Earlier today fight fans in Sakai City saw one of the biggest shocks on the Oriental scene this year, as defending WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (34-11-3, 10) [野中 悠樹] was shocking dethroned by the unheralded Hiroya Nojima (10-1, 5) [能嶋 宏弥], ending Nonaka's reign as the WBO regional champion, and potential his career.
Nonaka, who won the title in 2019 when he out-boxed the hard hitting Shinobu Hosokawa, was under pressure from the off as Nojima showed the 44 year old veteran no real respect. Nonaka tried to use his boxing skills and boxing brain to control the action, but Nojima fought like a man possessed and and refused to back off, using an ultra-aggressive style that saw him walk through counters when he had to,
The unexpected success of Nojima early on brought real excitement to the venue, who likely expected the challenger to look second rate, in fairness we did too. Nojima however had to prove it wasn't just nervous energy being and adrenaline being burned here. In round 4 he did slow down, and there was a chance he had potentially began to feel the tempo that he was setting.
In round 5 Nojima seemed to just prove that whilst his tempo was dropping a little bit, his success wasn's, and he landed some huge shots in round 5, that shook Nonaka up just before the bell. Had the round been just a few seconds longer there's a chance he could have gone down there and then. Sadly for Nonaka the minute between rounds 5 and 6 wasn't enough time for him, and in round 6 Nojima was again all over him, dropping him with a right hand. Nonaka got to his feet but was overwhelmed immediately with the referee forced to step in and save the veteran.
After the bout Nonaka stated that his future is unclear in the sport, and we wouldn't be surprised at all if he retires following this loss.
As for Nojima, his first defense has been pencilled in already, for November 20th in Aichi.
The Upset of the Year is an interesting award, as the biggest shocks are rarely had at the top of the sport, and the results that immediately spring to mind, whilst surprises, are rarely the biggest upsets. What we mean by that is the bouts that go against the odds and stick out in our memory are upsets, but often it's less high profile bouts that are the biggest betting surprises. And we think the biggest upset, by definition, should be the upset that is most surprising to the bookies.
One thing 2021 had a lot of was betting upsets, right across the world and all over the weight classes. We saw Can Xu suffer a shock loss to Leigh Wood at Featherweight, Tursynbay Kulakhmet come up short against Juan Carlos Abreu at 154lbs, Mahammadrasul Majidov suffer a shocking KO1 loss to Andrey Fedosov and of course Kenshiro Teraji have his reign at 108lbs ended by Masamichi Yabuki.
The biggest shock however wasn't any of those bouts. Instead it was an under-card bout on June 27th that saw Filipino journeyman All Rivera defeat the then unbeaten Omar Juarez, via a majority decision.
Rivera had once promised a lot, his 2016 win over Shinya Iwabuchi showed what he could do, but since then he has struggled to keep any form and was 5-3 in his previous 8 with a notable KO1 loss to Malik Hawkins and a wide decision loss to Rances Barthelmy just 5 months earlier. In fact Rivera had scored just a single win in since the start of 2019, and that was against the very poor Rodel Wencelsao.
Juarez on the other hand was 11-0 and showing what he could do at a decent level. He looked like a future contender and started as an almost unbackable favourite whilst seeking his 5th win in 12 months. He was such a betting favourite that Rivera was a +1500 under-dog.
Despite the odds Rivera put in a brilliant performance, ripping up the odds, dropping Juarez en route to a majority decision, that really should have been a clear unanimous decision win.
Given our criteria of betting upsets, this was the second biggest upset world wide this year, and is a shocker that many never saw coming, and never saw happen. This was a monster upset and something we see far too often when Filipino fighters travel.
Earlier today fight fans in Sakai City were given one of the biggest Japanese upsets of the year as JBC #2 ranked Flyweight Shun Kosaka (16-7, 4) [小坂 駿] was narrowly beaten Shota Asami (9-8, 4) [浅海 勝太] in a very competitive 8 rounder. An 8 rounder that was expected to help Kosaka prepare for a second crack at a Japanese title in the near future.
The 26 old Kosaka, who fought Seigo Yuri Akui for the Japanese title in 2019, had come in to this out of sorta, with a loss in March to Takuya Kogawa, but the expectations was that Asami wouldn't be any trouble at all for him. Afterall Kosaka has mixed with Jay Raquinel, in an OPBF title fight, Junto Nakatani, as well as the aforementioned Akui and Kogawa. Asami on the other hand had lost to far, far worse fight than Kosaka had been losing to.
From the off this was fought with a good competitive spirit from both men, with both showing a willingness to take a shot when they had to. Asami was pressing forward and Kosaka was landing jabs and left hooks, despite Kosaka landing plenty of decent shots it was the aggressive march of Asami that caught the end eye, and Asami impressed the judges taking the opening round on all 3 cards, and round 2 of two of the cards.
In round 3 Kosaka had one of his best rounds, controlling the tempo of the bout and creating space between the two men, that saw him working well. It was clear through the round that he was the more skilled boxer, and the man who would win if the bout stayed at mid-range. Asami knew that he couldn't out box Kosaka and in round 4 Asami began to amp up the pressure, pressing Kosaka who tried to circle around him. The pressure, aggression and desire of Asami impressed the judges, with all 2 of them giving him rounds 4.
From there on it was always hard for Kosaka to get his foot into the bout with Asami constantly pressing, coming forward and trying to swarm him, out working him and neutralising the skill difference. Kosaka certainly had moments, but he was being forced to fight Asami's fight and the judges knew it, as they began to award Asami round after round.
After 8 rounds the judges turned in cards of 79-73 and 78-76 to Asami, with a dissenting judg having it 77-75 to Kosaka, in what was a very questionable score.
With the win it's clear Asami will be getting a JBC ranking, though it's unclear just how highly he will be ranked by the commission when the rankings are next up dated. As for Kosaka it's really hard to know where he goes from this loss.
It’s fair to say that 2020 was a year of surprises, both in terms of boxing and life in general, afterall did anyone predict a pandemic heading into the year? For us the surprises came regularly through the year, and came at every in the sport. From domestic level, with prospects being shocked, national titles changing hands even world level shocks.
Due to the sheer number of upsets we had in Asian Boxing in 2020 it’s genuinely been hard to pick one as the upset of the year. Do we go with the biggest in terms of the betting? Do we go with the result that was the biggest surprise to us or do we try to find some middle line?
Rather than trying to define an upset we’ve come up with a compromise and we will be having joint winners here, with one for the biggest betting upset that we saw, and one for the biggest surprise result that we saw. That surprise result really was one out of the blue, that we certainly didn’t expect.
The betting upset of the year came on November 27th in Thailand as unheralded Thai Panya Pradabsri, also known as Petchmanee CP Freshmart, took on countryman Wanheng Menayothin, the long running WBC Minimumweight champion.
The bookies opened this one with Wanheng almost an unbackable favourite, with the champion opening at 1/10 with STSbet and later being 1/12 with several UK bookies. He was seen as being well on the way to his 55th straight and his 13th title defense before the two men stepped foot in the ring. Panya on the other hand opened at 6/1 to score the upset.
By fight time money had poured on the challenger, who had been backed into around 3/1, and he would then go on to take a very close and hard fought decision over Wanheng, leading to some nice wins for bettors.
Panya’s upset win was the biggest with widely available odds, however there was one bigger upset in Asia, and that was Daishi Nagata’s shock win over Koki Inoue in July. Nagata entered that bout an 8/1 under-dog against Inoue, before forcing a stoppage win. Sadly only STS had odds on this one, and it really wasn’t one that most could bet on, but was, admittedly, a massive surprise result
Other similar upsets scored by Asian fighters include:
Masayoshi Nakatani upsetting Felix Verdajo - With Nakatani starting as a 6/1 under-dog
Akui Furutani upsetting Takayuki Okumoto - With Furatani a 9/2 under-dog
Mike Plania upsetting Joshua Greer Jr - With Plania a 4/1 under-dog
Kenichi Horikawa upsetting Daiki Tomita - With Horikawa a 7/2 under-dog
Upset scored against an Asian fighter by a non-Asian:
Carlos Gongora upsetting Ali Akhmedov - With Gongora starting as a 7/1 under-dog
With just a single win in a decade the 36 year old Yuichi Ideta wasn’t even expected to put up much of a fight on December 27th when he battled former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada. Ideta had fallen from 12-0 (7) to 13-15-1 (7) and had lost 11 in a row and had been stopped 5 times during his career. Whilst some of those losses weren’t embarrassing ones, such as losses to Keita Obara and Nobuyuki Shindo, he had lost to some very limited fighters, like Ryota Itoyama, Quaye Peter and Ryuji Ikeda.
Amazingly with the deck stacked against him, and no one really giving him a chance Ideta out worked, out fought, outmuscled and out landed Yada to take home the decision win.
This genuinely was the biggest shock to us for the entire year, and was the first decision loss for Yada since 2014, in what was his 6th bout.
Similar upsets to this one include:
Juan Carlos Raygosa defeating Dauren Yeleussinov
Adrian Lerasan beating Tanes Ongjunta
Jeny Boy Boca beating Sarawut Thawornkham
Ryosuke Nishida beating Shohei Omori
One of the great things about boxing is the unexpected comeback, and this even we had one of those. In fact we had one of the comebacks of the year!
The comeback in question was a rare two fold comeback. Firstly it saw former OPBF Lightweight champion Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13) [中谷正義] return from retirement, a retirement he called in September 2019 after suffering his first professional loss. Second it concerned his comeback in the actual fighter which was nothing short of spectacular.
The elongated Japanese Lightweight was up against talented Puerto Rican hopeful Felix Verdejo (27-2, 17), who has long been tipped as the next Puerto Rican star. And Nakatani really didn't start well.
The first round saw the Osaka dropped for the first time in is career, following a huge right hand from Verdejo. The shot would have stopped most Lightweights, but not Nakatani and his bansai mentality. After all, if you're ending your retirement, you might as well give it a real go! Some how Nakatani got up from the knockdown and took the fight to Verdejo through much of the rest of the round.
Sadly for Nakatani he was on the receiving end of clean shots through much of the rest of the opening round. He was unable to land his excellent jab, and struggled to get anything of not off against the speedier, crisper, sharper Verdejo.
Surprisingly however Verdejo seemed full of doubt. Despite dropping Nakatani he was unwilling to commit to closing the show. The same occurred when the Puerto Rican dropped Nakatani to a knee in round 4. That really should have been the point where Verdejo jumped on his man, but instead he didn't. Instead it seemed that Verdejo had given as good as he could.
In round 5 the tide began to turn and Nakatani landed a great right hand, getting Verdejo's respect. The Puerto Rican was still in the fight, landing a great right hand of his own late in the round, but for the first he began to show cracks. Cracks that would become much bigger as the rounds went on.
The sixth was a bit of a nothing round though very early in round 7 Verdejo showed another crack as a 1-2 from Nakatani got to him and forced him to hold. The tempo wasn't high, in fact large swathes of the round saw almost nothing happen, but it was clear that Verdejo was the more tired fighter and the one who was starting to feel the pressure. That pressure grew in round 8 as Verdejo became more negative, and looked like a fighter desperate to just survive to the bell. He knew he was up on the scorecards and had to hear out the final bell.
Nakatani however knew he didn't have a chance on the scorecards and hurt Verdejo again in round 8, forcing a response from the Puerto Rican, who was rocked again late in the round. By now the tide had turned, the momentum was firmly with Nakatani, but he still only had 2 rounds to see off the Puerto Rican, and he was in such a big hole that it seemed like he needed a KO.
In round 9 Nakatani wobbled Verdejo almost immediately before dropping him with a long rangy jab. Verdejo beat the count, but was in all sorts of trouble and it was clear he was about done. Nakatani knew it, we knew it, every knew it, and just moments later Verdejo was on the canvas again. This time he was done. He was spent. He wasn't beating the count.
Despite being dropped twice in the first 4 rounds Nakatani had pulled it out, stopping Verdejo in round 9, and leaving the Puerto Rican's career in tatters. It's hard to know what exactly it next for him.
As for Nakatani, well, it's fair to say he's back, and he's hungry for a rematch with Teofimo Lopez, the only man to have beaten him in the professional ranks.
Our doubt, and our cynicism about Nakatani being there for a pay day are proven to be wrong, so very wrong, and instead Nakatani was there to prove a point. And he did just that!
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