Every year we do a number of predictions and sadly, like we suspect everyone, our predictions for 2020 were way off. Come on, who had really had “Pandemic”, “Brexit deal done” and “large salt water lakes found on Mars”. Despite our predictions for 2020 being very, very off the mark, we’ve decided to roll the dice and make 10 predictions for 2021.
1-DAZN Japan to finally get into the domestic boxing business
Boxing in Japan is weird at times. We have a lot of live shows being shown in Japan through one source or another, be it G+, TBS, Fuji TV, A-Sign Boxing, Boxing Real and even Suruga Boys and the one show covered by Seki-chan. In 2020 we have probably had more live Japanese boxing streamed online than actually being televised. However there has been a notable lack of Japanese shows on DAZN, a service that has still never shown a Japanese boxing show. In 2021 we suspect that will change, especially given the recent signing of Hiroto Kyoguchi by Matchroom Sports. The potential is there for Kyoguchi, and maybe even the Watanabe Gym in general, to work with DAZN.
Whilst it would be a massive shame to see DAZN pick up shows that would be on some other service, or available for free, it would be great to see DAZN get into the boxing game in Japan, rather than just broadcasting international shows. It would also, in theory, give a bigger global audience the chance to see Japanese bouts and some international marketing for them.
2-More fast tracking of Central Asian prospects
We’ve seen a lot of Uzbek fighters landing big fights early in their careers, and in January we’ll see Bektemir Melikuziev fight Sergey Kovalev, and we suspect that will be turned up a gear in 2021 with the top Kazakh amateurs likely to be moved incredibly quickly. We’ve started to see it with the signings made by Suleimen and Tukeshov, and in next year we suspect we’ll see a lot more of it. The ones to watch out for here will be those that miss out on the Tokyo Olympics and look to race ahead of their contemporaries.
Of course it won’t just be Kazakh’s but also the Uzbek’s and we even guess that the Tajik and Azetri fighters will do the same. Professional boxing has only just scratched the surface on Central Asia, and we can’t help but feel that we’ll begin to see what the countries can deliver over the next few years.
3-A lot of same-nation world title bouts
One thing we see in Japan fairly often is a Japan Vs Japan world title fight, but in other countries through Asia that’s a lot less common. In fact in Thailand there has only been 13 cases of it happening, and in the Philippines it’s even less common. We suspect that will change significantly in 2021. The signs are already there, with several all-Filipino world title bouts already in the works, but we suspect what we’ve already seen scheduled is only the tip of the iceberg and there could well be a steady stream of them through the year.
In part the reason for the increase is the world as we know it. Whilst fighters can travel, and some will, for a world title fight in a place like Thailand or the Philippines, the money isn’t there to bring an international challenger over and keep them housed during a quarantine period.
4-The Thai scene to heat up
In 2018 we were worried about boxing in Thailand, with the country putting on less shows, and seemingly lacking someone to get behind for the future. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Knockout CP Freshmart and Wanheng Menayothin were all there, or there abouts, but there was a lack of young, rising talent. Boy has that changed in 2019 and 2020 with the emergence of lighters like Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, Thananchai Charunphak, Nonthasith Petchnamthong, Theeraphan Polsongkarm, Boonrueang Phayom, Thattana Luangphon, Thitisak Hoitong and Nattapong Jankaew, to name just a few. We really are very, very excited about boxing in Thailand going forward, and the development of the WP Boxing series, along with the work from TL Promotions, NKL and Tan Telecom Promotions has revitalised boxing in the country. There is now a very real feeling that we might just be a few years from a golden age for Thailand in the sport.
5-Big bouts will be made!
Not so much an Asian specific prediction this time, but we have real belief that we will see a lot of the big “mega fights” in 2021. Following the reality of 2020 we suspect a lot of fighters will come to the realisation that their career’s are short, and that a year like 2020, where many have only fought once, has left them without an expected pay day, or two. As a result we think fighters will take the risk in 2021, take the big bouts, and try to make back some of the money they missed out on in 2020. With that in mind we expect to see fighters like Johnriel Casimero, Ryota Murata, Knockout CP Freshmart, Kenshiro Teraji and Donnie Neites, all land a big fight at some point in the next year. Don’t be surprised if we end up seeing Murata Vs Gennady Golovkin at the Tokyo Dome, or Donnie Neites Vs Roman Gonzalez.
In the wider world we expect this will, finally, give us Errol Spence Vs Terence Crawford, Tyson Fury Vs Anthony Joshua and Josh Taylor Vs Jose Carlos Ramirez.
We might need to wait for fans to return to venues on mass, but big fights will come in 2021!
6-Bridgerweight will be adopted by the other title bodies
One of the many black eyes boxing has had in 2020 has been the WBC’s creation of Bridgerweight, a farcical division made from a cynical marketing standpoint to earn more sanctioning fees. Sadly we suspect that by the end of 2021 the WBC won’t be alone in recognising the division. In fact we suspect the WBA, IBF and WBO will all announce their world rankings by the summer and each will have, at least, a world champion in the weight class. We also suspect the name won’t stick for too long, and the “r” will be dropped making it “Bridgeweight”, which makes a hell of a lot more sense as it bridges the Cruiserweight to Heavyweight gap.
Still it’s a shit division and the WBC deserve to hang their heads in shame for coming up with it.
7-Boxing Day Boxing!
We could rave about what Ichitaro Ishii and A-Sign Boxing have done in 2020, and we probably will at some other time, but we suspect they realise they stumbled on something with their December 26th show this year. The show, headlined by Masayuki Ito Vs Hironori Mishiro, was a hit, not just in Japan but also in the West with fans from the UK and US being particularly excited and tuning in, even at stupid O’clock.
If Ishii is as smart as he seems, and he genuinely seems to be one of the smartest minds in boxing, he will pick up the date again in 2021, and the following years, to do something similar.
For good portions of the world Boxing Day is a day people spend with their family, and could be a date targeted for boxing fans and become a traditional date, like December 31st. With A-Sign going from strength to strength and slowly getting international recognition it seems to make a lot of sense for them to build on their success with the Ito/Mishiro show.
8-Women’s Boxing will continue to grow
Another more global prediction than an Asian specific one is the continued growth of women’s boxing, especially in the early part of the year. In 2020 female bouts were used by some promoters to make sure there was a world title on the show, and were a cheaper and more financially effective option than trying to put together some quality male fights. We expect that trend to continue in early 2021 as the female side of things continues to play catch up with the men.
Yes there will always be detractors for women’s boxing, and it will never come close to being as big as men’s boxing, but there is a solid amount of ground that it can grow into and we suspect that’ll be seen in the next 12 months.
With that in mind we are expecting an all-female card in Japan the new year, and potentially even an all-female card in the UK, if not a PPV headlined by a female fight. In regards to the UK, there is a market there, the market is growing, and 2021 is the year to capitalise on the momentum created this year with the fantastic work of Eddie Hearn.
9-Asian fighters continue to get over-looked by Western promoters
Over the last few years we have seen promoters like Bob Arum and Eddie Hearn sign up notable Asian fighters, with Arum promoting the likes of Naoya Inoue, Andy Hiraoka, Jerwin Ancajas and Ryota Murata, and Hearn promoting the likes of Zhang Zhilei, Mahammadrasul Majidov, Hyun Mi Choi and now Hiroto Kyoguchi. Sadly however, for the most part, the fighters have been over-looked and messed about by these promoters.
Hearn is having Heavyweights in their 30’s barely staying busy with opponents unfit to be in the ring with them, and Hyun Mi Choi’s latest opponent wasn’t fit to be a world title challenger. Arum has done better in some ways, but for Murata and Ancajas to be out of the ring for the entire of 2020 is disappointing. Hearn and Matchroom also did a big song and dance when streaming one of Srisaket Sor Rungvisai’s bouts this year, but left him in the cold outside of that fight.
We understand that fights need to make financial sense, and they need to be worth making, but we can’t help feeling that a number of Asian fighters have been let down by their Western promotional teams, who do little work to actually promote their fighters. Just signing them isn’t enough, they need to be moved properly, matched properly and in the case of guys like Majidov, they need to be treat like special talents, rather than be allowed to waste away.
And this is without even mentioning the relatively dead MTK Japan, which we believe hasn’t run a show at all in 2020, though that might be, in part, due to Takashi Edagawa’s legal issues.
Fingers crossed this changes, but we’re not holding our collective breath!
10-Boxnation to pick up live shows from Japan, the Philippines and Thailand
And another outside shot to end this, is that British TV channel Boxnation will begin to pick up more live shows from the East. In 2019 we saw them pick up a couple of shows from the Philippines and to end 2020 they have picked up a show from Japan. In 2021 we suspect that we’ll see Boxnation pick up more Asian cards, including more cards from Japan, the Philippines and Thailand. Given how the channel has lacked content in recent years, it seems clear they need cheap shows to keep an audience interested, and foreign shows from Asia offer that cheap, niche content that the channel really should have been picking up from the start. We’d like to see the channel run up deals with TBS and Fuji TV from Japan, Thairath and Work Point from Thailand and work directly with promoters from the Philippines… The content is there for a niche television channel, they just need to go for it, and prove that they are out there for the fans!
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