In the last few years we've seen more and more bouts between Asian fighters and European fighters. Unfortunately it hasn't often been the best from the two continents colliding, but it has been a start with two continental forces of world boxing clashing and opening the doors for inter-continental growth between the scenes which have often been kept away from each other.
Sadly we have typically seen a lot of mismatches. These have included bouts like Naoya Inoue's recent defence against Yoan Boyeaux, Daigo Higa against Thomas Masson, Jerwin Ancajas against Michael Conlan, Scott Quigg against Hidenori Otake and Kal Yafai against Suguru Muranaka. Bouts where the favourite wasn't really given too much of a challenge by the under-dog.
Sure we have seen some interesting bouts, such as the two bouts between Ryota Murata and Hassan N'Dam and, on paper, the Lee Haskins Vs Ryosuke Iwasa bout, but they haven't been as regular as they really should be. And that's not due to a lack of possible match ups. In fact right now there is a real host of fantastic fights that could be made at the world level between the two continents. Here we'll look at some of those possible bouts.
At the moment there is two Flyweight bouts that have some talk behind them, and they would both be very interesting.
One of those is a proposed WBC title bout between destructive world champion Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) and unbeaten Welshman Andrew Selby (10-0, 5). This bout was spoken about during 2017, though Selby seemed to suggest that he was against travelling to Japan where Higa is now a break out star and backed by the financially solid Fuji TV. The bout would put the most destructive fighter at Flyweight against one of the most decorated European amateurs, and would be a real clash of styles between ultra-aggressive champion and silky outside fighting challenger.
With a high WBC ranking it does look like this would be the shortest route to a world title for Selby, but he would be up against arguably the best Flyweight on the planet, and would almost certainly have to travel.
The other bout, and one that has had a public call out of sorts, is a WBO title fight between Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) and 2-time Olympic bronze medal winner Paddy Barnes (5-0, 2). Interestingly if this bout was made it would see Kimura taking on a third Olympian, following stoppage wins over Zou Shiming and Toshiyuki Igarashi, and a win could see him continue what has been a really surprising run of results. Barnes had targeted former amateur rival Zou Shiming earlier in his career, but may now see the man who stopped his amateur nemesis as the man to fight.
Given that Barnes is 31 later this year he may not want to wait around long for a fight at world level and Kimura hasn't been a fighter making big purses so far. A large offer could get Kimura over to Ireland for the fight, though he has got other options, including a domestic showdown with 2-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka and may look to delay a showdown with Barnes for now.
In 2017 there was several obvious bouts to make at 115lbs. That's because we have a world champion from Europe and several from Asia. But for whatever reason we never saw them face off. Thankfully however not all the doors are shut here, despite the fact Naoya Inoue is leaving the division rather than continue to get frustrated at the other top fighters.
Arguably the most even of the match ups we could get here would be an IBF/WBA unification bout, with Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19) defending the IBF title against WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14). Both men seemed to turn down Inoue, and it'd be very hard to favour either man against WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40), but against each other they should make for a compelling contest. The bout shouldn't be too tricky to make, with both fighters looking to make a huge name for themselves this coming year. The two teams, Top Rank and Matchroom, have worked together in the past and both could see this as an opportunity to get their guy in a position to make big money.
Sadly lower weight unification bouts have long been a troublesome issue. Both fighters will want to be financially compensated for taking on another top rival, and with the talent in the division it may make more sense to milk a title for a little while longer. A bout between the two is one that we'd love, and we suspect most fans would love to see, but it may be that the two men simply have other plans and too many other options.
Having mentioned Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) a few times above it only makes sense to mention him here, seeing that he has stated his intent is to fight at Bantamweight in 2018. The “Monster” has been linked to pretty much every notable Bantamweight since mid-December.
Two of these options have some British link. One of those is WBO champion Zolani Tete (26-3, 21), who is South African but is promoted out of the UK and has began to build a cult status in the country. The bout has been spoken about by both teams and Inoue has stated he's willing to travel to the UK for the bout, showing his hunger for a big contest and a third divisional world title. The other British option would be a bout with the talented Northern Irishman Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9), the current WBA and IBF unified champion.
A bout with Tete seems the most likely given that the two teams are talking about the contest. However Inoue could get a unified title by beating Burnett, and get some revenge for the struggles he had at Super Flyweight. The one big spanner in the work for the Burnett bout may be Burnett's promoter Eddie Hearn, who seemed happy to keep Kal Yafai away from Inoue and would likely want to do the same for Burnett, unless life changing money was on offer for his man. Given that financial issue we're much more likely to see the Tete bout than the Burnett one.
Inoue isn't the only fighter moving up in 2018, another is Englishman Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1, 13). The former Bantamweight champion scored notable wins over Tomoki Kameda at Bantamweight and is now moving up to Super Bantamweight, which is stacked with Asian fighters. The amount of interesting match ups McDonnell could have at 122lbs really is huge, and he could have fights with someone like IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) or the skilled and sharp shooting Shingo Wake (23-5-2, 15).
For us though the bout that has the most interest here would be a bout between McDonnell and Filipino warrior Marlon Tapales (30-2, 13). The bout may not have the big name quality of others, but stylistically this would be a lot of fun. Both men can let their hands go, both have pretty good styles and when put under pressure McDonnell can be involved in some real thrillers, as his first bout against Liborio Solis was. Although not a star Tapales is a tough, come forward fighter and could well bring the best out of McDonnell in a back and forth war, with the winner well deserving of a world title fight, and a chance to become a 2-weight world champion.
Unification bouts feel natural for us fans, and there are few more enticing than a Middleweight clash between IBF/WBC/WBA Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33) and WBO counterpart Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12). The bout would leave us with an undisputed champion at 160lbs and would be a brilliant match up between two unbeaten men with very different styles.
On one hand Kazakh fighter Golovkin is one of the sports purest punchers, with thudding power, a chin of rock and a very high intensity pressure style. One the other hand Saunders is a southpaw boxer-mover who moves like a much smaller man, and at his best is one of the purest boxers in and around the division. The questions about the contest would be whether or not Golovkin could cut the ring off and break down Saunders, or whether the fleet footed Englishman could avoid the Kazakh for 12 rounds.
On a much lesser level we'd also love to see a clash between Irishman Jason Quigley (13-0, 10) and Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8). On paper this bout wouldn't get much attention in the build up but the action in the ring would be sensational, as would a bout between Nishida and Gary O'Sullivan (27-2, 19). If either of the Irish fighters are looking for someone with a fan friendly style they could do a lot worse than taking on the aggressive Nishida in a sure fire barn burner.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp and boxrec.com)
We really enjoyed boxing last year, in fact since we started this site 2017 has probably been the most enjoyable year with a number of huge bouts taking place, and even a few unifications as the sport seemed to begin to take it's self seriously. There were some huge frustrations, but there was a lot more positive than negatives. Coming in to 2018 however there are some things that we'd love to see, and here are what we'd like to see in the 3 smallest divisions in the sport.
Minimumweight Championship Tournament
The Minimumweight division is typically one that is given hate by fans but right now it's a really interesting one with 4 champions who can easily face off. So what we'd love is a 4 man tournament between those 4 champions.
Ideally the bracket would be:
Wanheng Menayothin (49-0, 17) Vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (9-0, 7)
Knockout CP Freshmart (16-0, 7) Vs Ryuya Yamanaka (15-2, 4)
With the bouts taking place in mid 2018, with the champions getting any mandatory assignments out of the way earlier in the year, and the winners meeting in December. It's unlikely we'll see this, but the champions aren't tied to rival networks or promoters who won't work together so this is a possible set up and would help put the little guys in a high profile tournament that could help the winner make a real name for themselves.
Light Flyweight Chaos!
Over the last year or so the Light Flyweight division has become one of the most interesting with so many good fighters in it. Whilst a tournament here would be fun there are promotional and television issues preventing some bouts, such as a unification between Ryoichi Taguchi and Ken Shiro. Thankfully though there is more than enough top fighters to go around, and a number of bouts are already being spoken about.
The ones already thought to be target for the first half of the year will see WBC champion Ken Shiro (12-0, 6) rematch former WBC champion Ganigan Lopez (28-7, 17), see IBF/WBA unified champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) battle against Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10) and WBO champion Angel Acosta (17-1, 17) defending his title against Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14).
That leaves fighters like Pedro Guevara (30-3-1, 17), Milan Melindo (37-3, 13), Felix Alvarado (30-2, 26), Tetsuya Hisada (30-9-2, 19), Jonathan Taconing (26-3-1, 22), Carlos Canizales (19-0-1, 16), and Randy Petalcorin (28-2-1, 21) on the all looking for shots at titles. We could pretty much stick any of those together and get something worth watching, so hopefully we get some of those matches at the division starts to take off in what could be a defining year for the 108lb division.
The re-rise of the Flies
A few years ago the Flyweight division was the best in the sport, by quite some margin. Sadly though it's now a fragmented division,and with the retirement of Kazuto Ioka it's a division that really lacks in terms of both stars and long term champions. Between the 3 current world champions they have a combined 2 defenses and with many top fighters being in their mid 30's. The one real shining light in the division right now is the ultra aggressive Daigo Higa (14-0, 14), at 22 years old.
Thankfully the division is full of prospects in their early 20's and even teens. These include 19 year old fighters Junto Nakatani (13-0, 10) and Stamp Kiatniwat (19-1, 7), the 21 year old Ronnie Baldonado (10-0-1,7) and 22 year old Ryota Yamauchi (2-0, 2). Whilst 2018 probably won't be their year to reach the top it would be nice to see those guys racing into the rankings and moving towards bigger fights at the end of the year.
What's also worth noting at the division is that 22 year old Kosei Tanaka (10-0, 6) is now in the division and chasing a third world title. He works with the same network that televised WBO champion Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) in his last bout, and a contest between the two would seem an easy one to make and be a lot of fun.
So 2018 is here and now, every fight from 2017 is done. What a perfect time to look at our 2017 Award winners, which as always are based around Asian fighters and the Asian fight scene.
Fighter of the Year
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Thailand's Srisaket Sor Rungvisai has long been one of our favourites with his wins over Yota Sato in 2013 and over Jose Salgado in 2015 proving that he belonged toward to be considered a genuinely top level Super Flyweight. He was however not expected to be any sort of a match up for Roman Gonzalez, the WBC champion and the man who was widely regarded as the #1 fighter pound for pound. Srisaket however went over to the US in March and dropped Gonzalez on route to winning a disputed decision. He then went back over to the US a few months later and shut the doubters up by stopping Gonzalez in a rematch.
However you want to paint it it was a year that took Srisaket from the eye of the hardcore fans to being one of the most notable little men in the sport, and the way he did it was a way that every fight fight fan should have been excited by.
Not only did he beat Gonzalez twice, but he did so as the under dog both times and will be rewarded with another Stateside bout as he is now scheduled to take on Juan Francisco Estrada in February.
Ken Shiro- The Japanese youngster fought three times in 2017 beating Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Gilberto Pedroza. Wins over Lopez and Guevara were close and competitive bouts but the youngster essentially thrust himself on the world stage with those wins, before the win over Pedroza saw him take a slot on a TV broadcast and massively boost his standing in Japan. A fantastic year and one that leaves him on the verge of becoming a break out star.
Robbery of the Year
Ryota Murata Vs Hassan N'Dam I
A fighter being robbed at home is rare, but that's exactly what fans saw in May when Ryota Murata was some how beaten on the scorecards by Frenchman Hassan N'Dam. The French had been ruled down on one occasion, but it could have been several more, had tried to avoid a fight wand was repeatedly caught by right hands by the heavier handed and more aggressive Murata. Some how the fight was scored in favour of the visitor, a decision that even the French press disagreed with. The decision, which had been forgotten by some now, was so bad some of the judges from the bout were suspended by the WBA, who ordered a rematch almost immediately and had their president, Gilberto Mendoza publicly score the bout 117-110 to Murata.
The story did have a second chapter in October, with Murata avenging the loss and stopping N'Dam to claim the WBA Middleweight title at the second time of asking.
KO of the Year
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez II
Scoring a win over Roman Gonzalez was impressive when Srisaket did it the first time, fans, and Gonzalez, felt the Thai had been lucky. In the second bout however there was no doubting the outcome as Srisaket laid Gonzalez out for the count with a truly brutal left hook. The shot rendered Gonzalez out cold and the way the Nicaraguan body went limp as he went down was really a case of the lights being turned out on Gonzalez.
Whilst this may not been the most graphically impressive KO featuring an Asian fighter in 2017 the fact it came against Gonzalez really made it stand out, and helped silence the Thai's doubters in the process.
Kazuto Takesako Vs Shoma Fukumoto- This short but exciting bout was a war from the off and ended in brilliant style as Takesako landed a huge right hand that crumpled Fukumoto to the canvas. A brutal finish to what had been a viciously fought bout.
Masaru Sueyoshi Vs Allan Vallespin- Filipino fighter Allan Vallespin had travelled to Japan with a puncher's reputation and had some out with a lot of aggression against Sueyoshi. That pressure later came back to cost him as Sueyoshi landed a massive counter right hand that splattered Vallespin on to the canvas in an eye catching KO.
Takenori Ohashi Vs Kosuke Saka- Saka was making his first defense of the Japanese Featherweight title against the unheralded Ohashi. In round 5, after the clacker, Saka turned away thinking it was the bell and Ohashi went for the kill, finishing off his man in brutal fashion for one of the most bizarre and explosive KO's this year.
Upset of the Year
Sho Kimura Vs Zou Shiming
Going into 2016 Sho Kimura was an unknown. He was a man who had fought in just a single title fight, in which he claimed a regional WBO title. He had only beaten a handful of fighters with winning records and was really looking like a hand picked first challenge for the WBO Flyweight champion. Whilst fans may not have been impressed by Shiming they sure were aware of him, and with Shiming having home advantage it seemed clearly like Shiming would take home a decision and use the bout as a platform to face Kazuto Ioka in a huge bout. Kimura hadn't read he script and instead of being the patsy for Shiming he turned the bout into a platform to win the world title and make a real name for himself.
At the time it was a big upset, though Kimura has since notched another big win and doesn't appear to be the one hit wonder some had assumed.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez I
Kenichi Ogawa Vs Tevin Farmer
Yasuyuki Akiyama Vs Koki Tyson
Fight Of The Year
Takashi Miura Vs Miguel Roman
There were good fights in 2017 that it was hard to select a favourite, or a best. There were bouts that were action packed, others that were dramatic, some that were savage, some with pure intensity and others with momentum that swung back and forth and other that were high skilled chess matches. There was really something for everyone. For us the winner, albeit just, was the January clash between Takashi Miura and Miguel Roman in what was a WBC world title eliminator. The contest had two very talented, well matched fighters beating the stuffing out of each other, until Roman was eventually stopped in round 12. Prior to the knockout the two had inflicted unreal punishment on each other. At the time of the knockout Miura was leading by 5 points, 3 points and 1 with Roman having been dropped in rounds 10 and 11.
Sadly the bout does suffer from a typical issue with boxing, short term memory of fans. The bout, which was fought on January 28th has been forgotten by some, but is well worth a rewatch for fans who have forgotten has amazing it was.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Roman Gonzalez I, Takuya Kogawa Vs Masayuki Kuroda II, Milan Melindo Vs Hekkie Budler, Ryoichi Taguchi Vs Milan Melindo, Wanheng Menayothin Vs Tatsuya Fukuhara, Tatsuya Fukuhara Vs Moises Calleros, Wanheng Menayothin Vs Melvin Jerusalem, Jason Pagara Vs James Onyango,
Comeback of the Year (Fight)
Mark John Yap Vs Mentaro Masuda
Not often will we see a fighter being dropped 3 times in the opening round, stumble to his corner at the end of the round and yet storm back to win. That however is what OPBF Bantamweight champion Mark John Yap did back in July. He was dropped hard early in the round, Masuda went on the hunt and dropped him again as the two wildly traded on the ropes, and then again. By the time the bell went it looked like Yap was living on borrowed time, as he stumbled to his corner. Amazingly however Yap recovered, before stopping Masuda in round 4.
Ratchasai Sithsaihtong Vs Yutaka Oishi-Going into round 12 of their OPBF title fight Oishi, the defending champion, was in a clear lead. On one card he was up but 3, on another 5 and on the other he was leading 109-98. If he could make it to the final bell he'd have made a success defense of the title. Ratchasi however had other plans, and refused to just accept defeat, pulling off some last round heroics, stopping Oishi with less than 90 seconds of the bout left.
Prospect of the Year
Koki Inoue (4-0, 4 for the year)
The Inoue name is going to be a huge one in Japanese boxing for the next decade or so. There is, obviously, Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue, but also their Koki Inoue who had a fantastic 2017, even if he was frustrated by a lack of title fights, The destructive Kanagawan started the year with a 5th round TKO win over Mitsuyoshi Fujita, a Japanese ranked fighter. He followed that up with a blow out against Thai visitor Ni Wisoram, a corner retirement win over Cristiano Aoqui and a destruction of KBF champion Dong Hee Kim. His wins have opened up the door for OPBF or Japanese title fights in 2018 and he is certainly on the chase for bigger and better fights, just like his cousins.
Mark Anthony Barriga (5-0, 1 for the year)- Talented Filipino Barriga was busy in 2017, but the talented 24 year old only scored 1 big win from his 5 bouts, a shut out of Samartlek Kokietgym in China.
Ryota Yamauchi (2-0, 2 for the year)- Exciting Japanese Flyweight Yamauchi made his debut in a low key affair in June but shone in December when he battered Lester Abutan in 4 rounds. A real one to watch in 2018.
Junto Nakatani (4-0, 3 for the year)- Flyweight hopeful Nakatani had a second fantastic year, despite going under the radar. In 2016 he was the Flyweight Rookie of the Year and in 2017 he became the first ever Japanese Youth Flyweight champion.
(Images courtesy of the AFP, Japan Times, WBO Boxing and Boxmob.jp)
It's fair to say that 2017 has been one of the best years for boxing fans in a long time, that is perhaps even more true if you're either a Japanese fight fan or someone who follows the Japanese scene incredibly closely.
We're not saying that due to the wars and great fights Japanese boxing had during the year, but more based on the number of fighters who had genuine break out years. There was fighters who really exceeded all expectations and they have helped lay the ground work for what should be an incredible year.
Here we take a look at a number of those fighters, who in some cases were highly regarded prospects, and in other cases were relative unknowns.
In total Higa fought 17 rounds this year, having fought just 38 prior, and became arguably the new face at Flyweight. His style is thrilling, his fan base is growing and given his age he could have a very long reign at the top. His next defense is scheduled for February and there's no reason why he can't 3, or even 4 defenses into 2018 as he looks to distinguish himself as the elite fighter at Flyweight. He has an ultra aggressive style that is always so impressive to see and incredibly heavy hands.
He did however finish the year with a sterling performance as he stopped the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago in what was a truly one-sided beat down by the Watanabe man, stopping Buitrago in the 8th round, when Robert Ramirez Jr finally intervened with a mercy stoppage. He'll now concentrate on building in 2018 but to have claimed his first 2 titles and moved from a 5 fight novice to a world champion in 2017 has been remarkable.
The plan now for the champion is to make his third defense in early 2018, facing off with Ganigan Lopez in a rematch of May's bout, and we're expecting that to be on live TV. His win over Pedroza and post fight interview should have been enough to convince Fuji not to hide him on a satellite channel and hopefully he'll manage to grow his profile even more in 2018, whilst continuing to develop his skills.
In December had the chance to make a name for himself at home, and took that as he defeated mandatory challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi in 9 rounds to record his first defense. Igarashi, a former WBC champion, had some moments early on but in the end the pressure and surprisingly heavy hands of the champion broke him down, with Igarashi's face being a mess and his body essentially giving in to the ever aggressive man from the Aoki gym.
To have gone from total obscurity to having featured on huge shows in both China and Japan, having had TV coverage in both and having impressed a televised audience in both it's hard to argue with Kimura being the biggest Japanese break out of the year. He wasn't a touted prospect going in to the year, only really the most hardcore of Japanese fans would have known much about him, but to end the year with wins over Shiming and Igarashi is incredibly impressive and he is worthy of whatever big fights come his way in 2018.
Whilst Inoue is currently in the world rankings we're not expecting to see him get a world title fight in 2018. What we are expecting to see from him is a lot excitement and hopefully he will be able to climb up the rankings and move to a potential title shot for 2019. Fighting at 154lbs he's in a tough division to make a mark in, but there's no reason who he can't crawl up the rankings towards a big bout, or a potential domestic showdown with the teak tough Yoshihiro Kamegai, in what would be a very interesting clash of styles.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces