The month of June is over, at last, and we can now look forward to a truly packed July after what has been a rather frustrating and meandering month of action. With that in mind lets have a look at our last weekly award winners for this past month.
Fighter of the Week
Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4)
The Korean boxing queen did it again, retaining her WBA female Super Featherweight title for the 7th time and moving one step closer to a big bout. The talented Hyun Mi Choi struggled for a couple of rounds with Wakako Fujiwara before figuring out the Japanese challenger and taking a clear and wide decision win. This wasn't Choi at her best, but was a comfortable victory for the Pyongyang born champion.
Performance of the Week
Mizuki Chimoto (2-0, 1)
Japanese female fighter Mizuki Chimoto may not be getting much attention right now, but in just her second bout she claimed the Japanese female Minimumweight title, out pointing the talented Chie Higano over 6 rounds, taking a technical decision. The bout was a huge step up in class for Chimoto but she did what she needed to to get the win, get the title, and take a huge step towards making her mark on the sport. She's certainly one to watch, and we wouldn't be surprised to see her mixing up for world titles by the end of 2020.
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee
Touted Japanese debutant Ran Tomomatsu wasn't expected to have an easy time with Korean puncher Sang Geun Lee but what few would have anticipated was this heavy handed slog the two men had in what was the standout bout of the week. Both men really dug their toes into the canvas and let some bombs go in what will be a very over-looked war of attrition. For Tomomatsu this was a real baptism of fire whilst Lee showed what he was made of in a thrilling action bout
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee - Round 3
We stick with the Tomomatsu Vs Lee war for the round of the week, and that was the third round, which was the one where really saw the two men both let their shots go at their most even and most competitive. This was a round where we really saw what Lee was made of, and why Tomomatsu is so highly regarded with every punch, even the jabs, looking like they were being thrown with bad intent.
We sadly missed the Thai show on Sunday, but from the highlights we were impressed by the finish scored by Vaibhav Singh Yadav, who scored a big KO over Phongsathon Sompol. From what we managed to see, this was the one for us.
Suzumi Takayama (2-0, 2)
We only got a cameo from Watanabe Gym's Suzumi Takayama in mid-week but he impressed in blowing away Korean foe In Soo Jang. This was Takayama making a statement on a card that saw Japanese fighters have a pretty dominant display against Korean foes, with Takayama being the stand out among the Japanese team. There were other prospects on the card worthy of a mention, including Ran Tomomatsu, and across Asia later in the week, including excellent showings from Saddridin Akhmedov, Anvar Turapov, Murodjon Yokubov and Padyod Keartjareunsiri, but for a man in his second fight Takayama stood out as the one who made the best statement.
Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11) v Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18)
It's pretty much last chance saloon time for Filipino fighter Arthur Villanueva as he takes on WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali. For the French champion this will be his first defense, and bigger challenges do await later in the year, but for Villanueva it's now or never. We're not expecting this to be a FOTY contender, or anything even close to that, but we are hoping for a good, high quality boxing contest between two men each looking to prove they are world class fighters.
Over the last few year we have seen top Japanese prospects flooding the lower weight classes, and it's genuinely becoming harder and harder to spot who will go all the way, and who will fall short.
One of the most highly touted of those coming through is Teiken promoter youngster Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1), who fights in his third professional bout on July 12th and is looking like a prospect who could go a very long way and become one of the future faces of the Teiken gym.
The 23 year old from Tokyo really came to the attention of the hardcore Japanese fans as an amateur where he ran up a brilliant 59-12 (16) record. That record included wins over Kosei Tanaka and Takuma Inoue, beating both in the same tournament in 2013 and some international experience, fighting in a tournament in Taipei in 2013. Given that sort of amateur background there was clearly a lot of interest in Iwata when he eventually decided to turn professional.
Unlike many Japanese fighters Iwata made his debut in the US, doing so on December 8th 2018 when he defeated Joel Bermudez at the StubHub Center in Carson. Not only did Iwata debut on US soil, but he did so on the final HBO show, before the American TV giant stepped away from boxing. It was a huge stage for his debut, even if he was buried way down the card, and it seemed like Iwata didn't really shine as many had hoped. He got the win, but the performance wasn't mind blowing, especially given his amateur credentials.
Having had his debut Iwata then turned his attention back home and earned a B class JBC license in early 2019, having signed up with the Teiken Gym in Japan. Having passed his B class test he made his Japanese debut in May, defeating the 2018 All Japan Light Flyweight Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama over 6 rounds. This time around we saw what Iwata could really do, with the Japanese youngster showing touches of genius with his movement, his jab and his speed. It wasn't the most aggressive or exciting of performances but it was a brilliant showcase of his boxing skills and his boxing brains.
Whilst there are still a lot of questions for Iwata to answer, he has shown, in just 2 bouts, that he is a smart, talented fighter, with excellent skills, good stamina, a great boxing brain, fantastic speed and a stunning jab. He has the tools to go a very, very long way, but will obvious have bigger tests of those skills as his career develops.
We're hoping to see him being a given a test next time out, with his return pencilled in for July 12th, as part of a major card in Osaka. At the time of writing his opponent for that bout hasn't been named, though the bout will be another 6 rounder with Iwata likely to move into 8 rounders sooner, rather than later and from there on we expect to see the youngster answering questions and impressing us as he heads towards title fights and major glory.
We've had another quiet week in the world of Asian boxing, though thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel and in the coming weeks and when we get to July we're set for some great fights and hectic action. Despite the action still being slow we did have a great show in the middle of the week with a trio of world title fights. That show has really dominated awards this week, and without it we really would have been at a loss.
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14)
There was only one person really in the running for the Fighter of he Week and that was Japanese star Kazuto Ioka, who became a 4-weight world champion on Wednesday when he stopped Aston Palicte in Chiba. The bout, which was a huge ratings success for TBS, was Ioka's first bout in Japan in over 2 years and there was worries that a loss would send him into retirement. What we got from him however was a show case performance and an eventual stoppage of a much bigger, stronger fighter. This was the performance Ioka needed, and it was performance that has put him back among the top of the Japanese scene.
Performance of the Week
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5)
Thai fighter Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart travelled to Japan and was expected to be on the receiving end of a bad loss to WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. Whilst he did lose to the Japanese star he managed to put in an excellent performance, neutralising a lot of Kyoguchi's pressure and not only going the distance with the champion but actually taking a number of rounds from Kyoguchi. This was the sort of loss where the loser comes out with an enhanced reputation, and we're looking forward to seeing more of the Thai hopeful.
Kazuto Ioka TKO10 Aston Palicte
We're back to Kazuto Ioka and his WBO Super Flyweight title win against Filipino fighter Aston Palicte, in what really was a brilliant fight. Ioka's technique, speed and timing was up against the size, power and strength of Palicte, making for a fantastic dynamic to the fight. The bout was fought at a high skill level, with a solid tempo through out, and whilst it won't be regarded as a FOTY contender it was a fantastic bout all round, with a great atmosphere and a real tension, especially when Palicte threw some of his bombs. This will likely be one of the more forgotten bouts at the end of the year, best remembered for Ioka becoming a 4 weight champion rather than the in ring action, but it was a very solid fight and a great watch.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte (round 7)
Staying with the WBO Super Flyweight title bout the 7th round was something super special, with Palicte, who was starting to struggle with Ioka's accuracy and timing, putting his foot on the gas and putting the pressure on. For the first minute or so it looked like he was getting to Ioka and that his size advantage was going to be a major issue as we got into the second half of the fight. We then saw Ioka regroup and fight back amazingly well in the second half of the round, giving us a real back and forth round. Despite neither man being dropped the round was excellent, dramatic and exciting, all we could ever ask for.
There was no standout KO for this past week
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4)
We suspect we'll be talking about Shu Utsuki a lot in the years to come, and it's not with good cause with the Watanabe Gym fighter being a fantastic prospect, with solid power, heavy handed and a developing professional style. This past week he scored a career best win by stopping Omrri Bolivar, and will likely find himself in the Japanese and OPBF rankings in July. He might not be one of the gym's biggest name prospects but the Watanabe Gym has a real talent among their midst here, and hopefully they develop him through the next 18 months before pushing him towards title fights.
Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5) vs Takahiko Kobayashi (8-3, 6)
This coming week is another quiet one, thankfully the last quiet one for a while, though it does have some interesting bouts with the pick of the bunch being a mid-week Korea Vs Japan bout between Korean teenage prospect Jeong Han Cha and hard hitting Japanese fighter Takahiko Kobayashi. We expect this to be a shoot out, and we would be absolutely gob smacked if this goes the distance. On paper this is a true gem.
After a relatively quiet month of June we see things really pick up in July, with what looks to be a truly hectic schedule. We though May was busy but even the craziness of May could end up playing second fiddle to June which features everything we could ever ask for.
The Ohashi gym has become a hotbed for fantastic young fighters, with the gym, along with the Watanabe Gym and the Teiken Gym, signing up much of the top amateur talent from Japan over the last few years. Among those fighters to sign with the Ohashi gym and join up with former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi is 27 year old Katsuya Yasuda (3-0, 2), who is set to take a major step up in class this coming July, and try to make up for a disappointing 2018.
The Ibaragi born Yasuda first made his mark on the sport as an amateur, winning a national amateur crown in 2013 and running up an excellent 64-12 (30) amateur record. Like many top Japanese amateurs he didn't really make a mark on the international scene, but his reputation from the domestic amateur ranks had seen him become a fighter with suitors for when he finally decided to turn professional.
Yasuda would make his professional debut on August 30th 2017, at the age of 25. He was older than many top Japanese prospects when he turned professional, but still not an old fighter by any stretch. On debut he needed just 62 seconds to stop Indonesian foe Reno Arizala. Despite it being a very short bout Yasuda showed excellent footwork, sharp punching and a very nasty straight left hand, that left Arizala down for the 10 count. Whilst the bout was a mismatch it was a good debut win for Yasuda who showed enough to get excited about.
Having blitzed his debut opponent Yasuda's second bout would see him take on sturdy Korean southpaw Ki Soo Lee, and Lee wasn't there to roll over, in fact Lee was there to win and to upset the former amateur stand out. The blows of Lee would take an effect early on, and he would leave Yasuda with an almost swollen shut right eye. With the eye a mess Yasuda had to focus on protecting himself more than he'd have liked, and this allowed Lee to be the aggressor, something that didn't Yasuda did struggle with.
Despite the adversity Yasuda would do enough to take the win, taking a majority decision with scores of 58-56, 58-57 and 57-57. It wasn't a lucky win, but was a real gut check, and something that forced him to prove his will to win.
Given the swelling under his eye in the Lee fight it was little wonder that Yasuda would be out of the ring for quite some time, in fact it was over 8 months that Yasuda would be out of the thing, before he returned at Lightweight, having had his first 2 bouts at Light Welterweight. On his return he battled Indonesian journeyman Anshori Anhar Pitulay, who was making his Japanese debut hut had suffered losses on the road in Australia and Thailand, often by stoppage and took him out in 3 rounds, making the most of his body shots which took out Pitulay.
The unbeaten Ohashi man will return to the ring on July 1st as he looks for his biggest win to date. He will be up against Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde in an 8 round bout. A win over Castroverde is expected, and would be a huge boost for his career, though it's not a given and the Filipino is no push over, despite just a single win in his last 5 bouts. A win here should give Yasuda's career a shot in the arm and hopefully lead him to really biting down and running with his career, which has lacked the activity it needs for him to fulfil his true potential.
We've sadly had another very quiet week in the realm of Asian boxing, meaning that, once again, our awards aren't littered with big name winners and outstanding rounds. We have had a few notable performances, though many of those won't even be aired until next week, with the real talking piint being the latest Uzbek amateur star to turn professional
Fighter of the Week
Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Mid-week fights can often be over-looked and that was likely the case this past week, with a couple of Japanese cards in the middle of the week. It was on one of those shows that Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka made his first defense, avenging a prior loss to Naoya Haruguchi in the process. The under-rated Tanaka is rumoured to be next in line for Wanheng Menayothin and, in all honesty, he would make for a compelling for the unbeaten Thai world champion., especially given the run he's on and performances like the one this week.
Performance of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (1-0, 1)
Former Uzbek amateur star Bektemir Melikuziev made his debut, and although it was only a short one, lasting 99 seconds, it was easily the best performance by an Asian fighter this week. He took on Argentinian veteran Martin Fidel Rios and almost gutted him with a brutal body shot. Although big things were expected of Melikuziev we really didn't expect him to take Rios out this quickly! Very impressive.
Kyonosuke Kameda vs Ryugo Ushijima
We didn't see a fight of the year contender this past week, but did see some interesting action, and for us the most interesting was between Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of Koki Daiki and Tomoki, and Ryugo Ushijima in a qualifier for the Rookie of the Year. This was hotly contested, highly competitive and really good from a fans perspective. Yes, this wasn't an all out war, but was a genuinely fantastic 4 round bout.
No round, that we saw, stood out this week. It's a shame that there was so little actually visible though, with various shows not being available to watch at the time of writing.
Bektemir Melikuziev KO1 Martin Fidel Rios
It may have been a body shot, m but what a body shot it was! Bektemir Melikuziev showed straight out of the box that he knew how to find the body and how land a fight ending blow to the body, with what was an amazing shot to the mid-section to take Rios out.
Ryu Horikawa (1-0, 1)
Japanese teenager Ryu Horikawa, who turned professional with a fair bit of buzz, may not have had a flawless debut but he looked exciting and fought with a really aggressive style. There's a lot of defensive flaws for him to work on, but he still impressed and looks like the sort of fighter who we could easily see getting big fights after just a couple of years on the domestic scene, make a note of this young man's name.
Whilst Bektemir Melikuziev did look more impressive it's hard to consider hima prospect given he's just beaten a man regarded as a gate keeper, and it's obvious that Melikuziev will be looking to skip the prospect stage of his career.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) vs Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5)
We have some great fights coming up, with the pick of them being the WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, aka Tanawat Nakoon. It's always great to see unbeaten fighters clash at world level, and we're expecting to see something very exciting.
With over 40 world champions South Korea is a country that has long been linked to boxing. Sadly though it's more than a decade since they had a man holding a world title and they are certainly a long way removed from their best years. Despite that it is worth noting that the country has started to, slowly, build an exciting and interesting domestic scene. That domestic scene has been lead by the rise of the BoxingM, the management that really has pumped money into the sport, run tournaments and given fighters a chance to make their mark.
One of the big hopes that has become a focus of BoxingM has been exciting teenage puncher Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5), who is set to make his international debut on June 25th, when he takes on 23 year old Japanese foe Takahiko Kobayashi (8-3, 6) at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. This is the main event of a Dangan promoted card pitting Japanese locals against Korean visitors, as has the potential to be a very special bout.
Born in September 2000 Cha didn't have much of an amateur background, with no amateur bouts. What he did however have was a track record in sports in general, having competed in baseball and was a natural athlete, before being bitten by the boxing bug.
Cha made his professional debut at the age of 17, and quickly impressed as he scored a 2nd round win over fellow debutant Geon Kim in June 2018. This bout was held on a very obscure card at the Taepoong Gymnasiumm, in front of about 12 fans and took place at Welterweight. Despite the low quality of the show Cha showed some genuine promise, especially in round 2 when he began to let his shots fly. Notably he was left with a bloodied nose in round 1 but gritted it out and twice dropped Kim to secure the win. The bout saw him showing great instinct, despite some crude skills and defensive flaws.
Just a month after his debut Cha would fight in the second ever Battle Royale, a Korean Rookie tournament comparable in some ways to the Japanese Rookie of the Year tournament. In his first round bout of the tournament he stopped Gun Ho Lee in the second round, unloading a 2 handed assault on Lee until he went down and the referee was forced to halt the bout. His progress through the tournament continued in October when he took on Shin Hee Min, and once again his power excited, with Min stunned in round 2 and not responding whilst Cha wailed away with clean shots.
Due to issues outside of his hands Cha was essentially given a bye for the semi-final of the Battle Royale, but fought on the same card as the other semi-finals bouts and stopped Gun Ho Lee in a second bout between the two men. This time Lee managed to survive into round 3 with Cha, but was against broken down by his pressure, power and work rate
In his Battle Royal final Cha would battle fellow unbeaten Yun Seong Kim, who like Cha was also a southpaw. Kim boxed really well in the first round and left Cha with a bloodied nose, much like Cha had on his debut. Cha however applied pressure, constantly, and in round 2 he broke through, stopping Kim with a series of head shots, after previously having dropped with a body shot that was ruled low.
From his 5 bouts so far Cha has looked like a throw back to the Korean fighters of old. The Korean fighters who were instilled with a "come forward and punch" mentality. His defensive issues are still there, as they were on his debut, and they do need work however his offensive pressure and power are what have made him so fun to watch and have left him marked as the Korean hopeful to watch. He really does hit hard, his combinations are excellent and the way he jumps on an opponent when he has them hurt has been incredible so far.
Against Kobayashi, himself a punch, we're expecting to see Cha given a real test. Although Cha has been left with a bloodied nose a couple of times we've never really seen him hurt, and Kobayashi certainly has the power to hurt him. Kobayashi is also much taller than Cha, rangier and is a very series test for Cha. If Cha comes through this with a win it's hard to imagine BoxingM doing anything but pushing thee youngster to title bouts sooner rather than later, with a potential domestic title fight later in the year. A loss would his career, but would certainly not be the end of his career and he could easily bounce back down the line.
(Image courtesy of boxingm)
The Watanabe gym is stacked with great prospects, many of whom are tipped to be stars of the future. One of those is the unbeaten Shu Utsuki (4-0, 3), who made his professional debut in 2018 and has already impressed with some solid performances and good wins. He'll be looking to extend those good performances on June 19th, when he returns and faces Omri Bolivar (8-1, 3) on a big card in Chiba.
Utsuki, as with many of the top prospects at the Watanabe Gym, is a former amateur standout with a notable career in the unpaid ranks. That career as an amateur saw Utsuki go 81-27 and also captain the Heisei International University boxing team As an amateur he would fight in numerous tournaments on the domestic scene, notably coming runner up in the 2012 Junior Selection tournament in Ibaraki. Though unfortunately it doesn't appear that he turned good performances into notable tournament wins or notable international appearances.
In February 2018 Shu Utsuki, along with Seiya Tsutsumi and Eri Matsuda, took part in his B license pro-test. He looked really good at his pro-test and made his debut a month later, doing so on the same show as Tsutsumi. His debut was unspectacular if we're being honest, with the youngster beating Thai foe Meechaiya Kaewkwanresort in round 3. A few months later he would go on to defeat the debuting Yoji Saito, a fellow amateur standout, in what was a much tougher bout. Against Saito we saw Utsuki being dropped by the power punching Saito, but regroup well to take a narrow and hotly contest win. Despite it being Saito's debut it was an ultra-competitive bout, and is well worth hunting down on Boxing Raise, and is currently available to those who don't subscribe to the service.
In his third professional bout, which took place last November, Utsuki took on unbeaten Chinese fighter Da Xu, who travelled to Tokyo with ambition of upsetting Utsuki. He came with fire and put Utsuki under pressure, but the local hopeful boxed well, stayed composed during Xu's pressure and saw off the Chinese fighter in round 2 with a brilliant hand on the chin. Xu somehow got to his feet following he shot but had no idea where he was as the refere waved the bout off.
Utsuki's only bout so far this year was a big step up in class, but a successful one, as he defeat Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde, with an 8th round TKO following the towel being thrown in. This was only the second time Castroverde had been stopped and was a real statement for Utsuki who proved he could go 8 rounds, and proved he still had power and speed late into bouts. Sadly this bout isn't available online, as his previous 2 were.
As mentioned Utsuki's next bout will take place in Chinba against Bolivar. That bout will take place on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's bout with Aston Palicte and will be Utsuki's first contest outside of Korakuen Hall. Whilst the bout isn't expected to get any TV or streaming coverage it is a good step in the right direction for Utsuki, who will likely find himself in the title mix in 2020.
As a fighter Utsuki is well schooled, as you'd expect from a man with over 100 amateur bouts, heavy handed and composed. There is however a feeling that he will take longer to make his mark on the sport than the likes of Tsutsumi and Ginjiro Shigeoka, who both looked a lot more "pro-ready" straight from the off.
One again we've have a relatively quiet week for Asian fighters, despite some pretty notable fighters in action. It wasn't a week that will stand out as something special at the end of the year, or a highlight, but we certainly shouldn't write the week off as a fail, because it really wasn't. In fact it was a week of showcases for unbeaten prospects and rising hopefuls.
Fighter of the Week
Israil Madrimov (3-0, 3)
The Uzbek has done it again and stolen the week with another fantastic performance, as he became only the third man to stop Mexican veteran Norberto Gonzalez. And he did so in just his third bout. We tend to have a general rule that we don't regard world ranked fighters as prospects, and we do, admittedly, hold a fighter like Madrimov to a high level than we do with many others, but even at an elevated standard he is something special and deserves not only the plaudits he's getting, but a legitimately big fight next time out. He's something special and it's going to become a waste of time to have him face any more gatekeepers like Gonzalez.
Performance of the Week
Carl Jammes Martin (13-0, 12)
When we have a TV friendly fighter like Carl Jammes Martin we always want to watch more of him, and that was certainly the case this week when he put on a showcase to stop Yutthichai Wannawong inside a round. Whether Martin had scored an opening round stoppage or a UD we'd always want to see more of him, and for the 20 year old that's exactly what we need from him. If he keeps putting on performances like this he will remain a must watch fighter, though hopefully his competition will step up shortly.
Bakhtiyar Eyubov vs Brian Ceballo
Kezakh fighter Bakhtiyar Eyubov may not have been able to take the upset win over Brian Ceballo but the bout was a fun one, with a number of really good rounds early in the bout, as Ceballo seemed to look fight fire with fire. In fairness Ceballo realised he had the skills to take an easy win of the previously unbeaten Kazakh, but he did pick moments to stand and fight in what was really fun as a bout. A nice combination of power punching, fighting and skills. And Ceballo ended the bout looking like a surefire star of the future, he is well worth following.
Gennady Golovkin Vs Steve Rolls (round 3)
Former Middleweight king Gennady Golovkin was supposed to steam roll Steve Roll, and whilst he did stop him in round 4 that wasn't until we saw Rolls attempt to take the fight to Golovkin. The first round was quiet but Rolls grew into the fight and rounds 2 and 3 were both very fan friendly with the under-dog trying to shock the world. They weren't round of the year contenders or anything but was exciting and it was great to see Rolls standing up to the champion for the round, and having success of his own.
In Duck Seo KO1 Tysinn Best
Korean fighter In Duck Seo travelled over to Australia and was expected to be the man to move unbeaten Australian Tysin Best to 11-0. Instead Seo ripped up the script and sent Best crashing to the canvas, with one of the most brutal KO's of 2019. The Australian was dropped hard before being knocked out in spectacular fashion by the Korean who really announced himself as the type of fighter who cannot be over-looked at this level. Unfortunately for Best he looked the better boxer, but that was that a moot point given Seo's toughness and power, which decided the bout.
Dave Apolinario (11-0, 6)
It's beecoming harder and harder to ignore just how good Dave Apolinario is, and this week we saw him having his stiffest test so far. The unbeaten "Dobermann" was up against fellow Filipino southpaw Adrian Lerasan, and was genuinely tested, but came out on top and answered a lot of questions. Apolinario showed he could fight for 10 rounds, at a good pace, and against a southpaw. He also showed that even when he can't hurt his opponent he can easily out box them, has solid concentration for 10 rounds and very good stamina. Lerasan hadn't got in to the ring to lose, and as a result Apolinario was forced to work for his win, and he showed so much against a fighter trying to beat him. A fantastic step forward for the unbeaten youngster.
Artem Dalakian (18-0, 13) vs Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15)
This next week is another quiet looking one, but there is a world title fight, as unbeaten WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian defends his belt against mandatory challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat, aka Sarawut Thawornkham. On paper this looks great and whilst the Ukrainian champion will be strongly favoured he could be surprised by the Thai, who has travelled over with a lot of confidence.
Whilst there are some really big gyms in Japan that have fighters recognised well outside of the country other gyms are less well known. For every Teiken, Ohashi or Watanabe there's 20 or more gyms that even your hardcore boxing fan won't have heard of. One great example of that is the Kuratoki Boxing Gym in Wakayama. Though the gym is a pretty obscure one, it does have some talent among it's ranks, with the diamond in the rough being 2018 Rookie of the Year winner Yuri Takemoto (6-1-1, 3). He might not be well known, but the 23 year old Southpaw is a real hopeful worthy of attention.
Born in Osaka in 1996 the young Takemoto wasn't an amateur standout when he turned professional in 2017. There was no real expectations on his shoulders when he passed his C Class license pro-test in March 2017, just a few weeks before his 21st birthday, and in fact it's fair to say no one really took any notice of him on his debut. Since then however he has proven his ability and turned around a mixed start to his professional career into that of a very promising young fighter.
Going back to his debut, Takemoto debuted in June 2017 at the Big Wave in Wakayama, a venue he will now headline at on June 16th. He would secure a win on debut by stopping Kanta Fukui in the second round in one of the preliminary bouts, the card was a small one not many would have been there for Takemoto's bout. A couple of months after his debut he fought in Kyoto, on the under-card of the first match between Shinsuke Yamanaka and Luis Nery. Takemoto would lose a razor thin devision to local fighter Kensuke Nakamura, a stablemate of Kenshiro's. By razor thin, we really do mean razor thin, with all 3 judges having the bout scored 39-38 to Nakamura.
Takemoto would suffer another setback a few months later, fighting to a 4 round draw with Tomoya Kishine in Osaka, on a show that featured the likes of Juiki Tatsuyoshi and Hiroshige Osawa.
Since those back to back setbacks we've seen Takemoto go on an impressive run, winning 5 bouts in a row, with a massive 2018 which saw him win 4 bouts, become the Rookie of the Year and put his name on the radar of hardcore Japanese fans.
Takemoto's Rookie of the Year campaign began in May 2018 when he took on fellow novice Kazunori Harima, and scored a 53 second win. Takemoto dropped Harrima twice in the opening round, once with a right hand and once with a left hand. Interestingly this bout is available over the Boxing Raise service, and whilst he looked wild Takemoto was incredibly fun to watch.
The win over Harima saw Takemoto progress to the West Japan Rookie of the Year Semi-final, where he beat Takafumi Iwaya in Kobe.
Having won his West Japan Rookie of the Year semi Takemoto was scheduled to battle Temin Kimura in the regional final in September of 2018. Kimura however pulled out, and in November Takamoto blew out Teru Nobita, inside a round, to book his place in the All Japan final a month later. Going in to the bout Nobita was unbeaten, though failed to last 3 minutes with Takemoto.
Takemoto's final bout of 2018 was his All Japan Rookie of the Year final, where he took on the then unbeaten Hikari Mineta from the Teiken gym. Takemoto would drop his man 3 times in the opening round, though fail to stop Mineta, who put in a great effort to fight his way back into the contest. Despite Mineta's effort it was Takemoto who would take the decision, the win and the Rookie of the Year crown.
This past March we saw Takemoto fight for the first time since his Rookie win, and he defeated Filipino foe Reymond Empic over 6 rounds. He is now set to return where it all began, the Big Wave in Wakayama, where he will face Kiki Marciano on June 16th in what will be Takemoto's first 8 round bout. He'll be expected to stop Marciano, who has ben stopped in his last 2 bouts, but bigger and better things are surely just around the corner for the talented man from Wakayama.
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