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!
Earlier today Kazakh news sources reported a massive upset had taken place in Mexico City.
The bout saw the previously unbeaten Dauren Yeleussinov (8-1-1, 7) [Елеусинов Даурен] suffer a surprise decision loss to Juan Carlos Raygosa (17-15-3, 6) in a battle for the WBC International Middleweight title.
On paper the contest was a total mismatch in favour of the Kazakh, the older brother of Olympic champion Daniya Yeleussinov, but instead of taking the victory the Kazakh was beaten on the score-cards.
Full details of what went down aren't available but both Inform.kz and Vesti report the loss, which almost certainly end any dreams Yeleussinov has of fighting for a world title in the years to come.
Coming in to the contest Yeleussinov had stopped his last 3 and had been unbeaten since his 2014 debut, winning his previous bout in Mexico around 18 months ago. Despite that break he was still expected to beat Raygosa, who had gone 4-5-1 in his last 10 bouts with 3 of those 4 wins coming against fighters with losing records.
Sadly we couldn't find odds for the bout, but given the records of the two men this will go down as one of the most notable surprises since boxing returned following the start of the current ongoing situation.
Earlier today in Minsk there was a card put on by Suleimen Promotions. The event was one that was easy to over-look, despite the debut of a very talented and touted Kazakh prospect.
Despite most of the show going the way that we have expected there was a major upset on the show as world ranked Nursultan Zhangabayev (8-1, 5) [Жанабаев Нурсултан] suffered his first professional defeat.
Entering the bout against Sandy Messaoud (14-6-0-1, 1) we had assumed Zhangabayev would be too good, and would continue to climb up the world rankings. Entering the bout he was ranked #7 by the WBA and IBF, and #15 by the WBO. We had assumed wrong.
From the first round Messaoud was finding the Kazakh with alarming ease and despite being a non-puncher he dropped Zhangabayev in round 2 with a clean southpaw left hand. Messaoud continued to build on his success with a busy southpaw jab and intelligent movement. He was making Zhangabayev miss, and countered wonderfully, whilst using his height really well.
Things got worse for Zhangabayev when he suffered a cut, and that cut eventually took us to the scorecards for a technical decision, in round 7.
Sadly for Zhangabayev the early knockdown, and the poor start cost him, with Messaoud taking the technical decision, and the massive upset win.
With the loss Zhangabayev losses regional titles from the WBA, IBF and WBO and has his career set back in a huge way. For Messaoud this is a 6th straight win, his biggest by far, and came in his first bout outside of France.
Boxing is slowly returning around the globe and whilst it may not be anywhere close to what it was in 2019 the sport is certainly providing some intriguing match ups and exciting action. That was shown earlier today when we got an OPBF Light Flyweight title bout between Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14) [堀川 謙一] and Daiki Tomita (14-2, 5) [冨田 大樹].
On paper this may not have looked a great bout to those who judge fighters based on their records. However those who knew the two men going in knew that this could be one of the better Japanese bouts since the country restarted professional boxing around 2 weeks ago.
In one corner was a 40 year old, battled hardened veteran with a chip on his shoulder whilst the other corner played host to a youngster tipped for big things.
It seemed likely to be a very appealing, competitive and compelling bout, though ended up being surprisingly more one-sided than expected.
The first round proved to be competitive. Horikawa was pressing from the off and the younger Tomita was on the move, picking some fine shots and keeping Horikawa at bay, for the most part. The veteran had moments with counter shots, but was struggling to get into his range. From then on however Horikawa began to find success, he began cutting the distance, getting inside and getting his body shots off.
Whilst Horikawa was having success, Tomita was doing enough to make things competitive in the early rounds. It seemed Horikawa was doing that bit more, especially with his body work, but Tomita was having some real moments, despite having a bloodied nose and was certainly not getting smashed around, as he would later on.
After 4 rounds the scores were 39-37, twice, and 40-36, all to Horikawa.
In round 5 and 6 we saw Tomita show some great touches but he seemed unable to fail in an attempt to find that extra gear. It seemed like he was trying hard to have success, but it wasn't really arriving for him. It was like he was trying super hard, but having limited moments and taking just as good as he got, despite trying so much harder than the veteran. Whenever Tomita stepped it up, Horikawa managed to counter.
In round 7 Tomita's effort began to fade and Horikawa turned the screw, with his pressure building further. For the first time it looked like the wheels were coming off the youngster, who couldn't match Horikawa when he moved up through the gears. From here on the bout became more one sided. Horikawa rocked Tomita on the bell in round 8, really beat him up in round 9, with a lot more body shots, and then closed the show in round 10, in what was a horribly 1-sided round that saw Horikawa pinning Tomita on the ropes for long stretches whilst unloading flurries.
To his credit Tomita tried to stay in the bout, he tried to fight his way off the ropes, but his resilience broke. With around 1 minute 40 of the round gone the referee stepped in, stopping the punishment, just moments before Tomita crashed to the canvas.
Thankfully Tomita seemed fine a few minutes after the bout.
With the win Horikawa has now the Japanese, WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles during his long career. At the age of 40 it's hard to know what he has left but on the back of this performance there's no need for him to think about retiring any time soon. The success he's having late in his career, and the growing momentum at the Misako Gym, is great to see and Horikawa looks like his success could continue for another year or two.
As for Tomita this wasn't a great performance. He was game early on, but appeared to fight the wrong fight. He never found his rhythm and he never managed to use his speed very well. He broke under pressure and his in ring inexperience was showed up here. He can certainly rebuild from this loss, but he took a lot of punishment late, and it will take a lot of work for him to get back on track. Admittedly his training won't have great, given what's going, but this is still going to be a huge set back.
For those interested the scores after 8 rounds were 78-74, twice, and 80-72, all in favour of Horikawa.
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