The Watanabe gym is thriving, despite a recent loss for Shin Ono and the retirement ceremony of Kohei Kono. The reason they are thriving so much is their young talent. We recently covered Ginjiro Shigeoka in a previous "Introducing..." and now we'd like to talk about another Watanabe prospect, Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1) [富施郁哉], who isn't on the same trajectory as Shigeoka, but has been very impressive himself.
Born in 1998 Fuse was only 18 when he made his professional debut in January 2017. There was no hype behind the youngster, no expectation and no real pressure. Despite being under the radar he quickly impressed and exactly 11 months after his debut he was crowned the 2017 Bantamweight Rookie of the Year.
Fuse had made his debut at Super Featherweight, but quickly dropped the weight to move down to Bantamweight. At Bantamweight he settled and scored Rookie wins over Takayoshi Suzuki and Wataru Ikegami to become the East Japan Rookie of the year. As the East Japan champion he would then competed in the all Japan final against the unbeaten West Japan representative Hiroki Tokuyama. Fuse would stop Tokuyama, though in fairness the stoppage was a poor one, to become the all Japan champion and go into 2018 with some expectations on his shoulders.
Having fought 5 times in his debut year, going 5-0 (1), Fuse was actually not too active in 2018, fighting just twice. The first of those bouts saw him defeat the previously unbeaten Yohanis Tatul over 6 rounds before making his international debut in October 2018, travelling to Korea and schooling Dong Young Lee, in a Japan Vs Korea show. That performance, more than any of the others, showed just how good Fuse is. He out boxed, out moved, out punched, out skilled and out sped the Korean who struggled to win a single from the 6 round contest.
Unlike many of the youngsters at the Watanabe gym Fuse doesn't have power, he's not a destructive fighter. He has enough snap on his shots to keep opponents respectful, but won't go out and destroy them. Instead Fuse will out box them, using his movement, handspeed and brain to out think fighters, and rack up the points. We suspect that might change when he matures, given he still hasn't got his man strength, but for now he is developing a very sharp boxing style.
In some ways his career has started in a similar way to that of current WBO Super Featherweight world champion. Like Ito we've not seen Fuse show much power, instead relying on his boxing skills, both have won the Rookie of the Year and if Fuse can have a career anything like that of Ito he'll have done something to be very proud about.
For those wanting to follow Fuse's career, he'll be in action again on February 26th, when he'll face Naoto Mizutani as part of an undercard on a major Watanabe show. A win there will move Fuse towards a potential Japanese youth title fight, and we'll be looking forward to his progress through 2019.
It appears that things got real this week, like really real, with some true Fight of the Year candidates, a notable upset, some stellar performances by lesser known fighters and some really under-rated fights from lesser known fighters. It was a weekend that saw attention being thrust on Asian fighters, with 3 major US bouts featuring fighters from Asia, as well as bouts in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (16-2, 2)
Entering his first "world" title bout as a 5/1 to one under-dog, Chinese fighter Can Xu was expected to be steam rolled by WBA"regular" Featherweight champion Jesus M Rojas. Instead however Xu shocked the bookmakers by not only surviving the bout, but also winning. The early rounds saw Rojas on the offensive, but Xu fought back and eventually came on strong in the second half, as Rojas began to feel the tempo, in what was an amazing all action bout. In the end Xu's energy and work rate in the second half of the fight was enough for him to take home the surprise win. The scorecards didn't do justice for how close the bout is, but this huge win for Xu is massive for Chinese boxing and should see the Max Power Promoted fighter become the new face of Chinese boxing.
Performance of the Week
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7)
It would be easy to crown Xu the double winner for the two main solo awards for this week, but the reality is that his performance was equalled by that of Japan's Takeshi Inoue. Inoue wasn't just expected to lose, but was expected to be stopped, and stopped early. Instead the little known Inoue was in Jamie Mungia's face from the first round to the last, pressing the touted Mexican all the way and giving him more problems than anyone as at world level. Some had suggested Inoue didn't belong in the ring with Munguia before hand but his performances here showed he belong in, and around, world level and he is certainly going to be a handful for other fighters at the world level. He may have lost, but his performance, against a supposed superstar in the making, was excellent.
Can Xu (15-2, 2) Vs Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2, 19)
The WBA "Regular" Featherweight title fight between China's Can Xu and Jesus M Rojas is likely to be forgotten at the end of the year, due to it taking place so early in 2019, but it will be one of the most action packed fighters of the year.From the opening round both men let their shots go, both set a high activity level and there was really grit and determination from both fighters. The fight changed in the middle rounds, when Rojas' work rate dropped, but he still looked the more dangerous man, and seemed to have Xu on the back foot in round 9. The only thing missing from making it a truly legendary fight was the lack of real drama and neither man ever seemed to be particularly hurt, but the action was so in tense that it was easy to ignore that flaw.
Alphoe Dagayloan Vs Danrick Sumabong, Tugstogt Nyambayar Vs Claudio Marrero, Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Munguia
Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Mungia (round 10)
The Inoue Vs Mungia fight will be marred by the scoring, which essentially made it clear that Inoue was never going to get the win on the scorecards, but it gave us some amazing action, the best of which was in round 10. Inoue started the round fast, having great success in the early going of the round, but was rocked in the final stages as Munguia finally began to show the offense and aggression that he's best known for.It was the only time Inoue looked hurt during the 12 round contest, and the only time Munguia looked like the monster he's been sold as in recent months. The assault from Munguia however didn't come until late in the round.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
ArAr Andales (9-0, 2)
There were several better known prospects in action this week but 19 year old ArAr Andales was the one that shone to us. He was aggressive, exciting and despite not being a power puncher really brought the fire before stopping Charlie Malupangue in the 5th round. On paper this was a very credible step up in class for the Filipino teenager, but he made it look easy and really put himself on the map, whilst claiming the WBA Asia Minimumweight title.He appears to be someone who could well end up in the mix in the coming years, and shouldn't be over-looked as a potential contender, at least on the regional scene.
Saddridin Akhmedov, Danrick Sumabong
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8)
After a few weeks of top level world class fights there isn't anything at that level over the next 7 days, however there are still some interesting contests. The most interesting of those appears to be the Japanese Flyweight title bout between the highly regarded Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki, who battle for the vacant belt. The match up won't make waves internationally, but will likely help push the winner towards major international bouts, as well as seeing them pick up their major title. Nakatani is widely considered as one of the best hopes in Japan, but Mochizuki is a very live under-dog and could well have the style to over-come the 21 year old. Very interesting bouts.
Gonte Lee Vs Aphisit Namkhot, Aston Palicte Vs Jose Martinez
Denver Cuello to return in March
Former Minimumweight world title contender Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) has been out of the ring for well over 3 years, yet this week we saw the news break that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, to take on Indonesian veteran Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14). It's not a match up that will get peoples attention, but it is amazing to know that Cuello will be back in the ring, even if he has had so long away, due to injuries.
If we're being honest January was a bit of a slow burn month, with a lack of action at the start of the month before picking up over the last 2 weekends. There was action through January but it was very bitty and very slow to get going. Thankfully the same can't be said for February which starts hot and continues to be busy throughout, even if the action doesn't hit the same heights as January in terms of quality.
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) Vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese title fight of the new month sees Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki battle for the vacant Japanese fight title, which Masayuki Kuroda vacated in late 2018. Coming in to the bout Nakatani will start as the favourite but Mochizuki is a tough and underrated fighter who will know this is a huge opportunity to claim a national title, put himself in the mix for big fights down the line and impress on a televised Japanese card.
Kenichi Ogawa (21-1-0-1, 17) vs Roldan Aldea (12-6-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa returns to the ring after more than a year out of action, following a failed drugs test. The hard hitting Ogawa, who is best known for taking a controversial win over Tevin Farmer that was later over-turned due to the aforementioned drug test, will be facing off with Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea, in what is supposed to be a show case for the talented and returning Japanese fighter.
Gonte Lee (0-0) vs Aphisit Namkhot (1-1, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest debuts of 2019 will see Japanese-Korean fighter Gonte Lee, a former amateur standout, take on Thai foe Aphisit Namkhot. The talented Lee won over 100 amateur fighters, with 62 wins in a row, competed for North Korea and was expected to go to the 2020 Olympics. Instead he chose to go professional and his debut is something to be very highly excited about. The Thai foe is expected to provide little more than the perfect foil for Lee's debut.
Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) vs TBA - Tokyo, Japan
Talking about amateur standouts it's worth noting that another Japanese amateur stand out will also be on this card, Mikito Nakano. Nakano, who debuted last year, is tipped for huge success and will be looking to score his second professional win. His opponent is currently unknown, though we do know it will be a Thai, and like Lee's bout this should be little more than a show case for a fantastically talented young prospects.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1) vs Steven Martinez (18-4, 13) - Texas, USA
In the US we'll see Kazakh fighter Janibek Alimkhanuly take a good step up in class as he battles Steven Martinez. The talented Alimkhanuly has yet to shine since signing with Top Rank in 2018, putting in two forgetable performances last year. Despite failing to look great recently we do have high hopes for the 25 year old Kazakh and we're expecting to see him show that potential sooner rather than later. Martinez is a tough opponent, with ambitions of his own, but we suspect that Alimkhanuly will have the skills to defeat the tough American.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) vs Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Young prospect Dave Apolinario takes on his stiffed test to date as he battled against fellow unbeaten Filipino Mark Vicelles, in what looks like an excellent bout on paper. Apoinarion, the younger brother of former world title challenger Mark John Apolinario, has looked like an excellent prospect since making his debut back in 2017 but has yeat to face someone looking to score a win of their own. Vicelles on the other hand has proven he can get through hungry fighters, taking the unbeaten records of Rey Tagulaylay and Roldan Sasan. He's a capable fighter himself and will know a win here would be huge. This has the hallmarks of a weekend stealing contest.
Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) vs Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7)- Metro Manila, Philippines
WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men at 118lbs, due to the WBSS, but is building a reputation at home, a reputation he'll be looking to enhance here when he takes on charismatic Japanese warrior Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo is an excellent boxer-puncher with really crisp punching and he looks like one of the better contenders in the division. Nakamura on the other hand is a fun but limited fighter who we suspect will play his part in a fun fight, but a fight that he loses.
Romero Duno (18-1, 14) vs Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Filipino boxer-puncher Romero Duno put his name on the international stage when he travelled to the US and upset the much fancied Christian Gonzalez in 2 rounds. Since then he has fought only once in the Philippines, and 4 times in the US, whilst building his international presence. He returns "home" to face Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what appears to be a stay busy contest for the Filipino hopeful, who will be expected to return to the US later in the year for potential world title eliminator, or minor title bout of some kind.
Young Japanese talent really is coming through the ranks at an alarming rate, and a lot of it is signed to a handful of major gyms. One of those gyms that is now signing up fantastic fighters on a regular basis is the Ohashi Gym, lead by former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi. In recent years the gym has developed Naoya Inoue into an internationally recognised star and other fighters are joining the gym in the hope of making their name on the international stage as well.
Among those coming through the ranks is 23 year old Light Flyweight Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) [桑原拓], who looks like he will be the next fighter at the gym to be fast tracked to a title, and to making his mark on a wider stage.
Kuwahara began boxing at a young age and ran up a reported amateur record of 50-18, winning several notable titles along the way, including the 2013 National Light Flyweight crown.
He would join up with the Ohashi gym in 2018 and pass a B license pro-test before making his debut in May, on the same show that saw Kenshiro retain the WBC Light Flyweight title against Ganigan Lopez and saw Naoya Inoue defeat Jamie McDonnell to claim the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title. Although Kuwahara was only up against Indonesian journeyman Mochamad Sholimin he still impressed, stopping the visitor inside a round.
Kuwhara would face an Indonesian foe in his second bout as well, blitzing Ardi Tefa in 46 seconds last September.
Having stopped a pair of Indonesian foes Kuwahara was then matched against fellow unbeaten Japanese hopeful Takamori Kiyama, himself a former amateur standout and a very talented southpaw hope. This was a much better test of Kuwahara's skill, but a bout that really allowed Kuwahara to showcase his skills, as he took a clear 8 round decision win over the talented Kiyama, proving not only that he was skills, sharp, and could move but also that he could fight for 8 rounds, at a good pace. As a result of going 8 rounds Kuwahara answered some questions about his stamina and engine, whilst leaving many talking about just how promising he looked, and in fairness how talented Kiyama was.
At the moment it's unclear when Kuwahara will return to the ring to kick his 2019 off, but it's expected that he will be fighting for titles by the end of 2020, at the very latest. In fact we wouldn't be surprised to see him fighting for a belt this year, just given his natural talent, and how the Ohashi have allowed their talented youngsters to be fast tracked in recent years.
It's not often that you see someone leave a policeman wobbling around, bloodied and beaten. Even rarer that you see that happens in public, without absolutely no punishment at all, no one jumping in to save the police officer or try and prevent further harm to a public servant.
This past Saturday however that's what we saw, we saw a officer of the law being beaten up, by a world class fighter. We saw the policeman show all the bravery of someone willing to get into a battle that they can't win and show their determination.
What I'm reference here is the bout that saw Japanese Featherweight Reiya Abe (19-2, 9) beat up policeman Daisuke Sugita (4-1, 3), in front of a packed Korakuen Hall. Not only did Abe beat up Sugita, but Sugita himself seemed to see the contest as a positive, explaining on social media that it was a good experience and that he will be back.
We don't see many policemen getting involved in boxing, with former Italian amateur great Roberto Cammarelle being the most famous, but Sugita has long been a fighter. He racked up over 140 bouts in the amateur ranks, and won 110 of them. Not only was he an experienced amateur, but also an accomplished one, winning a number of competitions in Japan. That amateur background lead to him making his professional debut last year, and fighting as a man who wanted a legacy, not money. In fact due to his job with the police Sugita was unable to collect his purposes, and was clearly boxing for the challenge and love of the sport.
Sugita made his debut in April 2018, and spoke like a man who was looking to have an exciting career. On debut he was up with big punching Filipino Jun Blazo, and essentially shut out Blazo over 6 rounds. Just 3 months later he stopped former Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Masaaki Serie, who had never previously been stopped!
Just 9 months after his debut Sugita would step in the ring with Abe, a man who had been avoided by most top Japanese foes. Abe was ranked in the top 15 by both the IBF and WBC, he also had an assured Japanese title fight, win or lose against Sugita, set for May 1st against Taiki Minamoto. The lack of fear from Sugita showed, and his willingness to get in the ring with Abe showed the type of man that Sugita is. He's up for a challenge, he's mentally tough and brave, the type of man who will always give his all.
The step up proved to be far, far too much for Sugita who failed to win a round against Abe, who was too sharp, too smart and too accurate. Abe managed to work his way into the bout, neutralising the power of Sugita and taking advantage of Sugita's relative lack of speed. Abe, who is world ranked and is a fantastic fighter on a great run of form, just showed the gulf in skill between the two men as he advanced to a May showdown with Japanese champion Taiki Minamoto.
Sugita, who really was given a lesson here, is likely to drop back down to Super Bantamweight, a weight class where his physical traits to do him a lot more favours than Featherweight. It seems that his future should lie at 122lbs, and he could well find himself in the domestic title mix at the weight, with a bout against Ryoichi Tamura being a very tasty looking bout on paper.
The loss will be a hit to Sugita, especially in the way he lost, but we should certainly not be writing him off. At the age of 30 he still has time to bounce back and we would be very surprised if he doesn't fight against a notable fighter again next time out. The Watanabe gym clearly have plans for him, and he obviously still wants to continue his career and his development in the sport.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
After a couple of quiet weeks, with only a single show or two of note, we had boxing really pick up this past week with notable cards in the Japan, the US and even Vietnam. Not only did we have notable shows but we also had a world title fight, and it now seems like the sport is starting to get into the swing of things.
Fighter of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39)
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao turned 40 in December, an age that many fighters turn whilst they are retired. Not is Pacquiao 40 years old but this week he proved he was still a top class fighter, as he defeat Adrien Broner in the US. Pacquiao appeared to be giving away significant size to Broner, and was 11 years old than the American, but looked in total control through out their 12 round bout, even staggering Broner in rounds 7 and 9. It wasn't a vintage Pacquiao performance, by any stretch, and he did look like a faded version of his prime self, but it was still a comfortable and controlling display against the cocksure Broner. Sadly the performance, whilst it was controlled, did seem to show how far Pacman had slid from his destructive best, though at the age of 40 that is to be expected!
Notable mention - Shingo Wake
Performance of the Week
Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
We think that we'll be mentioning the name Reiya Abe a lot in 2019, and we don't believe that that's a bad thing! This week he shut down the talented and aggressive Daisuke Sugita in Tokyo, dropping Sugita twice and hardly losing a minute of the bout in what was a thoroughly controlled performance. For much of the fight Abe simply stuck to his boxing, using his skills to neutralise Sugita, before dropping his man twice. There was no real urgency from Abe, but he didn't need to be, he was just showcasing his skills from the first round to the final bell, only really going through the gears in the 8th round as he started to look to close the show. This wasn't an exciting fight, but it was a fantastic performance that showed what Abe can do.
Kenshin Oshima (4-1-1, 3) vs Ikuro Sadatsune (9-2-3, 3)
We stay in Japan for our Fight of the Week, an 8 round contest between two youngsters each looking to shine. This wasn't an all out war, like some Fight of the Weeks, but it was a bout that swung one way, then the other. It saw both men hurt, both having to over-come adversity and both digging deep in a fight that really exceeded expectations. The competitive nature of the bout will leave the door open to a potential rematch somewhere down the line. The was skills involved, making this more of a technical chess match at times, but they upped the pace regularly enough to give us some brilliant moments
Shohei Yamanaka vs Tatsuhito Hattori (Round 4)
There is something about these lower level Japanese bouts, over 4 rounds, that keep delivering fantastic rounds. This was seen perfectly this week when the debuting Shohei Yamanaka battled Tatsuhito Hattori in a bout that was easy to overlook. Yamanaka, as mentioned, was debuting whilst Hattori was fighting his 6th professional bout, more than a decade after his previous contest. Yamanaka had done enough to claim the first rounds on our card, but was dropped in round 3, meaning it was all to play for in round 4 and they both went out there seeking to do enough to take the victory. A fantastic and thoroughly engaging round.
Notable mention - Round 3 Oshima Vs Sadatsune
Mikhail Lesnikov KO Afrizal Tamboresi
It's taken a while but 2019 finally has a brutal KO thanks to Russian Mikhail Lesnikov, who blasted out Indonesian fighter Afrizal Tamboresi in Vietnam. Tamboresi was rocked hard from an uppercut, somehow remaining upright. That however wasn't a good thing for him and he would be caught by a brutal left hook just seconds later. He was dropped hard and stayed down. A gorgeous KO for the Russian, who had never previous scored a KO.
Vikas Krishan (1-0, 1)
We have a feeling that Indian boxing is going to be huge over the coming few years, and part of that rise will be linked, directly, to the "Indian Tank" Vikas Krishan. Krishan made his debut on Friday, against Steven Andrade, and looked like a pro-ready fighter immediately with his intense pressure style, sharp punching and intelligent footwork. His amateur background, which is arguably the best of any Indian fighter, shone through here and it seems like he has the ambition, drive and age to really progress. There are still things he needs to work on, but he showed enough here to get excited about.
Notable mention- Fazliddin Gaibnazarov
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) (January 26th)
It feels like we've lacked a really explosive fight so far. We've had some excellent action fights, some brave performances but nothing truly explosive. That's likely to change next week when unbeaten Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar takes on Dominican puncher Claudio Marrero. With a combined 33 wins, 26 by T/KO, it's hard to imagine this one goes the distance. Both men have been down and we would not be surprised to see both hitting the deck in what could end up be an early contender for Fight of the Year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [and undercard]
After weeks of waiting we finally saw the announcement of the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi. The bout was one of the worst kept secrets in the sport, but we were still awaiting the confirmation until this week. The bout is a really good looking one. Both are aggressive, both have nasty power, and both have exciting styles that should gel really well. Although the bout looks like it won't be televised live, unfortunately, it does look almost certain to be a really fun fight, when TBS finally get around to airing it.
As well as the main event we also saw the under-card being revealed, and includes Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2), Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1), Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and the debut of Suzumi Takayama.
The Watanabe Gym is currently a thriving environment in Japan, with a number of notable names, including Hiroto Kyoguchi, Ryoichi Taguchi, Ryuichi Funai, Masataka Taniguchi, Nihito Arakawa and Shin Ono, among them. It's a gym that has began snapping up young promising talent who are looking to turn professional, and not only signing but also fast tracking them, something that has made the gym really attractive to talented youngsters.
One of the many youngsters to sign up with the gym in recent years is Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) [重岡銀次朗], a fighter who had a sensational amateur career before turning professional with Watanabe last year, and instantly making a brilliant impression on the professional scene.
Ginjiro began his combat sport career as a kid who took up Karate in Kumamoto, though followed his older brother into boxing. As an amateur Ginjiro went 56-1 (17), with his only loss being a loss to his brother in a local tournament bout, where their father threw the towel in just seconds into the bout rather than see his two kids fight each other.
With his excellent amateur pedigree Shigeoka had the opportunity to pick his gym, and left Kumamoto, where the boxing scene is rather limited, to sign with Watanabe in Tokyo. His amateur background also saw him earning a B Class license in his pro-test, allowing him to begin his career fighting in 6 round bouts.
On his debut, in September 2018, the then 18 year old faced off with the Sanchai Yotboon of Thailand. Yotboon had a record of 4-0 (4), but looked like a very limited novice as Shigeoka immediately put him on the backfoot and dominated him. The Thai was able to survive into round 3 but was dropped twice in the round with the referee halting the bout after the second knockdown.
Whilst Yotboon was certainly not an amazing opponent for Shigeoka the actual performance from the Japanese teenager was sensational. He looked sharp with everything he did, his punches were crips, his movement was swift, his power looked scary, his defense was impressive, and his ability to apply pressure was amazing.
Since his debut word has come out from the Watanabe gym about the youngster impressing the more well known fighters at the gym and it seems clear that he's being viewed as their next star. He's young but already having more established fighters raving about his ability. He has been holding his own with much more well known fighters, and impressing regularly in sparring sessions.
News recently broke that Shigeoka's next bout would be in February, with a date yet to be announced, before a bout in Kumamoto in April. He's made it clear that he's targeting Japanese ranked fighters for this year and clear has his eye on getting a Japanese title fight sooner, rather than later.
The first week of 2019 wasn't a huge on for Asian boxing, and sadly neither was week 2, though we did have enough action to talk about, and to hand out our second weekly awards! As with last week's awards pretty much everything was focused on one show, which is a shame, but is set to end with the boxing calendar picking up significantly in the coming weeks
Fighter of the Week
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6)
The new Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura shines the brightest this weekend with an excellent performance against the insanely tough Matcha Nakagawa. From the first round to the final one Tamura pressed Nakagawa incessantly, setting a high tempo, finding holes in Nakagawa's defense and generally handcuffing his opponent. Although it wasn't a flawless performance, he did get caught a lot with uppercuts, his willingness to walk through fire to get his own shots off mentally defeated Nakagawa and showed why Tamura will be such a tough guy to dethrone.
Performance of the Week
Norhito Tanaka (18-7, 10)
33 year old Japanese fighter Norihito Tanaka became the first new Japanese title holder of 2019 as he surprisingly stopped former world title challenger Shin Ono in what turned out to be relatively 1-sided bout. Tanaka was regarded as the under-dog but that never really showed. He spent the first round scouting Ono before breaking the 36 year old down, rocking him in round 2, dropping him in round 3 then stopping him in round 7. He forced Ono to fight his fight and drowned the veteran. It's worth noting this is only the 4th time Ono has been stopped, only the second time since the start of 2011 and the only time at Minimumweight!
Shu Nawai (0-1) Vs Kengo Hatsushika (0-1-1)
The first Japanese fight of 2019 saw the unbeaten pairing of Shu Nawai and Kengo Hatsushika battle in a 4 round bout, and it was a pulsating all action fight as both men dug deep and looked to score their first win.The skill level wasn't high but the action was and it was a fantastic, competitive, exciting back and forth. In the end Nawai did just enough to take the decision and we'd love to see these two go at each other again down the line. Sadly with the bout taking place on Boxingraise we can't show footage from the fight, but it is well worth a watch if you're on the subscription service.
Shin Ono Vs Norihito Tanaka (Round 6)
After Shin Ono learned he was down on the scorecards in his Japanese title defense against Norihito Tanaka the defending champion upped the pace in round 6 and took the fight to Tanaka. It was, tactically, an awful misjudgement, but for the action it gave us it was a clear round of the week and again a real treat for Boxingraise subscribers. It was a round that saw the two men standing essentially toe-to-toe and trading blows with Ono setting the pace and Tanaka responding in the pocket. There was good competition for round of the week, with round 3 of Nawai Vs Hatsushika being a very notable it's self, but in the end the quality of Ono and Tanaka shone through.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
Daiki Imanari (2-0, 2)
Unfortunately we were really limited in terms of prospects this week, and unfortunately Daiki Imanari has essentially won by default. The 21 year old Imanari defeated fellow novice Keiichi Inoue in 2 rounds to advance his record. It was a solid performance from the southpaw youngster, though it's really unclear what he'll go on to achieve.
Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17) Vs Hugo Ruiz (38-4, 33) (January 19th)
We see action really pick up over the next week or so and next weekend we do have a lot to get excited about. For us the pick of the bunch is the WBA "interim" Featherweight title bout between Jhack Tepora and Hugo Ruiz. The bout isn't the biggest match up on paper but stylistically it's a hard one not to get excited about. Both men have real power, with Ruiz the more pure boxer and Tepora being the more aggressive, both men are flawed and together we suspect those flaws could be exposed on both sides. This is a really mouth watering clash and one that we're incredibly excited about.
Kosei Tanaka to face Ryoichi Taguchi, March 16th!
The biggest story of the week, by far, came on Wednesday when a press conference was held to announce the WBO Flyweight title bout between Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7), the defending champion, and former IBF and WBA Light Flyweight "super" champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12). The bout will take place in Gifu and is the first huge bout to be announced for Japan this year. Better yet the bout will be aired across Japan, not just in the Chubu region like many of Tanaka's bouts. It was always going to be hard for anything to match up with this story, but it was also nice to hear that Gonte Lee would be making his debut on February 2nd.
Despite a rather dry January we do see action pick up, in a big way, in the end portion of the month with several major fights featuring Asian fighters.
Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2-1, 19) Vs Can Xu (15-2, 2) - WBA "Regular" Featherweight title
Talented Puerto Rican Jesus M Rojas will be looking to defend the WBA "regular" Featherweight title, just a week after interim champion Jhack Tepora attempts to defend his title, as he takes on Chinese fighter Can Xu. For Rojas, who won the title way back in September 2017, this will be just huis first defense of the title, as Joseph Diaz failed to make weight for a clash last August. Rojas is a fantastic fighter, but alack of activity through his career has been a major issue. Xu on the other is fighting for just the second time in the US and is fighting in his first bout at this level, in fact a win for Xu would see him become the first Chinese fighter to win a "world" title above 112lbs.
Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26) Vs Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) - WBO Light Middleweight title
On the same card in Texas we'll an Inoue in action, as the little known Takeshi Inoue challenges WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. The champion was the breakout star of 2018, going 5-0 (4) and went from being not allowed to fight Gennady Golovkin in May to the WBO Light Middleweight champion with 2 defenses under his belt. Whilst Munguia was becoming a star in 2018 Inoue, no relation to Naoya, was stuck in negotiation hell with a fighter against Julian Williams seemingly being in negotiations for months before he managed to secure this match up with Munguia. With this bout now set Inoue will know he will be in a major bout, but one where he is a massive under-dog.
New York, USA
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17)
In an excellent match, perhaps the best of the month, we'll see unbeaten Mongolian puncher Tugstsogt Nyambayar battle against explosive Dominican fighter Claudio Marrero. This is about as good as it gets, and will set the winner up for a Featherweight world title fight later in the year. Both of these men have brutal power, both of these men have been down, and together we expect to see them producing fire works of the highest order. Nyambayar is the more technically gifted of the two men, but he has shown some poor balance issues and has been tagged before. Marrero on the other hand has a raw dangerous quality about him, defensively and offensively, and is incredibly quick. This could be an early runner for FOTY.
Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) Vs Jose Martinez (20-0-2, 13)
The final bout of note in January is a WBO Super Flyweight world title eliminator, as Filipino puncher Aston Palicte takes on Puerto Rican fighter Jose Martinez. This bout, which will be shown on UFC Fight Pass, will set the winner up for a world title fight later in the year. Palicte came to the attention of the boxing world in 2018 when he fought to a controversial draw with Donnie Nietes on Superfly 3, since then he has been inactive though comes into this fight with a lot of hunger. Martinez on the other hand is best known for two fortunate draws against the under-rated Alejandro Santiago Barrios, who proved himself against Jerwin Ancajas last year. Despite being unbeaten we've yet to be impressed by Martinez and this looks like his toughest test so far.
Earlier today Japanese fighter Kohei Kono (33-12-1, 14) took part in his retirement ceremony, ending his boxing career. The "Tough Boy" who made his debut just a day before his 20th birthday, was a remarkable action fighter who gave us some of the best action bouts of recent times. Win or lose Kono was always worth watching, with his aggressive style, incredible durability and fantastic work rate.
With his retirement ceremony behind us, we felt it was the perfect time to look at 3 of his most action packed bouts.
May 2013 Vs Liborio Solis
In May 2013 Japanese fight fans got an all out treat as a then 28-7 (11) Kono took on Venezuelan Liborio Solis, then 14-3-1 (7). Coming in to the bout Kono was the WBA Super Flyweight champion, having won the title from Tepparith Kokietgym about 5 months earlier whilst Solis was the interim champion, having held the interim title since December 2011. With the unified WBA crown up for grabs fight fans got a treat, and saw the two trade knockdowns in a competitive and compelling match up.
Although Kono had been in numerous good bouts before this one it really put him on the map internationally as a must watch warrior, and laid down the marker for the type of fights we would get to see him compete in on a regular basis. Just for this bout he came up against someone with a similar mentality, and that really helped elevate this contest.
September 2015 Vs Koki Kameda
In March 2014 Kono became a 2-time champion, stopping Denkaosan Kaovichit in 8 rounds to claim the WBA title for the second time. His second defense of the that title saw the then 30-8-1 (13) Kono make his US debut, and take on fellow Japanese fighter Koki Kameda, then 33-1 (18). Kameda was looking to become a 4-weight champion and was the mandatory for Kono's crown.
This bout was the first ever all-Japanese world title fight held on US soil and saw Kono create an even bigger international fan base than he had had previously, and show what happens when two Japanese fighters face off in a world title bout. The best thing about this bout is it got widespread coverage in the US due to it being shown as part of a PBC broadcast.
October 2017 Vs Rex Tso
In 2017 we saw Kono travel to Hong Kong to take on local star Rex Tso. By this point Kono was 36 years old, his record was 33-10-1 (14), and he was less than a year removed from his first stoppage loss, to Naoya Inoue. On the other hand Tso, the biggest name in the Hong Kong boxing scene, was unbeaten with a record of 21-0 (13), he was a rising contender and seemed on the verge of a world title fight. Given the styles of the two fighters we knew we were going to be in for something special, and they delivered in a big way.
Sadly this bout saw Tso suffer and eye injury, that essentially put him him on the shelf for a year before he announced that he was going to the amateur ranks in pursuit of Olympic glory, whilst Kono would only fight once more, losing to Jason Moloney in 2018.
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