Over this past weekend we saw boxing return to the ring in both Nicaragua and South Korea. Neither of the shows was a big one, but it was something to get excited about. What they both summed up however was something that was clear. With limited flights, and international quarantines taking place in a number of countries, we won't be seeing many, if any, bouts featuring international match ups. Barring cases where a fighter is essentially "stranded" on foreign soil, we're almost certainly just looking at fights between fighters from the same nation.
Whilst there are a host of issues to over-come before we can have big fights, we've decided to look at 10 of the best possible bouts we could have between fighters in the same countries right now.
The reality is we'd be surprised if any of these took place before boxing was back up and running in a more normal manner, but in terms of match ups we do have some interesting possibilities and some pretty obvious ones.
Wanehng Menayothin (54-0, 18) Vs Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7)
We start this with a bout that is highly unlikely, but still possible, and that would be the all-Thai showdown between Wanheng Menayothin, the WBC Minimumweight champion, and WBA counter-part Knockout CP Freshmart. Of course we've had this as a "possible" match up for years, but both men have been able to be kept apart, defending their titles against imported opponents. With no imports it really limits their options, and a bout between the two, in late summer, in Thailand, might finally be something that the money men behind them decide to give us. With Wanheng turning 35 this October the bout may well make sense, if the two aren't able to leave the Land of Smiles.
Go on guys, lets have a unified champion at 105lbs!
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) Vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9)
Another potential unification bout and one that actually has been spoken about by both fighters over the last 18 months or so. This one would again see WBA and WBC titles being unified, albeit at Light Flyweight as the unbeaten Japanese pairing of Kenshiro Teraji and Hiroto Kyoguchi clash. The two men fought as amateurs, and took part in a public exhibition in 2018 but went different ways in 2019. Right now their are other solid Light Flyweights in Japan, but the reality is that this is the bout fans want, and the bout the division needs. Given that Kenshiro has stated, repeatedly, that he wants to unify titles then this is likely to be his only option for 2020...but what an option it is!
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) Vs Sho Kimura (19-3-2, 12)
Before the current situation forced boxing to be put on the back burner we were expecting to see Junto Nakatani face Giemel Magramo for the WBO Flyweight title. With that bout now on pause for the foreseeable future we could see it replaced by a brilliant bout between Nakatani and former champion Sho Kimura. Whilst this wouldn't automatically be for the WBO title, though potentially it could be with the winner to face Magramo, it's the sort of bout that doesn't need a title to be an appealing match up. It pits one of the rising faces of Japanese boxing against a former champion who has proven his worth in recent years. The bout would see the rangy youngster being given his toughest test to date, and would see Kimura potentially opening the door to take him back to the top. In regards to style and meaning this is something we'd love to see.
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
One bout that was actually ordered by the WBO before we got the "new normal" was a Super Flyweight world title out between defending champion Kazuto Ioka and mandatory Kosei Tanaka. The teams were told to negotiate for a mandatory title fight, though in reality it seemed likely the teams would both push back and try to arrange it for the end of the year. When ever it takes place it will be a highly anticipated bout, and there really is no reason this can't take place later in the year when things like lockdowns are lifted. It's a brilliant match up between two multi-weight world champions. Ioka is currently a world champion in his 4th weight class and Tanaka is looking to match that feat, if he can beat Ioka. Two prodigious, hungry and talented fighters looking to further define their legacies, what's not to love?
Michael Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20) Vs Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20)
We ideally wanted to select Johnriel Casimero Vs Nonito Donaire for this bout, but we under-stand the two men are in different countries right now. With that in mind we'd love to see Michael Dasmarinas risk his IBF mandatory title fight, against Naoya Inoue, against unbeaten countryman Reymart Gaballo. This would be something excellent and a chance to see what both men have in their lockers. Dasmarinas was in great form but there are question marks over his head following his bout with Manyo Plange whilst Gaballo needs a break out win, and this would be a chance for that. Sadly it seems this isn't a bout we should expect this year, but it's one we would absolutely love.
Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17) Vs Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-12-2, 14)
A Super Bantamweight bout that could be made very, very easily could see IBF "interim" champion Ryosuke Iwasa defending his title against fellow Japanese fight Hiroaki Teshigawara, who is ranked #6 by the IBF. Iwasa is the mandatory for Murodjon Akhmadaliev but given the global situation right now we don't imagine that bout happening this year. As a result a clash with Teshigawara would be something really brilliant. For Iwasa it would be the sort of test he should have to stay sharp and on point before getting a shot at Akhmadaliev, as it's likely to be 2021 by the time that fight can be made. As for Teshigawara it might as close as he gets to a proper world title fight fight. Whilst the bout is unlikely to get much attention outside of Japan it would be a fantastic bout for fans who do follow the Japanese scene.
Jhack Tepora (23-1, 17) Vs Mark Magsayo (20-0, 14)
Back to the Philippines now for a Featherweight bout that would pit the once beaten Jhack Tepora against the unbeaten Mark Magsayo, in what could act as world title eliminator of sorts. Tepora was looking like he was on the way to big things until last year, when he was upset inside a round by Oscar Escandon. That loss was, in some quarters, put down to out of the ring issues, but he now needs to get back into the swing of things and hopefully a domestic showdown will help there. As for Magsayo he needs a big bout himself, and it's now more than 4 years since he beat Chris Avalos, in what should have been a break out fight. The bout would pit two talented, young Filipino fighters, who can both bang. It would be a mouth watering clash and give the Filipino fight fans something to get very excited about, in a year that may not see many big fights taking place on their soil.
Koki Inoue (15-0, 12) Vs Rikki Naito (22-2, 7)
At 140lbs there's a few bouts of not that could take place, but for us the one that stands out is an all-Japanese clash between Koki Inoue and Rikki Naito in a bout for all the marbles. Inoue is the current Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific champion whilst Naito is the OPBF champion. This bout is probably we could get at 140lbs, though is a stumbling block. Inoue is mandated to defend the Japanese title against former Naito foe Daishi Nagata, so for this bout he might need to give up the Japanese belt, but I don't think fans will complain too much if that happens. If does maybe we could get Nagata against Hiroki Okada or Andy Hiraoka for the domestic title, and Inoue Vs Naito for regional belts. This bout is particularly interesting as the two men have history from the amateurs.
Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) Vs Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10)
We were supposed to see Hironobu Matsunaga defend his Japanese title against Yuto Shimizu in a mandatory title defense this year. The way the world now is however we would rather see Matsunaga vacate that title when the sport resumes in Japan and step up to regional title level to face Takeshi Inoue, in what would be a much more interesting match up. Matsunaga is a strong, small, aggressive and exciting fighter, who's flawed but has momentum, and has been genuinely impressing in recent years. Inoue, best known for his brilliant effort in a loss against Jaime Munguia. If we got them together we could end up with a brilliant war between two men with a point to prove. Whilst Shimizu has earned a shot at the Japanese title we would rather he faced someone else for it, and we get this bout instead... but maybe we're just being selfish now!
Kazuto Takesako (12-0-1, 11) Vs Yuki Nonaka (34-10-3, 10)
We remain in Japan for our final fight, which would pit Japanese and OPBF Middleweight champion against WBO Asia Pacific champion Yuki Nonaka. Whilst this would be another bout for all the marbles, unless Takesako is forced to vacate his Japanese title for not facing his mandatory, it would probably be the most stylistically interestingly bout on the list. On one hand you have heavy handed and aggressive Takesako, who is strong, powerful aggressive but technically quite crude. On the other hand you have the old experienced and educated head of Yuki Nonaka. A very polished and smart fighter with an upright style that focuses on his hand speed and movement. Boxer against puncher, rising hopeful, against veteran. This would be a joy. Takesako is supposed to defend the Japanese title against Riku Kunimoto, but once again, if he vacates the national belt to give us this instead, we won't be complaining!
So there you have it! 10 bouts we could get this year with out the need for fighters to cross any borders or sit in quarantine...of course, for any of these to take place, we do need boxing to return to the ring!
There is one bout which will also be close to the site, and that's because it was the first bout we managed to run an official live stream for through the broadcaster. Thankfully the bout wasn't just a fight that we streamed, but it was also an instant classic and a genuine Fight of the Year candidate with two well matched, but stylistically very different, men giving us an absolutely incredible war that will go down as one of the best Flyweight bouts in recent memory. This was something special for us as a site and something just as special for us as fans. This was 2018 at it's absolute peak.
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7)
In one corner was Cinderella man Sho Kimura. Kimura had been stopped in a round on debut and had a career that had toiled away without recognition until 2017 when he pulled out one of the shocks of the year and stopped Zou Shiming in China. That win saw Kimura become the WBO Flyweight champion and an instant star in China, where the country almost adopted him. He had built on the win over Shiming by defending the belt twice, and had quickly become a man that fight fans wanted to see. He wasn't the most skilled, or the fastest or the most flashy, but what he was aggressive, tough and had an incredible engine. He was the sort of unstoppable object that makes for thrilling fights and with his ability to bite down on the gumshield and go for it late he was gaining a real reputation as a must watch fighter.
Kosei Tanaka on the other hand was the man groomed for success. He was a stellar amateur who had won his first world title in just his 5th professional bout, then won his second in his 8th bout. Now, in bout #12, he was looking to tie Vasyl Lomachenko's record for fewest fights to become a 3-weight champion. Tanaka had looked like a sensation rising through the ranks. He had shown he could box, he could brawl and that he could bang. He had also, sadly, shown he could be hurt, going down against Vic Saludar and Palangpol CP Freshmart. It was those vulnerabilities than really made us question the move up against a rugged, solid punching, fighter like Kimura. On one hand Tanaka had all the skills, but on the other hand Kimura wasn't the sort of fighter a boxer was going to easily out box, and in fact Kimura had beaten 2 Olmypians in his previous 3 fights.
The fight had high expectations on it, it was a rare fight that Western fans didn't need to go looking for, given the free stream that was available and it was a chance for both men to impress an international audience.
Thankfully it exceeded expectations, in a big way, as the two men put on a show case of violence from the opening round to the final bell. The styles gel perfectly and they set a hot tempo from the off. Kimura's pressure and Tanaka's willingness to to box up close saw the first round look completely unlike a typical opening round. This was a hot tempo to start the bout, and it only got hotter and hotter as the bout went on. Both men taking the best their opponent had, and firing back with just as good shots of their own.
As the rounds went on the pace just got better and better. It was a rare fight that started fantastically, but got better, and better as it went on, and even the final rounds, after both had inflicted massive amounts of punishment the other, continued to be thrilling. In fact the later rounds, with both men swelling badly around the eyes, saw some of the most eye catching moments of the fight, with a particular sequence in round 12, where both took it in turns to launch massive right hands, being regarded as one of the moments of the fight.
This was a fight that we hoped would be good, and in the end it turned out to be sensational. If you missed this, some how, we really do suggest you make up for it now.
When we talk about fighters of the decade we need to consider a number of things, including their achievements and impact during the decade as a whole. With that in mind it perhaps seems odd including a fighter who has fought from 2013 to 2020, with the first few bouts being at a lower level. The reality however is that Kosei Tanaka has achieved more in that time than most will in triple the amount of fights he has had. He has been selective in some ways, but not in a way that has seen him avoiding fighters, instead he has selectively rose through the sport in a rapid fashion and an impressive manner.
Since debuting in 2013 Tanaka has claimed the OPBF and WBO Minimumweight titles, the WBO Light Flyweight title and the WBO Flyweight title. He has done so whilst beating Ryuji Hara, Yulian Yedras, Moises Fuentes and Sho Kimura. As well as his title wins wins he has gone on to defend belts against Vic Saludar, Angel Acosta, Ryoichi Taguchi and former amateur standout Jonathan Gonzalez. He also ended the decade with his third defense of the WBO Flyweight title, by stopping Wulan Tuolehazi in 3 rounds to move his record to 15-0 (9) for the decade and 9-0 (5) in world title bouts.
In just a handful of fights Tanaka has beaten touted hopefuls, future world champions, reigning world champions, former world champions, he has risen through 3 weight classes, and has been involved in some legitimately awesome fights. His 2018 fight with Sho Kimura was an instant classic, his 2014 bout with Ryuji Hara was hyper speed chess, his wins over Saludar and Gonzalez were come from behind knockouts that had it all. He really has shown he can win any type of fight, though often doesn't fight the best type of fight for himself, instead choosing to get involved .
At just 24 years old, Tanaka has become one of the faces of the future for world boxing, and he's already become a 3-weight world champion. We know he has an eye on a Super Flyweight title in the near future, and as his body grows and matures there is a chance, down the line, that he could end up at Bantamweight, potentially finishing his career as a 5-weight world champion. That's a long way down the line, but the ambition seems to be there for Tanaka to have a great career in the next decade as well as the one that's just ended.
Whether Tanaka achieves his full potential or not is yet to be seen, but what can't be denied is what a sensation he has been this decade, and he is fully deserving of the #10 on this list.
For those who haven't followed the career of the "KO Dream Boy" we've included what we view as two of his most notable bouts. The contest with Hara, his first title bout, and the war with Kimura.
Not all of our Closet Classics are all out wars and some are just amazing bouts of technical brilliance, exciting back and forth battles and are simply thrilling must watch bouts. Today we want to break into the Cloest and share a modern classic which combined two unbeaten men, both with a lot of promise at the time. Entering the bout one man was the unbeaten OPBF champion whilst the other fighter was a man tipped for stardom, and a man who has since become one of the most men in Japanese boxing. Today we give you what was arguably the best Japanese bout of 2014.
Ryui Hara (18-0, 10) vs Kosei Tanaka (3-0, 1)
The date was October 30th 2014 and the then OPBF Minimumweight champion Ryuji Hara, who was on the verge of a world title fight, was facing off with the fast rising Kosei Tanaka. Both men were talented, speedy fighters, each looking to move forward with their careers. A win for Hara, would be his first OPBF title defense, whilst a win for Tanaka would see him create history as the quickest Japanese fighter to claim an OPBF belt.
Hara had been a solid amateur but unlike most successful amateurs he actually only got a C class license when hr turned professional in 2010. Later that year he would go on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year, at Minimumeight, before taking the Japanese title in 2012, with a win over Kenishi Horikawa, then the OPBF title in the spring of 2014. By the time of this fight he was universally world ranked and looked like a potential star for the Ohashi Gym, which by then was seeing Naoya Inoue racing through the ranks. Through his first 18 bouts Hara looked a very tidy, talented and quick boxer, though liked in terms of fire power and physicality.
Whilst Inoue had been getting fanfare and attention in the Kanto region of Japan the fans in Chubu seemed to know they had a special talent in the form of Kosei Tanaka, a very skilled youngster who had signed up with former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka in 2013 and scored 3 solid wins to begin his career. In a major step up he the faced off with Hara, looking to announce himself and taking an OPBF title in 4 fights, something that Inoue took 5 fights to do. He was seen as a man clearly on the tail of Inoue, but had to get through the "Monster's" stablemate here.
What we got was here was an incredibly bout, showing the speed and technique of both, in what was a technical buy thrilling, aggressive and exciting fight with both men looking like they were on fast forward at times. The bout had amazing back and forth and for 9 rounds it was almost impossible to split them, before finally seeing one man's strength and accuracy finally forced the other to wilt.
In many ways this is the start of Kosei Tanaka's incredible climb to becoming a 3 weight world champion, and is a bout that every fan, especially those of the lower weights, deserves to see.
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
-Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1): WBO #7 / WBC #20
A heavyweight Japanese fighter is something very rare, let along being ranked in the top 10. The former K-1 champion debuted in 2011 and has had a successful run in the regional scene, currently holding the OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific Heavyweight belts while riding on a 14 fight winning streak. Even though we may never see him challenging for a world title, it’s fun knowing he is there.
Super Welterweight/Jr Middleweight:
-Takeshi Inoue (13-0): WBO #5 / WBA #13 / WBC #19
The undefeated 4-year veteran is climbing the Super Welterweight rankings very fast, managing to place himself as the #5 in the WBO. A former Japanese title holder and now the unified OPBF & WBO Asia Pacific champion, may very well be one or two fights away from his first world title opportunity.
Super Lightweight/Jr Welterweight:
-Hiroki Okada (18-0): WBO #3 / WBA #4 / WBC #9
One of brightest prospects in Japan right now, Okada has never lost a single bout in his entire career. A bona fide knock out artist (13 KOs), he held the Japanese crown for 32 months and defended it 6 times, before winning the WBO Asia Pacific championship from Jason Pagara (41-3) this past December. Since the WBO world champion Maurice Hooker will not participate in the WBSS, this title will probably be his main focus as of now. Okada’s next confirmed appearance is on September 14th in the US (opponent TBA).
-Masayoshi Nakatani (17-0): WBC #7, WBO #13
Much like Okada and Takuma, Nakatani is also another undefeated fighter, who just recently made a record 10th title defense of the OPBF Lightweight championship. Despite the fact that he is ranked “only” #7 by the WBC, it’s worth pointing out that his last bout took place on July 29, so that win wasn’t taken into consideration at the latest ranking updates.
-Nihito Arakawa (31-6): WBO #3
Former Japanese, OPBF and reigning WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight champion, Arakawa has been in many big fights through out his 14-year career. At 36, he is still looking for his second world title opportunity.
Super Featherweight/Jr Lightweight:
-Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1): WBO #7
The 27 year old is steadily making his mark in Japan, suffering only one loss in his 4th pro bout, Sueyoshi has been victorious in his last 15 outings and even won the Japanese title on October of 2017. Another successful year and we might see him challenge for a world title by the end of 2019/beginning of 2020.
-Satoshi Shimizu (6-0): WBC #6
The Bronze Medalist at the 2012 Olympics, made his pro debut on September of 2016 and he has KOed/TKOed every single one of his opponents since then, claiming the OPBF Featherweight crown in just his 4th fight. He will defend that belt against Shingo Kawamura (16-3) later this month. If he can pass that test too, a fight with Gary Russell Jr. for the WBC title could be up for debate.
-Shun Kubo (13-1): WBA #7
The former WBA Super Bantamweight world champion returned this April, after his TKO loss to Daniel Roman in 2017, and won his comeback fight against former OPBF Featherweight champion & world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa (33-5) making a huge impact on his Featherweight debut.
Super Bantamweight/r Featherweight:
-Tomoki Kameda (35-2): WBA #2 / WBC #4 / WBO #9
El Mexicanito, has been on a 4-fight winning streak since moving up a weight class and has already broke the top 5 in both the WBA & the WBC. A fight with Emanuel Navarrete (WBA #1) could potentially set up a world title fight in 2019 with the winner of Daniel Roman/ Gavin McDonnell, which takes place this October.
-Hidenori Otake (31-2): WBO #6 / WBC #8
The reigning OPBF champion is scheduled to take on Isaac Dogboe (19-0) for the WBO World Super Bantamweight title on August 25.
-Takuma Inoue (11-0): WBO #8 / WBC #9
The undefeated former OPBF Super Flyweight champion is set to face reigning OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap (29-12), in a WBC World title eliminator fight on September 11.
-Hiroaki Teshigawara (17-2): WBO #6
Teshigawara recently stopped former world title contender Teiru Kinoshita (26-3) to defend his WBO Asia Pacific crown, bringing him one step closer to a WBO world championship match.
-Ryo Akaho (32-2): WBO #13
This is more of an honorable mention as Akaho made his return to the ring this past July, since his forced retirement last year, and knocked out Robert Udtohan, thus making it in the WBO world rankings once more.
Super Flyweight/Jr Bantamweight:
-Kazuto Ioka (22-1): WBA #2
In what must be considered the most bizarre ranking of this list, the former 3 division world champion, who’s return to the ring was announced just a couple of weeks ago, is already ranked #2 by the WBA ! Ioka is scheduled to fight WBC Silver champion and 2-time world title contender McWilliams Arroyo (17-3) on September 8, in the States.
-Koki Eto (22-4): WBC #5 / WBO #7 / WBA #9
The former interim WBA World Flyweight champion is currently ranked in the top 10 of the WBA, the WBC and the WBO. He fights Delfin de Asis (9-5) on August 16.
-Ryuichi Funai (30-7): WBO #5 / WBC #10 / WBA #13
Funai knocked out Philippino standout and world title challenger Warlito Parrenas (26-8), in impressive fashion, this past June, and won the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title. A strong first title defense and Funai could be challenging for the world championship by 2019.
-Kosei Tanaka (11-0): WBO #1 / WBC #2
Arguably one of the best fighters that have come out of Japan, Tanaka has won 2 world titles in 2 different divisions within 5 years. Now he looks to add a 3rd one to his collection as he goes one on one with Sho Kimura (17-1) for the WBO World Flyweight championship on September 24.
-Masayuki Kuroda (30-7): WBA #1 / WBC #4 / WBO #5
The current Japanese Flyweight champion has been on a 6-fight winning streak and has defended his belt 5 times since 2017 and now is ranked amongst the top 5 in the world and most importantly #1 by the WBA. A world title match against Artem Dalakian (17-0) sounds very plausible at this point and since both men have already fought this summer and have come out with no injuries, a fight between the two could take place around December.
-Junto Nakatani (16-0): WBC #5 / WBO #13
Undefeated Japanese flyweight prospect Junto Nakatani scored another TKO win on July 7 and now is ranked at the WBC’s top 5.
-Takuya Kogawa (29-5): WBC #8
After a draw with Yusuke Sakashita, Kogawa has retained his spot at the WBC rankings.
-Masahiro Sakamoto (12-1): WBO #4
The former WBO Asia Pacific champion will probably be in line for a WBO World title match against the winner of Kimura/Tanaka in 2019. He is scheduled to face South Korea’s Flyweight champion Ki Chang Go (6-2) on August 11.
-Ryuji Hara (23-2): WBO #1
Much like Ioka’s, this is the second strangest ranking, especially considering that Hara hasn’t fought since October of 2017. Actually Hara has been the #1 ranked flyweight by the WBO since January, despite having only competed once in this division against the debuting Seneey Worachina. Hara was set to face Angel Acosta for the world title on April 7 but an injury prevented him from stepping into the ring.
-Tetsuya Hisada (32-9): WBA #1 / WBC #3 / WBC #6
The reigning Japanese Flyweight champion, since 2016, recorded a 4th successful defense against Koki Ono (12-5) on July 16, thus improving his streak to 11 consecutive victories. Now as the #1 ranked Light Flyweight by the WBA, he is rumored to face Hekkie Budler for the gold sooner or later.
-Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0): WBA #2
The undefeated IBF World Minimumweight champion has recently decided to move up a weight class and has already reached the top of the WBA ranking. If Hisada doesn’t face Budler right away, then an eliminator between Kyoguchi and Hisada looks more likely to take place.
-Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3): WBC #4 / WBA #4
Despite losing his 2 world title to Budler, Taguchi is still ranked amongst the top Light Flyweights in the world and without a doubt he will gain another crack at the gold in no time.
-Reiya Konishi (16-1): WBO #6 / WBA #7
The former world title challenger and now new WBO Asia Pacific champion, is coming closer to once again fight for the world championship.
-Tsubasa Koura (13-0): WBC #3 / WBA #9 / WBO #11
At only 23 years of age, Koura has already amassed 13 career wins, including 9 KOs, as well as the OPBF Minimumweight championship. His 3rd title defense will take place on August 24 against an unnamed opponent as of yet. It’s safe to say that we will see him in a WBC world title match in early 2019.
-Ryuya Yamanaka (16-3): WBO #6
Yamanaka recently lost the WBO world title to Vic Saludar. Just like Taguchi, he is only a few fights away from competing again for the big one.
-Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6): WBC #9
Fukuhara has been victorious in both of his 2018 fights but he will need a few more before he can challenge Chayaphon Moonsri again for the WBC world title.
-Shin Ono (22-9): WBO #9
Ono will make his first Japanese title defense against Riku Kano (13-3) on August 24. His last world title fight was in 2016.
(Image - of Fujimoto, courtesy of Kadoebi Gym)
Over the last few years we've seen the emergence of the "Super Prospect" from Japan. Unlike most prospect's the hope with these guys isn't to work their way to a world title in a few years whilst running up a double figure record. Instead the hope is to do things quickly with the emphasis on fighting the fewest fights to become a world champion.
Japanese fighters winning titles early isn't a new thing. In fact in 1976 Yoko Gushiken began his sensation reign as the WBA Light Flyweight champion, dethroning Juan Antonio Guzman in just his 9th fight. Some 11 years later we saw Hiroki Ioka claim the WBC Minimumweight title with a decision win over Mai Thomburifarm to equal Gushiken's achievement.
Between the rise of Gushiken and Ioka we saw Satoshi Shingaki claim a world title in just his 8th bout when he stopped Elmer Magallano for the IBF Bantamweight title to set a Japanese record*. It was an impressive achievement for the Southpaw who at the time was just 2 fights removed from a world itle loss to Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr, all the way down at Light Flyweight!
In 1991 we saw Shingaki's record equalled by the charismatic Joichiro Tatsuyoshi who claimed the WBC Bantamweight title in his 8th bout, when he stopped Greg Richardson. The always exciting "Joe" lost the title in his very next fight but went on to reclaim the belt and become a 3-time WBC champion, albeit with one reign as the "interim" champion.
Another fast riser emerged in 2006 when the insanely tough Nobuo Nashiro claimed the WBA Super Flyweight title in his 8th bout, out lasting Martin Castillo. Like Tatsuyoshi the reign was a short one though it seemed to set the stage for the rise of the super fast. The question however was "how fast is super fast?"
It wasn't until 2011 that a Japanese fighter managed to cut another fight off the record as the talented Kazuto Ioka, the nephew of Hiroki Ioka, managed to break the record and claim a world title in his 7th bout. Ioka, a former amateur stand out, claimed the WBC Minimumweight title, just like his uncle, when he stopped the previously unbeaten Oleydong Sithsamerchai for the title. At the time it seemed likely that Ioka's record would stand for at least decade, especially considering how long it had taken for a Japanese fighter to break the 8 fight barrier.
Sadly for Ioka his record was broken just over 3 years after he set it as Naoya Inoue did it in 6, stopping Adrian Hernandez in the 6th round of their clash to claim the WBC Light Flyweight title. Amazingly Inoue then went on to become the quickest 2-weight world champion, worldwide, whenhe blew away Omar Andres Narvaez to claim the WBO Super Flyweight title. Inoue had essentially taken Ioka's record, smashed it and then put the cherry on top all in the space of 9 destructive months.
Inoue's records, both of them, are amazing achievements. It seems however that one, if not both, may be under threat from a 19 year old wonder kid who may well be every bit as good as Inoue. That is Kosei Tanaka who attempts to claim his first world title at the end of May when he takes on Julian Yedras for the WBO Minimumweight title in what will be Tanaka's 5th professional bout. A sensational achievement if he manages to do it, and it seems his team really believes he will manage it and in some style. It's worth noting that in Tanaka's 4th bout he set a Japanese record for the fewest fights to become an OPBF champion, defeating the then unbeaten Ryuji Hara in 10 rounds.
For sake of comparison we've compared the first few bouts of Ioka, Inoue and Tanaka in the table below. For Ioka and Inoue we've included their first 7 bouts, taking us up to Inoue's first world title defense and Ioka's first world title win. Due to Tanaka having only fought 4 bouts we've only included 4 bouts for him.
*Indicates Japanese Title win
**Indicates OPBF Title win
***Indicates World Title win
^Indicates world title defence
*In 1984 Satoshi Shingaki won the IBF Bantamweight title in his 8th bout but at the time the IBF wasn't recognised by the JBC and his reign is a bit of a grey area. He was technically the first Japanese world champion to have had just 8 fights when he won the title though his reign seems to come with an asterisk and isn't fully accepted by some in Japan.
(Image of Gushiken courtesy of Boxrec.com)
As well as the trio mentioned above the division also includes several other interesting fighters, such as-
"The Wonderfully Named"
The best name in the division, by a long way, is Knockout CP Freshmart (9-0, 5) who is the current WBA interim champion and a 24 year old who is tipped to become something a bit special by those in the know in Thailand. We've yet to be convinced but her certainly the perfect name for a boxing star and his style is certainly not a bad one to watch. He's expected back in the ring in early March to defend his title against Indonesian veteran Muahmmad Rachman (65-11-5, 35)
"The Notable Non-Asian"
The most notable non-Asian fighter in the division is, without a doubt, WBA and IBO champion Hekkie Budler (27-1, 9). Budler, a highly skilled South African fighter, is said to be a target for both Takayama and Knockout and has already scored wins over Asian fighters Pigmy Kokietgym (KO8) and Xiong Zhao Zhong (UD12). Our next chance to see Budler is this coming weekend when he battles against Mexican Jesus Silvestre (20-5, 22) in a very good looking WBA Mandatory title fight.
Yesterday we announced our Fighter of the Year of 2014 as Naoya Inoue, and today we are doing second award for 2014, that of prospect of the year.
To keep things simple we have decided that for us a prospect is someone who hasn't yet fought on the world stage. They could well be a qualified “contender” but for us the terms aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
As with the Fighter of the year we felt one man was a rclear winner, and although several contenders did emerge, including two men who fought on December 30th, no one really put on a performance as impressive as our winner did in their most notable win.
Ryo Matsumoto- The clear “top runner up” was OPBF Super Flyweight champion Ryo Matsumoto 4-0 (3) who had a massive year and would have won this award easily were it not for the eventual winner. Matsumoto began the year with a decision over former world title challenger Hiroyuki Hisataka, it was a tough win for the youngster but one that served him well down the line. A quick blow out of Zun Rindam followed before another blow out, over former world champion Denkaosan Kaovichit, really put the youngster on the map. To end the year he would then stop Rusalee Samor in 12 rounds after a dominant performance. It was as good a year as he could have hoped for.
Takuma Inoue- Another good contender was teenager Takuma Inoue who went 3-0 (1) for the year, with notable wins against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, back in April, and Nestor Daniel Narvaes, in December. The talented youngster was tipped for the top when he turned professional and wins over Fahlan and Narvaes have proven just how good he is. Despite his ability he has yet to fight in a title bout though we suspect that will change next year and we imagine he will be chasing either a Japanese or OPBF title in his first bout of the new year, from what we've seen it's hard to see him losing to any of the domestic or Asian champion at either 108lbs or 112lbs. It was an outstanding year but again his year paled in comparison to our winner.
Albert Pagara- Filipino 20 year old Albert Pagara had himself a very memorable year which saw him going 4-0 (3). The problem in some ways is that only one of those wins really made us say “wow”, but it was a win that put him in the mix for a world title bout. Stoppage wins against Isack Junior and Skak Max were both expected, to say the least, and although he did dispatch Hugo Partida quicker than we expected, it was his near shut out against Raul Hirales that blew us away. That win told us more about Pagara than his previous 21 wins combined. It showed that he was a patient, intelligent boxer, he could counter, set traps and not need to depend on his thunderous power. It was the sort of win that tells the boxing world “I'm ready” and we really do believe that Pagara could win a world title in the next 12 months.
For us the Prospect of the Year was current OPBF Minimumweight champion Kosei Tanaka, who went 3-0 (2) for the year including an exceptional win over Ryuji Hara to claim his OPBF title. The 19 year old kicked off his year in March with a 8 round decision win over the then world ranked Ronelle Ferreras, he gave away a round but ran away with the fight and showed why his promoter Kiyoshi Hatanaka was so excited about him. A fight later he decimated Crison Omayao in just 115 seconds to show that he had power to go with his skills and speed. It was, however, the victory over Hara that broke him away from the pack. Hara was 18-0 (10), a former Japanese champion and the reigning OPBF champion, he was also a highly ranked contender and ranked in the top 10 by all 4 title bodies. Tanaka however showed he could do it all by boxing with Hara for 8 rounds before turning the screw as he entered uncharted territory and stopped Hara in the 10th. It seemed as if Tanaka could have stopped it earlier but was wanting to test his stamina, wanting to go beyond 8 rounds and wanted to see if he could it on as and when needed.
A year ago we knew Naoya Inoue was on the fast track to the top, coming into 2015 we suspect Tanaka will be on an even fast track and it's now expected that he will be fighting for a world title in April. If he manages to do that, and win, he will break Inoue's Japanese record for fewest fights to a world title. Is he manages that then we'll likely be talking about Tanaka as a contender for the 2015 Fighter of the Year.
For those who haven't seen Tanaka feast your eyes on his win over Omayao.
(Image courtesy of Kyodo News)
With 2015 quickly approaching we've decided to do out look at the 15 prospects to watch in 2015. Here we bring you the top 5. Hopefully you'll put them on your radar for the next of the year.
For people who missed part 1 of this list, it can be found here and part 2 can be found here.
A second Filipino in the Super Bantamweight division to get a mention is the talented Genesis Servania (25-0, 11). Servania is a 23 year old who has looked like a star in the making for the last 3 years. Unlike some fighters he's not just popped onto the scene but has carved through world class foes for fun and already holds notable wins over the likes of Gerson Guerrero, Genaro Garcia, Angky Angkotta, Konosuke Tomiyama, Rafael Concepcion, Alexander Munoz and Jose Cabrera. That list alone should have helped make him a top contender.
Blessed with speed, stinging power, great work rate and fantastic ability there is little holding Servania back other than the fact he's in a relatively tough division. If however ALA are willing to break the bank he could reach the top in the next year or so. If they aren't willing to break out the money quite yet than we suspect he'll be competing against other contenders and continuing to reinforce himself as a top contender
We don't think ALA will break the bank nor do we suspect that ALA will throw him to the wolves. There it talk about Servania getting WBO interim world title fight but that's now looking like it's off the table. If ALA can get the youngster some sort of interim title fight then there is a great chance he could end the year as a champion. What we suspect however is that Servania will end the year and a mandatory for one of the champions. He may need to wait until 2016 for his chance at the big time but we think he's pretty much ready as it is.
The third Ohashi gym fighter listed here is Ryo Matsumoto (13-0, 11) who recently won the OPBF Super Flyweight title. Matsumoto was expecting to be moved into title fights in 2015 though has found his progress being moved along a little bit quicker than expected. Sometimes it can seem rash to rush a prospect but Matsumoto has already scored wins over world class opponents such as Hiroyuki Hisataka, a multi-time world title challenger, and Denkaosan Kaovichit, a former world champion, as well as Rusalee Samor, himself a world ranked fighter
Matsumoto is tall for a Super Flyweight and we suspect his future will, long term, be at Bantamweight and not Super Flyweight. For as long as he can make 115lbs however he is a genuine threat to almost anyone in the division. We know he'll want to make a defense, if not 2, of the OPBF title before stepping up to a world title fight. Those bouts will serve as seasoning and will be done in the hope of making sure his stamina is good enough for a world title bout. It could well be that they already feel he is ready such an opportunity
We're assuming that Matsumoto will defend the OPBF belt early next year. After that, and after building up his experience and stamina he'll then being moved into world contention. We're going to guess that he does get a world title bout in late 2015 and it could well be that he manages to get a shot at WBA champion Kohei Kono, if he does we'll see Matsumoto and stablemate Naoya Inoue both holding world titles in the same division
We all know about Naoya Inoue, the “Monster”, and we suspect that his brother, Takuma Inoue (4-0, 1) isn't going to be far behind him in terms of success in the next year or so. We're already pretty confident that Takuma is seeking an OPBF title fight next year and although we confess he's not even close to ready for a world title fight there is little doubt that this youngster has everything needed to be a star in his own right.
Takuma looks freakishly strong for a teenager though we suspect he's still not physically matured yet to be put in with a genuinely big test. What he seems to have however is real speed, a genuine understanding of boxing, a toughness and maybe importantly people to look up to. It's not just Naoya that he can turn to for advice but also the likes of Hideyuki Ohashi and Akira Yaegashi two of the most respected men in Japanese boxing. The guidance offered there is huge and will be massively beneficial for the Japanese youngster.
We don't think 2015 will be “his year” per se but we do suspect he'll win his first title in, or around, summer and then move towards climbing the world rankings to open up several routes. We're unsure which way he will go but suspect 2016 ill see him in his first world title bout, however if he is rushed we'd not worry about him against too many fighters out there,
The Super Bantamweight division has seen several fighters look like they want to avoid real opposition and instead of fighting the best they've done what they can to take on light touches. One man who appears happy to change that is Filipino youngster Albert Pagara (22-0, 15). Dubbed “The Prince” we suspect that Pagara will be wearing a crown sooner rather than later and there is little doubting his ability or team.
Aged just 20 Pagara has shown real world class ability and his performance this past November, when he shut down down the very competent Raul Hirales with genuine ease, was nothing short of exceptional. Not only did Pagara completely dominate the bout but he also went the championship distance of 12 rounds for the first time and never looked to have any issue with the distance. That bout with Hirales was Pagara's 4th of the year with the other 3 lasting a combined 5 rounds and if he does something similar next year he will end the year on the verge of a world title fight.
Pagara doesn't quite look ready for a world title fight as of yet though we suspect by October or November he will be looking for a world title eliminator. Odds are he could hold his own against all the fighters at Super Bantamweight, bar Guillermo Rigondeaux. This kid really is special.
The most obvious name on this list is Kosei Tanaka (4-0, 2) a man who has been on the fast track to a world title since he debut in November 2013. Originally some fight fans may have been apprehensive to believe a young prospect was going to rise through the ranks quicker than Naoya Inoue though that's exactly what Tanaka has done under the guidance of former world champion Kiyoshi Hatanaka.
Blessed with insane speed, a clever boxing brain, freakish physical strength and a team that have full confidence in him it's hard not to see Tanaka reaching the very top in this sport. The only limitations we can see is that he may be too good for his own good or be over-confident. As long as Tanaka remains focused and doesn't become complacent then he's going to become a star.
By the end of summer 2015 we suspect Tanaka will be a world champion at Minimumweight and may even be looking at getting himself Light Flyweight world title before the year is out. If he's not in the mix for Fighter of the Year 2015 we will be shocked.
(Image courtesy of http://www.sankei.com)
The year really got going in March with a lot of action building on the momentum from February.
The month kicked off with two very interesting cards on March 1st. In Japan we saw Middleweight titles unified as Akio Shibata defeated Daisuke Nakagawa to add the Japanese title to his OPBF belt. Sadly for Nakagawa he would retire after this loss. As for Shibata he has defended the unified crown twice, including a very recent win over Makoto Fuchigami.
In the Philippines on the same day Genesis Servania showed his class as he stopped former world champion Alexander Munoz in 12 rounds. This win saw Servania continuing his rise through the ranks and it now looks likely that he will kick off 2015 with a WBO world title bout.
The busy start to the continued on March 3rd when Japanese boxing fans had “Women's Day” and saw a trio of female world title bouts at the Korakuen Hall. These bouts saw wins for all 3 of the Japanese champions in action with Momo Koseki, Naoko Shibata and Ayaka Miyao all retaining their world titles.
On March 4th we had more title action with a Japanese title double header. These saw Hiroki Okada claim the Japanese Light Welterweight title with a decision win over Masayoshi Kotake and Takayuki Hosokawa upsetting Tadashi Yuba for the Light Middleweight title. For Okada this was his first decision win after starting his career with 7 straight stoppages whilst Hosokawa's reign was a short lived one and he had to give up his title before making a single defense.
In Thailand, also on March 4th, we saw one of the most controversially scored bouts in Asia this year as Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep retained the WBA “interim” Flyweight title with a highly debatable majority decision over Japanese visitor Takuya Kogawa. Kogawa appeared to out work and out fight Yodmongkol though was unable to convince Wan-Soo Yuh, Derek Milham or Pierluigi Poppi that he deserved the win. Sadly the judging over-shadowed what had been a genuinely fantastic and hard fought contest.
After the insanely busy start to the month it was a few days before we saw another Asian fighter in a major bout. This came on March 8th as Nihito Arakawa returned to the US following his thrilling loss to Omar Figueroa, sadly however he was unable to claim a win here either as the Teiken managed Jorge Linares clearly defeated “The Baby Faced Sniper” in a WBC Lightweight eliminator.
On March 11th Japanese fans got a treat as the heavy handed Koji Numata fought to a thrilling draw with Takehiro Shimokawara. The bout was a 12 round war that was incredibly close leading to a split decision draw. A rematch between the two later in the year saw Numata stopping Shimokawara for the title before Numata announced his retirement, incidentally he had also announced his retirement after this draw.
Our “Prospect of the Year”, Kosei Tanaka, fought his first bout of the year on March 16th as he defeated Filipino foe Ronelle Ferreras. Ferreras entered the bout as a world ranked foe though never came close to genuinely testing the Japanese youngster who lost a round en route to a clear 8 round decision win.
Also on March 16th was “The Bloodbath of the Year” as Takuya Watanabe give an-in ring blood donation in his loss to Jaesung Lee. Watanabe was cut early in the bout and although blood was going everywhere the referee was happy for the bout to continue it's 10 round schedule. By the end of the bout Lee's shorts were covered in claret and it was a mystery as to how Watanabe had managed to continue the distance despite leaving much of himself in the ring.
A day later Japanese Welterweight champion Suyon Takayama recorded a narrow defense of his title as he only just over-came Tetsuya Suzuki. Takayama would defend the belt once more, later in the year, and again seemed fortunate to keep the belt with it being very clear that he was one of, if not the, weakest domestic champion in the country.
On March 22nd we got one of the months biggest upsets as Merlito Sabillo was battered by the then unknown Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sabillo, defending the WBO Minimumweight title, was never really in the bout as his young Mexican foe was too good, too strong and too big. Going in to the bout it was widely seen that Sabillo was taking on a weak foe, oh how wrong we were and Rodriguez was one of the year's genuine revelations, also scoring a win over Katsunari Takayama later in the year.
Just a couple of days after Sabillo's loss we saw another Filipino come up short in a title bout as Vinvin Rufino suffered an 8th round TKO at the hands of Hisashi Amagasa, the OPBF Featherweight champion. On the same show Hidenori Otake retained the Japanese Super Bantamweight title with a narrow decision win over Takafumi Nakajima. Fans in attendance here would almost certainly have been surprised if they were to be told that both Otake, against Scott Quigg, and Amagasa, against Guillermo Rigondeaux, would fight in world title bouts before the year was out.
Staying with disappointment for Filipino fighters we saw Richard Pumicpic come up short in an OPBF Bantamweight title bout against Ryosuke Iwasa. Pumicpic really did give Iwasa a nightmare for 12 rounds though was unable to do quite enough to take the win over “Eagle Eye” who hinted that he had had problems making the 118lb weight limit. Before the year was out however Iwasa had agreed to an IBF Bantamweight world title eliminator, suggesting he was making a little bit of an excuse for a below par performance.
It wasn't all bad for Filipinos however and on the same day Jonathan Taconing claimed the OPBF Light Flyweight title which had been vacated by Naoya Inoue. Taconing took on fellow Filipino Vergilio Silvano and the two men were involved in a full on brawl with Silvano eventually being stopped in round 11. The bout was regarded by many in attendance as one of the year's best contests in the Philippines though sadly full fight footage doesn't seem to have emerged.
On March 26th it was the turn of Thai's to feel disappointed as veteran Denkaosan Kaovichit was stopped by Kohei Kono in a bout for the vacant WBA Super Flyweight title. Kono dropped the Thai in round 4 before finishing him off in round 8 to begin a second reign as a world champion. Sadly for Kono he has been inactive since this win with problems regarding mandatory challenger Koki Kameda delaying any chance of Kono to really build on his momentum. Thankfully however the champion will be back in action on December 31st. For Denkaosan this was the start of a forgetable year which also saw him suffer a KO loss to the exceptionally talented Ryo Matsumoto in September.
On March 29th Russian “Krusher” Sergey Kovalev defended the WBO Light Heavyweight world title with a clear win over the out matched and negative Cedric Agnew who was stopped in 7 rounds after being thoroughly dominated.
The final notable bout of the month saw Ryuji Hara claim the OPBF Minimumweight title with a narrow decision over Filipino Donny Mabao. Mabao failed to make weight though still couldn't defeat the then unbeaten Japanese fighter who took a majority decision over the tough and experienced Filipino who had a 5lb weight advantage on the scales.
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