With no fights currently taking place, and we don't need to explain why, we've decided to begin a new series looking at fights that could have been. These are match ups that may, or may not, have been mooted but are fights that could have happened. Not only do we intend to look at who the men involved were, but when the bout could have been made, why we would have liked it, how we feel the bout played out and how history played out instead.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Akira Yaegashi
Whilst there are other more logical fights to begin this series with we're being a touch self indulgent and picking a fight we wanted more than any other at one point, and one that would have delivered incredible action. In fact if we could suggest any fight would have been a memorable fight of the year candidate it would have been a clash between Katsunari Takayama and Akira Yaegashi.
Unlike many fights that we could cover going forward for this series the window for this potential bout is a pretty big one. Yaegashi had his first world title bout way back in June 2007, losing to Den Junlaphan, by that point in time Takayama had already won the WBC Minimumweight title and the WBA interim title. So lets speculate this bout could be staged any time from 2007 to 2012, when Yaegashi moved up to Flyweight.
We know that in reality Takayama handed back his JBC license to chase the IBF title around the globe after losing to Roman Gonzalez, but even considering that in mind it would give us a cut off of 2010, still a pretty big window for the fight.
At the time period we're looking at Katsunari Takayama, the Lightning Kid, was still very much a secret outside of Japan. He had been in some entertaining bouts, was a former world and interim world champion and was someone who had turned pro young and learned on the job. Although not a destructive beast, like Roman Gonzalez, he was a tough, energetic fighter who always threw a lot of leather, and was willing to take one to land one. Later in his career he became well remembered for his incredible unification bout with Francisco Rodriguez Jr, but even before that he had been in a number of incredible bouts and was very much boxing's answer to the energiser bunny. He could box and move, but almost always got dragged into a war.
Akira Yaegashi was very, very similar to Takayama. Like Takayama we knew Yaegashi could box, he liked to move and use his feet, but he could quickly be dragged into a war and it rarely took much to make Yaegashi fight fire with fire. During the window this fight could have taken place Yaegashi hadn't quite proven he was world class, coming up short against Den Junlaphan, but was banging on the door and he had won the OPBF and Japanese titles. He had proven his ability as an amateur, had adapted to the professional ranks and, with Koji Matsumoto and Hideyuki Ohashi in his corner, had two very smart boxing men helping him get ready to become a star.
How would we see it playing out?
We see this starting with both men boxing, keeping their form and moving early on. Although both were often dragged into wars they could both box, something that many fans forget. During the time window we're looking at the two guys still had very sprightly legs, could go 12 rounds with no issues and both were in their 20's.
After the boxing and moving early on, we suspect the pace will begin to rise, the man who feels like they are behind after a few rounds will then pick up the pace. When they do that we'll see a war begin to brew. Both men turning from boxers to fighters, and for the final 4 rounds the intensity will become something scary, with both standing and trading in some thrilling, rock em sock em style action.
Picking a winner would be almost impossible, though it would have been amazing to watch this one and we would have gotten something very, very exciting!
Would history of been changed?
Depending on when this took place, within the window, there are some interesting changes to history. Had it taken place before Yaegashi fought Kazuto Ioka, there's a chance that we wouldn't have gotten that bout, there's also a chance that Yaegashi wouldn't have moved up and beaten Toshiyuki Igarashi and we have missed out on Yaegashi Vs Gonzalez as well.
It is worth noting those 3 bouts took a lot out of Yaegashi, and his career, although different, may have ended up better for him, and for us as fans.
On the other hand Takayama may have ended up giving up in his pursuit of the IBF title, and his desire to become a Grandslam champion had he taken a title from Yaegashi. Had that happened we may still be looking at the JBC only recognising the WBA and WBC. We would almost certainly have not got Takayama's bouts against Mario Rodriguez, Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
On the balance of probability we missed out on a great bout, but we probably ended up with a history that was better for it. We would have loved to have seen this, but thinking about what we might have missed had these two fought, and how history could have diverged, we'll happily accept we got more than our share of great bouts from these two.
With Akira Yaegashi (28-7, 16) now expected to hang up his gloves in the 2020 it's clear we're going to miss the all action warrior. Rather than getting sad over the man we'll miss we have decided to instead look back over his career to look at 5 of his most notable wins, celebrating the fighter we have all enjoyed over the years.
Yaegashi, arguably more than any other Japanese fighter, became a cult icon in the west despite piling up losses and the reason for that was his style, his heart, his desire and his ability to always make things exciting for fans. Despite only fighting 35 professional bouts he managed to deliver more thrills, spills and action than almost any other fighter from the east. He deserved his cult following, and having fans around the globe hunting down streams of his fights, and he repaid every one of those fans.
One thing to note before we get any further, is that whilst aren't necessarily his best wins, but his most notable, and the ones that stand out for their significance. They are also put in time order, not order of significance.
1- Weerasak Chuwatana (April 3rd 2006)
Yaegashi's 2006 win over the little known Weerasak Chuwatana is a bit of a forgotten win but is one of the most significant. At the time it was Yaegashi not only claim his first title, the OPBF Minimumweight title, but tying the record of Tadashi Mihara and Eiji Kojima in winning an OPBF title in just his 5th bout. Whilst that record has now been broken it was still a genuine accomplishment for Yaegashi.
2- Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (March 17th 2009)
The significance of a win is hard to determine. A title win is obvious worth a lot of attention, so to is a title defense, but is beating a debutant? Maybe not, but when we look back over Yaegashi's career him having a win over the debuting Srisaket Sor Rungvisai is a win that will go down as a win with a lot of meaning. Given what Srisaket has done, becoming a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, this is a really outstanding win when we look back over Yaegashi's career. At the time it didn't mean much, but on reflection this is, for us, a bigger win that his Japanese title win over Kenichi Horikawa, just 3 months later.
3-Pornsawan Porpramook (October 24th 2011)
Yaegashi's 2011 win over Pornsawan was the win that really put him on the map, in so many ways. The win saw him claim the WBA Minimumweight title but also take part in a legitimate Fight of the Year, brawling with the Thai is a sensational back and forth war that every fan should have seen by now. Yaegashi eventually broke down the Thai tank, but had to go through hell to do. Whilst the title win was a real achievement the fact the fight was regarded by many international sites and publications as a FOTY candidate helped get Yaegashi some fan attention in the west among tape traders and online fans. This bout did so much more to launch Yaegashi to cult hero than pretty much any of his other bouts. This also set up Yaegashi's historic bout with Kazuto Ioka.
4-Toshiyuki Igarashi (April 8th 2013)
Yaegashi became a 2-weight champion in 2013 when he defeated WBC Flyweight champion Toshiyuki Igarashi. This bout not only saw Yaegashi claiming a second weight title but also avenging a number of amateur defeats to Igarashi in what was very much a rough and ugly bout. This isn't pretty, this isn't tidy, but it was engaging, bloody and once again saw Yaegashi trying to make a war of things in what was a rare ugly Yaegashi fight. Despite how ugly it was, as many Igarashi fights were, this was still action packed in a rare "fun but ugly" contest. The bout also lead to Yaegashi's memorable bout with Roman Gonzalez.
5-Javier Mendoza (December 29th 2015)
Whilst December 29th 2015 saw the long awaited return of Naoya Inoue, who had spent almost a year out of the ring after damaging his hand against Omar Andres Narvaez, it also saw Yaegashi getting one of his most important and impressive wins. The stalwart managed to over-come heavy handed Mexican Javier Mendoza to claim the IBF Light Flyweight title, becoming a 3-weight world champion in the process. On paper this was a really tough bout for Yaegashi, who had been stopped twice in 2014 and had only picked up two very low key wins following a defeat to Pedro Guevara in December 2014. What he did against Mendoza however was sensational, using his speed and skills to easily defeat the Mexican, who was lucky to see out the final rounds. The win was genuinely one of the most rounded performances from Yaegashi, and showed he still had it, despite being the wrong side of 30.
So the year is almost over, and we are heading into the very final stretch of the year. With that in mind lets have a look over the last week, and cover the good, the bad and the ugly!
1-Ryota Murata ends the year with super fights in sight
We don't think any other fighter has had quite as stark turn around in 2019 as Ryota Murata, except one man we'll get on to in a few minutes. Murata began the year looking down the barrel of retirement, a loss in his rematch to Rob Brant would have spelled the end, and that was the outcome the bookies were picking. Now after 2 wins in a solid year there's talk of landing super fights with Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez. Good stuff indeed!
2-Ju Wu shocks...Switzerland!
We rarely see Asian fighters winning in Europe but this past week Chinese youngster Ju Wu scored his biggest win over in Berne. The youngster out boxed Alain Chervet over 10 rounds to claim the IBO International title and continue his climb through the ranks. Whether Wu becomes the next Chinese star or not is pretty irrelevant this was still a huge win for him and the kid deserves real credit for taking the bout, and for picking up the win.
3-Akira Yaegashi's and Moruti Mthalane's willingness to give a show
It's hard to ever complain when you see an Akira Yaegashi fight, and that was shown again this week when he and Moruti Mthalane gave us. This wasn't quite the FOTY contender it could have been had both men been a few years younger, but it was still a sensational fight, and round 4 in particular belongs in the conversation for round of the year. If this is the last time we see Yaegashi in the ring then it's a great way for him to go out, despite the loss.
4-Jean Pascal and Badou Jack deliver
Yaegashi and Mthalane sadly weren't able to claim the honour for the best fight between men with a combined age of "mid 70's" as Jean Pascal and Badou Jack delivered something even better. Boy these two left it late but put in a genuine FOTY contender, with both men being down, both being hurt and both having strong stretches during a fight that swung one way then the other. This might have only been the co-feature on Saturday night but if we're being honest this was the show stealer!
1-Gervonta Davis fails to shine on Lightweight debut
Hard hitting American star Gervonta Davis was supposed to shine on Saturday. He was up against an old, shop worn Yuriorkis Gamboa, a Gamboa who was injured in round 2, gun shy through out and lacked much in terms of threat. Instead Davis, who struggled to make weight despite moving up a division, looked lethargic, limited, and almost lazy. His explosive power and speed were still there, but their was little intensity against a man who fought for around 10 rounds on one leg. Don't get us wrong, Davis is a tremendous talent, but this would not have been the performance he'd have been wanting for his debut at Lightweight, and he did nothing to put pressure on the bigger names in the division, and his team also won't rush to put him in there with the better fighters at 135lbs.
2-Showtime Geolocking under-card
Firstly a big "well done" to Showtime for streaming their under-card, that's brilliant, but why on earth do they geo-lock them? What market are they wanting to lock out? This is just a bizarre act, especially in 2019 when those of us who want to watch such a stream will find a work around. And we also know some will defend Showtimes action here and argue for a VPN. VPN's are great, but the effort needed to get one to work on an Amazon Fire Stick or an Xbox 360 aren't worth the effort, and instead it was the laptop for me. Come on Showtime, stop being idiots, and give the world your undercards, show case those fighters without making international fans jump through hoops!
3-The year is about to end
It's fair to say that 2019 has been an amazing year for being fans, all around the globe. It's a shame the year is set to end, and we risk things going backwards in 2020. Fingers crossed the new year continues the same momentum from this year and we continue to see more and more great fights, fantastic performances and fighters willing to prove themselves against the best.
1-It's the end of year
So lets not bring it down with an ugly!
Have a great new year everyone! See you on the otherside!
So the year is coming to a close, and this will be our final weekly awards for 2019! Despite this being the last one of the year there really wasn't all that much worthy of discussion sadly, but with Christmas in the middle of the week we were never expecting too much to speak about here. Thankfully though we did get one big show at the start of the week, and a splattering of bouts here and there, to fill things up.
Fighter of the Week
Ryota Murata (16-2, 13)
Japanese Middleweight Ryota Murata completed his year of redemption in style, not only beating Steve Butler, but stopping him, breaking him both physically and mentally along the way. Murata took the best shots of Butler, and walked through them, making a feared puncher question themselves before chipping away at them with heavy shots. It was an expected win, but one that was still impressive, smart and a signal of intent. The fact it was followed by huge statements from Bob Arum about getting Murata a major name at the Tokyo Dome in 2020 just added to the whole week for the 2012 Olympic gold medal winner.
Performance of the Week
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10)
When a fighter drops a world class opponent 4 times, in 4 rounds, all from body shots, then it's hard not to be impressed. We won't pretend it was a flawless performance from Kenshiro, but his victory over Randy Petalcorin was very impressive. He hardly seemed to get out of second gear and still broke down a very accomplished rival, who had gone 7 rounds with the dangerous Felix Alvarado in 2018. To have this level of performance with all the changes going on, a change of opponent and a change in whether the bout was being televised live in Japan or not, showed that no matter you through at him, Kenshiro Teraji finds a way to adapt.
Akira Yaegashi Vs Moruti Mthalane
It was the week of the old men! On Saturday American fans got a thriller between Jean Pascal and Badou Jack, a genuine global Fight of the Year contender and another example of why end of year awards should wait until the end of the damn year! A few days earlier fans who follow the Asian scene got a similar, though less competitive treat, as Akira Yaegashi and Moruti Mthalane gave us a thrilling 9 round war. The bout had it all. It had skills, it had action, it had intensity, exchanges, raw violence, drama, both men looking hurt. This was, in many ways, what you'd expect of a 36 year old Yaegashi, and was a great pre-Christmas treat!
Akira Yaegashi Vs Moruti Mthalane (round 4)
The round of the week, came from the fight of the week, and boy what a round it was. It was the round that really began the start of the end for Yaegashi, who showed he was willing to fight the wrong fight, but it was also the round that sent nothing but adrenaline through the veins of everyone watching. This was high octane, back and forth thrilling stuff, the sort of action that has helped make Yaegashi one of boxing cult fan favourites. Sadly for the Japanese warrior he was just up against a more defensively smart, less shop worn, smarter, more accurate and heavier handed South African genius and this wasn't going to be the way Yaegashi was ever going to win.
Musheg Adoian KO2 Noppadol Khongchana
The obvious choice this week was Ryota Murata's win over Steven Butler, which was a fantastic looking KO. That however was pipped on the final day of the week by an obscure, but brutal KO by Thai based Armenian-Russian puncher Musheg Adoian in Singapore, as he took out Noppadol Khongchana. This was genuinely brutal, as a right hand from Adoian knocked the Thai clean out. This was another, of the many highlights shared this year by our good friend @Hock1717, who is well and truly worth a follow by all boxing fans.
Ju Wu (9-0-2)
Chinese youngster Ju Wu is not someone many would have expected to see on the final weekly award article, but it's hard to ignore just what he did on December 26th. Not only did he make his European debut, but he actually took a win, in Switzerland, against the local favourite Alain Chervet, winning a solid upset. The Chinese fighter boxed wonderfully in Berne and recorded his third solid win of the year. After drawing 2 of his first 3 career bouts the youngster has developed fantastically. Fingers crossed that he'll develop some confidence in his power, and build on his punching power in 2020 as that's the one area he's lacking at the moment.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17)
Although this fight won't be made immediately available to watch it's impossible to deny just how much we are looking forward to this one! It's a gut test for Japanese youngster Ginjiro Shigeoka, as he defends his WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweigt title against a former world title challenger. Despite their being world title fights coming up this one has us much, much more interested than the those world title bouts, and we are really interested to see what happens here, in a fantastic contest to end 2019.
This past week has been a rather crazy one, with so much action crammed into so little time. We saw a Japanese Heavyweight fight in the UK, huge upsets featuring Filipino fighters, the Rookie of the Year final and so much more. Whilst the week wasn't full of high profile action it was one of the most packed weeks of the year, by some margin and a lot of fighters and bouts are being missed off this week. This was a tough week to be an award winner, but a great for fans as we complete the final week before Christmas!
Fighter of the Week
Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33)
It wasn't a tough week for Akinori Watanabe, who retained his OPBF Light Middleweight title with a 2nd round KO win over Sitthidet Banti, but it was one where he scored, on paper, this biggest win, retaining a major regional title. The heavy handed fighter from the Kadoebi gym was expected to win with ease and he did just that, taking out the Thai challenger with a brutal body shot that left Banti in absolute agony. Fingers crossed that we see Watanabe in with a bigger test and a better challenge in his next defense.
Performance of the Week
Renz Rosia (16-9-1, 9)
At the start of the week few would have expected us to be talking about a win for Renz Rosia but the Filipino domestic level fighter managed to record a career best win on Saturday when he out pointed 2-time world title challenger Aston Palicte. Rosia managed to out box, out skill, out and out fight the bigger, hard hitting Palicte, who looked second best through out. Rosia won't get a lot of acclaim for this win, but it suddenly gives his career a massive shot in the arm. Sadly however it does leave Palicte's career in a real hole, and it's the sort of loss which will be hard for him to bounce back from, given how comprehensive it was.
Kodai Honda vs Yasutaka Fujita
The Rookie of the Year on Sunday was consistently entertaining, but one bout really stood out. That was the 140lb clash between Kodai Honda and Yasutaka Fujita, a bout that will be deserving or a re-watch, and another rewatch. It was just something sensational, with 4 knockdowns, both men going down twice, and an incredible intensity to the first round. Fujita started like a house on fire and Honda tried to respond, being dropped twice in the opening round, before finding a way to turn things around. This really is a must watch 4 round war.
Kodai Honda vs Yasutaka Fujita (Rd1)
The fight of the week, had the round of the week with the opening round of the Honda Vs Fujita bout being absolutely incredible, with Fujita setting an incredible pace and Honda trying to respond, fighting fire with fire. This is the sort of round that has every fan on their feet with their jaws on the floor, and the fact Honda would go on to fight back in the way he did in the following rounds just adds to how amazing this round is. A really sensational 3 minutes of action.
Daniel Dubois KO2 Kyotaro Fujimoto
There really wasn't any option was there? Englishman Daniel Dubois turned the lights off for Japanese Heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto in what was one of the best KO's this year. A huge, single right hand to the jaw took the Japanese fighter out in brutal fashion. This is one which will be replayed time and time again. It's just a shame the Asian fighter was on the wrong end of it, but this was a brilliant KO.
Odiljon Aslonov (1-0, 1)
Forner Uzbek amateur standout Odiljon Aslonov made his debut on Saturday in Russia and instantly looked like one to watch, as he battered Russian journeyman Varazdat Chernikov into submission. This was a debut where Aslonov's intention wasn't just to win, but to show what his strengths were, and from the first moments he was showing destructive and brutal body work, breaking down the Russian, who was completely outclassed. This heavy handed fighter looks like a beast and is one to make a real note of going forward.
Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) vs Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16)
Monday's IBF Flyweight title fight, pitting defending champion Moruti Mthalane against Japanese star Akira Yaegashi, is a hard one to call. We expect Mthalane to win, no matter what, but how he gets the win really does befuddle us. We can see both a very early win for the South African, with Yaegashi officially being shot, or a late dragged out win for Mthalane, who finally breaks down a gallant Yaegashi in a FOTY contender. It's that potential for this bout to be something special that has seen up pick this bout, though we wouldn't be surprised to see if being a blow out for the South African,similar to Yaegashi's 2017 loss to Milan Melindo.
The month of Dacember really doesn't give room to think or catch our breath, and over the coming days we have prospects in action, Rookie of the Year action, world title action, a fighter heading off to the UK to face on one of the sports most promising youngsters, and so, so much more!
Akinori Watanabe (38-7-1, 32) vs Sitthidet Banti (12-5, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The always entertaining Akinori Watanabe looks to make his first defense of the OPBF Light Middleweight title as he takes on limited Thai foe Sitthident Banti. On paper this should be little more than a home coming defense for Watanabe, who won the title in Korea. Although we're not fans of the fight it's hard to criticise Watanabe for having an easy fight given his competition over the last few years, and the punishment he has taken. Given Banti was stopped by a Japanese novice a few months ago this should be an easy win for the champion.
Mikio Sakai (1-0) vs Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) - Tokyo, Japan
A much more attractive bout in Tokyo will see former amateur standouts Mikio Sakai and Ran Tomomatsu clash in a brilliantly matched contest. Of the two Sakai is the one who has impressed us more, with his better all round boxing skills, but Tomomatsu looks like a very strong fighter with an edge in power. It can be hard to get excited about two 1-0 guys facing off, but we really are looking forward to this clash, and we are expecting something very impressive from two men who are very, very capable.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (8-0, 4) vs Alan Sanchez (20-4-1, 10) - Arizona, USA
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Daniyar Yeleussinov looks to continue his climb through the rankings as he takes on experienced foe Alan Sanchez. On paper this looks like a good test for the talented, yet often frustrating, Yeleussinov but in reality it's hard to get too excited about the contest. Sanchez has proven to be a banana skin, taking the unbeaten record of John Carlo Sosa and beaten Pabo Cesar Cano, but he's only had 3 wins in 4 years, has been out of action for more than a year, and was last teen being stopped by Alexander Besputin, in September 2018. A win for the Kazakh is expected, and it's a shame we won't be able to read much into it.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-1, 13) Vs Daniel Dubois (13-0, 12) - London, United Kingdom
Former Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto makes his international debut as he takes on destructive Englishman Daniel Dubois. On paper this looks like a solid step up in class for Dubois, but in reality it seems very much like Fujimoto is being thrown to the wolves. Fujimoto has been treading water looking for a big bout, but this is likely to be far too much for Fujimoto. The small, speedy Japanese Heavyweight will lack the power to get Dubois respect, and will lack the chin needed to take the bombs from "DDD". A mismatch and oddity.
All Japan Rookie of the Year finals - Tokyo, Japan
One of the highlights of the boxing calendar! The All Japan Rookie of the Year is a culmination of the various regional tournaments and will be shown live on G+. Whilst this likely won't get much international attention the Japanese Rookie of the Year is, by far, the best annual tournament in boxing, and had often been a launchpad for Japanese fighters who on to big things. Whether you get to watch it or not this is worth making a mental note of.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) vs Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4) - Osaka, Japan
Japanese warrior Yuki Strong Kobayashi looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title as he takes on Korean challenger Ki Chang Go, in what looks like a very safe match up. Kobayashi is a gutsy fighter, who has limitations but will always fight his heart out and has improved through his career to become a very solid fighter. Go on the other hand is just a few fights removed from losing to Kobayashi's then stable mate Masahiro Sakamoto, a man who is best known for losing a Flyweight world title fight. Kobayashi should be far too strong and big for the Korean here.
Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) Vs Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final Japanese title eliminator of 2019 will be at Super Flyweight and see former world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka take on Yuta Matsuo for the right to fight the newly crowned Kenta Nakagawa. Although neither Kudaka or Matsuo are world beaters they do make for an interesting match up, and we think their limitations and styles should gel well for a very fun action bout. Don't expect a boxing bout here, but instead expect a fight! A real potential gem, among a month of great fights.
Ryota Murata (15-2, 12) Vs Steven Butler (28-1-1, 24) - Yokohama, Japan
Japanese mega star Ryota Murata looks to have a longer second reign with the WBA "regular" Middleweight title than his first, and faces off with hard hitting Canadian Steven Butler in his first defense. Murata really impressed when he avenged his loss to Rob Brant earlier this year, and another performance like that here should see him over-come Butler. The challenger is however dangerous and will be in Japan looking to score his biggest win to date. This could be very explosive.
Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) vs Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16) - Yokohama, Japan
South African veteran Morruti Mthalane returns to Japan for this third defense of the IBF Flyweight title, and he takes on fellow veteran Akira Yaegashi. We don't just see this as being a bout for the title, but a bout for survival, and the loser really is going to struggle to have any sort of a future in the sport. Both have had great careers, but with both men now on the wrong side of 35 their future in the sport is limited, and fighting back up the ranks after a loss would be very difficult. Although the older man, and more experienced fighter, Mthalane has looked the fresher man, but 37 is ancient for a Flyweight and father will catch up to him sooner or later. Then again Yaegashi, at 36, is no spring chicken either. A very interesting and massively significant match up for the Flyweight division.
Kenshiro Teraji (16-0, 9) Vs Randy Petalcorin (31-3-1, 23) -Yokohama, Japan
Japanese fighter Kenshiro Teraji, who is mow fighting by his full name, was supposed to face IBF Lught Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado in a unification bout, until Alvarado fell ill. To replace Alvarado they've brought in Randy Petalcorin, who will challenger the unbeaten Japanese for the the WBC Light Flyweight title. The champion is looking for his 7th defense, and will be strongly favoured here but Petalcorin is a solid challenger and should give Kenshiro something of a test here.
Roman Gonzalez (47-2, 39) vs Diomel Diocos (14-5-3, 4) -Yokohama, Japan
Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez fights in his 50th professional bout as he takes on Filipino foe Diomel Diocos. The talented Gonzalez is clearly past his best, but looked great last time out, when he beat down Moises Fuentes and likely has more than enough in the tank to take a stoppage win here. Interestingly it's more than a year since Gonzalez last fought, and more than 5 years since he last stepped foot in a Japanese ring. Diocos has faced limited opponents, other than Daigo Higa who stopped him. We suspect Gonzalez does a number on Diocos like Higa did.
It's fair to say that March was a spotty month, with some real ups and downs, and little in terms on consistency. April however looks to be a month packed with great fights through the month, particularly in Japan where things really are a bit crazy!
April 6th-Naoya and Takuma. The champion is a true veteran, who won the Rookie of the Year more than a decade ago, and has battled through the Japanese scene the hard way. Inoue on the other hand was a touted amateur who has been avoided at times on the domestic stage, but will see this as a great chance to announce himself as a rising star. The styles of the men should make for a very special fight.
This pas week hasn't been the biggest news week of the year, but has been a pretty interesting one with returns, retirements and a number ob bout announcements, as well as some punishments from the JBC.
Kuroda to face Mthalane on May 13th
The biggest bout to be announced this week is the IBF mandatory Flyweight title bout between South African world champion Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) and mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) [黒田 雅之]. The bout was known to be in the works from the start of the year, with Kuroda have been assured a shot prior to Mthalane's defense in December. It's a good match up, and whilst the champion will be favoured Kuiroda is a veteran challenger who will know that a loss here ends any hope he has of ever winning a world title.
Yamauchi Vs Tuolehazi, Konno Vs Baishanbo
A pair of WBA International title bouts, set to take place on March 30th, were announced for a Shanghai show. One bout will see Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) [今野裕介] battle Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) [拜山波] for Baishanbo's title at 140lbs whilst the other bout is an even more interesting contest between unbeaten youngster Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) [山内涼太] and world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5). We're still expecting 1 more bout to be announced for this show, but two bouts we now have are fantastic.
Sho Kimura to return in China in Spring!
China won't just play host to the two WBA International title fights mentioned above but also to the return of former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) [木村翔], who is set to fight "in Spring" in China. It's unclear if he will be on the same show as the two bouts above, though it is known that he will be continuing his career and despite losing to Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) [田中恒成] last year he isn't hanging up the gloves. Fingers crossed that we get more news on Kimura's return next week!
Akira Yaegashi's return set for April 8th
Popular Japanese warrior Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) [八重樫 東] will be back in action as the headline attraction of an April 8th show at the Korakuen Hall. At the moment the full details of his bout haven't been announced, though it's expected to be a "world title prelude" over 10 rounds at Super Flyweight. Yaegashi is one of the most popular Japanese fighters, due to his style, and we're glad to see him back in the ring, though we do worry about his health if he does fight for a world title.
WP Boxing to return in March
The excellent WP Boxing, from Thai television channel Work Point, will also be making a return, with their next show being set for March. WP Boxing raised the standard for Thai broadcasts last year, having high quality matches, a sizable audience and a professionalism rarely seen in other Thai shows, so we're really looking forward to seeing what WP Boxing brings in 2019.
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo signs Top Rank deal
Uzbek Welterweight contender Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 6) [Қудратилло Абдуқаҳҳоровдан] has long been linked to an IBF Welterweight world title eliminator with Japanese puncher Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) [小原 佳太], with that bout set to be set for March 30th. The news this week is that the UZbek hopeful has now inked a deal with American promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank, who will promote his next 3 bouts, including the March 30th contest.
Erika Hanawa retires
Just days after losing in her second world title bout Japan's Erika Hanawa (10-4, 4) [塙英理加] handed in a retirement notice to the JBC. Hanawa had really put in an excellent performance against WBC female Light Flyweight champion Yesenia Gomez (15-5-3-1, 6) but had made it clear that she would retire if she lost. We're hoping she reconsiders her decision in the future, given that she is only 28, though for now at least that's the end of her short but notable career. As well as he losses in world title bouts she would win a couple of regional titles and mix top company during her 14 fight career.
Nietes Vs Palicte purse bids set
The WBO have laid down the law, and have announced that the purse bids for the WBO Flyweight world title bout, between defending champion Donnie Nietes (42-1-5, 23) and mandatory challenger Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21) will take place on February 28th. The rumour is that Nietes' team were looking else where for bouts, but the WBO seem to be wanting to rule with an iron fist this year, and this is the second time they have done something to stamp their authority. The odds are that Nietes will vacate if the money for this bout isn't as attractive as it is for other contests, however we do expect to see the purse bids take place and for Nietes' team to weigh up their options before deciding what's next.
JBC officials punished for time keeping error
The JBC announced punishments for 3 different officials this week due to a time keeping error back in December in an OPBF title fight. The toughest punishment was given to the time keeper, who has been given an indefinite suspension, whilst others have been cautioned. It's clear that the JBC saw this error, or rather the number of errors, as seriously harmful to the sport, and it's interesting to see they have taken such a harsh line. In a way it's admirable, though it is perhaps setting a standard that other countries won't follow.
Recently we did a list on 5 world title bouts we want to see in the new year, which can be read here 5 bouts we want to see in 2019 (World title version) for those who missed it. Now we're going to look at some All Japanese bouts we'd like to see in the new year. These bouts are all possible, so for example there is no issue with men being from the same gyms, and would all be really interesting fights, for at least one reason.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4) - Minimumweight
Back in July we were expecting the heavy handed Kai Ishizawa take on a then unbeaten Daiki Tomita. That bout was sadly cancelled when Ishizawa suffered a nose injury in the build up to the contest. Since then Ishizawa has become the Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion, stopping Yuga Inoue for the belt, whilst Tomita has challenged for the OPBF title, losing a decision to the world class Tsubasa Koura.
Getting this bout remade in the new year would be brilliant, and something to really look forward to. Both men have enhanced their reputations since the originally scheduled bout in the summer and we'd certainly love to see the power and desire of Ishizawa up against the skill and speed of Tomita.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) Vs Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) - Light Flyweight
We believe that Taku Kuwahara maybe one of the very best prospects in world boxing today, and think it would be great for him to prove that in 2019. A bout against Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa, potentially for the Japanese title late in the year. Kuwahara has proven his value as a prospect, was a stand out amateur and is an exceptional talent. Horikawa is a faded veteran, but a nightmare to fight and this would be a potential passing of the torch.
This isn't a bout that would make sense for early in the year, given that Horikawa has a Japanese title fight assured in the Champion Carnival, but towards the end of 2019 this bout would be a very good one, and could well be for the national title, if Horikawa wins his title shot.
Katsunori Nagamine (15-2-1, 11) Vs Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) - Flyweight
In 2017 we were impressed by the hunger and desire of Ryota Yamauchi. Sadly 2018 hasn't been the break out year we had anticipated from him, however that's not to say 2019 can't be. He does need a really good win next year however, and a real 50/50 bout with him would see him take on the exciting, hard hitting and talented Katsunori Nagamine, in what could be a very interesting match up between talented fighters looking to make a point in the new year.
Although we'd like to see this bout in the first half of the year, putting the winner in the mix for a title fight later in the year, it would be a very interesting title eliminator towards the end of the year, and potentially put the winner into the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) Vs Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) - Super Flyweight
When we started this list there was a bout that really whet our appetite, and looked like a potential FOTY candidate. That was a bout between former 3 weight world champion Akira Yaegashi and 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka. Both men have styles should gel perfectly, both are certainly shop worn, and both are a bit on the older side, still they should match up almost perfectly for an all out action packed bout. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will potentially be on the fringes of a world ranking.
With Yaegashi turning 36 in February and Kudaka turning 34 in April the hope is that this bout will take place as soon as possible. Kudaka does have a bout in December, potentially delaying this showdown, but there's no reason why we can't have this treat in late Spring or early Summer.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) Vs Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) - Super Bantamweight
When we talk about potential fights of the year it's hard to really know what bout will click. One we think will click perfectly is a show down between former world title challenger Shohei Omori and current OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hirokia Teshigawara. Omori is the more skilled man, and the bigger puncher, but Teshigawara is a proven tough guy, who will press the fight, throw a lot and really try to take the fight to Omori.
In theory this would make for a really interesting bout, with both men knowing a win would take them towards a world title fight. Neither man has their first bout of 2019 organised, and despite both fighting in the second half of 2018 neither took much punishment in their latest bout. If they can fit this bout in Spring it really would set up their year perfectly.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20)
A bonus fight for this list really excited us when we thought about it, and that is a show down between Super Featherweight's Masao Nakamura and Takuya Watanabe. Nakamura is a very heavy handed boxer-puncher, who can be hurt himself, whilst Watanabe is a rugged tough guy with under-rated boxing. Given Nakamura's power and Watanabe's proven durability we'd expect a war here, a bout that would really have fans on the edge of their seat.
Interestingly This bout would see the WBO Asia Pacific champion, Nakamura, taking on the OPBF "silver" champion, Watanabe, and would renove the loser from the mix domestically, potentially setting the winner up for a unification bout with Hironori Mishiro or Masaru Sueyoshi. Of the bouts on this list this may be one of the easier ones to make, and one of the most exciting all-Japanese bouts that could be made right now.
The argument over which division in boxing is the best is an interesting one and is often one where there is a number of divisions of real consideration. For me however one division currently stands out above all the others due to a combination of talent, depth of competition and the match ups we've been getting in recent times, along with the bout scheduled to take place in coming months.
The division is the Light Flyweight division, which is scarily deep right now, has a brilliant mixture of talent and styles and is delivering top quality bouts on a regular basis. It also has one of the sports few unified champions and is a division with so many exciting contenders that it's almost inevitable that some top fighters will miss out on big opportunities.
For part 2 of this 4 part series we'll begin by looking at the division's most notable contenders, ranging from veterans and former champions to rising hopefuls looking to get a chance at breaking through. The depth here really is incredible and although we've made a solid effort to include a big number of contenders, we know we've missed some, the problem is the division really is too deep for it's own good.
For those who missed part 1 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
Ganigan Lopez (29-7, 18) – Former WBC champion
Mexican veteran Ganigan Lopez is the division's stalwart. Aged 36 he is certainly an old fighter for the weight class, but he lives up to his moniker of “El Maravilla” and is one of the most rounded fighters in the division. He's a 15 year veteran of the sport who has really improved with age and taken on a who's who whilst fighting all over the world.
Among the fighters Lopez has faced include Juan Palacios, Adrian Hernandez, Denver Cuello, Luis Ceja, Mario Rodriguez, Pedro Guevara, Yu Kimura, Jonathan Taconing and Ken Shiro. Whilst he has come up short against some of those, including a loss to Ken Shiro last year, he is still very much a leading contender who has not only got experience and ring craft but under-rated power and stamina and he really is a fighter who controls the ring like very few men in the division.
Sadly his single world title reign was a short one, with his title win coming in March 2016, his sole successful defense in July of that year before losing the title the following May to Ken Shiro. With a rematch against Ken Shiro due in May it could be do or die for Lopez who is getting on in year is probably looking at his last chance to make a big mark on the sport before retirement. A win in the rematch Ken Shiro would however open some big doors for the veteran.
Pedro Guevara (30-3-1, 17) – Former WBC Champion
Another former WBC champion who remains as a contender is Pedro Guevara, who just 28 but already a 10 year veteran of the sport. Guevara is a brilliantly intelligent boxer who is incredibly smart both in and out of the ring. It's his brain which has helped him make the most of his talent, and he really does have a lot of natural boxing ability as well as a very experienced team around him. Added to that is his experience, which includes fights around the likes of Mario Rodriguez, John Riel Casimero, Raul Garcia, Akira Yaegashi, Yu Kimura, Oswaldo Novoa and Ken Shiro.
Guevara's most notable win was his 2014 win over Akira Yaegashi for the WBC title, which he defended against Richard Claveras and Ganigan Lopez, before losing in a upset to Yu Kimura 11 months after winning the belt. Since then he has gone 4-1, with the loss being to Ken Shiro. The worrying thing for Guevara is that his last 7 bouts have gone to the score cards, and there are question marks about his power. Although he does have the skills and ring craft to not need to rely on paper, the lack of it at world level is somewhat a problem for him and could prevent him from reclaiming a world title.
Interestingly, at the time of writing, Guevara is pencilled in to fight his next bout on May 5th against Roman Gonzalez at Super Flyweight. If that bout does take place then it's very unlikely we'll see Guevara back at 108lbs. However until we see what Guevara's future holds he is still widely regarded as a leading contender at Light Flyweight.
Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) – Former IBF Champion
The division's most recently deposed world champion is technically excellent Filipino boxer Milan Melindo, who lost the IBF title in December 2017 to Ryoichi Taguchi. The Filipino made his debut way back in September 2005 and has racked 40 fights into his career already, yet is only 30 years old. Sadly though for Melindo his future is probably a little bit limited as he's a very old 30 with 300 professional rounds already under his belt and some very draining fights, including recent wars with Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Hekkie Budler amd Taguchi.
Melindo, like the aforementioned Guevara, is a thinking man's boxer. His understanding of range, tempo and timing are brilliant. At his best Melindo is razor sharp, a perfect punch picker and has the ability to throw some of the best combinations in the division. Sadly, like with many smart fighters, he can be found to be lazy and can struggle when the pace moves up a gear and he has also shown issues with cuts in recent bouts, suffering bad cuts against Fahlan and Budler.
At the moment it's unclear when Melindo will be back in action but it's hard to imagine him being out for too. It's likely going to be a case that he will be given time to totally heal up after some very hard bouts, then look to retain later in the year.
Hekkie Budler (31-3, 10) – Former WBA Minimumweight Champion
One other former world champion in the Light Flyweight title mix is South African speedster Hekkie Budler, who claimed his world title at Minimumweight where he had a pretty solid run as the WBA champion. His wins at the lower weight include victories over Nkosinathi Joyi, Pigmy Kokietgym, Xiong Zhao Zhong, Jesus Silvestre and Simphiwe Khonco. His most notable bout at 108lbs was a razor thin less last year to Melindo for the IBF title and due to the competitive nature of that bout he's stayed well and truly in the mix.
Budler is a gutsy warrior who lacks power but has a great engine, throws a lot of punches and is quick. On paper he's likely to have a hard time with almost anyone in the top 10, but they are also going to have a hard time with him. His determination is really impressive and his output is amazing, even at the lower weights. Sadly he does look like he can be out powered, and he was dropped in the final round by Melindo.
Budler will return to the ring on May 20th to take on Taguchi in a bout for the IBF, WBA and Ring magazine titles. The bout comes just 2 days after his 30th birthday and although he does still have quite a bit left he has been in some wars and will likely know that his shots at the top are numbered, with the Taguchi bout likely to be one of his last.
Edward Heno (12-0-5, 5) – OPBF Champion
One of the more notable rising Filipino's in the division is OPBF champion Edward Heno, an unbeaten fighter who has began to shoot up the rankings and is on the fringes of getting a world title fight. Unlike many on this list he isn't a former champion but already holds a number of notable wins, including stoppages against Cris Ganoza and Seita Ogido as well as a decision over Merlito Sabillo. Whilst those wins don't mean a massive amount on the world stage they are solid wins for a fighter who just moved from a prospect to a contender.
Heno's record is littered with draws and close decisions but 3 of those draws came in his first 3 bouts and he is certainly improving with every fight, as he showed by stopping two of the fighters who have held him to a draw. He is a powerful fighter who is building on his strengths and is becoming a real threat in the division.
Heno is probably 12-18 months away from being truly ready for a world title fight, but all 4 world title bodies rank him in the top 15 and he could be a voluntary defense for any of the champions later in the year. With his youth, power and development he could well be a real nightmare for any of the top handful of fighters and should be viewed as one to watch, even if he does lack the name value of some of the former champions.
Tetsuya Hisada (30-9-2, 19) – Japanese Champions
Another lower level champion looking to get a world title shot this year is Japanese national champion Tetsuya Hisada, who at the age of 33 really doesn't have the time to waste if he intends to make the next step up in class. It's worth noting that he hasn't got a pretty looking record, but he is better than those numbers suggest, and is in great form, having remained unbeaten in almost 3 years. His current 9 fight winning run has seen him go 9-0 (8) and score really good domestic wins over the likes of Shun Kosaka, Kenichi Horikawa, Atsushi Kakutani and Takeri Kamikubo.
Hisada, like many on this list, has got his next bout organised already, an April 14th title defense against fellow Japanese veteran Koji Itagaki, and if he comes through that he, and his team, do seem likely to chase a world title fight and ditch the Japanese title. It's worth noting he is in the top 10 with all 4 world title bodies and seems open to facing any of the world champions.
In the ring Hisada is a real battler. He throws a lot of shots, seems to get stronger as bouts go on and although not a monster puncher he's a heavy enough handed fighter to wear opponents down from sheer accumulation. At 33 his ability to keep coming in the later rounds might begin to wane, but for now he's a fighter full of confidence and with a serious point to prove, especially given that Ken Shiro gave up the Japanese title to fight for the WBC belt, just weeks before a scheduled 2017 bout with Hisada. That along gives Hisada a clear hunger to face the current WBC king.
Felix Alvarado (32-2, 28)
The Light Flyweight division has some massive puncher, in fact Angel Acosta and Carlos Canizales are world champions mostly due to their incredible punching power. They however probably don't have the heaviest hands in the division, instead that honour is probably with Nicaraguan terror Felix Alvarado, who in all honesty is the division's real boogey man. The 29 year old from Managua has 14-0 (13) since suffering back to back defeats to Kaztuo Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco and he is a nightmare to fight.
Although Alvarado has lost his two biggest bouts he has remained a contender with notable wins over fringe contenders like Luis de la Rosa, Larluis Diaz, Jose Antonio Jimenez and most impressive Fahlan Sakreerin Jr. Not only is he a big puncher but he is an ultra aggressive fighter who appears to take a really hard shot very well, and is always swarming opponents looking to take them out as early as possible, with 15 opening round T/KO's already.
Alvarado's next bout isn't set yet, but he's in line for an IBF title fight, having scored his win over Fahlan in eliminator for the IBF title, and is looking like a fighter who wants to stay busy rather than just waiting for his shot. In 2017 he fought 6 times, and he already has two bouts under his belt this year. With that in mind he may well fight in the coming weeks and continue to tick over until getting his third world title shot.
Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22)
Another of the division's tough guys with a serious punch is the limited, and some what crude, but wonderfully hard hitting Filipino Jonathan Taconing, who is also a 2-time world title challenger. The 31 year old “Lightning” debuted back in 2007 and looked like a savage puncher straight away, stopping his first 3 foes in a combined 4 rounds. A couple of set backs on the domestic scene slowed his ascent but he would go on to climb the rankings quite quickly and get a shot in 2012 against Kompayak Porpramook, losing a very controversial technical decision in Thailand. That loss put Taconing on the map but made him a fighter to avoid.
A4 year unbeaten run would follow for Taconing, who would go on to claim the OPBF title and score notable wins over Vergilio Silvano and Ramon Garcia Hirales before he would lose his second shot, a clear defeat to Ganigan Lopez in 2016. Since that defeat Taconing has gone 5-0 (4). He;s not as naturally talented as Alvarado, and doesn't quite set up his shots as well, but is hard hitting and teak tough and not many fighters will engage him in toe-to-toe war.
Taconing last fought back in March, in a domestic bout against Robert Onggocan, in what looks to have been a surprisingly competitive bout. It's worth noting, like many on this list, he is ranked by all 4 world title bodies, with 3 of the 4 having him in the top 5, and it's clear that he is on the verges of another world title fight. That fight might come this year, though we doubt any of the champions will be in a rush to face him.
Rey Loreto (24-14, 16)
Yet another puncher in the division is Rey Loreto, another of the talented Filipino fighters plying their trade at Light Flyweight, though also capable of fighting at Minimumweight. Loreto has the most messed up record of any contender in the division, if not the sport right now, but is a true nightmare of a fighter to face. Aged 27 Loreto is in his prime, but is already a 10 year veteran and and a fighter who has developed from a 0-4 teenager to being danger man and a true contender.
Loreto's career turned around in 2013, when he beat Pornsawan Porpramook in Thailand, and then had a huge show in the arm the following year when he scored a monster upset against Nkosinathi Joyi, something he repeated the following year. Sadly for Loreto he saw a 7 fight unbeaten run come to an end last year, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart in a Minimumweight title bout, but that set back may well have served as a blessing in disguise and a chance for Loreto to realise that his best weight is Light Flyweight.
Having fought in February Lerot may not fight again for a while, but is world ranked by the WBC, at Light Flyweight, and the WBA, at Minimumweight, and is certainly a fighter who has time on his side to rebuild and work on getting a second world title fight. It's unlikely he'll get a shot thus year, but 2019, or 2020, could well be his year.
Randy Petalcorin (28-2-1, 21) – Former WBA “interim” Champion
Another Filipino in and around the world title scene is former WBA “interim” champion Randy Petalcorin, who once looked like he was right in the mix before his career stalled, massively. Back in 2014 Petalcorin claimed the interim crown and defended it once, blitzing Ma Yi Min in Beijing. Sadly though he has gone 5-1 since impressive display, over 4 years ago. Worse than the inactivity is the quality he has been fighting, and from being on the edge of a world title fight he has found himself fighting regional journeymen.
As a fighter Petalcorin is a natural talent. He's a wonderfully crisp boxer-puncher and despite having been a professional for 9 years he is still only 26 and whilst it does feel like he is wasting his time at the moment he does have a lot of youth on his side. Hopefully that won't give him and excuse to waste more time, as he really is such a pure joy to watch.
Whilst it's easy to look at Petalcorin's record and see two losses one of those was a very early career defeat to future world champion Marlon Tapales whilst the other was a hotly disputed split decision loss to Omari Kimweri 2 years ago. That loss to Kimweri has been followed by 5 straight wins, and it's now time Petalcorin showed his skills are against more testing opponents than he's been up against in recent times.
Tibo Monabesa (17-0-2, 8)
Indonesian boxing has lacked a star since the retirement of Chris John though they may be on the verge of having a new one thanks to the talented Tibo Monabesa. The 27 year old southpaw has been a professional for a little under 6 years but has already progressed far beyond domestic level and is the current WBC International Silver champion, having already notched two defenses of the belt and become a bit of hit at home.
To date his best wins are only over regional opponents, but still they have come against decent fighters, such as Rene Patilano and Lester Abutan. Those wins, along with his title, have helped him creep into the world rankings without getting much international fan fare. At the time of writing he is in the top 15 with the WBA, WBO and WBC and although not quite ready for a world champion he's certainly not far off a title fight.
With one fight already under his belt in 2018 we're expecting to see a busy and eventful year for the man from Jakarta and we suspect he'll fight progressively better opponents through to the end of the year as he and his team prepare for a world title fight, possible as early as 2019. Sadly though for his growing local fanbase it's unlikely he and his team will manage to secure home advantage and he will likely be on the road when a world title fight is offered to him.
Reiya Konishi (15-1, 5) Former Japanese Minimumweight Champion
Former Japanese Minimumweight champion Reiya Konishi is another in the long line of young Japanese fighters making a mark in the lower weight classes. The 24 year old from Kobe made his mark on the domestic scene by winning the Rookie of the Year in 2014 before claiming the Japanese title in 2017. As the Japanese Minimumweight champion Konishi impressed with wins against Shin Ono and Kenta Matsui before moving up in weight and vacating the title. Sadly for Konishi he lost earlier this year, coming up short to Carlos Canizales.
Despite losing to Canizales, in a bout for the WBA “regular” title, we were impressed by Konishi who gritted his teeth after being knocked down early on and really gave Canizales problems with his fantastic work rate and desire. It may have been a loss but it was a “good loss” in many ways and showed that he really does belong in the title mix going forward.
Konishi's loss to Canizales was less than a month ago so it's unlikely he'll be racing back into the ring, but he will likely be back in last summer as he looks to bounce back and rebuild. That could well see him fighting another contender, or drop down to domestic level and really get used to the weight. At 24 he really has time on his side and there is no need to rush him until he's ready, especially given that his style is one that could burn him out if he has too many wars too soon together.
As well as the 12 fighters mentioned above other notable contenders include:
Palangpol CP Freshmart (14-2, 8) - Thai fighter Palangpol CP Freshmart is best known for challenging Kosei Tanaka in 2017 and dropping the then WBO champion before being stopped himself in round 9. It's unclear when Palangpol will return, but he is a genuine threat to the division
Jesse Espinas (18-2, 11) - Jesse Espinas is an in-form Filipino who is climbing up the rankings thanks to a 7 fight winning streak, which included a big upset win on the road over the then unbeaten Paipharob Kokietgym in 2016
Ryuji Hara (23-2, 14)-Japanese speedster Ryuji Hara has been linked to facing WBO champion Angel Acosta and despite his two stoppage losses, to Kosei Tanaka and Katsunari Takayama, the Ohashi fighter is a talent, and could ask serious questions of the Puerto Rican puncher if that bout manages to take place.
(Images courtesy of boxrec and boxmob.jp)
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