This coming Saturday our focus will be on Las Vegas, where we see a major Bantamweight clash between IBF and WBA "super" champion Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) [井上 尚弥] and Australian challenger Jason Moloney (21-1, 18). Despite both countries being part of the OPBF, and often fighting at OPBF level and lower level, we don't actually see the two countries clash in world title bouts very often. In fact in total we can only find 12 prior occasions where the countries have clashed at the top level.
Interestingly, for those who have backed Moloney, history is on your side, rather overwhelmingly in fact with Australia leading the rivalry 9-3*! Not only that but some of the wins scored by Australian's over Japanese champions have included victories over the man many regard as Japan's finest fighter ever!
With that in mind we've decided to take a look at the rivalry between two countries.
Fighting Harada Vs Lionel Rose - February 27th 1968
The first world title clash between fighters from the two countries came in 1968 when Japanese legend Fighting Harada, the then WBC and WBA Bantamweight champion, faced Lionel Rose at the Nippon Budokan. At the time the 24 year old Harada sported a tremendous 50-3 (19) record, had gone unbeaten for more than 4 years and had reeled off 19 straight victories since an loss to Jose Medel in 1963. He was also a 2-weight world champion and had been the only man to beat legendary Brazilian Eder Jofre. Rose on the other hand was a 19 year old with a 27-2 (8) record, having won 17 in a row.
Despite everything, on paper, favouring Harada the Australian took a narrow decision win to claim the Bantamweight titles and write his name in the history books as the first aborigine world champion, and a thorn in side of Japanese boxing.
Rather notably all 3 officials, the two ringside judges and a scoring referee, were Japanese and all 3 scored the bout in favour of Rose
Takao Sakurai Vs Lionel Rose - July 2nd 1968
Less than 5 months after dethroning Fighting Harada fans saw Lionel Rose return to Japan to make his first defense of the WBA and WBC Bantamweight crowns. In the opposite corner was the then unbeaten 26 year old Takao Sakurai. At the time Sakurai was 22-0 (4) and had been moved quick following his debut in 1965. Prior to turning professional he had won an Olympic gold medal at the 1964 Olympics, becoming the first Japanese fighter to do that, and was super active in the professional ranks, racking up 22 wins in just over 3 years.
Sadly for Sakurai he couldn't avenge the loss of Harada, losing a razor thin decision in front of the fans at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. Scoring referee Nick Pope, from the US and Japanese judge Ko Toyama gave the bout to Rose, whilst Takeo Ugo had the bout even at 72-72.
Sadly for Sakurai this was to be his only world title fight, and he would later lose in a world title eliminator to the brilliant Ruben Olivares. Although he went on to win the OPBF Bantamweight title his career was, in the eyes of many Japanese fans, a disappointment.
Fighting Harada Vs Johnny Famechon I - July 28th 1969
After the loss to Rose Harada would move up the scale, and begin pursuing the Featherweight throne. He had hoped to become the first man to bridge the Flyweight to Featherweight gap. After winning 4 of 5 bouts, following the loss to Rose, Harada set his sights on French born Australian Johnny Famechon. At the time Famechon was the WBC champion and was seeking his first defense of the title. At the time he was 24 years old and boasted a very solid 51-4-6 (18) record, whilst the 26 year old Harada was 54-5 (21).
This bout, held in Sydney, was a war with Famechon hitting the canvas in rounds 2, 11 and 14, whilst Harada was down himself in round 5. It seemed, to most, that Harada had done it and had etched his name further in history. Sadly however he was denied by scoring referee Willie Pep, himself a boxing great. Pep, the only scoring official, had denied Harada by a point in a decision that is still, to this day, regarded as a travesty.
Had Harada got the decision her he would have been the first man to have moved, successfully, from Flyweight to Featherweight to become a 3-weight champion; it would have made him the 5th fighter to have been a 3-weight world champion; it would have made him the first Japanese 3-weight world champion and the second Japanese fighter to win a world title on foreign soil.
To put some of that into perspective we've still never seen actually seen a male fighter win world titles at 112, 118 and 126 and we had to wait until 2010 to see the first Japanese fighter to be crowned to be crowned a 3-weight champion.
Fighting Harada Vs Johnny Famechon II- January 6th 1970
With the controversial nature of their first bout hanging over them Harada and Famechon faced off again just a few months later. In the interim Harada had picked up a stay busy win and Famechon had fought a couple of bouts in the UK.
Sadly for Harada their was no controversy this time as the Japanese star was knocked out in front of his home fans at the Metropolitan Gym in Tokyo. The bout was a hotly contested one through 13 rounds but in the 14th Famechon caught Harada with a couple of left hooks. They shook the Japanese star who got a standing count before being sent out of the ring and being stopped.
This would turn out to be Harada's final career bout, and the final successful defense for Famechon who lost the title to the brilliant Vicente Saldivar just 4 months later, before retiring himself.
Video below thanks to Adam Auld
Yoshiaki Numata Vs Lionel Rose - May 30th 1971
After being a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing for a while Lionel Rose, with his wins over Harada and Sakurai in world title fights and Guts Ishimatsu in a none title fight, Yishiaki Numata was after revenge in 1971. By this point Rose had out grown the Bantamweight limit, had tested the water at Lightweight and then decided to challenge WBC Super Featherweight champion Numata. At this point in time Numata, enjoying his second reign as a world champion, was a 26 year old sporting a very impressive 43-6-3 (12) record. Amazingly Rose was still only 22 entering this bout, and was 40-6 (11).
Thankfully for Japanese fans Numata managed to end the run against Australians as he took a narrow, and debated, decision over Rose to retain his title. The bout, at the Prefectural Gymnasium in Hiroshima, saw the scoring referee and two scoring judges all favour Numata. It's worth noting, like in Roses' win over Harada, that all 3 were Japanese.
This would turn out to be a rather notable bout, as it would not only be Rose's final world title bout but it was also Numata's final successful defense and final victory. Numata would lose the title 5 months later, and retire following a loss in 1972 to Kenji Iwata.
Satoshi Shingaki Vs Jeff Fenech I - April 26th 1985
After more than a decade of the two countries peacefully co-existing and no world title bouts we had two in just 4 months, both of which were between the same two men. The first came in April 1985 and saw the then 21 year old Satoshi Shingaki, who had an 8-1-1 (6) record, lose the IBF Bantamweight title in 9 rounds to the 20 year old Jeff Fenech, who was then 6-0 (6).
Fenech really did a number on the gutsy Shingaki here. The Aussie couldn't miss at times and broke down Shingaki with huge right hands, brilliant combinations and intense pressure. All credit to Shingaki for his toughness, but he had the tar beat out of him by a rampant Fenech.
Incidentally Shingaki's reign is a really interesting one. He was the first Japanese fighter to win an IBF title, and did so with out the IBF being recognised by the Japan Boxing Commission. Doing so outside of their auspice, sadly though he was also the first Japanese fighter to lose an IBF title. It's also interesting that IBF Bantamweight title will also be on the line in this weekend's bout between Inoue and Moloney.
Satoshi Shingaki Vs Jeff Fenech II - August 23rd 1985
Less than 4 months after taking the IBF Bantamweight title Jeff Fenech gave Satoshi Shingaki a chance to reclaim the belt, in what was Fenech's first defense. Sadly for Shingaki this went even worse than their first bout. Shingaki was cut very early in the bout and never managed to get any real success, with the Marrickville Mauler really beating the former champion from pillar to post.
After 3 rounds Shingaki's team called a halt to the bout. The fighter himself wanted to go on, and tried to convince the referee he was fine, but in reality this was the right decision to stop the bout.
Interestingly Shingaki's career would go on, and he would go on to win his 3 following bouts, but they were all at a very low level, with the Japanese fighter retiring with an 11-3-1 (8) record. As for Fenech he would have a career somewhat similar to Fighting Harada, being denied a third weight world title in a bout many felt he deserved, drawing wwith Azuma Nelson, and then being stopped in a rematch with Nelson. He had, by then, stamped his mark as one of the all time greats. Amazingly Fenech's final bout with a third bout with Nelson in 2008.
Yoshinori Nishizawa Vs Anthony Mundine - January 19th 2004
After Jeff Fenech twice stopped Satoshi Shingaki it took a long time to see Australia and Japan battle at the top level again. In fact it was close to 20 years! Sadly when we did see the two countries collide it wasn't in the most mouth watering encounter. In one corner was the enigmatic, out spoken, brash and confident Anthony Mundine, the 28 year WBA Super Middleweight champion, who was 19-1 (14), and the new star of Aussie boxing. In the opposite corner was 38 year Japanese fighter Yoshinori Nishizawa, who was 24-13-5 (12) and one of the very, very few Japanese Super Middleweights to make any sort of mark on the boxing world.
This was regarded as joke defense for Mundine, who seemingly looked for the easiest opponent he could get away with for his first defense. From the off Nishizawa looked old, slow and limited. Surprisingly however Nishizawa managed put Mundine down in round 2, embarrassing "Choc". Sadly for Nishizawa Mundine pulled himself off the canvas and went on to stop him in the 5th round of the bout to retain the WBA Super Middleweight title in front of his fans at the Entertainment Centre in Wollongong.
Despite the loss here Nishizawa would get a second world title fight, losing to WBC champion Markus Beyer and fight right right through to 2011, when he was 45! Mundine on the other hand was last seen in the ring just over a year ago, losing to John Wayne Parr in what is likely to be Mundine's final bout. Now aged 45 Mundine sports a 48-10 (28) record.
One interesting aside here is that Nishizawa later went on to join the Ohashi Gym as a trainer, that's the same Ohashi gym that promotes Inoue!
Video thanks to Tamika Lovingood
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Vic Darchinyan - April 6th 2012
The last Bantamweight title bout between the two countries came in 2012 when Japan's Shinsuke Yamanaka, the then WBC champion, made his first defense and took on Australian based Armenian Vic Darchinyan. The then 29 year old Yamanaka had won the title in late 2011, stopping Christina Esquivel, and was then boasting an unbeaten record of 15-0-2 (11). He had the youth advantage over the then 36 year old Darchinyan, but Darchinyan had the clear edge in experience, with a 37-4-1 (27) record.
The bout, at the Tokyo International Forum, was a really intriguing one. It was one that Yamanaka struggled in early on, in what was a serious test for a first defense, but later into the bout Yamanaka dug deep and turned it around, using his younger, fresher legs to take home a decision. This was, however, a controversial bout with the tide turning after the 5th round, which was a round that saw Darchinyan cut from what looked to be an accidental elbow.
Following this win Yamanaka would go on to become one of the major faces of Japanese boxing. He would run together one of the longest reigns of any Japanese world champion and hold the title until losing to the controversial Luis Nery in 2017, then losing a rematch in 2018. As for Darchinyan he would continue his career through to 2017 with mixed results. His style and personality always allowed him to get bouts and opportunities, but losses after this to Nonito Donaire, Nicholas Walters, Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar and Sergio Frias all came by stoppage.
Takashi Miura Vs Billy Dib - May 1st 2015
In the middle of the 2010's Japan had two major forces at 130lbs. One was Takashi Uchiyama, the WBA king, and the other was Takashi Miura, the then WBC king. In 2015 Miura, then aged 30 and sporting a 28-2-2 (12) record, faced off with former IBF Featherweight champion Billy Dib, then 29 with a 39-3-0-1 (23) record, with the men clashing at the Ota-City Gymnasium.
On paper this was an interesting match up. It gave Dib a chance to become a 2-weight world champion and it gave Miura a chance to score a win against a notable name, following 4 straight victories against Mexican foes. It proved to be interesting in the ring, with Dib boxing and moving, using the ring well, and Miura looking to cut off the challenger. Midway through round 3 Miura got his way, and landed his patented left handed, shaking Dib who was on the canvas just moments later. That was all she wrote, with Dib not being able to continue and Miura living up to his "Bomber Left" moniker.
Sadly for Miura he would lose the WBC Super Featherweight title 6 months later, in Las Vegas, to Francisco Vargas in a 2015 FOTY contender, and would retire following a 2017 loss to Miguel Berchelt. As for Dib, he was last seen in the ring in December 2019, beating the previously unbeaten Van Thao Tran of Vietnam.
One interesting note about this fight is it was actually aired live in Australia but on tape delay in Japan, with TV Tokyo foolishly not showing it live, but showing it around 30 minutes after it had taken place.
Ryosuke Iwasa Vs TJ Doheny - August 16th 2018
The last bout to pit the two countries against each other on either man's soil came in 2018 when Australian based Irish born fighter TJ Doheny travelled to Japan to face off with the then IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa at the legendary Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. At the time Iwasa was seeking his second defense of the IBF title which he had won in sensational fashion against Yukinori Oguni, whilst Doheny was the mandatory challenger. Entering the bout Iwasa was 28 and boasted a 25-2 (16) record, he was at home, he was the taller and longer man. Doheny on the other hand was 31 and had ran up a 19-0 (14) record.
We had expected fireworks here. Between them they had scored 30 wins by stoppage from a combined 44 wins wins, and the two losses for Iwasa had both come by stoppage. Doheny however had a different idea in mind, and instead of trying to bomb with the heavy handed Iwasa he boxed, he moved, he made Iwasa look slow and unsure of himself and ended up taking a unanimous decision to claim the the title. This was the first time an "Australian", in this case an adopted one, had taken a decision on Japanese soil against a Japanese champion since Rose dethroned Harada 50 years earlier!
Since this bout Iwasa has remained a contender and is currently the interim champion. Doheny on the other hand didn't get to enjoy a long reign, making just a single defense of the title.
Ryohei Takahashi vs TJ Doheny - January 18th 2019
Talking about Doehny's single defense that actually came in 2019 against a Japanese challenger, when he took on the little known Ryohei Takahashi at the iconic Madison Square Garden. This is the only time there has been a world title fight between a Japanese fighter and an "Australian" on US soil and sadly it was regarded as a mismatch before the men even stepped into the ring.
Doheny, then 20-0 (14), was expected to easily defeat the over-matched 28 year old Takahashi, who was 16-3-1 (6). Takahashi had no clear route to victory. He was made to order, in many ways, for Doheny. And that proved to be the case. Takahashi was tough, and few could fault his bravery, but Doheny used him as target practice, and forced Mike Ortega to step in and stop the bout in round 11, with Takahashi probably lucky to have taken a single round by that point.
Following this bout Takahashi faded back into obscurity on the Japanese domestic scene, picking up 3 wins including a somewhat controversial one earlier this month against Kiyohei Endo. As for Doheny he lost the IBF Super Bantamweight title a few months after this win, losing in a sensational 12 round war with Danny Roman, in a bout that unified the IBF and WBA titles. Since then Doheny has gone 1-1 including a shock loss in March this year to Ionut Baluta.
*For the sake of this we have included Vic Darchinyan and TJ Doheny as Australian's, who both flew the Australian flag along with the Armenian and Irish flags respectively. If we remove those results it's 7-2 to Australia and not 9-3. Either way these stats aren't in favour of Inoue this weekend, or Japanese boxing in general.
Other interesting details
Lionel Rose also scored notable wins in none-title fights against Japanese fighters Guts Ishimatsu, in 1970, and Bomber Uchida
Sam Soliman won the OPBF Middleweight title against Tokutaro Toyozumi and retained it against Satoru Suzuki, scoring both those wins in 2003
Prior to facing Takashi Miura we had seen Billy Dib in the ring with Kenichi Yamaguchi, in what was a short, dramatic, controversial and crazy one round bout that ended with Yamaguchi being stopped after being dropped. The result was later over-turned to a No Contest If you've never seen this one it is crazy.
Before winning the WBA Super Featherweight title Takashi Uchiyama beat Nedal Hussein for the OPBF Super Featherweight title.
In July 2016 Jack Brubaker retained the OPBF Welterweight title in Japan by beating Suyon Takayama, this, like many bouts between fighters from the two countries, was fantastic and is well worth hunting down!
Also in 2016 Dwight Ritchie beat Hikaru Nishida, in Japan, for the OPBF Middleweight title. His reign was short lived however, as he lost in his first defense just 5 months later, losing to Koki Tyson.
Jayde Mitchell also claimed an OPBF title in Japan, beating Shintaro Matsumoto for the OPBF Super Middleweight title at Korakuen Hall. Matsumoto would later go over to Australia to try and claim the OPBF Light Heavyweight title, but was stopped in 3 rounds by Aaron Lai.
Interestingly Kyotaro Fujimoto may well be the Japanese fighter with the best single man rivalry against Australian fighters. He debuted against Australian Michael O'Donnell, lost in an OPBF Heavyweight title fight to Solomon Haumono, and then went on to beat Nathan McKay, Adam Lovelock, Will Nasio - for the OPBF title, Herman Ene Purcell, Randall Rayment and Aaron Russell.
Rather notably, given this weekend's fight, Jason Moloney holds a win over former Japanese world champion Kohei Kono, with the Australian stopping Kono in 5 rounds in 2018. Incidentally he did so a round quicker than Inoue did it, just 18 months earlier.
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!
By Marcus Bellinger
After a dry spell the last week or so has been a hectic one in Japanese boxing with significant bouts both at domestic and world level.
The only place to start is at the Kokugikan in Tokyo where Luis Nery rematched Shinsuke Yamanaka for the WBC bantamweight title on 1 March. There was already a cloud of suspicion hanging over Nery after he tested positive for Zilpaterol after dethroning Yamanaka last August.
Things then took a huge twist as Nery came in 5 pounds overweight on his first attempt and was only able to shed around 2 pounds a couple of hours later and was stripped of his belt without even making a defense. Coming in a few ounces or even a pound overweight is a real annoyance and has become a far too often occurrence nowadays but coming in a pound over the next weight division is simply unforgivable.
Despite the events from the previous day the fight went ahead with only Yamanaka eligible to win the now vacant belt. Whilst the home man was given a rapturous reception on the way to the ring, Nery was roundly booed which is highly unusual as visiting fighters are always given respect from the fans in the land of the rising sun.
Yamanaka actually began well, landing with the jab and some body shots but Nery soon took the play away from him and scored a knockdown in the opening round. Realising he was there for the taking Nery overwhelmed Yamanaka, scoring 3 more knockdowns in the second round before the contest came to a conclusion in what was actually pretty painful viewing given the circumstances that had occurred.
Yamanaka announced his retirement soon afterwards and the Teiken southpaw can leave with his head held high and will definitely go down as one of Japans greatest world champions. The 35-year-old was a huge draw, pulling in TV audiences of 7 and 8 million more than once and he made 12 successful defences of the WBC 118 lb strap scoring wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Malcolm Tunacao and Liborio Solis. Although unification alluded him his defining victory came in one of the best bantamweight title bouts seen in recent times against Anselmo Moreno in their thrilling up and down rematch in September 2016.
As for Nery despite the 2 wins over Yamanaka he leaves Japan with his reputation in tatters and he has since subsequently been put on the Japan Boxing Commissions banned list and been suspended indefinitely by the WBC. Going forward it will be extremely difficult to route for the Mexican and Cliff Rold summed it up perfectly in his Boxing Scene column late last week, “Yamanaka deserved better”.
The other world title contest on the show saw Ryosuke Iwasa score a wide unanimous decision against Ernesto Saulong in his first defense of the IBF super bantamweight trinket. The fight was a forgettable one and Iwasa failed to build on the momentum of his terrific 6th round stoppage of Yukinori Oguni last September. Next up for the Japanese southpaw is a mandatory defense against TJ Doheny who should provide a more willing opponent and make for a far more entertaining encounter.
The last day of February saw Ohashi protégé Ryo Matsumoto step up for his first world title tilt when he faced super bantamweight titlist Daniel Roman at the Korakuen Hall. The fans in attendance were treated to 12 rounds of absorbing action as the pair went back and forth throughout. At the final bell it was Romans hand who was raise with cards of 119-109 twice and 118-108 although these didn’t tell the full story of what was a competitive scrap where with many close rounds.
Matsumoto in spots had real success but the champion’s methodical and more consistent pressure saw him get the nod and going forward the American will be a tough out for any super bantamweight especially if you aren’t able to dissuade him from coming forward. Matsumoto can certainly come again and after avenging his only previous loss to Victor Uriel Lopez then having an operation for hyperthyroidism this experience for the 24-year-old will be invaluable and bouts against the many countrymen at the domestic and regional level would be the wise next step.
On 3 March at the Korakuen Hall Masayuki Ito was aiming to maintain his world title dreams and avoid any banana skins when he squared off against Vergil Puton. The super featherweight controlled proceedings throughout, eventually securing a 9th round stoppage and with Vasyl Lomachenko almost certain to vacate Ito's number 1 spot with the WBO should secure him a shot at the vacant belt.
Since losing a razor thin split decision to Rikki Naito back in February 2015 the 27-year-old has strung together 7 straight wins capturing the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific trinkets in the process. He has more than served his apprenticeship at the domestic and regional level with victories over the likes of Shingo Eto, Ernie Sanchez, Takuya Watanabe and Lorenzo Villanueva and he is as ready as he’ll ever be for a world title crack.
On the same day over in Kanagawa Masayuki Kuroda defended his Japanese flyweight crown against mandatory challenger Katsunori Nagamine. This was expected to be one not to miss and it proved to be the case with Kuroda keeping Nagamine at bay early on with a busy jab before the challengers incessant pressure began to tell as he put the champion on the floor in round 8. Kuroda managed to survive the storm and took the decision with judge’s tallies of 96-93, 96-94 and 95-94.
Given his high ranking a world title shot is a solid possibility for Kuroda in the near future. Nagamine has gained a reputation as a real crowd pleasing operator and despite the loss this should remain intact and he can be in many more enjoyable fights going forward. On the same bill Kazuto Takesako blitzed Hikaru Nishida inside a round to claim domestic honours at middleweight, extending his record to 8-0 8 KOs and could be one worth keeping an eye on.
Finally on 26 February back at the Korakuen Hall in what looked a tasty matchup on paper for the Japanese Youth lightweight title unfortunately didn’t live up to those expectations as Izuki Tomioka fought to a second round technical decision versus Kaiki Yuba. It has since been revealed that Tomioka will be moving down to 130 pounds in search of a shot at the national super featherweight title.
To read more from Marcus follow him on twitter @marcusknockout
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
Earlier this year we did a number of “Divisional Overview” pieces before taking a hiatus with the Bantamweight division due to the fact there was a number of big bouts lined up one after the other the space of a few weeks. Now we've had those bouts and we can finally let loose with out “Divisional Overview-The Brilliant Bantamweights”.
To begin we look at 9 of the best from Asia, then we take a look at some lesser figures from the Asian boxing scene and then some international fighters. Hopefully we'll help to show just how interesting the division is right now.
Other notable Asians-
Malcolm Tunacao (35-5-5, 20)-Former Flyweight champion Tunacao is 37 and father time will certainly end his career shortly but he's still a real threat in the division and the 2-time OPBF champion still can't be forgotten about given his ability and experience. In fact he gave Yamanaka one of his toughest fights so far back in 2013.
Hideo Sakamoto (16-1-2, 5)-Japanese 29 year old Sakamoto isn't a world beater by any means but he is one of the divisions most over-looked fighters and he is currently on a 6 fight winning streak, dating back 4 years, since losing a close one to Eita Kikuchi. Among those wins are stoppages against Hiroki Shiino and Kazuyoshi Niki.
Yu Kawaguchi (23-6, 10)-Current OPBF champion Kawaguchi isn't the best fighter in Asia but he's a feel good story and his recent win over Takahiro Yamamoto was certainly career defining. We suspect he may be a target for fighters like Omori or Matsumoto if they can't secure bigger fights next time out.
Kazuki Tanaka (2-0, 2)-Japanese prospect Tanaka is viewed as one of the most exciting young fighters in Japan and his team are suggesting he could go all the way. Whilst it's hard to say for now we don't expect to need to wait too long with the view being that he will fight a JBC ranked opponent next time out.
Petch Sor Chitpattana (30-0, 19)-Unbeaten Thai youngster Petch is only 21 but has been racking up wins at an alarming pace since his 2011 debut. His competition so far has been poor to say the least but he already has a WBC world ranking.
Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym (47-2, 27)-Thai veteran Panomroonglek is best known for losing to Koki Kameda though it seems he now has every intention of making a move towards a WBA title fight.
Jamie McDonnell (26-2-1, 12)-Englishman McDonnell recently defeated Tomoki Kameda to retain his WBA "regular" title and it now seems like we could describe him as the #2 in the division. His title might only be a "secondary" title but the win over Kameda was a big one.
Juan Carlos Payano (16-0, 8)-Dominican fighter Payano is the current WBA "super" champion and is the man who eventually defeated Anselmo Moreno, albeit it in controversial circumstances. Payano is "the man" in terms of the WBA but he's yet to defend his title and has done nothing to inspire us into believing he'll be a long term title holder.
Randy Caballero (22-0, 13)-IBF champion Caballero made a splash in Japan last year when he stopped Kohei Oba in an IBF eliminator. A fight later Caballero claimed the IBF title though unfortunately suffered a serious injury before his first defense. On his return he's expected to face Ryusoke Iwasa or...
...Lee Haksins (31-3, 13)-Haskins is another Englishman and will be fighting Iwasa on June 13th. He's a tricky southpaw who holds notable wins over McDonnell and Stuart Hall and has done everything but fight for a world title.
Julio Ceja (29-1, 26)-Big punching Mexican is a serious threat and has spoken of fighting Shinsuke Yamanaka in the past. On paper he's a major threat and a really good boxer-puncher, though he has been beaten by McDonnell and was surprisingly taken the distance by Oscar Blanquet last time out.
Over the last few weeks we've been doing divisional overviews as part of our features. Last week we made an exception to do a feature on Japanese boxing's fast risers. This week we're making another exception as the division we got up to in our over-view is the Bantamweight division. Rather than rush out a Bantamweight over-view we've decided to put that off for a few weeks due to the potential changes the division will see in the month or so. Instead of a divisional over-view we've decided to take a look at some of the divisions up coming bouts and what they may mean for future of the Bantamweight division.
This first major bout is this coming Saturday, March 28th, when Japan's Ryo Akaho (25-1-2, 17) steps foot in the ring against Prosper Ankrah (24-4, 15) in a bout for the WBO International title. Akaho is ranked in the top 15 by all 4 world title bodies, including a #1 ranking with the WBO, and seems to be on the verge of a world title fight. He'll need to over-come Ankrah to get that opportunity but it shouldn't be that difficult for the heavy handed Japanese fighter who has won his last 6 bouts since moving up from Super Flyweight in 2013. This will be Akaho's first bout since signing a 1-year promotional deal with ALA in the Philippines and is expected to be an impressive showing from the confident Japanese fighter.
Just 8 days later, April 5th, we see an OPBF title fight which will see the heavy handed Takahiro Yamamoto (15-3, 12) battle against Yu Kawaguchi (22-6, 10). Yamamoto is from the Ioka stable, which features world class talents like Kazuto Ioka, Ryo Miyazaki and Sho Ishida, and he'll be hoping to follow in their footsteps. Kawaguchi on this other hand comes from a less known stable though is the more experienced man and has previously fought in a Japanese title fight, coming up slightly short there. The match up isn't hugely attractive but it is significant and the winner will be involved in at least one more significant match up later in the year. The two should make for a very competitive match up and the winner will deserve another big bout in the near future, unfortunately however neither is the best Japan, never mind the best in Asia.
On the same show we will get the chance to see the very highly touted Kazuki Tanaka (1-0, 1) in action. Tanaka is regarded as one to watch and those in the know suggest he could be fast tracked at an electric pace. Tanaka should be able to claim a notable and impressive victory here as he takes on Kaname Tabei (10-8-2, 7), though this is a step up from his debut. If Tanaka looks as impressive as our sources say, he should then we suspect he will be moved into 8 rounders in his next bout.
On April 13th we see a brilliant Japanese title fight as the world ranked Kentaro Masuda (21-6, 11) attempts to defend the title against the unbeaten and fast rising Shohei Omori (13-0, 8). Masuda has been in sensational form in recent years winning the title, with a victory Kawaguchi, and defending it impressive fashion against Konosuke Tomiyama and Tatsuya Takahashi. On the other hand Omori is just breaking through though looks to be a very special fighter who understands everything involved in being a top level boxer. The unbeaten youngster will be getting a gut check here but a win will see him moved onwards and upwards fast over the next 12 months.
April 16th sees another title bout as unbeaten WBC champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (22-0-2, 16) defends his title against unbeaten Argentinian challenger Diego Ricardo Santillan (23-0, 15). For us, and many others, Yamanaka is the division's clear #1 fighter and although he didn't look sensational last time out, against Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, his record speaks for it's self. Blessed with a missile of a left hand Yamanka has skills and power and will be expected to see off Santillan without too many problems in this one. Santillan does seem to be confident and a upset win would really shake up the division though a win for Yamanaka is widely expected.
April 22nd will see another unbeaten Japanese fighter, Naoto Uebayashi (7-0-1, 4) put his unbeaten record on the line as he takes on Filipino fighter Giovanni Escaner (12-3, 8) in a really fantastic match up that will give the winner a massive boost towards an OPBF title fight. Uebayashi was a very touted fighter when he turned professional though has failed to really shine in the professional ranks, having been down twice already. Escaner is on the verge of an OPBF title fight and will be hoping to score a career boosting win on foreign soil. Although this bout will go under the radar it is incredibly significant on the Asian scene.
Possibly the best match up comes on May 9th when Tomoki Kameda (31-0, 19) takes on Jamie McDonnell (25-2-1, 12) in a really intriguing contest between two top 15 fighters. Originally it was hoped that this would be a unification of the WBO and WBA “regular” title but the WBO have made the decision not to allow their title to be on the line, and have actually threatened to strip Tomoki. As controversial as the WBO's move is we have to agree with them in principle that the WBA have created too many paper titles. In regards to the fighters Tomoki is a beautiful to watch boxer who throws eye catching combinations, can switch between head and body and can hit a lot harder than his record suggests. McDonnell is a solid all round fighter with great volume punching, though of the two he's the one with more to prove despite being a “2-time world champion”. The winner here will probably be seen as the "#2 champion" behind Yamanaka though will remain a clear second.
Another bout in the pipeline, though one with out a date at the moment, will see Ryosuke Iwasa (19-1, 12) battle against Lee Haskins (31-3, 13) in a contest for the IBF interim title. This is another match up that will pit a pair of top fighters each other and could against set the tone for the division over the remainder of the year. Iwasa is a talented boxer-puncher though is relatively unknown outside of Japan despite being in a nail biting clash with Yamanaka and being a very solid amateur on the Japanese domestic scene. Haskins is a talented but frustrating fighter who has perfected a style that gets him wins but has turned fans away from him. The winner here will be expected to fight Randy Caballero later in the year to unify the IBF and IBF interim titles and then a possible high profile bout may be scheduled for the winter.
With all these bouts either signed and sealed, or in the pipeline, it's clear that the division is going to under-go a lot of changes in the next few weeks. It's also worth noting that later in the year we're expecting to see the debut of Hinata Maruta, who is likely to make a name for himself at Bantamweight.
Also we're expecting big things from the Thai trio of Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (40-6-1, 18), Panomroonglek Kaiyanghadaogym (44-2, 26) and Petch Sor Chitpattana (29-0, 19) who have all been linked to world title fights later in the year just like Kazakh puncher Zhanat Zhakiyanov (24-1, 17). Though these title bouts aren't expected until much later in 2015.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp and WBO Boxing)
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