When we look back at 2020 we will all, pretty much, admit it was a shit year. It was a year we would all like to pretend didn’t exist and didn’t happen, and one of the worst years we’ll live through, as a collective society. It was a year with a lot more crap than positives, and it was a year that was just genuinely horrific for us all. Of course Covid19 has been the big story of the year, but we’ve also had fires in the US and Australia, floods in the UK, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil among other places, and the tragic explosion in Lebanon.
We won’t wallow on the the horrors of 2020 however, but instead look at the positives from the boxing world, and we have plenty of positives to take away. In fact the year has given us a lot more positives than we perhaps realise. It’s been a bad year in general, but for boxing there has been plenty of good!
1-All Thai bouts
One of the best things, genuine, about 2020 when it’s come to boxing has been the increase in All-Thai bouts this year. And by that we’re not just talking about squash matches, where a name slices through a domestic novice, but genuinely intriguing match ups. These have included some absolute barn burners, like Amnat Ruenroeng Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu, some compelling match ups, like Phoobadin Yoohanngoh Vs Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, and some baptisms of fire, such as Nonthasith Petchnamthong Vs Kompayak Porpramook.
With TL Promotions, Tan Telecom Promotions, and NKL promotions all putting on great shows in 2020 Thai boxing has been a true highlight for the year and one of the positives. Better yet most of them have been available to watch worldwide directly through the promoters social media accounts. The only improvement would be for Tan Telecom to copy their “rivals” and upload full fight videos to YouTube in the future, rather than post fights by the round, but that’s a minor complaint.
2-Online Streaming from Japan
Talking about online streaming the big thing from Japan this year was the growth of their online boxing streaming, with A-Sign Boxing and Boxing Real providing amazing, professional level streams of events several times during the last half of the year. Added to that was the one off shows by Seki-chan and Suruga Boys. We have always had the occasional free show from Japan, but this year we had consistent free streams from the country and it seems like Boxing Real and A-Sign will continue to deliver free video delivery of their shows in the new year.
With a limit on the number of fans in venues the free streams have really helped allow fans in Japan to feel like they aren’t missing out, and have also allowed international fans to enjoy the shows, and get excited about the fighters on the events. This has really helped fighters like Jin Sasaki and Rentaro Kimura catch the eye and have given an outlet to Japanese promoters without big TV deals. It has also been brilliant to see Yokohama Hikari, Ichiriki and Hachioji Nakaya work together on these shows, showing that promoters working together for the greater good is better than the antagonistic manner that Western promoters work.
3-An increase in interest for Asian Boxing
After running this site for years it’s always been a battle to get people from the West to watch boxing from the East. The really big fights get some attention, but even that’s rather limited and small, and it’s been a niche, within a niche, within a niche. In 2020 however we have seen a natural groundswell of fans interested in what’s going on in Asia, specifically Japan but Thailand is also worth mentioning.
The amount of people tuning in to watch Masayuki Ito Vs Hironori Mishiro was solid, and other shows earlier in the year also ended up getting plenty of fan interest for Japan. The solid international interest for Junto Nakatani Vs Giemel Magramo was brilliant, the on going online discourse about Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka is brilliant to see, and something that warms us inside thanks to the small part we’ve played in helping Tanaka become more well known in the West. There was also genuine international intrigue in the Wanheng Menayothin Vs Panya Pradabsri fight...a Minimumweight title fight between two Thai’s got people chasing us for streams!
Not only have we seen more interest from the West, but it appears that that interest is still growing, and if this continues through 2021 we can perhaps get rid of this idea that “no one cares”, we know people care, and it seems more and more of your guys care!
4-Nakatani and Nakatani!
Although unrelated Junto Nakantani and Masayoshi Nakatani both deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done in 2020.
For Junto he put on a fantastic performance to take the WBO Flyweight title, defeat Giemel Magramo, and appears on the verge of becoming a new Japanese star. He appears to have the full backing not just of the MT Gym but also Teiken Promotions, and he will, if he notches a defense or two, become the new boxing face of NTV. That’s a channel that needs a boxer to get behind it, and Nakatani fits the mould perfectly. Given his age, his ability, his size, his style and his personality, we could end up with Nakatani being the man to rebuild NTV’s boxing content, and that would be fantastic!
As for Masayoshi Nakatani what a return he had! After being out of the ring for over a year, retiring at one point, we didn’t expect much from him when he was linked to a fight to Felix Verdejo. He was then down in round 1 and our fears grew. Down again in round 4. And then he turned it all around and stopped Verdejo late in the bout. He gave us one of the most dramatic, action packed and thrilling bouts we’ve seen all year. His performance has seen him put himself in the mix for a world title, and it seems hard to believe he retired in September 2019! Hell of a comeback and another highlight for Asian boxing fans!
5-Professional boxing in Kazakhstan picking up big time!
Professional boxing in Kazakhstan has never been a big thing. Top Kazakh fighters move away to turn professional, with many heading off to the US in recent years. In 2020 however we’ve seen Tukeshov and Suleimen signing up top amateurs from Kazakhstan, working alongside MTK Kazakhstan and building their profiles at home. Fighters like Bek Nurmaganbet, Bekzad Nurdauletov, Talgat Shayken and Kamshybek Kunkabayev have made their debuts in Kazakhstan in 2020 and all have been pushed hard in tough looking match ups. Not only are we getting bouts in Kazakhstan on a regular basis, but they aren’t, at least on paper, mismatches and instead they are tough looking tests for novices. This has been another highlight for the year, and a sign of what to expect when the Tokyo Olympics has been and gone. We are going to see a flurry of Kazakh fighters being raced to big fights and the top talent is going to be allowed to swim with sharks. Not only was it exciting to see novice professionals pushed in 2020 but it’s also laying the groundwork for some big stuff in 2021 and beyond.
6-Fuji have increased the number of shows they televise!
In 2020 Fuji TV showed no live boxing at all. A sad, damning and ugly fact. They did however shows a decent amount of tape delay shows. In fact most months they televised 2 shows on delay, with one being the Diamond Glove cards, that they have long been linked with and the other being a Phoenix Battle show from Ohashi Gym. This was easy to overlook but very much an important facet to the way Fuji are now covering boxing and opens up the entire Ohashi stable to get more TV exposure and TV time. In the short term is meant 3 or 4 extra shows on Fuji towards the end of the year, but they included some very notable hopefuls, and could, potentially, act as a door to showcasing fighters like Taku Kuwahara, Keisuke Matsumoto, Katsuki Mori, Ryutaro Nakagaki, Yoshiki Takei. The talent at the Ohashi is growing, and if they have an outlet deal with Fuji TV then those fighters will become household names in Tokyo very quickly!
7-Hyun Mi Choi got a chance to shine!
One fighter we’ve been really happy to see this year was Hyun Mi Choi, who signed with Matchroom Sport and made her international debut. The 2-weight Korean world champion might not have had a great opponent in front of her when she fought this year, but that hardly mattered, what was key was seeing Choi in front of a larger audience and letting more people learn about her truly unique boxing story. We often hear really boring stories about fighters, and have them hammered home until an already dull story becomes even less interesting, but Choi really does have a remarkable story, defecting from North Korea as child, winning a world title at the age of 17, in her debut, and fighting to avoid the politics of her truly unique situation. We dare say DAZN under-sold her story, but regardless it’s amazing to see Choi fighting in front of a much, much bigger audience, and hopefully that continues to happen going forward!
8-Crowdfunding a success for A-Sign Boxing
Crowdfunding in boxing is not a new idea. It’s not something that has just been done in 2020, with numerous fighters and promoters running crowdfunding projects and things for several years. What A-Sign boxing did however was take it to a whole new level and have massive levels of success with it. That success was most notable when it came to Takuya Yamaguchi, the unexpected star of A-Sign boxing’s fighter documentary series of videos. Yamaguchi, an unassuming fighter with a less than stellar record, no social media presence, and almost no mention of him online, managed to charm an audience with his simple life, his wonderful personality, and his down to earth decency. As a result he ended up making an insane amount through the crowd funding service, and decided to spend it on fixing the toilets at the gym he went to, and not himself. Yes crowdfunding isn’t new in boxing, but a guy like Yamaguchi being a success due to it, that was a surprise and a real feel good story!
(Image credits - WP Boxing, A Sign Boxing and Suleimen Promotions)
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features