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!
Having been a professional since 2006 Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12) really hadn't done much by the turn of the decade. He was still fighting on the Japanese domestic scene and was only 10-1 (3) as we headed into 2010. Impressively though he made his mark in the decade, went 17-3-2 (9), unified world titles and won a Japanese national title as well as scoring several other wins of note.
Between the decade starting and Taguchi fighting for a Japanese title he had already notched wins over future world title holder Yu Kimura and world title challenger Tetsuya Hisada. In his first Japanese title fight he would then hold future 2-time world title challenger Masayuki Kuroda to a draw. He would take the national title in 2013, beating Yuki Chinen, before losing a decision to Naoya Inoue, being the first man to take the "Monster"to the final bell.
Following the loss to Inoue we saw Taguchi go 9-0-1 and score wins over the likes of Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Juan Jose Landaeta, Ryo Miyazaki and Milan Melidno, as well as fighting to a draw with Carlos Canizales. The win over Melindo saw Taguchi unifying the WBA and IBF titles, in a real career defining win for the Watanabe gym fight. Sadly he went 0-2 following that win, with losses to Hekkie Budler and Kosei Tanaka.
Sadly two things go against Taguchi. First his competition, for the most part, was B tier at best. He had some solid wins, such as the one over Melindo, but for the most part he lacked real standout victories and the ones over the likes of Kimura and Hisada came well before they were notable in their own right. Second he has failed to win against his 4 best opponents, Inoue, Canizales, Budler and Tanaka. No harm in coming up short to those 4 men, but those results certainly do show the difference between Taguchi and the best from the era.
With Taguchi now looking like he's heading into retirement, even though he's only 32, it appears that he'll be well remembered for what he did during the decade even if it was only enough to earn him an honourable mention here.
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)
During the next year we're expecting to see the Light Flyweight division become the “must watch” weight class. Given that it's often been an over-looked weight class we're really hoping that 2016 can be a year where fans do get excited and do start to give the division the attention that it deserves, and of course we also hope to see some great match ups. Ahead of any major announcements we've thought of 5 fights that we want to see this coming year in what is the second part of out "Bouts we want..." series, following on from the Minimumweight version here.
It's been a while since Japanese boxing fans have had free to air action though over the next few weeks fans will get a number of free to air shows across 4 of the terrestrial channels with each showing at least 1 big name in action.
The first of the shows comes a week today as the unbeaten Shinsuke Yamanaka (22-0-2, 16) defends his WBC Bantamweight title against unbeaten Argentinian Diego Ricardo Santillan (23-0, 15) on April 16th. This will be Yamanaka's 8th defense of the title and will see him attempting to continue his reign of terror in the packed Bantamweight division. For fans wanting to watch this one it will be on NTV at 19:56 Tokyo time with the broadcast set to finish at 20:54.
For those wanting to watch the undercard bouts for that card they are unfortunately not on a free to air channel.
Less than a week later we see action on TBS who will be televising two world title bouts. One of those will see IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama (28-7-0-1, 11) defending his belt against Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (27-3-1, 15) whilst the the other bout will see the mega-popular Kazuto Ioka (16-1, 10) attempt to become a 3-weight world champion as he battles Juan Carlos Reveco (35-1, 19) in a bout for the WBA Flyweight title. The beginning of this broadcast is stated to begin just before 20:00 local time on April 22nd.
From what we understand Sho Ishida (18-0, 10) may have highlights shown if the two main bouts both end early.
To begin May the televised action continues to roll and Fuji TV will begin the month by televising a couple of interesting looking bouts. The first of those will be Takashi Miura's (28-2-2, 21) WBC Super Featherweight world title defense against former IBF Featherweight champion Bily Dib (39-3, 23) whilst the other will be a bout between Ryota Murata (6-0, 4) and Douglas Damiao Ataide (13-1-1, 6). This show will give Miura a chance to really establish himself with fans whilst also allowing Murata to face a world ranked foe in what should make for an enjoyable card.
The hope here is that if both bouts are over early then highlights may be shown from Akira Yaegashi's (20-5, 10) bout, which will see the exciting 32 year old fighting for the first time as a fully blown Super Flyweight.
The last of the free to air shows during the little burst of action comes on May 6th when TV Tokyo get in on the action and televise a couple of interesting bouts between Japanese champions and Thai challengers. The first of those bouts will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (24-2-1, 8) defending his title against Kwanthai Sithmorseng (49-3-1, 26) in what will be Taguchi's first defense of the title he won this past December. The other bout is a much more mouth watering contest between unbeaten WBA Super Featherweight “super” champion Takashi Uchiyama (22-0-1, 18) and Thai challenger Jomthong Chuwatana (9-0, 4). Uchiyama will be seeking the 10th defense of the title, as he slowly moves towards the Japanese record of 13 world title defenses, whilst Jomthong look to claim a world title in boxing to go along with his numerous titles from Muay Thai.
At the moment there hasn't been a time announce for either the Fuji TV or the TV Tokyo show however we suspect details will emerge closer to the date.
Of course whilst these channels are free to air in Japan that doesn't mean they will be the only ways to watch the bouts. For example we're aware that the Takayama Vs Fahlan bout will be aired in Thailand, on Mono 29, and the Ioka Vs Reveco bout will be televised in Argentina, on TYC Sports. At the moment however it does seem like some bouts are set to miss out on international coverage and that none of the bouts are set to be televised in the US or UK. Thankfully the free channels from Japan are available via certain methods on line.
(Image courtesy of http://www.kazutoioka.com)
The interim Champion
The Philippines have several other notable fighters in this division including WBA interim champion Randy Petalcorin who is a much touted southpaw with venomous power and an exciting style. “Razor” is exciting fighter though one who hasn't yet scored a major win with his best scalp to date being against Walter Tello. Hopefully this year we will find out a lot more about the 23 year old southpaw and find out if he has the ability to claim a “real” world title.
Milan Melindo will be the next Asian fighter to fight for a Light Flyweight title when he steps up to take on IBF champion Javier Mendoza on April 25th. Melindo is a fabously talented fighter but one who seems to struggle when he steps up a level and he has struggled with both Jean Piero Perez and Martin Tecuapetla in recent bouts. He's talented but lacks the power and consistency to be genuinely world class.
The notable none Asian (I)
Having just mentioned the IBF champion it makes sense to talk about him a little bit. The heavy handed Javier Mendoza is a wonderfully fun fighter to watch with serious power, aggression and pressure. He's not the most technically capable nor the fastest but it may well take a very good fighter to beat him. Melindo, in our eyes, lacks the style to get the job done in Mexico but it will be fun when the two collide.
The notable non Asian (II)
Mexico's Pedro Guevara may well be the best fighter in the division and yet the 25 year old is generally over-looked by many in the division. Part of the reason he is over-looked is that he lost his first step up bout, coming up short against John Riel Casimero, however since then he has scored 4 straight wins including notable victories over Raul Garcia, Mario Rodriguez and most recently Akira Yaegashi. This kid is extremely talented and appears to have all the tools to be a star.
Images courtesy of:
WBO Boxing (Nietes)
Essam Sanbani (Raymi)
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