We continue with our "Revisiting" series as we look at Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2), who we looked at in April 2019 as part of our "Introducing" series. At the time Kunimoto was 3-0 (1) and had been showing promise following his August 20118 debut. Sadly however Kunimoto hasn't been massively busy since we covered him last year, and has actually been affected by the current global situation, which postponed a Japanese title fight which was set to take place earlier this month.
Just days after we spoke about Kunimoto last year he scored a career best win, stopping Shoma Fukumoto in 6 rounds. This should have been a break out win, followed by more success. Instead however it was the start of a long, long break from the ring for Kunimoto, who hasn't fought since that bout. A real shame.
Following the win over Fukumoto the logical thing would have been for Kunimoto to have fought in a Japanese title eliminator, but essentially left in the cold there was there was no suitable dancer partners for the unbeaten hopeful. He also didn't have a stay busy fight against a foreign opponent, which would have helped tick him over given how the world has gone since.
Instead the plan was for Kunimoto to return to the ring in the first half of 2020 to clash with Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako, in what is still a mouth watering match up, as part of the Champion Carnival. That bout had been pencilled in for early May on a Dynamic Glove card. It was still coming after a long break for Kunimoto, but gave him something to train and prepare for. Something to focus on.
Sadly however with boxing in Japan being suspended from March the scheduled May date for Kunimoto's clash with Takesako has been, and gone.
At the moment it's really unclear on what will happen here. There's a chance that it will be rearranged, which seems the most likely, though it could end up taking place in 2021, rather than 2020, due to the JBC showing some potential flexibility on this year's Champion Carnival bouts being pushed into the new year. Alternatively we could also see either Kunimoto or Takesako taking another direction when boxing returns to Japan. We suspect Kunimoto will still pursue his title shot, but he may end up fighting for the vacant title if Takesako does decide to head towards bigger and better bouts.
Compared to where we were a year ago, Kunimoto's career really hasn't progressed in the way we would all have hoped. However at 23 years old the break from the ring may be a bit of a blessing in disguise. The youngster gets some extra time to mature, physically fill out his body and prepare a bit longer for the biggest and toughest bout of his career. It's a huge shame that he's been out of the ring, and we would have loved to have seen him fit in a bout in late 2019.
It'll be interesting to see how Kunimoto looks when he gets back in the ring, but the future is still very, very bright for the youngster from Osaka. He might not have been active, but with Muto gym behind him we know he has a smart team backing him, and they will get him back on track sooner rather than later.
One of the absolute legends of Asian boxing is Japanese fighter Yoshio Shirai, who managed to become Japan's first world champion back in the 1952. He's a man who's place in history is sorted, and who will go down as one of the most important Japanese fighters of all time. To commemorate the anniversary of his world title win we though this was the perfect time to include him in this on going series of articles.
For those who don't really follow boxing history Shirai fought from 1943 to 1955. No one is 100% sure on his career record, but it's thought that he had around 60 bouts, either a little over or a little under. Whilst not every bout he had was recorded or even known, most are. With that in mind we feel pretty confident in bringing you the 5 most significant wins for... Yoshio Shirai.
As is always the case with these articles the bouts will be listed in chronological order, with an explanation of the result, and what made the bout so significant. In this particular case there is, of course, a very clear #1 but it's certainly not the only win of major note for Shirai.
1-Nobuyuki Ishimori (July 30th 1948)
We start this list with an obscure one, but one that really laid the ground work for what would become an historic relationship for Japanese boxing. Shirai's July 1948 win over Nobuyuki Ishimori was the first bout that Shirai had with American trainer and manager Dr Alvin Robert Cahn, the man who would bring scientific training into Japanese boxing. Cahn had repeatedly requested Shirai to work with him and this was, reportedly, the first bout they had together. Shirai would stop Ishimori in 2 rounds and and it seemed pretty clear that Cahn's teachings and methods had something to them.
2-Yoichiro Hanada II (January 28th 1949)
Around 6 months after working with Dr Cahn the American managed to get Shirai a shot at the Japanese Flyweight champion, and pre-war hero, Yoichiro Hanada. Hanada had previously beaten Shirai, back in 1947, and this would have been a great chance to Shirai to see the improvements he was making, and for Cahn to convince his man they were going on to bigger and better things. This rematch saw Shirai avenge his prior loss to Hanada by stopping the veteran in 5 rounds to claim the Japanese Flyweight title. This was Shirai's first title win, and was further proof that what he was being taught was working. The scientific methods of Cahn, which focused on the jab, and being defensively smart, were becoming the key to Shirai's in ring style.
3-Hiroshi Horiguchi I (December 15th 1949)
Around 11 months after winning the Japanese Flyweight crown Shirai would become a 2-weight Japanese champion, defeating Hiroshi Horiguchi in the first of two bouts between the men. Horiguchi, the brother of the legendary Piston Horiguchi, was a fighter who had a busy style, let his hands go a lot and would later face the iconic Flash Elorde. Shirai did what he needed to to out box, out move and out think Horiguchi to claim his second title. He would only defend the belt, successfully, twice, but it was clear that this was the next step towards bigger and better things for Shirai.
4-Dado Marino II (December 4th 1951)
In May 1951 Shirai got his first bout with the then Flyweight world champion Dado Marino. The bout had 35,000 fans in attendance and had been set up by Cahn and Marino's manager, himself a Japanese-American. Shirai failed to win, but did enough to prove that he belonged in there with a great champion like Marino, who had failed to make the contracted weight. Less than 7 months later Shirai would get a rematch with Marino in Hawaii, in what was Shirai's international debut. In Hawaii Shirai avenged his loss, stopping Marino in the 7th round. The win was massive, and showed that Shirai had the ability to beat the world champion in a non-title bout.
5-Dado Marino III (May 19th 1952)
With their series split at 1-1 Shirai and Marino would meet for a third time. This time their was a lot more at stake, with the Flyweight title on the line. With 40,000 fans in the venue this was make or break for Shirai and Dr Cahn. A win here would see the post-war ray of sporting hope for Japan shine brightly, whilst a loss would have seen their new sporting hope dashed in a time when Japan needed success. They needed hope. Shirai fought well to begin with, but was shaken in the middle rounds. Cahn had to draw on his relationship with Shirai to get the most from the fighter, who cleared his head and, in the end, deserved a clear decision.
This win over Marino put Shirai on the map, etched his name into the history books and will go down as one of, if not the, most significant win in Japanese boxing history. Interestingly the two men would clash once more after this, with Shirai defending the title against his Filipino rival 6 months later, in what would be Marino's final bout.
Whilst boxing is now on the horizon, with July looking likely to be when we see fights return to Japan, there is still no in ring action. With that in mind we're going to look back in to past and look at another bout we could have had in the world of Asian boxing! Today we look at a bout that would have been brutal, fantastic an all action. It's also one we don't really see mentioned despite the fact it could have taken place in the mid 1990's and it would have been fire!
Saman Sorjaturong Vs Hi Yong Choi
We know the Light Flyweight division doesn't get the love it deserves, but over the years the division has given us some legendary fighters, some amazing fights and some fantastic "ones we missed". A great example of one we missed would have seen Thai Saman Sorjaturong take on Korean Hi Yong Choi in what would have been an instant epic. It wouldn't have been pretty, it wouldn't have been clean, but it would have been thrill a minute stuff between two men who knew how to go to war.
If we're being honest the window for this would be from around late 1993 to early 1996, which is a pretty good window of time. The bout would have been especially notable in late 1995 or early 1996 when between them the due held 3 of the 4 major world titles. Not only meaning this would be a sensational war to enjoy, but would have also seen the IBF, WBA and WBC titles all end up around the wait of one man, at least for a while.
The time window of late '95/early '96 would also come when both men were red hot. Saman had just beaten Humberto Gonzalez in an epic in July, with that bout later being deemed the Fight of the Year, whilst Choi had become a 2-weight champion early in 1995, and had managed to fit in his first defense in September that year. There's a very clear, but short lived, time frame for this one to have been staged and to have been something incredibly special.
We suspect hardcore fans will be more familiar with Saman Sorjaturong than Hi Yong Choi. The Thai had turned professional in 1989 and had fought in his first world title bout in 1993, losing to Ricardo Lopez. He rebuilt from that loss to get a fight with "Chiquito" Gonzalez in 1995, in what turned out to be a sensational war that saw both men being dropped, multiple times. That win netted Saman the WBC and IBF Light Flyweight titles. His reign with the IBF title was short, but he would hold the WBC title until 1999, losing it to Yo Sam Choi in Seoul in his 11th defense. Despite being a little man Saman was heavy handed, scoring stoppages in over 60% of his career bouts. Although not the most polished fighter Saman was dangerous, with capable skills, heavy hands, smart footwork. He was an exciting boxer-fighter, who could be dragged into a war, very easily, though was at his best with his jab flowing and a bit of space between himself and his opponent.
Hi Yong Choi on the other hand was as crude, rough, tough and clumsy as they come. He had first made his name at in the amateurs before mounting a charge at Minimumweight. In 1991 he claimed the WBA Minimumweight title, beating Bong Jun Kim, and defended it 4 times before losing to Hideyuki Ohashi. A move up in weight followed, in 1995, and Choi would become a 2-weight champion by beating Leo Gamez in an extraordinary battle of machismo. That was an ugly, messy scrap for the ages that some will love, and some will absolutely hate. He defended that belt once, against Keiji Yamaguchi, before losing the belt in the US to Carlos Murillo and retiring.
Interestingly both men managed to defend a world title against Yuichi Hosono, who Choi stopped in 10 rounds in 1992 and Saman stopped in 4 rounds in 1995.
How would we see it playing out?
In terms of pure boxing ability Saman was levels ahead of the Thai, despite the fact Choi was a solid amateur. Saman was much, much better on his feet, he knew how to create distance and how to fight smartly. He also, however, had a questionable chin. He had great heart, but the knockdowns to Gonzalez do show a flaw, and he was stopped in 4 of his 8 losses, though 3 of those did come at the end of his career.
Choi was so crude, but came with such raw energy and anger. Choi just came forward, fighting as if every second of every fight needed to be fought with intensity. He would have to walk through some huge shots to get close to Saman, but walk through them he would do. Rightly or wrongly. The Korean was not only tough but he was also quite liberal when it came to using us head, and we suspect that could be a problem here, especially with Saman backing off whilst Choi marches forward.
We would expect to see Saman picking his moments, slamming his heavy jab into Choi's face and following up with well timed right hands, to head and body. He wouldn't, however, discourage the Korean who would repeatedly walk forward, looking for a fight. As we get into the later rounds and Saman begins to tire Choi will look to grind down Saman with some incredibly fun to watch offensive charges.
We don't imagine Choi's offense would be polished enough to over-come a prime Saman, but Saman would know he's been in a fight by the end of it.
Would history of been changed?
Well actually yes, yes it could have been! The winner of this could have been the first Asian fighter to have won 3 different world titles at once. The IBF wasn't recognised in Korea at the time, and so if Choi won his reign would have been a mega short one but it would have been an historic moment. We had to wait for Gennady Golovkin to unify Middleweight titles before an Asian fighter managed to hold 3 world titles at once.
We probably wouldn't have seen Choi facing Murillo in his US debut, so the WBA Light Flyweight title history would have been very different, and there's a good chance Murillo and Keiji Yamaguchi would never have been world champions.
Given that Saman vacated the IBF title soon after he won it, and the IBF's status in Korea in the mid 1990's, we suspect that the IBF title history would be very similar to what it was, and the WBC title would likely have ended up with Yo Sam Choi, who eventually dethroned Saman.
For Saman a win here would have enhanced his reputation and helped make him stand out for more than just the Gonzalez fight. It would have been a legitimate world level title defense, and unification. And we believe he would have won. However had Choi won there's a good chance he'd have had a bigger fight, rather than the Murillo fight, though his days as a world level fighter at Light Flyweight always seemed limited.
As fans this would have been a messy epic, and both fighters would have come out with damage, so maybe it was best for both that we never got to see them fight, but it really would have been a damn fun battle!
Although we often talk about how exciting the Japanese boxing scene is for emerging talent that doesn't mean they are the only traditional Asian boxing country with a lot of exciting and promising talent. Another such nation is the Philippines, which is rife with excellent emerging talent and exciting hopefuls. One such fighter is 21 year old boxer-puncher Richard Bulacan (8-0, 6), who looks like one of the best hidden gems in the country.
Unlike many Filipino fighters it's rather easy to see what Bulacan did in the amateurs, at least to some extent. Whilst it might incomplete he has a reported 37-8 record in the unpaid ranks after first making a mark way back in 2012, in a School Boys tournament. As time went on he fought in the Juniors and Youth divisions and even took a gold at the Philippines Youth Games in 2016. Although his record wasn't stellar it is worth noting that he fought some top Filipino talent during his amateur stint, including Criztian Pitt Laurente, Jerven Mama and Dave Apolinario.
Despite being a good amateur Bulacan seemed to be more suited to the professional style of boxing than the amateur style. As a result he changed codes very young and made his professional debut back in March 2017, 4 days before his 18th birthday. On debut he took just 32 seconds to get rid of fellow Filipino Frejun Dela Cruz. Whilst Dela Cruz was no world beater he had taken Mike Plania into the 6th round and Bulacan had done a better job on him than Reymart Gaballo in 2015.
Just 3 months after his debut Bulacan returned to the ring and stopped Carlito Antaran in round 2. It was clear Bulacan needed a better level of opponent and in September 2017 he got a better test, as he went up against Michael Javier, then boasting an 8-1 (7) record, in an 8 rounder. Javier managed to see out the early storm from Bulacan but didn't have the toughness to survive the schedule with the emerging prospect, who stopped Javier in the 5th round.
Having taken his first 3 opponents out in a combined 8 rounds, in less than 6 months, it was clear Bulacan could punch. He still had a lot of questions to answer though, and thankfully he got the chance to answer some of those just weeks after the Javier bout. Fighting against Rimon Rama, then 6-0-1 (4) himself, Bulacan got the chance to show there was a lot more than just power to his game as he took an 8 round decision over Rama. He dropped Rama on route to his victory and showed he had the stamina to go 8 rounds.
Having checked off the "gone 8 rounds" tick box Bulacan then moved up again, taking on southpaw Vergel Deguma in January 2018 in a 10 round bout. For the first time we saw Bulacan being genuinely tested, with Deguma not going away. In fact not only did Deguma show his toughness, taking Bulacan the 10 round schedule, but he took rounds off Bulacan, and ran the power punching youngster to a close and competitive decision. Bulacan took the win, but also got given the chance to learn. He had proven he could go 10 rounds, but the reality was that he had also had a lesson taught to him, and that he would have to improve if he was going to be a big star. This bout wasn't just notable for the fact Bulacan was tested but also the fact he was giving away quite a bit of weight to Deguma, making it easier to take Bulacan's shots.
To his credit Bulacan's team seemed to realise their was work to do and he spent more than 7 months out of the ring before moving up in weight and stopping Rogen Flores inside a round.
The win over Flores was followed by more than a year out of action before Bulacan returned to the ring in September 2019.
On his return Bulacan got a chance to rematch Vergel Deguma, the man who had given him his toughest bout to date. Having gone 10 rounds in their first bout this was a chance to see if the work Bulacan's team had done had improved their charge. By now it seemed like Bulacan was filling into his frame, and he had put on 8lbs since their first bout, moving up from essentially being a Bantamweight to a Super Featherweight. Despite Deguma having moments Bulacan boxed well and closed the show in round 5, putting their rivalry to bed.
In his only bout since the Deguma rematch Bulacan faced off with Anthony Sabalde and impressed by stopping Sabalde, who retired at the end of round 5. The performance from Bulacan was a strange one at times, giving up his height and reach to fight off the ropes at times early on, but he looked calm and relaxed whilst picking good punches against Sabalde. The stoppage was certainly anti-climactic, but it was clear that Bulacan's body shots were taking their toll on Sabalde, who had no answer for the youngster's left hook to the body.
Although Bulacan is still very much a youngster, and really a work in progress, he's someone worthy of attention, and can clearly box. We're not sure if he's yet found his ideal weight, and he's still a young kid with a long and lanky frame, but he's looking stronger every time we see him. Currently fighting between Featherweight and Super Featherweight we wouldn't be surprised to see him really hitting his stride at Lightweight or Light Welterweight down the line.
It might be a few years before Bulacan is making a mark on the Oriental title picture, be we do expect to see him there sooner, rather that later. He's a genuine talent, who just needs polishing, and pushing, to get the best from him. At 21 years old he has time on his side, and we really hope his team let him mature into his frame before matching him too tough. For the next 12 months good domestic opponents should suffice in getting him rounds, before looking to international opponents to test him and give him new looks ask new questions of him.
One of the few Japanese fighters to make a real mark on the US scene in recent years has been Nobuhiro Ishida (27-11-2, 11). The Japanese Light Middleweight, come Heavyweight, had a really career when we look back on it. He made his debut in his mid 20's, moved through the weights late on and later became a gym owner. During his 40 fight career he scored a number of notable wins. With that in mind we'll take a look at the 5 most significant wins for... Nobuhiro Ishida.
Kook Yul Song (March 1st 2001)
We start this by going all the way back to 2001, for what was Ishida's 6th professional bout. The bout saw Ishida taking on Korean fighter Kook Yul Song, the then OPBF Light Middleweight champion. Ishida was 5-0 (2) at this point whilst Song was 21-3-2 (16), and had held the OPBF title since 1997. The bout was close, well contested, and resulted in Ishida taking an 11th round Technical Decision to win the title, his first title. The bout gave Ishida's a very early shot in the arm, though his reign was a short one, losing 2 months later to Seiji Takechi.
Yuki Nonaka (December 22nd 2004)
Following his OPBF title win Ishida struggled for momentum. He had gone 5-5-1 following his title win, seeing his record fall to 11-5-1 (4). His career looked like it was going nowhere when he faced Yuki Nonaka. The bout saw Ishida take a 10 round decision over Nonaka and begin a great stretch of his career, which saw him go unbeaten for almost 6 years. The win may not be one of the biggest or best of Ishida's career, but was significant in reviving his career, and one that, on reflection, was massively significant and has aged really well. Over the years that follow Nonaka would become a major force on the Japanese and Oriental scene. This win is one that looks a lot better on reflection than pretty much any other win on Ishida's record.
Marco Antonio Avendano II (August 30th 2009)
Whilst Ishida failed to win a proper world title he did a WBA "interim" title in 2009 when he beat Venezuelan fighter Marco Antonio Avendano in their second bout. The two had fought in September 2008, with Ishida taking a close win, in what was an eliminator for the WBA title. Rather than getting a shot at the actual title however Ishida had to wait, almost a year, to get a shot at the interim title, against Avendano. In their second bout Ishida took a clear decision over Avendano to take the interim title, which would later open the door to him fighting in Mexico, where he lost the belt to Rigoberto Alvarez.
James Kirkland (April 9th 2011)
Of course the biggest win in Ishida's career was a non-title bout in the US, a win that saw him shaking the boxing world, and ending the rise of the then unbeaten James Kirkland. Ishida, then aged 35, was brought to Nevada to lose to the then 27-0 (24) Kirkland. No one seemed to tell Ishida he was there to lose, and instead of becoming the next Kirkland victim the Japanese veteran, fighting for the 31st time, stopped Kirkland. Inside a round. This was Ishida's first win outside of Japan, his first TKO1 victory, and came in the biggest fight of his career, to date. The win was so big it helped Ishida land a trio of big fights on the back of it, with bouts against Paul Wiilliams, Dmitry Pirog and Gennady Golovkin following this win. A true, career defining, victory!
Kotatsu Takehara (December 27th 2014)
In the final part of his career Ishida put on weight, a lot of weight, and moved from Middleweight to Heavyweight in the pursuit of the Japanese Heavyweight title, held by Kyotaro Fujimoto. He secured a shot at the title by defeating veteran Kotatsu Takehara at the end of 2014, proving to the JBC that he was a capable Heavyweight, and deserved a title fight, something they denied him 8 months earlier. Sadly for Ishida his desire to claim the title ended in naught, when he lost in April 2015 to Fujimoto in a title bout, but this win gave the end of Ishida's career a real purpose.
So with no boxing looking likely for the next few weeks we've decided to put together another 10 random facts piece! We think this might be one of the most random so far!
If you've missed our previous facts along similar lines we've done 10 Random Facts! and 10 random facts about Asian World Champions who failed to win on debut!
1-Former female boxing great Momo Koseki used the "Pink Lady's" Song "Southpaw" as her ring walk music. For those thinking they want to listen to this....you really don't want, but you can in video at the end of the article.
2- The on screen graphic for Napa Kiatwanchai's first bout with Hiroki Ioka states that Napa was 23-1 (4), very different to the record of 6-0 (3) that everyone now agrees he had. Notably the bout was regarded as incredibly controversial as the bell went with around 30 seconds of the final round left, potentially saving Ioka from a stoppage loss, and resulted in a draw.
3- The Pokémon known in English as Hitmonchan is known as Ebiwalar in Japan, after Hiroyuki Ebihara, and Hongsoomon in South Korea after Soo Hwan Hong. Interestingly Hitmonchan is known as Tygnon in some European countries after Mike Tyson.
4-Guts Ishimatsu is the face of a Japanese car rental company called "Guts-rentacar". The logo for the company is also doing the famous "Guts Pose"
5-Just over a year after losing the WBC Flyweight title to Toshiyuki Igarashi in a very close bout Sonny Boy Jaro was upset by a Gerpaul Valero. At the time Valero was 14-14-3 but had, some how, gone 13-1 in his 14 bouts before facing Jaro...talk about a career turn around!
6-Roel Velasco and Mansueto Velasco are Filipino boxing brothers who both won medals at the Olympics! Roel won bronze at the 1992 Olympics and Mansueto won silver 4 years later. Interestingly both men won their medals in the Light Flyweight division.
7-Rather impressively 3 of the 4 men who picked up a medal in the Light Flyweight division (49KG's) of 2010 Asian Games went on to win professional world titles! These were Zou Shiming, who won gold, Amnat Ruenroeng and Vic Saludar, who both won bronze. The only medal winner not to win a professional world title was Birzhan Zhakypov who never turned professional.
8-The first 4 IBF Flyweight champions were all South Korean...in fact 5 of the first 6 were. Since the 1980's however no Korean has held the title and the Philippines has now tied South Korea with 5 holders of the title.
9-Korean fighter Soo Hwan Hong, a 2-weight world champion book ended his career with draws! In 1969 debut the then 18 year old drew with Sang Il Kim and in his final bout, in 1980, he drew with Dong Kyun Yum, himself a former world champion.
10-The record for the most defenses of an OPBF Female title stands at 4. That record was set by Naoko Yamaguchi in 2011, when she recorded her final defense of the OPBF female Super Flyweight title. Rather interestingly all 4 challenges were Thai novices, and all 4 were stopped, in a combined 12 rounds!
One thing we love here at Asian Boxing is a good old fashioned tournament. The Rookie of the Year in Japan and Battle Royal in South Korea are both great ways to get young talent some exposure. In 2019 there was something similar in the Philippines thanks to Gerry Penalosa's "Gerrypens Promotions" and ESPN TV5 who hosted the Ultimate Boxing Series. The tournaments were less deep that those tournaments in Japan and Korea, with just 2 weight classes, but they were still a fantastic opportunity for young fighters to make a name for themselves and get some exposure.
One of the men who shined in that tournament was talented youngster April Jay Abne (5-0, 2) of Wild Boxng in Cebu. The youngster impressed through out the tournament and went on to win the whole thing at Flyweight, showing fantastic skills and real maturity for someone so young and inexperienced.
The earliest footage we've managed to see of Abne was some sparring footage from 2018 and it was clear he was a natural talent, though a bit of a diamond in the rough. He was exciting, aggressive and like a little terrier. There wasn't much footage of him as an amateur, though he did apparently have an extensive amateur career, but it was clear that he was a a real talent, at a very young age.
Alongside the amateur footage of Abne we had the chance to see some sparring footage from 2018, as he was beginning to prepare to turn professional, something he did in 2019. Although Abne was small, really small, it was clear he could box, he knew his way around the ring and was looking like a natural talent, with some genuinely stunning body shots in his arsenal. Those at the Wild Boxing Gym seemed to know they had a real talent on their hands, but one that needed nurturing and sparring with the other top youngsters at the gym certainly helped there.
In February 2019 Abne made his professional debut, taking on fellow debutant Marvin Laping. The then 19 year old Abne dropped Laping several times to record an opening round TKO. The youngster, really showed what a natural talent he was, using the body shots that were shown off in the sparring footage along with some stunning counter punching, putting Laping down with a great counter right. Although his offensive work was impressive it was also nice to see him slipping and sliding shots, showing some impressive defensive skills, foot work and ring craft.
The win over Laping showed a real natural ability for Abne who, with just 1 fight to his name, entered the Universal Boxing Series (UBS). Just 3 months after his debut Abne was matched with southpaw Ronel Dela Cruz, then boasting a record of 6-0-1 (4), in a 6 rounder in the first round of the "UBS". Despite the step up in class from his debut Abne impressed. He regularly found a home for his straight hand up top, dropping Dela Cruz with a dynamite right hand in round 2. Dela Cruz got to his feet but couldn't match the skills or movement of Abne. Only weeks after beating Dela Cruz we saw Abne return to the ring to take on another unbeaten southpaw, Joseph Bayubay who was then 4-0-2 (2), in the UBS semi-final. Bayubay was aggressive, pressed the action and pressured Abne from the off. Abne soaked up the early pressure on and countered fantastically, using his feet to create space and landing clean right hands. Despite being forced to work for the win Abne was the deserved winner and booked his place in the final.
Abne's final bout in the UBS saw him moving up to the 8 round schedule and take on Ronel Sumalpong, then 8-1-1 (5), in August 2019. Abne, who had the much longer reach, made the most of his technical skills, defense, jab, movement and ring craft to neutralise most of Sumalpong's aggression and control much of the fight. It wasn't an exciting fight, for the most part, but it was a controlled performance from Abne, who looked the much more polished fighter. Some how one judge scored the bout even, but thankfully the other two judges got it right, giving Abne a majority decision win, and the the tournament victory.
Having won the UBS Abne could have relaxed for the rest of 2019 but actually fit in another fight in December, when he stopped Isagani Ypanto Llaban in 2 rounds. On paper this looks like a stay busy fight but Llaban had come in on the back of a good win over Ven Joshua Vanguardia, and had previously given a good test to Adrian Lerasan and held Roland Jay Biendima to a draw.
As with every fighter right now (this is being written in mid April so things are subject to change), it's fairly unclear when Abne will be back in the ring, though we're very excited to see what he will do in the coming years. The one thing missing from his game, so far, appears to be power, but at just 21 years old we expect him to build on his power as he develops his man strength. Given how clean of a puncher he is, knockouts will come and he really is someone to get very, very excited about.
In March 2019 we spoke glowingly about promising Light Flyweight Rikito Shiba (4-1, 2), who's name was being transcribed as "Rikuto Shiba". At the time we were really excited about Shiba, who looked a real talent on his way to big things. At the time he was 2-0 (1), he had looked highly talented, exciting, with good ring IQ and a lot of ambition. Sadly however things haven't gone amazingly well for him since we covered him in our "Introducing" feature. So lets take another look at Shiba as we revist Rikito Shiba.
When we spoke about Shiba last he was closing in on his April 11th bout against Hizuki Saso, in what was an eliminator the Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title. The talented Shiba would shine, stopping Saso in 2 rounds to book himself a bout with Tsuyoshi Sato for the title. Sadly that bout fell through when Sato had to pull out, though Shiba would later get his shot at the title.
When Shiba got his bout for the Japanese Youth title he took on the touted Shisui Kawabata, instead of Sato. It was a very different type of bout to what a contest with Sato would have been, but Shiba did enough to take home the victory. The key different between the two men was a knockdown that that Shiba scored in the opening round. The bout went 8 rounds, allowing Shiba to test his stamina, but was a real test and one that saw him having to answer some real questions.
After winning the Japanese Youth title Shiba got a chance to take a huge stride towards a bout for the senior Japanese title, as he took part in a Japanese title eliminator. In the opposite corner was the big punching Masamichi Yabuki, who sadly proved to be too strong and too powerful for Shiba, battering the youngster into submission in round 4. Shiba had proven to be game, but was really unable to cope with the power and size of Yabuki, with Shiba being dropped several times.
Following the loss Shiba seemed to talk about walking away from the sport. It was as if the loss to Yabuki, a really good fighter, had extinguished his desire to box. Thankfully however Shiba has spoken about wanting to fight again and admitted that he was toon busy blaming things for his loss rather than taking responsibility. It now seems, from his recent social media posts, that he's hungry to be back in the ring and we're really looking forward to that.
Although Shiba was bullied and battered by Yabuki the youngster still has a really bright future ahead of him. It's clear he needs to do a lot of work if he's to reach the heights we expected of him, but at just 24 years old he's not a fully matured young fighter. Yes he was beaten by Yabuki, but he has time on his side and has got plenty of time to develop. He's got a lot to like and if he's really able to accept that he is to blame for his loss, and he's responsible for working on things, he can still go a very long way. Yabuki isn't a bum and a loss to Yabuki isn't a reason to right off Shiba, who should come back stronger when he returns to the ring, later this year.
The loss, so early on, for Shiba may be a blessing in disguise for the very talented young southpaw who we are really looking forward to see again. Hopefully with a level had and a renewed hunger to impress.
Whilst some fighters are best known for their achievements, their titles, their wins and what they do in the ring, others are better known for their performances, win or lose. Today we look at one of those fighters who made great value TV despite losing most of their biggest fighters. He was a man who made fans tune in knowing they were going to get something exciting, and knew that he would give his all. No matter what.
That man is Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-5-2, 24), who gave us some of the most exciting fights of the last decade. Whilst he lost a number of his most notable bouts he did score plenty of good, and often over-looked wins as well. Here we take a look at the 5 most significant wins for... Yoshihiro Kamegai.
As is always the case in this series we look at the bouts in chronological order and try to explain why the bout was significant. This doesn't mean they are their best wins, or their most impressive, but the ones of most significance.
Yosukezan Onodera (April 12th 2010)
In the Spring of 2010 Kamegai got his first title bout, taking on Japanese Light Welterweight champion Yosukezan Onodera. At the time Onodera was 20-1-1, he had defended the belt twice and had held it for just over a year, since ending the lengthy reign of Norio Kimura. Although no beater Onodera was regarded very well on the Japanese domestic scene but was dropped multiple times by Kamegai, who stopped him in 9 rounds to become the Japanese national champion.
Jose Alfaro (October 10th 2010)
Just over 6 months after his title win Kamegai took on former world champion Jose Alfaro. Alfaro had been a short lived WBA Lightweight champion, losing the title in Japan to Yusuke Kobori, and had mixed with the likes of Erik Morales before facing Kamegai. For Kamagai this was his first bout with a former world champion and his first bout outside of Korakuen Hall, with this fight being held at the Kokugikan. Kamegai stopped Alfaro in 6 rounds to take a huge step forward in his career.
Hector Munoz (October 1st 2011)
In 2011 US fans got their first chance to see the rampaging Japanese fighter as he took on Hector Munoz in his US debut, at the MGM Grand. Munoz, sporting a 19-6-1 record, was the perfect foil for Kamegai to take out on the under-card of Toshiaki Nishioka's bout with Rafael Marquez. Kamegai would stop Munoz in the 6th round on a card that featured a number of notable fighters. This was the first of many fights Kamegai had Stateside, and getting a win on his first bout there was really important to leaving an impression.
Tim Hunt (December 7th 2013)
It's hard to believe that during his career Kamegai only won two titles. He didn't pick up any WBA or WBC minor titles, just two fairly noteworthy titles. The first of those, as already mentioned, was the Japanese Light Welterweight title. The second was the OPBF Welterweight title which he won in late 2013 when he stopped Australian Tim Hunt at Korakuen Hall. This was one of Kamegai's final bouts in Japan, in fact he only fought at home twice more. His reign was a short one, he only defended the belt once, but it was still a major achievement for the exciting warrior from the Teiken gym.
Jesus Soto Karass II (September 10 2016)
We feel Kamegai may have saved his most significant win until last, with his second bout against Jesus Soto Karass. The two men had fought to a thrilling draw in April 2016 and then rematched just 5 months later, with Kamegai breaking down "JSK" in 8 rounds. The Mexican veteran had been dropped prior to retiring in his corner in what was a brilliant fight at the Forum in Inglewood. This would also prove to be Kamegai's final professional win, ending his career after losses in 2017 and 2018. This is the win we suspect many fans will remember Kamegai for, and it really is a special fight. If you've not seen it you need to watch it. A truly amazing war.
We still have no regular fights taking place in the ring and lots thoughts about contests we could, and perhaps should, have had from the past. On one hand the idea of these articles are fantasy fights, but unlike most we're only looking at fights that could have taken places, rather than putting together fighters from different. Instead we're looking at fighters who had careers that over-lapped, and would have made sense!
Hiroshi Kawashima Vs Katsuya Onizuka
For today's fight we're looking a bout that could have taken place in the mid 1990's and would have been a very interesting bout for both the styles we would have got and the time when the bout would have been viable. On one hand you'd have a heavy handed and aggressive fighter, towards the end of his career, taking on a chinny but defensively smart fighter just coming into their prime. This would have been a great all Japanese bout for the 90's.
Well theoretically this could have been a world title unification bout in 1994, but the window was tight. Katsuya Onizuka was the WBA Super Flyweight champion champion from April 1992 to September 1994, running up 5 defenses. On the other Hiroshi Kawashima won the WBC Super Flyweight title in May 1994, and held the title until February 1997, running up 6 defenses, including his first in August 1994. So there is a window there in late 1994. Of course it could easily have been a none unification bout, either earlier in 1994 or even 1993, perhaps in the way of Kawashima's win over former Onizuka foe Kenji Matsumura.
In the early 1990's Katsuya Onizuka was one of the most popular fighters in Japan. He had started his career as a popular, exciting wrecking ball. When he began fighting at world level he began to struggle, with his power not carrying up and many of his world title bouts were incredibly close. Despite the close bouts at world level he remained an exciting and popular fighter, with his toughness and charming personality keeping fans on side. Prior to winning the WBA title he had gone 18-0 (16) and would late advance his record to 24-0 (17) before losing the title.
Whilst Onizuka struggled at world level the opposite was true for Hiroshi Kawashima. The talented Kawashima struggled early in his career, with his chin being cracked twice early on and he was 4-2-1 (4) after 7 professional bouts. Those early setbacks lead to him redeveloping his style and by the time he had won the WBC title title he was fighting very differently, sliding around the ring, controlling the range and countering. His chin was never great, but he had learned to hid his chin and built a style that covered his flaws and worked to his strengths.
How would we see it playing out?
We certainly see Onizuka having the firepower to take Kawashima out, if he can land clean. That however was not an easy task and although Onizuka was aggressive he wasn't the most polished or intelligent fighter. It wouldn't take a world class power-puncher to stop Kawashima, but it would take someone landing solidly on him, and that was certainly tougher to do than it seemed.
On the other hand Onizuka was there to be hit and to be countered. He could box, and he could fight but he was never the quickest, the sharpest or the best at changing pace. We suspect that against a fighter like Kawashima, the rather basic approach of Onizuka would be very ineffective, but it would also carry a sense of danger.
We see Onizuka always posing a threat to the more skilled Kawashima, he will always be the one pressing, and pushing forward. Sadly for him we don't see him having any sustained success. Instead we suspect Onizuka will have moments but lose a clear decision, at least if the scoring was fair.
On thing that is worth noting is that Onizuka did get some dodgy decisions in his favour, and that may have happened here, but we suspect that with the bout being an all-Japanese bout those score-cards would have neutralised.
Would history of been changed?
In regards to history this bout would have been an interesting one had it been held in 1994, when both were champions. It would have come just months before the massive bout between Joichiro Tatsuyoshi and Yasuei Yakushiji, and possibly even take some shine off of that thriller. It would also have been the first WBA/WBC all Japanese unification bout, coming years before we finally saw Akira Yaegashi and Kazuto Ioka unifying titles.
In regards to the actual titles there's a chance that Kawashima could have held both titles until 1997, when he ended up losing the WBC title to Gerry Penalosa. We would suspect that Onizuka would retire after his first loss, which we expect would happen if he faced Kawashima. On the other hand if Onizuka managed to stop stop Kawashima, unlikely but not impossible, both titles would likely have ended up around the waist of Hyung Chul Lee, who ended Onizuka's reign.
The titles would have eventually been split, of course they would, but it would have still been great to have seen this bout and to have seen the titles together for the first time. We should have had them unified in 1984, when Jiro Watanabe and Payao Poontarat faced off, but had we seen them unified in 1994 we wouldn't have any complaint at all and it would have been huge for the division and massive for Japanese boxing. Instead we had to wait until 2008 for the belts to be unified, with Cristian Mijares beating Alexander Munoz to finally put the belts together.
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