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.
When we talk about the best Filipino prospects there are few that rival the very talented, and incredibly promising Dave Apolinaro (13-0, 8). The 21 year old "Doberman" is someone we expect to see reaching the top of the sport in the coming years, but for now he is very much a prospect carving out the early stages of his very, very promising career.
Apolinario turned professional in 2017 but before than he had real buzz surrounding him following a very promising amateur career, and for being the younger brother of a solid, fringe world level fighter. In fact Apolinario has boxing flowing through his veins with several fighters in his family, though his brother clearly an influential figures.
Dave Apolinario's older brother, John Mark Apolinario, had turned professional in 2006 and fought a genuine who's who. During his 12 year career he fought the likes of Roberto Vasquez, twice earning a draw with the man from Panama, Koki Kameda, Hernan Marquez, Drian Francisco, Luis Nery and Giemel Magramo. Sadly for the "Iceman" he always always founding at the that level, but was decent enough to make a mark.
Whilst his older brother was fighting in the professional ranks Dave was making a name for himself as an amateur. He shined at the Philippines National Games in 2016, winning at 48KG's, and then winning at the Palarong Pambansa in 2016 and 2017, at 49KG's. That amateur seasoning saw Apolinario turn professional with some expectations on his shoulders when he turned professional later in 2017.
On June 10th 2017 Apolinario made his debut, taking on Prince Canonero. The prince was downed in the opening round the bout was stopped with just a single second of the opening round left. It was pretty much a perfect debut for the talented Apolinario. A month later he would take his first decision win, as he was taken 4 rounds by Rio Gulipatan. Apolinario would remain active through 2017, picking up 2 more wins to move to 4-0 (3) by the end of the year.
Apolinario was kept busy through 2018, just like he had been in 2017, a year that saw him fight 5 times. His first bout of the year was a gimme, against Frankie Batuon, but he would step up through the year, taking 8 round decision wins over the tough Jenuel Lauza and over Michael Camelion. Those 2 decisions had been partnered with 3 early wins, to advance Apolinario's record to 9-0 (6).
As we entered 2019 Apolinario was someone who we had hoped to see develop during the year, and boy did we get to see him prove himself. The talented youngster kicked off the year with a bout against Romshane Sarguilla, and Apolinario looked great whilst easily out pointing the game Sarguilla. Interestingly Arguilla went 0-4 in 2019, but this was the only clear loss he had, and he was very live with Andika Sabu and Pongsaklek Sithdabnij, and on reflection this was an excellent win for Apolinario.
Exactly 4 months after Apolinario's win over Sarguilla he took on another tough domestic foe, as he clashed with Adrian Lerasan. For the first time in his career Apolinario was forced to go 10 rounds, and he did so in a very impressive, composed and mature win over Lerasan. Although Lerasan was no world beater he had come to win, and he asked questions of Apolinario, who answered them in impressive fashion.
Sadly after back to back tests Apolinario ended the year with two stoppages against over-matched opponents who were no threat to the promising youngster.
For a 21 year old fighter we see a lot of maturity in Apolinario's boxing style and mentality in the ring. He's patient, he's smart, he uses his feet and moved well. There are question marks over his power and physicality, but even those are likely to change in the future when Apolinario physically matures.
At this point it's too early to call for Aploninario to take any sort of huge steps up in class, but over the next few years we do expect to see Apolinario mixing at Oriental level, and then moving on to world title level as he reaches his mid to late 20's.
For many reading this we suspect the only "Ioka" they know much about is Kazuto Ioka. Kazuto is one of the modern day stars of Japan, a 4-weight world champion, a man linked to the New Year Eve shows, which he has often lead, and a fighter who married, and subsequently divorced, a notable Japanese singer. He's had it all and is legitimately one of the very top names in Japan, probably number #3 behind Ryota Murata and Naoya Inoue.
What few newer fans maybe aware of is that Kazuto uncle, Hiroki Ioka (33-8-1, 17) was a star before Kazuto was even born. In fact Hiroki Ioka was a man who set a number of records that no other Japanese fighter has been able to match. He was a young prodigy, the final star crafted by the legendary Eddie Townsend. Today we look at the 5 most significant wins for... Hiroki Ioka as we continue this series. As with all the other articles in this series the wins are listed chronologically, and not by by their significance or meaning.
1-Kenji Ono (July 8th 1987)
One win that would be easy to over-look is Ioka's July 1987 win against Kenji Ono for the Japanese Minimumweight title. This win came less than 18 months after Ioka's professional debut. It was his first 10 round bout, it was his first title bout, it helped prove he was ready for bigger things and most notably it saw him setting a record for the youngest Japanese national champion, at the age of 18 years and 6 months. That record still stands today. The bout saw Ioka out point Ono to claim the title and become the second ever Japanese national Minimumweight champion. A very significant and important win for Ioka, and one that can go over-looked.
2-Mai Thomburifarm (October 18th 1987)
Just over 4 months after winning the Japanese Minimumweight title Ioka faced off with Thai foe Mai Thomburifarm for the newly created WBC Minimumweight title. The bout was the first for the title and saw Ioka beat Thomburifarm over 12 rounds, with ease, to take the title. This would have been a significant win had it just seen Ioka become the inaugural WBC Minimumweight champion, but it also saw him set the record for the youngest Japanese world champion, at 18 years, 9 months and 10 days. This record has been challenged by Daiki Kameda and Riku Kano, though both failed in their attempts to break it. Coming into this bout Eddie Townsend was training Ioka from a wheel chair due to issues with cancer.
3-Kyung Yung Lee (January 31st 1988)
In his first defense of the WBC title Ioka faced off with former IBF champion Kyung Yung Lee, who vacated the IBF title in an attempt to prove he was the best at the weight. Lee travelled to Japan to face Ioka, with the Japanese fighter stopping the previously unbeaten Korean in the final round, to prove his position in the sport. Interestingly the date for this bout is really important. It came 21 days after Leo Gamez had become the first ever WBA champion, and just a day before Ioka's mentor, Eddie Townsend, passed away. Townsend was in the venue to try and watch his charge make his first defense, but fell unconscious before the bout and was taken back to hospital where he sadly passed away. Ioka's performance, given the situation if his trainer and father figure, was incredible. Notably this was also Ioka's only stoppage win in a world title bout.
4-Myung Woo Yuh (December 17th 1991)
After the massive win against Kyung Yung Lee we saw Ioka's career head downwards, something that wasn't much of a surprise given the loss of Townsend, arguably the greatest trainer in Japanese boxing. He would fail to win his next 3 world title bouts, losing the WBC title to Napa Kiatwanchai and failing to regain it in a rematch, then move up to Light Flyweight. In his first world title bout at 108lbs Ioka defeated Korean legend Myung Woo Yuh, in later 1992. The win over the then 36-0 Yuh saw Ioka claim the WBA Light Flyweight title, becoming only the third 2-weight world champion in Japanese boxing history. This would be the only defeat Yuh would suffer in his career, and would be avenged less than a year later, adding further to the significance of the win.
Bong Jun Kim (June 15th 1992)
The final win that we've chosen to include here is Ioka's win over Bong Jun Kim. This was Ioka's second defense of the WBA Light Flyweight title, the belt he had taken from Yuh. On paper this looks like a straight forward defense against a fighter with a 23-7-3 record, though that really doesn't do the win any credit.
Kim had fought once in Japan prior to this bout, beating Hideyuki Ohashi back in 1986, and Ohashi and Ioka were two of the young stars of Japanese boxing at the time. There had been calls to see the two to fight but they never did, though this is one of the few times the two men shared an opponent. The other thing to note is that Kim was the second ever WBA Minimumweight champion, and a unification between the two would have been big. Sadly this wasn't a unification, and did come more than a year after Kim had lost his world title, but was still a very meaningful bout and a big win for Ioka, who would lose 5 subsequent world title bouts after this contest, including the rematch to Yuh.
The Filipino boxing scene is a rather perplexing one at times. It's big names are huge, and every fight fan has heard of the Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire, Jerwin Ancajas and Johnriel Casimero. Sadly outside of the top, top Filipino fighters however there isn't too much fanfare or attention, and even top Filipino world title contenders don't get much attention, never mind the prospects.
One of the many prospects making their mark on the Filipino and looking to advance his career, later this year, is the talented and unbeaten Jayson Mama (15-0, 8). He's a 23 year old Flyweight who is dubbed the "Smasher" and is marching through the ranks, heading towards a regional title. His name might not be well known in the West, but he's one to keep an eye on going forward.
Mama was making a name for himself way back in 2014 when he was still an amateur, alongside twin brother Jerven Mama. Both of the brothers began training at the Sanman Gym and just a year later Jayson impressed at the 2015 Palarong Pambansa, winning a gold medal. He would impress at Mindanao qualifying leg of the Philippines National Games, but decided to turn professional instead of continuing on with his amateur career.
In early 2016 Mama made his professional debut and stopped fellow debutant Romel Padayhag in 2 rounds on a card that also featured Romero Duno, Reymart Gaballo and Robert Paradero. Just weeks later Mama beat Roland Jay Biendima, who recently gave Kento Hatanaka a good fight, by decision over 4 rounds. Mama would continue with a busy schedule through 2016 and by the end of the year he had gone 5-0 (2), with a good 6 round decision win over Joash Jordan in June.
Despite the busy first year to his professional career Mama was a lot less active in 2017, though he did tick off some other firsts. His first bout of the year saw him going 8 rounds for the first time, beating Jeffrey Alejandre over the distance. He also notched wins over some experienced opponents, in the form of Bimbo Nacionales and Rodel Tejares. Neither of those fighters are big names, or even good fighters, but they are experienced foes.
In 2018 we saw Mama continue taking strides in his career. He began the year stopping Michael Camelion in 9 rounds, the longest bout of his career up to this point, and claimed the WBO Oriental Youth title, the first title of his career. A rather low key in the middle of the year was then followed by Mama's international debut, as he went to Macau and beat Yinhuan Su with a 10 round decision, ticking off another achievement that a prospect should always look to do before a major fight.
The win over Su served another purpose, as well as being a 10 rounder. The bout was also a qualifying bout for one of the IBF Silk Road tournament finals, and lead to Mama booking a place on a 2019 show in China. On that 2019 Chinese show he took on former world title challenger Fahlan Sakkreerin, and Mama easily out outboxed Fahlan, taking a wide and clear decision, whilst boosting himself towards a world title fight.
A win over Fahlan, in Mama's 12th professional bout, was a reason to sit up and take note. That was then followed by another notable win just a few weeks later when he stopped former world champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng, in what looked like a bit of a quit job from the 36 year old Thai. Thankfully the win over Kwanthai was easily forgotten and Mama's next win came against decent domestic foe Dexter Alimento.
Aged just 21 as we entered 2020 Mama was starting to get some buzz among the hardcore fans, and momentum was building behind him. Sadly that momentum has been slowed, understandably, by the on going global situation in the world right now. It was also slowed before boxing was put on hold, due to a rather meaningless stay busy fight against Reymark Taday in February. A bout that served no purpose for Mama.
In the ring Mama is a fighter who looks natural as a fighter. He looks calm, composed, relaxed and despite having areas to work on he does have a lot to like. He has nice hand speed, a very solid boxing brain and looks like one of those fighters who picks shots well. There are areas to improve on, but with Sanman behind him he has a very good team, who will work on his flaws and and help prepare him for some big fights in the coming years.
Mama might not be a big name yet, but he is a fighter with the potential to be a big star in the future. Expect to see his developing well over the next few years and eventually working his way to a world title fight in a few years time. He has the potential to go a long way, and now just needs experience and the time to mature.
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