We continue this weekly series by looking at a Korean fighter who had a short career, spanning just 21 bouts over 9 years, but an interesting one featuring 12 total title bouts, including 9 at world level.
The fighter in question is Hi Yong Choi (19-2, 8). He was a former amateur standout before turning professional in 1987, and given the footage of him in action his style is very much the antithesis of an amateur standout. He wasn't a refined boxer, but more a brawler-come-Street fighter. Although not too well remembered now a days he was a 2-weight world champion who not only fought in Korea and Japan but also had a bout in the USA before retiring in the mid 1990's. He was fast tracked to the top and faced some top names, but never really looked like the type of fighter who could have much longevity based on his raw and highly physical style.
Despite his short career Choi made an impact on the sport, and now we get to bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Hi Yong Choi.
Sam Joong Lee (April 10th 1988)
After a very successful amateur career there was no need to hold Hi Yong Choi back and his team knew that. Instead of taking their time developing the youngster they pushed him hard and fast. Just 9 months after his debut they threw him in with Korean national champion Sam Joon Lee in a 12 round bout for the OPBF Minimumweighjt title. Up to this point Choi had only fought against novices, but stepped up here and shined, as he took a decision over the then 14-2 Lee. Whilst Choi's team had moved him quickly, matching him in a 10 rounder in just his third bout, this was really an impressive victory, this early in his career.
Bong Jun Kim I (February 2nd 1991)
Whilst Choi's team had managed to secure him an OPBF title fight very early they had to wait almost 3 years to get him a world title fight. That finally came in February 1991 when he took on fellow Korean Bong Jun Kim. Kim, the then WBA Minimumweight champion, was 23-5-3 and had been unbeaten in more than 3 yeas. He had claimed the WBA title in 1989 and had already notched 5 defenses of the title. Choi on the other hand was 9-0 but lacked a stand out win since winning the OPBF title. Despite the big step up in class Choi managed to over-come his fellow Korea with a hotly contest decision over 12 rounds. This win saw Choi becoming the first fighter from Hyundai promotions to become a world champion, beating the exciting Young Kyun Park by a few weeks.
Bong Jun Kim II (October 26th 1991)
Having made a relatively straight forward first defense against Filipino challenger Sugar Ray Mike in June 1991 Choi then returned to facing world class competition as he took on Bong Jun Kim in a rematch. Choi was giving Kim a chance to reclaim the title he had taken 8 months earlier, though it was a chance that Kim couldn't take. From the off it was clear that Choi, buoyed on by the title, was a better fighter than he had been in their first bout. Kim on the other hand looked like a man who was starting to show signs of being on the slide. What had been a close and competitive match up the first time around, was a clear decision for Choi the second time around. It's worth noting that after this Kim would go 1-3, suffering a TKO loss in his final bout in 1994 against Takashi Oba before hanging them up. This was the win that signified that Choi was a world champion, and hadn't just won the title by fluke.
Leo Gamez (February 4th 1995)
After scoring 2 more successful defenses Choi would make his international debut and lose the WBA Minimumweight title to Japan's popular Hideyuki Ohashi. Choi would then take more than a year away from the ring before returning in December 1993 having abandoned the Minimumweight division. In the fourth bout of his comeback he took on Venezuelan foe Leo Gamez, the then WBA Light Flyweight champion. Gamez was enjoying his second reign as a world champion, having previously held a Minimumweight title, and was well known in Korea following bouts against Bong Jun Kim, Myung Woo Yuh and Yong Kang Kim. Sadly for Gamez his experience in Korea wasn't enough to over-come the Korean, who looked really strong at Light Flyweight. The bout was marred by head clashes, and certainly wasn't a pretty fight, but the win did see Choi becoming a 2-weight world champion in just 19 fights. Warning for those about to watch, this it's a sloppy, gruelling, mauling mess of a fight. Entertaining in parts but a mess through out.
Keiji Yamaguchi (September 5th 1995)
Choi would return to the ring to defend the WBA Light Flyweight title, that he took from Gamez, 7 months after winning it. For the second time in his career he travelled overseas for the bout as he took on the then 18-0 Keiji Yamaguchi in his home of Osaka. Whilst Choi had failed on his first visit to Japan, losing to Ohashi in 1992, he faired better this time around winning a split decision over Yamaguchi. As with his bout against Gamez this wasn't the most pleasing fight to watch, but winning on foreign soil against an unbeaten challenger is never an easy task. What makes this win even more notable is that Yamaguchi would later go on to take the take title from the man who ended Choi's reign, Carlos Murillo.
Sadly after beating Yamaguchi Choi would lose the title on his US debut against the aforementioned Murillo, and then retire.
July felt like a bit of a turning point with boxing, as we had shows return to Thailand and Japan, we managed to see a show in Belarus with some Kazakh hopefuls, we had upsets, action, excitement and some brilliant debuts as the sport finally begins to turn a corner. Thankfully that momentum looks likely to continue in August with a host of notable events set for the coming month. With their being a lot planned and scheduled for August lets take a look at what we're getting in the first half of the month!
PLEASE Note - All bouts are subject to change, cancellations and postponements, something that is a lot more rife right now than usual due to the on going situation.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6)
The month kicks off with one of the biggest non-title bouts in Thai history, as former world champions Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Amnat Ruenroeng clash in the headline bout of the month's WP Boxing event. The event, which will be streamed not just by Work Point but also by Matchroom, is expected to help launch Srisaket into world title bout, as he looks to become a 3-time champion. Although Amnat is a very capable fighter, and a master of the dark arts, we do wonder if he had enough left in the tank to make this as interesting in the ring as it seems.
Chainoi Worawut (10-0-1, 9) Vs Jomar Fajardo (17-16-2, 9)
In a supporting bout on that same WP Boxing show is a match up for talented Thai prospect Chainoi Worawut, one of the leading Thai hopefuls for the future. The unbeaten Worawut will be up against Jomar Fajardo, a man best known for his two wars with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sadly Fajardo has struggled, massively, since those battles and is 3-12-1 (2) in his last 16 bouts. This should be a straight forward win for Worawut, but he is certainly one to watch, and if you tune in to the WP Boxing show he's the guy on the under-card most likely to fight for a world title in the next few years.
Zhan Kossobutskiy (13-0, 12) Vs Kamil Sokolowski (9-17-2, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh Heavyweight hopeful Zhan Kossobutskiy looks to continue his unbeaten run as he returns to the ring in Minsk to take on English based Polish Heavyweight hopeful Kamil Sokolowski. On paper this is a total mismatch, but in reality Sokolowski is a very well respected journeyman in the UK who does come to win, rather than survive, and he will give this a genuine go. Kossobutskiy isn't the most talented, smooth or quickest and we wouldn't be surprised if Sokolowski managed to expose some of Koosobutskiy's flaws. Saying that however we do think the Kazakh will pick up the win.
Bucheon, Gyeonggi, South Korea
In Duck Seo (12-3-2, 7) Vs Jung Kyoung Lee (8-3-1, 4)
In South Korea we get a KBA show that was originally planned for July. The main event here is WBA Asia Welterweight title bout that looks mouth watering on paper and will pit In Duck Seo against former OPBF Light Middleweight champion Jung Kyoung Lee. We don't see many good looking All-Korean bouts so this one really does stand out as something to get excited about, and style wise this should be a war. Notably this is a KBA show, so the bouts are likely to end up being uploaded afterwards and we would advise fans to keep some time aside to catch up on this one if they can't catch it.
Jong Seon Kang (10-0-2, 6) Vs Seong Yeong Yang (8-2-5, 4)
In a second good looking all Korean bout we'll see the unbeaten Jong Seon Kang take on Seong Yeong Yang in a KBA Featherweight ranking bout. For those who have seen these two fighters in action it should be no surprise if this something very special. Both men were in some thrilling contests in 2019 with Kang's bout against Tomjune Mangubat being a sensational 10 round thriller whilst Yang's bout with Jian Wang was just an 10 round toe to toe slugest. Don't expect high quality boxing here, but do expect high intensity and thrilling action.
City Sogo Gym, Hirakata, Osaka, Japan
Toshiki Shimomachi (11-1-2, 7) vs Hiroki Hanabusa (8-0-3, 3)
In a very interesting looking Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title bout we'll see defending champion Toshiki Shimomachi defending his title against the unbeaten Hiroki Hanabusa. For Shimomachi this will be his first defense, and comes just over a year after he won the title, stopping Kenta Nomura. As for Hanabusa this will be his first title bout, though he has fought in notable bouts before including a Rookie of the Year Final and a bout in China, where he had the crowd against him. This should be a real test of what both men have in the locker, and hopefully the two youngsters will both go on to have successful, and perhaps a rematch somewhere down the line.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4) Vs Yuri Takemoto (8-1-1, 4)
Action returns to Tokyo on August 13th for a Japanese Featherweight title bout between defending champion Ryo Sagawa and underwhelming challenger Yuri Takemoto. Originally the plan was for Sagawa to defend his title against Hinata Maruta, but with the Champion Carnival essentially messed up by what's been going on in the world that bout was essentially put on ice, for now. As a result we'll be getting Takemoto challenging the brilliant champion. Also this is an underwhelming title defense Takemoto is a solid fighter, who won the Rookie of the Year in 2018, but he's done nothing to suggest he'll be a test for the fantastic Sagawa.
Back in June Teiken announced they had signed a number of top Japanese amateurs to professional contracts, with the intention of letting the men make their debuts later in the year. One of the most interesting of the fighters signed by the Japanese promotional giant was Subaru Murata, who is expected to fast tracked though the professional ranks.
The 23 year old Murata is from Iwade City and first took to Karate before turning his hand to boxing when he was in elementary school. He would develop his boxing skills before making a mark for himself when he was in High School, winning a number of competitions including National High School titles. He would then be a success in his university team and was a member of the Self-Defense Force Physical Education School.
Impressively Murata's success wasn't just on the domestic scene. He managed to make a mark on the international scene, competing at the 2014 AIBA Youth World Championships, in Bulgaria and the 2014 Junior Olympics in China. At the Youth World Championships he reached the quarter finals, beating Scotland's Lee McGregor along the way. Whilst at the Junior Olympics he managed to win a bronze medal.
In the years that followed Murata would build his reputation and carve out a really solid amateur career. He had a sensational 2018, winning the All Japan Championships and taking the "Excellent Fighter" award at the annual awards ceremony the following year. He would also compete at a number of international championships, including the 2016 Asian Students Championships, where he reached the semi finals, and the 2019 AIBA Championships.
By the time Murata was done with the unpaid ranks he had run up an excellent 68-12 record.
In the ring Murata's style is a very aggressive one for an amateur. He likes to come forward, be aggressive and is a southpaw. He has good handspeed, appears to have respectable pop and has got a style that should work well in the professional ranks, with a bit of polish. Despite being aggressive there are flaws for him to work on, specifically defensively. If he can work on those defensive issues, then he really can be fast tracked.
At just 23, and with his 24th birthday coming in October, the future is really bright for Murata who looks like he has the tools to go a very, very long way in the sport. With the right training and management Murata looks likely to be another future world champion from the Teiken Gym.
At the time of writing no date has been announced for Murata's debut or his pro-test but both are expected to be announced shortly.
For those curious, and we suspect there will be one or two people wondering, Subaru Murata is not related to fellow boxer Ryota Murata, another Teiken fighter.
This past week has been a really interesting one for boxing, with various announcements, bouts, and action. Whilst we won't pretend it's been a an amazing week, it has certainly been an interesting one, with things that fall outside the usual realms of this series. With that in mind we'll be adding one extra category this week, making this The Good, The Bad and the Ugly...and the Weird!
1-Rentaro Kimura leaves an impression
Lets start in Asia, this week and discuss the debut of Rentaro Kimura. Boy did this guy look good! The talk from Japan was that Kimura was going to be something special, and a prospect to keep an eye on though few would have anticipated for him to shine as he did. Not only did he look exciting, skilled and promising, but he also left us with a highlight reel KO which will be played over and over. This young man is talking like someone who wants to be a star, and despite debuting in an empty arena he has already shown star potential.
2-Shinsei Live Stream
During the week news broke that there wouldn't be fans at the Shinsei show on Saturday, something that was genuinely disappointing as we had anticipated fans. Shinsei turns that into a positive however and lived streamed the two main bouts from the card, live, and for free. This meant more people could watch, including international fans, and the stream was fantastic. The bouts were well fought, even if the main event was surprisingly one sided. No complaints here at all, and Shinsei turned a bad situation into a very, very good one. Fingers crossed we'll see this done by more promoters from Japan during the current "no fan era".
It's also worth noting that the entire show ended up within 48 hours as well. Very solid stuff from Shinsei.
Okay leaving for a moment, Showtime announce their up coming scheduled and man is it ever good! From the shows they announced this week there was a great number of very good bouts, some excellent bouts and only one or two we felt were mismatches. Of course them all taking place, and not falling through for whatever reason, is something we don't expect to see but if 66% of the bouts announced do happen we'll be happy with that!
4-Berlanga and Ortiz show great potential
Of course Rentaro Kimura wasn't the only one who impressed this week and we were impressed by Edgar Berlanga and Vergil Ortiz. Both youngsters not only impressed in the ring, with very solid performances, but also outside of it. Both youngsters seemed eloquent, confident, hungry but also down to earth. Sadly ESPN spent far too much time focusing on Berlanga's streak, rather than Berlanga the man, but he came across as a very good young man and a wonderfully promising fighter, whilst Ortiz, on DAZN, came across as a fantastic prospect who is learning all the time.
We've just praised a number of young fighters but let us also tuck in one more good, and that was the hungry losers. Chris Avalos, Jayson Velez and Sammy Vargas were all big betting under-dogs. Few would have expected them to put in any kind of a fight, and instead most would have anticipated they would roll over and just lose. Instead all 3 came to win, gave a genuine account of themselves and gave viewers something to enjoy. Losing efforts like this do a lot of the sport, and we want to just give all 3 men some big time props!
1-Miranda Adkins getting blitzed
Mismatches happen, we all know that. We all know they are a common thing in the sport. Sadly though what we saw on Friday was beyond the scope of a mismatch. It was like throwing a kitten in with a starving lion. Miranda Adkins had no right to be in the ring with Seniesa Estrada and it showed with pretty much the first, and only, combination Estrada threw. The bout lasted just 7 seconds, Adkins had no idea how to defend herself and looked like a lamb to the slaughter from the off. The only positive was that the sport has a clip that has gone viral, but it should just how poorly matched this contest was. The commission need to take a series look at them selves. It's easy to claim "20-20" vision, but give Adkins was 42, had never fought anyone with a win and was going in with a world class fighter it didn't take 20-20 vision to see this was a horrible match up.
2-Nazim Richardson's passing
We're really, genuinely, sad to hear about "Brother" Nazim Richardson passing away at the age of 55. Richardson was one of the smartest men in the sport, and his loss is a huge one for boxing. A very astute mind, always worth listening to and someone who has helped pass on so much knowledge. We want to send our thoughts to his family and friends. Genuinely the sport was better for Richardson's influence and old school tricks.
3-Jack Reiss steals center stage
We often complain about officials here and unfortunately we need to do it again, but this time it's for an official we actually have a lot of respect for. Veteran referee Jack Reiss is one of the best in the business, when he's on point. He's also awfully inconsistent and this past week he was certainly putting in a memorable performance, but one that screamed "give me attention". He seemed intent on giving Vergil Ortiz a telling off and swore at Sammy Vargas in a bizarre, attention grabbing performance. When Reiss is in the mood to be a top referee there are very few who can match him, but this week he seemed like an old curmudgeon. A shame, but thankfully not something that affected the result of a bout he was responsible for.
1-Osakan Case Cluster Grows
Last week we spoke about the cases of "the ongoing situation" around a gym in Osaka. At the time there was just 5 case, that number more than doubled this week, with 11 cases associated to the cluster. Fingers crossed that's as bad as it gets and we won't see more cases, but there is a worry that it will grow and that we are still on at the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We hope everyone a speedy recovery, and hope this serves as a very clear warning to how dangerous and easily spread this is.
1-Triller to show Tyson Vs Jones Jr
And now we get to the weird. We're not really down with social media, we don't know our myspace from our faceparty, or ticktok from our bebo. This week we were introduced to "Triller" who will be showing the recently announced Mike Tyson Vs Roy Jones Jr exhibition. The service has paid an insane amount to show the bout, the two men are getting an incredible sum for the contest, and this social media company, who are apparently huge in India, are showing it. All very weird.
As for the bout it's an exhibition, we don't have anything against exhibitions, though we do wonder if this will just be about lining people's pockets or will have a charity element to it. If there is charity involved then that would be brilliant, given the way 2020 is going, but we fully understand if this is just a cash grab for two legends well past their primes.
In May 2019 one of the fighters we looked at in our introducing series was Tulio Kuwabata (then 2-0, 2). Since we looked at the Osakan last year things haven't got amazingly well for him, fighting twice and going 1-1 to see his current record stand at 3-1 (2). He's gone from being regarded as a prospect of note to someone who many are doubting has the ability to go to the highest those at the Muto gym expected and showed real issues in his most recent bout, which came in December 2019. Sadly Kuwabata failed to get back on the horse and pick up a win before the world was plunged into chaos, and as a result has been out of the ring for more than 8 months and is more than a year removed from his last win, in May 2019.
When we spoke about Kuwabata last year he was days away from his third professional bout. That was originally planned to be a bout against the highly experienced John Mark Apolinario in what was scheduled to be a 6 rounder. Sadly Apolinario had to pull out of the bout and Kuwabata ended up taking on the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo, in what looked like a genuinely decent test.
Despite the change of opponent Kuwabata dealt with Pulgo without too many issues. In fact the Japanese youngster looked sharp, accurate, light on his feet and had a very nice jab. There were areas to work on, but for a man in his third professional bout there was a lot to like, and a lot of areas where his team could see mistakes and work on them. For all the nice work he showed with his jab there there was defensive issues in his performance, though he got away with them as Pulgo lacked the experience to punish him and make him pay for them. In the end Kuwabata won every round against Pulgo in what turned out to be little more than a public sparring session for the Japanese youngster.
In December Kuwabata took another step up, going from willing opponent there to lose, in Pulgo, to the hard hitting Ken Jordan, who boasted an 8-1-2 (7) record. The Filipino hadn't beaten anyone of note, but was entering the bout as a hungry fighter. Jordan had previously won a minor title and looked like was a genuine prospect from the Philippines, despite an early career loss to the under-rated Jimboy Haya.
Despite Jordan being regarded as a decent prospect few would have expected him to do what he did to Kuwabata. That was stop him, in a round. From the off Jordon looked relaxed and calm, and like he knew of Kuwabata's defensive lapses, throwing his left hook regularly. Kuwabata managed to have moments but it was clear that Jordan wasn't the willing sparring partner that Pulgo had been. He had ambitions of his own and rocked Kuwabata with a sweeping left hook, before sending him down what appeared to be a glancing shot. Kuwabata got to his feet but couldn't the follow up onslaught from Jordan, who dropped him again. The bout was stopped, despite Jordan getting to his feet.
The loss to Jordan is a major setback for Kuwabata however it's certainly not the end. He was caught, his defensive flaws were punished, and the hype around him was burst, big time. That is far, far from the end however and given what he now knows about himself, there are areas he and his team can work on, go back to the drawing board, tidy up that defense, tighten up, get that back hand up and get it tighter. Jordan spotted the hole for the left hook quickly and repeatedly threw it, knowing it was there for him.
Also the hype about Kuwabata needed to be scaled back. He seemed too bothered about getting a gimmicky name, going with "Dekanarudo Torio", when his focus should have been more on the in ring action.
We don't think Kuwabata should be written off, but we do see him struggling above domestic level. Sadly for him however he's not going to get an easy one when he returns to the ring. Instead he will be returning on August 9th to take on former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, in what appears to a very, very hard match up for the youngster.
Whilst we do see him having a ceiling of domestic class, we think Kuwabata's potential could fall short of that if he's not matched softly after the Okumoto bout. We see him losing that and then having a lot of rebuilding to do. That's not what we expected to be saying 12 months ago, which is a shame. Don't ignore Kuwabata, but his stablemates like Yuske Mine, appear to have more long term potential than him.
It's rare that we can call a unified champion over-looked but the description seems a fair one for former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-4-2, 12). He wasn't flashy, and wasn't the most powerful fighter out there, but he managed to unify the WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight titles in a division that rarely sees unification bouts. He bridged two generations of the Watanabe Gym, carrying the gym after Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono had lost their titles, and held his until Hiroto Kyoguchi was on the scene, to take the gym forward.
Not only was Taguchi a good champion but he was tough as old boots and famously took Naoya Inoue the 10 round distance, in what was Inoue's first bout to go to the final bell.
Whilst Taguchi probably best known of the loss to Inoue we want to look at his successes and today we look at the 5 most significant wins for... Ryoichi Taguchi!
As always in this series they wins are dated chronologically and are based on significance, not how impressive they were.
Sho Nakazawa (December 22nd 2007)
The first win of Taguchi that we're including here was his 2007 win over Sho Nakazawa. On paper this win perhaps isn't going to stand out like many of his later career wins, but it was one of the wins that helped him establish himself on Japanese scene very early on. It came in the 2007 All Japan Rookie of the Year final and saw Taguchi take 5 round decision over the then 8-2-1 Nakazawa. Not only was this the Rookie of the Year final but it was also a clear step up in terms of opponent. Up to this point his opponents had a combined 9 wins to their name, Nakazawa had 8 by himself! The bout was also Taguchi's first bout over a longer distance than 4 rounds as he took a clear step towards bigger and better things.
Yu Kimura (October 15th 2011)
One thing that some fans who don't follow the Japanese scene in depth might not realise is just who Taguchi beat early in his carer. In the summer of 2011 he beat future world title challenger Tatsuya Hisada, in the Strongest Korakuen qualifying round, which set up his Strong Korakuen Final bout against future world champion Yu Kimura. The two men clashed for the right to challenger for the Japanese Light Flyweight title in 2012, during the Champion Carnival. Not only did Taguchi secure himself a title fight in beating Kimura but he also became the first, and only, man to stop Kimura. Kimura was competitive but a cut above his left eye left him unable to continue in round 6 securing Taguchi his first title fight. Sadly for Taguchi he was unable to make the most of his big chance, only earning a split decision draw with Masayuki Kuroda in March 2012.
Yuki Chinen (April 3rd 2013)
Around 13 month after Taguchi's draw with Masayuki Kuroda the Watanabe gym fighter got a second crack at the title as he took on the unbeaten Yuki Chinen for the vacant title. Coming into the bout not only were the two men looking to secure the Japanese title but also give a boost to their world title hopes, as both men were in the WBA top 15 at the time. The bout saw Taguchi dominate Chinen taking a very comfortably win over his compatriot, winning by scores of 97-93, 98-92 and 99-92. The bout helped prove Taguchi's class and also saw him taking on someone who was physically similar to himself, not something he did often in his career. The win also set up arguably his most famous bout, his 2013 clash with Naoya Inoue. Had Taguchi lost to Chinen there's almost no chance he'd have had the chance to face Inoue, and his brave performance against the monster helped establish him as a legitimately tough and brave fighter, raising his profile massively in Japan.
Alberto Rossel (December 31st 2014)
Despite losing to Inoue in 2013 Taguchi had managed to get back to winning ways with victories against Ryan Bito and Florante Condes to earn his first world title fight at the very end of 2014. The Japanese fighter would be up against WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel, the first world champion from Peru. Rossel was certainly not a top fighter and had essentially be given the title when Kazuto Ioka left the division letting the WBA upgrade Rossel's "interim" title to the full thing. Rossel put in a gutsy performance against Taguchi but the Japanese fighter was too busy, too good, too young, and too big for the 5'1" "Chiquito". Rossel was dropped in rounds 8 and 9 as Taguchi claimed the WBA title, and one of his biggest career wins.
This was genuinely a huge day for the Watanabe Gym who ended the day, and therefore the year, with a trio of world champions. With the win Taguchi joined Takashi Uchiyama and Kohei Kono as world champions. At the age of 28, several years younger than Uchiyama and Kono, he was going to be the face of the gym for several years and this win put him in that position.
Milan Melindo (December 31st 2017)
Whilst winning a world title is big, unifying them is even bigger and that's what Taguchi did 3 years after winning the WBA title.
To end 2017 Taguchi took on IBF champion Milan Melindo in a unification bout. Taguchi was coming in to the bout on the back of 6 defenses, whilst Melindo was returning to Japan after winning the title just 7 months earlier, when he blasted out Akira Yaegashi inside a round. For Melindo this was his second defense, following a September defense against Hekkie Budler in a bit of a forgotten war. Taguchi managed to put it all together to to take a clear decision over Melindo in what was a bloody battle. Taguchi struggled at times with the skills of Melindo but after 12 rounds was a clear winner.
Whilst the win over Melindo was huge for Taguchi, and saw him unifying the WBA and IBF titles, it was essentially the end for both men. Neither would score another win. Taguchi would lose his unified titles just 5 months later to Hekkie Budler, and then move up in weight where he lost to Kosei Tanaka. After the Tanaka bout Taguchi announced his retirement. Melindo would lose in a WBC title bout in 2018, to Kenshiro Teraji, and then lose again, in 2019, to Junto Nakatani. Melindo hasn't officially retired, but he's now a long, long way from another major fight.
The Super Flyweight division has been one of our favourites with a lot of great bouts, fantastic fighters and intriguing match ups, even if some fail to live up to expectations. Despite the division being so good in recent years there are bouts that we did miss out on, and with that in mind we bring you the latest bout in the "Fights we wish we had.." series. This time we look at a bout that would have been a brilliant, fun and exciting match up, though one where we do have a clear favourite going in.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Kohei Kono
As we did when we first started this series we're looking at an all out war that could have taken place at various in the 2010's. The bout would pit one of the most destructive fighters of the last decade against one of the toughest. It would put an offensive monster against a true fighter. It would have been mayhem between two men who both became 2-time world champions between 2010 and 2019 but were never really spoken about as potential opponents for each other, sadly. So with that in mind lets talk about a potential show down between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Kohei Kono.
Of the two men it was actually Kohei Kono who had his first world title first, with Kono coming up short in a WBC title bout way back in September 2008 and again in September 2010. It wasn't until the very end of 2012 that he won his first world title, stopping Tepparith Kokietgym in a major upset. His reign was short but he became a 2-time champion in March 2014 and held that title until 2016 and was still regarded as a world class fighter into 2017, and maybe even 2018.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on the other hand won his first world title in May 2013, when he stopped Yota Sato, and would hold that belt until May 2014, making just a single defense. He then reclaim the title in March 2017 and held it until April 2019.
The window for the two men to unify really didn't exist, but in reality a bout between the two at some point 2013 and 2016 would have been a recent decent sized window and would have made for a great match up in that time between two definitive world class fighters.
As mentioned both men were 2-time world champions.
Japan's Kohei Kono was a 2-time WBA champion and a real tough guy. He had built a reputation early in his career as a tough, hard working but crude fighter who's win over Tepparith Kokietgym, at the age of 32, seemed to essentially save his career. He was a rugged fighter who let his hands go a lot, and was involved in some amazing bouts, not just at world level but also at Japanese and Oriental level. Despite not being one of the best boxers he was very much a great fighter, with heart, desire, energy and a brilliant chin. Boxing out of the Watanabe gym his career was often over-shadowed by that of Takashi Uchiyama, but was a fighter involved in more excited wars that Uchiyama, for the most part.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai was, and still is, a Thai Super Flyweight who held the WBC title twice and was, in his pomp, and avoided fighter. He was an unknown outside of Thailand until he defeated Yota Sato for the WBC title and then became a man with a belt, that no one wanted to face, resulting in his only world title defense coming against Hirofumi Mukai. Despite struggling to get contenders in the ring with him he was staying busy, destroying regional fighters in stay busy fights. He lost the title in a competitive bout with Carlos Cuadras in a mandatory but couldn't secure a rematch, needing to wait almost 3 years for second crack at the title. At his best he was a power, perpetual punching machine, fighting out of the southpaw stance with an iron chin. He wasn't polished, or the smoothest fighter but was an aggressive monster with terrifying physical strength and power.
How would we see it playing out?
We see this as a genuinely fun mismatch. Whilst we absolutely love Kohei Kono as a fighter his style is almost made to order for a fighter like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The aggression, and brave mentality of Kono would see him walking into Srisaket's wheel house, fighting at mid-to-close range and try to have a war with the Thai. Kono would certainly have moments early on, his chin holding out during the early few rounds. As the bout went on however Kono would start to have his toughness question, his heart would be the only thing keeping him in there against a stronger more powerful fighter.
By the middle rounds Kono would be backing up, where he's a lot less effective, and begin wilting under the pressure with Srisaket eventually getting him out of there in the second half of the bout. It would be a gallant effort from Kono, and he wouldn't go down without swinging, likely landing some really solid shots on Srisaket...though they'd have little to no effect.
This would be fun, but we can't see any way in which Kono would come out on top, sadly.
Would history of been changed?
With this bout potentially taking place between 2013 and 2016 we would certainly have seen history changing. We may have, potentially, see Srisaket winning the WBA title from Kono, had the bout come during Kono's reign, or he could have defended his own WBC title against Kono, strengthening his first reign.
As a result of this bout we don't imagine Kono would have fought with Naoya Inoue, at the end of 2016, or Rex Tso, in 2017. Two bouts that would have been genuine losses. On the other hand there's also a good chance that we may not have gotten Srisaket's big wins in the US against Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada, which would also have been big losses.
In reality whilst we do wish we had got this bout, we suspect the bouts we would have missed out on would have been a big price to pay. This would have been an amazing bout in it's own right, and would have been one of the most fan friendly 1-sided bouts we'd ever get.
The lines of the WBA and WBC titles would be different had we had this bout. It's hard to be sure exactly what would have changed, with their being such a big window of opportunity for this bout, but we're glad with the reality we ended up getting instead.
Back in June talented 22 year old Bek Nurmaganbet (0-0) announced that he was turning professional, having left the Kazakh amateur national to join the pro ranks. At the time there was a number of promoters believed to have been chasing his signature before he agreed a deal with Suleimen promotions, who have a host of other talented Kazakh's signed with them. He announced that deal earlier in July and just a few days ago they confirmed that he would be making his professional debut on July 26th in Minsk.
For those unaware Nurmaganbet was one of the best amateurs in the world before deciding to head to the professionals and those who have followed the amateur ranks in recent years are very excited about seeing how far Nurmaganbet can go.
The youngster impressed had impressed way back in the Youth ranks, taking a silver medal at the AIBA Youth World Championships in 2016, losing in the final to talented Scottish fighter Willy Hutchinson. Although he lost in the final it was a razor thin bout, with Hutchinson winning the final via a split decision. On his route to the final Nurmaganbet scored a notable victory over current professional prospect "White Chocolate" Nikita Ababiy.
After a relatively quiet 2017 Nurmaganbet then went on to quickly make a mark in the senior ranks, winning a national Kazakh title in 2018, where he was the second youngster of the fighters to win their weight class. That same year he also took home a President's Cup in Astana, losing in the semi-final to eventual winner Bektemir Melikuziev. You know, that Uzbek terror who has been racing through the rankings towards a world title shot!
Despite having already made his name in the youth ranks and the domestic ranks it was really 2019 that we saw Nurmaganbet announce himself globally. It was in 2019 that he won the AIBA Asian Amateur Championships, being one of two Kazakh's to take home gold, alongside the phenomenal Tursynbay Kulakhmet.
Nurmaganbet was also supposed to go to the recent World Amateur Championship's but an injury forced him to abandon those plans. In the end his replacement, essentially the #2 in the Kazakh team, went on to win the gold medal.
Despite only being in his early 20's the natural talent that Nurmaganbet has is obvious when he steps in the ring. As an amateur he was really highly skilled with a loose, relaxed style. Typically his hands do look a little on the low side but he looks a natural in the ring, very fleet footed and very natural moving around the ring. Like many of the top amateur's he's a southpaw and despite fighting at 81KG's in the amateurs, around the Light Heavyweight limit, he looks very quick with a lovely quick jab and a rocket of a smooth left hand.
In many ways Nurmaganbet is similar to fellow Kazakh hopeful Tursynbay Kulakhmet. He isn't quite the natural talent that Kulakhmet is, but stylistically they are similar, with fluid styles and a lot of energy in what they do.
We suspect that when Nurmaganbet debuts a lot of the focus will be on slowing things down slightly, sitting on his shots more and just adapting what he's shown in the amateurs. He looks fantastic, big, tall, rangy, quick, strong, powerful and smart. He's young, has time to adapt and has a very bright future ahead of him.
Sadly at the time of writing Nurmaganbet's opponent for his debut hasn't been named though the reality is that we don't expect him to be in too tough to begin with. We expect to see him have an easy bout on July 26th then begin to see his competition ramp up as he begins to adapt to the pro ranks.
The past week in boxing has been a strange one. It's had some of the best highs in recent months, but was also one of the saddest in months and also a confusing one. With that said, lets take a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!
1-Boxing back at Korakuen Hall
Whilst last Thursday's show at Korakuen Hall was only a 2-bout card it's great to see boxing return to the "Holy Land" of Japanese boxing and it showed that the sport can run behind closed doors, at least in the short term. It's a shame things are the way they are, but the card was a good one, and given how both bouts finished we ended up getting the entire card on Fuji TV on tape delay with no issues. It's the first step in getting boxing up and running properly in the Japanese capital and was a huge step in the right direction.
2-Fans back at boxing in Japan
Whilst having boxing back at Korakuen Hall was brilliant the "behind closed doors" nature of the event was strange. What was even better was having a card in Okinawa on Sunday allowing fans into the venue. Whilst it was a 90% empty venue it was again a step in the right direction, and it seems like we're going to slowly see cards having more and more fans as things slowly resume to some sense of normality. We are some way from things getting back to what they were, if they ever are, but the Okinawan card, with fans, gave a real sense of hope and genuinely filled us with joy.
3-Eumir Marcial Turns Pro!
Filipino boxing needs a new star. Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire and Donnie Nietes, if he's still even active, are all beyond their best years. Jerwin Ancajas had the look of a star, but his match making since winning the IBF Super Flyweight title has left much to be desired, and the need for a bright and promising fighter in the pros is needed. Step forward Eumir Marcial, the amateur standout who signed his professional contract with MP Promotions this week. This kid has the tools to be a huge star in the pro ranks and we are very glad to see him turn over. It's worth noting that he is joins a number of Asian fighters who are planning to dual-code in boxing, making sure to have his contract allow him to fight in amateur bouts, leaving the door wide open for an appearance at the delayed Tokyo Olympics. Marcial is special and hopefully MP Promotions treats him like a special fighter.
1-Mark John Yap and the pre-fight issues
Whilst we all understand fighters aren't training in the way they usually do it's hard to have any defense for what Mark John Yap did last week. In accepting the fight with Miguel Marriaga he took an opportunity away from someone who did want the fight. That along makes his poor attempt to make weight seem pretty bad, but to then read the comments he made to Ryan Songalia makes things worse, with Yap essentially admitting that he didn't really want to fight. We can defend missing weight by a a pound or two, given the world is how it is, but to make it clear you didn't want to fight and would quit if the heat got hot, before totally missing weight. Yeah that bad. Real bad.
2-What the fuck is going on with Jamel Herring's tests?
WBO Super Featherweight champion Jamel Herring really has had a screwed up few weeks with several positive tests and negative tests for "the ongoing health issue". Whilst being sick is bad, having false positives, false negatives, or repeated issues is even worse. We really wish Jamel is fine, and completely fine, though the whole situation regarding his health and the inconclusive results of his tests do lead us to worrying, not so much about him, he seems fine but the whole of boxing's return in the US. Is there other false tests that are being seen in boxing?
Once again we hope Jamel is fine, and he has shown a good sense of humour through the last week, but we do need to wonder just how accurate the testing is, and how workable it is in the medium to long run.
1-Coronavirus closes Osakan Gym
There hasn't been too much ugly for us to talk about, but the story out of Osaka in the week was a worrying one. For those who missed it 5 members of an Osaka boxing gym, including the owner, 2 pros, an amateur fighter and a trainer, all tested positive with Coronavirus. Whilst those that positive, and the gym, weren't named, it is still a scary thought that boxing could still have gyms and fighters passing it around. The scariest thing here is the owner of the gym is said to have been at another gym, with a fighter, potentially leading it to spread through multiple gyms. Fingers crossed this was just a one off and won't be something that gets repeated as boxing opens up.
2-Four fighters pass away following traffic accidents
The ugliest bit of news this week was the sad passing of 4 different fighters in traffic accidents. In the space of a week American 24 year old Travell Mazion, and Kazakh trio Elaman Rakhmetolla, Nurken Nurymov and Sunkar Telmanov all passed away. We think we speak for the whole boxing fraternity when we send out thoughts out to the family and friends of all 4 men.
One thing we all talk about is how successful a fighter is. How many titles they won, and how well they did in the sport. One thing we rarely talk about, for better or worse, are the fighters who should have done so much more in the sport than they did. Today we look at one such fighter. A man who should have been a star, but was arguably the most frustrating, inconsistent and unprofessional Filipino fighters ever. He was also one of the most naturally gifted, and had he committed to the sport we would be talking about him as a genuine sensation.
That is Marvin Sonsona (21-1-1, 1). Arguably the most naturally gifted Filipino fighter in a generation. He had all the tools to be something very special, but instead he had just a single short world title reign, at Super Flyweight, and lost the title on the scales just 2 months later. His battle with the scales saw him going from Flyweight to Welterweight, at the end of his career. That battle was worsened by the fact he was so unprofessional, unpredictable, and a complete nightmare for the trainers and teams around him. The teams that knew he was a special talent, but couldn't get him to train, or turn up for camps, or put the party lifestyle on hold when he needed to.
Rather than going any further into explaining how badly Sonsona screwed up his career we're instead here to look at some of the positives, and take a glance at the 5 most significant wins for... Marvin Sonsona
Wandee Singwancha (May 28th 2009)
In May 2009 Sonsona actually fought twice. He started the month by stopping Lowie Bantigue at Super Flyweight before dropping 3lbs and taking on Thai veteran Wandee Singwancha. Whilst Singwancha, a former WBC "interim" Minimumweight champion, had seen better days he was still very serviceable as an opponent and just 2 months before facing Sonsona he had gone 6 rounds with Daiki Kameda. Sonsona showed his class by taking out the Thai veteran in just 2 rounds and claimed the WBO Oriental Flyweight title as a result. Whilst that wasn't Sonsona's first title it was his first senior title, having previously held a WBO regional Youth title, and showed just how good he was at the age of just 18!
Jose Lopez (September 4th 2009)
Just 5 months after Sonsona beat Wandee he made his international debut and took on WBO Super Flyweight champion Jose Lopez in Canada. He entered the bout with a 13-0 (12) record, but was still a kid at just 19 years old. Lopez on the other hand was a 37 year old veteran, sporting a 39-7-2 (32) record and had never been stopped. Despite the gulf in experience Sonsona was the clear winner on the cards, dropping Lopez en route to a 12 clear round decision win over the Puerto Rican veteran. The win saw Sosnona claim the WBO Super Flyweight title, the only world title he would win, but also seemed to be the beginning of the end of Sonsona as a truly special fighter. Just 2 months later he would return to a ring in Canada and lose the belt, when he failed to make the Super Flyweight limit. Not only did he fail to make weight, not for the final time in his career, but he also failed to show what he could do, fighting to a draw with a Alejandro Hernandez.
Akifumi Shimoda (February 22nd 2014)
Following his title loss Sonsona would move up to Super Bantamweight and suffer a stoppage loss to Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in 2010. Following that loss he pretty much vanished off the boxing world for 4 years. In fact he would fight once a year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2014, with his career looking about over he returned to fore with a bout against former world champion Akifumi Shimoda in Macao. The card was a stacked one with a lot of international attention, thanks to Ryota Murata, Zou Shiming, Rex Tso and Miguel Vazquez all on the card. Given his inactivity this was pretty much do or die for Sonsona, and for 2 rounds he didn't do much. It was as if he had phoned it in. Until he landed a brutal uppercut in round 3 that left Shimoda out cold. It was one of the KO's of the year and gave Sonsona a much needed career boost. It essentially gave him a second chance in the eyes of fans.
Wilfedo Vazquez Jr II (June 7th 2014)
On the back of Sonsona's win over Shimoda he got a second bout with Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, with the Filipino looking to avenge his sole defeat. This time both men were fighting at Featherweight, with the NABF title on the line, and the loser was going to be left with no where to go. Sonsona got off to the perfect start, dropping Vazquez in the opening round and tearing through the early rounds, looking sensational for the first half of the fight. Then Sonsona's lack of dedication showed it's self as he spoiled and stank the joint out for the second half of the fight. He had done enough in the first 5 rounds to secure a win, but had done everything he could to kill any desire for fans to want to see him again. It was, pretty much, the final nail in the coffin of Sonsona being a top level fighter. He was simply too inconsistent to care about and had made it clear that fans weren't an interest to him.
Arief Blader (May 13th 2018)
After the Vazquez win we saw Sonsona fight in the US once more, around a year after that bout, as he narrowly defeated Jonathan Arrellano. That would be his final bout for almost 3 years before he returned in May 2018 to take on Indonesian journeyman Ariel Blader. Originally this bout was agreed at 141lbs, but Sonsona missed weight. By 6lbs. He was 8lbs heavier than Blader on the scales and had to wear 12oz gloves as a punishment. Despite the heavier gloves he was too good for Blader, taking a 6 round decision over the Indonesian. The bout wasn't a big one, or a meaningful one in the grand scheme of things. But it was significant. It was the win that finally saw everyone give up on him. He was only 27 but no one was willing to risk using him, and his career has pretty much finished.
As we write this Sonsona is still only 29 years old, but it's almost impossible to think of him returning to the ring. It's been 2 years since he last fought and it seems hard to imagine him ever returning to the ring. He had promise much and truly under-delivered. What should have been a spectacular career will be known more for what could have been, than what was. Sonsona should be the guy that every trainer shows any young, promising fighter as a sign of what to not do. He is the perfect example of why talent alone can't take you all the way. You need dedication and work ethic. Two things Sonsona lacked.
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