It's fair to say that February will be a very, very quiet month with only a handful of shows taking place during the month, and sadly that means there are a very small number of bouts to talk about for the month. Despite that we are, of course, bringing you our regular "What's to come" for the month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) vs Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
The first notable bout in February featuring Asian fighters will come at Japanese Youth title level as Light Flyweight Ryu Horikawa and Yudai Shigeoka clash in a mouth watering match up. The two youngsters are both tipped for big things during their careers and it's great to see them clashing here, rather than protecting their records like we'd see in other countries. Horikawa is the younger man and is the natural Light Flyweight, however Shigeoka has arguably been more impressive was very impressive in beat Lito Dante in just his second bout. Although not a massive fight this is a very, very interesting one.
Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) vs Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
On the same show as the Japanese Youth title fight we'll also get a mandatory bout for the Japanese Featherweight title as talented champion Ryo Segawa looks for his third defense, and takes on the touted Hinata Maruta in a mouth watering clash. The talented Sagawa has been on a great run of results since an early career loss and looks like a man who could certainly get into the world title mix over the coming years. Although not the most durable, he has been stopped and has been dropped in other bouts, Sagawa is a very talented fighter who can box or fight. As for Maruta the once super-hot prospects has failed to meet the lofty expecations that were on his shoulders when he turned professional, but there is no denying his talent and a win here would put him back on track to bigger and better things.
Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA
Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12)
In the first world title fight to feature an Asian fighter this month we'll see Russian based Tajik fighter Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov take on IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz in California. For Rakhimov this is a mandatory title fight he has waited well over a year for, earning the shot in 2019 when he stopped Azinga Fuzile. As for Diaz this will be his first defense of the title that he won in early 2020, when he beat Tevin Farmer. In terms of the match up this one should be an all out action fight between two men who like to come forward. Diaz will be the favourite, but Rakhimov is very much a live under-dog here.
The Flash Grand Ballroom of the Elorde Sports Complex, Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Bienvenido Ligas (12-1-1, 9) Vs Alphoe Dagayloan (14-3-6-1, 5)
The first major Filipino bout of the new year takes place on the 13th as the once beaten Bienvenido Ligas takes on the criminally under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan in an excellent Flyweight match up. Coming in Ligas will likely be the slight favourite, given his better reord, but in reality Dagayloan is the more proven and has been impressing in recent years, following a stuttering start to his professional career. This should be a genuinely excellent match up, something we, sadly, don't say often enough about All-Filipiuno bouts.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
All Japan Rookie of the Year
Not a specific bout here, but something that is worth noting is that February 21st will bring us the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, ending what has been a delayed and belated tournament. Despite the hiccups along the way, caused by Covid19, we are really looking forward to this show, which will be shown live on G+ in Japan and will almost certainly help launch one or two prospects towards bigger and better things.
Bula Gym, General Santos City, Philippines
Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) Vs Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11)
In another very interesting all-Filipino bout IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran will defend his title, for the second time, as he takes on IBF #3 ranked challenger Rene Mark Cuarto in a really mouth watering match up. Taduran, who won the title in 2019 with a thrilling performance against Samuel Salva, has sadly been out of the ring for a year since making his first defense. As for Cuarto he's unbeaten in his last 3 but has been out of the ring since December 2019. On paper this is, by far, the toughest bout of Cuarto's career and it'll be very interesting to see what he has to offer at world level against an aggressive and heavy handed champion.
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Kamshybek Kunkabayev (2-0, 2) Vs Steven Ward (13-1, 4)
In a really nice step up bout unbeaten Kazakh Cruiserweight hopeful Kamshybek Kunkabayev will be battling against Northern Irish fighter Steven Ward in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific title. Kunkabayev, a former Kazakh amateur standout has impressed since turning professional but there are a lot of questions for him to still answer. Sadly we don't actually expect Ward to be able to ask him those questions and if anything we see Kunkabayev having a pretty easy time of things here.
Nurtas Azhbenov (10-0, 4) Vs Evgeny Smirnov (13-1-3, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh prospect Nurtas Azhbenov takes his next step forward as he takes on the once beaten Evgeny Smirnov, form Russia, in a very credible step up. Azhbenov has frustrated at times, and despite being a very talented fighter seems to lack power and killer instinct with a lot of his bouts meandering to a rather drama free decision. He certainly has skills but he is not the finished article. Smirnov on the other hand has failed to win his last 3, but has been fighting at pretty decent level in recent bouts.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (9-0, 5) vs TBA
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Zhanibek Alimkhanuly will look to stay busy as he takes on a yet to be named opponent late in the month. The talented Middleweight is looking to secure a world title fight later this year, and although this will likely just be a stay busy bout it's great to see him staying active after a frustrating 2020 that saw him unable to build on a solid KO win against Gonzalo Gaston Coria. It's clear that Alimkhanuly is a talent and although we want to see him prove that talent against good fighters we would prefer him staying busy rather than sitting on the side lines waiting for a bout. With that in mind we can't complain too much at the TBA status of his opponent,
Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2) Vs Evgeny Pavko (18-3-1, 13)
Another unbeaten Kazakh prospect in action here is Talgat Shayken, who battles against the much more experienced Evgeny Pavko. The talented Shayken turned professional last year, and despite a rather crude performance on his debut he has impressed in his last 2 bouts and he appears to be a fighter heading places in the coming years. Despite bot being the most polished fighter Shayken is aggressive, strong and very fun to watch. Pavko on the other hand is an experienced Russian, who has lost 3 of his last 6. Despite his faltering form Pavko should, potentially, be a decent test for Shayken over 8 rounds.
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA
Zhang Zhilei (22-0, 17) v Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20)
Chinese Heavyweight giant Zhang Zhilei continues to waste his career as he takes on American foe Jerry Forret. The 37 year old Zhang has been linked to an Anthony Joshua fight for the last few years, but in reality is trudging along with rather meaningless bouts, and this is another for "Big Bang", who really should have been in with a notable name by now. The 32 year old Jerry Forrest is actually a decent opponent, and gave good tests to Jermaine Franklin and Carlos Takam, but isn't the type of name opponent Zhilei needs to push forward with his career. In fact Forrest is the type of high risk-low reward opponent that doesn't make sense for Zhilei at this point in his career.
Through the years the Asian boxing scene has had some legendary world champions, who will go down in the annals of time as some of the true greats. The likes of Fighting Harada, Khaosai Galaxy, Flash Elorde, Jung Koo Chang and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam to name just a few. It's also had it's share of forgotten champions, and fighters who got lucky, taking a title an never replicating the performance that took them to the top.
One such fighter is the often forgotten Shigeo Nakajima (13-5-1, 7), who won the WBC Light Flyweight title more than 40 years ago and rarely ever gets mentioned in any conversations at all. He was tipped for big things when he turned professional but only the hardcore of the hardcore, outside of Japan, will even recognise his name.
Sadly for Nakajima his reign as a world champion was a very short one, lasting less than 12 weeks. He was, for all intents a fighter who was in the right place at the right time. He's a fighter who got that one big win, but else his record is a hard one to decipher.
With that in mind we've decided to take a look at the 5 most Significant wins for... Shigeo Nakajima...and this is among the most frustrating in this series, as Nakajima really doesn't have many stand out wins.
1-Beaver Kajimoto (December 14th 1976)
The first win of real significance for Nakajima came in December 1976 when he took a big step up in class to take on Beaver Kajimoto in his 4th professional bout. Up to this point Nakajima had been facing novices, and fighters with low level experience, nothing to match his own 95 bout amateur career. Just 5 months after his debut he took on the highly experienced Kajimoto, who had had 50 professional bouts and had twice fought to a draw in bouts for the Japanese Flyweight title. Although not a world beater Kajimoto was a legitimate player on the Japanese scene, and Nakajima defeated him in his 4th professional bout. This was a win of real value for Nakajima, and should have been a sign of things to come, though sadly it wasn't.
2-Koichi Maki (June 21st 1977)
A really under-rated win came in the summer of 1977 when Nakajima narrowly beat Koichi Maki. The bout was Nakajima's third 10 rounder and this he really had to work for his win with Maki battling hard against the then unbeaten Nakajima. Coming in to the bout Maki had ambitions of his own and had won the 1974 All Japan Rookie of the Year at Flyweight. Despite having 7 losses to his name two of those had come to Yoko Gushiken, and he had been very competitive in a lot of his defeats, as he was with Nakajima. For Nakajima this bout served as a true gut check and a sign that he could dig deep and battle hard. Given this was only his 6th professional bout this was a great victory for the youngster, and was made to look even better when Maki became the Japanese Flyweight champion just 9 months later.
3-Kazunori Tenryu (August 23rd 1977)
Nakajima's third bout of note came just months after his win over Maki. Whilst Maki would go on to win a Japanese title Kazunori Tenryu was the then Japanese Light Flyweight champion, and he had held that title since March 1975. Tenryu had challenged for the WBA Light Flyweight title, losing a split decision to Jaime Rios, and had made 8 defenses of the Japanese title. Nakajima took him out in just 3 rounds, getting the Japanese boxing world really excited about his potential. Sadly for Nakajima this wasn't a title bout, and was fought above the Light Flyweight limit, but it was still a very solid win for him, very early early in his career.
4-Hong Soo Yang (November 6th 1979)
By the summer of 1979 Nakajima's record had fallen to 9-2-1 (6), with losses to Bernabe Villacampo and Hwan Jin Kim in 1978. The good run he had early on was over and he was struggling. After those losses he would score a couple of easy wins before stepping up once agin. In that step up he faced Hong Soo Yang, an experienced Korean who was the then OPBF Flyweight champion with 3 defenses of that title. The bout was a hotly contested 10 rounder, though, as he had against Maki he dug deep and edged out a close bout to secure his 12th professional win and take a huge step towards a world title fight.
5-Sung Jun Kim (January 3rd 1980)
Just 2 months after beating Yang we saw Nakajima have his career defining moment, as he faced off with the then WBC Light Flyweight champion Sung Jun Kim. The Korean had won the title in 1978, dethroning Netrnoi Sor Vorasingh, and had made 3 defenses before travelling to Japan to face Nakajima.
For the bout Nakajima had been trained by Joe Kouizumi and the tactics and performance were spot on, with Kim taking a clear win over the Korean to win the title. It was the first time Nakajima had gone more than 10 rounds, it was the first time he had fought for any kind of title, and it was the only time, in his career, that he scored a legitimate top level win. Sadly it would also be the last win of his professional career.
Sadly for Nakajima his reign would end on March 24th 1980, losing a close decision to Hilario Zapata. A rematch with Zapata resulted in another loss for Nakajima, who returned to the ring in May 1981 and was stopped by Nobuyuki Watanabe, before being retiring on the back of 3 straight losses. He had reached the pinacle, and then crashed back down to earth, to end what had been a truly under-whelming career, that had promised a lot, but sadly under-delivered.
Last week we began our "Who..." series by looking at who would be the next OPBF champion from South Korea and we're back again this week with the second in this series as we look towards the past and try to answer a new question about the world of Asian boxing.
This week the question is..
"Who... will be the next world champion from Uzbekistan?"
Lee: "I really like how many options we have here, and how exciting the rise of Uzbek boxing has become. It's really come out of nowhere, unless you follow the amateur scene, and has been hugely exciting. Like a breathe of fresh air. In many ways it reminds me of what boxing was like here in the 1970's, 80's and early 90's, where top amateurs raced to titles. There was no fear of being moved too quickly, and that was really exciting, seeing fighters move fast. If you were good enough, you were good enough.
For Uzbekistan the contender leading the way for me is Israil Madrimov, who I think will win a world title this year. He's in a tough division, but I think he'll win some version of the WBA title in 2021, hopefully the main version of the title. He has the power, skills, speed and hunger to be a big star. My only worry is whether the pandemic has started to chip away at his mental drive and his physical fitness. But I am still confident he will be a world champion. Maybe just a short reign though."
Takahiro: "Whilst Japan is going through a golden age the Uzbek scene is just as hot with so many exciting fighters coming from the country, and making their name in the US. That is really exciting and shows the backing a lot of their fighters are getting.
The backing has let Murodjon Akhmadaliev fight for a world title in just his 8th bout and I think other fighters will look to match that target. With that in mind I will be picking Bektemir Melikuziev, who I think will win a world title this year, in his 8th fight. It's a unfortunate that Sergey Kovalev failed a drug test, as that would have been good preparation for "Bully". I think the fact he can fight at 168lbs or 175lbs is a good advantage for him, and I think he will pick up some form of WBA belt. Maybe not main WBA belt, but enough to claim a "world" title. In 2022 maybe he get a "real" title. as well.
My Pick, Bek Bully!"
Scott: "As the other two guys have said, the Uzbek's are really making a mark and doing things in a really, really exciting fashion. There is a lot of top amateur fighters who are now chasing professional honours, and a lot of them are taking a rather untraditional route there. They aren't wasting their time, and their prime years building up fancy 20-0 records against opponents they would be 1/100 to beat, but are instead looking to skip the easy bouts and the often pointless record building stage of their careers. Whilst it's the fast track will work for some and fail for others, it's something I personally enjoy watching, and it condenses the wait to find out if someone is a legitimate talent.
I'm looking at the other end of the scales though. Rather than in the middling weights I'm looking at the lower weights and picking Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov to be next, and to do so in 2022.
The lower weights are often the ones where we see fast tracking done and Dusmatov is certainly ticking the boxes that will see him being moved aggressively. He's now aged 27, is in his prime, he's got the skills, power, speed, and the amateur experience to be matched hard and will not want to waste his career. The big question is "what weight will we see him winning a belt at?" And I think 108lbs is among the toughest divisions out there, but I see him having success there, if he needs to. Alternatively there are weak title holders at 105lbs, which we have to assume he can make with a day before weigh in, or even 112lbs.
Alternatively he could very easily make a mark at 112lbs. I think those options are what his team will be looking to weigh up this year, and early next year he'll win a world title. Whether that's a lesser champion at 105lbs or an aging veteran at 112lbs I'm not sure. but I'm confident he picks up a belt next year"
Fighting is truly a global sport. Pull up a map and you can dot upper-echelon fighters from every corner of the world. Today, we’re looking specifically at the top products from Asia.
Who are the very best fighters from the continent right now across UFC and mixed martial arts, boxing, and heck, less-followed combat sports like kickboxing? Let’s give you a top-5 rundown of the “best of the best.”
Weili is a true barrier breaker. She’s the reigning UFC Women’s Featherweight champion — an accomplishment that made her the first-ever Chinese title-holder in the UFC, man or woman. In due time, it’s possible we’ll be crediting Weili for popularising MMA in the world’s most-populated country.
Moreover, Weili can proudly proclaim to be the winner in one of the greatest UFC bouts ever fought. Her title defense against Joanna Jędrzejczyk, a five-round split decision victory, became an instant classic in March 2020.
It's the last time Weili stepped into the octagon due to COVID travel restriction, but regardless, she’s the number-three ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the women’s division. Rumor has it UFC president is looking to book Weili versus Rose Namajunas next, and somewhere in Asia, too.
Without question, Pacquiao is the greatest fighter to ever come out of Asia. Heck, he’s one of the greatest boxers of all time period, regardless of the country of origin. And he has the gold to back it — 12 championships in eight different weight classes.
Of course, our rankings are based on present day, not all time. Nonetheless, Pacquiao still cracks the list despite being 42 years of age. Last time we saw “Pac Man” in a boxing ring was 2019 and he upset previously-undefeated Keith Thurman to earn his fourth welterweight title. Pacquiao became the oldest champion in the weight class’ illustrious history that night.
So what’s next for the Filipino native? Retirement? Not a chance. A boxing bout between Pacquiao and Conor McGregor is in the works, which will be another huge payday for Pacquiao, who already has career earnings in the half-billion-dollar range.
It’s a shame most only know Nasukawa for being absolutely mauled by Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition boxing match because this 22-year-old phenom is the real deal in his preferred sport — kickboxing. In it, he’s the top-ranked pound-for-pound kickboxer on the globe, a distinction he’s held since September 2020.
While Nasukawa has an unblemished pro record of 40-0 in kickboxing, he has drawn complaints from pundits about facing less-than-stellar competition. But at the same time, he’s convincingly beat just about everyone put in front of him — fellow Japanese fighters, Muay Thai specialists, and even MMA fighters. And at his age, sky remains the limit for Nasukawa.
“The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung
South Korea and zombies seem to go hand in hand. There’s the cult classic movie Train to Busan and then there’s the zombie-nicknamed Sung Jung, a long-time contender in UFC’s featherweight division. His UFC career mark is 6-3 and currently ranks fifth in the weight class.
And just how did Sung Jung end up with the “Korean Zombie” moniker? Welp, it’s a reference to his never-say-die fighting style. No matter how much punishment he’s on the receiving end of in the octagon, Sung Jung has a knack for not only standing upright, but countering with his own offense. In other words, it’s tough to put him down, which is as high of a compliment you can recieve in combat sports.
While it flies under the radar, boxing great “Triple G” is very much Asian. For one, he hails from Kazakhstan, a country in the thick of Central Asia — and not Europe like many wrongly assume. As an amateur boxer, Golovkin competed in the Asian Games, earning multiple gold medals in the process.
Now that we got out of the way, let’s focus on Golovkin’s in-ring accomplishments. It starts and ends with his 41-1-1 all-time record. And if we’re being fair, the two blemishes on his mark — the loss and tie — are against Canelo Alvarez, both of which came with questionable judginging. Either way, a knockout artist like Golovkin will go down as one of the best fighters of his generation.
Manny ‘The Pacman’ Pacquiao has been commanding the ring as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time for over twenty-five years, and despite carving out a solid second career for himself in politics, the 42-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down.
While it could be said that Pacman’s biggest fight is yet to come, as his camp has indicated that he will be running for Presidency in 2022 (Pacquiao has been a Senator in his native country since 2016), he’s not been shying away from taking on some of the biggest names in boxing and MMA either.
During the four years that he’s been serving office to date, Pacquiao successfully defended his WBO welterweight strap against Jesse Vargas, lost it to Jeff Horn in what would’ve been a career-ending defeat for a lesser boxer, then fought for the WBA version, effortlessly dispatching challengers Keith Thurman and Adrian Boner in the process.
2021 is set to be an action-packed year for Asian boxing. As one of the sport's biggest exponents, all eyes will certainly be on the eight-division world champion’s next moves.
Last year, both Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer and ex-promoter Bob Arum have both revealed that the Pacman has just a couple of fights left before he intents to step out on the presidential campaign trail. Boxing fans and MMA fans are hopeful that one of those said fights will be against Conor McGregor in 2021.
The 'Notorious' former lightweight champion is a serial retiree, having declared to various news outlets in 2019 that he was done with professional combat sports unless a rematch with Nurmagomedov was arranged. True to form, he returned to the cage 3 months later only to retire again in the summer of 2020. While his next match will put him against Dustin Poirier, McGregor is reportedly raring to go.
While McGregor’s status as a top MMA fighter will never be questioned, in the boxing ring the unconventional Irishman hasn’t faired particularly well. His first (and last) professional bout was against Floyd Mayweather in 2017, a fight that he lost by TKO.
In contrast, Manny Pacquiao's professional record stands at 62 wins, seven defeats, and two draws. He’s fought the best of the best, unified belts, climbed up and down weight divisions, and time and time again emerged resurgent from the most dramatic of defeats.
Pacquiao vs. McGregor would not be a prestige fight for the Filipino champion at this stage in his career. It would, however, be a crowd-pleaser, and bring a paycheck that no boxing fan in their right mind would deny him.
The latest development on the potential match-up is that it’s “almost a certainty”, with contracts reportedly being finalised for the bout to happen in 2021.
The Money Man
Speaking of Floyd Mayweather, there have been a few not-so-quiet whispers floating around that ‘Money’ might pop up on the scene for a rematch before Pacquiao brings his boxing career to a close. The pair memorably clashed in Las Vegas’ Grand Garden Arena in 2015, with Mayweather taking a controversial unanimous decision win – he spent much of the 12 rounds avoiding and blocking Pacman’s punches, rather than engaging in the fight.
According to Audie Attar, however, Mayweather knows full well that “he would lose” a rematch against both Pacquiao and McGregor, and the Money-man does seem to be content with meaningless exhibition bouts against YouTubers and Kickboxers here in the twilight years of his career.
The Best of the Rest
So, with a Mayweather rematch looking highly unlikely, and a fight against McGregor being one to go out from with a bang, what other potential fights could we see for Pacquiao over the next 23 months?
For a start, the latest up and coming lightweight sensation, Ryan Garcia has teased that he has “a potential huge, bigger fight than (Gervonta Davis) in his sights”, and while he’s not naming names, he isn’t ruling Manny Pacquiao’s name out either.
This “Introducing” series typically tries to shine a light on young prospects but sometimes we look elsewhere and look at fighters who just deserve a little bit more attention than they typically get. This week we’re looking at one of those fighters who isn’t particularly young, but should be on, or near, your radar and that’s the rarely spoken about Kosuke Ando (8-2, 3), who is a promising Light Flyweight.
Ando is a 28 year old fighter from the KG Yamata Gym who got introduced to boxing by his close friend, and fellow fighter, Reiya Abe. Like Abe he lacked in terms of amateur pedigree and instead of being moved quickly when he turned professional he managed slowly with his debut coming in February 2016. On debut he defeat Kodai Gushiken, at Korakuen Hall, and within 16 months he was 3-0 (2), and had progressed to the second round of bouts in the 2017 edition of the East Japan Rookie of the Year.
Sadly for Ando his 2017 Rookie of the Year dreams came to an end in July that year, well before the final stages of the competition, as he suffered a 4th round TKO loss to Tomoya Yamamoto.
Following his first loss Ando spent more than a year out of the ring, returning in October 2018 to beat Akihiko Fukami via TKO in the final seconds of the bout. This win was followed 4 months later when Ando faced off with Kodai Gushiken, the man he’d beaten back on his debut. In the rematch with Gushiken we again saw Ando come out on top, taking a decision win over 4 rounds to move to 5-1 (3).
Following his efforts in the 2017 Rookie of the Year Ando tried again in 2019 and in his first round bout he beat Yuki Kajitani, via 4th round majority decision, to book his place in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final. In that final he upset the previously unbeaten Hidetoshi Takane in a 5 rounder, dropping Takane along the way to assure himself the decision victory and his place in the All Japan final in December.
Sadly for Ando his Rookie of the Year dreams came to an end in December 2019, in the All Japan final, where he lost a razor thin decision to West Japan representative Sho Omote. This was a really good bout that started off mostly technical but the action built as the bout went on, with Ando being dropped twice in round 4. The knockdowns proved vital on the scorecards, with Omote winning with scores of 47-46 on two of the cards.
Despite having lost in the Rookie of the year final Ando’s career wasn’t over, not by any stretch. Sadly however his return to the ring was delayed due to Covid19 essentially putting boxing on hiatus in Japan. Thankfully 2020 wasn’t a total wash out for him, and instead he got into the ring in October and bounced back with a 6 round shutout win over former for Hidetoshi Takane, the man he had beaten in the East Japan Rookie of the Year.
We’ll see Ando back in the ring on January 29th when he takes on Japanese ranked Minimumweight Shuri Hasebe (8-5, 2) in an 8 round bout. A win there won’t assure Ando a Japanese ranking of his own, but it is likely to see him rewarded with one, if he gets past Hasebe. Notably this is not just a step in quality for the 28 year old, but also in terms of bout length, with this being his first 8 rounder.
Aged 28 it really is time for Ando’s career to kick on, and we dare say that’s why he’s facing a JBC ranked fighter later this month. He’s no longer a spring chicken, but instead someone in their supposed physical prime and someone who knows that 2 or 3 good wins could, potentially, help him secure a title fight in 2022 or 2023.
In terms of his style Ando does show some similarities to Reiya Abe, albeit like a cheaper, less effective, less intelligent and much less patient Abe. Like Abe we see Ando wanting to create space, backing off, trying to draw errors, but he’s much less patient with it and often decides to try and force the action more. It does make his bouts more enjoyable to watch than his friend’s, but he does lack a lot of the nuance and boxing IQ that Abe has. He also struggles, mightily, to hold his own up close, and can be seen as very loopy with his shots. There is a very clear “rough around the edges” look to how he fights.
Despite not being a star in the making Ando is a man who has spent the last few years improving, and polishing. He’s never going to be a world champion, he lacks the natural traits to do that, but there’s no reason to overlook the fact that he has the potential to be a legitimate contender on the Japanese scene. He might not be a special fighter, but he is someone who deserves a bit of attention as he move towards his first bout of 2021 and a genuine step up in class.
On August 26th 2019 we focused on Yudai Shigeoka for our “Introducing” series, ahead of Shigeoka’s professional debut, which was set for October 2019. Despite having not made his debut by the time we covered him in “Introducing” there was a lot of buzz in Japan about the then 22 year old. In part that was due to his excellent amateur credentials, with Shigeoka going 81-10 (20) in the unpaid ranks, and partly because we’d already seen his younger brother in action, and we had been very impressed by the then 3-0 Ginjiro Shigeoka.
On October 30th 2019 Shigeoka made his long awaited professional debut and genuinely toyed with Thai foe Manop Audomphanawari, in a bout that was made available on Boxing Raise. The bout saw Shigeoka looking really relaxed and comfortable in the ring, and really showcasing some solid body punching as he dominated, broke down and battered Manop in 2 rounds. The Japanese youngster didn’t look flawless, not at all. He looked a touch overly relaxed and too calm, maybe even a touch cocky, but that was hardly an issue on his debut and he left an impression of a natural boxer with the tools to do great things.
Unlike his brother Yudai didn’t look like a destructive monster. Instead he looked like a calm operator, wanting to draw mistakes from his opponent, and get them to leave gaps open for him to pounce on, rather than pressing forward and continually pressing like Ginjiro.
Just weeks after making his debut Yudai returned to the ring and took a massive step up in class as he faced off with OPBF Minimumweight champion Lito Dante in a 6 rounder. On paper Dante didn’t look anything special but the 30 fight veteran is much, much better than his record suggests and was coming into this bout on the back of a career defining win over Tsubasa Koura for the OPBF title. In fact he had not only beaten Koura, who was 14-0 at the time, but also Naoya Haruguchi, and he was unbeaten in 3 bouts in Japan.
Against Dante the talented Shigeoka fought smartly, he boxed his fight and took a very clear 6 round decision over the hard nosed Filipino. Rather than standing and fighting with Dante, which is never a good idea, Shigeoka boxed and moved, and looked incredibly comfortable through the entire bout, taking a very valuable decision over the strong, tough and powerful Dante. To his credit Dante pressed through the entire bout, refusing to accept his loss, but could never force the Japanese fighter to change tactics or to fight his fight.
Unfortunately footage of Shigeoka’s win over Dante has never been made public, though we do know TV cameras were at the event. We’re hoping, one day, that TBS or Watanabe Gym will release footage from the contest, but alas that hasn’t happened yet.
Sadly, though like many other fights, 2020 was a write off for Shigeoka who failed to fight at all during the year. The win over Dante became a distant memory, and his career, which looked like it was going to be fast tracked like that of his brother, was forced to be slowed, massively.
Thankfully Shigeoka won’t need to wait much longer for his next bout, as he will battle Ryu Horikawa in a mouth watering bout on February 11th at Korakuen Hall for the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title. That is a brilliant match up, and the type of bout we keep getting thanks to the Japanese Youth title. It’s two unbeaten youngsters, both tipped for big success, facing off in a meaningful bout very early in their careers. Both men know a win will be huge for their career, and move them towards a senior title fight sooner rather than later. A loss however will not be the end and the loser has a lot of time to bounce back, rebuild and go on to achieve success down the line.
For those wanting to watch the Shigeoka Vs Horikawa bout it’s expected to be shown, at least in part, on Fuji TV as part of their regular Diamond Glove series of shows.
The little men in the sport of boxing often get over-looked despite what they can do in the ring and who they beat. Higher up the scales fighters who achieve less seem to get a lot more plaudits than those who achieve impressive things at lower weights. Sadly this is just part of the sport, and the general perception of boxing. Saying that however some little men do accomplish a lot, often with in only a handful of fights. Today we look at a great example that as we discuss Japanese based Thai Den Junlaphan.
"Eagle" Den Junlaphan, also known as Eagle Akakura and Eagle Kyowa only fought 20 times, running up an 18-2 (6) record between 2000 and 2007 but what he did in those 20 bouts was genuinely outstanding and he notched some great wins that aged fantastically well. Despite his very short career he was a 2-time WBC Minimumweight champion, who's first loss was an unfortunate one, from a shoulder injury, and the second came in his final bout in what was a very close contest.
Today we get to look at the 5 most significant wins for... Den Junlaphan a man who perhaps is now a forgotten face of the Minimumweight division despite featuring in 9 world title bouts, dethroning a long term champion and scoring wins over several notable names.
Nico Thomas (January 5th 2002)
For the first significant win on Junlaphan's record we go all the way back to January 2002 for what was his 6th professional bout and his second since relocating to Japan. The bout saw him take on former IBF Minimumweight world champion Nico Thomas from Indonesia. By this point Thomas was a faded force, he was well past his best years and at 35 years old he was over a decade removed from being a world champion. The idea though wasn't to see Junlaphan tested here, but for the Thai to make a statement of intention, which he did by stopping Thomas in 3 rounds.
Jose Antonio Aguirre (January 10th 2004)
After picking up 4 more wins after his victory over Nico Thomas we saw Junlaphan take a huge step up to face the then WBC Minimumweight champion Jose Antonio Aguirre from Mexico. By this point Aguirre was 30-1-1 (19), he was 28 years old, had held the WBC title for close to 4 years and had amassed 7 defenses. Although he had a loss to his name had gone unbeaten in over 6 years and had scored a number of world level wins over very good opponents. Although Aguirre was a world class fighter he was made to look very, very poor by Junlaphan. The Thai was was too quick, too sharp, too smart and too good. He made Aguirre miss, a lot, out landed the Mexican and pretty much controlled the action from the first round to final bell. Aguirre had a few brief moments of success but after 12 rounds it was clear the challenger had taken a clear decision and the WBC title.
Katsunari Takayama (August 6th 2005)
Sadly for Junlaphan his first reign as the WBC Minimumweight champion was a short lived one. He made a single defense before losing the title to Isaac Bustos in December 2004 due to a shoulder injury he suffered in round 3, which forced him to retire the following round. The following August he got a chance to reclaim the title as he took on Katsunari Takayama, who was enjoying his first world title reign. Despite a good, brave and typically high energy effort from Takayama he was out boxed by the clean, straight punching of Den Junlaphan. The effort from Takayama was great through out but the 22 year was just not quite the fighter he would later become. For Junlaphan this was his first bout after the injury and saw him become a 2-time champion.
In the years that followed this win aged amazingly, with Takayama later becoming a multi-time champion and one of the key fighters at 105lbs over the following decade.
Rodel Mayol (May 6th 2006)
Thankfully for Junlaphan his second reign was a much longer one than his first, and saw him scoring 4 defenses, including 2 really notable ones. The first of those came 9 months after he won the title, when he took a hard fought decision over the then unbeaten Filipino Rodel Mayol. Mayol was 22-0 when he entered and gave a really good account of himself, making his aggression count for something against the skills of Junlaphan. Despite a very good effort from the Filipino he would go on to lose here, with the classier work, and the cleaner punching from Junlaphan being the difference.
As with the win over Takayama this was a win that aged really well, Mayol would, in 2009, move up in weight and claim the WBC Light Flyweight title with a huge, and controversial, upset win over Edgar Sosa.
Akira Yaegashi (June 4th 2007)
The second of Junlaphan's notable defenses saw him defeat a then 6-0 Akira Yaegashi. The talented Yaegashi was being fast tracked following an early OPBF title win, and was being groomed as a future star for Japan. Sadly for the then unbeaten challenger he would suffer a jaw injury during the bout, and have to fight through some real pain en route to losing a clear decision to Junlaphan. Yaegashi certainly had moments, early on, but the fight came a bit too early for him and Junlaphan was a bit too experienced and class for the future 3 weight world champion. This was not just the final defense for Junlaphan but also his final fight in Japan. Given what Yaegashi accomplished in the years after this fight this is a brilliant win to have on the record of Junlaphan and is one that will always stand out, despite the fact Yaegashi was still such a novice.
Although not the most exciting of fighters, or the most explosive or powerful, Junlaphan was a aggressive but skilled boxer, a real talent who looked a natural in the ring. It's a shame his career was as short as it was, and we feel he really could have done much more. His career was brief, but it was very, very meaningful and in a way educated two of the Japanese stars of the future.
With so few fights taking place to begin 2021 the founders of Asianboxing.info have decided to take a look at the boxing scene and put our predictions forward in a new series called "Who..."
The idea of this series is to answer a question with who we each think will achieve a specific activity or feat, or potentially even looking back on history and sharing our takes on something from the past.
We intend to mix these up between various categories and a mix of times frames. From the past, to the immediate future and the longer term future.
To begin this series we're going to look at South Korea, where the three of us will all aim to answer the following question:
"Who... will be the next OPBF champion from South Korea?"
Lee: "This should be the one where I am good, so a perfect start to this series for me. I'm really glad to see Korean boxing getting international attention recently, at least earlier this month, and it was the man who headlined that card that I think has the best chance to claim an OPBF title this year. That is, of course, Jong Seon Kang, the all action Featherweight fighter. Aged 19 he is very young, but with a 12-0-2 record, and with good wins stacking up I think he'll break into the OPBF rankings this year, and move towards an OPBF title in 2022.
Kang is also lucky that the winner of Musashi Mori and Satoshi Shimizu, will almost certainly vacate the title later this year, leaving the door open to a vacant title title fight next year. The perfect time for Kang to swoop in"
Takahiro: "Being truthful, my understanding of Korean boxing isn't as good as it should be and as good as it used to be. I have however been sneaky, and looked at the OPBF rankings and there is an obvious choice here. Light Middleweight Jung Kyoung Lee.
Lee is ranked #3 by the OPBF for a vacant title, which was given up last year by Akinori Watanabe. I don't think #1 ranked fighter Tim Tszyu will have any interest in the title and so the door is wide open for Lee to fight for the title. I'm not sure who he would fight for the belt though. I don't think we'll see Lee face Hironobu Matsunaga, but I would like that fight. Very exciting.
Regardless, my pick is Jung Kyoung Lee"
Scott: "There are a lot of really exciting Korean fighters coming through the ranks, like Da Won Gang, Sung Min Yuh, Jong Seon Kang, Min Jang and and Min Hyuk Jang. Those however are all youngsters who are probably a few years away from a big bout.
With that in mind I'm going with someone with more experience, and someone who has spoke about wanting to win the title before. That's Dong Myung Shin the excellent 32 year old Featherweight, who can ill afford to move slowly this year. He spoke about getting a fight at Oriental title level in 2020, before the pandemic destroyed various plans and I think he's probably got the best chance of fighting for the title in the next year or two. The Super Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions are tough ones, but they are both expected to have massive shake ups in the next 12-24 months and that could leave the door open for Shin to get a shot at the vacant title."
*Note - Takahiro's answer is based on the latest OPBF rankings - which are October 2020's. Oddly the OPBF have not published rankings since then.
This coming Friday at Korakuen Hall we’ll see Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2) look to score his biggest win to date as he takes on Koki Mioya in a B Class tournament bout. The bout is being seen by those in Japan as a really interesting one between two young, good looking, fighters who have the pretty boy looks to appeal to female fans, and the promise and potential to get male fight fans following them too. Given the interest in the fight we’ve to give both men a bit of a light, covering Mioya in an “Introducing” article, posted earlier today and now we bring you an “Introducing” about Kimura.
Before we go any further we need to address the elephant in the room. Tentaro is not Rentaro Kimura, despite the fact both look similar and both fight out of the Suruga Danji gym in Shizuoka. Despite that the two men are related with Tentaro being the younger cousin of the very, very highly regarded Rentaro, and the two are genuinely close. Not only that but both of the youngsters are regarded as genuine prospects, though Tentaro lacks the strong amateur pedigree and the power of his cousin.
Kimura was born in Numazu City, in Shizuoka prefecture, and was a sport loving youngster who originally enjoyed playing football before being bitten by the boxing bug in High School. As an amateur he competed in several notable tournaments but failed to win any of the major national tournaments. He then went to university, but dropped out to concentrate on becoming a professional boxer under the guidance of the Suruga Danji Boxing gym, lead by Masaaki Maejima, better known as Suruga Denji.
Before turning professional Kimura had managed to notch up a 10-7 record, but his desire to turn professional saw him begin his professional journey at the age of 19. As a result he debuted in November 2018, when he took on Chinese fighter Bangxin Zhang at Korakuen Hall, in what was a Japan Vs China show. This bout saw the talented Kimura use his speed and amateur fundamentals well, to outland Zhang, and regularly finding a home for his jab. After 4 rounds it was hard to find anything to give to Zhang, with Kimura taking a 4 round shutout over the visitor. For fans wanting to watch this one it is available on Boxing Raise.
Despite looking skilled and sharp, Kimura did look like a man with self belief issues and a lack of confidence in his abilities, something that has been mentioned by his promoter in the past.
In March 2019 we saw Kimura return to the ring and score his second win, this time at the Memorial Center in Gifu, where he easily out pointed Yuki Omori on the under-card of Kosei Tanaka’s bout with Ryoichi Taguchi. Once again it was the speed and skills of Kimura that shone en route to his win. Just 2 months later he was back in the ring, this time in his home prefecture of Shizuoka, as he competed in a Central Japan Rookie of the Year bout against Fuya Tomita.
Against Tomita it seemed like Kimura had become more confident than he was on his debut and he held his feet a lot more than he had on his debut. He still looked sharp, with genuinely nice hand speed and smart foot work, but there appeared to be much more self belief as he out boxed, out worked and out fought Tomita Tomita to a clear decision win.
Kimura would extend his winning record in August 2019 when he took on Teru Nobita at the Aioi Hall in Kariya and took a split decision win over Nobita to become the Central Japan Rookie of the Year at Bantamweight, his biggest success so far since turning professional. Sadly however Kimura’s Rookie of the Year campaign ended soon afterwards, as he fought to a draw around 6 weeks later with Western Japan champion Kantaro Nakanishi, who actually ended up going all the way and winning the All Japan Final in December.
Despite missing out on a chance to compete in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final Kimura kept busy and ended 2019 with a 6 round draw against Tokuken Yoshimoto. On one hand that was disappointing, suffering a second successive draw, however going 6 rounds for the first time would have been a good tick box for Kimura and although Yoshimoto is no world beater he’s a credible domestic opponent, so a draw against him is a decent result.
Sadly Kimura’s rise was slowed dramatically in 2020 when Covid19 prevented many fighters from being active. In July 2020 Rentaro Kimura made his debut, and the focus of many swung to that of Rentaro, who quickly began to look like a star. Despite that Tentaro himself did secure a win in September, when he beat Wataru Yokoyama at the FujisanMesse in Fuji City, Shizuoka. That win saw Kimura put in a solid and entertaining performance, with his speed and work rate being too much for Yokoyama, though the bout certainly had its share of messy action.
On January 22nd, when Kimura takes on Mioya, the opportunity is there for the youngster to shine, though he’s in with a fighter very similar to him. Mioya, like Kimura, is a speedy fighter, with good hand speed and good movement but little in the way of power. Despite that we are looking forward to that contest and it genuinely could be a very action packed one, with the two fighters expected to match each other very well.
As well as being bitten by the boxing bug, Kimura is also a self confessed anime nerd, with a huge collection of anime related items, including Cosplay outfits and various pillows, something he admitted he was spending all his purse money on in 2019 to Sports Hochi. In that very same article his promoter explained that Tentaro lacked confidence, though went on to say that Tentaro is a genius and picks things up very quickly, with an ability to impersonate Mayweather. His promoter also explained that the lack of early KO’s isn’t a problem, and mentioned how Shinsuke Yamanaka also had a lot of early career decision wins, before gaining his confidence and finding his power.
Whether we see that genius or not in the future is unclear, but with Masaaki Maejima’s belief in him and regular sparring along with his cousin the future is bright for Kimura, as long as he can, one day, develop the belief in his own ability. He has the tools and the boxing brain to do well, and the bout with Mioya on Friday should tell us a lot about what he has to offer the sport. Saying that however he’s only 22 now and is still an improving fighter. Win or lose against Mioya we wouldn’t suggest anyone writes off Kimura, who has years left ahead of him to develop and succeeded in the sport.
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