Before Gennadiy Golovkin solidified his place in Kazakh boxing history and became a genuine global boxing star there wasn't many Kazakh fighters of any real note at all. The major exception to that was Vassiliy Jirov (38-3-1, 32), who was a former amateur standout, an Olympic gold medal and a man who went on to have significant success in the professional ranks.
The heavy handed "Tiger" from Balqash was one of the very, very few Kazakh fighters to make any mark at all on the professional boxing scene before Golovkin. Not only did he make a mark however, but he went on to become a cult star with a string of great fights, and his 2003 bout with James Toney, along with his 2004 bout with Joe Mesi are among the best bouts of the 2000's. Sadly though those are both bouts that he lost, and in many ways Jirov is better known for his defeats than his wins.
Today we look to shine some light on some of Jirov's wins as we look at the 5 most significant wins for... Vassiliy Jirov.
Rich LaMontagne (May 5th 1998)
After winning an Olympic gold medal in 1996 Jirov began his professional journey in 1997, with a blow out win against Vincent Brown in January. That win began a lengthy run of early wins for Jirov who stopped his first 14 opponents, all within the first 4 rounds. That saw question marks about his stamina among other things. Those questions were partially answered in his May 1998 bout with with the rugged Rich LaMontagne. The bout, for the WBC International Cruiserweight title, saw Jirov going 12 rounds on route to taking his first decision win. This victory is often a forgotten one, but was a genuinely solid win at the time, and one that saw him answer a number of questions that were hanging over his head.
Arthur Williams (June 5th 1999)
After beating LaMontagne in 1998 Jirov was on the verge of a world title bout. Sadly though his follow up bouts were rather meaningless ones, with 4 very low level wins, and then another regional title win. In June 1999 Jirov finally got a shot at a world title, as he clashed with veteran Arthur Williams for the IBF Cruiserweight title. The bout saw the aggressive Jirov break down Williams in the 7th round to take home the IBF title and become the first world champion from Kazakhstan.
This win was huge for his career and certainly put him on the map, taking him from being an aggressive and unbeaten contender to being a world champion. The first world champion from his homeland. It also helped make him a fan favourite on HBO, who televised the fight, and helped to build his profile.
Dale Brown (September 18th 1999)
Around 3 months after winning the IBF title Jirov made his first defense, taking on Canadian fight Dale Brown as part of the under-card for Oscar De La Hoya's bout with Felix "Tito" Trinidad. The then 19-0-1 Brown gave a genuine effort against Jirov, and was even taking the fight to the Kazakh in round 10, before he ate a huge left hand to the body that took the wind out of Brown's sails and sent him down for the 10 count in agony. As his first defense and as a genuine test of Jirov's will to win, this was an often over-looked victory for the Kazakh. It was also one of the best body shot KO's of 1999 and it one worth watching, just for the brilliance of the finish.
Alex Gonzales (February 6th 2001)
In February 2001 Jirov made his third defense, a 95 second blow out victory over Alex Gonzalez, in what was an horrific mismatch. On paper this bout is one that really doesn't stand out on paper, but is a bout that Jirov regards highly himself, and with good reason. This was not just his third defense of the IBF Cruiserweight title but was also only his only professional bout in Kazakhstan. That also meant it was the first world title bout in Kazakhstan. Jirov himself has spoken fondly of the bout and regards it as one of his favourites and who are we to argue with the fighter himself? Sadly he would only defend the title 3 more times after this win, and would never actually fight in Kazakhstan again.
Jorge Castro (February 1st 2002)
Sadly Jirov's reign at the top didn't last as long at the top as many had expected, and of course we've already mentioned his 2003 loss to James Toney, in what was a sensational bout but one that saw Jirov losing the IBF title. In his final defense before facing Toney the Kazakh fighter recorded his 6th defense and over-came Argentinian veteran Jorge Castro. Jirov would take a 12 round decision win over Castro, himself a former world champion Middleweight. Despite being well beynd his best Castro remained a contender over the following few years, battling the likes of Paul Briggs, Sebastiaan Rothmann, and even winning a world title eliminator in 2005. Sadly after this win Jirov went 7-3-1, without scoring a single win of note as his career quickly went down hill.
For this week’s who the team look to Central for their question and for the man they are tipping to be the face of Kazakh boxing after Gennady Golovkin’s eventual retirement. The trio have been set a rather interesting question and one that they feel could be a great chance to help shine a light on some rising hopefuls from “the Land of the Great Steppe”.
“Who... will be the next world champion from Kazakhstan?”
For the sake of “world champion”, we are considering WBC, IBF, WBO and all the various WBA titles.
Lee: “I had a lot of fun looking through the rising Kazakh prospects, and giving them all a watch, and seeing what they all have to offer the sport. After analysing them and looking through the Kazakh fighters the man I tip as being the next Kazakh world champion is Daniyar Yeleussinov, the talented Welterweight southpaw.
Yeleussinov has a lot to like. He is a talented fighter, has a strong promoter, in the form of Eddie Hearn, and has a team behind him who are hungry for him to break through. He is also 29 years old, turning 30 in March. He is no spring chicken. With that in mind I expect to see him being pushed to a world title this year. I know the Welterweight division is a tough one, a very tough one, right now but I expect to see the division have a big shake up this year and Yeleussinov will be one of the winners of that shake up. He is high risk, low reward, and in a position where he is only 2 or 3 fights from a world title fight.
Takahiro: “Zhanibek Alimkhanuly. The sport right now has some excellent weight classes with lots of depth. It also has some very, very weak divisions where there are only one or two fighters that stand out. One of those divisions is Middleweight. With that in mind I think Alimkhanuly will be a good choice to become a world champion in 2021.
Zhanibek Alimkhanuly is world ranked by all 4 title bodies and has options. He also has MTK and Top Rank behind him, and at 27 year old he is in his prime. He is talented, sharp, fast and powerful. He is adapting to the professional ranks, and he seems to tick a lot of boxes of a future world champion. He might need to wait a year or two for a world title fight, but I think Kazakh boxing fans will begin to see him as the natural successor to Gennady Golovkin as their next big star.
My choice, Zhanibek Alimkhanuly”
Scott: "Sadly I think after Golovkin hangs up the gloves we might need to wait a few years for the next Kazakh world champion. The country is developing a lot of talent, and there are a lot of contenders but I see a lot of those falling short at the highest level, or just not getting a shot until it’s too late. One man who I think will go all though way is Sadriddin Akhmedov, the 23 year old Canadian based Kazakh who fights at 154lbs. He, to me, ticks every single box we could want from a future world champion.
He is young, good looking, talented, heavy handed, exciting, has a good promoter, is in a division where the top guys are, for the most part, on the older side, and a division which will be shaken up, massively, in 3 or 4 years.
It might be a bit of a wait until we see Akhmedov win a world title, but I’m confident he’ll win one, with the main issue being whether he gets there before all of his countrymen or not.”
In the last 12 months or so we really saw boxing in Thailand pick up in terms of quality, and the exciting feeling of the country having some genuinely good prospects, contenders and hopefuls. One of those that we didn’t speak too much about in 2020 was Super Bantamweight hopeful Yuttapong Tongdee (5-0, 4), who got a little bit lost in the shuffle, though does deserve some real attention as we head through 2021, which could be a huge year for the 27 year old.
Despite being highly regarded as a prospect as we head into the year, Yuttapong actually only made his professional debut in 2020. Before that he had been a very solid amateur and had competed not just on the national scene but was a regular on the international circuit.
Whilst full amateur records are rarely available we know that Yuttapong was fighting internationally as early as 2014, when he competed in the Tammer Tournament in Finland, where he sadly lost to English fighter Jack Bateson in the semi-final of the 52KG division.
Yuttapong’s international appearances became more regular in 2015. One of his early tournaments for the year was an International in Thailand, where he reached the final before losing to Chatchai Butdee. He then reached the semi-finals of an International Invitational Tournament in Taipei City, losing a close decision to Dannel Maamo.
In 2016 Yuttapong competed at the Asian Students Championships in Uzbekistan but was unfortunate to face Ertugan Zeynullinov in the first round, with Zeynullinov going on to win the gold medal a few days later. He did however get revenge several months later, when the two clashed in semi-finals of the World University Championships, before Yuttapong went all the way and won the tournament, beating current Japanese professional prospect Yuki Yamauchi in the final.
Yuttapong had one of his most notable wins at the 2017 Giraldo Cordova Cardin Tournament in Cuba, where he beat Cuban great Robeisy Ramirez in the quarter final of the tournament, before losing in the semi final.
In 2018 Yuttapong had another notable year, winning gold at the Asian games, winning an International tournament in Thailand, and a bronze medal at the Asian games. That same year he also took second place at the Galym Zharylgapov Memorial, reached the quarter finals of the President's Cup in Kazakhstan, and the semi final at the Thailand National Championships, making a stellar year for Yuttapong.
After having had such a long and successful amateur career Yuttapong turned professional in 2020, debuting in July on a show promoted by T.L. Promotions, one of the leading promotional outfits in Thailand. On his debut he defeated Artid Bamrungauea via 4th round TKO, in a scheduled 6 rounder, on a card that also featured the highly touted Phoobadin Yoohanngoh and the talented Arnon Yupang.
Around 6 weeks after his debut Yuttapong returned to the ring and took his second professional win, defeating Jirawat Thammachot with a 6 round unanimous decision. The bout saw Tongdee dominate from the off, proving he was too quick, too accurate, too sharp and too smart and dropping Jirawat in round 3 on route to a shutout win. Yuttapong would stay busy after the win over Jirawat in August, stopping Tongthep Taeyawong in September, after beating the fight out of his man in 2 rounds, and then stopping Kan Hamongkol in 4 rounds to race out to 4-0 (3) by the end of October.
Yuttapong would return for one more bout before the end of 2020 and that was a bout with former world title challenger Pigmy Kokietgym, aka Wicha Phulaikhao, a 77 fight veteran who had faced some very notable fighters during his long career. On paper this was a big step up for Yuttapong, but he made it look easy and barely got out of second gear against his smaller and older opponent, who was stopped in round 5.
Since turning professional Yuttapong has looked like a natural fighter. His amateur experience really shows and he’s composed, calm and relaxed in the ring. He throws lovely combinations, looks crips of offensive and very nice variety in his shots. Defensively he can be hit, and can leave himself open when attacking, something that saw him being tagged several times by Pigmy, but it often seems like a calculated gamble from him against out-matched opponents, and something we expect to see him tighten up when he steps up.
Yuttapong is expected back in the ring in later this month, and from there on we expect him to be busy, maybe as busy as last year, but still busy, as he climbs into the regional title scene and, potentially, the world rankings this year.
Aged 27 time isn’t really on Yuttapong’s side, but with 5 fights since July 2020 it’s clear he and his team know activity is key, and that appears to be their currently focus for the promising Super Bantamweight hopeful.
Back in the summer of 2019 we looked at Japanese hopeful Masanori Rikiishi (then 5-1 (3), now 9-1 (5)) as part of our Introducing series. Back then Rikiishi had just scored a then career best win over Kei Iwahara and seemed to be positioning himself as a contender on the Japanese domestic scene at 135lbs. Since then however Rikiishi has gone from strength to strength and has seemingly set his eyes on other things, whilst quickly becoming one of the most under-rated fighters in Japan. So let's take a look at where Rikiishi is now, where he was, and how he's gotten to where he is since we first looked at him.
Before we look at where he is now let's go back around 18 months and look at where Rikiishi was when we first looked at him.
As mentioned when we introduced Rikiishi he was 5-1 (3) and has just recently scored a win over Kei Iwahara. He had been rebuilding well after a 2018 loss to Kosuke Saka and had been rebuilding his confidence with wins against progressive better fighters. He had bounced back from his loss with a win over the poor Egy Rotzen, he then beat Genki Maeda in a good step up before beating Kei Iwahara to continue the forward progress with his career. By that point he was starting to create some buzz and was back on the right track with his career.
Just weeks after we "introduced" Rikiishi he took the next step forward with his career and battled against Shogo Yamamguchi. On paper this was another step up in class for Rikiishi and a potential test for the young Japanese fighter. He passed the test with ease and ended up forcing Yamaguchi's team to pull him out of the bout after 5 rounds, with Yamaguchi suffering a nasty injury over his left eye which forced an early conclusion to the contest.
Less than 2 months after his win over Yamaguchi we saw Rikiishi return to the ring and take another step up in class, as he took an 8 round decision over Nicaraguan visitor Freddy Fonseca, who is best known for his bout with Joseph Diaz. Rikiishi took a clear and dominant decision over Fonseca as he proved he could do 8 rounds at a good pace, and that he could control a pretty good fighter. It was a very impressive win in just his 8th professional bout, and also saw Rikiishi begin a move down in weight, coming in just over the Super Featherweight limit.
In 2020 Rikiishi continued to take on decent tests, and float between Lightweight and Super Featherweight. His first bout of the year took place 11 months after his win over Yamaguchi, due to the pandemic, and saw him take a very good domestic win over Yuichiro Kasuya. The bout was a genuinely intriguing one on paper, with Kasuya being a talented but often frustrating fighter, but ended up being a relatively straightforward win for Rikiishi who ran out the clear winner on all 3 cards. The win was a particularly notable one as Kasuya was regarded as a contender for the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, and he had top 10 rankings with all 3 bodies, pushing him to the verge of a title fight.
Less than 3 months after defeating Kasuya we saw Rikiiishi return to the ring for his second bout of 2020, which saw him battle against Soreiki Taichi. Coming in to this one it seemed like Rikiishi was heading towards a Japanese Lightweight title bout, and he was ranked #2 by the JBC at the time. During the fight Rikiishi would drop Taichi twice, and record a 3rd round TKO win, whilst looking like a man who was really developing his power and counter punching. In fact he looked like a brutal puncher here, and hurt Taichi pretty much every time he landed clean, and drew mistakes from Taichi, which he punished in style.
Following his win over Taichi we were expecting to see Rikiishi call for a Japanese Lightweight title fight. Instead however he stated his intention was to drop to Super Featherweight and chase a rematch with Japanese champion Kosuke Saka, the man who stopped him earlier in his career. It seems like that will be the target for Rikiiishi this year.
Despite looking impressive and destructive in his win against Taichi it is worth noting that Rikiishi did suffer in that win, with his hand being damaged. We really do hope it was just a minor blip for for his career, and not something that will be a longer term problem for the talented man from the Midori Gym.
As a fighter Rikiishi is a real talent and a man with many tools in his arsenal. We have seen him boxing and moving in the past, we have seen him take the role of a counter puncher, and we have seen him showing solid power. There are questions still for him to answer, but over the last 18 months he has come a very, very long way. He has shown solid fundamentals, been facing progressively better tests and appears to have someone in his sights that he wants to face. Although he is still a work in progress he seems to be the sort of fighter who is developing in the perfect way.
We'll be honest, we do hope Rikiishi gets another test before a rematch with Saka, but we also repsect the fact that he's already wanting to get revenge over a man who bullied and battered him early in his career. There is no fear from Saka and that is something that deserves genuine credit in a boxing world where too many fighters are scared of losing, rather than wanting to see how good they really are.
Between 1973 and 1991 Filipino fighter Rolando Navarrete fought 74 times as a professional, running up an excellent 56-15-3 (33) record. Although he was a fantastic fighter and a former world champion Navarrete's career was marred by out of the ring incidents and misbehaviour, and he lived up to his nickname of the "Bad Boy from Dadiangas" a little bit too well. Had Navarrete been able to concentrate on professional he would have been a huge star, instead of being a notable footnote on boxing history.
Despite failing to achieve what he should have done in the sport he scored plenty of notable wins and take we're going to take a look at some of those as we bring you The 5 most significant wins for... Rolando Navarrete
Bernabe Villacampo (January 31st 1976)
When Navarrete turned professional in 1973 former world champion Bernabe Villacampo had retired from the sport. Villacampo had last fought in September 1971, after losing the WBA Flyweight title in 1970 to Berkrerk Chartvanchai. Surprisingly however the former world champion made a return to the ring in December 1975. His second opponent after beginning his comeback was Navarrete, who went on to stop Villacampo in 2 rounds.
This was Navarrete's 20th professional and whilst Villacampo was certainly not the fighter he once was this was still a very significant win over a former world champion and a man who still had some name value. In after this loss Villacampo would go on to have a nice run and even beat future world champion Shigeo Nakajima in 1978. This was certainly a significant win for the then 18 year old Navarrete, even if the 32 year old Villacampo was well past his best.
Frankie Duarte (June 19th 1979)
Almost 3 and a half years after beating Villacampo we saw Navarrete make his Western debut, travelling over to beat Frankie Duarte in Honolulu. Up to this point Navarrete had fought 38 professional bouts, with 37 of those coming in the Philippines and the other coming in South Korea, where he actually lost. Here he was travelling over to Hawaii where he managed to take a clear decision over the then 24 year old Duarte. At this point in time Duarte was considered a contender and was just 2 years removed from losing in a world title eliminator. Like many in this series this win later gained significance, with Duarte twice fighting for world title fights, losing to Bernardo Pinango and Daniel Zaragoza.
Cornelius Boza-Edwards (August 29th 1981)
In August 1981 Navarrete got his first shot at a world title as he travelled over to Italy to face the then WBC Super Featherweight champion Cornelius Boza-Edwards. The Ugandan champion had won the title in March, in a sensational bout with Rafael Limon, and had made his first in May, when he stopped Bobby Chacon in 13 rounds. Sadly for him an attempt to stay super busy as a champion saw him come undone when he took on Navarette and was stopped in 5 rounds. This bout saw the talented Edwards being dropped in rounds 4 and 5 in what was a fantastic bout bout.
The win saw Navarrete win the WBC title, the one world title of his career, and leave his mark on the history books. This was, by far, the most important win of his career, and was the one that many fight fans immediately think of when they talk about the Filipino. The fight not only saw Navarrete become a world champion but also saw him become the first Filipino fighter to win a world title in Europe. The win was also a notable success for Filipino boxing, who hadn't had a world champion since Erbito Salavarria lost the WBA Flyweight title in 1976.
Chung Il Choi (January 16th 1982)
Despite ending the long wait for a new Filipino world champion Navarrete's reign was sadly a short one and he only actually made a single defense of the WBC Super Featherweight title himself. That came in January 1982, in somewhat controversial version. The bout in question saw the newly crowned champion return home and take on unbeaten Korean challenger Chung Il Choi, who sported a fantastic 13-0 (12) record. Choi, a legitimate puncher, dropped Navarette in round 5 and the round ended 10 seconds early. The early ending of the round lead managed to give Navarrete time to recover his bearings, and later go on to stop the Korean in the 11th round to successfully defend the title.
Rafael Limon II (December 23rd 1988)
Sadly Navarrete's reign as the WBC Super Featherweight came to an end in May 1982 when he lost via 12th round TKO to Rafael Limon in the first bout between the two men. The loss meant Navarrete's reign lasted just 9 months. Sadly for Navarrete he would never manage to recapture a world title, though did manage to get some revenge over Limon in 1988, more than 6 years after his loss to "Bazooka", in a rematch between the two men. By this point Limon was well past his best years. Limon's hard career had caught up to him and Navarrete dropped him twice en route to a very, very wide 10 round decision win. It wasn't as sweet as a victory in their first bout would have been, but it was a chance to avenge one of his more notable losses.
Sadly after the rematch with Limon we never really saw Navarrete score too many wins of note as he picked up low level wins over no-named in the Philippines and lost every time he stepped up in class, before ending his career in 1991. Surprisingly Limon would himself fight on until 1994, and would lose 7 of the 9 bouts he had after the rematch with Navarrete.
For this week's "Who..." the team who set up Asianboxing.info take a look at Thailand for their question and they also take a look at the future, as the trio put for their cases for this week's question, and once again they've come up with 3 different fighters for fans to take note of.
This weeks question for the trio is:
"Who... is the best prospect in Thailand?"
Lee: "In 2020 there was a lot of Thai fighters who caught my attention, and got me excited for the future of boxing in Thailand. I'm sure some of those fighters will be mentioned by the other guys but the one I want to tip as the best is teenage fighter Sangarthit Looksaikongdin (Phoobadin Yoohanngoh).
With Sangarthit/Phoobadin I think we have the perfect mix of long term potential, given he is only 17, a weight class that gets international attention and a fighter with fantastic skills in his tool box. The fact he is so young gives him a lot of time to polish off his skills, build on foundations he already has and mature his man strength. He clearly understands the sport, he's quick and sharp, understands distance and angles and looks like one of the hottest prospects in world boxing.
I do have some reservations. His training appears to be very hard on his young, and still developing, body. I worry that maybe he is taking too much out of himself with some of his training. I also think fighting at 140 or 147 may limit his potential opponents in Asia. But I think there is too much upside to avoid."
Takahiro: "For this week, I am picking Boonrueang Phayom.
I like to see young fighters with exciting styles and power and it's hard for me to not be a big fan of a young man with a perfect 9-0 (9) record. The 21 year old Boonrueang made his debut in 2017, vanished for a while, matured away from the ring, and since returning in 2019 has been a busy boy.
His competition is admittedly not very good, a lot of Thai fighters fight not very good fighters to build experience. But he has results that are better than other fighters, like his win over Tongthep Taeyawong is quicker than the one scored by Koki Mioya and Petch CP Freshmart and we have seen him fight into the 7th round before.
I like Boonrueang Phayom a lot. He will go a long way."
Scott: "There is a lot of talent coming through in Thailand right now. Fighters like Nattapong Jankaew, Thanongsak Simsri, Thananchai Charunphak, Phongsaphon Panyakum, Nonthasith Petchnamthong, Pattawee Phansawat, Yuttapong Tongdee, Theeraphan Polsongkarm and the men mentioned by Taka and Lee. There really is so much excitement bubbling under the radar in Thailand that narrowing it down to just 1 prospect was a problem.
If someone held a gun to my head and made me pick one however I'd go with Thitisak Hoitong, a fighter who really does have me very, very excited for the future.
Aged 25 Thitisak isn't the youngest out there, and physically he's maybe only a year or two away from his prime. He is however a very talented fighter, with a strong amateur background, an insane level of confidence in the ring and a very clear natural affinity for the sport. We saw in his debut, against Samartlek, that he has the tools to do great things in professional boxing. Also he's at Flyweight, a division where Asia is rife with fighters, and where good bouts should be easy for him to get. There isn't a need for him to chase bigger names around the globe, but instead fly off to Japan and the Philippines for regional level fights and training.
To me the age issue with Thitisak is less of an issue and more of an upside. His team know they don't need to molly coddle him, and can let him loose sooner rather than later. If you're not aware of him, make a note of his name now, as he will likely be in the regional title mix by the end of the year, and potentially the world rankings by the time we enter 2022."
On February 21st we’ll get the All Japan Rookie of the Year finals, ending a tournament that was delayed due to Covid19. The competition is a platform for talented youngster in Japan to launch themselves into the public consciousness and has been used to help kick start the careers of numerous world champions, including the likes of Fighting Harada, Junto Nakatani, Jiro Watanabe, Takuya Muguruma, Daisuke Naito, Masayuki Ito, Ryoichi Taguchi and Kiyoshi Hatanaka. The tournament, which has the finals televised live on G+, is a fantastic proving ground for youngsters and this year will be no different.
With that in mind we turned our attention to the Rookie of the Year final’s to find someone to speak about for this week’s “Introducing...” and came across Light Flyweight hopeful Ryota Karimata (5-0, 3) who ticks a lot of boxes as a future contender and has some real ambition to make it in the sport, and catch up with the achievements of someone he trained with when he was in high school.
The 25 year old Karimata, originally from Okinawa, was involved in boxing way back in his high school days, when he was at the Miyako Comprehensive Business High School. Due to the lack of youngsters participating in boxing at the school he trained at the Miyako Technical High School Boxing Club, that was also where Daigo Higa was training as a youngster, and the two trained together back when they were young.
Despite training alongside a future star Karimata never really made much of a mark on the amateur scene in Japan. That was despite fighting in the Ashiya University team, and even sharing the ring with some other notable likes Rikito Shiba. Following his time at university he left the sport, and he got a job at a hotel when he graduated. At the time it seemed he was leaving the sport behind for good.
Thankfully that turned out not to be the end of Karimata and he turned professional with the well established Misako gym in Tokyo.
On June 9th 2019 Karimata made his professional debut, taking on Keiichiro Kusumoto in Hiroshima in a Light Flyweight bout. Despite going up against an opponent with 6 fights to his name Karimata Karimara showed no fear and pressed confidently from the early going, showing some nice footwork, a sharp jab and aggressive in ring mentality. The aggression paid off and late in the round a 1-2 from Karimata dropped Kusumoto, who also ended the round with a cut around his left eye. Karimata began to go through the gears after the knockdown and had Kusumoto in trouble as the bell went. With their man cut and having been dropped in round 1, Kusumoto’s corner withdrew him from the bout before the start of round 2.
Despite making his debut in the bout Karimata, and needing just 3 minutes to secure his first win, Karimata looked like a solid prospect there and then.
Just 4 months later Karimata returned to the ring for his second bout, taking on the debuting Shoma Tada at Flyweight. This time things were much, much tougher for Karimata. The 26 year old Tada used a busy jab, seemed to be quicker and lighter on his feet than Karimata, and almost dropped Karimata in the opening round. Karimata had to dig deep against a hungry debutant, who was bigger and stronger, and in the end did just enough to edge out a razor thin 4 round majority decision. The bout seemed to serve as a warning to Karimata, avoid the Flyweight division. After this bout he headed back to Light Flyweight, where he has remained ever since.
In his third professional bout Karimata fought in Okinawa for the first time and over-came Hidetoshi Takane, taking a 4 round decision. This bout, sadly the only Karimata bout not available on Boxing Raise at the time of writing, is a bit of a mystery to us. Thankfully reports from the venue state that Karimata was the boss throughout, dropping Takane and took a very clear decision, in an exciting bout. Notably Takane had reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2019, and a win over Takane here was a genuinely impressive one for Karimata.
Before he had his 4th professional bout Karimata got the chance to travel, going over to Thailand weeks after his win over Takane, as he was part of the team helping Norihito Tanaka prepare for his bout with Knockout CP Freshmart. Although he didn’t fight on international soil he did travel with Tanaka and trainer Keita Suzuki and the experience of being abroad and soaking in the vibes of major fight week may well come in handy in the future.
Sadly Karimata, like so many other fighters last year, saw their career being put on ice due to the Covid19 pandemic. As a result it was almost 7 months between his win over Takane and his follow up bout, which came in a qualifying bout for the East Japan Rookie of the Year in September 2020. That bout saw him share the ring with Chinami Tanaka and from the off Karimata was walking down his man, pressing. Tanaka tried to fight him off, but it failed and Karimata continued pressing, rocking Tanaka with a right hand and then breaking him down through much of what was left of the round. With around 20 seconds of the round left Karimata cornered his man, hammering him until he dropped to the canvas and was counted out.
Around 2 months after his win over Tanaka we saw Karimata return to the ring, and take on Kengo Hatsushika in the East Japan Rookie of the Year semi-final. The bout started with Hatsushika trying to jump on Karimata before he could settle. It was a high risk gameplan from Hatsushika and one that backfired when Karimata decided to fight fire with fire, and dropped his man with a huge right hand. Hatsushika tried to beat the count but the fight was waved off after just 50 seconds.
Karimata was supposed to return in December, at the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, but the bout was cancelled when Hayato Aoki was forced out of the contest, crowning Karimata the winner by forfeit. Karimata will now fight in the All Japan final against Hyogo Kimura, with the two men battling to be crowned the All Japan Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year.
For Karimata the All Japan crown is just the next step as he attempts to catch up to Higa and his in ring achievements. It’s a lot of catching up to do, but it seems to be his goal, and it’ll be exciting to see him go about it over the coming weeks, months and years.
For fans wanting to watch Karimata 4 of his 5 bouts are available on the Boxing Raise service. Whilst his upcoming bout will be shown on G+.
During the 1970's and 1980's South Korea was one of the major players in world boxing, and one of the countries that was not just a major player at world level but also regularly putting on thrilling, well matched contests. One of the many Korean fighters from that era to make a mark was exciting Flyweight Tae Shik Kim (17-3, 13) whose career lasted only around 5 years but saw him fight some very notable names.
Kim debuted in May 1977 and fought for the final time in May 1982. Despite his short career he managed to accomplish a decent amount, and featured in 4 world title bouts in the space of 18 months. Sadly though his career ended up whimpering out when he was just 25 years old.
With that introduction out of the way, lets take a look at the 5 most significant wins for... Tae Shik Kim, looking at his way up, his signature win and also his last win of note.
Tito Abella (January 14th 1979)
The first win of real significant for Kim came in January 1979, when the Korean fighter was 21 years old and impressive with power. In the opposite corner to Kim was Tito Aballa, a Filipino who would later go on to fight for a world title. Coming in to this fight Kim was 8-1 (6), riding a 5 fight KO streak, and wanted to make a statement, and he did just that, stopping Abella in the 3rd round of a scheduled 10 rounds. That was the quickest Abella had been stopped up to this point and it was a win that aged pretty nicely with Abella bouncing back with 5 straight wins to earn a shot at WBA Light Flyweight champion Yoko Gushiken in 1979.
Chikara Igarashi (November 11th 1979)
Around 10 months after the win over Abella we saw Kim score his second win of note as he over-came Japan's Chikara Igarashi. Although not a big name, by any stretch, Igarashi was very well regarded. By this point in his career Igarashi had been a former Japanese champion and a former OPBF champion and, just 6 months earlier, he had battled WBC Flyweight champion Chan Hee Park, going 15 rounds with Park. Although not a world beater Igarashi was a known tough guy and a real test for decent regional level fighters. Impressively Kim stopped him in 3 rounds, giving Igarashi his 5th career stoppage loss in 44 bouts. It was a real statement win against a recent world title challenger, and the type of win that helped make Kim into a genuine contender.
Luis Ibarra (February 17th 1980)
Just 3 months after beating Igarashi we saw Kim take a big step up in class, taking on WBA Flyweight champion Luis Ibarra. Ibarra was a 26 year old Panamanian, sporting a 19-1 (6) record who had avenged his sole defeat and had won the WBA title just 3 months earlier, upsetting Betulio Gonzalez in Venezuela. Ibarra was, at the time, regarded as a very talented fighter and one of the best Flyweights out there. That was until he ran into Kim, who stopped him in 2 rounds, ripping the the WBA title in what was Kim's career defining victory. This put the Korean on the map internationally, and proved he belonged at the top of the division.
Arnel Arrozal (June 29th 1980)
Sadly whilst Kim had shown he belonged at the top of the division his stay there was, sadly, very short and he only made a singlee successful world title defense. That came in June 1980 when he took on Filipino Arnel Arrozal, a former Filipino national champion and a man who had given Chan Hee Park fits in a WBC world title fight. Arrozal gave Kim real questions to answer, and saw Kim needing to go 15 rounds for the first time in his career, ending a 10 fight T/KO streak from the Korean. Arrozal was a legit contender at the time, and gave Kim a genuine test. Sadly however after this bout Arrozal would start racking up losses and when he retired in in 1987 his record read 23-31-3 (6), by then however he was 30 fighting well above his best weight and taking a who's who of rising US and Mexican fighters.
After this win Kim would make his US debut, sadly losing the belt in December 1980 to Peter Mathebula in a razor close fight in Los Angeles. This would be the end of a 14 fight winning run for Kim and it was the start of the end for Kim as a notable fighter.
Roberto Ramirez (September 4th 1982)
Following his title loss Kim struggled to get going again, losing to WBC champion Antonio Avelar in 1981. He then, finally, managed to string back to back wins in 1982, with the seconds of those coming via split decision against Mexican contender Roberto Ramirez. The win was a controversial one, with the view being that it was home cooking for former Korean world champion. It seemed even Kim knew he was on the slide, and rather than continue on he retired, going out on this win.
The win over Ramirez, as controversial as it was, improved with age and in 1983 Ramirez fought WBA Super Flyweight champion Jiro Watanabe, and ran the legendary Japanese world champion all the way in a razor thin 15 round bout. Sadly after that loss Ramirez was never the same and went 2-3 in his final 5 bouts.
A few weeks ago we began a new series here looking to answer the question of “who…?” and we’re back again this week with the latest in this series. This week we’re not looking at someone coming through the ranks, or someone looking to prove themselves, but instead we’re looking at some who is currently at the top of sport and will lose their position later this year. That’s because we’ll be answering the question of:
“Who... will lose their world title this year?”
Just before we start, the condition here, as is typically the case with Asian Boxing, is that the fighter must be Asian to be considered a valid answer here. By “losing” their title, we mean losing their title in any manner. Be it from vacating, retiring, losing it in the ring or being stripped.
We will not be including cases where a fighter is promoted from “regular” champion to “super” champion. However we will be including “regular” and “interim” champions as champions for the purpose of the predictions here.
Lee: “I had a look at all the champions, from right across the sport, and I see a lot of fighters who might have tough fights in 2021. Of those however a lot have easier options they can take, and I don’t think too many are being backed into a wall to face a top fighter.
One possible exception there is Can Xu, who I love. I think every fight fan loves Can Xu. Sadly however I think he will be lured to the UK to have a bout with former IBF champion Josh Warrington. The bout every fight fan should want to see take place and should be excited to see happen. Sadly for Xu I think that fight will take place in the UK and judging in the UK, against British fighters, has become a joke in recent years. Especially against a popular fighter, like Warrington.
I think we’ll see Xu and Warrington put on a brilliant fight. A truly sensational battle. But I see judges marring the bout by giving a controversial decision to Warrington and Xu losing his title in very debatable fashion."
Takahiro: “I am sad to say I think it will be my countryman Ryosuke Iwasa, who will lose his title this year. The IBF “interim” Super Bantamweight title will likely not be around his waist at the end of 2021. I think he will have to fight Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and will lose in that bout to the very, very good Uzbek fighter.
I think Iwasa will put up a better effort against “Kaka” than he did against TJ Doheny, when he lost the full version of the title, but I think the Uzbek is too good, too strong, too powerful and too hungry for “Eagle Eye”. I like Iwasa, a lot, but I think he has too many problems with fighting southpaws, and that will show against the WBA “Super” and IBF champion. It will be a fantastic fight. And Iwasa has a punchers chance. But I think he loses a very wide decision. Maybe a late stoppage.
My guess. Ryosuke Iwasa (IBF “interim” Super Bantamweight champion)”
Scott: “This sport can be a funny one at times and we see long reigning champions being knocked off their perch when they look well set, we saw that last year with Wanheng Menayothin and Deontay Wilder. I think we’ll see something like that happen again in 2021, and for me the easy pick here is WBA “super” Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart.
I’ve felt for a while that Knockout has been happy to go through the motions at times and that his reign really isn’t that secure. He looked good last time out, beating Norihito Tanaka, but he has often under-whelmed and been a bit lucky against fighters who aren’t really world class. I thought he was fortunate against ArAr Andales, I think he under-performed against Toto Landero, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Byron Rojas and Carlos Buitrago.
He’s supposed to fight in May, more than a year after his last bout, and fighters are circling around his WBA title, with the likes of Jose Argumedo, Byron Rojas, Vic Saludar and Robert Paradero all wanting a shot at the belt. There’s also the likes of Hasanboy Dusmatov, Ginjiro Shigeoka, Jing Xiang all wanting a crack at a title this year. There’s a lot of sharks circling around Knockout, and I suspect a good offer to make him travel will be made, and we’ll see the 30 year old have the title taken away before the end of 2021.”
The Flyweight division has long been one of the most interesting to follow and the winners of the Japanese Rookie of the Year at Flyweight often end up having some of the most promising and exciting careers, with Junto Nakatani being a particularly notable recent example. Someone looking to add their name to the long list of All Japan Rookie of the Year Flyweight champions is 24 year old Misako Gym hopeful Akira Hoshuyama (4-0, 2), who returns to the ring February 21st in his all Japan final.
Given his unbeaten professional record, his place in the All Japan final, and his journey to the final we thought Hoshuyama was a great fighter to cover in this week’s “Introducing…”, especially with this being a chance for fans to open their eyes to someone who really worth getting to know before his next bout.
Unlike many fighters we discuss in this series Hoshuyama wasn’t a former amateur standout. In fact he went 7-6 in the unpaid ranks, and even described himself as a “loser” last year when discussing his days as an amateur. Despite his limited record in the unpaid ranks he wanted to be a professional fighter, and it seemed like he was aware that the two were different when he began his professional journey in 2019.
When Hoshuyama turned professional he did so at the Gushiken Shirai Sports Gym, run by the legendary Yoko Gushiken.
It was under the iconic Gushiken that Hoshuyama made his debut in October 2019, and he would score a 2nd round TKO win over Kotaro Usuzawa, kicking off his professional career in style. In the first round Hoshuyama dropped his man, with a solid left hand, and was then in trouble in round 2, forcing Usuzawa’s team to save their man, who had no answer for the clean left hands and brilliant right hooks of the talented Hoshuyama.
Around 3 months after his debut Hoshuyama returned to the ring for his second fight, where he took on Korean foe Geon Kim, in the very first Japanese bout of 2020. From the off it was clear that Hoshuyama was no normal prospect, and he certainly didn’t look like a man who had gone 7-6 in the amateurs. He looked sharp, showed some lovely movement, and looked like a natural in the ring. There were flaws, and it was clear he lacked experience, but it was clear that he knew what he was doing in the ring. Kim on the other hand looked very crude, and ate numerous straight left hands down the pipe. The clean headshots from Hoshuyama beat the fight out of Kim until the referee was forced to step in and wave off the bout.
Sadly the bout with Kim would be Hoshuyama’s final one under the guidance of the Shirai Gushiken Gym, with the gym closing its doors a few months later. By that point however the youngster had been given the “Gushiken II” moniker by some of those in Japan.
When Hoshuyama returned to the ring, almost 8 months later, he was now a Misako gym fighter, and he made his Misako Gym debut in an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout against the then unbeaten Shoji Matsumoto (3-0-1, 1), on September 6th 2020. Through the bout Hoshuyama dictated the tempo and distance of the fight. Early on he established control of the center of the ring and showcased his crisp, sharp jab, as well as his solid left hand. As the bout went on his gameplan began to change and in the later stages he allowed Matsumoto to come to him, and landed some solid uppercuts as Matsumoto began to get desperate, and chase the bout. By the end of 4 rounds Hoshuyama had won pretty much every minute of every round, and took the decision with scores of 40-36 from all 3 judges.
Having booked his place in the next round of the Rookie of the Year Hoshuyama sadly had to wait for his next bout, and didn’t fight again until the East Japan Rookie of the Year final where he took on the dangerous Shugo Namura (then 4-0, 4). On paper this looked like a really tough test for Hoshuyama, and his first bout against a puncher. Early on he showed respect to Namura but established his southpaw jab at range and tied up Namura up close, frustrating his aggressive and heavy handed foe. Late in the opening round Hosuyama dropped his man and secured a 10-8 round. From there on Hoshuyama seemed to always look relaxed and in control against the very lively, but inaccurate, Namura. To his credit Namura continually tried to force the action, but his aggression was often crude and ineffective whilst Hoshuyama fought a more intelligent, and educated fight. After 4 rounds Hoshuyama was the run-away winner with all 3 judges scoring the bout 40-35 in his favour, despite the relentless effort of Namura. This booked Hsouyama a place in the All Japan final.
For those wanting to watch this bout we've included it below.
Although certainly not the biggest puncher, most physically intimidating or quickest fighter out there, there is a lot to like with Hoshuyama. He looks like he takes a good shot, has a very sneaky left hand, looks like someone who is full of energy and he’s also one of the few Japanese fighters who really seems to be willing to smother, hold and stall. It’s a skill we rarely see from Japanese fighters but Hoshuyama uses clinching well to take the steam off his opponents.
In the All Japan final, which will be shown live on G+, Hoshuyama will be up against 20 year old Yasuhiro Kanzaki (6-1, 2) over 5 rounds. A win there will help set Hoshuyama well on the way to bigger and better things, though once again he’s in with a decent opponent, and this is not a gimme for the unbeaten 24 year old.
Despite turning professional with an unflattering record, credit goes to Hoshuyama for rebuilding his boxing and adapting to the professional ranks, where he is now on the verge of winning Rookie of the Year. If he manages that then bigger and better things could well be on the horizon for the youngster who is already showing plenty of promise.
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