So, the year is about to end, and we’re all ready to kick in to 2021...well almost ready, we do still have one big show left before then. Before the year is out however we’ll be taking a look over the week we’ve just had with the final The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of the year, and it’s been a pretty decent week in fairness. We’ve not had much to complain about, and we’ve had a lot more good than bad, though is certainly still some issues in the sport that we want to vent about, as well as some we want to celebrate!
1-A-Sign Card attracts solid audience
On Boxing Day we had the latest A-Sign card streamed live over YouTube and it was a genuine success. Whilst we know we exist in an echo chamber of sorts, with fellow fight fans we were genuinely amazed by how many fans, particularly those based in the West, had a genuine interest in this show, and how the online discussion grew about the contest. It was great to see Japanese boxing connecting with an audience in the West, especially given that it was, for all intents, a pretty typical domestic Japanese TV level show. We hope fans enjoyed the event as much we did, and hopefully next time there’s an A-Sign card we’ll see a similarly excited and interested audience. We know Masayuki Ito is well known in the West, and drew a lot of the attention for his involvement on the show, and he acted as a chance for fans in the west to see the likes of Jin Sasaki and Hironori Mishiro. Well done to all involved and thank you to all the fans who tuned in!
2-Jin Sasaki is a star in the making!
We mentioned the A-Sign show, and whilst many were left talking about the decision in the main event, it wasn’t one of the main event fighters that left the lasting impression. Instead that was Jin Sasaki who put a beating on Aso Ishiwaki to claim the JBC Youth 140lb title. This was just a brutal beating by the 19 year old who again ticked all the boxes of a star. He looked exciting, heavy handed, went for the finish in round 1 and closed the show spectacularly in round 3. When watching Sasaki everything gives off the vibe of a star. His cocky confidence and aura, added to his aggression, power and style, the natural charisma that oozes off him are incredible. At just 19 he is quickly becoming one of the most compelling fighters in Japan, and someone who has the ability to go a long, long way, if handled properly.
3-Upsets in Osaka!
In Osaka on Sunday we had 3 upsets, and not only that but they came in back to back bouts as Green Tsuda put on one of the most surprising cards of the year. We saw Katsunari Takayama return from more than 4 years out to beat Reiya Konishi, in a minor surprise, Akio Furutani completely ripped up the script to defeat Takayuki Okumoto and then Yuichi Ideta scored his first win in almost a decade to overcome Ryota Yada, in a bout that was regarded as a foregone conclusion. If there is a more upset heavy card this year, we’ve not seen it!
1-Morrell misses weight for mismatch, PBC scrub history
For several weeks we were all led to believe that David Morrell’s bout with Mike Gavronski would be an interim world title defense for Morrell. That changed the day before the fight when Morrell missed weight, and suddenly the bout was changed to a 10 round non-title bout. Whilst the interim title might be a joke, the way this bout was shifted, essentially after the A-side messed up, is an even bigger joke. Come on PBC, we all know Morrell is a special talent, but a bout like this, which was an horrific mismatch, and the weight issues, will only make fans feel he’s being given some suspect treatment and turn them off the talented Cuban.
2-No US outlet for Ioka Vs Tanaka
We’ve tried to not bitch too much as we’re about to end the year, and we want to do so in high spirits, but sometimes things need calling out, and one such thing is the lack of a US Outlet for the New Year’s Eve show from Tokyo between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka. This is one of those bouts that has had genuine international buzz, it has an English language TV deal with Boxnation and Premier Sports in the UK, and Ioka has worked with a US promoter in the past. It would give the outlet a chance to further introduce the fighters to a US market ahead of some potential clashes in 2021. Instead none of the US channels have announced a deal. We really need to say that DAZN and ESPN+ have missed an easy, and relatively cheap, win here. For ESPN plus the winner could be eyed as a possible opponent for Jerwin Ancajas or Andrew Moloney, whilst DAZN have working relationships with Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Julio Cesar Martinez, who could move up for the winner.
One of the stupidest things about boxing is the inability to see the bigger picture from the promoters, and missing out on showcasing this fight, despite the prohibitive time of day for a live broadcast, is one of those cases. The winner would be an option for two main promoters, yet no one picked up the fight.
Thankfully US audiences can pick up the fight themselves, though either illicit means such as a Boxnation stream, or a legal one, through Japanese service Isakura for about $2.50 (more about that here https://www.asianboxing.info/isakura.html), but that doesn’t defend the failure of US broadcasters on this one.
1-James Kirkland’s continued career
At one point in time James Kirkland was the man you turned to if you needed a fun action fight to watch, known that he was going to be throwing bombs from the off and that either he, or his opponent, was going to be stopped. Sadly those days are long gone, and his incredible war with Alfredo Angulo is a long forgotten memory, overshadowed by Kirkland’s out of the ring issues, his relationship with Ann Wolfe and his 2011 bout with Nobuhiro Ishida. This past Saturday he was in action again , his third bout since a 2015 loss to Saul Alvarez, and he took a brutal, vicious battering at the hands of Juan Macias Montiel. We’ve seen some compare the bout to the Ishida one, but in reality this was a lot more brutal, with Kirkland taking a serious beating, being left with blood coming out of his mouth. At the age of 36 with his reflexes gone, his punch resistance gone and father time catching up with him, this has to be the end, before he ends up seriously hurt.
This past week has been a brilliant one for us. We've had great fights on a number of days, we've celebrated Christmas, and managed, for at least a week, to enjoy a mix of boxing and normal life. We're of course not the only ones who have had a good week, and so have a number of fighters! So with that said lets take a look at the big winners of the past week as we hand out our weekly awards!
Fighter of the Week
We open this up with a somewhat peculiar pick, but a very valid one, and that is Yuichi Ideta as the fighter of the week. The 36 year old Ideta hadn't won a fight in almost 10 years. He was being given almost no chance and the popular opinion, including that of ourselves, was that he was a patsy for Ryota Yada to swat aside. A mere showcase bout for Yada, a former Japanese champion. We were wrong, very, very wrong, and instead of coming to the ring to lose Ideta out worked, out muscled, out battled and out fought the younger, more proven Yada. This was a huge, career defining win for Ideta, who looked like a man with a point to prove and proved it in the perfect way. Ideta has almost certainly gone from the cast of yard, to the regional and domestic title mix.
Performance of the Week
Aged 37 and having not been in a professional boxing ring for well over 4 years few gave Katsunari Takayama much of a chance when he returned to the ring on Sunday. He had been written off by many, but within seconds of the bout starting it was the Takayama of old, the sharp, quick, mosquito like fighter who was light on his feet, with good upper body movement and accurate jabs. He looked much smaller than Reiya Konishi but that never looked like it mattered as he easily out boxed, out fought, out though and out pointed Konishi. Konishi was there to win, don't get us wrong, but he could never cope with the incessant movement and punching of Takayama. This was a hell of a performance from a man we thought was done.
Fight of the Week
Hironori Mishiro Vs Masayuki Ito
The 10 round Lightweight bout between OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro and Masayuki Ito was streamed live, worldwide on Boxing Day and it delivered a brilliant, technical, well matched bout that saw both men showing exactly what they could do. Through the bout it seemed like Ito was landing the heavier single shots but Mishiro's jab was a constant weapon and turned out to be the difference on the scorecards, with Mishiro sneaking the win. This was 10 rounds of high skill chess, fought at a very high speed, with momentum shifts, and each man needing to find a solution to their opponents strengths. Maybe not a Fight of the Year contender, but a genuinely fantastic bout.
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov
Round of the Week
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov (Rd 4)
Talented Tajik amateur Bakhodur Usmonov made his debut this past week, on Christmas eve, when he took on Vildan Minasov in what turned out to be a truly fantastic 6 round back and forth that saw both men showing off solid boxing skills, heart, power and determination. Minasov looked to make it a war from the off and Usmonov was under intense pressure, whilst trying to stick to his boxing. In round 4 Usmonov was in troubler again, before he gritted his teeth and tried to turn the fight around, going to war with Minasov, giving us 3 minutes of brutal, back and forth action. This was fantastic
KO of the Week
Jinki Maeda TKO2 Kaito Okubo
In one of the final bouts of the week we saw the brilliantly talented Jinki Maeda in action, as he took on Kaito Okubo. In round 2 of their bout, with Okubo near the ropes Maeda landed a dynamite straight left hand that forced Okubo to spin and sent him down hard. His team immediately signalled to the referee to stop this and let them help Okubo. This was a sensational KO by a young man who has been very impressive in 2021 and fingers crossed we'll see him in an interesting fight next year.
Ryo Akaho TKO2 Yuto Nakamura
Jin Sasaki TKO3 Aso Ishiwaki
Prospect of the Week
We were expecting to see the hard hitting 19 year old Jin Sasaki being given a genuine test this week when he took on Aso Ishiwaki. Instead Sasaki just went into the ring and made a statement, dropping Ishiwaki 3 times to secure the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title. Sasaki stormed out and came close to stopping Ishiwaki in the first round, dropping him twice and leaving him on wobbly legs at the end of the opening round. It seemed clear Sasaki wanted an early win and wanted to use his power to make a statement. In round 2 he took his foot off the gas but closed the show in style in round 3 and made it very clear that this was his week. This was a prospect announcing himself in a big, big way and putting the 140lb division in Japan on notice.
In December 2019 we "introduced" Japanese Middleweight hopeful Mikio Sakai (then 1-0, now 3-0), who was preparing for his second professional bout as he was just days away from a contest against the hard hitting Ran Tomomatsu. Since then we have followed Sakai's career with interest and, as we write this on the run up to Christmas, Sakai's career really has progressed, despite questions still needing to be answered from him.
Before we have a look at where Sakai stands now, lets quickly remind ourselves why we were excited about Sakai in the first place.
Sakai had been a very solid amateur, running up a 44-22 (19) amateur record and winning a number of titles, whilst also featuring in the well regarded university competitions. Fighting as Middleweight as a professional he was a bigger man, for Japan, and had the excellent Kadoebi team behind him. Essentially he ticked a lot of boxes and had us very intrigued before his professional debut.
On debut Sakai easily beat the heavy handed Elfelos Vega with a 6 record decision. The performance wasn't the most exciting, but it was calculated, smart, intelligent and showed what Sakai could do in the ring. He moved well, had nice hand speed, and knew how to box. He seemed to lack power, and aggression, but certainly showed a lot to like on his debut.
In his second bout Sakai showed ambition, being matched with Tonomatsu, and once again showed off great skills, a fantastic boxing brain, good speed and movement. Though did lack power, and struggled to get Tonomatsu's respect. Due to his lack of power he never seemed to be able to hurt Tonomatsu, but used his movement well to keep Tonomatsu off balance and unable to set off his big shots. It was smart, and it was enough for Sakai to secure a majority decision.
Sakai returned for his third professional bout earlier this month, taking on limited veteran Toshihiro Kai on December 14th, in a bout that was streamed live on Boxing Raise. That bout was Sakai's first 8 rounder and he once again showed the same tools in his arsenal that we had seen from him in his first two bouts. He once again showed lovely hand speed, great foot work, nice movement and a lot of skills that were impressive, especially for a 2-0 prospect. Sadly though he could finish off Kai, who was hurt in a number of rounds, and had to settle for another decision win, this time an 8 round decision. The performance was a solid one, and actually saw Sakai being more aggressive than usual, but the result wasn't what he would have wanted, and we kept help but feel he went out expecting a stoppage.
So far for Sakai we have been impressed, he is clear a very skilled fighter and someone we expect will be fighting in Japanese Middleweight title bouts in the near future. Sadly however we do wonder whether he has the physical tools to match up with his skills. He's undeniably a talent, and few Japanese fighters at 160lbs are as skilled and talented as he it. But stood at less than 6' and without fighting changing power we do wonder if he's perhaps too small and too weak, physically, to impose himself on the best domestic fighters at 160lbs. If he is, then he will have to put in a lot of extra effort and energy to have success, and every bout against a stronger, tougher fighter will be a big ask for him.
We're going to look forward to seeing what Sakai can offer in 2021, and we suspect he will take huge strides towards a Japanese title fight, and hopefully will add a more physicality and power to his game. He's a talent, but we do still have very serious reservations about how far he can go.
Fighting on Christmas isn't a regular thing but rather notably Thai fighter Tepparith Kokietgym (35-3, 22) actually fought twice on Christmas day, in 2009 and 2015, so with that in mind we thought he was the perfect fighter to cover in today's "The 5 most significant wins for".
Tepparith was a talented Thai who excelled at boxing, winning the WBA Super Flyweight title, and was also a notable kick boxer having a fantastic dual sport career. Whilst he wasn't a star in either sport he was a solid competitor in both and had genuine success in both. As always however we're only going to look at his boxing contests, and rather notable a lot of his best wins took place over a rather small window of time. They did however include 4 very good wins, and one that has long gone under-rated.
With all that said, here are the 5 most significant wins for... Tepparith Kokietgym
Rey Megrino (September 19th 2010)
We'll start with the under-rated win which saw the future WBA Super Flyweight champion notching a win over someone who has gone criminally over-looked by so many. The win in question saw Tepparith defeating Filipino fighter Rey Megrino in September 2010. On paper this isn't a win that generate much attention, after all Megrino finished his career with a 24-20-4 (21) record and was 12-13-2 when Tepparith beat him. What that ignore is that Megrino had only been stopped 3 times previous to Tepparith taking him out, and had gone the distance with a number of world class fighters, and would late go the distance with the likes of Marlon Tapales, Arthur Villanueva and Pungluang Sor Singyu. In fact after this bout Megrino would go 12-6-2 and find himself in the world rankings. This is a seriously under-rated scalp on Tepparith's record.
Drian Francisco (May 1st 2011)
Whilst the win over Megrino is very under-rated it's Francisco's win over Drian Francisco in May 2011 that really helped put Tepparith on the map, with the Thai winning the WBA "interim" Super Flyweight title. The bout was a really competitive one, with the unbeaten Francisco running Tepparith really close in a hotly contested bout. After 12 rounds almost nothing separated the two men, but a 3rd round knockdown, scored by Tepparith, proved vital with two scores of 114-113 in his favour, as well as a wide 117-111 score. The win saw Tepparith claiming the "interim" title in his 20th professional bout and ending the 21 fight unbeaten streak of the then touted Francisco. Sadly footage of this one is poor, but it was clear from what was visible that Tepparith was a genuine talent, despite being relatively unknown going into the contest.
Daiki Kameda (December 7th 2011)
Despite only winning the "interim" title against Francisco strings were pulled behind the scene for Tepparith to be upgraded by the time he had his next fight. The situation here was a bizarre one where the Japanese Boxing Commission essentially told the WBA that their interim title was worthless and that their world champion had defended the belt at the end of August, just 3 months earlier. Due to the WBA being the WBA they WBA'd and made Shimizu the champion in recess, upgraded Tepparith and took a sanctioning fee from a bout with Tepparith defending against Daiki Kameda.
Despite the politics before the bout the contest was a genuinely good one, and an often over-looked bout of inside fight and toe-to-toe exchanges. It wasn't a fight of the year contender, but was an entertaining little war that saw Tepparith take a close but fair unanimous decision win. Despite being the champion coming in to the bout this was a bit of a coming out party for Tepparith, who was the much less well known fighter. This win was huge for Tepparith and started a brilliant little run where he beat 3 successive Japanese fighters.
Tomobu Shimizu (April 4th 2012)
The second Japanese fighter from Tepparith's run saw him take on "champion in recess" Tomonbu Shimizu, in what was essentially a WBA unification bout of their "Regular" and "In Recess" titles. Prior to the contest the WBA had stated that a draw would result in the men being "Co-Champions", yes the WBA tried to WBA again. Thankfully we avoided a much feared draw as Tepparith went on to stop Shimizu in the 9th round, though going into that round a draw was certainly not beyond the realm of possibilities. The bout was a well fought chess match for the most part, very well fought and competitive with Tepparith applying pressure on the Japanese man and eventually breaking him down to become the WBA's "regular" champion. But not their only champion, as Liborio Solis had now been crowned their interim champion.
Nobuo Nashiro (September 1st 2012)
To complete 3 major wins in a row against Japanese fighters, and thus earning the "Japan killer" moniker, Tepparith went on to record his third defense of the WBA Super Flyweight title by out pointing the teak tough Nobuo Nashiro. Nashiro, a former 2-time champion himself, proved to be hungry and desperately wanted to become a 3-time champion. This was an ultra-close and competitive bout with little between them as the styles gelled well. Tepparith boxed well, used his feet when he needed to and jabbed well, whilst Nashiro, picked his moments to strike making for a really tough to score and compelling contest. In the end however the champion retained his title with a razor thin majority decision.
For Nashiro, who would get one more big fight, this was as close as he came to becoming a 3-time champion. As for Tepparith this would actually be his final defense, with the Thai losing the belt a few months later when he was stopped by Kohei Kono, who salvaged his career with a major upset over the Thai. After losing his title Tepparith never really came close to fighting at the top level again, a real shame as he looked a class fighter when he was at his best and likely could have been in the mix over the year that followed his loss.
Of course with this going up on Christmas we want to wish you all have an amazing Christmas, especially after the year we've all had! Stay safe and enjoy the end of year celebrations, whatever they may be!
So, Christmas is just around the corner, and we want to wish you all a great, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. We also bring good tidings, with the final "What's to come" of 2020, the third part of our look at what December will bring, and it's a lot between December 26th and December 21st!
Sumida City Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) Vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
One of the most interesting match ups from this end of year run will see former WBO world champion Masayuki Ito clash with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The two men are best known for their exploits at 130lbs, but will be clashing at Lightweight here in what should be a really good fight. Ito is, by far, the more experienced professional and has fought at a higher level, but Mishiro was a very good amateur, and appears to be the more rounded and technically polished professional. This should be a compelling 10 rounder.
Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6)
The hidden gem from this part of the year will be the 140lb Japanese Youth title fight pitting 19 year old hard hitting sensation Jin Sasaki against all out warrior and toughnut Aso Ishiwaki. This is one we expect to be a complete and utter war. Sasaki has been really impressive in recent bouts, and has blown out his last 3 opponents in the opening round, but this is a genuine step up in class for him. Ishiwaki isn't the most skilled, but he's teak tough, comes to fight and is physically very strong. If Ishiwaki can see out the opening storm this could become something truly spectacular to end the year.
Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) vs Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6)
We expect fireworks to fly when we finally see Kai Chiba and Haruki Ishikawa trading blows. The men were set to fight earlier this year before Ishikawa tested positive for Covid19 at the weigh in, and going into the original date we were hugely excited of what we were set to see. Despite the delay hanging over this one we are still expecting something of a thrilling nature, and both men will believe they have the power to take the other man out.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) vs Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8)
Hard hitting Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki puts his title on the line for the first time as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi. Yabuki won the title in the summer, when he blitzed Tsuyoshi Sato, and will be looking to end the year on a high and move towards a potential world title fight in 2021. As for Ouchi this will be his third, shot at a title, and likely his last. It really is hard to imagine the 35 year old Ouchi getting another big fight if he loses here.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Ryota Yada (20-6, 17) Vs Yuichi Ideta (13-15-1, 7)
Former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada returns to the ring in what looks likely to be a stay busy bout, as he takes on limited veteran Yuichi Ideta. Yada, who is eyeing an OPBF title fight in 2021, will be looking to get a couple of rounds here, before seeing off Ideta. As for Ideta the bout the bout will be his 30th professional contest, and at the age of 36 could prove to be his last one. Not a great bout, but very clearly put together to keep Yada ticking over.
Takayuki Okumoto (23-9-4, 11) Vs Akio Furutani (8-4, 3)
Another former Japanese champion looking for a relatively easy win is former Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, who looks to bounce back from a 2019 loss to Kenta Nakagawa. The solid, and generally fun to watch, Okumoto should have far too much in the locker for Furutani, who is the naturally smaller man. Despite that Furutani has momentum and has won his last 4 in a row, including a big upset win over former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama. Whilst we don't imagine this will be a competitive bout, we do expect it will be an exciting one.
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
We get a potential post-Christmas cracker as we get the rescheduled show down between Katsunari Takayama and Reiya Konishi. This was originally meant to take place in November before Konishi tested positive for Covid19, in what now appears to have been a false positive. The two men should make for a sensational bout, with both known for letting their hands go, being tough, and fighting with intensity. The big question going in is what does a 37 year old Takayama look like after more than 4 years away from professional boxing? If he's half the fighter he used to be this will be an amazing battle.
Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) Vs Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) II
Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi looks to make his second, and final, defend of the Youth title as he takes on the aggressive and exciting Satoru Hoshiba. These two men clashed in the 2017 Rookie of the Year, with Shimomachi winning, and since then he has gone on to become one of the top prospects in Japan. Hoshiba on the other hand will be after revenge, after the title and a chance to go into 2021 with a big win to his name. We expect this to be boxer against brawler, and the styles should gel well to give is a very, very good fight.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) Vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Exciting 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Jinki Maeda looks to extend his unbeaten start at he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, in a very good match up. We've been really impressed by Maeda in recent bouts, and the youngster appears to have the tools to go a long way, with good boxing, brilliant movement and smart understanding of distance. Okubo on the other hand shouldn't be over-looked and he has stopped his last 2. We're expecting a cat and mouse style fight early on, but this could descend into a very compelling fight after a couple of rounds.
Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
In a huge all-Japanese year ending WBO Super Flyweight world title bout we'll see Kazuto Ioka take on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka. For Ioka the bout will serve as his second defense of the title he won in 2019, and a win here will see him keep his status as not just a world champion but also one of the biggest and most important names in Japanese boxing. For Tanaka the bout is a chance to become a 4-weight world champion and essentially rip the torch of stardom from Ioka. This is expected to be a very, very high level bout, with both men hungry to make a point and go into the new year as a world champion. Expect excitement, and a lot of adapting and altering game plans from both men here.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) vs Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16)
A second title fight in Japan on New Year's Eve will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi defending his title against former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa. This is a huge opportunity for Kobayashi to make his way towards a potential world title fight and get a big name on his record, whilst Higa desperately needs to shine after an under-whelming performance against Seiya Tsutsymi last time out. Although clearly over-shadowed by the world title bout this should end up being a brilliant bout, and could well end up being a sensational 12 round back and forth battle as Higa goes up against a naturally much bigger man.
On December 27th we get the penultimate show in this years Rookie of the Year tournament, as we find out who will represent West Japan in the All Japan final in 2020. With that in mind we've decided to look at that show to pick the fighter who we want to introduce this week, and with that in mind we've decided to focus 23 year old Super Bantamweight hopeful Sora Fukunaga (7-0, 3).
Like many fighters from West Japan Fukunaga isn't really a name we expect many to be familiar with. The reality when it comes to Japanese boxing is that those outside of East Japan struggle to get much much attention, and coming from Kochi Prefecture Fukunaga is certainly not a man from a boxing hotbed. In fact Kochi is very much a boxing black hole, with almost no impact on the sport at all, meaning Fukunaga could be the man to kick start the local scene. Which seems to be something he is hoping to do.
Originally boxing wasn't even the sport of choice for Fukunaga who originally played baseball in junior high school, then took up Judo at high school. He was 20 when he entered the Kuroshio Boxing gym and just months after entering the gym he had ambitions to turn professional. He did just that in September 2018 when he passed a C license test, still aged 20 at the time.
Just over a month after getting his boxing license Fukunaga made his professional debut, fighting up at Featherweight. He would go on to get a winning start, as he took a 4 round decision against Akihiro Nakata. Just weeks later he celebrated his 21st birthday.
Sadly it took some time for Fukunaga to return to the ring and he didn't fight until almost 6 months after his professional debut. In his second bout Fukunaga took another decision victory, as he out pointed Keisuke Iwasaki, in a razor thin bout scored 39-38 in his favour by all 3 judges. This was a great fight for fans in attendance, with round 3 in particular being something very special. This win became particularly notable as Iwasaki would, just 8 months later, compete in the 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year, losing a split decision to Seiya Meguro, and more recently out-pointed the big punching Mammoth Kazunori.
Despite a lengthy break between his first two fights Fukunaga was through the second half of 2019 beating Yuto Nonoguchi just 2 months after the win over Iwasaki, and then stopping Nonoguchi in a rematch 4 months later to secure his first stoppage win and end the year 4-0 (1).
Sadly for Fukunaga the momentum he had been building in 2019, boosted by Iwasaki's showing in the Rookie of the Year, was slowed in 2020 when he, like many boxers, were put on the side line due to the on going global situation. This meant that Fukunaga was out of the ring for more than 10 months before continuing his career in August 2020. On his return to the ring he scored a 4th round TKO win over novice Kairi Suetsugu in the first round of this years West Japan Rookie of the Year tournament.
Just weeks later Fukunaga was back in the ring and stopped Shuta Kuwabuchi inside a round in the West Japan Rookie of the Year semi-final. This was an impressive win, dropping Kuwabachi twice in the opening round to progress to the final where he faced Ren Nishimura. This was a much, much tougher bout, and a hotly contested one, with Fukunaga doing just enough to take home the victory, and become the West Japan Rookie of the Year.
We mentioned that Fukunaga wanted to kick start boxing in the local scene and he's gone as far as to admit his goal is to become the first All Japan Rookie of the Year champion from Shikoku, one of the smaller main islands that make up Japan. To do that he still needs to win two bouts. The first of those is his December 27th bout against 20 year old foe Ren Anzai from Aichi. If he does that he will then compete in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, which is scheduled to take place in the new year.
In regards to his style Fukunaga is a fun fighter to watch. He's aggressive, he comes forward, he stalks his opponents and presses the action. He's not yet experienced enough to know how to cut off a fighter whe's moving but he's strong, powerful and lets his hands go on the inside. The way to beat him, at least for now, is to jab and move, and make him follow you, but given the level of opponents that he's up against not many are going to have the tool kit to beat him. He's not a pure puncher, but he's heavy handed, has good balance, looks physically imposing and has a lot to like. He is however someone who looks like a diamond in the rough and needs a lot of polishing. If he wins the Rookie of the Year we suspect that polishing will be done in 2021 and 2022 and he will begin to move towards a Japanese title fight after that.
It's that time of the week, once again, where we take a look over what has happened over the last 7 days and talk about the ups and downs from the past week, as we cover the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!
1-Ryosuke Nishida shines against former world title challenger
On Saturday we saw Japanese hopeful Ryosuke Nishida take a huge step up in class, and shine as he out pointed former world title challenger Shohei Omori. We know top Japanese prospects tend to matched hard and moved quickly, but Nishida went into this as a clear under-dog and wasn't really regarded by many as a top prospect. His showing however was brilliant. He started well, Omori came back into the bout and then Nishida adapted and came close to stopping Omori. This was a brilliant performance from a man fighting in just his third professional bout, and a clear sign that he has the ability to go a very long way. Certainly one of the big winners of the last weekend.
2-Hyun Mi Choi makes solid US debut
Another fighter who took a huge step forward in regards to their career was Korean Super Featherweight Hyun Mi Choi who successfully defended the WBA female Super Featherweight title. Although her performance was certainly not perfect it was great to see a Korean world champion getting a big stage again, something we've not seen in well over a decade. It's unlikely Choi's success will kick start Korean boxing again but it was still amazing to see a Korean boxer given a high profile fight, and put on a very fun performance.
3-Chris Algieri and Gabe Rosado improving DAZN
One think I think we can all agree one was the incredible additions of Chris Algieri and Gabe Rosado on the DAZN broadcast on Friday. Both men made the experience of watching DAZN really bearable and we really hope to see both men on the service more often. Algieri is, for us, one of the few top level commentators in the US, and whether it's DAZN or ESPN he always adds a real sense of professionalism to a broadcast. Rosado's role was smaller than that of Algieri but every thing he said added to the quality of the show, was insightful and showed his knowledge of the sport. If DAZN want to win viewers over, bringing these two men in to the fold on a permanent basis would be a massive improvement on what they've had so far.
4-Gonzalez Vs Estrada II!
The big announcement from last week was that we will finally be getting the long anticipated rematch between Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, a bout hardcore fans have been demanding for years. Given their first was amazing it's little wonder fans wanted to see them go again, and we expect another FOTY type war when the two step in the ring again in March. Despite being really excited about this one we do feel it should have happened a couple of years ago, and both men have shown cracks in recent bouts, and neither quite seem to be what they were in 2015 and 2016.
5-Ryoji Fukunaga and Kenta Nakagawa put on a show!
On the subject of Super Flyweights what an amazing battle we got between Ryoji Fukunaga and Kenta Nakagawa. This was a sensational 10 round fight, with the later rounds, especially rounds 8 and 9, being some of the best we've had this year. This bout alone made Boxing Raise worthy of the subscription cost for the month and saw a triple champion being crowned. If you missed it we would actively advise checking it out as soon as possible. An amazing war.
1-Szeremeta getting a world title fight
We don't want to sound too harsh here, but we really do need to query how Kamil Szeremeta got a world title fight. His record looked pretty enough on paper, but there was very, very little of substance on his record. Given he's in a fairly decent division, at Middleweight, there really was no excuse for the IBF to have ranked him as highly as they did. Sure we have some weak fighters fighting for world titles but there was absolutely nothing on his record to suggest he was anything better than European class. The leap from European level to world level was obvious just seconds into the bout. Sadly we're seeing a trend with recent IBF mandatory title fights, and that's over matched challengers, something the IBF will need to try and minimise sooner rather than later.
2-Headclashes mar Showtime show
On Saturday Showtime had a really interesting looking card, but it ended up massively disappointing, in part due to two of the bouts ending after headclashes. The first of those bouts, between Gary Antonio Russell and Juan Carlos Payano, was an interesting match up that was messy but interesting. The second however looked set to be the coming out party for Jaron Ennis, before an opening round headclash left Chris van Heerden with a brutal gash. The fact both of these both ended in to fashion was a huge shame.
3-DAZN's Saturday night commentary team
We praised the way DAZN brought in some fantastic guys on Friday, with Algieri and Rosado getting very good reviews and with good reason. Sadly on Saturday it was service as usual for DAZN who were complete clueless. Brian Kenny, again, did an awful job, especially with comments regarding the ropes holding up Callum Smith, and the commentary in general tried to sell some of the prospects as being the new Mayweather, when they looked distinctly average. The commentary needs to turn the hype down, call the action in front of them, and add to the fight, like Algieri did, rather than trying to sell a product as something it's not. For many international fans this will be one of the first shows they've seen with this particular DAZN team, and we wouldn't be surprised is many were turned of by the hyperbolic garbage spewed from the broadcasting team.
Thankfully we have no uglies this week!
This past week has been another of those weeks that has given us a lot of action, spread over a lot of days. We'll admit this is another week where there has been action late on, and sadly delayed our awards by a few hours. It is also, sadly, a week where a lot of footage hasn't been made available in a timely fashion, most notable the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals, which took place today but won't be aired on TV for another week.
Despite the delay of footage for some shows, we still had a lot to talk about, in what has been a really good week.
Fighter of the Week
Hyun Mi Choi
Unbeaten Korean fighter Hyun Mi Choi did what few ever thought she would, she fought in the USA this week, and managed to put on a showcase of aggression, making for a really fun and exciting bout against the over-matched Calista Silgado. It was certainly not a punch performance from the "Defector Girl Boxer", but that hardly mattered, this was a massive win for her, for Korea and for Korean boxing. Sadly Korean boxing isn't what it once was and Choi is the nation's only world champion, so here win here is massive for Korea and can hopefully help kick start boxing in the country again. Her fight was fun to watch and she fought with a style that wasn't really like her usual one, making sure to leave an impression. This was exactly what she needed to do, and exactly what fans needed to see from the 30 year old.
Performance of the Week
Whilst Choi was the fighter of the week her performance was a very flawed one. Gennady Golovkin on the other hand put in a near flawless performance, and rarely needed to get out of second gear en route to an easy win over Kamil Szeremeta. Golovkin controlled every minute of the fight, dropped Szeremeta 4 times, and landed at will against a Polish challenger who simply shouldn't have been in the ring with him. This was not a Golovkin who looked 38 or like he hadn't fought in over a year, this was a polished, revitalised Golovkin, wanting to show wrinkles in his style that hadn't been seen in years. An excellent performance.
Fight of the Week
Ali Akhmedov Vs Carlos Gongora
Despite the fact we had a lot of fights this past week a lot of this past week many of them failed to deliver drama or action. Mr "Big Drama Show" himself, for example, just battered someone who shouldn't have been in the ring with him. One bout that did stand out however was the 12 round thriller between the unbeaten pairing of Ali Akhmedov and Carlos Gongora. This was a genuinely great fight, with Akhmedov setting the early tempo, Gongora adjusting, Akhmedov tiring himself out, and Gongora coming from behind to score a 12th round stoppage. If you missed this one make sure to do yourself a favour and give it a watch, a genuinely fantastic bout with action, drama, momentum shifts, skills, and a huge comeback
Round of the Week
Ryoji Fukunaga vs Kenta Nakagawa (Rd 8)
The fantastic Boxing Raise service gave us a really great show this past week thanks to Kadoebi Promotions, and it was the main event bout from that show that gave us, arguably, the two best rounds of the week. They were rounds 8 and 9 of the triple title unification bout between Ryoji Fukunaga and Kenta Nakagawa, with both rounds being amazing back and forth battles between two men desperately wanting to become triple crown champions. Fukunaga's power and heavy hands hurt Nakagawa repeatedly in round 8, but he lacked the energy to finish his man, allowing Nakagawa to fire back, and land some huge left hands, that stiffened his legs, only to than have Fukunaga recover and come back at Nakagawa. This was Rocky-like stuff from both and made Boxing Raise well worth the price this month.
KO of the Week
Towa Tsuji TKO3 Kairi Suetsugu
We dip into the realm of the obscure for the KO of the week, which was a brutal left hook from hell from Towa Tsuji, which landed clean as a whistle on Kairi Suetsugu, sending him down hard. The bout was waved off quickly with Seutsugu down on the canvas before he was stretched out of the ring. We doubt Tsuji will ever score a better KO than this, and it was the perfect way for him to end his debut. A real eye catching finish.
Christian Araneta KO1 Roland Jay Biendima
Prospect of the Week
There was only real one contender here for Prospect of the Week and that was Japanese youngster Ryosuke Nishida who stepped up massively this week and scored a brilliant unanimous decision win over Shohei Omori. The talented Nishida, fighting just his third professional bout, started very sprightly, using his speed and movement really well, and despite some trouble in rounds 4 and 5 came back even stronger, Hurting Omori in the final 3 rounds. Credit to Omori for surviving some torid moments in rounds 7 and 8 but this was Nishida's day, and Nishida's week. A fantastic showcase of a sensational prospect.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez returns to the ring after more than a year off.
This fight has been on and off the table for some time. Some have even stated that Canelo was ducking Callum Smith and other top-ranked fighters.
Well, now the wish fairy – DANZ Boxing– has given Callum Smith exactly what he asked for, a fight against the pound-for-pound No.2 fighter in the world. The same man who jumped up to light-heavyweight and knocked out the much bigger fighter, and no pusher over, either.
How do these two fighters matchup?
Tale of the Tape
Canelo Alvarez stands five feet and eight inches tall with a 70.5-inch reach. Both fighters will have to weigh-in at 168 or less, and for Canelo, we know that he does much better at 160. That said, there are no rules stating that I can't be underweight for the fight.
To date, Canelo has 56 fights under his belt. In all of those fights, he’s only lost in one tilt, that was to the great Floyd Mayweather Jr. It’s hard to believe that at just 30 years of age, he’ll be entering his 57th professional fight.
On the flip side, Callum Smith is still undefeated at 27-0. The Brit is massive for a super middleweight. He stands six feet and three inches tall with an impressive 78-inch reach. So, Canelo Alvarez will be giving up almost eight inches of reach and a full seven inches of height to the British fighter.
But, despite the disadvantage in length, the taller fighter gives up almost 30 fights in experience. When we look at it that way, I have no doubt in my mind that Alvarez will figure the lanky fighter out in short order.
If Callum can keep Canelo at a distance and not allow him to get inside for an extended period, he has a legitimate shot at winning the fight. That said, the boxing odds provided by SBR show that Canelo is a significant favorite. The Mexican opened as a massive -750 favorite but has since moved into the moderate range of -575.
Mexican Body Shots
Unfortunately for Callum Smith, I’m not talking about the kind of body shots you take from a smoking hot Mexican seńorita in Cabo San Lucas. I’m speaking of the liver smashing left hooks that Canelo loves to batter his opponents with repeatedly. For me, this is the most significant cause for concern regarding Callum Smith’s chance to win.
Smith is not a natural 168-pounder. He walks around well over 185 and has to make drastic cuts for each super middleweight fight. His body type doesn’t leave much padding around the middle after such weight drops. In fact, he’s darn near bare-bone around the midsection. I have a feeling he’ll work hard to put a few pounds back on his body between the official weigh-in and fight night. Callum Smith is going to need every extra little bit of cushioning to protect his liver and ribs from Canelo’s devastating body shots.
I can almost guarantee that Canelo’s fight plan will be to get to the inside and use heavy bodywork to chop Collum down like a tree.
Typically, Canelo uses a lot of crisp counter-punching and is one of the better defensive fighters at middleweight. But his counter-punching tactic may not work against such a tall, lanky fighter. If Canelo can slip some jabs and get inside, all of Callum’s reach will be rendered useless.
The OVER/UNDER on the fight is 9.5 rounds, and to be honest; I do not think this one goes the distance. I think Callum Smith will go down in the middle to late-middle rounds with a bruised liver. I believe the boys and girls in Las Vegas have it right. Somewhere right around the ninth round is probably when things will start to go south for the British champ.
Not many modern day fans out there will be too familiar with Korean Super Flyweight Chul Ho Kim (19-3-2, 9) but during his short career he was a very notable figure with some huge wins. His career ran from 1978, when he was just 17, to 1983 but in just over 5 years he had 24 bouts including 7 at world level. Sadly his career didn't end well, with Kim failing to win any of his final 3 bouts, but that was due to being burnt out by his team, who really should have treat their young prodigy much better. In fact the way they matched him at times was nothing short of reckless and endangered him in ways that young fighters shouldn't be risked.
Of course we're not here today to talk about mismanagement of a fighter but instead we're here to look at the 5 most significant wins for... Chul Ho Kim.
Rafael Orono I (January 24th 1981)
Aged 19 when he travelled to San Cristobal in Venezuela Chul Ho Kim wasn't expected to be much of a challenger for the then WBC Super Flyweight champion Rafael Orono, who was sporting a 13-0-1 (5) record. Kim was seen as being such an under-dog that the Korean media didn't pay the bout much attention. What ended up happening however that the Korean teenager shocked everyone with a huge upset win. Through the first 8 rounds of the bout the skills and movement of Orono were too good for the gutsy Korean teenager. In round 9 however a combination of body shots from Kim hurt Orono who took a knee and was counted out in agony. This win for Chul instantly turned him into a Korean boxing star and world champion.
Jiro Watanabe (April 22nd 1981)
Less than 3 months after winning the WBC Super Flyweight title Kim made his first defense, taking on the then 10-0 Jiro Watanabe. The bout was an interesting and well fought contest, despite having it's share of controversy, and was a high speed chess match with the Japanese southpaw showing what he could do against the young Korean champion. After 15 rounds Kim would take a controversial and questionable decision to retain his title. Whilst some wins are huge when they happen this is a win that aged amazingly well with Watanabe later winning the WBA and WBC titles at the weight. With Kim being the first man to defeat him the win is a real statement of what Kim could do, even if the scorecards could, and should, be question. Whilst not the best bout ever this is well worthy of a watch, not just to get a look at Kim but to also see a young Watanabe showing off what he could do.
Willie Jensen (July 29th 1981)
In his second defense of the WBC Super Flyweight title Kim took on American challenger Willie Jensen, who had previously fought to a draw with Rafael Orono. The bout was a rather interesting one at times, but became very messy with Jensen tiring down the stretch and holding a lot in round 11. As the challenger ran out of steam the champion kept coming and in round 13 an exhausted Jensen was put down from a series of body shots as the tried to smother the champion. The challenger was unable to beat the count as Kim extended his reign. The crowd for this bout, at the Kudok Gym, seemed huge and it was clear that fans were well and truly on the Kim express by now. Sadly however this was Kim's third bout in just over 6 months, and was another long and damaging one for the Korean, who should have been given a break afterwards.
Jackal Maruyama (November 18th 1981)
In Kim's third defense of the WBC Super Flyweight title he faced off with Japanese national champion Jackal Maruyama. The bout was a rough one with Maruyama being stopped in round 9 as a cut forced the referee to step in. This would be Maruyama's only world title bout and would hasten his decline as a fighter, with the Japanese fighter winning just 1 of his next 4. To his credit Maruyama did bounce back, and went on to win 4 of his last 6, but Kim ended his hopes of being a world champion. As for Kim the bout was his third defenses within 10 months of winning the title. Whilst he had won the bout had taken a toll on him and he had 58 rounds in the space of 10 months, hastening his decline.
Koki Ishii (February 10th 1982)
Less than 3 month after going to war with Maruyama we saw Kim return for this his defense, as the Korean took on the then 9-0 Koki Ishii. By this point Kim had been a world champion for a little over a year and was already looking to make his fourth defense, his second against an unbeaten challenger. Although Ishii hadn't won anything domestically in the professional ranks he had been fast tracked following a successful amateur career, which had included winning a medal at the 1978 World boxing championship's. That fast track had seen him beating the Japanese and OPBF Flyweight champions in non-title bouts.
Despite Ishii's impressive amateur credentials and fast rise through the ranks he was stopped in 8 rounds by Kim who made his 4th successful defense. Sadly for Kim the fight was the start of the end for him and would turn out to be his final win. He retained the title the following July with a draw against Raul Valdez before losing the belt in November 1982 to Rafael Orono, and then lost his final bout, in 1983, to Prayurasak Muangsurin.
After his in ring career Kim remained in the sport and played a major role in the rise, and success, of the hugely popular and exciting Sung Kil Moon.
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