Last year we were really entertain by the Rookie of the Year tournament, and the various fighters involved. Whilst certain fighters impressed for their talent and skills others impressed due to their excitement. One such fighter was Light Welterweight puncher Yasutaka Fujita (5-1, 5), who lost in the final but left us craving more of him thanks to a crude but thrilling all action style. It was a style that essentially cost him the bout, but won him fans and attention. Since then things have changed massively for him, and the hope is that he can temper his aggression, improve his defense and rebuild from that loss.
Born in Aichi in 1994 Fujita only had a short amateur career. In total he fought just 10 times before turning professional, and went 7-3 (4). Given his lack of amateur experience he began his career in 4 rounders and debuted in November 2018, fighting out of the Nagoya Ohashi Gym.
On his debut it was clear Fujita could punch, taking just 59 to stop fellow debutant Keiichi Suzuki. The bout saw the two unloading on each other, with the power, strength and physicality of Fujita being too much for Suzuki, who was dropped once and then had to be saved by the referee. For the 23 year old Fujita this was the perfect way to make his debut.
Just 4 months after facing off with Suzuki for the first time the two men clashed again, as part of the Central Japan Rookie of the Year. This time things were over even quicker with Fujita needing just 37 seconds to see off Suzuki, who was dropped twice by the hard hitting youngster.
After blowing apart Suzki twice we then saw Fujita face his first test, as he took on Kosei Kataoka. Unlike Suzuki we saw Kataoka show some real toughness and resilience. Suzuki started fast before the tempo took a toll on him, and he slowed notably in round 3 as Kataoka tried to turn things around. Sadly for Kataoka it wasn't to be enough and in round 4 Fujita dug deep and forced Kataoka's corner to throw in the towel after just over a minute of round 4.
Fujita would then continue to advance towards the All Japan Rookie of the Year with second round TKO wins over Ryota Uno and Takuya Takahashi, who had made his way to the final based on a bye in the West Japan final. Those wins had seen him move to 5-0 (5) and book his place in the All Japan final in December. Although we had serious questions about his stamina, due to his performance against Kataoka, we were impressed by his intensity, work rate, stamina and destructive power. He had caught our eye, been exciting, and looked like a flawed warrior worthy of following.
Sadly for Fujita his power and aggression wasn't enough when it came to the All Japan final, in what was his Korakuen Hall debut. It was there that he met the young, determined Kodai Honda. The bout was a war from the off with Fujita being rocked in the opening seconds before dropping Honda moments later. He then went on to put Honda down a second time in a round that had the Korakuen Hall chanting "Fujita". It seemed he was on the verge of another quick win but Honda refused to quit whilst Fujita continued to unleash bombs until the tables were turned in the dying seconds. It was a truly sensational opening round.
Sadly for Fujita his inability to put Honda away when he had his man hurt turned out to hurt him big time, as Fujita had essentially emptied the tank. He lacked the defense needed to protect himself from Honda's bombs and he looked like he was running on fumes by round 3. Sadly for Fujita there was no second wind and he was stopped in 4 round, as Honda's heart and determination took him a huge win over the aggressive and exciting Fujita.
Earlier we mentioned that Fujita had began his career at the Nagoya Ohashi Gym. That gym and the Ohashi gym lead by Hideyuki Ohashi are completely unrelated, with the Nagoya Ohashi Gym being run by Hiromasa Ohashi.
Following the loss to Honda we saw Fujita change his life and in June he transferred from the Nagoya Ohashi Gym to the much more well established Misako Gym. Since transferring he's had the chance to train with much better fighters and has rounded off some of the defensive flaws, and stamina issues that cost him against Honda.
Fujita will be fighting his first bout as a Misako gym fighter on September 3rd as he goes up against the durable, but light punching, Kensuke Nakamura in a 6 rounder. The hope here is that we'll see a mentally improved Fujita in this bout. Few can doubt his fire power and excitement factor, but there is clearly work that needs doing in terms of his defensive work and pacing. If the training at Misako can help there then we genuinely see Fujita making his way up the rankings and, one day, getting in the mix for domestic or regional honours.
Fujita doesn't have world class potential but he had the potential to be a very TV friendly fighter and that is what the sport needs more of. With that in mind we hope you all stay around and Fujita in mind going forward because he is very, very fun to watch.
This past week we've seen plenty of action, with the sport continue to go in the right direction and more, and more events taking place. Thankfully the out of the ring bullshit seems to be calming down and we can spend more time looking on the in ring action rather than the political mess outside of it. With that in mind, lets take a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from the past week.
1-Nakagaki and Matsumoto both show a lot of promise!
On Monday Ryutaro Nakagaki and Keisuke Matsumoto made their professional debuts in Tokyo. Both men picked up stoppage wins and looked really promising, showing very advanced skills, and development thanks to their time in the amateurs. Of the two Nakagaki looked the more impressive, and seems likely to be fast tracked. Although less impressive Matsumoto was certainly not disappointing, despite being dropped in the first round, and it was impressive that he managed to fight so well after being dropped. These two both looked like real prospects, and the Ohashi Gym clearly have two more talented youngsters among their very strong ranks.
2-Tim Tszyu shines
Talking about talented youngsters we can't ignore how brilliant Tim Tszyu looked in his demolition job of Jeff Horn in the middle of the week. This was a potentially tough task for Tszyu against the ugly and awkward Horn, but the young and unbeaten prospect made it look extremely easy, despite hugging, holding and wrestling from Horn. The clean, hard, single shots, smart movement, and good ring control were the keys to Tszyu's win. We were really impressed by the youngster, who proved he wasn't just his father's son. There is still some area's to work on, and we do worry about his 1-punch power, but we're nit picking there. He looked great and it will be brilliant to see where goes from here.
3-Vladimir Hernandez makes the most of his opportunity
Of course it wasn't just youngsters who were great this week but also Mexican veteran Vladimir Hernandez. Hernandez got a late notice call to face Alfredo Angulo, after Caleb Truax was forced to pull out, and managed to show what he could do by out working and out fighting Angulo, who was on the verge of a world title fight. Whilst we don't imagine Hernandez will get a world title fight of his own following this win, it was still an excellent performance, given the situation, and hopefully he ends up with another solid opportunity down the line.
1-Judges cost Baraou
We don't want to rant about judges every week, but once again they left a lot to be desired at times through the last week. Thankfully a lot of the poor cards didn't matter this week, as they either got the right guy or they weren't needed, but one of the times we did need them was Abass Baraou's bout with Jack Culcay. Sadly they were called upon and they got it wrong. After 12 entertaining rounds two of the judges some how had the bout scored in favour of Culcay, who certainly didn't look like the winner to us. This was an ugly scoring mishap, and wasn't a massive, inexplicable robbery, but it was certainly a decision that should have gone the other way. We really hope this loss doesn't impact Baraou too badly, though he may quickly become part of the "Who needs him?" club and become an avoided fighter.
2-Chauncy Welliver's shape
We'll start this by explaining that Chauncy Welliver has never been a svelte fighter. The best weight he's been has been in, or around, the 230lb range, which is not a weight that looks good on his 6'2" frame. If he looks big at 230lbs then we don't need to tell you he looked grossly unfit this past week when he came in at 378lbs for his bout wish Cassius Chaney. He looked ridiculously out of shape, with breasts that would have required a bra to stop them jiggling. This was an insult to the sport, an insult to Chaney and an insult to the fans. Whilst he may have taken the fight on short notice that's hardly an excuse. If he wasn't fit he shouldn't have said yes, and the commission shouldn't have allowed this bout to go ahead. A total joke.
3-Daniel Dubois Vs Ricardo Snijders
The development of Daniel Dubois is weird. He's a very, very young Heavyweight hopeful and has got time to develop into a star. Sadly bouts like his one this past weekend, against Ricardo Snijders, will not do him any favours. Whilst we do know that Snijders was a late replacement his effort was terrible, and he came to lose. The 26 year old Dutchman was a natural Cruiserweight, who hasn't fought in almost a year, offer no resistance and was massively under-sized and under-powered. Bouts like this will not help with Dubois' development or fan base and it's really a time to get him better opponents. Instead of facing limited regional level Cruiserweights it would make a lot more sense to see him take on the likes Christian Hammer, Johann Duhaupas or Joey Dawejko. Someone who will put up some resistance. We understand the world isn't what it once was, but we also know that a fighter like Dubois can't be wasting his time with under-sized fighters like this.
1-Jeff Horn's corner
The corner work we see in this sport is absolutely bizarre at times, and it was at it's ugly worse in mid-week. We're still wondering, days later, why Jeff Horn's corner tried to make him verbally quit between rounds, when they should have stood up, taken he decisions out of his hands and saved their man. A fighter never wants to quit, and if they are at the point where they are willing to say they want no more then you, as a corner, have failed your man. Don't ask him "if he has a punch" of if he "wants another minute". You should know what he has left to offer, everyone else watch did. He was done. Thankfully we didn't see him come out for round 9, but it's a scary though to think his team wanted him out there.
It's fair to say that the bouts we expected to see taking places in September have shifted and swapped around a lot since the start of August. We had Misako announce a Diamond Glove card for the first week of the month, we saw Teiken postpone their Dynamic glove card for the first Saturday of the month and Fanlong Meng being forced out of his scheduled world title bout due to visa issues. With that said take a look at what will be coming in the first part of September!
Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10) vs Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
The first major bout of the month for Asian boxing sees the Korakuen Hall place host to a triple title bout, as Lightweight triple crown winner Shuichiro Yoshino defends his Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles against exciting veteran Valentine Hosokawa. We expected this to be a genuine test for Yoshino, who's looked good, but never been up against someone quite like Hosokawa. This should be a gut check of what Yoshino has in the tank, and we genuinely looking forward to this one.
Bang Phun, Thailand
Chainoi Worawut (11-0-1, 10) vs Joel Kwong (5-9, 5)
At the Work Point Studio we'll see unbeaten Super Bantamweight hopeful Chainoi Worawut look to continue his unbeaten run, and his rise to a world title fight, as he defends his WBC Asian Boxing Council title against Thai based Filipino Joel Kwong. On paper this is a huge mismatch, though Kwong will be there to win, and has won his last 4, all by stoppage. See an easy win for the Thai, but hopefully Kwong does come out firing.
Phongsaphon Panyakum (9-1, 4) vs Arthit Kaewbantid (3-0, 2)
The once beaten Phongsaphon Panyakum will be looking to continue his winning run, which sits at 9 straight, as he takes on Arthit Kaewbantid. The 20 year old Phongsaphon is starting to look like a very good prospect and has really grown since being stopped on debut, in 2017 by Kai Ishizawa. He'll be the big favourite here and will know that his team will try to get him a regional title fight soon, if he wins. Arthit on the other hand is a big of an unknown, and this is a clear step up in class for the him.
Blue Arena, Thailand
Campee Phayom (20-4-2, 12) Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu (53-8, 35)
In a really interestin looking all-Thai bout we'll see WBA Asia Super Featherweight champion Campee Phayom defending his belt against former WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu. We suspect the younger, fresher, naturally bigger Campee will come out on top here, and if he does it would certainly be his biggest win to date. Although not a natural 130lb fighter Pungluang has shown enough in his recent bouts, in and around the weight, to suggest he could be a handful. To us this is much more interesting than we first imagined when we saw the two men being matched up.
Nattapong Jankaew (5-0, 3) vs Samartlek Kokietgym (34-12-1, 12)
In another interesting all Thai bout former amateur stand out Nattapong Jankaew will be seeking his biggest win to date as he takes on former world title challenger Samartlek Kokitgym, aka Wittawas Basapean. We've been really impressed by Nattapong, who has shown some exceptional skills for someone so early in their professional journey, and this is a logical step forward for him in a bout that should be a real chance for him to shine. Samartlek might be on the slide, but he should have enough about him to ask questions of Nattapong, but they should all be answered with ease by the youngster.
Kazuki Nakajima (8-0-1, 7) vs Kenta Nomura (7-3, 3)
Hard hitting Japanese hopeful Kazuki Nakajima looks to build on his unbeaten run as he dips his toes at Super Bantamweight to take on Kenta Nomura. On paper this looks like a really good bout, but we don't see the hard hitting Nakajima struggling to get past Nomura, who has been stopped before. Despite seeing this as an easy win for Nakajima his bouts are typically worth watching, with his power and aggression typically making things exciting, and short. This could be a very fun mismatch.
Katsuya Yasuda (6-0, 4) Vs Omrri Bolivar (8-3, 3)
The talented Katsuya Yasuda looks to kick off his 2020 with a bout against Japanese based Venezuelan Omrri Bolivar. Yasuda has shown a lot to like, but has had a bit of a stop-start career and will be looking to kick on, especially after the time he's lost this year. Bolivar is a decent enough fighter to ask questions of someone like Yasuda, but in reality it's hard to see Bolivar scoring the upset over the Japanese national. Saying that, this should be competitive in spots and Yasuda won't have things all his own way.
Katsuki Mori (6-0, 1) vs Yuki Uchida (7-7, 1)
A third Japanese prospect to make a note off for September 16th is 2019 Rookie of the Year winner Katsuki Mori, who looked fantastic last year. The talented 20 year old is wise beyond his years, an excellent boxer with a brilliant boxing brain. He'll fighting for the first time since his Rookie triumph as he dips his toes at Light Flyweight and takes on Yuki Uchida. We suspect this will be little more than a show case for Mori who's got a very high ceiling and should be on the watch for all fans of the lower weights. This is kid is special and will be looking to show that against an experienced and naturally bigger foe here.
When we talk about the fighters who have the most controversy, and even mystique, around them after retirement few rival Jiro Watanabe (26-2, 17). His out of the ring activity has involved the Yakuza, being a hired thug and various arrests. Inside of the ring however he was a genius, a very lazy but a genius all the same.
Durign his 7 year professional career, that spanned from 1979 to 1986, Watanabe fought 28 times with half of his career, 14 total outs, spent in world title bouts. From those bouts bouts it should come as no surprise that former 2-time Super Flyweight champions scored some big wins and some super significant ones. In fact some of Watanabe's wins are genuinely significant in ways we may not realise.
With that said, here are the 5 most significant wins for... Jiro Watanabe.
Koji Kobayashi (February 2nd 1980)
We start with an early career win for Watanabe as he took on Koji Kobayashi in February 1980. By this point Watanabe was 6-0 (6) whilst Kobayashi was 6-0-2 (4), the two men were clashing in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final at Flyweight and Watanabe made a statement in stopping Kobayashi inside a round. The win not only netted Watanabe his 7th straight win, all by stoppage, and the Rookie of the Year but also a win over a future world champion. Whilst Kobayashi may not be a big name he would go on to win the WBC Flyweight title in 1984, stopping Frank Cedeno. Sadly Kobayashi's reign was a short one, but the win for Watanabe certainly is a major one, and often over-looked one.
Rafael Pedroza (April 18th 1982)
Watanabe came up short in his first world title fight, losing a close 15 round decision to Chul Ho Kim in South Korea, but a 1982 bout with Rafael Pedroza saw Watanabe claim a top tier title in his second shot at the top. The Japanese southpaw managed to take a a clear decision over Pedroza, from Panama, who was making his first defense of the WBA Super Flyweight title. The tough Pedroza really had no answer to Watanabe's consistency. The bout was certainly not an exciting one, with Watanabe respecting Pedroza's power and toughness, but those who enjoy watching a fighter controlling distance and tempo of a bout from their footwork and lead hand will find this one pretty impressive.
Payao Poontarat I (July 5th 1984)
After making 6 defenses of his WBA title Watanabe faced WBC champion Payao Poontarat. The hope was to find the best in the division and unify the two titles. Of course boxing bodies don't like to get on and the WBA decided that they didn't like the idea of a unified champion and stripped Watanabe for not facing Khaosai Galaxy. Despite the WBA's decision the bout went ahead and in the eyes of many this decided the king of the division. Sadly it failed to really crown the divisional king as what ended up happening was Watanabe took a huge controversially decision. The Japanese fighter, who claimed the WBC title due to the win, was seen as being very lucky to get the decision. Poontarat felt robbed and Watanabe himself suggested that Poontarat had been the superior boxer. The controversy lead to a rematch...
Payao Poontarat II (November 29th 1984)
...and the that rematch came in November 1984, with the WBC title on the line. This was Watanabe's first defense of the title he took from the Thai and again the action was pretty even at times. Despite being competitive it did seem like Watanabe had improved from their first bout, changed things a touch whilst Poontarat failed to have the same level of success he had in the first bout. Although it was competitive Watanabe was well up on the scorecards as he tried to right the wrongs of their first encounter. Poontarat was down in round 5, from a gorgeous right hook, and dropped again in round 11 before the referee halted the action and saved the Thai from further punishment. Whilst the first bout might have been inconclusive in terms of a winner their was no doubting the better man here with Watanabe making it clear he was the #1 in the division.
Interestingly just 8 days before this rematch Khaosai Galaxy beat Eusebio Espinal for the WBA title that had been stripped from Watanabe for facing Poontarat the first time around.
Suk Hwan Yun (December 13th 1985)
We suspect readers of this will be wondering why the little known Korean Suk Hwan Yun makes up the final result here. Afterall Wayanabe beat the likes of former champion Shoji Oguma, Inaugural IBF champion Soon Chun Kwon and former WBA champion Gustavo Ballas. The reason is simple. They were better wins than this one, but this one was more significant. Watanabe's bout with Yun saw the WBC Super Flyweight champion travel over to South Korea to take on the Korean challenger, and then stop Yun in 5 rounds. Yun had been bounced off the canvas twice in round 2 before being stopped a few rounds later. This would go on to be Watanabe's final win but it was more the circumstances around the win that made it significant.
The talented Japanese fighter was always expected to beat Yun, the two men were on different levels and the Korean did nothing before hand to earn a shot at Watanabe. The bout however was the first time, in history, that a Japanese world champion successfully defended a world title on foreign soil. prior to this the likes of Fighting Harada, Hiroyuki Ebihara, Kuniaki Shibata, Guts Ishimatsu and Royal Kobayashi all lost their titles on the road. It would take until 2009 for another Japanese fighter to repeat the feat, with Toshiaki Nishioka doing it against Jhonny Gonzalez.
With not too many fights yet set in stone for the next few months trying to talk about fighters in the week or so before they fight is a little bit tricky at the moment. That means that this "introducing" series has spent the last few weeks covering fighters who haven't necessarily got their next fight, or in some cased their debuts, scheduled. Thankfully things are starting to return to some form of normality and today we do get to talk about a fighter who does have a fight pencilled in, though that is set for later this month. The fighter in question is the talented teenager Kosuke Tomioka (2-0, 2).
Tomioka, who was featured in our honourable mentions for "20 for 20" last year, turned 18 a few days ago and is pencilled to have his third professional bout on August 31st, as part of a show streamed by the A-Sign Youtube channel. That bout will be a Rookie of the Year bout, with Tomioka regarded as one of the favourites to win this year's tournament at Super Flyweight.
Of course, as we usually do, we need to roll the clock back and look at what Tomioka did as an amateur before talking about his professional journey so far. Before that however we want to roll back even further, and look at his family.
Tomioka is part of a small but notable boxing family. He has two brothers who have had professional careers, with Tatsuya Tomioka running up a 5-3 (2) record between 2015 and 2017, and Tetsuya Tomioka, who is currently 6-4 (5). His cousin Izuki Tomioka, who currently sports a 7-3-1 (2) record and has been very competitive at OPBF and Japanese title level in his career, is also a boxer and a very talented one at that.
Of the 4 members of the Tomioka fighting family it does appear that Kosuke is the most promising, and along with Izuki the most talented.
So on to his amateur achievcements. As ab amateur Tomioka managed to pick up 6 national titles, ranging from an elementary school tournament in 2014 to a junior high school tournament in 2017. This was then followed by him beginning his professional carer in 2019, getting a C class license in January that year.
Aged just 17 when he made his professional debut Tomioka immediately impressed, stopping Shinobu Wakagi in just 42 seconds. What made this win all the more impressive was that Wakagi had reached the All-Japan Rookie of the Year in December 2018, losing a decision to Tetsuro Ohashi in the final. That was a statement of what Tomioka could do, and just 3 months later he notched his second win, stopping Asato Mori in the final second of a 4 rounder, having been well up on the cards.
Although he is still very much a novice professional Tomioka has the tools to go a very long way. He's athletic, charismatic, a solid puncher with a good boxing brain. He looks a natural in the ring, and it's clear that his years of ring experience has helped him understand the sport brilliantly. He has a good jab, good movement, and is very quick and crisp with his punches. He does look like a kid, but a very, very advanced one. There are, of course, areas where he needs to improve, and his defense is an obvious area that does need work as he steps up. Saying that however his potential and performances so far have left us really excited for what his future in the sport.
For Tomioka's next bout we'll see him take on fellow novice Shota Hara (2-2-1). Tomioka is regarded, clearly, as the favourite, and a win here will see him progress to the next round of the Rookie of the Year, which we now know will run into early 2021 due to the on going global situation. For those who want to see Tomioka in action, we really do suggest you make an effort to watch this bout live at the end of August, especially given the free stream that will be available for the entire show.
Boxing continues to move forward, it continues to try and rebuild after a that has been a very, very odd few months. Thankfully as we move forward it seems like we are getting closer to normality in the sport, and we are getting more positives than negative to talk about. With that in mind, lets take a look at The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from this past week!
We saw some amazing action over the past week, and we'll get on to some of that in a few moments, but the moment of the weekend came from the UK where Heavyweight veteran Alexander Povetkin pulled himself off the canvas, twice, in round 4 to blast out Dillian Whyte a round later with a peach of a shot. The punch, which was a left uppercut, sent Whyte crashing backwards to the canvas in one of the punches of the year. This is one that will be on highlight reels for years to come and really was something special.
2-Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary final bout
On Saturday we got a Dangan promoted event from Korakuen Hall. This was headlined by the Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament final between Daisuke Watanabe and Shingo Kusano and boy did they deliver! The bout was a sensational contest which saw momentum shifts, action, intensity and 3 of the best rounds we've seen all year. If you have Boxing Raise and missed this one, we highly recommend giving it watch, it really was a brilliant war.
3-Katie Taylor Vs Delfine Persoon II
Talking about great wars we got to give Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon a shout out for their brilliant war in the UK. The two had previously given us a very special fight and their rematch was another cracking contest that will down as one of the best female fights this year. In all honesty the current "no fan" era of boxing in the west has been great for female boxing. In the space of just a few weeks we've had some amazing female bouts, and hopefully they continue when fans do come back to boxing. Genuine hats off to female boxing and hopefully they have convinced some of the naysayers about the quality of the action and fights they can be involved in.
4-Free boxing from Russia!
Saturday really was a strange day. Not only did we have a great show in Japan, events in the US and the card in the UK but we also got two totally free cards from Russia. On a day when PPV boxing raised it's ugly head in the UK the Russian's over-delivered for free. Whilst not all the bouts were great we did get some great highlights. We saw a notable upset, with Stanislav Kalitskiy losing to Dmitrii Khasiev, a brutal beat down by Zaur Abdullaev, against Pavel Malikov, a sensational KO by Magomed Kurbanov, and a brilliant bout between Albert Batyrgaziev and Erzhan Turgumbekov, which if you missed it is one worth watching.
We've spoke a lot about Saturday but Sunday also delivered some great action with the most notable being a trio of debutants in Kazakhstan, all of whom were touted former amateurs who look like they could make a real mark on the professional scene in the coming years. The trio of Talgat Shayken, Tursynbay Kulakhmet and Kamshybek Kunkabayev all look fantastic and all three have the potential to be stars. Keep an eye out for all 3.
1-Yoan Pablo Hernandez's return
Comebacks seem to be the thing in 2020. Some are yet to happen, such as Oscar De La Hoya's, others have seen fighters pick up wins, as Sergio Martinez did, and another had ended in spectacular fashion. The one that has ended badly was that of former Cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez's. The 35 year old Cuban returned on Saturday more than 6 years after his last bout, and was destroyed by Kevin "Kingpin" Johnson of all people. The "Safety" pin showed more aggression here than we've seen from him in years and we suspect this will be 1-and-done for Hernandez.
2-The WBC Super Middleweight Mess
So this past week the big sanctioning body news came in two forms, one we'll get on to in the Ugly's and one is the situation regarding the mandatory mess with the Super Middleweight title. After David Benavidez was stripped they had several fighters wanting to fight Avni Yildirim, who was previously owed a shot, and from the fighters tossing their hats into the ring they've gone with Saul Alvarez. To no ones's surprised. The bout isn't wanted by TV, it's not wanted by fans, it's not wanted by media. It's literally wanted by the WBC, Yildirim and his team, and Canelo. The IBO, of all organisations, have trolled the WBC for the decision, fans are pissed about it, and DAZN have said no. On one hand "it is a fight", but it's not one any would deem title worthy, or worthy of Canelo's time. On the other hand we actually want him to have it, just to get the "Who will face Canelo next?" Question answered after several months of names have been mentioned.
1-Happy Daudi and the IBA
Talking about messes Happy Daudi really needs to ask her team about the mess they got her into. The terrible Tanzanian fighter should never have been allowed near the ring with Firuza Sharipova given the gulf in levels between the two women. Daudi looked pretty much inept, and whilst Sharipova didn't look great this a totally pointless match. It was so pointless and mismatched that it makes the proposed Canelo Vs Yildirim match up look good. Amazingly the IBA actually put one of their female titles on this line for this. Whatever, little, credit-ability the IBA have has been slashed by that decision. She should have been as far away from any claim of a "world" title as we are.
2-WBC want a new weight class
We might be annoyed at the IBA but we know they are total garbage, the WBC on the other hand are supposed to be taken seriously. Despite their long list of issues, mistakes, and confusing decisions. The latest is the idea of creating a new weight class around 225lbs. If we look at top Heavyweights right now the decision to even consider this becomes a joke. Smaller Heavyweights like Povetkin, Michael Hunter, Deontay Wilder, Filip Hrgovic, Evgeny Romanov, Frank Sanchez and Otto Wallin, have all been under, or around, the 225lb mark in recent years. Given the fighters, in the sport today, a fracturing of the Heavyweight division isn't needed and the timing is ridiculous.
Whilst there might be a need in the future, as big Heavyweights begin to dominate and become more and more dominant, at the moment it's not something that's required. The smaller Heavyweights of today are not in need of such a hand out from a title body.
At the end of April 2019 we covered the promising Tsubasa Murachi (4-1, 3) in our "Introducing" piece. At the time the 22 year old old was 3-0 (3) and looked like someone with good long term potential, but was still a work in progress, who didn't need to be rushed, and should have been given time to progress and develop. Following our previous piece on Murachi however we saw him moved, quickly, through the levels of the sport, and sadly his career may never recover. He went from being a promising young prospect to someone who reached for the sun and got burned, badly.
So before we look at what Murachi has done since we first looked at him we just need to remember where he was. Back in April 2019 Murachi was preparing for a May bout with Filipino veteran Raymond Tabugon. Up to that point Murachi had fought a total of 7 professional rounds, and had done little to suggest he would be fighting for a title by the end of the year. That however is exactly what would happen.
In May 2019 Murachi showed his class by out boxing, out speed and out thinking Raymond Tabugon to take a wide 8 round decision. The Filipino veteran was game, and never looked hurt, but was made to look slow and clumsy through out by the talented 22 year old Japanese fighter.
The win over Tabugon should have been a clear step in the right direction for Murachi, who gone 8 rounds for the first time, and had shown a lot promise, but also areas to work on. It seemed clear that whilst Murachi was skilled, a good mover, a smart boxer and knew he couldn't just blast through Tabugan, as he had his previous opponents. It was also clear that Murachi wasn't fully mature, he needed time, he needed bouts, he needed rounds and ring time.
Sadly ambition was one thing Tabugon didn't need and rather than fighting in a few more 8 rounders, or even a 10 rounds, against some lower level regional opponents, or even a domestic rival he was match much harder. Just 4 months after beating Tabugon Murachi was matched with former world title challenger Froilan Saludar in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title.
On paper Maruchi Vs Saludar was a risky bout, but a winnable one. It was a huge step up but one that he and his team seemed to feel confident he could win. That confidence looked to be in the right place early on, when Maruchi dropped Saludar inside the opening round. It seemed like the gamble of Maruchi and his team was perfectly done...until Saludar recovered from the knockdown and showed his class as he broke down Murachi, stopping him, in brutal fashion, in round 8.
The ambition to chase a regional title so early in his career was commendable, but it came at a cost and with Saludar's power taking taking him out in such a nasty manner there will be questions over last damage to Murachi.
We had hoped to see what Murachi had learned from the loss to Saludar in May, but sadly the bout he was scheduled for has been cancelled. The hope is now for him to return in September, though full details of who against and when have yet to be disclosed.
We're looking forward to seeing what Murachi looks like on his return. The loss to Saludar was a very nasty one, but it'd be foolish to write off the youngster after just a single defeat. Instead we want to see what he has learned and what he looks like on his return. He's a talent, but that ambition just needs cooling, he needs to get experience, he needs to develop and physically mature. When that happens we suspect we'll see Murachi back in title fights, and likely winning silverware of his own. He'll have to wait, but he really does have the potential to go a long way.
The Super Flyweight division has had a lot of attention in the last few years as American broadcasters have managed to actually showcase some of the talented fighters in the division. Now a days boxing fans, globally, will know about Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada. It wasn't always like this however and in the early 2010's the division was given no real exposure in the west. That meant that numerous noteworthy fighters failed to attract any sort of fan base outside of their domestic niche's.
One such fighter was Yota Sato (26-3-1, 12), who won the Japanese and WBC titles during his 30 fight professional career. He fought as a professional from 2004, losing on his debut in fact, 2013, when he lost the WBC Super Flyweight title. Although not the most well known fighter out there he was certainly someone worthy of more attention than he got.
With that now said we've decided to bring you the 5 most significant wins for... Yota Sato
Go Onaga (May 1st 2010)
Sato's first title bout saw him take on the then 15-0-1 (11) Go Onaga in a bout for the Japanese "interim" Super Flyweight title. At the time Onaga was not just unbeaten but also word ranked by both the WBA and WBC, and it was assumed a win for Onaga would lead him to a bout for the full title, and the a likely world title fight. Whilst it wasn't for the full title, that was held by the then injured Daigo Nakahiro, it was a huge chance for Sato to make a name for himself on the domestic scene. Sato would go on to stop Onaga in 7 rounds, claiming the interim title and setting up a show down with Nakahiro around 4 months later.
Daigo Nakahiro (September 25th 2010)
Having won the "interim" title in May 2010 Sato would get a shot at the full version of the title in September against Daigo Nakahiro. Although not well known outside of Japan Nakahiro was a solid fighter with a 21-2-1 (8) record. Both of his losses had come to more notable fighters, with the first coming to Daisuke Naito, in a Japanese Flyweight title fight, and the second to Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, in a WBC world title fight. He had won the belt in 2008 and made 3 defenses before facing Sato, including defenses against Hidenobu Honda and Ryo Akaho. Despite being highly regarded Nakahiro was made to look second rate by Sato who easily out boxed the champion to claim the title, and unify the interim and regular Japanese Super Flyweight titles.
Kohei Kono (April 9th 2011)
In 2008 and 2010 Kohei Kono had lost in world title bouts. Prior to those losses however he had proven himself winning not only a Japanese Super Flyweight title but also the OPBF Super Flyweight title, twice. He was as solid of a contender at the time as you could find and he was also Sato's second Japanese title challenger. A win over would gave Sato's reign legitimacy, and prove that he was ready for bigger and better things than just the Japanese title. Over 10 rounds Sato would easily out point Kono, taking a very clear decision over Kono to retain the Japanese title. Given that Kono would later go on to become a 2-time world champion himself this wins looks even bigger on reflection than it was at the time. The win opened the door for Sato at world level, and he would go through the door a year later, and was a win that aged brilliantly.
Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (March 27th 2012)
Having proven himself ready for a shot at world level Sato would take on the then WBC Super Flyweight champion Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, also known as Suriyan Por Chokchai at the time and Suriyan Kaikanha. Suriyan had won the title had won the title in August 2011, when he beat Tomas Rojas, and then defended it against tough Japanese challenger Nobuo Nashiro. The bout turned out to be ultra-competitive and close, however 2 knockdowns in round 2 from Sato turned out to be the difference maker, with Sato taking a close decision. The win secured Sato the WBC title and the most important win of his career. Interestingly a day after this win he was stopped by police and asked what his job was whilst sporting the bruises and swellings that he suffered during the bout.
Ryo Akaho (December 31st 2012)
In August 2011 Sato was supposed to unify his Japanese title with OPBF champion Ryo Akaho. That bout fell through, when Akaho suffered an injury, but the two men would meet at the very end of 2012. Akaho, who was then unbeaten, was made to look very poor by Sato who regularly dropped his hands and took a clear decision over his countryman. Akaho was game, through out, but had no answer to Sato's straight punches, smart foot work and smart boxing brain. Given this bout was over a year in the making it the most important of Sato's two successful defenses, and ended up being his final win, with Sato losing the belt the following May to the then unheralded Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Although we do now have fights there is a lot of fights still left to cover in our "Fights We wish we had" series. As a result this series will continue in some form, potentially moving from a bi-weekly series into a monthly, or sporadic series. When we started we had a good list of bouts we wanted to cover in mind, and we want to get through some more of those before we stop.
With that said lets have a look at another potential all Asian fighter we could have had, and we'll also explain the big stumbling block of this one, which would have potentially made it even bigger, if the hurdle could have been over-come.
Shinsuke Yamanaka Vs Koki Kameda
Although some of the other fighters we have in this series are more logical ones, and much more competitive ones, we always liked the idea of the then WBC Bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka up against the then WBA "regular" Bantamweight champion Koki Kameda. We full appreciate this wouldn't have been the best fight, the most competitive of fights or the more exciting, but it would have been one we'd have still absolutely loved.
For this bout to be at it's biggest it would require both men to be holding world titles, and we are accepting Kameda's WBA "regular" belt here. With that in mind we are probably looking at this fight taking place in 2012 or 2013.
Interestingly Kameda won his WBA title in December 2010, to become a 3-weight champion, whilst Yamanaka had to wait 11 months longer to pick up the WBC title. In the window where both were champions Kameda made 6 defenses, including one just weeks after Yamanaka won his title. Yamanaka on the other hand made 5 defenses before Kameda vacated. That's a good, solid window for this fight.
In Shinsuke Yamanaka we have a viciously hard hitting Japanese southpaw who was a natural Bantamweight. He was a boxer-puncher, who loved to work at range, get full extension on his shots and quickly became one of the faces of Japanese boxing with with his explosive power, charming personality and exciting bouts. Although he wasn't regarded as the best in the division early in his reign he did become the top man at Bantamweight, in the eyes of many, before he was dethroned in 2017 by Luis Nery in the first of two controversial fights between the men.
Fighting out of the Teiken stable Yamanaka was able to take wins over a real who's who of the division at the time. That included wins against Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis. He also had a notable Japanese title reign that included a brilliant win over Ryosuke Iwasa.
Although Yamanaka was the more exciting fighter and the bigger puncher Koki Kameda was, at least early on, the much bigger name. Kameda had won the title to become a 3-weight world champion, adding the title to a collection which had included the WBA Light Flyweight title and the WBC Flyweight title. He wasn't a big name due to his WBA "Bantamweight" title but due to his brash attitude and charisma. Those who watched him were mixed between those wanting him to win, and those wanting him to get the comeuppance for his loud mouth and cockiness. It made him a figure of major interest in Japan and the big star of Osaka.
Style wise Kameda was a quick, speedy fighter but one with a tight guard, swift foot work and lovely hand speed. At times he could get very lazy, he could get handcuffed easily and could sleep walk though contests. When he got going however he was a joy to watch. Sadly at Bantamweight the general pattern of his fights was to be lazy, be defensive and then try turning it on late, when his opponents tired. This was something that resulted in a lot of very close wins during his Bantamweight reign.
How would we see it playing out?
Lets begin with the obvious. The crowd here would be amazing. The pro-Yamanaka fans were some of the best, the pro-Kameda fans were often loud and boisterous. Big all Japanese bouts don't happen a lot and that would have poured fuel on to an already loud and excited fan base. This would have been massive news. It would have taken a long build up, with NTV and TBS both needing to sort a deal that made sense, but when that was done we would have one of the biggest fights in Japanese boxing history.
Unlike many of Kameda's Bantamweight opponents Yamanaka was a huge puncher, with only Hugo Ruiz really matching him there in regards to Kameda opponents, he was also a very skilled boxer, who could fight for 12 rounds when he needed to. We see those two things being big issues for Kameda, who would struggle with the power, tempo and size of Yamanaka. At range Yamanaka would control behind his straight left and his often under-used jab.
That's however not to say Kameda wouldn't be able to do anything. The Osakan is a smart fighter, he wouldn't just stand in front of Yamanaka but would move, have his tight guard up and make Yamanaka chase him. He would also look to land his counter right hook in the battle of southpaws. That shot could be an issue for Yamanaka, due to it's speed and the surprise element, but it would still be a risky shot for Kameda to throw as he would have to get close.
We suspect the low output nature of Kameda, in front of a big power puncher like Yamanaka would not be a great tactic. Whilst Kameda is defensively tight, and has got quick footwork, we see him being target practice at range, countered when he rushes forward and slowly broken down. In the middle rounds, or maybe a little bit later, we see Yamanaka lowering the boom and taking him out, likely beating the fight out of the smaller man rather than cleanly knocking him out.
Would history of been changed?
As with every All-Japanese world title unification bout featured in this series things would indeed have been changed.
Firstly we think that we wouldn't have seen the bout between Koki Kameda and Kohei Kono if this bout had happened. Had Kameda been flattened by Yamanaka there is little chance he would ever have faced another Japanese opponent. Notably Kameda only fought two in his career, the first was Daisuke Naito and the second was Kono. Had Yamanaka taken him out we're confident he'd have avoided a Kono bout.
Secondly Yamanaka would have been an even bigger star than he was, potentially even earlier than he was. Beating Kameda would have given him a massive rub and he'd have seen his profile boosted massively for beating Kameda, both domestically and internationally. This could, although it's not assured, have opened the door to fights in Las Vegas, as he often spoke about. That could, potentially, have included a bout with the then WBO champion Tomoki Kameda, who was fighting in the US in 2014 and 2015. If Kameda wanted revenge for his older brother's loss this would have been a great chance for Yamanaka to make his US debut.
It would also have, potentially, rushed his bout with Anselmo Moreno, rather than making us wait until 2015. It needs to be remembered that Kameda only abandoned the belt when he was ordered to face Moreno in 2014, so to have seen those titles unified before Moreno lost to Juan Carlos Payano in 2014 would have been amazing. Had that happened there's a good chance that Payano would never have become a world champion...which could have denied us the iconic KO scored by Naoya Inoue against Payano in the World Boxing Super Series.
Looking deeper down the rabbit hole there is a lot of different ways history could have been changed, but the ones that seem most likely are that Kameda would have ended his career earlier and Yamanaka would have been a bigger star. Anything further than that really does depend on the machinations of the alphabet boys, and how much they would be swayed by the potential sanctioning fees that Yamanaka's bouts would pay
The wave of notable amateur fighters turning professional continues this week, with a trio of Kazakh fighters all making their professional debuts on Sunday. We have already covered two of those fighters in this series, Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0) and Talgat Shaiken (0-0), who were both meant to debut earlier in the year but their debuts got delayed due to the on going global situation The third however wasn't supposed to be on that previous card and has actually just recently turned professional and is Heavyweight hopeful Kamshybek Kunkabayev (0-0).
Kunkabayev, like Shaiken and Kulakhment, was a true amateur stand out, or more specifically still is. In the unpaid ranks he had been picking up major medals for years before heading to the professional ranks earlier this year and signing with MTK Kazakhstan.
Born in Kyzylorda in the south-central region of Kazakhstan back in 1991 Kunkabayev began to make a name for himself in the amateurs in his early 20's. This was enough to see him battling in an international team tournament in 2012, where he battled Tony Yoka of all people, and took a win on count back over the future Olympic Gold medal winner. That same year he also came runner up in the Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov Memorial, in Russia
Just a year later Kunkabayev had become a staple on the International stage, losing in the semi final of the 2013 Great Silk Way Tournament where he lost in the semi final to to Azeri great Mahammadrasul Majidov. In 2014 he again showed progress, winning the Gold medal at the CISM Championships, took a Bronze medal from the President's Cup. Interestingly in that year's domestic championships in Kazakhstan he managed to reach the semi-final, where he lost to Ruslan Myrsatayev
In 2015 Kunkabayev's success continue to build and won the notable and highly regarded Strandja Memorial, scoring a very notable TKO1 win over Bakhodir Jalolov in the final. That same year he also picked up a tournament win at the Vllaznia Memorial was was the runner up in the World Military Games in South Korea.
Having proven himself as a very good fighter in the international tournaments Kunkabayev was then able to move on to the bigger and more notable amateur competitions. In 2016 he competed in the WSB, fighting for the Astana Arlans, where he lost in the semi-finals to Englishman Frazer Campbell, who was part of the British Lionhearts.
In 2017 he showed what Kunkabayev could do against the very best and won Silver medals at both the World Amateur Championships in Hamburg and the Asian Championships in Tashkent. In the Asian Championships he lost in the final to Bakhodir Jalolov, though got revenge of the Uzbek in the World Championships a few months later, before losing to Azeri nemesis Mahammadrasul Majidov.
It's worth noting that Kunkabayev also beat Bakhodir Jalolov in the WSB in another chapter to their long amateur rivalry that crossed from amateurs to WSB and now looks likely to continue in the professional ranks.
Kunkabayev's last major amateur success so him against doing the silver double in 2019, when he again took Silver at both the World Amateur and Asian Championships. Once again he clashed with his two great rivals, though sadly lost in the finals of the World Championships to Mahammadrasul Majidov and to Bakhodir Jalolov in the finals of the Asian Championships.
With 4 major silver medals to his name Kunkabayev will try and change that at the Tokyo Olympics, which he does still intend to compete in despite turning professional. Those 4 medals are a sign of what he can do, but also, potentially, that he falters when things get to the big stage. Losing in 4 finals is perhaps a sign that he can't get it done, but getting to 4 finals shows how good he is.
In regards to his style Kunkabayev is a rather slippery looking southpaw boxer-puncher. He's a big bloke, a real big bloke, but very light on his feet, with quick hands, lovely movement, a very sharp left hand and the ability to go to either head or body. Stylistically has has shown a willing to box on the back foot, move, and counter. It's not the most exciting style, but it has been a successful one for him. In fact when he has has changed things up and been more aggressive, as he was in the 2019 World Amateur Championships final last year, he has looked less polished. That however may have been more down to facing his old rivalry and bringing out the red mist rather than a real sign of what he can do coming forward.
Notably on his debut the talented Kunkabayev will be facing off with fellow Kazakh Issa Akberbayev (20-1, 15) on August 23rd in Almaty. A win there, despite the tough match making, is expected from Kunkabayev who is expected to fight another bout or two as a professional before the Olympics in Tokyo.
We're really excited about what Kunkabayev can do joining the professional ranks, even if his career will be truncated by the Tokyo games. He has the tools to go far, and with MTK behind him he has a backer who can open doors for him. We're not sure if he has "World Champion" written all over him, but he certainly has the skills and the long amateur pedigree to get into the title mix and should be no worse than a future world title challenger.
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