This weekend a lot of focus will be on Uzbekistan, thanks to a monster card from Matchroom. Among the many notable fighters on that show will be amateur standout Ikboljon Kholdarov (0-0), who makes his long awaited professional debut. As with many top Uzbek fighters who have turned to the professional ranks, the expectation on Kholdarov is huge, in fact there's a very real chance that he could be the best of the bunch. With that in mind we'd though we'd take the opportunity this week to introduce the 24 year old southpaw hopeful
Born in Andijan, in the East of Uzbekistan, in 1997 Kholdarov has been on the radar of fans who follow amateur boxing for the better part of a decade, and not without reason. In fact he's long been regarded as one of the best young fighters in not just Uzbekistan but world boxing.
The major sign that he was something special came in April 2013 at the Asian Junior Championships, in Kazakhstan. In that tournament he reached the semi-final, where he lost to local favourite Abylaykhan Zhusupov, who later went on to win gold. A few months later he appeared at the World Junior Championships, losing in his first bout to eventual bronze medal winner Henry Lebron. Later that same year he managed to claim first place at the Uzbekistan Youth National Cup, ending the year on a bit of a high.
Following a solid 2013 Kholdarov kicked off 2014 at the Asian Youth Championships, losing early in the competition to Sultan Zaurbek. He had much more success at the AIBA Youth World Championships in Bulgari a few months later, before running into Kazakh nemesis Abylaykhan Zhusupov in the semi final, with Zhusupov going on to win gold a day later. In December, at the Agalarov Youth Memorial in Azerbaijan, Kholdarov finally took first place at an international tournament, albeit a low profile one.
Sadly for Kholdarov things cooled off on the international front in 2015 but in 2016 things would go better for him. He would win the Karakozy Abdaliyev Memorial and come runner up at the Uzbek National Championships, losing in the final to Elnur Abduraimov.
Despite having been on the international stage for a few years, and making solid waves, it still seemed there was unrealised potential with Kholdarov. That changed, in a big way, in 2017 as he shone. In April that year he won the gold medal at the Asian Championships, at home in Uzbekistan, beating Battarsukh Chinzorig of Mongolia in the final. That gold medal was followed up a few months later by a silver at the World Championships in Germany, where he lost to Cuban Andy Ruiz in the final, and a silver at the World Cup of Petroleum Countries in Russia, losing in the final to local favourite Grigoriy Lizunenko.
It's fair to say that 2017 was a year that established Kholdarov as a top, top amateur and he built on it further in 2018 when he won gold at the Asian Games in Indonesia, beating Daisuke Narimatsu in the semi final and Battarsukh Chinzorig in the final. At the end of the year he also won silver at the Uzbek championships, where he moved up in weight and ended up facing Bobo-Usmon Boturov in the final, losing a very competitive decision.
As well as his amateur success Kholdarov also competed in the WSB, albeit with mixed success. He was unfortunate to face Andy Cruz, who beat him twice, but he did manage to pick up wins as well and it seems his WSB record was 2-2.
Despite having a lot of success in the amateurs Kholdarov's style always seemed like it would be more suited to the professional ranks. He's not a fighter with a tippy-tappy style. Instead he's aggressive, he fights with flamboyance and excitement in his work, he throws combinations and comes forward. He's somewhat similar in style to many of the rising Uzbek fighters, such as Israil Madrimov and Shakhram Giyasov, in the way he presses the action forward, moved throw the levels and is happy to let shots fly. He's also happy to drop his hands and try to draw opponents into a fight.
Given his success in the unpaid ranks, and his pro-like style, and the Uzbek nationality, we're expecting to see Kholdarov moved incredibly quickly. He looks like he has the tools to be fast tracked into the top 15/20 of the Welterweight rankings within a year or two and could well be banging on the door of a world title fight by the end of 2024, if he focuses on the professional scene.
Notably his debut bout is set to be a pretty one, as he takes on the skilled, but light punching, Volodymyr Hordiienko of Ukraine this coming weekend. Although not a baptism of fire it's a very solid debut and should give us a good glimpse of what the young Uzbek can do in the ring.
The past few months have, sadly, been rather quite on the boxing front, at least compared to pre-pandemic times. Despite that it does feel like April is going to be a truly stacked month of action with more fights of note than we've seen all year. Genuinely this coming month is set to be massive, with every type of fight we could hope for! With that in mind lets take a look at what's to come in the early part of the month.
Humo Arena, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6) vs Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
The big fight to kick the month off will see IBF and WBA "Super" Super Bantamweight champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev defending his titles against IBF "interim" champion Ryosuke Iwasa in a highly anticipated bout that would have taken place last year were it not for Covid19. For Akhmaaliev it's his first bout since winning the titles from Daniel Roman in a sensational 2020 bout whilst Iwasa has been out of the ring since beating Marlon Tapales in 2019. The Super Bantamweight division is a criminally slept on one right now, and the winner of this will be in the mix for some brilliant match ups later in the year. For this bout we suspect the strength and technical ability of Akhmadaliev will be up against the power of Iwasa, and we should get something a bit special.
Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5) vs Emmany Kalombo (14-0, 14)
Talking about special it's fair to say that Israil Madrimov might be a bit special, and he gets a chance to show what he can do on this show as he takes on the unbeaten Emmany Kalomobo. The talented Madrimov has been touted as a future world champion since making his debut but showed some cracks last time out. We're expecting a really big performance from him here. Saying that howeber Kalombo will not have travelled from South Africa to Uzbekistan to hand over his unbeaten record and he should be regarded as a live opponent here.
Shakhram Giyasov (10-0, 8) vs Patricio Lopez Moreno (28-4, 20)
Another hotly tipped Uzbek is Shakram Giyasov, who took a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics. He has looked hot and cold at times as a professional, though it appears when he's on song he is an incredible talent with a bright future. We suspect to see him at his very best here, as he takes the chance to impress his countryman. In the opposite corner is highly experienced Mexican Patricio Lopez Moreno, who is no push over, and went 12 rounds with Denys Berinchyk in 2019. Moreno has the tools to test Giyasov, but we are, as mentioned, expecting something impressive from the unbeaten Uzbek.
Hasanboy Dusmatov (2-0, 2) vs Muhsin Kizota (11-2, 5)
Whilst there is a lot of press regarding Madrimov and Giyasov, who have both fought on DAZN before, the Uzbek that really could steal the show is Hasanboy Dusmatov, another Olmypic champion and a man who is wanting to fight for a world title sooner rather than later. The excellent Dusmatov has gone through his first 2 professional bouts without much attention, picking up very easy wins. Here we expect to see him taking on his toughest test so far as he battles Tanzanian fighter Muhsin Kizota. Dusmatov is a very, very special fighter, and needs to move his career quickly to real the heights his potential deserves and we suspect an impressive win here will see his team look to secure a world title fight in 2021. Kizota Kizota's record lacks in terms of quality, but it is worth noting that he went 7 rounds with Sivenathi Nontshinga, and we suspect that Dusmatov will try to take him out quicker than that.
Also on this show are exciting prospects Bakhodir Jalolov (7-0, 7), Elnur Abduraimov (7-0, 6), Sanjar Tursunov (2-0, 1) and the debuting pair of Ikboljon Kholdarov (0-0) and Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov (0-0).
Round 10 Boxing Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) vs Pablo Carrillo (25-7-1, 16)
The long awaited ring return of Donnie Nietes, who hasn't fought since the final day of 2018, takes place this month as he clashes with Colombian veteran Pablo Carillo. The excellent Nietes, a 4 weight world champion who's only loss needs a giant "*" next to it, is looking to secure a career defining fight before finally hanging them up. Carrillo shouldn't pose a threat to Nietes, if Nietes is half the fighter he was, but with such a long lay off it's going to be very interesting to see how Nietes looks here.
Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17) Vs Tyrone McKenna (21-2-1, 6)
Unbeaten Kazakh fighter Zhankosh Turarov looks to make a big step up in class as he takes on Tyrone McKenna in what looks like a very good match up. Turarov has been touted for a while, but had a very, very stop start career, plagued by injuries and inactivity. Dubbed "Da Kazakh Kid" he is now 30 and it's do or die time for his career, which has seen him fighting as a pro since 2009! His opponent will be Northern Irishman Tyrone McKenna, who will be incredibly hungry to take a win here, and bounce back from a controversial 2020 loss to Ohara Davies. Although not a marquee fight by any stretch, this should be a hotly contested one, and a bout that sees both men in the ring to win.
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (2-0, 1) Vs Heber Rondon (20-0, 13)
Another unbeaten Kazakh in action is professional novice Tursynbay Kulakhmet, who will be looking to defend his WBC International title for the first time as he takes on the unbeaten Heber Rondon. On paper this looks a really good match up and a good chance to Kulakhmet to show what he can against a solid looking opponent. Although he is being fast tracked there are plenty of areas for Kulakhmet to work and we'd love to see a more polished performance from him here, after a bit of flawed showing last time out. As for Rondon, an unbeaten Venezuelan, this will be his first bout away from home, an is a very steep step up in class. Rondon could be a bit of a surprise fighter here, though we suspect Kualkhmet will have far too much for him.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Nawaphon Por Chokchai (50-1-1, 40) Vs Sophon Klachun (5-5-1, 1)
Former world title challenger Nawaphon Por Chokchai was hoping to land a WBC title fight in March, tough Covid19 restrictions in France saw that bout collapse. As a result he's now set for a stay busy fight in April as he takes on Sophon Klachun. Ranked #2 by the WBC, in some of the strangest rankings we've seen, Nawaphon is edging towards a second world title fight and really should just be focusing on shaking some ring rust here.
Sakai City Industrial Promotion Center, Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Kaori Nagai (5-2-3, 2) Vs Natsuki Tarui (4-6-2)
JBC Atomweight champion Kaori Nagai will make her first defense of her title as she takes on Natsuki Tarui. On paper this looks a very low level title fight, but in reality the styles of the two should gel really well and we're expecting a fantastic, high tempo bout here. Nagai is in really good form, having won her last 4, and gone unbeaten in her last 8, but Tarui is also much better than her record suggests and is 3-1-1in her last 5. This should be a very good bout.
Sakai City Industrial Promotion Center, Sakai, Osaka, Japan
Tenkai Tsunami (27-12-1, 16) Vs Shione Ogata (11-6-1, 3)
A second Japanese female fighter defending her title on April 4th is WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami, who takes on the under-rated Shione Ogata in a solid, if unspectacular, match up. The highly experienced Tsunami 36 and has been a professional since 2005, mixing against many of the best in the world, and is going through one of the best runs of her career. Ogata on the other hand is taking a big step up here, unbeaten in her last 5 and won the WBA Asia, WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF female Light Flyweight titles in her last 4 bouts. This really should be a very, very entertaining clash of styles and a hotly contested 10 rounder.
When we talk about the most successful Japanese fighters of all time it's hard to deny that former WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20) deserves to be in the conversation. He was one of the longest reigning Japanese champions in history, he managed to notch up numerous notable defenses during his long and successful career. Between 2010 and 2016 he was one of the most important men to Japanese boxing, one of the true standouts for the country and for the Super Featherweight division.
Despite being a major star at home things never worked out for Uchiyama when it came to fighting abroad, despite talks taking place to get him to fight in the US. As a result many fans who don't follow the sport closely, and don't go out of their way to watch international boxing, missed out on Uchiyama, his career, his reign and his significance to Japanese boxing.
With that in mind we've decided to take a look back over Uchiyama's career and bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Takashi Uchiyama.
1-Juan Carlos Salgado (January 11th 2010)
After turning professional in 2006, following a very solid amateur career, Uchiyama quietly climbed through the ranks in his first 13 bouts, going 13-0 (10). Up to that point he hadn't done too much, with his biggest win being his 2007 KO win over Nedal Hussein, to claim the OPBF title that he defended 5 times. That all changed in 2010 when he took on unbeaten Mexican Juan Carlos Salgado, who had won his title in a huge upset win over Jorge Linares in 2009.
Salgado was looking to make his first defense and was taking on the unbeaten, but unknown, Uchiyama. On paper this seemed like an interesting one, but given how Salgado had taken care of Linares there was some feeling that he could well be something a bit special. Sadly for Salgado it turned out that it was Uchiyama who was a bit special, with the talented Japanese fighter controlling the bout behind his technical boxing and solid power, before closing the show in the 12th round to claim the WBA title to begin his legendary world title reign. This win helped put Uchiyama on the map and at the age of 30 was one he needed if he was ever going to be anything in the sport.
2-Takashi Miura (January 31st 2011)
Despite being 30 when he won the WBA title Uchiyama’s reign began in less than great fashion and his first two defenses were relatively meaningless. The first was against Angel Granados, a physical freak but a limited fighter, and the second was against Roy Mukhlis, who began to rack up losses after losing to Uchiyama. Thankfully in his third defense Uchiyama finally faced someone who would become more than just a footnote in the boxing history books. Instead of taking on some foreign opponent, again, who went on to do nothing, he instead took on fellow Japanese fighter Takashi Miura. This would be Uchiyama’s first bout against a Japanese fight since 2008 and would prove to be one of his most important wins.
The bout saw the heavy handed Miura, a former Japanese national champion, show how dangerous he was, dropping Uchiyama in round 3. Uchiyama would bounce back from that knockdown to break down Miura, leaving the challenger with a badly swollen face that forced him to be stopped after 8 rounds. This was a win that boost Uchiyama’s standing in the sport a few years later, when Miura himself would claim the WBC title, and become a very notable name himself. This win aged marvellously for Uchiyama, and it also helped Miura, who ended up moving over to the Teiken soon after this bout, and being given better training and better opportunities himself, despite losing. This was a rare win-win for the fighters involved. It’s just a shame we never got the much hoped for rematch when both men were champions.
3-Bryan Vasquez (December 31st 2012)
Following his win over Miura we saw Uchiyama take on some other notable names, including Jorge Solis, who he beat at the end of 2011. Exactly 1 year after that win Uchiyama scored another win that aged well, and that was an 8th round TKO win over Costa Rican foe Bryan Vasquez.
“El Tiquito”, as he was known, was 29-0 at the time and was a promising youngster who seemed to have plenty about him, but was stepping up massively. He gave a solid effort against Uchiyama before being stopped. At the time it seemed like another typical defense for Uchiyama. One that might look good on paper but mean little afterwards, much like his wins against Mukhlis and Solis. Instead however Vasquez went on to have a very credible career of his own, claiming the WBA “interim” Super Featherweight title, beating the likes of Rene Gonzalez and Sergio Thompson, and giving really serious tests to Javier Fortuna, Raymundo Beltran and Felix Verdejo. Amazingly Uchiyama was the only man to stop him, despite the opponents he later faced.
4-Daiki Kaneko (December 31st 2013)
A focus of this series isn’t the “biggest” wins for the fighter but the most “significant” and there are few fights on Uchiyama’s record as significant as his 2013 bout against fellow Japanese fighter Daiki Kaneko. The bout was regarded by those in Japan as Japan’s version of Carl Froch Vs George Groves, with the vertan champion taking on the young upstart. The old lion looking to remain the king of the table. The bout ended up not with Uchiyama winning, but also as a genuine instant classic. It was high level technical boxing for the most part, but then there was drama late on, with Uchiyama being dropped, being hurt, needing to dig deep and needing to take the fight back to Kaneko. It was fantastic to watch and was expected to lead to Kaneko becoming a key contender in the division, especially given the very good performance he gave here.
Sadly the bout was the start of the end. For both men. Uchiyama was 34 when he scored this win, and he would fight for the final just 3 years later. Kaneko on the other hand would fight on until 2017, but went 9-3 after this and never managed to get another world title fight, sadly. Rather notably this was the only time Uchiyama won a decision in a world title bout, proving he had the stamina, the heart, the determination and the skills to alongside his brutal power.
5-Jomthong Chuwatana (May 6th 2015)
By the start of 2015 Uchiyama was still the WBA Super Featherweight champion, but was becoming an old man. He was still very much one of the best Super Featherweights on the planet, but it seemed like his reign would end sooner or later. Entering his bout with unbeaten Thai Jomthong Chuwatana some, including ourselves, expected Uchiyama to struggle. He was old, and slowing, with injuries piling up. Jomthong on the other hand was a Muay Thai standout, with a rock solid chin, a talented and technical southpaw, and a man who had been battle hardened in Muay Thai before heading to professional boxing and claiming the OPBF title. Coming into this one he had beaten Daiki Kaneko just a few months earlier and seemed a very, very live under-dog.
In the ring we were expecting a solid test for the champion. Instead Uchiyama cleaned out Jomthong in round 2, taking out the tough Thai. Uchiyama knocked him clean out. This was, in many ways, Uchiyama’s final big win. He would defend the belt once more, stopping Oliver Flores, before losing the title in 2016 to Jezzrel Corrales and then losing in a rematch to Corrales, at the end of 2016, and retiring in 2017.
"Who... from the history of the Light Flyweight division, would you have liked to have seen fighting today?"
Last week we looked at which fighters during the history of the Super Flyweight division we would have loved to have plonked into today's boxing scene.
The idea was a fun one, and we came across a number of interesting answers as we looked at some of the legends of the divisions. This week we're doing a similar idea though moving down the scales to 108lbs, to answer a very similar question.
"Who... from the history of the Light Flyweight division, would you have liked to have seen fighting today?"
Lee: "There are two obvious choices for me, and I can't split them. Jung Koo Chang and Myung Woo Yuh.
Of the two men I think Chang was the better fighter, the more exciting, and the more skilled. Him in today's boxing scene against the likes of Hiroto Kyoguchi, Felix Alvarado, Kenshiro Teraji, Elwin Soto and Carlos Canizales would have provided a lot of amazing action. So many thrilling fights. Sadly however I think Chang would have been a short term fighter in any era. He famously retired when he was just 25, and whilst I think his career would have been prolonged in today's boxing world, with fewer fights per year, his out of the ring activities would have caught up with him.
Yuh on the other hand was the longer term option. He still looked really good in his later bouts, and had a more serious professional side to him. His style would have also gelled amazingly with the modern day guys and I think he would have faced more of the top guys than Chang and he would have travelled for more of the big fights. Neither man was a huge fan of using their passport, but I see Yuh as the type of fighter who would have gotten on board with DAZN more than Chang.
Either man in today's world would have been amazing. I'd have loved to have had either in this golden era of Light Flyweights".
Takahiro: "Yoko Gushiken. There is no other answer for me, Yoko Gushiken. I think Gushiken wouldn't have been able to have such a long reign in today's world but I think he would have been less active, wouldn't have burned out as quickly as he did and would have hada much longer career had he been around now. He would also have been able to fight some amazing fighters.
One of Yoko's biggest issues was he came along with the division was too new. There wasn't enough top fighters in the division in the 1970's for him to beat a lot of amazing fighters and this was a shame. If he fought today he would have suitable opponents, big name fights, and his style would have been so good to watch. Sign me up for Yoko Gushiken Vs Sho Kimura!
Easy answer. Yoko Gushiken."
Scott: "I'm going in a slightly different direction to the other two guys. They have both selected legends, and are looking at the world title picture. I'm instead going to go with Yo Sam Choi. If Choi was still fighting Korean boxing would still be relevant, and Choi wouldn't have passed away in the sad way that he did.
Choi isn't "legend" like like Chang, Yuh and Gushiken, but he was one of the last fighters who cared about Korean boxing, and one of the nations last shining lights in the sport. I would have loved for him to have been around now, for him to have been relevant in 2020, and for him to be given opportunities to showcase his skills in the US. I don't think he would have held his own with the top fighters of today, but he would have been great on the Oriental title level, and as a regular contender knocking on the door at the top.
Also I genuinely don't imagine the various medical issues that cost Choi his life being repeated in 2020.
I would have love Korean boxing to be big now, and Choi would have been ideal. His backers seemed to fail him so often that I think he would have travelled willingly and flown the Korean flag around the world. He would have been the figure head for Korean boxing now."
Back on January 16th we saw the professional debut of Flyweight hopeful Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1), who instantly impressed us as he blew out Daisuke Yamada in the first round of a scheduled 6 rounder. Following that win we got really excited about him, and only days later it was announced that the 23 year old would be back in the ring in May for his second professional bout. With that in mind we felt it was a perfect time to give Iimura some attention in our “Introducing…” series, and explain why you should be excited about him, and what the youngster brings to the ring.
Iimura was born in Edogawa, Tokyo, one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, in January 1998. He picked up boxing at a young age, first taking to the sport in elementary school, and was getting some media attention way back as a teenager. That included attention he got in 2015, when he competed at the 69th National High School Boxing Championships in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo. In that competition he reached the semi-final of the Light Flyweight division, losing a decision to Ryutaro Nakagaki who is now making waves as a professional himself.
Following his impressive performances in the High School tournaments Iimura went to university and was quickly noted as a potential boxing star. In 2016 he won his first bout as part of the Nihon University team and in the years that followed he would go on to become the team captain, and a vital member of the team, for both his leadership and his in ring performances.
Not only was Iimura impressive on the University Boxing scene but also in his other performances, including the All Japan championships. He unfortunately ran into nemesis Ryutaro Nakagaki at the 2017 edition of the tournament, losing a close 3-2 decision. He bounced back the following year as he came runner up in the 2018 National Athletic Meet, and continued to impress for the Nihon University team.
After helping Nihon University to a several league titles Iimura had options in front of him, and in 2020 signed with Kadoebi, alongside fellow amateur standouts Jun Ikegawa and Yugo Kon, with all three passing their pro-tests in September, after a lengthy wait.
By the time he had taken part in his pro-test Iimura had racked up a very, very impressive 68-13 amateur record and it was clear that when he got round to making his professional debut there was going to be genuine intrigue into how he would adapt to professional boxing. Sadly, given he signed with Kadoebi in early 2020, the wait to see what Iimura could do was a long one. That was, in part, due to Covid19. Despite the effects of Covid19 delaying Iimura’s debut fans were able to see what Iimura could do in October, when he took part in an exhibition with the aforementioned Jun Ikegawa During this exhibition both men looked really good, and very exciting talented. Of the two it was Iimura who seemed to have the more polished professional style, pressing forward with educated pressure and showing a polished in ring style. Something very different to the still very amateur like Ikegawa, who was also the much bigger man.
In January we finally got the chance to see what the fuss with Iimura was about, as the youngster came out to the ring in a Sombrero and almost a year after signing with Kadoebi we got Iimura’s debut.
From the very early seconds of the bout you could see he was very much a professional style fighter. He stalked Daisuke Yamada around the ring, before dropping him with a perfectly timed right hand for the first knockdown. Yamada beat the count but Iimura dropped him a second time soon afterwards, forcing the referee to halt the bout, before Yamada was later stretchered from the ring.
Although it’s very, very early in his career it’s obvious that Iimura is a genuine talent. It’s going to be great to see how far he can go and how quickly he can get there. Given he’s at the Kadoebi gym he will be getting top notch sparring, a chance to learn from much older and more experienced heads and will get the chance to tweak his style, though in fairness he really does look like a very good professional boxer.
In his second professional bout Iimura will be facing off with Tomoki Kawasaki, himself a debutant who had a successful amateur career, with their bout set to take place in May. Although it’s a 1-0 (1) fighter taking on a debutant it’s a bout we are really, really looking forward to and think it’ll be a great chance to see what two, talented, youngsters have got to offer the sport. The winner will be moved quickly through the ranks, and the loser will have a lot of time to rebuild and get their career back on track. In a bout like this, neither guy should be written, win or lose.
For those that missed it we’ve included Iimura’s debut bout with Yamada below.
Whilst March has been a busy month, it ends in amazing fashion with a lot of activity crammed into the last week or so of the month. The action isn't high profile stuff, by any stretch, but we will see a lot of exciting and talented prospects in action and we should end up seeing a lot of quality youngsters looking to show what they can do.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Gonte Lee (2-0-1, 1) Vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6)
On March 25th Teiken will be putting on a show, with several talented and unbeaten fighters in action. Arguably the pick of the match ups on the show will see the unbeaten Gonte Lee take on his first domestic foe and return to the ring after more than a year of inactivity. In the opposite corner will be the always fun to watch Aso Ishiwaki, who will be looking to return to winning ways after a shocking blow out loss to Jin Sasaki at the end of 2020. Give that both men have a lot to prove here we expect a really good bout, and given the styles of the two men we could end up with a very compelling match up.
Katsuya Fukui (2-0, 2) Vs Hiroki Hanabusa (8-1-3, 3)
Another unbeaten Japanese hopeful facing his first domestic foe is Katsuya Fukui, who goes up against the once beaten Hiroki Hanabusa. Fukui has impressed so far, but has only had 4 combined rounds in his career and this is a major step up for him. Saying that however he is regarded as a top prospect and was a good former amateur, who will be looking to get his career back on track after 2020, a year in which he was left out of the ring, twiddling his thumbs. Hanabusa on the other hand went unbeaten in his first 11 before suffering a TKO loss to the brilliabt Toshiki Shimomachi last year, in a Japanese Youth title fight. Hanabusa will be wanting to bounce back from that loss and is a very serious test for Fukui.
Kenji Fujita (0-0) Vs Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1)
In a very easy to over-look bout on this show we'll see former amateur standout Kenji Fujita make his long awaited professional debut, as he takes on the under-rated Motosuke Kimura. On paper this shouldn't be a test for Fujita, who really was an excellent amateur, however Kimura has proven, more than once, that he has the tools to test touted prospects. Just last year we saw Kimura put Shigetoshi Kotari on his backside, and he has also managed to run Hikari Mineta very close. This is a much, much tougher debut than it looks on paper, and should be a very solid test for Fujita.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (16-0, 9) vs Lunga Sitemela (13-0, 7)
Unbeaten Tajik Super Featherweight hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov will be looking to make the next defense of his WBC International Super Featherweight title as he goes up against South African challenger Lunga Sitemela. On paper this is a brilliant match up, and one to get genuine excited by, with the records suggesting a genuine test for Yaqubov. Sadly we don't think the bout will be as good as it looks, with Sitemela having a rather padded record, but it's always good to see unbeaten fighters risking their records against each other, and Yaqubov is certainly someone to keep an eye on regardless.
Erzhan Turgumbekov (8-1-1, 2) vs Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev (7-2-1, 3)
The once beaten Erzhan Turgumbekov, from Kyrgyzstan, looks to bounce back from a TKO loss to the sensational Albert Batyrgaziev, as he takes on Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev in a very nicely matched bout. Turgumbekov showed good skills and heart in his loss, but was broken down after 10 rounds by Batyrgaziev, who looks like a future world champion, and we suspect his style should make for a fun to watch bout here against Gadzhialiev, from Russia. Notably Gadzhialiev is 1-2-1 in his last 4, but the 3 bouts he didn't win were all very close and we expect this to be another close one. This might be the hidden gem of the weekend.
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1) vs Junuel Lacar (8-6-3, 6)
After more than 2 years out of the ring we finally see the ring return of former world title contender Mark Anthony Barriga. The brilliantly talented Filipino is a true joy to watch and the boxing purists will love everything he does in the ring. Sadly though he has been out of action since a 2018 loss to Carlos Licona. Given the long break from the ring we can't really complain about him having an easy return here, and he really is in soft as he goes up against the very limited Junuel Lacar, who has lost 5 of his last 6.
Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) vs Bryan Tamayo (6-1-2, 2)
Another former world title challenger returning to the ring after a lengthy lay off is Arthur Villanueva, who takes on the once beaten Bryan Tamayo. "King" Arthur was once regarded as a talented Filipino who had the skills to go all the way. Sadly he has failed in his biggest fights and now has just 2 wins in the last 4 years. He needs an impressive showing here. Tamayo on the other hand is a rising 23 year old hopeful looking for his biggest win. This might be a case of "right place, right time" for Tamayo.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-7, 41)
Fast rising 17 year old prospect Phoobadin Yoohanngoh takes his next step forward as he battled against Thai veteran Conlatarn Piriyapinyo, who is more than twice Phoobadin's age. The talented teenager has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, winning "The Fighter" in 2019, then winning a regional title in 2020, which he has since defended with an excellent win against Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, and we could be just a year or two from him really breaking out. Chonlatarn on the other hand has become a faded force and is a long, long way from the fighter who was once 43-0. Despite being a faded force Chonlatarn is a former multi-time world title challenger and should have some tricks up his sleeve to test Phoobadin with.
Tanes Ongjunta (7-1, 4) vs Suriyan Satorn (61-11, 41) (AKA Kompayak Porpramook)
Talented former Thai amateur standout Tanes Ongjunta was shocked last year when he ran into an inspired Adrian Lerasan in March. Since then he has reeled off 3 low key wins and now takes a massive step up in class to face former world champion Suriyan Satorn, better known as Kompayak Porpramook. We've been impressed by the natural boxing of Ongjunta, but the loss last year does leave us with worries about his durability and he really did take a lot of punishment there. As for Suriyan, he's very, very much a faded fighter and he has been picking up a lot of losses in recent years, and is 2-6 in his last 8. Despite being a faded force the veteran always comes to fight and should put in a legitimate effort here, though we suspect he will come up short.
Central Gym, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Shun Kubo (14-2, 9) Vs Ruito Saeki (7-4-1, 1)
Former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo has gone through a few horrible years with his career, being battered by Daniel Roman and Can Xu, as well as suffering injuries, but he seems determined to get his career back on track and is after some confidence building wins. Here he's up against the under-rated and determined Reuito Saeki, who looks to return to winning ways after going 0-3-1 in his last 4. On paper this looks a bit like a mismatch, but the style of Saeki will almost certainly be a nightmare for the skilled but fragile Kubo and this could end up being a lot, lot more competitive than it looks on paper.
Takahiro Tai (1-0, 1) Vs Koichi Wakita (7-2-3, 2)
Charismatic prospect Takahiro Tai returns for his second professional bout after an eye catching and very fan friendly debut late last year. In the opposite corner is credible domestic fighter Koichi Wakita, who will not want to be embarrassed by the young upstart. For those who missed Tai's debut it was full of show boating, dropping hands and stance switching as he tried to show off just some of the tricks in his bag. Whilst it was against an over-matched foe we suspect the style he showed is the one we'll see from him a lot over the coming years. Whilst Wakita probably lacks the power to be a real dangerman here, he does have the skills and experience to punish Tai's slip ups and this could end up being a real learning experience for the youngster.
When we discuss some of the unluckiest fighters in history the name of Kiyoshi Tanabe (21-0-1, 5) needs to come up in conversation. The fighter had proven his ability at the 1960 Olympics, winning a bronze medal, and turned professional in 1963, debuting at the age of 23. He climbed through the rankings, despite his trainer leaving him to train Korean fighter Ki Soo Kim, and ended up on the verge of a world title fight before a detached retina forced his retirement. At that point in time he was still in his mid 20’s and had only recently begun working with legendary trainer Eddie Townsend.
Despite unfortunately ending his career as one of boxing’s biggest “what if’s?” of the 1960’s, and potentially even 1970’s, Tanabe still managed to have a solid professional career that included a number of solid wins. With that in mind let us bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Kiyoshi Tanabe.
1-Jet Parker (August 21st 1964)
Early in his career Tanabe had a number of very respectable wins, including victories over Katsuo Yachinuma and Eishiro Iwaya. For us however the first win of real note was his victory over Filipino fighter Jet Parker. Parker was only the second international opponent that Tanabe faced, coming just 11 days after he had beaten journeyman Leo Zulueta, and was a good, solid 10 round test for Tanabe against a very game fighter. Parker would later go on to win the Filipino Bantamweight title and notch several notable wins himself, including 2 against Bernabe Villacampo.
This was certainly a win that aged well, and put Tanabe in good stead going forward, and Parker was certainly no push over, boasting a 15-1-1 record coming into this bout, whilst Tanabe was 6-0.
2-Ric Magramo (August 8th 1965)
After notching some more solid wins over domestic talent, like Akashi Namekawa, eishiro Iwaya for a second time and Kenichi Iida it was clear that Tanabe deserved another good international opponent and that saw him take on the criminally underrated Filipino Endrikito Magramo, aka the original Ric Magramo. Prior facing Tanabe in 1965 Magramo had challenged twice for the OPBF title, had gone 10 rounds in the UK with Walter McGowan and 10 rounds with Hiroyuki Ebihara in Japan, and had won the Philippines Flyweight title. He was a solid competitor and asked questions of Tanabe, who took a 10 round decision win, as he had done over Parker a year earlier.
3-Akashi Namekawa II (October 25th 1965)
We mentioned Akashi Namekawa’s name a few moments ago and he was notably one of the biggest rivals for Tanabe, with the two men clashing 3 times. The first of those came in earlier 1985, when Namekawa was the Japanese Flyweight champion but the two men were clashing in a non title bout. The second, some 9 months later, was for the title and as with their first bout Tanabe took a decision over Namekawa, with Tanabe claiming his first, and only, title as a result. This win saw the unbeaten Tanabe move to 14-0 (5) and it seemed clear he was on the track to bigger and better things though there were question marks over his lack of stopping power.
4-Akashi Namekawa III (March 28th 1966)
In his first defense of the Japanese title Tanabe met with rival Akashi Namekawa for the third, and final, time. This time Tanabe had a point to prove, having gone the distance with Namekawa in the first 2 bouts between the men. Surprisingly Tanabe went on to stop Namekawa in the second round, ending a run of 4 decision wins. This was a definitive statement from Tanabe, and saw him stopping a man who had never been stopped before hand, and would never be stopped afterwards. In 38 bouts this was the only time Namekawa had been finished.
Interestingly this would be one of just 2 defenses of the Japanese Flyweight title by Tanabe, who suffered a draw in his second defense against Yuzo Narumi in October 1966.
5-Horacio Accavallo (February 20th 1967)
We suspect everyone who knows about Tanabe’s career knew what was going to be the fifth win here and that was his 1967 win over the then WBA Flyweight champion Horacio Accavallo from Argentina. The brilliant Accavallo had held the WBA title since beating Katsuyoshi Takayama for the then vacant title in 1966, and had defended it against Hiroyuki Ebihara and Efren Torres before facing the highly regarded Tanabe in a non-title bout. What was expected to be an interesting bout was not expected to be an absolute drubbing for the champion, who was stopped in round 6 after being given 2 counts and left a bloodied mess. The supposed light punching Tanabe, who had begun teaming with legendary trainer Eddie Townsend, had dominated the Argentinian great and became the first, and would be the only, man to stop Accavallo.
Not only was this first stoppage loss for Accavallo but it was only his second career loss, and the first since a decision loss to Salvatore Burruni in 1959. Following that loss Accavallo had gone 48 bouts without defeat.
Sadly after this bout issues with Tanabe’s eyes forced him to retire and saw him miss out on a rematch for the title. A rematch he would have been a huge favourite for given how one-sided this first bout between the men had been.
For this week's "Who..." article the boys behind Asianboxing.info are looking at a different type of question, and it's one concerning history, as they look at fighters they would have loved to have moved from the past, to today. It's a subject with a lot of possibilities, so they have had a limit put on the question, and have been told to stick to a single weight class this week.
With that in mind let's have a look at today's question:
"Who... would you like to take from the past and put in today's Super Flyweight division?"
The rules for this were set as a fighter who must be currently retired and must have made a mark at 115lbs. Whether the division was their best or not, they only needed to have made an impact there. For consideration was how they would match up with modern day fighters, and whether their styles would make for exciting bouts, or whether they could have success against modern day fighters.
They guys were also asked to keep it to Asian fighters for this particular "Who..." article.
Lee: "When I knew this question was coming up I was so happy as there was one man I had in mind and that was Sung Kil Moon! The Korean star of the late 1980's and early 1990's would have been amazing in this era of Super Flyweights. His pressure, aggression, power, physical strength and work rate would have made for brilliant bouts against the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Jerwin Ancajas and Kazuto Ioka. I don't think he would beat them all, but he would certainly want to fight them all.
Just imagine Moon Vs Srisaket or Gonzalez. There is no way we wouldn't get a fight of the year contender. We would also have a Korean fighter at the world stage and big fights may still be happening in Korea!
I might be biased, as Moon is one of my all time favourites, but I would have absolutely loved to have put him in today's era of Super Flyweights."
Takahiro: "The obvious answer I jumped to was Jiro Watanabe, but I had second thoughts. Jiro was brilliant, he was heavy handed, he was tough and he was skilled, but I think he wouldn't be as good today as he was back in the 1980's. And I don't think his bouts would be the best. Instead I will choose Khaosai Galaxy! I think Galaxy, in today's era would be a very interesting addition and a real chance to see if Galaxy was as good as his reputation.
Galaxy against fighters like Estrada, Gonzalez, Ioka and Ancajas would all be really interesting. I always thought it was unfortunate that Galaxy lacked a big rival, and he never fought Watanabe, and if he was around now he would have those rivals. I also think he would lose to a lot of top modern day fighters, but always have the power to turn the bout his way.
Technically he wasn't the best, but with his power, his toughness and his aura, I would love Khaosai Galaxy to fight in this era of Super Flyweights".
Scott: "I've always had a soft spot for Filipino fighter Gerry Penalosa, who was really unfortunate throughout much of his career. The "Fearless" one was as skilled as they come, with a brilliant boxing brain, good defense and good technical under-standing of the ring. I'd have loved for him to have come around 20 years after he did and put those skills up against the likes of Nietes Ioka, Estrada and Ancajas in technical matches, or seeing how he would try to deal with the pressure of Gonzalez and Srisaket, or the speed of Kosei Tanaka.
Whilst Penalosa wasn't the best or the most exciting fighter out there I think he would pose every fighter in the division today some really interesting questions. I suspect his lack of good luck would cost him more than once or twice, but he would remain in the mix for years and have the dance partners to bring the best out of him.
I suspect had Penalosa been around now he would have fit right into the mix and we would have seen a lot of him on things like DAZN where lower weight fighters are given chances to shine and I think his legacy would have been enhanced significantly as a result. It really is a shame he came along too soon for his own good and that was just one of many times luck betrayed him."
For this week's introducing we're focusing on a man who has a very high aim in mind and has had a history that saw him being punished as an amateur, and given a lengthy ban in Japan. Despite the ban the youngster in question is regarded as a very special fighter and was on our radar way back in 2019, when he planned to make his debut, before his plans fell apart. Despite the delay we want to introduce you to Narumi Yukawa (0-0), who is scheduled to debut on March 18th at Korakuen Hall in a 6 rounder.
Yukawa was born in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, in 1995 and it wasn't long until there was a buzz around his name following some impressive performances in the unpaid ranks. As an amateur he was developing reputation for himself as a charismatic and heavy handed fighter, with a good style, and managed to run up a 38-13 (22) record in the unpaid ranks.
Whilst that record isn't the best out out there, Yukawa was impressive and came third in a National Polity and 5th at the 2015 All Japan Championships in 2015, whilst fighting at Welterweight. It was clear he had the potential to do great things in the sport, though he was still a young man. And young men do stupid things.
In 2016, whilst part of the Nippon Sport Science University boxing team, Yukawa was caught in possession of cannabis, being caught with 7grams. He then fled when he was questioned by the police in Tokyo and was seen trying to dispose of the drugs. This lead him to serious legal issues, saw him drop out of University. Those legal issues saw him being given a suspended sentence of 3 years. That sentence essentially suspended from boxing during his punishment, which cost him years of his career.
During his suspension Yukawa apologised, made it clear that his had learned a lesson, and tried to get the punishment, which was excessive, to be reduced. That however didn't happen and instead the best he managed was to get permission to pass his pro-test in 2019, before the suspension was over, and he was allowed to train.
Yukawa was somewhat fortunate that Suruga Danji, of the Suruga Danji Boxing Gym in Shizuoka, believed in him, and in January 2019 a post on Danji's blog explained the siutation in regards to Yukawa's future. The key thing to note was that Yukawa was training, doing so harder than anyone else, and wanted a chance to prove himself, prove his ability and turn things around. Danji's blog went on to state "He made his own mistakes, accepted the price, and nevertheless clenched his teeth and worked harder than anyone else. He will surely give courage and excitement to many people and show the belt of the world. I believe he will." He also left the door open to those wanting to talk to Yukawa, in regards to things like youth development and drug prevention workers, essentially leaving the door wide open to Yukawa to get help and focus on his boxing.
In December 2019 Danji updated his blog and explained that Yukawa had passed his pro-test bout, doing so at Korakuen Hall. It was a huge step towards Yukawa making his professional debut, but his suspension still hung over him, and would until August 2020. Despite needing to wait to fight as a professional Yukawa concentrated on his craft, and spent the time developing, both as a man and as a fighter, and had the backing of Danji.
After more than 4 years and 10 months after his last fight Yukawa will return to boxing on March 18th as he takes on Yuya Azuma, a man who we saw last year being brutally stopped by Rentaro Kimura. That appears to have not been some weird coincidence however with Yukara and Kimura both being from the Suruga Danji gym, and Azuma likely viewed as someone who asked some questions of Kimura and should do the same with Yukawa.
Having mentioned Kimura it is worth nothing that we expect to see something of a friendly rivalry between Yukawa and Kimura, who will both be looking to race to title fights, and push each other further, which will be great news for fans in Shizuoka, who clearly have two very talented youngsters emerging from the area. For those wanting to see what the two can do, we've included a video of the two men sparring together below.
Interestingly Yukawa is regarded as a switch hitter and has listed his goal for the sport as "Defeat Naoya Inoue", a lofty goal for the young man who has yet to make his professional debut!
Whilst we joke about the punishments given for performance enhancing drugs in boxing, it is worth noting just how serious some countries take drugs in general, and Yukawa's punishment is an example of just that. Maybe, if, boxing took PED's seriously we would see the use of them among fighters being a career killer, rather than a mere short term inconvenience.
One of the many forgotten world champions form Japan is Tomonobu Shimizu (19-4-1, 9), who held the WBA Super Flyweight title early in the last decade. His reign was a relatively short one, and many fans outside of Japan are unlikely to know much at all about him. Despite his short reign he is someone who was rather popular in his homeland and the "Speed Star" still has a bit of a cult following in Japan, despite now going on to notable success outside of the ring.
During a professional career that spanned from 2004 to 2012 Shimizu faced a number of notable names, include Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, Daisuke Naito and Tepparith Kokietgym. He also rebuilt remarkably well from an early career shock loss to Kaennakorn Klongpajol, in just his second professional bout. Despite setbacks Shimizu's career certainly had it's share of ups and successes.
For those unsure on his carer and his in ring achievements we've decided to take a look back on some of the most notable results of Shimizu's career as we go over the 5 most significant wins for... Tomonobu Shimizu
Hiroyuki Kudaka (October 19th 2005)
For Shimizu first really notable win we go all the way back to October 2005, and his 7th professional bout. In that bout he took on Hiroyuki Kudaka, also known as Hiroyuki Hisataka, and took an 8 round decision win over Kudaka. This was Shimizu's third scheduled 8 rounder, and his second to go the distance, but was a clear step up in class and was a win that aged like fine wine with Kudaka later going on to challenge for world titles, on 4 separate occasions. Even now, in 2021, Kudaka remains a relevant fighter on the Japanese scene and this was certainly one of the best wins in the early part of Shimizu's career. It also helped push him towards a potential title fight of some kind.
Kenji Yoshida II (April 14th 2008)
Sadly when Shimizu did get his first shot at a title, in 2007, he was beaten by then WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, who stopped Shimizu in 7 rounds and left him with a broken nose. After two wins Shimizu got his second title fight, this time for the Japanese title as he clashed with Kenji Yoshida. The two men had met before, back in 2006, with Shimizu taking a close 8 round decision win, but following their first bout Shimizu had lost to Wonjongkam whilst Yoshida had become the Japanese champion. In their rematch the two men were again highly competitive with each other making for a hotly contested bout, with Shimizu taking the 10 decision win to claim the title, the first title of his career.
Sadly for Yoshida this began a downfall for his career and he later went 4-4-1 after this loss before retiring with a 17-11-1 record. At the time this was a big win, but sadly it aged badly for Shimizu.
Toshiyuki Igarashi (December 23rd 2008)
Shimizu's title reign wasn't a particularly long one, with just 4 defenses. The first of those came in late 2008 when he took on the then unbeaten Toshiyuki Igarashi, himself a future WBC champion. Here we saw Shimizu rely on his experience, his speed and his skills to over come the highly touted Igarashi, who had competed in the 2004 Olympics. Entering the bout with a 7-0-1 (5) record Igarashi was seen as the new Japanese star in the making at Flyweight, but had no answer to Shimizu who took a very clear decision over 10 rounds. Given that Igarashi would later win the WBC title this was a win that aged well, and arguably his best win, outside of his world championship win, which we'll get on to shortly.
Interestingly entertaining this bout Igarashi was the "interim" champion, as Shimizu had had his second world title shot between his Japanese title win and this defense.
Takayasu Kobayashi (February 8th 2010)
Another Japanese title defense by Shimizu saw him take on the then world ranked Takayasu Kobayashi in 2010. Coming into this bout Kobayashi had a #12 with the WBA and seemed in the form of his career, having won 11 in a row and been unbeaten in almost 5 years. Kobayashi had scored a career best just before this bout, taking a victory over Takahisa Masuda. Despite his form he was stopped him in 7 rounds by Shimizu, despite having given a very credible account of himself. The stoppage came after a badly cut Kobayashi was repeatedly tagged in round 7. He was fuming about the stoppage, almost begging the referee to let the bout continue, but he was a bloodied mess at the time of the stoppage.
Sadly for Kobayashi he was never the same fighter after this bout, going 1-4-1 and seemingly having the ambition ripped from his career with this defeat.
Hugo Fidel Cazares (August 31st 2011)
When it comes to the most significant and the biggest win of Shimizu career there is one standout result, and that was his 2011 win over Hugo Fidel Cazares, the then WBA Super Flyweight champion. This wasn't just a career defining win for Shimizu, but also a major upset win by the Japanese fighter in his third world title shot. The bout saw Shimizu move up in weight, and really dig deep to out work Cazares in a really great battle that swung one way and then the other. The bout swung too and fro throughout delivering one of the most under-rated fights of 2011. Despite entering as the local favourite Shimizu wasn't really given much of a chance against Cazares, who many regarded as the best Super Flyweight at the time, and was one of the biggest, strongest and most powerful fighters at the weight. Despite that Shimizu boxed fantastically, used his speed and skills and even had Cazares in trouble at times, as he second a split decision win. Whilst some will say that of course he got the split decision at home it's worth noting all 3 judges were from neutral countries and had no ties to Japan.
Sadly for Shimizu his reign became a complicated one, which saw him become the WBA Champion in Recess whilst healing from injuries and then lose in his first defense, 8 months later, to Tepparith Kokietgym.
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