It’s fair to say that we got very, very few dream fights in 2020. We know that we got some really good fights, but we got very, very few of the big blockbuster fighters. There was no Anthony Joshua Vs Tyson Fury, Errol Spence Vs Terence Crawford or Gennady Golovkin Vs Saul Alvarez III. Going in to 2021 the sport needs a big bounce back year, and good fights aren’t enough, we need some great fights.
With that in mind we’ve come up with a list of 10 fights we want to see in 2021 as the sport looks to rebuild following a frustrating year affected by Covid19, budget cut, a lack of crowds and viewers less willing to shell out for PPV.
Naoya Inoue (20-0, 17) Vs John Riel Casimero (30-4, 21)
The obvious one to start with is one….we thought we had! Back in early 2020 Bob Arum managed to sort a deal to have WBA “Super” and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue face off with WBO champion John Riel Casimero. The bout looked set to be a massive Bantamweight unification bout, putting 3 of the major titles together. And then it had to be delayed due to Covid, and was then scrapped all together with Casimero going off to face Duke Micah and Inoue facing Jason Moloney. What seemed like a dream bout at Bantamweight heading into 2020 is still a highly anticipated clash in 2021, though we might be waiting a whilst as Bob Arum has stated the won’t be taking place unless they can have fans in attendance. Still, maybe late 2021 is a possibility for this hugely attractive all-Asian unification bout!
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) Vs Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10)
One bout that has made this type of list for a few years now is the all-Japan Light Flyweight unification bout between WBA “super” champion Hiroto Kyoguchi and WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji. Both of whom had 2020’s to forget. Kyoguchi was scheduled to defend his title in November, before testing positive for Covid19 on the day of the fight, forcing the entire event to be cancelled at short notice in what was one of the most disappointing moments of the year, and one of the most heart breaking given that Thanongsak Simsri had had to go through a lengthy quarantine before fight night. As for Kenshiro he was supposed to fight in December before his bout was cancelled due to legal issues resulting from some drunken misbehaviour. With neither man fighting in 2020 both will know that 2021 needs to be a big year for them. We suspect both will start the year by facing the men they were scheduled to fight at the end of 2020, but then maybe, just maybe, we can have this one to close the year and finally give us the chance to know who is the better man from the two.
Knockout CP Freshmart (21-0, 7) Vs Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
Going into 2020 we had hoped to see Ginjiro Shigeoka fight for a world title before the year was over. Instead the Japanese youngster was out of the ring for the entire year, killing the momentum he had built in 2019. Despite that he has remained a highly ranked contender and is still someone we’d love to see get a world title fight in the near future. Currently the man many regard as the best in the division is WBA “super” champion Knockout CP Freshmart, and stylistically we actually see him making for an interesting fight with Shigeoka. Knockout is talented, he’s solid, but there are question marks about his desire, he lacks power and he’s not the quickest out there. The champion’s technical ability would ask real questions of Shigeoka, whilst Shigeoka’s explosive power and lightning speed would see him getting chances to land against the champion. Together they would make for a compelling bout. Maybe not the most fan friendly, or exciting, but certainly a compelling and intriguing bout. Before this would like to see both men get the chance to shake some ring rust, so maybe a bout for the summer, it not the fall after both have managed an easy win early in the year.
Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16) Vs Artem Dalakian (20-0, 14)
There is something about unification bouts that is that little more endearing to fans and the boxing media, and even two relatively low key champions unifying is pretty important, and can catch the attention of global fight fans. With that in mind we would love to see anyone of the Flyweight champions unifying their titles. On paper the most attractive bouts would include WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez however we’re actually prefer to see WBO champion Junto Nakatani take on WBA champion Artem Dalakian in what would be a very intriguing, and potentially very technical match up. Nakatani has come of age in recent years, and the 23 year old is slowly making a name for himself, both at home and internationally among the hardcore fans. Dalakian on the other hand is frustrating hardcore fans with his run of C tier defenses. A unification between these two men, the only two unbeaten champions at the weigh, in summer would be a very interesting bout and see the winner prove themselves as being one of the divisional elite. Potentially even leading the winner to a US bout with Martinez in 2022
Gennadiy Golovkin (41-1-1, 36) Vs Ryota Murata (16-2, 13)
Staying with unification bouts a Middleweight clash between IBF champion Gennadiy Golovkin and WBA champion Ryota Murata is a really compelling match up that ticks a lot of boxes, and would make for a huge spectacle at a Japanese dome. Golovkin is expected to face Jaime Munguia in May giving Murata the chance to fight in a tune up defence in the early part of 2021, after being inactive for the entire of 2020, and then we could have the two clash in September in a huge Middleweight bout. In terms of styles these two should gel perfectly, and although Golovkin would be a clear favourite it would still be a major boxing event for Japan, and the sort of attention grabbing super show that could follow the Olympics. The loser of this would likely be heading to retirement, but the payday for both would be huge, and for fans this would be a spectacular bout with genuine international attention.
Can Xu (18-2, 3) Vs Josh Warrington (30-0, 7)
At the start of 2020 there was a Featherweight bout that we wanted, and we were taunted with, and that was a bout between WBA champion Can Xu and IBF champion Josh Warrington. Promoter Eddie Hearn has stated he’s planning to put this one on, however we had heard that right through 2020, and it seems unclear if, or when, this could actually be made. The plan, for this one is that fans would likely need to be in attendance but that seems almost impossible to imagine in the UK right now. Interestingly China does allow fans into venues, but would cause it’s own issues in terms of travel, transport, and time of day, which may not work for a UK TV audience. Regardless of the logistics behind this one, the fight itself would be something special, and would be a high tempo war between two men who love to torture the compubox operators. Expect to see compubox records shattered if, or when, this one is made!
Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13) Vs Shuichiro Yoshino (13-0, 10)
It’s rare that we can get genuinely excited about an all-Japanese Lightweight bout but we need to admit that we would absolutely love to see Masayoshi Nakatani clash with Shuichiro Yoshino in 2021. The bout would likely be the biggest all-Japanese bout at 135lbs in a generation, and would be for the OPBF, WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese Lightweight titles, domestic bradding as well as doubling up as world title eliminator for the two men, who have various world rankings between them. In terms of match up it’s one that we suspect Yoshino would want more than Nakatani, with Nakatani expected to land a big fight on the back of his huge win over Felix Verdejo, but Nakatani may well see it as a great chance to build on his 2020 success. In terms of the in ring styles, we suspect the two men would gel well, with Nakatani looking to use his size and toughness and Yoshino looking to use his explosive power and speed, making for a very interesting in ring dynamic.
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (9-0, 5) Vs Liam Willaims (23-2-1, 18)
In 2021 we expect some major changes in the Middleweight division, among those we expect to see Demetrius Andrade leave the division, to compete at 168lbs, and vacate the WBO title. If that happens then two top contenders will fight for the belt, and at the moment two of the top 3 ranked WBO contenders are Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, from Kazakhstan, and Liam Williams, from Wales, leaving the door wide open for this bout in the new year. Although it’s not a super fight, by any stretch, it is a fighter that should be something a little bit special, with William’s aggression and power going up against the skills and timing of Alimkhanuly. It’d be a hard one to call and have interest from Central Asia, Europe and the US. Not only would it be a fantastic match and an intriguing clash, but the winner would instantly find themselves in the mix for some big fights at 160lbs.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (12-1, 9) vs Mark Magsayo (21-0, 14)
At Featherweight we have a lot of interesting potential match ups, and one we would really love to see would be a clash between once beaten Mongolian fighter Tugstsogt Nyambayar and unbeaten Filipino Mark Magsayo. The two men will both be looking to make a name for themselves in 2021, and a bout between the two would be a great chance for them to do just that. Not only that but with talk of Gary Russell Jr potentially leaving the division to make a mark 130lbs it could leave the WBC title vacant. A bout between these two for the potentially vacant WBC title would be fantastic, and could, potentially be made. Alternatively the two could clash in a world title eliminator to get a shot at the belt at the end of 2021. In terms of styles we’d have the more destructive and powerful “King Tug” trying to neutralise the speed and movement of Magsayo, which should give us some thrilling back and forth.
Jin Sasaki (10-0, 9) Vs Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5)
The finish this off we look at the 140lb weight class for a really interesting potential bout between teenagers. In one corner we would have Japanese teenage sensation Jin Sasaki, the currently Japanese Youth champion, and in the other would be WBA Asia South champion Phoobadin Yoohanngoh. Although it’s a huge long shot to imagine this one taking place we can’t help but feel this would be a thrilling bout between two youngsters who both stepped up to challenges in 2020. On paper this would see Sasaki taking on the best boxer he has faced, with Phoobadin would be taking on his most dangerous puncher, and the winner would certainly be edging towards an OPBF title after this one. Sadly whilst we want this bout in 2021 we suspect it’ll be one we have to wait several years for!
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the most interesting at the moment in terms of the fighters in it, though has sadly been lacking in good match ups. Hopefully that will change in the near future as some of the notable fighters, finally, face off against each other.
Here we have looked at some of the best in the division with short profiles on 9 of the best in Asia as well mentions of other top Asian's in the division and the other top names in the division world wide.
Other Asian fighters at Super Bantamweight worth making a note of are-
Yukinori Oguni (14-1-1, 4)-Oguni is a technically well schooled boxer-mover who is the current Japanese champion and a former OPBF title holder, who lost the belt by stoppage to Wake. Although talented he is a light puncher and will likely struggle to get beyond Japanese level again. Despite that he will be in interesting fights, especially at domestic Japanese level.
Yasutaka Ishimoto (26-8, 7)-Another Japanese level fighter who is often in entertaining bouts is Ishimoto, who is best known for out pointing Wilfredo Vazauez Jr. Ishimoto has come up short in a couple of Japanese title fights but is expected to get a third shot shortly and it could well be his last. If he manages to claim a domestic title then that will be a perfect way to close out his career.
Yusaku Kuga (11-1-1, 7)-One beaten Japanese prospect Kuga is a talented and capable fighter who is expected to reach OPBF level in his career. Aged 24 he's not viewed as a sensational prospect but certainly as a man with real promise. Promoted by Watanabe his future is bright but it's hard to see his route to the top considering his domestic competition. Saying that however we do like a lot.
Hikaru Marugame (5-0, 3)-Marugame is another Japanese prospect and one who is tipped to go a long way. The 25 year old turned professional last year and has looked fantastic at times though has yet to have a serious test. That comes on October 19th when he takes on Jonathan Baat in a really testing 8 round bout at the Korakuen Hall. A win there would be a big statement for the youngster.
Kongthara KKP (7-0, 5)-We'll admit we don't know enough about Kongthara to really make a comment about how good he will be, but so far he has been really impressive and already holds wins over Shingo Kawamura and Nouldy Manakane. The talent he has shown has already impressed and he's already proved his stamina and ability over 12 rounds. One to keep an eye on.
As well as the Asian fighters there are also copious non-Asian fighters in the division worth noting.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (15-0, 10)-The best of the division, by some margin, is Cuban sensation Rigondeaux. Unfortunately Rigondeaux is a fighter who has proven to be hard to match, had to advertise and almost impossible to keep onside. Plenty of fans will accuse fighters of ducking him though comments from his own manager make it seem like he's actually as tricky outside of the ring as he is on the inside. An on song Rigondeaux is a pure boxer, but sadly his time may be running down.
Carl Frampton (21-0, 14)-Northern Irishman Frampton is regarded by many as the clear #2 in the division. He's a boxer-puncher with a lot of talent, a growing fan base and a combination of skills, speed and power. In a recent bout fans saw Frampton being dropped twice, in what was his US debut, those knockdowns saw some question his chin, and ability, but he did win the bout and has continued his unbeaten run. It's now thought that Frampton will be fighting Wake before the year is out in what really looks like one of the best bouts the division could give us.
Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17)-Mexican warrior Santa Cruz once looked like one of the sports emerging stars. A 2-weight world champion with an exciting style he was supposed to be a throw to the Mexican fighters of old. Unfortunately a lot of the shine and good will he had built in his career has been damaged in the last couple of years as he's gone through a number of WBC defenses against weak opponents. Although he's tough and does throw a lot of punches the belief seems to be growing that he's a divisional cash cow but one with out the ability to face the other top fighters.
Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23)-WBA “regular” champion Quigg was often seen as the weakest of the champions. In recent times however he has looked impressive and his recent blow out of Kiko Martinez was one of the most impressive wins of 2015. He's looking for a showdown with Frampton though it does seem unlikely that we'll see that one as mandatory obligations and promotional spats are standing in the way. Hopefully we'll see Quigg fight another top name in the near future, and Donaire is said to be the man his team are targeting in what would be an intriguing contest.
(Images courtesy of www.boxrec.com apart from the images of Kubo, courtesy of Shinsei Gym, and Kim, courtesy of the KBF)
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