After one of the quietest weeks in a long time we followed up with a genuinely solid, if rather over-looked, week featuring a lot of solid action, and bouts featuring 3 former champions! It may not have matched some of the weeks at the end of 2020, but this was an excellent week and one we really enjoyed thanks to free streams, from CBC and the GAB, a brilliant Boxing Raise show and a tape delay Fuji TV show.
Fighter of the Week
Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12)
A week after our rule on "Fighter" of the week bit us on the backside, with the most significant win coming in a relative nothing bout, normality resumed this week with Ryoji Fukunaga being the well deserving winner this following a gutsy, brave and excellent win over Froilan Saludar. The unheralded Japanese puncher went into the bout as the major under-dog in what was a very big step up in class, but fought through some massive swelling to out gut Saludar. The performance wasn't an outstanding out, but the win was huge, and netter Fkunaga the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. We don't imagine he'll hold it long, but this week was his week!
Performance of the Week
Mark Sales (23-43-5, 8)
It's rare that we'll ever see the performance of the week come from a journeyman with more than 40 losses, but this week Mark Sales is well and truly worth attention and accolades. Sales had been out of the ring for almost a year, he'd only fought once in 2019 and once in 2018, and was more than 4 years removed from his last win. He wasn't expected to defeat Prabjhot Singh, but that's exactly what he did, relying on his more than 70 bouts of experience to out work, out fight, out punch and out smart his taller, younger opponent. Well done the "Slam Man"!
Kento Hatanaka vs Roland Jay Biendima
We really had some fantastic bouts this week, including a thriller between a pair of Richard's, Claveras and Rosales, in the Philippines. For us though the pick of the bunch was a 10 round action thriller between Kento Hatanaka and Roland Jay Biendima. This was absolutely thrilling, after a quiet first round Biendima came alive and gave us a brilliant, action packed 10 round bout that swung one way, then the other. Biendima was often on the wrong of the action, but hurt Hatanaka a number of time, bloodying his nose in round 3, damaging his ribs later in the bout and rocking him a number of times. This is the weeks must watch bout, and is really worth going back and rewatching. A brilliant fight.
Kento Hatanaka vs Roland Jay Biendima (RD 10)
There were amazing rounds through the week, though for us the final 3 minutes of the war for the WBC Youth Flyweight title between Kento Hatanaka and Roland Jay Biendima was the best. The round was one of a number of thrilling rounds between the two warriors, tried to make sure they didn't hear the final bell. At the end of the round it was clear the two men had fought to a standstill.
Yuki Nakajima vs Shisui Kawabata (Rd 4)
Elmar Zamora vs Justin Espejo (Rd 6)
Hiroki Hanabusa KO1 Sorawit Bamrungrai
We love body shot KO's, they don't come around too often, but we love seeing them when they do. With that in mind it was hard to note repeatedly rewatch Hiroki Hanabusa's left hook to the body against over-matched Thai Sorawit Bamrungrai. The talented Hanabusa, who will be fighting for a Japanese Youth title later in the year, did what he was supposed to do against an opponent who shouldn't have been in the ring with him, and left him in a heap on the canvas. This was perfect placement, took a fraction of a second for Sorawit to feel it, and left the Thai down and out. Pure brilliance
Elmar Zamora (3-0, 2)
The GAB show on Saturday was frustrating one to watch live with the official GAB stream being rather a nightmare at times. It was however worth watching for the performance of Elmar Zamora, who took a decision over Justin Espejo. Zamora showed he could box, bang, brawl, had a really exciting style and looks like the sort of fighter the Filipino scene should be looking to nurture. The youngster debuted in 2018 and fought twice that year before taking a year out and returning to face Espejo. Not sure if the break was the best thing for his career, but his performance this weekend was brilliant, keep an eye out for this talented and exciting youngster!
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
The biggest show of the weekend is at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and we an Asian interest with Emanuel Navarrete taking on Filipino Jeo Santisima, in what is a genuinely quiet week for Asian fighters. Before we go any further, we see this as a massive mismatch, however we also see this as a fun mismatch, with two men expected to try and out slug each other. Santisima is a massive under-dog, but fights in a style that should be fun, until he is eventually worn down by Navarrete. Expect this to be a lot of fun and brutal!
This past week was an incredibly quiet one for Asian fight fans, with a genuine lack of notable fights. It's been probably the quietest week since we started doing these awards, and sadly it means there are several categories where we don't have someone we can actually name as a winner. Thankfully we do see things change in February, and things should get a lot better soon!
Fighter of the Week
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0-0-2, 14)
Due to how weak the week was over-all this was an easy award with Batyrzhan Jukembayev scoring the biggest win of the week. The Canadian based Kazakh prospect may have ended up taking on a late replacement opponent, but he did what he needed to do and took out Ricardo Lara in just 2 rounds to continue his climb towards a potential world title fight. It's clear that Jukembayev needs a real test, and hopefully that will come in the summer before he faces a fellow fringe contender.
Performance of the Week
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (18-0-0-2, 14)
It's fair to say that Jukembayev has essentially won this by default. That's how bad the week has been. The Kazakh looked sharp and appeared unfazed by a late replacement change, but really had a very limited opponent in the ring with him and it showed.
Kongfah CP Freshmart Vs Edison Berwela
In Thailand on Friday we had the best of a weak bunch of fights, as Kongfah CP Freshmart defended his WBC Asia Diamond Super Bantamweight title against the under-rated Edison Berwela.
Gaku Takahashi vs Keeshawn Williams (Round 4)
Ther wasn't really any standout rounds from the last week, though we did sort of enjoy the weird spectacle of watching the unique Gaku Takahashi take on Keeshawn Williams. From watching the bout it's clear neither is anything special, despite Williams dubbing himself "The Next Big Thing", but their bout was fairly entertaining. It was obvious through out that Takahashi was out of his depth in terms of skills, but kept coming forward and letting his hands go when he was tagged. An odd bout, but round 4 was certainly fun with both men having moments.
No Valid KO This Week
NO Valid Prospect This Week
Kazuki Nakajima (8-0, 7) vs Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0, 4)
We do see action really picking up this coming week, as we break into February in style. There are a lot of bouts cramped into the week and we know most fans will have a US bout in mind as the one that has their attention, notably Daniel Roman's world title defend against Murodjon Akhmadaliev. For us however the Godn's Left Bantamweight final between Kazuki Nakajima and Seiya Tsutsumi. This is likely to be a short bout, but a very, very explosive one, between two guys who are big punchers, and have styles that should gel. This is going to be very exciting.
What do you mean annual awards? ...it's only mid-December!
Over the last week or so we've seen the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) announce their shortlists for their annual awards. At the time there was more than 2 weeks of 2019 left and it again left us asking why? Why can they not wait until the end of the year? Why can they not wait until all the fights have been and gone? Why can they not allow everyone a fair chance?
As we all know by now Japan hosts action on New Year's Eve, and whilst none of those bouts look likely to deliver us a Fight of the Year contender, but it's not just Japan that has fights between now and the end of 2019. In fact there are other countries playing host to some fights that do look like they could be legitimate contenders. For example on December 20th, a day before this article goes live, we had Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar face off with Cristofer Rosales, in a bout with real potential to be something very special. Likewise on December 28th Jean Pascal clashes with Badou Jack, in a bout that promises fireworks.
Of course some awards are essentially over. There is nothing between now and the end of the year which could possibly effect the Fighter of the Decade, the Fighter of the Year, the The Good Guy or even Trainer of the Year awards. But where we do have things that could fit into the short list, we really need to hold on, be patient. There is no need to rush things, and it can be ridiculously stupid.
A great example of how stupid short listing things is before the end of the year was seen in 2014, when Naoya Inoue missed out on the short list, despite the year being one where he claimed world titles at Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight. He wasn't on the ballot that year, because his final win of the year, a KO2 win over Omar Andres Narvaez, came way after the short list had been compiled. The year however still had time left in it!
Jonathan Morris's famous quote "Patience is a virtue, Possess it if you can; Seldom found in woman, Never found in man." Can certainly be brought into boxing, and changed somewhat. We don't like seeing things "marinate", but there is also no need to rush something that recognises what boxing has given us over the previous year.
Of course it's not just the BWAA who are to blame here, and we suspect many other lists will be released between now and January with various websites, journalists and the ilk announcing their Fighter, Fight, Knockout, Round, Prospect, etc... of the Year. Come on folks, just a touch of patience, it will go a long way...and give you extra time to watch what's happening in the sport.
If you're about to do a list, put your damn pen down, wait until the year is over, you know what is around the corner! By all means do a short list, but your full on list can wait a few extra day!
For those who have already decided on their lists, we suggest giving Keon Woo Kim's brutal KO1 against Moon Han Ji and Mammoth Nakayama's sensational 5th round KO of Lerdchai Chaiyawed a watch for any KO list, and Yuki Beppu's sensational win over Ryota Yada deserves a watch for any Fight of the Year list. We probably won't change your mind, but you should give them a watch regardless!
Who goes up against Rookie of the Year?
In a change of note we have a second point of contention this week...who on earth goes up against Rookie of the Year? This year there are two shows in Osaka on the same day as the All Japan Rookie of the Year, in a decision that seems foolish! We understand that time is limited, and trying to squeeze everything into the year can be tricky, but to us the Rookie of the Year is one of the biggest annual events in boxing. To go up against it is sacrilege!
We're not complaining about the quality of the cards, which will be promoted by Muto and Nakazato, but it does seem like the shows are shooting themselves in the foot sharing a day with such a tremendous part of the Japanese boxing calendar!
Now with that out the way, I shall see you all with the next one of these in the new year, so have a great Christmas folks, and a happy new year! And watch as many fights as you can between now and 2020! I will be!
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