This past week has been another subdued week for boxing, though that's understandable given the current situation with the world. However that doesn't mean there's not been some good things happening and some bad things happening and of course, there was an huge ugly occurrence.
1-Fans at Japanese boxing in July!
This week we saw news that fans will be allowed to attend some events in Japan in July. Whilst the number of fans at the events will be limited it appears that the July 26th show at the Aioi Hall in Kariya will be allowed to have around 50% attendance, and we could see several other shows, outside of Tokyo, having fans at them. This is great news for boxing and seems clear that Japan is heading in the right direction for the sport to restart fully.
2-Eddie Hearn's Garden Party Boxing is Happening
We know Eddie Hearn likes to talk, a lot, often about nothing. Making announcements of announcements regarding an announcement seems to be one of his favourite hobbies. This week we finally saw him announce the details of his 4 August shows at the garden at the Matchroom Head office. The shows aren't anything great, despite what he and his fans will say, but they aren't terrible and are a welcome return in an unusual location for the sport. They are something to be excited about, for sure, but not something to get overly excited, especially with the good old "card subject to change" note that we've seen happen a lot in recent Top Rank shows.
3-Top Rank shows improve...
Talking about Top Rank shows, this past week was the best of their summer series by far and the bouts featuring Andrew and Jason Moloney showed some actual intelligent match making and story telling. One thing the sport tends to lack is smart promotional work, but having the twins fighting just days apart left fans wanting the second part of their 2-bout story. The Heavyweights in action on Thursday may have been limited but they wanted to fight and the contest between Raymond Yanong and Clay Burns was surprisingly a great little fight.
1-Covid growing, show boxing be on in the US?
Whilst the Top Rank shows did improve this past week there is a sense that they really shouldn't be taking place at all. The rules on their Covid testing have changed but the reality is that there are growing number of cases in the US, more and more fighters and team members are testing positive and despite fewer bouts being called off their is a clear risk of something bad happening. It's great boxing is back in the US, but it's very clearly not something that is needed right now. Whilst we've, for the most part, enjoyed the US shows they do feel a bit tone deaf given the increasing number of cases in the US.
2-Mexican Cards, mismatches and No Contests
Of course ESPN's broadcasts haven't just come from the US but also Mexico, where things are even stranger. The last 2 Mexican cards have had a bunch of fights, but the official results for all of them have been No Contests, as we have essentially had a dick measuring contest between the National and local commissions. Whatever the reason for the disagreement between the two parties is is irrelvant, cases in Mexico continue to grow and events like these do spit in the face of the average person. Added to that is the complete mismatches in the main event, further questioning the need for the shows at this current time. Maybe rethink these guys, they aren't doing any good.
3-Wanheng Menayothin forced back to the ring?
A week ago we were talking about the retirement of unbeaten Thai Wanheng Menayothin, with a 54-0 record. Then in the days that followed he had "unretired" and been pushed out in front of a press covered medical, which confirmed issues with his right eye and nose. The feeling inside is that someone sees themselves able to cash out on the fighter and want to push him in to the ring for one more pay day. Maybe we're wrong, and cynical, but the whole situation is leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
1-PPV in August - Fuck off!
Boxing will boxing, and Matchroom will Matchroom. The final one of their back garden shows was announced as being a Pay Per View. That's right, the greedy bastards at Matchroom are expecting fans to fork out for a PPV following an epidemic that has seen unemployment rise through the UK, and has seen even those in jobs see a loss of hours and stability. This is simply tone deaf and missing the point of the fans. The card, headlined by Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin, is a decent fight, albeit one where they are again rolling out a well beyond his best Povetkin, but in this current climate the PPV deserves to fail. Big time. British boxing promoters have taken the fans for mugs in the past and this is another case of the sport shooting it's self in the foot, misjudging the situation and completely alienating fans who have gone through some horrific times recently.
2-Jarrell Miller fails a drugs test...again
Whilst Eddie Hearn's PPV idea's for August are bad he's not even the biggest boxing villain of the week. That honour is taken by Jarrell Miller, who has again failed a drug test. He was banned in 2014 by the CSAC for failing a drug test, avoided a ban in 2019, due to a technical situation, but didn't learn his lesson and failed again last week. Sadly Miller isn't the only one to not learn a lesson as he had been booked by Top Rank to fight in July. Hopefully, this is the ned of Miller.
One thing we've seen a lot of calls for is for Miller to be banned for life, the reality however is that the drug testing bodies and local commissiosn have failed to do this in the past. Instead we need the promoters to actually agree on something and get drugs cheats out of the sport. They are, despite our dislike of them, the power players in this sport. Instead of working with fighters who have failed drugs tests we'd love to see the promoters unite and refuse to work with them. Maybe that's a fantasy, but it's also likely the only way we see the risk-reward of being caught become too big for fighters to risk it.
Introducing... Tursynbay Kulakhmet
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a very, very messed up year. We don't feel we need to explain anything there, but it really has been a screwed up year in so many ways. Despite that we do have some interesting boxing on the horizon. One of the most interesting things coming up is the debut of Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0), who appears to be getting a baptism of fire in the professional ranks in July.
The 26 year old Kulakhmet became one of the latest Kazakh fighters to turn professional earlier this year, signing with MTK Kazakhstan, and instantly those who followed amateur boxing knew the pros had just gotten another sensationally talented Central Asian fighter to get excited about.
Sadly it's almost impossible to come across full amateur numbers for Kulakhmet thought what is known is that he was a genuinely exceptional amateur and had been for years. He won the 2013 Asian Youth Championships at 75KG, and was among a group of medal winners that also included Kosei Tanaka and Israil Madrimov, who both won Silver medals.
A year later Kulakhmet took a Silver medal at the 2014 World University Championships, losing a split decision to local favourite Imam Khatayev. He took a Silver at that year's China Open in Guiyang and won the Agong Cup in Malaysia.
Following Kulakhmet maturing from a youth into an adult his success continued and in 2019 he had a stand out year. Firstly he won Gold at the 2019 Asian Champions in Bangkok. Along his way to that medal he beat Israil Madrimov in the quarter final and barely lost a round in the competition. Just a few months later he would claim Bronze at the World Championships in Yaketerinburg, losing in the semi-final to Filipino star Eumir Marcial.
Of course we've only highlighted Kulakhmet's international honours here, but unsurprisingly he was also a dominant force on the domestic amateur scene and it's due to his domestic success that he got so many chances to shine internationally.
Like many emerging Central Asian fighters Kulakhmet doesn't have a purely amateur style, even in the amateurs. He's aggressive, exciting, and has a real entertainers attitude in the ring with a hands down style involving lots of upper body movement. It's a style that works well over the short distance but may be tricky to maintain over 10 or 12 rounds. He's a southpaw who has an educated lead hand and a brilliant backhand that's sharp and accurate.
Whilst we wouldn't go as far as to suggest Kulakhmet is Lomachenko-esque, there are certainly traits of Lomachenko's style in Kulakhmet, and like Lomachenko you know you're seeing a special talent at work when you see Kulakhmet.
Although Kulakhmet is clearly a special boxer there are worries we have about him. One is his style, and whether he can fight with so much movement for 10 rounds or 12 rounds. If he can he is going to go very far, if not then it's going to be interesting to see how he accomodates. It could be that he just slows things down, which would would, or completely reworks his style, which would be much tougher. We also wonder if he can drop his hands as much in the professional ranks.
Those worries aside the Kazakh looks like a special fighter and in his debut, on July 18th, he's expected to be asked questions as he takes on Sagadat Rakhmankulov (6-1, 4). An impressive performance there could see him being put on a Madrimov-like race through the rankings to a world title.
With his amateur experience, his incredible skill level, and thrilling style Tursynbay Kulakhmet is a someone every fan should make an effort to be aware of before he makes his debut in a few weeks time.
Over the last couple of weeks we have seen Top Rank become the first US promoter to step up to the plate and offer some boxing. Sadly the shows have failed, massively, to connect with the general populace and the ratings are, if we're being honest, pathetic. Especially given the fact there is no other live sport on to compete with boxing.
Whilst we can all understand their being no big bouts on at the moment, with reduced money in the sport, lower TV, no fans, and lower advertising revenue, we do need to question whether there are things promoters can do to make people care more about the fights than they currently are.
One of the problems with boxing is the story telling aspect of the sport.
We often get given a story about the rising hopeful and their hard life. It's something to make us feel a connection to one of the fighters and sell them to us. Sadly however that paints a story that attempts to make us feel sympathetic to the massive favourite rather than telling us a story to paint the fight. Boxing is, for all intents, the only sport where the story of the favourite is the only story given to a neutral fan. The fan is meant to buy in to the event, not just one participant fighter, before the fight. Instead the marketing for boxing is very much about buying into the house fighter, the big favourite.
Just imagine, if you can, a sports channel trying to sell you a match up between Liverpool and San Jose Earthquakes, or the Kansas City Chiefs and the Toronto Argonauts...and then tried to make you feel sympathy for the bigger team.
If ESPN is going to run stories about one of the fighters, during their live broadcast, they should look to run stories on both fighters. Get the casual and neutrals to buy in to both men, rather than continue the narrative that is currently being pushed. Afte all who wants to see a bout between "this future superstar you're telling me is amazing and this other fella who you've told me nothing about". That however can be tricky and really quite awkward, taking up more of the broadcast than it needs to.
Another option, an option we see working well in Asia, is tournament boxing. Give the fans a reason to buy in and to follow a story they can see being weaved in front of their faces, over a number of months. This not only leads to short term story telling that the fans can see being told but, when the sport can resumes normal service, their will be a fighter at the end of it with a lot of extra added value.
Recently we saw Clay Collard pick up his latest upset win, beating David Kaminsky. If their 6 rounder, along with 7 other bouts spread over the next few weeks, was part of a 16 man tournament over the next 6 to 12 months fans would begin buying in early and want to follow their man through out. The eventual winner would then have fans for the sports return.
With the bouts on these shows, for the most part, being 4 and 6 rounders a fighter could, in theory, fight 3 or 4 times between now and the end of the year. Heck Collard's fight was his 4th since November, and if fans keep seeing the same names winning they will begin to care.
For us tournaments are also an easy sell to fans and something boxing, in the west, doesn't have enough of. In the East they are done regularly, with things like Rookie of the Year, the B Class tournaments and the recent KO Dynamite, God's Left Bantamweight and Hajime No Ippo 20th anniversary tournaments in Japan.
It's not just Japan however and Korea has it's own Rookie of the Year tournaments, Thailand had a brilliant little tournament last year dubbed "The Fighter", which has helped launch 16 year old Phoobadin Yoohanngoh into a regional title fight, and China hosts Major League Boxing and the Silk Road tournaments.
Of course the WBSS and the World Boxing Super Series have both helped launch careers internationally, proving their is interest in tournaments at the highest level in the west. Our guess is that interest will also work lower down the sports levels.
It's clear that the current format doesn't work, the only people really tuning in are hardcore fans, so why not take the opportunity to try something different, give the lesser fighters a reason to fight and give fans a reason to care.
By all means keep the "co-feature, under-card bouts, feature" running order, which is something I'll admit I'm a fan of, but make those under-card bouts matter. Put those bouts as preliminary bouts to a tournament, market the tournament, rather than the fighters, and make people care about getting into the story at the beginning rather than in middle, or the end.
It's clearer now, more than ever, that Top Rank doesn't have the star power among their prospects to carry the number of shows they are planning. and it feels like they missed a trick here.
Whilst it seems unlikely Top Rank will run with a longer form tournament, especially with all the issues that boxing has, a short format, either an 8 man 1-night tournament such as "Prizefighter" in the UK, or a 4 man knockout tournament, could still work and could have helped the sport capture the attention of fans when they needed them tuning in.
Whilst I'm on a bit of a rant I also can't help but feel the whole ESPN broadcast needs a shake up. Timothy Bradley and Andre Ward have been awful, so bad they've been making Joe Tessitore look fantastic. It would be nice to hear only one of the two former fighters, working as part of a 2-person booth. What Chris Algieri and Crystina Poncher are doing for the international broadcasts is fantastic, they sound like a coherent unit, not always agreeing but coherent. The current ESPN set up is a mess of in fight narratives and too many voices. It needs streamlining, and people need to just calm it will make the whole thing a lot, lot easier to watch.
We also need to see the judging pick up. We can understand a bit of rustiness but some of the scoring has been truly atrocious. Patricia Morse Jarman having Kaminsky beating Collard, Dave Moretti having Joshua Greer Jr level with Mike Plania and Eric Cheek splitting Cameron Krael and Bobirzhan Mominov by a single point. Come on folks sort that out, there isn't enough fights for you folk to ruin the results!
Revisiting... Takuma Takahashi
In mid-April 2019 we covered Takuma Takahashi (5-0, 5) in our introducing feature. At the time the promising Japanese Welterweight was 3-0 (3) and looking like the next face of the World Sport Boxing Gym, following the likes of Takeshi Inoue and Kazuto Takesako. As we sit now however it's really hard to envisage Takahashi becoming the star we had hoped for him to be. In fact on his last performance it's hard to imagine him being any sort of a serious threat, even at domestic level.
When we spoke about Takahashi last year he had just scored an excellent 85 second blow out win over Jonel Dapidran. It was his third win in just 5 rounds of in ring action and he looked like he was a destructive puncher, albeit one with a relatively crude and open style. He wasn't pretty to watch, but he was destructive, eye catching and fun.
In August 2019 Takahashi continued his perfect start to the professional ranks as he stopped tough Thai Sitthidet Banti in 6 rounds. Takahashi was in control through out the bout but was, for the first time, forced to answer some questions. The bout saw Takahashi prove he could fight for 6 rounds if he needed to, it proved he could box as well as bang, and that he had some polished skills, even if we only managed to see glimpses of them.
Despite the better performance from Takahashi against Banti the unbeaten fighter left a lot of questions that needed answering. Takahashi was in control, but Banti was doing little more than not falling over. The Thai didn't put together much offense of his own and the rare shots he did throw were slapping, and cuffing, with little conviction on them. It made for a poor match up and Takahashi would have had much tougher sparring sessions.
This past January Takahashi was finally given a test, and boy did it turn out to be a test. On paper it wasn't a big step up as he went in with established Filipino journeyman Leonardo Doronio. At this point Doronio had as many losses as wins and was not expected to ask questions of the rising Japanese fighter. What ended up happening was very different to what was expected.
In the opening round Takahashi was dropped, twice, by Doronio. The first knockdown wasn't too bad but the second seemed like it taken his legs away and Takahashi was very lucky the bell rang when it did. Takahashi showed his heart to get back into the fight but would end up cut in round 3, before he finished off Doronio. The finish it's self wasn't without controversy with Takahashi hitting Doronio when he was down, from two different knockdowns.
Although Takahashi had managed to come out on top of a total dog fight with Doronio he had left us with more questions than answers. He proved he had dog in him, digging deep and stopping the Filipino, but left questions about his chin, his defense and his honesty in the ring. A less forgiving referee would certainly have taken points from him, if not disqualified him all together.
It was good to see Takahashi getting tested but wasn't good that it had come against such a limited opponent. We're now very unsure on how far he can go but it's going to be fun following him over the coming years. He can certainly punch, but with question marks about his chin, his defense, his technical polish and ring IQ we don't suspect that Takahashi will go as far as we once expected. In fact we wouldn't be surprised to see Takahashi fail to win a Japanese title, but we expect him to be in a lot of dramatic fights before he hangs them up.
We continue this weekly series by talking about Daisuke Naito (26-3-3, 23) who had a rather remarkable career in many ways. He turned professional at the age of 22 but didn't really find major success until he was in his 30's, which is old for a Flyweight. He burned incredibly brightly at the end of his career, scoring many of his more noteworthy wins after his 30th birthday.
During his 42 fight career Naito would prove Flyweights could punch but also that he wasn't an iron chinned guy, and his 34 second loss to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2002 still stands at the shortest Flyweight world title bout in history. There was ups and down through out his career, with the blow out loss to Wonjongkam and a prior draw against Takefumi Sakata being among the lows. Today however we put the lows to the back of our mind and instead we look at the 5 most significant wins for... Daisuke Naito.
Takeyuki Kojima (October 11th 2004)
In June 2004 Naito beat Hiroshi Nakano for the Japanese Flyweight title, ending Nakano 20 bout unbeaten run to claim his first professional title. Typically that bout would make it on to a list like this, but for Naito his domestic title reign is actually better known for his first defense. That came 4 months later when he took on Takeyuki Kojima in a real "blink and you miss it" fight. The bout lasted just 24 seconds, with Kojima being dropped twice, and Naito setting the record for the shortest ever Japanese title fight. Whilst this bout perhaps wasn't as "big" as the win over Nakano it is, on reflection, a more significant win and one that will have a lot more replay value than his 6th round technical decision title win.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam III (July 18th 2007)
After Naito lost his first 2 bouts with Pongsaklek Wonjongkam few would have given him a chance ahead of their third meeting. In fact the TV channels in Japan gave him so little of a chance that the channel that aired the first two bouts chose not to be involved here, leaving it to independent channel MX Tokyo to pick it up. As it turned out the major TV channels, particularly TBS, let a huge feel good moment for Japanese boxing slip through their fingers. Rather than a huge audience tuning in to see Naito's hand being raised against his Thai nemesis a fraction of the audience saw the event that saw Naito become the WBC Flyweight champion. This was a career defining win and helped really establish Naito, despite the fact he was already 32 years old at this point!
Daiki Kameda (October 11th 2007)
Whilst the win over Wonjongkam was the win that felt good and helped put Naito on the map it was his first defense that really helped his legacy. That was his infamous win over Daiki Kameda in a foul filled mess of a fight. For fans wanting great action they didn't get that here, but they did get some crazy stuff going on. Kameda, then a teenager with a 10-0 record, put on a shameful display of fouling against Naito. Whilst Naito retained his title, with a clear decision, Kameda should have been disqualified for his tactics. Kameda did less boxing in the final round as he did wrestling and had 3 points deducted. The significance of a first world title defense is huge but the out of the ring implications for this bout make it even bigger. Kameda would be suspended by the JBC for a year, his father was indefinitely suspended, and Naito became a massive star with the nation's sympathy well and truly behind him. The Wonjongkam win was massive, but missed the TV exposure it deserved, whilst this bout was the one that made Naito a star.
Tomonobu Shimizu (July 30th 2008)
In his third defense of the WBC Flyweight title Naito took on fellow Japanese fighter Tomonobu Shimizu. Prior to this Shimizu had previously challenged Wonjongkam, losing to the Thai, and had managed to win the Japanese national title. The bout was hotly contested with the two men being very well matched and not too much splitting them on the scorecards through 9 rounds. Thankfully for Naito he turned it on in round 10, and forced a finish against the tiring Shimizu, who had given his all. By it's self this win wouldn't have made the list had it not been for what Shimizu would accomplish afterwards. In his very next fight Shimizu would beat Toshiyuki Igarashi before later going on to win the WBA Super Flyweight title. On reflection this is a really good win, even if Shimizu hadn't accomplished his best work until later on.
Xiong Zhao Zhong (May 26th 2009)
Talking about a win that has aged well we need to finish this with Naito's 2009 win over Chinese challenger Xiong Zhao Zhong. This bout had all sorts going on, and was not one of Naito's best performances. In fact it was a terrible performance in a bout plagued by head clashes and pre-fight issues, issues that forced the bout to shift the country it was being held in on short notice! Despite the mess around it it's a really, really important bout. Not only was it Naito's final successful world title defense, as he took a decision over Zhong, but it was also the first time a fighter from the People's Republic of China challenged for a world title and, given what Xiong later did it's a win that has aged really well. Naito was poor here, and he apologised for his performance after the bout, but in terms of significance this a win that adds real legs onto his legacy more than many of his other wins.
Sadly Naito would lose his belt in his fight after this one to Koki Kameda, ending the Naito Vs Kameda family rivalry that had brewed since Naito's fight with Daiki Kameda.
We love going back over the fighters of yesteryear and thinking about the fights we could have seen had history a little bit differently to how it has done. We love to think about these fights and how they could have played out, when they could have taken place and who would have won. We all think of dream fights pitting fighters from different eras, but we prefer to think about ones that could have taken place, with fighters from the same, or over-lapping, eras. Today we look at another Fight we wish we had.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam Vs Daiki Kameda
For today's fight we look at a Flyweight bout that had a few windows of opportunity, and actually could have taken place had just one result changed. In fact had one result changed, this bout would been almost certain to take place. Had Daiki Kameda beaten Daisuke Naito in October 2007 his first defense, in 2008 would almost certainly have been against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. Instead Kameda lost to Naito and we we went on to see Wonjongkam and Naito clash for a fourth time, before Wonjongkam went on to beat Koki Kameda in 2010. But we'll come back to that a little bit later.
Sadly Kameda's loss to Naito did scupper any plans to hold this in 2008, a year that Kameda spent mostly away from the ring due to a suspension. However there is a second, very interesting window where this bout would have made a lot of sense. That's between summer 2010, after Wonjongkam beat Koki Kameda to become a 2-time WBC Flyweight champion, to March 2012, when Wonjongkam was upset by Sonny Boy Jaro. That window would have left us open for either a WBC title fight, with Wonjongkam defending the belt, or even a unification bout after Kameda won the WBA belt in late 2010, before vacating it in 2011, as he began to campaign at Super Flyweight.
It's a small window, but Summer 2010 to Spring 2011 was a great window for this bout which would have been a really interesting one. Not only a potential unification bout, but also a chance for Daiki to avenge his brother's loss to Wonjongkam, and, a chance for Daiki to become a Japanese hero, taking a victory over a man who was a thorn in the side of Japanese fighters in the past.
Pongsaklek Wonjongkam was one of the modern day Flyweight greats. The Thai great twice held the WBC Flyweight title, and essentially monopolised it from 2001, when he blew out Malcolm Tunacao inside a round, to 2012. During that 11 year span there was less than 3 years in which he didn't have the title, and for 11 months of that he had the "interim" title. During his amazing career he went 22-2-2 in world title bouts and ran up a number of very strong victories, including wins over Daisuke Naito, Luis Alberto Lazarte, Hidenobu Honda, Trash Nakanuma, Tomonobu Shimizu, Koki Kameda, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Takuya Kogawa and Edgar Sosa. The talented Thai could box, could punch, could fight, and is often over-looked by fans in the West who look at his weaker competition, rather looking at his competition overall.
Whilst Wonjongkam was a long term champion, a star of the division and a man who ran up 17 straight defenses, Daiki Kameda is arguably the least well regarded fighter in his family. Daiki was the middle brother of the fighting Kameda family, he was younger than the more well established Koki but older than Tomoki Kameda, who turned professional in 2008. Although Daiki is the least well remembered of the Kameda brothers he did actually try to set a Japanese record for the youngest world champion, losing to Daisuke Naito in his attempt. He was strong, aggressive, tough, and physically imposing at Flyweight. Sadly though he was quite basic, and although he was strong he lacked world class power. He was a little bit slow, a little bit clumsy, wild and open but typically he was aggressive and exciting to watch.
How would we see it playing out?
For all his flaws Kameda was a fighter. he liked to fight, and was dangerous with his hooks, that he loved to throw, especially during his time as a world level Flyweight. This could see him having moments against Wonjongkam, much in the same way that Trash Nakanuma did. One difference between Nakanuma and Kameda however was that Kameda was easier to hit, and when Wonjongkam sat on his punches he could hit.
We would expect to see Kameda trying to snuff out space and work up close, and rough up Wonjongkam. It's a tactic that would certainly see him have moments, but one that would potentially play to Wonjongkam's strengths, of foot work, accurate punchings.
Wonjongkam on the other hand would be boxing and moving. Choosing to back off when he wanted and then engaging in Kameda's fight when he wanted to. The one thing that we expect to see Kameda have issues with is Kameda's rough house tactics. Kameda's bouts often had dirty elements. There was, of course, his final round melt down against Naito, that saw him have 3 points deducted, but in other fighters his head was certainly an asset.
We would anticipate a fun fight, most Kameda fights were fun, but one where the skills, the class, the genius of Wonjongkam would prove too much. Kameda would take rounds, but it would only be 2 or 3 rounds, he would make a fight of it. But he would come up short, and, if we get the fight in the time window we're looking at, we wouldn't see Daiki avenge his brother's loss to Wonjongkam, despite a valiant effort.
Would history of been changed?
Barring a controversial decision in Kameda's favour we would anticipate a clear win for Wonjongkam. If the bout served as a unification bout then yes, we believe history could have been drastically changed by this potential contest.
If this ends up being a unification bout the WBA and WBC titles would be put together around the waist of the best fighter in the division at the time.
The WBA reign of Kameda was terrible, with Kameda defending against Takefumi Sakata and Silvio Olteanu, narrowly retaining against Olteanu before vacating. We wouldn't have been surprised to see Wonjngkam defend the unified thrones against Sakata, possibly Olteanu as well, before potentially either being stripped of the WBA or losing both. There's a chance we may have gotten Wonjongkam defending against Luis Concepcion, Hernan Marquez or Juan Carlos Reveco, which would have been amazing bouts.
Sooner or later however we would have expected the belts to find their way into their current hands. Likely with Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada or Kazuto Ioka all playing a part. It should be remembered that those three men all won some share of the titles and all vacated them on their pursuit of Super Flyweight glory. The titles would likely all end in the hands of one of, if not all 3, of those men.
If, some how, Kameda got the decision then we would expect the Flyweight titles to be split up very quickly, when he vacates the division, realising he had out grown it.
Sadly we don't imagine we would see Daiki's bout with Rodrigo Guerrero, if we got this bout, and that's a shame as that we an amazing bout, but we also don't think we'd have seen Daiki fight Liborio Solis, and the Kameda Vs JBC legal argument would likely have never started. We would almost certainly have seen the Kameda gym stay open and the Kameda's would likely have remained a major factor in Japanese boxing. Amazingly, given the potential financial implications of that legal case, we may end up seeing the JBC needing to go bankrupt.
It's funny to ponder just how different things could have been had we seen Wonjongkam take on Daiki Kameda.
Introducing... Jin Sasaki
On August 31st we'll get a show being made available over the A-Sign Youtube channel. Whilst the card isn't a big one it does feature a number of things of note, including Shoki Sakai's Japanese debut and a bout featuring teenage Lightweight hopeful Jin Sasaki (7-0, 6). With that in mind we thought this would be a great time to introduce the youngster to fans who are looking to for someone new to follow in the "new normal".
Born in 2001 Sasaki isn't a big name, he didn't have a great amateur background, but since turning he has been turning heads and has been impressing creating a small, but notable, buzz.
As mentioned Sasaki was a great amateur. In fact it appears that his amateur record was a very unflattering 1-3. That's not the sort of record which would have anyone excited about him. Despite that poor amateur record Sasaki turned professional aged 17, fighting out of the Hachioji Nakaya Gym. It was clear, very quickly, that he was much more suited to the professional ranks than he was to the amateurs.
In his debut, in August 2018, Sasaki kicked things off with a 2nd round TKO win over Tsuyoshi Kato at Korakuen Hall, on a card that was shown on Boxing Raise. Sasaki looked confident, powerful, quick and exciting through out, though very unpolished as he wore down Sato with heavy hooks. There was defensive holes in what he did though it seemed like he was perhaps showing some nervous energy. Despite that he he looked fun, and very much the type of fighter worthy of making a note of.
Sadly Sasaki's second bout doesn't seem to be available, but it saw him defeat Ryo Kasai in, 3 rounds, just weeks after his debut. He then returned to the ring in February 2019 stopping Naoyuki Tsumoto on a Dangan 4 round card, that was again made available through Boxing Raise. By now Sasaki was starting to look more composed and like he was starting to control the nervous energy that was visible in his debut.
Sasaki remained busy in 2019, making his international debut in April 2019, when he travelled to Thailand and stopped Sirisak Pimpasitta in 2 rounds. He returned to a Japanese ring in June when he stopped enigmatic veteran Bejita Ishikawa. The win again showed there was areas for Sasaki to develop, especially defensively, but was again a good win for the youngster who continued to move in the right direction.
In August 2019 Sasaki took part in the East Japan Rookie of the Year, winning a quarter-final bout against Hikaru Sato. That bout saw Sasaki going the distance for the first time, but taking a clear decision over Sato before fighting in the semi-final of the East Japan Rookie of the Year. In that bout Sasaki took on Tetsuya Kondo, who came out swinging in a very entertaining effort, before being back up and then being taken out late in then first round by the powerful and promising Sasaki.
Sadly Sasaki failed to take his place in the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, and hasn't fought since his September's win over Kondo.
At the time of writing Sasaki's opponent for his August bout hasn't been named, but we do know that he will be competing in a 6 round bout, his first 6 rounder, and that it will be at 140lbs. He's certainly someone who looks very promising, and at just 18, turning 19 shortly, he's someone who has a bright future ahead of him.
We've included his thrilling win over Kondo below, thanks to the A-Sign channel, and we would suggest people subscribe to their channel, as that will be the same channel that will be showing Sasaki's August bout.
With boxing starting to return, albeit in a very different way to normal, we'll be resuming a lot of the regular series we had on hiatus, including "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", where we look at the best, and the worst of the last 7 days of boxing!
1-Mike Plania's big upset
We all love an upset, and it really was nice to see the over-looked Mike Plania upset WBO #1 ranked Bantamweight Joshua Greer Jr, who likely expected an easy time against the Filipino fighter. Whilst Plania's performance wasn't perfect, and there are obvious areas for him to work on, he still impressed, and was very, very good value for the win. The two knockdowns from the Filipino were great, and the first 6 or so rounds from him were very good, however we do now have serious questions about his stamina, and it'd be great to see his team work on that before he's back in the ring.
2-Sergio Sanchez' KO of Gustavo Pina
On Saturday night we were treat to a very special KO from Sergio Sanchez, who scored one of the KO's of the year as he took out Gustavo Pina. For those who haven't seen this one we suggest you all hunt it down, absolutely fantastic way to finish a bout, and Sanchez will hopefully be getting a lot more attention thanks to the finish. It's worth noting that even before the stoppage Sanchez was looking like the sort of fighter that needs to be on TV a lot more. A very fan friendly fighter who just added to his own personal highlight reel.
3-Clay Collard getting another win
Talking about men who need to be on TV more often Clay Collard again showed what a great fighter to watch he is. The tough, rugged and crude American is unlikely to ever be a championship level contender but he's the sort of fighter who will give any prospect a genuine test. This past week he got a well deserved 6 round win over David Kaminsky on one of the Top Rank cards and that's just the latest in a in a string of upsets for the former MMA fighter. In the last 12 months has has ended the perfect winning runs of Quincy LaVallais (then 7-0), Maurice Winslow III (then 2-0), Quashawm Toler (then 9-0), Raymond Guajardo (then 5-0) and Kaminsky (then 6-0). He has also upset the then 13-1 Dushane Crooks and then 10-1 Geralrd Sherrell. Fingers crossed he now gets a genuine promotional contract and the chance to keep doing what he's been doing so damn well recently.
1-Scoring in the US
It's not been all good this past week or so, with the scoring of US shows now starting to become a bit of a joke in the Covid-19 era of boxing. Patricia Morse Jarman scoring the Kaminsky Vs Collard bout 58-56 in favour of Kaminsky is just the latest in a flurry of bad cards from "The Bubble". Whilst we all know judging is questionable at best this should have been used as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and get the officiating right, but instead it's still an appalling mess and does little to help a sport that has a chance to shine. Hopefully when boxing resumes it's normal service we'll start to see judges actually punished for some of the scorecards they are turning in right now.
It's not just Jarman either, with Dave Moretti some how scoring the Greer Vs Plania bout level at 94-94, a score that didn't reflect the action in the ring at all.
We all understand boxers, matchmakers, managers and promoters are in a tough situation right now. Plenty of boxers haven't been able to train properly, others are essentially stuck where they are right now, limiting international fights and numerous other issues are at play. With that said however the main events of recent shows have done little to help the sport. Did we really need to see the talented Gabe Flores take on the limited Josec Ruiz? Or Emanuel Navarrete beat up Uriel Lopez? Those bouts did little for the viewers and for the fighters, who will both have had tougher sparring sessions. The sport has the limelight right now, with so little sporting action taking place, but with bouts like these it's doing it's self no favours. Fingers crossed we can get something a bit more interesting soon!
1-Covid Strikes Fights off - Too soon?
With so little boxing taking place it's hard to find to many things that are ugly in the sport right now, thankfully. One that is leaving a really bad taste however is the number of fighters testing positive for Covid-19. Whilst it's great to see bouts return to the US we have already seen Mikaela Mayer and Mikkel LesPierre being pulled from bouts due to the virus. With the 7-day rolling average for cases in the US increasing recently it may be worth realising that boxing isn't currently needed, as much as we want it, in the country. The race for sports return during a pandemic that is still not under-control is an moral issue that the sport really doesn't need, especially not with the dark cloud of Daniel Kinahan currently hanging over it.
In the coming months we are set to see boxing resume under a full fledged "new normal". We have seen shows taking place recently, but they have all been rather small, low key affairs, with few of them having on any sort of world level action. We'll admit we have really enjoyed some of the bouts, and credit to Top Rank for giving some little known fighters some TV exposure, but they haven't yet been "big bouts" or "big names" in action. Shakur Stevenson is probably the most notable fighter to fight so far, and that was in a knock over job against someone who shouldn't have been in the ring with him.
It's when we come to the big names and the big bouts that we really are going to see, or rather not going to see, some interesting things happen over the rest of 2021.
We have already seen some fighters, for example Ryan Garcia, turn down a fight due to the purse he's been offered. We have seen other fighters stating they want to be paid more to fight in a non-fan environment.
We know that some fans will say a fighter should get as much money as they can. The sport is a dangerous one and they are taking potentially life changing damage every time they step in the ring. And to some extent I agree, though there are some real issues here which I'll get on to shortly. But lets all begin with the idea that a fighter has the right to ask for the most money they can possibly get.
Lets also agree that a promoter is a business man, and that in the business of boxing a promoter is to think about their own bottom line as well. They are, for all intents, doing the same thing a boxer is. They are putting their own financial well being first. We agree a boxer should, so a promoter, albeit a less physically risky job, should do the same. With that in mind, I suspect we can all agree a promoter has the right to offer whatever purse they deem fit.
We can then agree that the two sides can then negotiate to find terms they either can agree on, likely with the fighter lowering their demands and the promoter upping their offer, or both sides walking away, potentially even before getting near the negotiating table.
Typically that's fine. In this current age however a fighter maybe needs to think about more than their purse for the rest of 2020. They may have to look at the bigger picture. A fighter who can't agree terms to fight in the next few months may end up not fighting at all in 2020. They may end up sitting on the shelf for the year, losing momentum, getting rusty, and in some cases even being stripped of their titles, at the top level. The bodies do have the ability to strip a fighter for inactivity, and whilst they will almost certainly show some leniency that might not exist across the board, especially if a fighter wasn't active in 2019.
For example Felix Alvarado hasn't defended the IBF Light Flyweight title since May 2019 and Yuniel Dorticos hasn't defended the IBF Cruiserweight title he won in June 2019. Manuel Charr and Biebut Shumenov take these even further. Shumenov still holds the WBA "regular" Cruiserweight title that he won in July 2018, without defending it, and Charr has held the WBA "regular" Heavyweight title since November 2017, without defending it.
We understand situations for each fighter are different, such as Alvarado being pencilled in to fight last December before falling ill, but momentum has been lost and titles could also be lost.
A fighter who decides to sit out 2020 may end up finding themselves waiting a long time to fight again. Yes they should be paid, but the purses in the "new normal" aren't likely to be what they were before hand. Fighters will need to reasses their value, as will promoters, streaming services and televisions companies. Without ticket sales a promoter isn't going to get money at the gate, site fees are going to be none existent, we would expect TV revenue to be down, as advertisers cut back as well.
Of course a fighter should take all the money they can. But a fighter without a title typically gets less than they do with it. A fighter not fighting gets less than they do by fighting. A fighting sitting on the side loses fans, loses momentum, and loses out on a pay day.
Whilst it sounds like we're taking the side of the promoters we're not. They will also need to look at themselves. The Top Rank shows so far have been poor. Even fans starved of live sport haven't tuned in. The promoters need to realise the value of a star now more than ever, they also need to realise that this is a great opportunity to give fans 50-50 style bouts and to show them TV friendly fighters.
Fighters like Eric Mondragon and Mike Danny Sanchez provided something brilliant for fans whilst Adam Lopez and Luis Coria put on a show. Mike Plania saw his chance to shine and took it. Matching fighters with nothing to lose and everything to gain to bulk up the cards on offer is the best idea, let these kids shine, give them the platform.
Promoters are in a bind. They have spots to fill but know that they can't put on garbage bouts. Fans aren't that hungry. They also know they need their stars, they need to budge on the purses, just as much as the fighters. Both sides however need to be realistic. Purses aren't going to be what they once were, at least not for some time, but is it worth getting older, moving further past your prime and wasting your career away in the hope of getting the money you once got?
Fighters aren't getting younger. Moruti Mthalane and Gennady Golovkin have turned 38 since their last bouts, Nonito Donaire is 38 in November, Wanheng Menayothin and Jamel Herring are 35 in October, Nordine Oubaali is 34 in August and Terence Crawford turns 33 in September. The earning time is running down. I'm not saying these guys are turning down fights, but they are examples of fighters who are on the wrong side of 30 and losing a year of their career right now could be the end.
The "new normal" is going to be hard. For fighters, for promoters and for us all. Please do what you can to make your life a little bit better following the dark months we've had and the dark yet to come. Boxing, for some of us, is a little bit of a light in a dark world right now. We all want to enjoy it, so lets make the most of what we have, and look back into the huge archives of the sport for when nothing takes our fancy and we want to enjoy this fantastic sport.
Between 2003 and 2017 we had the pleasure of watching the thrilling career of Takashi Miura (31-4-2, 24). The Japanese Super Featherweight was one of the most exciting fighters on the planet, with dynamite in his left hand, an ultra aggressive in ring style and a steely toughness. He wasn't the most skilled, or the quickest, but he was the sort of fighter who always gave us incredible action and was one of those fighters who was must watch.
Whilst Miura will likely go down as a fighter better known for his exciting performances than his wins, he was a fighter who promised explosive action. That was regardless of whether he won, or lost. Losses in high profile bouts to Takashi Uchiyama, Francisco Vargas and Miguel Berchelt will forever hang over his career from an historical point of view, but here we are to celebrate the positives, and look at the 5 most significant wins for... Takashi Miura.
Yoshimitsu Yashiro II (July 4th 2009)
In his first title fight Miura fought Yusuke Kobori in 2007, for the Japanese Super Featherweight title. He lost to Kobori but remained in the mix and go his second title fight in January 2009, when he fought to a draw with Yoshimitsu Yashiro. Those two men would then have a rematch around 6 months later, and this time Miura would take the victory, and title, making it third time lucky. He would defeat Yashiro with a 7th round TKO to claim the title, with the win helping to establish Miura on the Japanese scene. The bout wasn't the best, or the most memorable, but Miura wearing down the champion in round 6 and then closing the show in round 7 was a major win for him and proved he could get over the line at title level. It was his first title win, and it was aired live on G+.
Gamaliel Diaz (April 8th 2013)
Having needed 3 bites at the cherry to win a Japanese title Miura obviously didn't want to repeat that at world level. Sadly for him he would lose his first world title fight, suffering a stoppage loss to the then WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama. Thankfully for Miura that loss opened new doors for him, and ended up securing him a transfer Yokohama Hikari to Teiekn. Teiken helped him polish his style a touch and then landed him a world title bout with WBC champion Gamaliel Diaz. Miura would take his chance and break down Diaz with some very heavy leather, dropping Diaz a number of times before stopping the Mexican to claim the title. This bout wasn't just a big win for Miura, getting him the WBC world title, but also for Teiken, with Miura getting back the title that Takahiro Ao lost to Diaz. It would also begin his reputation as a Mexi-killer.
Sergio Thompson (August 17th 2013)
Talking about Miura being a Mexi-killer another bout that built that reputation, and his reputation as a must watch fighter, was his first defense. This bout saw him travel to Mexico, making his international debut, and defeating mandatory challenger Sergio Thompson with a decision. The bout was a real war and a total thriller to watch, with two men who both believed in their power and toughness. Both men would be dropped, both would be hurt and both give their all in what was one of the best fights of 2013. For hardcore fans who hadn't seen Miura in Japan this was a great introduction to "Bomber Left" and really helped establish him as a world class fighter. It was also, again, revenge for Teiekn as Thompson had previously stopped Jorge Linares. For those who haven't seen this one, it is spectacular!
Billy Dib (May 1st 2015)
Whilst Miura tended to come up short against his most well known names he does hold a solid win over Australian fighter Bill Dib. Dib, a former world champion at 126lbs, was never regarded as an elite level name, but a solid champion and a decent fighter with some international recognition. His bout with Miura was shown live in Australia but on delay in Japan, despite the TV snub Miura left a lasting impression as he detonated a brutal left hand on Dib and knocked him out. Although Dib was never a top tier Super Featherweight he was a noteworthy name, a former world champion a weight lower and the finishing shot from Miura was brutal. How Dib got to his feet was a mystery but he was out on them. This was a great knockout, against a recognisable name, that helped increase Miura's profile.
Miguel Roman (January 28th 2017)
After losing in his US debut in 2015, to Francisco Vargas, the demand to see Miura back in the US was high and when he was matched with Miguel Roman in 2017 we all knew to expect something special. Miura and Roman was pretty much made for each other, and they ended up delivering a 2017 Fight of the Year contender, just 28 days into the year! This was something else, with both men fighting an insane pace from the opening bell, before Miura began to finally break down Roman, dropping the Mexican in rounds 10, 11 and 12 to force a finish. The bout wasn't just a Fight of the Year contender, but also Miura's only win on US soil, his final professional win, and it set up a world title fight with Miguel Berchelt. This was just absolutely amazing and deserves to be rewatched over, and over!
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