In recent years the Japanese boxing scene has been on fire, and in part that is due to the rise of a number of sensational prospects who have been moved incredibly quickly through the ranks. Today's closet classic features one of those men in a bout that helped put him on the map and saw him take on a fellow future world champion. Although not a war, as such, the bout was still something very special, with a high pace, a lot of action, and incredible skills on show.
Naoya Inoue (3-0, 3) v Ryoichi Taguchi (18-1-1, 8)
Coming in to the bout Naoya Inoue wasn't the boxing star he is today. He was a 20 year old prospect with a 3-0 record moving into his first title bout. Although tipped as a future world champion he was still a novice at this point, and his only win of note was his TKO victory over Yuki Sano, in what was essentially a Japanese title eliminator. Although he had schooled Sano, fighting much of the bout one-handed as he seemed to suffer a minor injury to his right hand, he still had questions to answer. Could he do the same against a world ranked Japanese champion? Was he being moved too quickly? Was he really as good as he and manager Hideyuki Ohashi believed?
Against Inoue was future unified Light Flyweight world champion Ryoichi Taguchi. Taguchi was a tough and hungry fighter with freakish height and reach for a Light Flyweight. Taguchi was the reigning Japanese Light Flyweight champion, he had 20 bouts of professional experience, he had never been stopped and at 26 years old he was a fully grown man. Having debuted in 2006 Taguchi's only loss up to this point had come to Masayoshi Segawa, in a razor thin decision, and the only other mark on his record was a split decision draw with Masayuki Kuroda, in a Japanese title fight. By this point he was a 7 year pro and looked to be heading towards a world title fight. Yes he was up against the hottest youngster in Japanese boxing, but he wasn't there to lose, he was there to beat the upstart, push his own career forward and retain the Japanese title.
From the opening round it was clear we were watching something a little bit special with both men looking incredibly fluid. This wasn't a typical domestic title bout between domestic level guys but instead it was a bout between two very talented fighters who were willing to come forward with technical aggression. It was high level, and aggressive chess from the first round. It was clear that although Taguchi was wary of Inoue's power he wasn't afraid of it, and was forced to take some solid shots before backing up the talented youngster.
The belief of Taguchi, and his willingness to take a shot to come forward saw him putting Inoue under pressure.
As the bout went on we continued to see a brilliantly high level of action. It seemed like Inoue was always a step ahead of Taguchi, but Taguchi was never looking like a man who was intimidated by the young upstart and continued to try and box his way into the bout. When that failed Taguchi then tried to rely on his experience to and physical maturity to try and tame the Monster. Inoue seemed determined to rip the liver out of Taguchi who's toughness shone through as the bout became a little one sided, but remained captivating. Could the youngster keep it up? Would the veteran find something to neutralise his sensational looking foe.
Whilst we know Inoue has been in bigger bouts than this, and even one or two better bouts than this, this is a genuine must watch and a great chance to see Inoue in with someone who could take his power, who came to win, and who wasn't overly fearful of the Monster. This is also a chance to see what a young, Light Flyweight Inoue looked like before he moved through the weights and became a star, and a chance to see the performance that arguably made Ryoichi Taguchi the fighter he later became.
Yes this isn't a global fight of the year contender, but this is still something every fan needs to see!
We're back again with more commercial's featuring boxers. This time is maybe the most eclectic selection so far, featuring a herbal product, a Wonderboy promoting a banking product, a Monster in his underwear and a legendary along with a monkey. Yes the world is a strange place and commercials are real oddities.
Manny Pacquiao - Tolak Angin
We kick off this months look at commercials featuring Asian boxer's by returning to the face of Asian boxing, Manny Pacquiao. Here Pacquiao is promoting a herbal supplement Tolak Angin. The product is best known for being available in Indonesia, but has spread around the globe and could be purchased in the UK from Amazon at one point. The commercial is a really basic one, but one that sadly left us wondering what on earth the product is...needing us to research it. For an advert appealing to a market who knew what the product was this is great, but those who didn't know would just be confused...as we were.
Rex Tso - Standard Chartered Balance Transfer Loan
From one of the most marketable men in Asian boxing to another, with Hong Kong star Rex Tso advertising Standard Chartered Balance Transfer Loans. Yeah we were completely lost by that idea too. The commercial does little to connect Tso to the product and appears to be more of a training video until the final seconds when we see the product details on the bottom of the screen. Yeah this is just a terrible mess of a commercial. Really bizarre.
Ryota Murata - Under Armour
Japanese star Ryota Murata is another very marketable fighter and someone who has often found himself as a face of products in Japan. One of his most notable contracts has been with sportswear company Under Armour with this being one of the many commercials for the company he has featured in. Give the previous two adverts this month at least we know what he's promoting, which is a huge improvement from the Rex Tso advert. Still it's a bit boring and little more than a training video.
Naoya Inoue - Body Wild Airz
We stay in Japan as we feature Naoya Inoue walking around in his underpants! Yup this one sees the Monster advertising some underwear in what is a short but interesting advert that clearly makes it obvious what he's advertising. An advert making the product clear seems a novel here, but it's good to see Bodywild using one of the faces of Japanese boxing to sell their product, rather than just...featuring him training.
Guts Ishimatsu - ENEOS
One of the few men who always seems to be in humorous and entertaining adverts is the legendary Guts Ishimatsu. He's in another here for ENEOS, who are an oil and energy company. We'll admit we're not totally sure on what the commercial is selling us, though it appears to be some kind of loyalty card, but in reality that hardly matters, seeing the interactions here between Ishimatsu and the Monkey is brilliant. We suspect, although we could be wrong, that part of the advert is a call back to a previous Ishimatsu advert, for Ape Escape, but even if that's not the case this is still a funny advert and much more memorable than other adverts we tend to see.
On Sunday we finished our Fighter of the Decade countdown, and now we look towards the future with out prediction of who will be the top 10 at the end of this coming decade. Before we start however we'll just reflect slightly.
For the decade we've just seen finish 2 of the top 10, including the winner, actually debuted after the decade began. The other 8 fighters had all debuted before the decade began, with 7 fighters debuting between 2000 and 2009 and 1, Manny Pacquiao, debuting in the 1990's. It's worth noting that two of those in our top 10 debuted in 2009, so essentially 40% of those making it into the top 10 debuted in either the final year of the decade, or in the decade it's self.
Only 3 of the top 10 went unbeaten during the decade, so an unbeaten record isn't necessary to claim a top 10 spot. Also there was 4 men who didn't move weight, showing that good enough competition and dominance in 1 weight class is enough to claim a place on the list. It does however help to have the ability to move through the weights, with that clearly being a big factor for several fighters.
Despite debuting in 2018 we don't expect many fight fans to be aware of Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, but the Thai teenager is someone well and truly worth attention, and is a long term one to watch. He's still only a teenager, and will be for a chunk of the decade, but the 130lb youngster is someone with a lot of potential and he showed that potential in 2019 when he won "The Fighter" tournament. He's still very young, and very much a work in progress, but he has time on his side a lot of room for development and the backing of a notable Thai promoter, with TL Promotion behind him. This is very much a left of center choice, but when looking at this coming decade we are looking at young fighters looking to make their mark over the coming years, and Phoobadin is just that type of fighter.
Having debuted in 2018 Ginjiro Shigeoka has got himself into a great position as we enter the decade. He is already a regional champion and looks likely to fight for a world title in the first year of the decade. At just 20 years old he has time on his side, and we mean a lot of time on his side, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him fight right through the decade, giving him 20 or so fights to build up his record. He has spoken about wanting to run up 20 defenses and given his frame there's a real possibility that he will only really fight in 1 weight class. We rate Shigeoka highly in terms of skills and potential, but his diminutive size will limit his potential to climb up the rankings.
Few Filipino prospects have shown that they have the tools to fly the flag over the next decade or so, but one that has is Dave Apolinario, who has skills, youth, speed and a boxing brain. The youngster was 20 when the decade began, giving him a full decade in the sport to come, and he has all the tools to develop a very credible career off of. So far he is pretty untested, but in reality that's expected to chance in 2020 and 2021 before he climbs through the ranks and begins to mix at a much higher level. In recent years he's been fighting at Flyweight, though could likely move up a couple of divisions before his career is over. He won't be fast tracked like some, but will certainly be worthy of attention when he hits his prime.
For the last decade Naoya Inoue took the #1 place for this decade however we see him sliding down the rankings a lot. Part of that is to do with his age, and what we see him achieving over the next decade. Entering the decade the "Monster" is 26 years old, so if he complete the full decade he'll be 36 by the end of it. We suspect that he'll probably finish his career a year or two before that, and he has mentioned retiring at the age of 35. Of course that is pretty much the full decade, so he has the potential to do a lot but with age and accumulated damage there's a chance he won't be mega active right through the decade. There's also the fact we suspect his maximum effective weight is going to be Featherwieght, which gives him only another 2 weight classes to conqueror. What he did last decade is impressive but has little bearing on what he'll do this decade, other than starting him at Bantamweight. We expect a big decade for Inoue, but not something that matches up with what he did in the 10's.
As mentioned previously 2 of the fighters who made it into the top 10 of the previous decade hadn't debuted by the start of the debut. With that in mind we should look at the fighters who haven't turned professional yet, but could do in the next couple of years. One such fighter is Hayato Tsutsumi, who currently 20 years old, still an amateur and at 5'7" has the size to move through a few divisions. He'll not turn professional until late this year, at the earliest, and could well have the backing of some very significant players in the Japanese when he does turn professional. We see Tsutsumi as being the Japanese ace of the future. Whilst we acknowledge it's a big call putting him this high up the list all signs point towards him being able to make a huge impact in the next decade.
Two things that really are key in how we can rank someone is their age as we enter the decade, and their ability to move through weight classes. Few fighters have the upside in those two categories as Junto Nakatani. He was 21 when the decade began, turning 22 on January 2nd, and standing at 5'7" he has the natural size to fill out his frame and move through the weight as he ages and matures. Just to put into some perspective just how big Nakatani the young southpaw he's more than 1" taller than Nonito Donaire, who managed to have success at Bantamweight. Whilst we're not expecting Nakatani to be the next Donaire we do expect him to be a major star in the next decade and a multi-weight world champion. He has all the tools to be one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing and fit in excess of 20 fights into the decade.
As with Hayato Tsutsumi we're picking outside the box again and looking towards amateur standouts with this pick as Thai teenager Atichai Phoemsap deserves a serious mention for the future. The 19 year old is a standout amateur, a truly brilliant little youngster who has already won gold at the Youth Olympics, World Youth Championships and Asian Youth championships in 2018. Of course amateur success on the Youth scene doesn't guarantee anyone success in the professional ranks, but from what we've seen of Atichai he has the potential to be a star in the professional ranks. Don't be surprised if he turns pro in a year or two and is raced through the ranks, backed by a strong promoter in Thailand and moved in a very aggressive manner. Entering the decade as a teenager and with serious potential Atichai is the dark horse to be a major player in the 20's.
If Uzbek fighter Israil Madrimov was just 2 years younger we would have placed him better on this list, but with his 25th birthday coming in February he'll be in his mid 30's by the end of the decade, and given his style is a very athletic based one we suspect he will be sliding by the end of the decade. Madrimov is a true athletic freak. He's quick, has great stamina, speed, timing, balance and power. Scarily he keeps those traits whether he's fighting orthodox or southpaw and he's going to be a very, very hard man to beat. Along with his age we are also concerned about his lack of stature, and at 5′ 8½″ his ability to move up the scales is limited. We suspect he has the natural tools to make a mark all the way up to Light Heavyweight, late in his career, but he'll likely struggle up there at 175lbs against naturally bigger, stronger men.
At 23 year old when we enter the decade we suspect that Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev will have a better decade than his slightly older compatriot Israil Madrimov, though we suspect the two men will have very similar careers overall. The big punching, body snatching Melikuziev broke into the pros in June 2019 and ended the decade 4-0 (3) having proven that he can box, move, bang, brawl and fight. Oh and he can pretty much send an opponents stomach out of their body with a shot to the midsection. Although not quite the athletic freak that Madrimov is we see more technical polish with Melikuziev and with the slight age difference and slight height difference he just has those little advantages that we suspect could split the two men at the end of 2029.
Aged just 21 as we started the decade Sadriddin Akhmedov has the world at at his finger tips. He's entered the decade 11-0 (10) and appears to be the all-round star that Kazakhstan needs to replace the ageing Gennady Golovkin. He's heavy handed, technically very good, aggressive, exciting and knows how to box safely when he needs to. We do wonder whether Eye of the Tiger Management have the power to push him to the very, very top, but we suspect they will work with a bigger promoter, if needed, to net Akhmedov the top fights he needs to make the decade his. Given his youth he will fill out his frame and move quite easily from 154lbs to 160lbs and potentially all the way up to 175lbs. This young man is a very, very special fighter and someone we advise every fight to be following very closely going forward.
Turning professional part way through the decade was always going to make it difficult to be the Fighter of the Decade, but by the end of the 10's there was one Asian fighter on the lips of pretty much every fight fans. Naoya Inoue.
Making his debut in 2012 put him at a disadvantage to those who came into the decade as a known name, but within just 2 years he had gone from debut to world champion, almost instantly putting himself on an even playing field to the more experienced fighters.
Even fighting in the "midget divisions", as certain fans deride them, Inoue has managed to capture the attention of the boxing world during the decade. His fights have become events, and they have managed to attract attention from hardcore fans right around the globe. No other "little man" can say that.
Whilst Inoue was turning heads due to his destructive power and frightening KO's he was also running up an impressive list of achievements. He tied the Japanese record for fewest fights to a domestic title, winning the Japanese Light Flyweight title in his 4th bout from a future unified world champion. He set a new Japanese record record for fewest fights to a world title, 6, then set the Japanese record for fewest fights to 2 and 3 division world titles. Whilst some of his records have been broken, by Kosei Tanaka, he was the standard bearer than Tanaka tried to match. He was also the one travelling for fights. In fact he became the first Japanese fighter to ever win a world title bout in Europe, and is the first man from his homeland to win world title bouts in 3 different continents.
Of course we've done this primarily on results and competition. 19-0 (16) is pretty close to flawless. Then add in that he notched wins against Taguchi, as mentioned, Adrian Hernandez, Omar Andres Narvaez, Kohei Kono, Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Nonito Donaire and you have a strong to back up the numbers. In fact only the only other case of one of our top 10 beating another top 10 was Donnie Nietes' win over Kazuto Ioka.
Impressively Inoue went 14-0 (12) in world title bouts for the decade, won titles from all 4 world title bodies and showed that the little guys can bang, just as well as they can box. In fact stoppages over Narvaez, Kono, McDonnell, Payano and Rodriguez saw him becoming the first man to stop those 5 world class fighters, and between them they lasted just 12 rounds. That's dominance and destruction of world class opposition.
Whilst other fights may have had more attention during the decade it's hard to argue that anyone else from Asia has made the decade theirs quite like Inoue. He remained unbeaten, he moved through the weights, he captured the minds of fight fans, and he fought world class opposition. The only niggle is that his Super Flyweight reign didn't see him face the other top guys, though his competition at Bantamweight has made up for that in style.
Today we celebrate a new period in Japanese history, the Reiwa period. This ends the Heisei era, which began back in January 8th 1989, and although the change is not likely to be noticed in the west it is a major event in Japan.
We thought, with the end of the era, it was worth looking at the 10 most influential fighters of the Heisei era.
Just a caveat, before we begin, by influential we're not looking at the fighters who were the most successful during the era, but those who had a long last effect on the sport, specifically in Japan. Those who forced changes, influenced fighters or inspired fighters who followed them. To be considered they had to have fought between January 8th 1989 and April 30th 2019.
10-Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) - The Watanabe Wonder
Several fighters on this list have gotten here due to their influence with fighters who have followed in their footsteps, or fighters who have turned their hand to promoting. Takashi Uchiyama on the other hand helped put the gym he was fighting for on the map. The Watanabe Gym had been opened for a few years but didn't really have a star to focus on, they lacked a fighter who could help attract top prospects and a man who carry the gym. In Uchiyama they had that star. Uchiyama's long reign as the WBA Super Featherweight champion, from 2010 to 2016, made his one of the major faces of Japanese boxing and he would inspire the Watanabe Gym, which is now regarded as one of the best in Japan. His effect on the Watanabe gym today has lead to fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Ryoichi Taguchi becoming major forces. He's now running a gym of his own, and it's clear that Uchiyama's influence is going to continue well into the future.
9-Katsuya Onizuka (24-1, 17) - Superstar Spanky K
Popular fighters are influential due to their ability to draw a crown, get people talking and get eye balls on the sport. That was certainly the case with Katsuya Onizuka, who's popularity was huge in the 1990's. He turned professional in 1988 and would fight through to 1994, running up 5 defenses of the WBA Super Flyweight title, and even having a video game released with his likeness in Japan. Onizuka was certainly controversial, with numerous suspect wins, but his popularity kept people interested and kept watching. Following his retirement he would train fighters in Fukuoka, work for TBS in a commentary position and continue to have a pretty notable impact in the sport, much more so than fans in the West would realise.
8-Kazuto Ioka (23-2, 13) - Bar setting prodigy
The Osakan boxing scene is the second biggest in Japan, behind that in Tokyo, and for the better part of a decade the face of Osakan boxing was Kazuto Ioka. He drew huge TV rating, he was crowned as super prospect from his debut and he would, famously, win the WBC Minimumweight title in just his 7th bout. His career has been remarkable, winning world titles in 3 divisions, and chasing a 4th divisional world title. He's notable won an all-Japanese unification bout, a real rarity, challenged for a 4th divisional world title and set the mark for fewest fights to a world title, a mark that has since been beaten by Naoya Inoue and Kosei Tanaka. Ioka put a marker down for the newest wave of Japanese fighters, and really helped kick start the era of the Japanese super prospect.
7-Hozumi Hasegawa (36-5, 16) - Hyogo Hero
We're going to mention a man who inspired a generation of fighters a little bit further down this list, but Hozumi Hasegawa also fills that role excellently. In fact Hasegawa ois the man many current fighters cite as an inspiration, especially those in the Hyogo region. He was, for a long time, the one fighter from Hyogo who kept the region on the map, he was "The Ace" of Japan for years, a multi-time JBC MVP, a 3 weight world champion, a sensational fighter in the ring and someone who's appeal did actually cross over from Japan to the West. Hasegawa began his career in 1999 and despite some early defeats he would go on to win world titles at Bantamweight, Featherweight and Super Bantamweight, he was a TV star in the ring, with a great style to watch and with a list of notable names on his record. He wasn't the megastar that some had anticipated, but he was a big name, and the face of Japanese boxing during a little bit of a transition period in the 00's
6-Sugar Miyuki (11-1, 4) - Female punching pioneer
Women's boxing today is thriving in Japan, and Kasumi Saeki recently showed how good the top youngsters are. We've recent world champions like Naoko Fujioka, Ayaka Miyao, Etsuko Tada and Shindo Go all make their mark but the real OG is Sugar Miyoshi. A fighter you won't easily find on boxrec, where she's listed under her birth name of Nojima Miyuki and has an offiial record of 1-1. Miyuki was oriinally a Shoot Boxing fighter, a style more similar to kick boxing than regular boxing, but would turn to boxing in 1995, years before the JBC would recognise female boxing. In 1997 she would go on to win the IWBF Minimumweight title, becoming Japan's first female world champion. Her work in boxing saw him raise the profile of the sport in the country, fighting exhibitions and working as a trainer. She would clearly kick start the female boxing movement in Japan, long before any of the others, and was a key factor in careers for the likes of Miki Kikukawa and Yumi Takano. She pre-dates the like of Feujin Raika by years and also played a role in showing that fighters could convert from one of Japan's other combat sports leagues. Although Miyuki is only "officially" listed at 1-1 we know that's wrong, due to footage of her and reliable sources, we her impact it still being felt, directly and indirectly to this very day!
5-Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) - International man of focus
It's hard to really figure out where Naoya Inoue sits in this list. He hasn't inspired a generation of fighters, he hasn't forced rules to change, he hasn't set up a gym, or played a part in the running of the sport. However what he has done, internationally, has drawn eyes to Japanese boxing, he has managed to capture an international audience like no other Japanese fighter, getting American and European fans talking, and featuring as a cover star for magazines that often put Japanese boxing down their list of priorities. He has, arguably, become the first Japanese fighter, in a long time, to become a global star. His real influence is likely to be more notable in the Reiwa era, but it's impossible to state how much he has done since his debut in 2012. He, more than any other fighter, has made Japanese boxing global and we expect that will be something felt for a very, very long time.
4-Hiroki Ioka (33-8-1, 17) - First generation Ioka!
Today Kazuto Ioka is one of the biggest names in Japanese boxing. His unclue, Hiroki Ioka, is however a man who deserves on any list of influential fighters. The talented former 2-weight world champion saw his career begin before the Heisei era but his influence grew through out the era. He won his first world title in 1987, 3 months before the Heisei era began, but would make his first defense just weeks after the new emperor took the throne. He went 22-8-1 (11) during the Heisei era, defending the WBC Minimumweight title and winning the WBA Light Flyweight title. He would also chase a third divisional world title, coming up short at both Flyweight and Super Flyweight. After retiring in 1998 he would turn his hand to promoting, inspire his nephew to fight and guide numerous careers, as well as working as part of the West Japan Boxing Association. His influence may often be over-looked but he has been incredibly influential and will continue to be so in the Kansai region.
3-Katsunari Takayama (31-9-0-1, 12) - Rule changing road warrior
It's hard to ignore just how influential Katsunari Takayama was to Japanese boxing during his 40 fight career. The Minimumweight warrior was a trend setter who pushed his dreams and forced the JBC, and the JABF, to change how they did things. His pursuit of the IBF and WBO world titles eventually helped their legitimacy in Japan, and played a part in getting the JBC to recognise both the titles. He also brought real attention to the Minumumweight division, in part thanks to his incredible fight with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. He also, very notable, pushed the JABF into allowing former professional fighters to return to the amateur ranks. Whilst Takayama will never go down as one of the all time greats, it's impossible to ignore the effect that his career had on Japanese boxing.
2-Hideyuki Ohashi (19-5, 12) - The Phoenix
In the west Hideyuki Ohashi is relatively unknown, though plays a massive role in Japanese boxing, and has done for over 30 years. At the start of the Heisei era Ohashi was 9-3 (5) though went 10-2 (7) during the rule of Emperor Akihito, becoming a 2-time Minimumweight world champion during that 12 bout run. What he's he's done since hanging up the gloves in 1993 has been amazing, and he has not only played a role in the governing of Japanese boxing, due to roles with the JBC and JPBA, but also ran the Ohashi Gym. That gym has given us the likes of Katsushige Kawashima, Akira Yaegashi and Naoya Inoue. The "Ohashi Gym" is one of the most significant in Japan right now and looks to go from strength to strength.
Koki Kameda - Insanely popular, controversial, and a real star. His effect as a fighter was divisive but few can argue that he's not, even in retirement, a major draw.
Kiyoshi Hatanaka - A massive figure in boxing in Chubu, formerly a fighter and now the region's leading promoter with the likes of Kosei Tanaka and Kento Hatanaka making their name under him
Akinobu Hiranaka - Huge punching fighter who's work in Okyama as a promoter has started to build a notable, and exciting, local scene
Toshiaki Nishioka - Japan's fighters have tended to stay at home, fighting in the confines of of Japan. Nishioka would be one of the few fighters to go out of Japan for fighters on a semi-regular basis. He would fight in the US, Mexico and France during his career and prove that Japanese fighters could win away from home.
Yoshihiro Kamegai - Who spoke about Naoya Inoue dragging eyes to the Japanese scene. The same can also be said of Yoshihiro Kamegai, who actually became a bigger name in the west than in Japan, thanks to his fun to watch brawls. We wouldn't suggest many fighters follow his style, but his mind set of making it big in the US has helped lead the way for others.
Ryota Murata - It's unclear how much influence Murata has, or hasn't had. His TV figures are huge, his popularity, even now, is massive, but the real influence is the intangible, and that's the amateur success. We've yet to see Japanese amateurs really flourish on the international stage since Murata's 2012 Olympic gold medal, but it's expected that the 2020 Olympics will be a very successful one for Japan. It's assumed that Murata's amateur triumph may potentially have a similar effect to Amir Khan, who won an Olympic medal in 2004 and saw the UK team have a massive games in 2012.
1-Joichiro Tatsuyoshi (20-7-1, 14) - A generational influence
Few fighters can match the influence that Joichiro Tatsuyoshi had to the current Japanese scene. "Joe" made his debut 8 months after the start of the Heisei era and fought through to 2009, albeit with some breaks in there. During his career he would be a 2-time WBC Bantamweight champion, and whilst he was fast tracked to a title his influence was less due to his title reigns and more his style, his personality and his charisma. His effect on Japanese boxing was inspiring a generation of fighters, helping to kick start the current era of Japanese boxing. Even now he is still insanely popular, and when he appears at ring, as a member of the crowd, the cameras regularly zoom in on him. Enigmatic, exciting and incredibly charismatic the Osakan is still a star, though had had to pay for his boxing with various issues now effecting him.
Over the last few years we've seen Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) go from schooling Yuki Sano one handed in just his third professional bout to claiming the WBC Light Flyweight title, the WBO Super Flyweight title and the WBA "Regular" Bantamweight title. He has looked sensational since announcing himself on the world stage, stopping Adrien Hernandez, and really turned heads when he blitzed Omar Andre Narvaez, in a bout that made him an international name but also saw him badly bang up his hands. In 2018 he again showed his destructive ability by stopping Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano, both inside a round.
One question that has often been asked is just how high can he go? Can he be the next Asian fighter to climb through the weights like Manny Pacquiao, who won world titles in 8 divisions, or is his limit going to be rather lighter than that?
To begin with we should look at history. Throughout the history of the sport only one man has ever won world titles to bridge Light Flyweight and Super Bantamweight. That was Mexican warrior Jorge Arce (64-8-2 49).
Arce's first 2 titles came at Light Flyweight, winning the WBO title in 1998 and the WBC title in 2002. Unlike Inoue he did compete at Flyweight, winning the WBC interim title, but never got a shot at the full title before moving up in weight. He would have a few shots at 115lbs before finally winning the WBO Super Flyweight title in 2010 before skipping a division the following year to claim the WBO Super Bantamweight title. He would then head down to Bantamweight to pick up the vacant WBO Bantamweight title. In total he would compete in 20 world title fights, going 14-6 (9) from December 1998 to October 2014, when he lost in an attempt to win the WBC Featherweight title from Jhonny Gonzalez.
Arce's career began when he was just 16. He was 19 when he took the WBO Light Flyweight title from Juan Domingo Cordoba, in his 22nd bout, 22 years old when he claimed his second Light Flyweight title, defeating Yo Sam Choi in his 34th bout. He came up short in his first 3 Super Flyweight world title bouts, before getting a vacant title fight with Angkly Ankotta and winning to claim his third world title, in his 60th professional bout. His next title was the Super Bantamweight title, which came when he stopped Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in his 65th fight at the age of 31. He would rematch Angkotta, again for a vacant title, at Bantamweight title after defending the Super Bantamweight title once.By the time he was a 4 weight champion Arce had notched a 59-6-2 (45) record. He was 32, and had grabbed vacant titles at Super Flyweight and Bantamweight, by beating Angky Angkotta.
So we do have a precedent of a fighter climbing successfully from Light Flyweight to Super Bantamweight. Interestingly Arce was similar in size to Inoue as well, with Inoue being ½″ taller and 1½″ longer, in terms of reach.
Notably there is also one fighter who has gone from winning world titles at Flyweight, a division Inoue famously missed out on, to Featherweight. That's Nonito Donaire who claimed the IBF Flyweight title, the WBC Bantamweight title, the WBO Super Bantamweight title and the WBA Featherweight title, before dropping back down to Bantamweight last year to claim the WBA "super" Bantamweight title. We won't go into Donaire too much, though like Inoue and Arce he missed out on the division above the one he won his first world title at.
Donaire is more notable in a way due to his natural size. He was huge at Flyweight and Bantamweight, and still a big fighter at Super Bantamweight, standing at 5′ 7½″ and boasting a 68" reach. Like Inoue he's heavy handed, but in ways became a fighter who depended on his power, rather than the skills to set that power up. When he and Inoue have been pictured together you can clearly tell they are not the same size, despite both currently competing at Bantamweight, and as you can see in the picture he physically dwarfs Inoue.
Given that I've just mentioned size, it's worth considering how Inoue stacks up with current Super Bantamweights.
Inoue is a muscular 5′ 5" fighter with a 67½″ reach. His frame will certainly be capable of adding 4lbs with no real issue, but how does he stack up with the Super Bantamweight champions?
WBA champion Danny Roman (26-2-1, 10) is the same height as Inoue and only has a slight edge in reach, at 68"
WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete (26-1, 22) is taller than Inoue, at 5'7", but looks huge at the weight and his time competing at 122lbs may not be that long
WBC champion Rey Vargas (32-0, 22) is a wiry fighter at 5′ 7½″ with a 70½″ reach
and IBF champion TJ Doheny is (20-0, 14) is 5′ 5½″ with a 68" reach.
It should be noted however that Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14) was recently the WBO champion and he's significantly smaller than Inoue, standing at around 5'2" with a 66" reach. He had success despite being small, and Inoue's size doesn't seem as much of a disadvantage as that of Dogboe.
Whilst all 4 champions are bigger than Inoue the Japanese fighter was physically dwarfed by both Jamie McDonell and Yoan Boyeaux, and Inoue has shown an ability to get inside on bigger men.
Inoue's father has suggested his son will, one day, fight at Featherweight. It's not something in their immediate plans, and they will certainly more to Super Bantamweight first, but it is worth considering how he would fair at Featherweight.
At Featherweight we again see fighters naturally bigger than Inoue, though the reality is that the Featherweights don't appear much bigger than their Super Bantamweight counter parts.
WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19) is 5′ 7½″ with a 69" reach, though he carries the weight well he does regularly give up his reach
Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19) is almost the same size as Inoue, standing at 5′ 5½″ with a 66" reach
IBF champion Josh Warrington (28-0, 6) stands at 5'7" and although being tall isn't a powerful fighter, who instead relies on speed and a very high work rate
and WBC champion Gary Russell Jr (29-1, 17) is actually smaller than Inoue, listed at 5′ 4½″ with a 64" reach.
If Inoue does indeed take a Super Bantamweight title, to become a 4 weight world champion, and a Featherweight title, to become a 5 weight champion, there will clearly be some thoughts towards another title at Super Featherweight. That's despite the fact that Inoue would be one of only a handful of fighters, including Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar Delay Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, to win titles in 5 weights.
Through history we have only had men winning world titles in 6 divisions, De la Hoya and Pacquiao. If Inoue was to win a world title at Super Featherweight, as well as the other 2 divisions as mentioned, he would put his name in a very select list.
Currently the Super Featherweights are a mixed bag in terms of size. A couple of title holders are similar in size to Inoue.
Champions bigger than Inoue at the weight are
WBC champion Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31) is 5'7" with a 71" reach, both significantly bigger than Inoue, and he too is a huge puncher
WBA champion Alberto Machado (21-0, 17), who stands at 5'10" and has a 72" reach
WBO champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13), 5′ 8½″ and has a 70½″
The outliers here however are Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19), the WBA "super" champion, who is 5′ 5½″ with a 67½″, and Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 6), who is 5'6" with a 67" reach. Both of these are similar in terms of reach and height to Inoue, though Davis is built like a "Tank", excuse the pun, and has the body type to carry more weight with little issue.
So back to the original question. How high can Inoue go?
We don't imagine him having problems at Super Bantamweight, he has the skills, size, speed and power to compete at Super Bantamweight tomorrow. He will be giving away a bit of size, but not too much against many of the champions.
At Featherweight he will certainly come across some problems, but does regularly spar with Featherweights, and more than holds his own. He can certainly make a mark there in the future, and could do so against a recognised champion.
It's at Super Featherweight where we start to think he will totally struggle and would be very lucky to win a world title. He could, potentially, nip up and take a vacant title against a weak opponent, like we saw Arce do, but against an actual top Super Featherweight we think he'd struggle.
It is worth noting that we have only used the current champions for size comparisons, with Inoue now 25 years old it's going to be years before he heads to Featherweight, if he ever does, and by then the title scene will have changed drastically. If he ever ends up at Super Featherweight we wouldn't expect the title scene to be anything like it is today, and would be genuinely surprised if any of the current champions are still title holders at the weight in 3 years time.
(Images courtesy of Ohashi Gym, boxingnews.jp)
By Marcus Bellinger (@marcusknockout)
It was another busy weekend of fight action as 3 of the continents best talents took to the ring and neither of them disappointed.
We begin at the Yokohama Arena where Naoya Inoue squared off against Juan Carlos Payano in the quarter-finals of the bantamweight World Boxing Super Series. Some had the opinion that Payano might go a few rounds but a single left right combination 70 seconds into the contest and the Dominican was laid out on the canvas giving Inoue his second first round win of 2018. It’s hard to know what other superlatives and adjectives that haven’t already been used to describe the 25-year-old, who continues to wreak havoc in the lower weights.
Unfortunately we won’t see Inoue again until 2019 where he will meet the winner of the bout between Emanuel Rodriguez and Jason Moloney in the semi-final but few would bet against the Japanese wrecking machine from picking up the WBSS trophy. The card was shown on Fuji TV in Japan, DAZN in the US and free on the WBSS platforms in other territories including the UK and generated a massive buzz online with Inoue amongst the top trends worldwide on twitter, showing how his stardom continues to increase.
The co-main event on this show saw WBC light flyweight titlist Kenshiro make the 4th defense of his belt against forma world champion Milan Melindo in what looked another stern examination for the home man. The first 2 rounds saw Kenshiro used his jab to great effect whilst Melindo had some success with the looping right hand. The champion began to up the pace in round 3 and his quick feet and darting in and out raids were causing the Filipino issues. Kenshiro poured on the pressure, reigning in right hands and body shots and a cut to the challenger only added to his woes.
Any further success Melindo did have was quickly snuffed out as Kenshiro toyed with his opponent and the contest was stopped in round 7 due to the cut with Melindo looking like an old fighter by the conclusion. Coupled with his wins over Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and going back to his victories over Katsunori Nagamine and Kenichi Horikawa, Kenshiro really has built himself a very strong resume and in most people’s eyes is the number 1 light flyweight in the world which is no mean feat given the insane strength in depth at 108 lb. A December 30th return looks likely and it would be great to see the 26-year-old being given a world title defense in Kyoto and there are numerous fabulous fights for him for the foreseeable future.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai made the 3rd defense of his WBC super flyweight crown against Iran Diaz in Thailand. The bout headlined a One Championship card at the Impact Arena giving Srisaket major exposure at home. Not being a fan of MMA or never having viewed a One Championship show before, the whole event feel/crowd reaction was a real eye opener and nothing I’ve ever experienced before whilst watching boxing from Thailand.
With the atmosphere at fever pitch and the crowd almost baying for blood Srisaket flew out of the blocks in the opening stanza, ripping home crunching body shots and it looked like we could have a short fight on our hands. To his immense credit Diaz showed a superb chin and the ability to keep taking the numerous punches to the torso from the champion. The Thai got sloppy and neglected his defense and was lucky not to have 2 knockdowns awarded against him in rounds 8 and 9.
Having repeatedly hammered away at the body Srisaket tried to target the head in the last few rounds but he had to be content with a wide unanimous point’s verdict against the gritty Mexican challenger. It’s unclear what the next move of the hard hitting southpaw is but a rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada should happen sometime next year and there is also talk of a unification with IBF belt holder Jerwin Ancajas. It would also be great to see Srisaket fight in front of a raucous packed crowd at home once again as it could do wonders for future Thai boxers.
Finally we had an unexpected brawl at the hall as Masaru Sueyoshi and Hirinori Mishiro battled to a 12 round split draw with both the Japanese and OPBF super featherweight straps on the line. Given Sueyoshi’s awkward style and Mishiro’s preference to fight at range this had the potential to be a bit of a stinker but after Sueyoshi began brightly Mishiro turned the tables, forcing Sueyoshi into a toe-to-toe scrap leading to a fantastic contest which hopefully will take place again in early 2019. Rising flyweight youngster Junto Nakatani dominated Shun Kosaka over 8 rounds to book himself a shot at the Japanese title next year and he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on going forward.
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
Boxing might be the sweet science but, if we're all being honest, it's also a fight. Due to it being a fight we of course love the true fighters, the ones who come to the ring with the intention of stopping their opponents and are willing to do all they can to finish a fight early. In this feature we're going to take a look at 10 of the most fun to watch Asian fighters. Some fighters you will be familiar with whilst others you may not be too aware of, one thing is for certain however, these men mean business every time they step in the ring.
-Wanheng Menayothing-Intelligent pressure fighter, even though he lacks lights out power he is great fun to watch
-Akira Yaegashi-A real warrior who is coming to the end of his career though will always go out on his shield and give fans good value.
-Takuya Kogawa-A warrior through and through. Though he lacks power he does enjoy a tear up and is scarcely in a dull fight
-Suguru Muranaka-Another warrior who enjoys a tear up and is more than happy to let his hands go despite not being a note puncher.
-Knockout CP Freshmart-With a name like “Knockout” you already know he's looking for the stoppage every time.
-Rex Tso-Like many featured above this man from Hong Kong is flawed but that's what makes him so much fun with every fight being a war
-Kyoo Hwan Hwang-Korean teenage has got ability though often lets his "Korean instinct" kick in and turns every fight so far into a slugfest
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)
Over the past week or so the Super Flyweight division has come to the attention of fans world wide. In the UK fans saw a much touted and previously unbeaten fighter come up short against a world class but unheralded African world champion whilst fans watching a stream from Macau got the chance to see an all-action war courtesy of TopRankTV. Despite these two memorable event over this past weekend many still suggest the division is a weak one. The reality however, is that the division is one of the toughest and most packed out there.
The Japanese Renegade-
Koki Kameda (33-1, 18) The oldest of the Kameda brothers is the current #2 WBA ranked fighter in the division and is the mandatory challenger to Kohei Kono with the WBA demanding the two men negotiate or face purse bids in a few weeks time. Kameda's resume is highly impressive with title reigns at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight though he wants a Super Flyweight title to become Japan's first ever 4 weight world champion. Sadly he is a divisive figure, similar to Adrien Broner, with many in Japan turning on him. Among those who have gotten sick of him and his brothers are the JBC who have banned him from fighting in Japan, though he has since made a very powerful ally in the form of Al Haymon who is likely to help make Kameda a big name in the US.
The tricky African champion-
Zolani Tete (20-3, 17) The first of two non-Asian that we're going to mention here is IBF champion Tete who impressed last week when he derailed the hopes of the previously unbeaten Paul Butler in the UK. Tete won the title last year, when he out pointed Teiru Kinoshita, and his fight with Butler was his first defence. Tall, rangy and with an educated southpaw jab Tete is a nightmare to fight and made both Butler and Kinoshita look clueless in their bouts with him. His biggest worry as a Super Flyweight will be out growing the division, a possibility given his frame, but for as long as he can made 115lbs he's going to be an avoided opponent. Most worryingly for his future opponents, he seems happier fighting on the road than he does at home.
The Mexican champion-
Carlos Cuadras (31-0-1, 25) The remaining champion in the division is WBC champion Teiken managed Mexican boxer-puncher Cuadras who won his title last year when he over-came Srisaket Sor Rungvisai via a technical decision. The talented Cuadras is a fighter who can box or brawl, electing to do what suits him best for each fight. Unfortunately for Cuadras recent bouts have been marred with headclashes though it's hard not to be excited when we see Cuadras in the ring. Thankfully we won't need to wait long to see him back in the ring with Cuadras set to fight Luis Concepcion on April 4th in what looks likely to be an absolutely enthralling contest.
Images courtesy of:
Eaktawan Mor Krungthepthonburi's facebook
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