grand a few days before the bout.
Tomorrow in the US we'll see WBO Bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero (29-4, 20) make his first defense of the title he won last year, when he stopped Zolani Tete. In the opposite corner to the Filipino is the unbeaten Duke Micah (24-0, 19), from Ghana.
Earlier today, ahead of their bout, the two men weighed in for their contest and both men made the 118lb limit with room to spare.
On the scales Casimero came in at 117¾lbs, which is slightly heavier than he was in his title winning performance last November, when he blasted out Zolani Tete in 3 rounds. He was also heavier than Micah was, with the challenger hitting the scales at 117¼lbs.
For Micah this is his first world title bout, and he's the very clear betting under-dog, but given his amateur pedigree and unbeaten record he will enter with real belief of becoming a champion after 7 years as a professional.
For fans wanting to watch this one it will be aired on Showtime PPV US and on Fite TV.
Related -Casimero defends against the unbeaten Micah
*Note - If you buy through the Fite TV link above you help fund the site and should get money off your purchase as well!
News! We try and give you the most interesting news stories from the Asian boxing world!