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.
Much like countryman Takashi Uchiyama, we saw Shinsuke Yamanaka enter the decade as a virtual unknown outside of his homeland, yet go on to make a a huge statement, and become the man who many regarded as the best in his division. Unlike Uchiyama however Yamanaka did it from an even lesser stand point, and scored more wins that resonated internationally.
At the start of the decade Yamanaka was still fighting in 8 rounders, blasting out Kazuharu Morimoto inside a round in his first bout of the decade. A fight later and he was the Japanese champion, stopping Mikio Yasuda for the title. His reign was a short one, but included a tremendous 2011 win over future world champion Ryosuke Iwasa. Just 8 months after making his sole defense of the Japanese title Yamanaka would get his first world title bout, and would stop Christian Esquivel in 11 rounds to claim the WBC title, and begin a legendary reign.
Going through the early part of Yamanaka's reign reads like a who's who of the lower weights from the turn of the decade. His first defense saw him out point Vis Darchinyan, before scoring a KO of the Year contender of Tomas Rojas. In his third defense he stopped former WBO Flyweight champion Malcolm Tunacao, giving the Filipino only his second ever stoppage loss.
Sadly his reign then took a nose dive, and opponents like Jose Nieves, Alberto Guevara and Stephane Jamoye did little for Yamanaka's legacy.
Thankfully his reign picked up again towards the end with really solid wins over Suriyan Por Chokchai, Anselmo Moreno, twice, and Liborio Solis. Those wins were big, career enhancing victories with the second Yamanaka fight and the Solis one, being particularly exciting bouts with both men being dropped.
Sadly Yamanaka's great reign came to an end in 2017 when he lost to Luis Nery, who had failed a pre-fight drugs test. A rematch with an over-weight Nery in 2018 saw Yamanaka lose again, to end his career with back to back losses to the same man, a lot like Uchiyama did with Jezreel Corrales.
Although technically a very flawed fighter, and a very basic one, Yamanaka's success and wins over notable fighters earns him a high ranking here. He wasn't a true pound-for-pound boxer, he was far too limited for that, but what he did was fight to his strengths, make the most of his dynamite left hand and had great success despite his technical limitations. Although it's harsh to say it, Yamanaka was a genuine over-achiever, and legitimately became one of the biggest Asian stars of the decade.
For those who haven't seen much of Yamanaka, we've included his wins over
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.
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)
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)
This past week saw Boxnation publish an article on the biggest punchers in the sport. The article whilst having solid selections overall did seem to have a general "main stream" bias with only several of the fighters being somewhat unproven American or fighters that are certainly not what they once were.
On the whole the selections they had were solid and credible though we tend to feel that the article failed to really give a fair representation of the fighters from outside of their own broadcasts and when you consider many of their shows are from Europe or North America it explains their bias. Like wise it tended to feel like the article was done by someone who had watched the channel rather than someone who actually watched world wide boxing.
With the issues in the Boxnation article I've decided to do my own "Biggest Punchers" article with 11 fighters.
Gennady Golovkin (29-0, 26) [89.66%]
The one Asian who was represented on the Boxnation article was Kazakhstani Middleweight Gennady Golovkin who has the highest KO % of any active world champion.
Golovkin is really a man who can do anything in the ring though is at his destructive best when he cuts down the ring, forces an opponent to throw then counters with precision and power. It's this power that has made him a star in the US and has helped him become one of the true "must watch" fighters.
Although a highly accomplished amateur Golovkin has become less about "point scoring" in the professional ranks and more about destruction which he has shown in both vicious beat downs and 1-punch KO's. The beat downs, given out to the likes of Gregorz Proksa and Gabriel Rosado, were bludgeoning affairs where every punch took a toll whilst his 1-punch KO's over Lajuan Simon, Nobuhiro Ishida and Matthew Macklin were highlight reel KO's that showed off the explosiveness of the Kazakh.
With 16 straight stoppages, including a number against decent world level opponents, there is little doubting the power of "GGG".
Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) [77.27%]
Arguably the hardest punching fighter, pound-for-pound, currently based in the Orient is WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama who's power has lead to his brilliant nickname of "KO Dynamite".
Uchiyama, at 34 years old, does look to be a man on the slide slightly but with his power no one will be in a rush to mix it up with him and one clean shot to either head or body from the huge punching Watanabe Gym fighter can end a fight at any moment.
Uchiyama burst on to the world scene in 2009 when he stopped Juan Carlos Salgado in 12 rounds and has since shown his power by stopping 6 of his subsequent 8 opponents inside the distance including scoring a highlight real KO over the very capable Jorge Solis and a sickening body shot KO over Jaider Parra.
Of the two recent fights that Uchiyama hasn't scored a stoppage in one was a technical draw with rough Filipino Michael Farenas whilst the other was a decision against Daiki Kaneko, a man we feel is a future world champion. Sadly however there is some questioning of just how long Uchiyama has left at the top though for now it's hard to argue with the power of "KO Dynamite"
Shinsuke Yamanaka (21-0-2, 16) [69.57%]
If Uchiyama is Japan's biggest puncher then it's fair to say that Shinsuke Yamanaka is the second biggest despite his record not actually showing it, in fact Yamanaka's record is one of the most misleading in the sport.
The WBC Bantamweight champion stopped just 2 of his first 8 opponents as he began 6-0-2 (2) though from then on he has stopped 14 of 15 opponents with several stoppages over very tough fighters like Ryosuke Iwasa, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Alberto Guevara and Stephane Jamoye. Impressively Yamanaka hasn't just been stopping foes fighter after fight but they have pretty much all been dropped at least once.
Known as the "God of Left" Yamanaka really does have thunder bottled in his left hand and he has developed how he uses it excellently to score real beat downs as well as eye catching KO's. There is little doubt that his level of competition is higher than most fighters, worldwide, and the fact he is stopping world class opponents on a regular basis really does show up just how confusing his KO% actually is.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (27-3-1, 25) [80.65%]
The only Thai on this list is WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai who is a true whirling dervish in the ring. Srisaket's KO rate may be just shy of 81% but, as with Yamanaka, it's a misleading figure with the Thai having stopped 24 of his last 26 foes.
Srisaket of course started his career with an unspectacular 1-3-1 beginning though has risen through the Super Flyweight division by simply destroying opponents with a vicious and never ending assault. It's the not actually raw power which has really helped Srisaket though every punch he lands is hurtful and the cumulative effect of those shots is simply too much for many fighters to take.
In terms of 1-punch power Srisaket is probably lacking though every single shot is nasty, spiteful and hurtful. He's the sort of fighter who my not take your head off with a single shot but will break over the course of a fighter.
Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38) [60.32%]
Filipino puncher Manny Pacquiao was once seen as a phenom in the ring stopping a who's who of top tier fighters from Chatchai Sasakul to Marco Antonio Barrera, from Erik Morales to Ricky Hatton from Oscar De La Hoya to Miguel Cotto. A few short years ago he'd have topped this list based on his scalps alone. Unfortunately however the "Pacman", whilst still hurtful, is no longer the wrecking machine he once was and he hasn't scored a stoppage in his last 8 fights. That has dropped him from 69.09% all the way down to 60.32% despite the drop off in KO's few would argue that Pacquiao is solid puncher.
Part of the drop off in Pacquiao's knockouts has come due to the fact he is facing naturally bigger men, such as Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey whilst also facing incredibly tough men such as Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios. He still hits hard but those men are big and tough guys themselves.
Aged 35 the Filipino star is surely on the back end of his illustrious hall of fame career though it's fair to say the KO's he scored through out his career will serve him well with highlight videos being published across the net.
Naoya Inoue (6-0, 5) [83.33%]
When we talk about super stars the new star in world boxing in Naoya Inoue who, after just 6 fights, is already a world champion and already looks like a scary fighter. The 21 year old has managed to claim Japanese, OPBF and world titles in just 6 fights and a combined 36 rounds.
With an 83.33% KO rate Inoue has one of the highest stoppage rates of any active champion and is showed that power to great effect in his title winning effort which saw him stopping Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
It may be a little early to declare Inoue as one of the hardest punchers in the world but his record speaks for it's self and his nickname of "Monster" really does seem accurate with his physical strength as well as his power. Even the jab of the 21 year old seems spiteful never mind his true power shots, such as the beauty he landed against Ngaoprajan Chuwatana in just his second professional contest.
Ryota Murata (4-0, 4)
Arguably the hardest pure puncher currently plying their trade in the Orient is Ryota Murata. The Middleweight sensation may not yet be fighting at the world level though has been cruising through opponents and improving fight after fight.
On debut he of course stopped the OPBF champion Akio Shibata, a man who is stoppable but is in no means soft. He then followed that up with a very good win over the surprisingly tough Dave Peterson before scoring stoppages over former world title challenger Carlos Nascimento and tough Mexican Jesus Angel Nerio.
Whilst no one would suggest Murata is ready for a world title fight he is beating tough guys by breaking them down with his heavy handed assault to head and body and the way he is racing up towards the world rankings is impressive. He is still a work in progress but his power is certainly there, just as it was in the amateurs where he was sensational.
Kanat Islam (16-0, 13) [81.25%]
Gennady Golovkin, our #1 power puncher, isn't the only Kazakh impressing with his power, another is the US based Kanat Islam.
Although Islam is based in Florida he has been making his name in Latin America with fights in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and has not only been scoring stoppages but has been rising in to the rankings whilst picking up WBA regional titles.
Of course the biggest issue with Islam is that he's not been stopping well known fighters or quality fighters. In fact his best win to date has come over Humberto Toledo, who lasted less than a minute with the big punching Islam. Incidentally Boxnation's list included Randall Bailey who took 8 rounds to take a DQ win over Toledo which would suggest that Islam does hit incredibly hard.
Ranked #11 by the WBA at Light Middleweight Islam is a man who looks likely to make a mark on the wider boxing world in the next year or so. He will need to continue his winning streak though it's hard not to be impressed by a man who is averaging just 2.75 rounds per fight!
Keita Obara (11-1, 10) [83.33%]
One more Japanese fighter who has serious power is OPBF Light Welterweight champion Keita Obara who has thunderous power which has helped him string together 11 straight wins with 10KO's. Those wins have seen him claiming the Japanese and OPBF titles whilst walking through the likes of Jay Solmiano and So Takenaka.
Obara isn't the most skilled or the hardest working but when he tags someone he does serious harm often rendering a fighter void of their senses with just 1 clean shot. This guy has the sort of power that generates excitement, at least domestically.
The problem with Obara is that we're not certain of how well his power will carry up as he moves through the levels to fringe world class. We're hoping it carries up and that he could become a star on the international scene though we will have to wait in the hope that he fights a world ranked fighter like Czar Amonsot, Patomsuk Pathompothong or Min Wook Kim, all of whom would make for fun to watch bouts and a real test for Obara.
Jonathan Taconing (18-2-1, 15) [71.43%]
Another OPBF champion included in this list is Light Flyweight champion Jonathan Taconing who really has spite in his punches despite fighting in the 108lb division.
Taconing first came to the attention of hardcore fans when he went toe-to-toe with Thailand's tough Kompayak Porpramook and appeared to be getting the better of the bout before a controversial technical decision cost Taconing what should have been the WBC Light Flyweight world title, the title that is now around the waist of Naoya Inoue.
Since the loss to Porpramook fans have been able to see Taconing score 5 wins in a combined 23 rounds, including a very impressive stoppage over Vergilio Silvano to claim the OPBF title.
Taconing isn't a big name but he's a fighter with a genuinely exciting style, an aggressive mentality and the ability to give anyone at 108lbs real trouble. We'd love to see him given a second world title fight and with his style he could well
Rey Megrino (21-20-3, 18) [40.91%]
The true "joker" amongst the hardest Asian punchers is the under-rated Filipino Rey Megrino. Although Megrino boasts a KO rate of less than 41% he is a true banger and what he connects with he hurts. Unfortunately he does have one of the most odd and misleading records due to the start of his career which was certainly less than stellar.
Although Megrino has won less than half of his fights he has shown distinct improvements in recent years and those improvements have seen him learning how to use his natural god given power to it's full effect. Those improvements have seen him stopping 5 of his last 6 opponents including the legendary Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, the once touted Kenji Kubo and the unbeaten Ernesto Saulong. In fact the only fighter to survive the distance with Megrino in the last year was Myung Ho Lee who was dropped even though he saw out the distance.
Megrino's current run has seen him climb into the WBC world rankings with a #9 Flyweight ranking and although the ranking, in theory, makes him an attractive target his power has put opponents off and it's completely understandable as to why.
Boxnation logo courtesy of boxnation.com
Images of Golovkin, Srisaket, Pacquiao, Islam, Taconing and Megrino Boxrec.com
Image of Uchiyama courtesy of watanabegym
Image of Yamanaka courtesy of Teiken
Image of Inoue courtesy of Ohashi Gym
Image of Murata courtesy of boxingnews.jp
Image of Keita Obara courtesy of Keita Obara's facebook
On this coming Wednesday Japanese fans will be treat to a world title double header with both fights featuring big name Japanese fighters taking on European rivals. The fights, which are getting attention from hardcore fans around the world, are both major contests and could help define the legacies of both fighters both domestically and internationally.
The card, televised by NTV from 19:00 local time marks the return to free-to-air TV for Shinsuke Yamanaka (20-0-2, 15), the WBC Bantamweight champion who will be hoping to impress fans who may have been forced to miss his fight with Pedro Guevara, and will also see the return to world title level for the "Ace of Japan" Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) who has been out of major fights since 2011.
With the major significance of these fights and this show in general we've decided to do our first ever show specific feature where we will break down the fights, the fighters and what the bouts mean to their legacies and future.
The first of the two world title fights will be that of Hasegawa who will be challenging Spain's hard charging Kiko Martinez (30-4, 22) for the IBF Super Bantamweight title. For some this is a suicide mission from Hasegawa whilst for others it's a fight that could define him as one of the Japanese greats.
Having already claimed world titles at both Bantamweight and Featherweight Hasegawa is hoping to become just the second ever 3-weight world champion from Japan. At 33 years old this will likely be his only chance and unfortunately for him he's in a tough divisions where even another chance wouldn't guarantee him an easy fight for a title.
Hasegawa first made his name as one of the great Bantamweight champions. He won the WBC title at 118lbs way back in 2005 when he dethroned legendary Thai Veeraphol Sahaprom who had been a champion for more than 6 years and a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing. Sahaprom, who had defeated Joichiro Tatsuyoshi for the title, had run together 15 defences before Hasegawa managed to defeat him and end an impressive 44 fight unbeaten streak that dated back to 1996.
As the Bantamweight champion Hasegawa himself had a legendary reign from 2005 to 2010 that saw him defending the belt against the likes of Veeraphol Sahaprom, the then unbeaten Simpiwe Vetyeka, Simone Maludrottu and Vusi Malinga. His challenger's combined record read a remarkable 248-20-7.
Unfortunately for Hasegawa his reign came to an unfortunate end when he fought giant Mexican puncher Fernando Montiel who stopped Hasegawa in 4 rounds to end the first championship reign of the Japanese fight.
Hasegawa would quickly climb back to the top of the mountain as he moved up to Featherweight and over-came Juan Carlos Burgos to claim the WBC Featherweight title. This reign was short lived though and Hasegawa was dethroned for the second time in just 3 fights as the huge punching Jhonny Gonzalez stopped him in, also in round 4.
For many the loss to Gonzalez signalled the end of Hasegawa and many suggested he had been exposed, twice, by solid punchers and it was obvious he couldn't take a shot. It was as if the fans had forgotten, or simply not seen, the shots he had take from Veeraphol and wrote him off on that alone.
Since the loss to Gonzalez back in 2011 Hasegawa has taken his time to rebuild his confidence and interest in boxing which waned dramatically at one point and he actually spent a year out of the ring. Since returning, in April 2012, Hasegawa has run up 4 straight wins including an eye catching KO over Genaro Camargo last time out. They have been at a lower level though helped show that Hasegawa has still got his speed, timing, skills and criminally under-rated power
In Martinez we do have a hard puncher going up against Hasegawa. Martinez is genuinely rock fisted though unlike Montiel and Gonzalez he's not the most intelligent of boxers. What you see is what you get and what you see with Martinez is a thuggish brute who is all about non-stop pressure, solid shots upstairs and downstairs and a terrier like mentality in the ring.
The Spaniard can be out boxed, as we saw against Carl Frampton not too long ago, but he's not there to be brawled with and to beat him you need to be intelligent, capable of boxing on the back foot and have the power to hurt him to make him think twice about throwing shots. All traits that Hasegawa has in his locker though will need to hope he can access before he's ground down.
For Hasegawa this is his toughest bout since his loss to Gonzalez 3 years ago and he knows it, he's been training for it, he's bee doing all he can to prepare and he's going in knowing full well that this is do or die. A loss really would be the end of his career whilst a victory would have him an even bigger fan favourite than he already is. His name would go down in the annals of Japanese boxing history as a modern day great if not one of the all time greats.
Whilst Hasegawa's legacy is on the line for Martinez it's about the money the opportunity to earn big money as a champion. He was seen as a huge under-dog when he won his title, defeating Jhonatan Romero last August, and has made a single defence against South Africa's Jeffrey Mathebula. Boxing in Spain is about dead and unfortunately the Mathebula fight was fought as a low paying mandatory defence. He has taken this fight due to the money on offer from Hasegawa's team and will know that if he wins this more opportunities will arise for people wanting to take the world title from him. Bouts with the likes of Scott Quigg, Leo Santa Cruz, Cristian Mijares or Jamie McDonnell could make him good money whilst bouts with Shingo Wake or Genesis Servania could also interest the Spaniard.
It's a tough bout and it is really a lightning fast boxer against marauding brawler, the stylistic match up that we dream of.
Having twice beaten Veeraphol whilst also holding wins over Vetyeka, Burgos and Malinga a win against Martinez may not actually fit in to Hasegawa's top 5 wins. On the other hand a victory for Martinez would certainly be amongst he top 2 wins for the Spaniard, comparable with his victory over then unbeaten Romero.
It may not seem like much of a big deal but Hasegawa has won the big ones repeatedly through his career, for Martinez he has had mixed fortunes in the big ones losing to Frampton, Takalani Ndlovu and Rendall Munroe, twice, whilst beating Romero and Ireland's Bernard Dunne. Saying that however Martinez will have no fear of travelling to Japan having already fought in Ireland, England, South Africa, France, Northern Ireland, Argentina and the USA as well as his native Spain where he is the only real star boxing in the country.
For us this is the more competitive match up than the other title fight but it's also the one we worry about. Hasegawa isn't the fighter he once was and Martinez, for his technical flaws, is an animal in the ring and will view Hasegawa as his next meal. It's tough, it's even matched and it's a bout that should have fans genuinely excited.
Following Hasegawa's contest with Martinez we then get to see "The God of Left" Shinsuke Yamanaka defending his WBC Bantamweight crown against former European champion Stephane Jamoye (25-4, 15) of Belgium.
This will be the 6th defence for Yamanaka who will be seeking his 5th straight stoppage and his 14th in 15 fights. It's that level of power which has seen some referee to Yamanaka's left hand as one of boxing hardest punches in the sport right now though worryingly for his rivals he has been working hard on his right hook as well to try and make him into a more complete 2 handed fighter.
Last year Yamanaka was crowned the MVP of Japanese boxing by the JBC and with his 3 defences, all ending in KO, it was hard to argue with that status.
What's so great about the 31 year old Japanese southpaw isn't his power but the fact he can, when he chooses do anything he wants in the ring. He can box when he wants, he can brawl when he wants, he has the power to knock people clean out and he can almost do them all on the fly. There is really nothing that can phase him and he seems to know that one way or another he will either beat up and break down his opponents or he'll clean their clock.
Yamanaka came to the attention of hardcore fans and Japanese fans back in March 2011 when he stopped Ryosuke Iwasa in one of the best fights of recent years. It was Yamanaka's first defence of the Japanese Bantamweight title though managed to make him, and Iwasa in fairness, a name to follow.
Yamanaka's next fight after beating Iwasa saw him jumping from Japanese champion to world champion as he put on a fun to watch contest with Mexico's Christian Esquivel for the then vacant WBC Bantamweight title. The bout saw Yamanaka beat up Esquivel who was stopped in round 11 as Yamanaka claim the title. Despite being the world champion it wasn't until he defeat Vic Darchinyan in his first defence, winning a 12 round decision, that fans really began to take Yamanaka seriously.
In many recent bouts Yamanaka has looked devastating and eye catching stoppages over Tomas Rojas, Jose Nieves and Alberto Guevara have seen some putting Yamanaka in their top 10 pound-for-pound lists.
Whilst Yamanaka is seen as one of the jewels in Japanese boxing it's fair to say that Jamoye is seen as the jewel of Belgian boxing, unless we include the queen of Belgium boxing Delfine Persoon. Jamoye is really fun to watch and if you've not seen him we recommend you catch his fights with British pair Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins, with the Haskins fight being a true FOTY leve bout.
Jamoye is a 2-time European champion though did, unfortunately, lose last time out to tricky Frenchman Karim Guerfi in a bout that saw Jamoye's usually persistent pressure and busy work both vanish. It was truly a disappointing effort from Jamoye but still ended up being a really good fight. Some did question whether the Belgian had struggled to make weight, others asked if he had overlooked Guerfi whilst others suggested it was just an off night. Whatever it was it was poor from Jamoye who has usually been great fun.
In regards to Jamoye against Asian fighters he does hold a notable, albeit controversial, victory over Pungluang Sor Singyu and a split decision loss to Tomoki Kameda. Incidentally Pungluang will challenge Tomoki for the WBO Bantamweight title next month.
This bout isn't about Jamoye's fights with Asian's however and is instead about Jamoye against Leo Santa Cruz. As we all know Yamanaka wants to fight Santa Cruz and Jamoye himself lasted just 6 rounds with the Mexican back in 2011. Sure that fight was 3 years ago but Yamanaka will be hoping to beat that marker, just as he did when he stopped Guevara who had taken Santa Cruz the distance. In turn a good victory over Jamoye would also see him getting 1 up on Tomoki who really struggled with the Belgian.
As for the fight stylistically it's an extremely hard boxer-puncher in Yamanaka facing an aggressive pressure fighter who can be hurt, especially to the body, but tends to find a way past the pain to fight tooth and nail.
For Jamoye a victory over Yamanaka would be career defining. It would be a stand out win by such a margin that no other win on his record would even come close to. The victory over Pungluang, back in 2009, is his best so far but would really not be on the same planet as a victory over Yamanaka in 2014.
In regards to how this would look on Yamanaka's record it wouldn't compare to victories over Darchinyan, Malcolm Tunacao, Esquivel, Rojas or Iwasa. Genuinely it would be, at best, the 6th best win on his record though could very easily be 7th or 8th. It would, by all means, be a good win for the champion but not one of his best.
Fortunately for Yamanaka this isn't supposed to be about scoring a major win but is all about staying sharp and continue to apply mental pressure on Santa Cruz. It's also allows Yamanaka to show off how good his training in the US earlier this was. The training camp, which was spent with Ryota Murata's team in the US, was used to try and help Yamanaka get a feel for the US before a prospective fight over their next year. He worked a lot on his right hook and against a fighter like Jamoye that's a key punch to allow him to get into position to land his fearsome and deadly straight left.
We think Jamoye will come to fight and make for a fun contest but he'll be stopped by Yamanaka's devastating power in what will be a fun but relatively one sided contest.
Images courtesy of:
Top- NTV/Nippon TV
If you were to ask me what I think of 2014 so far, I'd say that the year has been very quiet. Whilst some fight fans will say that the first few weeks of any new year is quiet for boxing this one just seems quieter than usual.
I understand, that the lack of fights is, at least partially, down to the winter Olympics. I can appreciate that no promoter wants to go head-to-head with one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Though what I can't understand is the real lack of action in almost every country. Some weeks haven't just been quiet but have been pretty much silent in terms of notable fights (and I really stretch the definition of "notable fights" right here).
Thankfully though the lack of action in the ring hasn't stopped us from getting word of several major bouts which are either signed or strongly rumoured for this year. It appears that the battling in the ring might have been unexciting but the battle of the match makers, promoters and lawyers has been highly enticing.
I've decided that, instead of talking about the lack of bouts for once, I'd take a look at some of the best ones that have either been signed, are getting signed or seem likely to be made later this year.
Naoya Inoue v Adrian Hernandez (April 6th, Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo)
The first big major bout that we've got coming up was announced just a few short days ago and features Japanese youngster Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) taking on Mexican Adrian Hernandez (29-2-1, 18) for the WBC Light Flyweight title.
Aged 20 Inoue is still a boxing baby though his potential was clear from his days as an amateur and his desire to be one of the fastest moved fighters in the history of the sport has been a real breath of fresh air. For some however he is being rushed too fast and should have had a few more fights before fighting a dangerous for like Hernandez.
From where I am sat Inoue is more than ready for a world title fight. He is wonderfully gifted, exciting, and more advanced than almost anyone else his age. As well as that he has also been given top training by his father, Shingo Inoue, and has shared a ring with both Akira Yaegashi and Ryota Murata, both of whom have had nothing but glowing words about the youngster.
Hernandez is dangerous and experienced. He does however have numerous flaws and could well be the weakest of the champions at 108lbs. It's a huge ask for Inoue, of course it is, but this is the aggressive matchmaking which has made the Ohashi Gym so well liked by fans and fighters alike.
(Picture, left to right: Shingo Inoue, Naoya Inoue, Akira Yaegashi and Hideyuki Ohashi)
Hozumi Hasegawa v Kiko Martinez (April 23rd, Castle Hall, Osaka)
The second great looking match up takes place less than 3 weeks after the Inoue/Hernandez fight and will see former Bantamweight and Featherweight champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15) attempting to become a 3-weight world champion. As with Inoue's bout Hasegawa will be taking on a dangerous world champion as he battles Spain's Kiko Martinez (30-4, 22), the current IBF Super Bantamweight champion.
Martinez was a man courted by a number of fighters, including Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, though it seems that Hasegawa's team have done enough to convince him to travel for his first bout in Asia.
Whilst Hasegawa, at 33 years old, is a man coming to the end of his career he will feel like he has one more great performance left in him. He'll be hoping that that great performance happens here as Kiko is a very dangerous puncher with an all out pressure mind-set. The Spaniard isn't the most skilled but is very strong and has a brutal attitude in the ring.
If Hasegawa, who some are already writing off, can beat Martinez he will become Japan's second ever 3-weight world champion and cap off a remarkable career. He may not have become the star of Japanese boxing like some had hoped but his name, win or lose, will be very fondly remembered by the boxing fans in his homeland. A win however would see him being put up amongst the genuinely great Japanese fighters.
Picture: Hozumi Hasegawa and Shinsuke Yamanaka
Tomoki Kameda v Pungluang Sor Singyu (Date and venue yet to be announced)
There is something about the Japanese/Thai rivalry that really adds an extra something to bouts. This will next be seen at the world level later this month as Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep defends his WBA interim Flyweight title against Takuya Kogawa. That fight however pales in comparison to the bout between WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda (29-0, 18), pictured, and Pungluang Sor Singyu (46-2, 31).
Whilst no date has been set for Tomoki/Pungluang it's a bout that is very difficult not get very excited about. Tomoki looks to be the best fighter in Kameda family and can do it all. He can box wonderfully on the back foot or he can fight going forward. Pungluang on the other hand is an in your face fighter from Thailand who comes forward and tries to make every bout a real fight. If he can cut the ring off from Kameda this could be a potential fight of the year.
The few details that have been leaked about this contest is that it could take place in either Japan or the US. I'm personally hoping it's in the US so that every fan state side gets a chance to see these two men in action and gets to see a very even looking all-Asian bout that could well reignite the interest in watching these sorts of bouts in both the US and Europe.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai v Carlos Cuadras (Date and venue yet to be announced)
If I'm excited about the prospect of Tomoki Kameda fighting Pungluang Sor Singyu then I'm even more excited by the potential Super Flyweight clash between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (24-3-1, 22) and Mexico's unbeaten Carlos Cuadras (29-0, 24).
This, a WBC mandatory for champion Srisaket, has all the ingredients of being a special contest between two big hitting fighters and aggressively minded fighters.
Srisaket was one of the break out stars of last year and scored an impressive 7 victories, 6 by KO, which included a shockingly destructive victory over Yota Sato and impressive beat down of the brave Hirofumi Mukai. Although he's relatively unknown outside of Thailand and Japan Srisaket is nothing short of terrifying.
Like Srisaket, Cuadras is also aggressively minded and with the bout rumoured to be in Mexico he may well have a notable advantage in terms of home field. Saying that though Srisaket is by far the best fighter that Cuadras will have ever stepped in to the ring with and may well have too much power, aggression, strength and toughness for the unbeaten Mexican.
The only things confirmed about this bout is that Teiken will be the promoters and this it will be a sure fire war for as long as it lasts.
Picture is from Srisaket's Sor Rungvisai's victory over Yota Sato
Shinsuke Yamanaka v Leo Santa Cruz (Speculative)
The first of two "speculative" bouts that I'm excited about sees WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka (20-0-2, 15) moving up to Super Bantamweight to challenger WBC champion Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15).
The bout is one that Yamanaka has been talking about a lot to the Japanese press and seems to be a contest he really wants even though he would have to step up in weight and travel to the US to get it, two things he has been very happy to accept.
Yamanaka has helped pressure the fight by doing a better job on former Santa Cruz opponent Alberto Guevara and seems set to do the same against Stephane Jamoye when the two meet on April 23rd. Whilst some may view this as Yamanaka fighting Santa Cruz's "cast off's" the fact he is looking to do a better job than Santa Cruz could well be enough to make fans question just how good Santa Cruz really is.
As for Santa Cruz, the all out Mexican fighting machine will need to get past slippery and skilful Cristian Mijares on March 8th for this bout to take place. We don't imagine Santa Cruz will have any problems with Mijares though we'd not be shocked if Santa Cruz tries to show more to his boxing than his pressure style, at least for a few rounds.
Akira Yaegashi v Roman Gonzalez (Speculative)
Last week saw Ohashi gym announcing a show for April 6th that included not only Naoya Inoue's bout with Adrian Hernandez, see above, but also a contest between WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi (19-3, 9) and Odilon Zaleta (15-3, 8) as well as an under-card contest involving Roman Gonalez (38-0, 32).
When that card was announced Yaegashi seemed to strongly suggest that his next defense, if he gets past Zaleta of course, will be against Gonzalez in what is a Flyweight contest to really be excited about.
Gonzalez, who fought this past weekend against Juan Kantun, is arguably the best offensive fighter on the planet. He is a destructive machine that combines speed, power, skill and an outstanding array of punches.
If the bout, as expected, gets signed for fall or winter then we have a bout that will see Yaegashi's toughness and experienced put against Gonzalez's intelligent aggression. One thing is certain, this one will have the potential to be a fight of the year.
Of course, no date has been set for this one and both men will need to win on April 6th but that shouldn't be a problem.
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