Last week we began our "Who..." series by looking at who would be the next OPBF champion from South Korea and we're back again this week with the second in this series as we look towards the past and try to answer a new question about the world of Asian boxing.
This week the question is..
"Who... will be the next world champion from Uzbekistan?"
Lee: "I really like how many options we have here, and how exciting the rise of Uzbek boxing has become. It's really come out of nowhere, unless you follow the amateur scene, and has been hugely exciting. Like a breathe of fresh air. In many ways it reminds me of what boxing was like here in the 1970's, 80's and early 90's, where top amateurs raced to titles. There was no fear of being moved too quickly, and that was really exciting, seeing fighters move fast. If you were good enough, you were good enough.
For Uzbekistan the contender leading the way for me is Israil Madrimov, who I think will win a world title this year. He's in a tough division, but I think he'll win some version of the WBA title in 2021, hopefully the main version of the title. He has the power, skills, speed and hunger to be a big star. My only worry is whether the pandemic has started to chip away at his mental drive and his physical fitness. But I am still confident he will be a world champion. Maybe just a short reign though."
Takahiro: "Whilst Japan is going through a golden age the Uzbek scene is just as hot with so many exciting fighters coming from the country, and making their name in the US. That is really exciting and shows the backing a lot of their fighters are getting.
The backing has let Murodjon Akhmadaliev fight for a world title in just his 8th bout and I think other fighters will look to match that target. With that in mind I will be picking Bektemir Melikuziev, who I think will win a world title this year, in his 8th fight. It's a unfortunate that Sergey Kovalev failed a drug test, as that would have been good preparation for "Bully". I think the fact he can fight at 168lbs or 175lbs is a good advantage for him, and I think he will pick up some form of WBA belt. Maybe not main WBA belt, but enough to claim a "world" title. In 2022 maybe he get a "real" title. as well.
My Pick, Bek Bully!"
Scott: "As the other two guys have said, the Uzbek's are really making a mark and doing things in a really, really exciting fashion. There is a lot of top amateur fighters who are now chasing professional honours, and a lot of them are taking a rather untraditional route there. They aren't wasting their time, and their prime years building up fancy 20-0 records against opponents they would be 1/100 to beat, but are instead looking to skip the easy bouts and the often pointless record building stage of their careers. Whilst it's the fast track will work for some and fail for others, it's something I personally enjoy watching, and it condenses the wait to find out if someone is a legitimate talent.
I'm looking at the other end of the scales though. Rather than in the middling weights I'm looking at the lower weights and picking Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov to be next, and to do so in 2022.
The lower weights are often the ones where we see fast tracking done and Dusmatov is certainly ticking the boxes that will see him being moved aggressively. He's now aged 27, is in his prime, he's got the skills, power, speed, and the amateur experience to be matched hard and will not want to waste his career. The big question is "what weight will we see him winning a belt at?" And I think 108lbs is among the toughest divisions out there, but I see him having success there, if he needs to. Alternatively there are weak title holders at 105lbs, which we have to assume he can make with a day before weigh in, or even 112lbs.
Alternatively he could very easily make a mark at 112lbs. I think those options are what his team will be looking to weigh up this year, and early next year he'll win a world title. Whether that's a lesser champion at 105lbs or an aging veteran at 112lbs I'm not sure. but I'm confident he picks up a belt next year"
It’s fair to say that January is usually a quiet month but this January is particularly quiet, with bouts really not being lined up for much of the month, we’ve already seen two scheduled bouts being cancelled due to Covid19 related issues. Despite that we do still have some stuff to be excited about, so let's take a look at what we’ve got coming up this month, and it is very much a prospect heavy month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) vs Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
The first genuinely big bout set to take place in Asia will be on January 14th as OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara looks to defend his title against Takuma Inoue. The bout is a genuinely good looking one and will see Kurihara’s power and aggression against the toughness and skills of Inoue. With both men entering the bout world ranked the winner of this will be banging on the door of a world title fight, and we wouldn't be surprised at all by them landing a really big, international level, fight at the end of the year.
Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) vs Sora Takeda (6-1, 1)
Highly skilled prospect Katsuki Mori looks to continue building his reputation as he takes on Sora takeda, in a battle between two former Rookie of the Year winners. Mori has received a lot of praise since breaking through in 2019, though with only a single bout in 2020 his career needs a big shot in the arm in 2021. Takeda on the other hand won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and has sadly seen his momentum slow with just 2 bouts since then. The winner of this will begin a move towards a potential Japanese Youth title bout, but could take a year or two for either man to land their first title fight.
Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) Vs Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1)
Touted Japanese third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto will be looking to record his second win as a professional as he takes on Dragonball Z inspired fighter Bejita Ishikawa, who is well known for his Vegeta styled entrance attire. Matsumoto is very highly regarded and his father was a multi time world title challenger, though he’ll want a better performance than his debut, which saw him being dropped before he stopped Hironori Miyake. Ishikawa shouldn’t provide much of a test here, but he is a unique fighter and certainly has popularity that exceeds his ability.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) vs Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3)
Another prospect looking for their second win is former amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki, who will be looking to build on a successful debut in a notable step up in class, as he takes on the experienced Yuji Okinori. Although perhaps not a big internationally there is very high expectations on Nakagaki in Japanese, after an excellent amateur career, and given how he looked on debut the 21 year old Super Flyweight hopeful really does seem to have the potential to go a very, very long way in the sport. Okinori is a very credible opponent for Nakagaki this early in his career, but it’s hard to see anything but a Nakagaki win.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) Vs Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) - OPBF Welterweight title
The second OPBF title fight of 2021 will see Riku Nagahama seek his first defense as he faces off with the heavy handed Ryota Toyoshima. Nagahama, who holds the OPBF Welterweight title, won the belt in 2020 but has had to wait almost a year to defend it. Although not the biggest puncher Nagahama does have a fan friendly style and does get involved in a tear, even if that’s not the best idea for him. Toyoshima is a more patient fighter than Nagahama, but he’s certainly a bigger puncher and he has very under-rated and sneaky body shots in his arsenal. This could, legitimately, turn out to be a genuine war for the OPBF title and could be a gem in a month where big bouts are few and far between.
Jukiya Iimura (0-0) Vs Daisuke Yamada (6-5, 1)
Whilst there is a lack of big bouts there are a lot of prospects in action over the coming days and one of those is Jukiya Iimura, who went 68-13 in the amateurs. He’ll be getting introduced to professional bout with a bout against the solid Daisuke Yamada, in what should be a solid test for the debuting Flyweight.
Jun Ikegawa (0-0) Vs Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-1-2)
Another debutant looking to make a mark in January is Jun Ikegawa, who went 51-15 in the unpaid ranks. The skilled Ikegawa looks to be in a very solid debut match up as he takes on Kakeru Yoshikawa. The 22 year old Ikegawa is tipped for success and will be looking to make his mark at 122lbs. Yoshikawa is a very credible opponent, and his only loss was a split decision back in July 22017. This is not a gimmie for Ikegawa!
Yugo Kon (0-0) Vs Koji Tsurumi (4-3-1, 1)
One other debutant on this show to make a note of is Yugo Kon. He went a less than spectacular 23-11 in the amateur ranks but is regarded as a long term prospect and we should see him being asked genuine questions by Koji Tsurumi, who is better than his record suggests.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) Vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21)
In another potential hidden gem Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka will take on Takuya Watanabe, and this may well end up being a genuinely brutal war. Saka is an aggressive, heavy handed and exciting fighter, but one who can also be super inconsistent. Despite being hot and cold Saka looked fantastic in his 2019 title winning performance, smashing Masaru Sueyoshi in 5 rounds. Watanabe on the other hand is a super tough, technical warrior who tends to box well, but is much more well known for his ability to genuinely fight. Watanabe’s bouts with Jaesung Lee and Taiki Minamoto showed his toughness and he will have to dip into that again here.
Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14)
Another Japanese title fight will see Yusaku Kuga defending his JBC Super Bantamweight title against Gakuya Furuhashi. For Kuga this is a must win after being taken out in a regional title fight by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019. Although talented Kuga has been in a number of tough wars, and bouts against the likes of Ryoichi Tamura, Shingo Wake and Yasutaka Ishimoto may well have aged him. As for Furuhashi the 33 year old challenger will know it’s now or never after coming up short in two previous Japanese title fights. Style wise Furuhashi is a grinder, who throws a lot and lacks 1-punch fight changing power, again Kuga his style may be his undoing, or it could lead to an early FOTY contender.
Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) v Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2)
In a B class tournament final the once beaten Koki Mioya takes on Tentaro Kimura, in what should be a very evenly matched and exciting 5 rounder. This bout, unlike many, has gotten a lot of interest for what is, for all intents, a lower level Japanese bout, with neither fighter being regarded as a major prospect. Both as popular fighters and the bout is being regarded as one that could end up delivering a lot of action. Fans in the west may overlook this one, but it is genuinely generating plenty of buzz among the hardcore Japanese fans.
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) v Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
In an A Class tournament final the fast rising, and heavy handed, Japanese Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki will battle Masashi Wakita. This looks like a mismatch on paper and we suspect it will be, but it will still be great to see Utsuki back in the ring, and there’s a real chance of him getting involved in the Japanese title mix in the next 12 to 24 months. Utsuki is a very nasty and serious puncher, and that is likely to be too much for Wakita, who’s been a genuine servant to Japanese boxing over the years.
Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) Vs Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2)
In a surprising world title fight we’ll see OPBF Minimumweight champion Sana Hazuki challenge IBF champion Yokasta Valle near the end of the month. This bout was only announced in January, after Valle had numerous issues securing a unification fight with WBC champion Tina Rupprecht. Valle will be the heavy, heavy favourite, though there is, maybe, a chance she has looked past Hazuki, who really shouldn’t be much of a taste for the Costa Rican world champion.
Manual Artime Community Center Theater, Miami, Florida, USA
Fazliddin Meliboev (0-0) vs Javonn Davis (3-0-1, 3)
Back to debutants we have talented Uzbek 24 year old Fazliddin Meliboev kicking off his career towards the end of January as he takes on unbeaten American Javonn Davis. Meliboev isn’t one of the elite level Uzbek amateurs we’ve seen making their name on the professional ranks in recent years but he was a very credible amateur and showed real potential in the WSB. He’ll come into this bout as an unknown, but we suspect he has the tools to overcome Davis, who has been fighting at a very, very low level so far.
Kozimbek Mardonov (0-0) vs Chown Sims (5-1, 2)
Another Uzbek making his debut is the touted 23 year old Kozimbek Mardonov, who won shone at the 2019 Military Games in Wuhan. On paper Mardonov looks to be in a serious test here as he goes up against 25 year old American Chown Sims. Sims is unbeaten in his last 3, and has taken a couple of cherry’s since beginning his professional career. He was, however, stopped in 2019 by Ty McLeod and we suspect Mardonov will have too much, in what could be a debut to remember for a very promising young Uzbek.
Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10) vs Stephen Danyo (17-3-3, 6)
Highly regarded Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov will return to the ring after well over a year out as he takes on Dutch fighter Setephen Danya in a bout for 4 minor titles. The excellent Akhmedov has been one of the most promising Kazakh fighters in recent years and he seems to have it all, with skills, power, stamina, a solid boxing brain and a solid promoter behind him. Given what we’ve seen of Akhmedov the view is that he’s one of the men heading towards world titles. Danyo on the other hand has never been stopped, he’s proven himself as a tough nut and he does have the durability and experience to test the Kazakh youngster, especially given his length lay off. This should be a real good test for Akhmedov, but if he’s as good as we think he should take a very clear win.
Luzhniki, Moscow, Russia
Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) Vs Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29)
Unbeaten Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev is set to take a massive step up in class at the end of the month as he takes on former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. With many tipping the “Bully” to be a future world champion this is the sort of test that will help fast track him to a title, and could be a shrewd bit of match making, or a case of biting off too much too soon. Kovalev has been on the slide for a while, and he no longer looks like the “Krusher” who dismantled the likes of Jean Pascal, but with his power and with a Russian crowd behind him he is very much a live under-dog here. On paper this is a real test for Melikuviez, but if he’s as good as we, and many others, think he could end up retiring Kovalev. Interestingly for Kovalev this will be his first bout since his 2019 loss to Saul Alvarez and at 37 father time may well be just as much of an enemy as Melikuziev. Potentially one of the smartest bits of matchmaking we’ll see in 2021, or a big mistake by Melikueziev’s team.
After a few weeks where we've not had much to talk about the past week has been a much more engaging and interesting one, with some great bouts, some exciting announcements, some free streams, and plenty negatives to talk about as well as the positives.
1-CBC's live stream
Although CBC's stream this week wasn't of a huge show, it was, as we've come to expect from them, fantastic from start to end. The broadcaster aired the entire show from Kariya live on Tuesday, in excellent quality, with no issues, live replays, great camera angles and perfect sound mixing. Sadly for everyone else CBC have brought TV level production values to the free streaming game, and it's going to be down to everyone else to play catch up. As well as the quality of the stream the fights were also rather solid, especially the main event between Kento Hatanaka and Roland Jay Biendima, and Hiroki Hanabusa's body shot KO was sublime.
If someone else is going to do a free stream, this is level they should be aiming for. Amazing from start to end!
2-Nakatani Vs Magramo being made official!
We know we mentioned this bout last week, and actually the CBC free stream, but this week saw the confirmation of Junto Nakatani Vs Giemel Magramo! Better yet it's set for a Dynamic Glove show, meaning that we're expecting it to be shown live on G+. Not only is this an exceptional match up for the WBO Flyweight title but it's the type of bout that excites us, and is a risk for both men. Given that both fighters could have taken different routes to a world title we can't help but be proud of both fighters for signing up to this one!
3-Wanheng Menayothin gets date for US debut
With a 54-0 record WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin has the longest active unbeaten stream in boxing, along with the longest world title reign of any man in the sport. One thing he hasn't got is an international bout to his name. That changes in April after this weeks news of the Thai setting off for the US! Wanheng will make his international debut on April 25th, when he takes on Marco John Rementizo. The bout might not be the biggest, or the best, and the scheduling for it is fucking stupid, clashing with Naoya Inoue Vs Johnriel Casimero, but it's great to finally see Wanheng outside of his comfort zone.
4-Yuki Nakajima's uppercut
It's not often we'll talk about a specific punch on here but the uppercut Yuki Nakajima landed on Shisui Kawabata in round 6 was something special. Huge credit to Kawabata for not being left flat on his back, but the punch is up there with the best of them. Those with boxing raise owe it to them selves to rewatch this it was amazing.
1-Koki Inoue's injury
In unfortunate news Koki Inoue has suffered and injury that has forced him to postpone his mandatory title defense against Daishi Nagata. The talented and unbeaten Japanese 140lb champion thankfully doesn't appear to be too seriously injured, given he'll be defending the title against Nagata in May, but it is still said news that both men will delay their return to the ring by a couple of months.
2-Yudai Shigeoka's next opponent
We love the Shigeoka brothers. We see both becoming future world champions. We fully accept that both are super prospects. So we need to wonder what the idea is in having Yudai Shigeoka's next bout come against Sanchai Yotboon, the fighter that Ginjiro Shigeoka took out in 3 rounds on his debut! Absolutely pointless match up by Watanabe gym. This is a mismatch, and should be little more than a stay busy for Shigeoka, who beat Lito Dante a few months ago, and should have been matched much tougher than this.
3-Daigo Higa's comments on the future
After almost 2 years away from the ring we finally saw former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa back in action. Higa would win his return, stopping Jason Buenaobra, but sadly comments after the bout leave us confused as to whether he will continue fighting or will leave the sport for good. Given he's only 24 it would be a massive shame if Higa hung them up now, after just 17 fights, and we genuinely hope he can find something to motivate him again. Higa, at Bantamweight, would be at a disadvantage, but given his style and tenacity we'd love to see him making a splash in the division. We really hope he continues in the sport, but if not, we're glad to have seen the destructive little marvel on his way up, and see him walk away with his health intact. It would just be a huge shame for his name to be added to the list of "what could have been".
1-Bektemir Melikuziev Vs Oscar Cortes
We understand late replacements aren't always great but Oscar Cortes was a simply awful late replacement, especially for a fighter like Bektemir Melikuziev. The Mexican was under-sized, under-powered and essentially had lost by the time he had his ring walk. Whilst we can't blame Cortes, who obviously took his pay day, and Melikuziev, who isn't responsible for his original opponent pulling out, we do need to question the California State Athletic Commission, who should have said no. There was no point in this bout, and no one came off looking good.
2-Merlito Sabillo's leg
We've yet to hear any actual confirmation on what, if any, injury Merlito Sabillo suffered but the way his leg bent and buckled as he got knocked down by Sho Kimura suggested something nasty. As did the way he was lying on the canvas. We really hope it is nothing series, but bloody hell did it look nasty, and we wouldn't be surprised, given his age and run of 4 losses, if he ends up in retirement. If he's injured, in the way we believe, it'll likely be 9 months, or longer, until he returns, and he'll around 37 by then
3-GAB's live stream
We started with a free stream, so lets end on a free stream. CBC raised the bar, with a brilliant, professional, well edited, and high quality stream. Just days later the GAB put on a stream that was inconsistent, repeatedly froze, stopped and started, low quality and was just hard to watch, and even harder to enjoy. We know the GAB streams can work and can be wonderful, as they were at the end of the show, but for the most part the show was just terrible. Fingers crossed they get these sorted in the future, as they are a really valuable asset for boxing fans, when they work. We don't expect GAB to hit the professional levels of CBC any time soon, but if they can get a consistent stream going it would be a great starting point!
(Image courtesy of A. McGovern - Top, and Boxmob - Bottom)
As we head towards the new year we've had a big look at the current scene and come up with "20 fights we'd like to see in 2020", yeah another series ahead of the new decade!
As is always the case with what we do, these articles will have an Asian flavour, and every bout we mention in the series will have at least 1 fighter from Asia involved. So for those of you expecting us to talk about Deontay Wilder Vs Anthony Joshua, that won't be listed.
What we'll be looking at is well matched contests with either some form of back story, a great stylistic clash or bouts with some form of significant meaning. If they tick all the boxes then that is even better! Each fight will be given it's own article and each of these will come with an introduction to the fighters, and why the bout is being featured in the list.
Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3) vs Jaime Munguia (35-0, 28)
One thing we don't see enough of in boxing is unbeaten fighters risking their "0's" against each other at a young age. Today we consider a bout where two men, both in their early 20's, clash risking their unbeaten records, in what would be a sure fire humdinger of a bout. Not only would it be a great bout but it would also see the potential winner proving a serious point about their skills and their durability.
In one corner would be destructive Uzbek Bektemir Melikuziev, a former amateur standout who had turned pro and raced away with impressive performances. Unlike many prospect the talk with Melikuziev isn't just talk, but instead the Uzbek is chasing big fights early in the hope of becoming big news quickly. His first two wins both came against veterans at Light Heavyweight but the general view is that his natural weight is Middleweight, and he gradually move down to 160lbs as he gets closer and closer to big fights.
In the other corner we get all action Mexican Jaime Munguia, a former WBO Light Middleweight champion who recently moved to Middleweight. Munguia is known as an all-action fighter, who will throw a lot of leather. He can be out boxed, as we saw against Dennis Hogan, but few will manage to match his out put, and it's that that he relies on to win bouts. With his output and durability being matched against the power and skills of Melikuziev we would expect a very exciting clash of styles, and the win would certainly end up taking shots on route to picking up a victory.
Although lacking in terms of professional experience Melikuziev was a very accomplished amateur and has converted to the professional ranks with ease, looking like a natural. Munguia once looked like the next star of Mexican boxing but a few poor performances have seen fans cool on him quickly, and suggest that he's no longer improving. This would be a chance, on paper, for Melikuziev to score a win over former world champion, and get his name into the mix, or a chance for Munguia to show technical improvements against a former 2-time World Amateur Championship medal winner.
No matter who wins we suspect this would be amazing to watch, and if it's delayed until later in the year in could have big stakes on the line, such as being a potential world title eliminator.
(Image courtesy of Golden Boy Promotions and Olamsports)
As boxing fans we love to complain about the sport, and talk about the negatives. We highlight so much bad that we sometimes forget why we even enjoy the sport. This week however we remembered why we love boxing, and for one of the few times this year we had a week that had a lot more good than bad. It wasn't a flawless week, but it was a great week, both in Asia and internationally, with some great fights, amazing action and brilliant match ups. We had some bout, of course we did, but that bad was easily outweighed by the good.
As a result we've mixed up the format for this week's "The good, the Bad and the Ugly" with extra goods, and fewer negatives...after all 'tis the season to be jolly!
1 - Hironori Mishiro Vs Yoshimitsu Kimura
Seeing bouts exceed expectations is sort of a hope now a days in boxing. We don't often see it though, and more often than not a bout fails to meet the bare minimum that we'd expect. This week the OPBF Super Featherweight title fight between Hironori Mishiro and Yoshimitsu Kimura easily out did anything we'd have expected, with the two men putting on a really competitive, exciting and action packed fight. Their was a lack of drama at times, but it was a fight that was consistently good for 12 rounds and swung one way then the other. This was a captivating and truly enjoyable bout where both fighters came out looking better than they had going in.
2 - Mammoth Nakayama's massive KO against Lerdchai Chaiyawed
On Sunday in Kariya the 20 year old Mammoth Nakayama scored a late contender for KO of the year as he completely cleaned the clock of Thai visitor Lerdchai Chaiyawed. The hard hitting Nakayama had been out of the ring for over a year and was taking on an opponent who had never been stopped, and had taken some good fighters the distance, but was totally laid out by a monster of a left hand. This is as sweet a shot as Nakayama will ever land and boy did it look sensational to see Lerdchai's body instantly turn off.
3 - Yuki Beppu Vs Ryota Yada video released
A week ago Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada battled in a FOTY contender, with 6 knockdowns, power shots from both, excitement through out and serious amounts of heart. Their was a worry that the bout wasn't going to be made available, but in the middle of the week it was finally uploaded to the A-sign boxing youtube channel and, man what a fight!
4 - Yudai Shigeoka shines
We love prospects being fast tracked, and they are rarely put on a trajectory quite like that of Yudai Shigeoka, who beat OPBF champion Lito Dante in just his second professional bout! Whilst this was a 6 round non-title bout it was clear that Shigeoka had the gameplan to beat Dante over a longer distance and it seems very clear that the Watanabe Gym will be pushing their talent youngster into a title bout of some kind in the new year. We love fast tracking, and it's hard not to love the ambition of the Shigeoka brothers.
5 - Bek Bully shows a softer side
After disposing of his first 3 opponents in just 6 rounds Bektemir Melikuziev wasn't expected to show he could box this week, but he did. And by that we mean he completely boxed the socks off the tough Vaughn Alexander, shutting out the American over 10 1-sided rounds that saw him not only land at will but essentially shut down the American, who failed to land more than a handful of shots per round. As mentioned already we love seeing fighters fast tracked and it's clear Melikuziev is being fast tracked. Better than just seeing someone being fast tracked is to see them showing something different to their game, and to see Melikuziev box and move, with the ease he did, was a real positive for his career going forward.
1 - The WBC choose to create another Lightweight title!
It wasn't that long ago that the WBA were alone in creating new titles, but now the WBC have seen the benefit of giving world titles out like they are candy. In the space of just a few months we've gone from having 0 WBC Lightweight champions to having a Franchise champion a Champion in recess and a now vacant title, which will have it's vacancy filled in 2020. We couldn't understand why they made the decision to make Vasyl Lomachneko the Franchise champion or why Devin Haney, who has no legitimate world class win, was given the full version of the title. The WBC should have just made it clear that Haney would get a shot in 2020, either at Lomachenko or the winner of the planned 4-title unification bout. Instead they have made a mess, and it was a mess that never needed to be made.
2 - Michael Conlan Vs Vladimir Nkitin
We're trying to be positive, really we are, but it's hard to take many positives from the 10 round stinker between Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nkitin, round 8 aside. This was just purely dull, unexciting and did little to make us want to watch Conlan again. As a person the 28 year old Irishman is someone we like, he comes across as honest, and a BS type of guy, but in the ring his bouts are tediously dull and unexciting. We understand why this bout was made, and the story behind it, but did next to nothing to make us want to see either man again.
1 - Danny Williams's situation
The world of boxing is a strange one at times, and Saturday night in Germany it got strange, strange turn of events. British Heavyweight veteran Danny Williams had been scheduled to fight in Germany but then pulled out. Unlike most pull outs however it doesn't appear that anyone other than the fighter himself knew he wasn't going to be fighting. Most day of fight pull outs see the fighter make the promoter aware. Williams however got to the ring, dressed in street clothes, and then just flat out told the fans he wasn't going to be fighting. We understand a fighters health being the utmost priority but there are so many issues with this bout that Williams' health needs to be questioned to begin with. Why are promoters still using him? Why didn't Williams let the promoter know that he would be cancelling the bout before he got in the ring? And why the fuck is Danny Williams still fighting?
As we head towards Christmas it appears boxing has decided to give us some earlier gifts, and this past week was full of them, with several brilliant match, great fights and even the delay release of an amazing fight from a week earlier. This was a genuine fantastic week, even if it wasn't a week with high profile Asian action. One of those rare weeks where the less known fighters got their chance to shine, and delivered.
Fighter of the Week
Hiroaki Teshigawa (21-2-2, 14)
The past week had a lot of title fights on the regional and domestic levels. The one man who made it clear that he was well above the level that he was fighting at was Hiroaki Teshigawaa, who destroyed Shohei Kawashima in 5 rounds to retain his OPBF Super Bantamweight title. The talented "Crush Boy" did what neither Cristian Mijares or Juan Miguel Elorde could do, and that was stop Kawashima. After the bout it was clear Teshigawara wanted a world title fight and given he has proven to be above regional level it does make sense for he, and mentor Koichi Wajima, to push for a world title fight in the new year.
Performance of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (4-0, 3)
After going just 6 rounds in his first 3 bouts we had a lot of questions we were wanting to see answered from Uzbek fighter Bektemir Melikuziev. This week he answered them as he took a 10 round shut out win over tough American Vaughn Alexander. The power of Melikuziev wasn't on show as much as usual, but instead we saw him taking a 10 round decision and prove he could go deep in fights, he could box and move, he could fight behind his jab, a cut wasn't a big issue and he wasn't just a 1-trick pony. This was as impressive as we could have hoped from him against someone like Alexander and it's clear that Melikuziev and his team will look to face more interesting tests next year.
Hironori Mishiro Vs Yoshimitsu Kimura
The week had some great action though perhaps the best of it was the 12 round back and forth bout between OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro and Yoshimitsu Kimura. The bout wasn't a fight of the year contender, but it was a fantastic, high level, hotly competitive 12 round back and forth. This was the sort of bout that whilst never the incredible heights of some bouts, was consistently very exciting and never looked like it was getting too sloppy or too slow. It was consistently engaging, and truly competitive. The sort of bout that won't attract new fans to the sport, but will please every one who is already a fan.
Toshiya Ishii Vs Haruki Ishikawa (Round 2)
We've really enjoyed the Japanese Youth title fights, which had typically been really well matched and exciting contests between two young men who come to fight. That was shown again this past week in a 4 round shoot out between Toshiya Ishii and Haruki Ishikawa, who traded blows for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title. The bout was exciting from the off, had 3 knockdowns in 4 rounds and a sensational second round that saw both men being rocked hard. This was 3 minutes of amazing violence, intense action real danger from both men. This was a great round that everyone should check out before the year is over.
Kazunori Nakayama TKO5 Lerdchai Chaiyawed
We originally posted this with no set winner, as when the article was first posted we hadn't managed to see some footage of under-card bouts from across the shows. Only moments afterwards we spotted a twitter post from @takayukimonaco which showed one of the KO's of the year. The bout between Kazunori Nakayama and Thai Lerdchai Chaiyawed ended in truly brutal fashion as a single right hand from Nakayama knocked the Thai clean out. The referee could have counted to 50, instead of instantly waving it off, and there was still no way Lerdchai was getting up.
We also want to give a mention to Toshiya Ishii's TKO finish against Haruki Ishikawa. The shot, a counter right hand, completely scrambled Ishikawa's senses an sent him stumbling forward before falling over one of the middle ropes. Given a 10 count we suspect Ishikawa would have "beaten the count" but wouldn't have been deemed fit to continue. A brilliant finish, even if it wasn't lights out.
Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
Whilst Bektemir Melikuziev was incredibly impressive the reality is that he isn't really a prospect, he's already a contender in our eyes and his recent title win has already seen him claim a regional title and potentially a world ranking. Instead our prospect for the week was Yudai Shigeoka, who out boxed, out sped and out thought OPBF Minimumweight champion Lito Dante over 6 rounds. The bout may end up with Shigeoka taking a world ranking, given that Dante was world ranked himself, but with this only being a 6 rounder there's a chance he'll miss out. What is clear is that this young man is a sensational boxer and he is someone worth getting behind, as he is going to be raced to a title very, very soon.
Apichet Petchmanee (5-0, 2) vs Ari Agustian (8-0, 8)
This coming week is an interesting one with a number of shows, though very few 50-50 match ups. One of the few even looking contests, other than the Rookie of the Year show, is an excellent looking encounter between unbeaten Thai Apichet Petchmanee and Indonesian puncher Ari Agustian. We've not been impressed by Apichet this year, and tipping him highly in 2018, whilst Agustian has failed to build on his 2018 win over Baolin Kang. This could be very entertaining and tell us a lot about what both men are capable of. One of the rare bouts in Thailand that has us genuinely excited.
From a personal perspective the last week has been an incredibly long one, though from a boxing perspective it's been a packed one with notable fights taking place right through the week. Whilst not every fight was great there was certainly a lot to take in over the last 7 days, and we had some glittering performances by youngsters looking to make a mark for themselves.
Fighter of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (2-0, 2)
The biggest standout for the week was Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev who fought his second professional bout and destroyed Adrian Luna Flores inside a round, thanks to some brutal body shots. Like many of the tops Uzbek amateurs turning professional he seems to have skipped the early section of a typical professional career and has already taken out a couple of notable opponents to make a statement. The plan seems to be for him to move down in weight to Middleweight, but given the power and technical ability he has already shown there may be a case for him to not drain himself at all and instead just make a run at 175lbs. After just 2 fights he's already gained a reputation as a brutal body puncher and looks like a scary fighter.
Performance of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (2-0, 2)
Taking out a notable name like Luna Flores in just his second bout left it hard to select anyone else for our performance of the week. The hard hitting Uzbek blew out a solid Mexican inside a round, a Mexican who had gone the distance with the likes of Ryota Murata. We do wonder whether the notice and weight played a part in Luna Flores being taken out so quickly, but regardless this was still incredibly impressive.
Giovanni Escaner vs Renoel Pael
Whilst we had a lot of action this past week there wasn't actually a lot that was competitive, with many bouts ending up more one-sided than expected. One of the few contests that was truly competitive over 12 rounds was the GAB Bantamweight title fight between Giovanni Escaner and Renoel Pael. Given the styles of the two men it was clear this was going to be a gruelling war and the bout lived up to that expectation with a lot of back and forth, great exchanges of body shots and a real desire to win from both men. The bout won't go down as a classic at the end of the year, but that doesn't take away from how brutal and entertaining this was. Really a fantastic fight.
Ryu Horikawa vs Yuki Nakajima (Rd 6)
With his unbeaten record slipping away Yuki Nakajima moved through the gears and looked to put the pressure on RyuHorikawa in the final round of their 6 rounder. The result of that pressure from Nakajima was a brilliant round with Horikawa being forced to move, respond, mix it up and and give up some great exchanges. Despite some slips from an over-committed Nakajima this wasn't sloppy but was an exciting round of action and really thrilling stuff at a very high level. Not a war, but a high level, super fast boxing showcase. Great stuff.
Bektemir Melikuziev KO1 Ricardo Adrian Luna Flores
We're back to Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev and his excellent win over Ricardo Adrian Luna Flores. The finish wasn't the most gorgeous we'll see but it left Flores in agony on the canvas thanks to a truly brutal body shot. Luna Flores had been dropped earlier in the rounds, and had been softened up by repeated body shots, but that doesn't take away from just how brutally savage the finish shot was.
Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1)
Our view is that Bektemir Melikuziev has already progressed beyond being a typical prospect and is now more of a fringe contender, despite only being a professional for a matter of months. With that in mind we had to look elsewhere for a prospect and it was hard to ignore 18 year old Toshiya Ishii, who booked a place in a Japanese youth title fight thanks to a win over Fumiya Fuse. The youngster really did look like a special talent against a man we regard highly. Ishii isn't the complete package, yet, but he is a really wonderful young talent and we would be hugely surprised if titles aren't in his future.
Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19) vs Komgrich Nantapech (25-5, 16)
This coming Saturday is set to be a hectic day with shows all over Asia, but the best of the bunch looks like it will be an IBF world title eliminator at Flyweight, between Filipino Giemel Magramo and Thai Komgrich Nantapech, aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking. On paper this has the hall marks of a FOTY contender. The two men have styles that should gel, both are aggressive, tough and exciting.We're expecting the fighters to meet center ring and engage in a thrilling all action war!
August seems to have been a very long month. It's hard some highlights, and some huge weekends, but has also had some stretches without fights. At the top level we've struggled to see fighters really shine, but there has been a lot happening below world level which really has been worth talking about.
Fighter of the Month
For the second time this year Kosei Tanaka has taken our Fighter of the Month award, though this was more down to the fact few others at world level shone. We had a number of world title fights, but in reality Johnriel Casimero toyed with his foe, Knockout CP Freshmart struggled against a relative unknown and Vic Saludar lost a clear decision in Puerto Rico. Tanaka on the other hand struggled against a former amateur standout but pulled out the win when a long way behind on the cards. It was a flawed performance but one that resulted in fantastic ending for the WBO Flyweight champion.
Fight of the Month
Hiroaki Teshigawara vs Shohei Omori
The best fights for the month really came at Oriental level, with arguably the best of them being a 12 round tactical war between OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara and Shohei Omori. The bout wasn't an all action battle but was a brilliantly engaging fight with skills, excitement, exchanges and to much great back and forth. A fantastic fight well worth watching, even if it's not a Fight of the Year contender.
KO of the Month
Jayr Raquinel TKO Takuya Kogawa
Another OPBF title fight picks up another of our awards. This time it's Filipino Jayr Raquinel's KO win over Takuya Kogawa, to retain the OPBF Flyweight title, which was truly brutal and scary in combined measure. The shot that sent the tough Kogawa down was as clean a whistle and left Kogawa's team rushing to his aid before he was removed from the ring on a stretcher. Thankfully he's fine, but their was some genuinely scary moments here.
Notable mention - Xiao Tao Su Vs Shota Yukawa
There was some great performances by prospects this month, though the one that stood out to us was the excellent performance by Ryota Yamauchi, who narrowly defeated the world ranked Alphoe Dagayloan in a thrilling 8 round battle. Not a lot separated the two fighters, but what both showed was incredible and when, or if, Kadoebi put the bout on youtube we suggest everyone watches this thrilling battle.
Notable mentions - Kento Hatanaka, Bektemir Melikuziev
Abdallah Paziwapazi TKO3 Zulipikaer Maimaitiali
In Asia this month there's not been many notable upsets, a few minor surprises but little in terms of real upsets. That was until very close to the end of the month when Tanzania's Abdallah Paziwapazi shocked us all and defeated Zulipikaer Maimaitiali to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title. The local was expected to take an easy win here but was instead stopped in 3 rounds in what is one of the biggest surprises to take place in a Chinese ring this year.
Shuhei Hamano vs Nobuo Maruoka (Rd1)
We finish this with out round of the month and it's an obscure one, but a thrilling one as Shuhei Hamano and Nobuo Maruoka engaged in a phone booth war, with an incredible intensity, high work rate and, for the most part, none stop action. This was crude, low level, but thrilling action.
We've sadly had another very quiet week in the realm of Asian boxing, meaning that, once again, our awards aren't littered with big name winners and outstanding rounds. We have had a few notable performances, though many of those won't even be aired until next week, with the real talking piint being the latest Uzbek amateur star to turn professional
Fighter of the Week
Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Mid-week fights can often be over-looked and that was likely the case this past week, with a couple of Japanese cards in the middle of the week. It was on one of those shows that Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka made his first defense, avenging a prior loss to Naoya Haruguchi in the process. The under-rated Tanaka is rumoured to be next in line for Wanheng Menayothin and, in all honesty, he would make for a compelling for the unbeaten Thai world champion., especially given the run he's on and performances like the one this week.
Performance of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (1-0, 1)
Former Uzbek amateur star Bektemir Melikuziev made his debut, and although it was only a short one, lasting 99 seconds, it was easily the best performance by an Asian fighter this week. He took on Argentinian veteran Martin Fidel Rios and almost gutted him with a brutal body shot. Although big things were expected of Melikuziev we really didn't expect him to take Rios out this quickly! Very impressive.
Kyonosuke Kameda vs Ryugo Ushijima
We didn't see a fight of the year contender this past week, but did see some interesting action, and for us the most interesting was between Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of Koki Daiki and Tomoki, and Ryugo Ushijima in a qualifier for the Rookie of the Year. This was hotly contested, highly competitive and really good from a fans perspective. Yes, this wasn't an all out war, but was a genuinely fantastic 4 round bout.
No round, that we saw, stood out this week. It's a shame that there was so little actually visible though, with various shows not being available to watch at the time of writing.
Bektemir Melikuziev KO1 Martin Fidel Rios
It may have been a body shot, m but what a body shot it was! Bektemir Melikuziev showed straight out of the box that he knew how to find the body and how land a fight ending blow to the body, with what was an amazing shot to the mid-section to take Rios out.
Ryu Horikawa (1-0, 1)
Japanese teenager Ryu Horikawa, who turned professional with a fair bit of buzz, may not have had a flawless debut but he looked exciting and fought with a really aggressive style. There's a lot of defensive flaws for him to work on, but he still impressed and looks like the sort of fighter who we could easily see getting big fights after just a couple of years on the domestic scene, make a note of this young man's name.
Whilst Bektemir Melikuziev did look more impressive it's hard to consider hima prospect given he's just beaten a man regarded as a gate keeper, and it's obvious that Melikuziev will be looking to skip the prospect stage of his career.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) vs Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5)
We have some great fights coming up, with the pick of them being the WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, aka Tanawat Nakoon. It's always great to see unbeaten fighters clash at world level, and we're expecting to see something very exciting.
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