This coming December is absolutely insane with notable fights taking place almost daily. As has become traditional Japan has a packed scheduled for the month, but this time around it's not just Japan delivering the action in the final month of the year, in what is really a massive month all around the globe!
Koki Inoue (14-0, 11) Vs Jheritz Chavez (9-3-2, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
The first notable show of the month will see unbeaten Japanese national champion Koki Inoue look to add the WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight title to his collection as he takes on Filipino foe Jheritz Chavez, This should be a really interesting match up between two men who have power and can both take a show. Inoue should be favoured, as the unbeaten local is a real talent, but Chavez will not be there to just make up the numbers, and the Filipino has proven himself to be a dangerous fighter, having come close to beating Rikki Naito. This could end up being much, much tougher for Inoue than many expect.
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) vs Miguel Gonzalez (31-2, 8) - Puebla, Mexico
On a packer Saturday we'll see a lot going on. Among the most notable bouts, for us at least, we'll see IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas take on Chilean challenger Miguel Gonzalez, in what looks like a good bout on paper. Sadly we suspect the paper lies here and can't see anything other than an Ancajas win. The Filipino world champion should be too quick, too sharp and too powerful for the game, but light hitting and limited, Gonzalez who has come up short the two times he has mixed at close to world class. One thing worth noting is that Ancajas was supposed to fight a few weeks earlier, before having that bout cancelled, and may well look lacklustre as a result of having a change of opponent. Even with that in mind we still see this as being an easy win for the "Pretty Boy"
Marlon Tapales (33-2, 16) vs Ryosuke Iwasa (26-3, 16) - New York, USA
A second major IBF bout on December 7th will see former world champions collide for the IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight title. In one corner is the criminally under-rated Marlon Tapales, who is a former WBO Bantamweight and has proven himself as a hard hitting road warrior who is much more dangerous than his record suggests. Tapales will be up against former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa, who is the naturally bigger man, but very much a fighter who blows hot and cold. This is a hard one to call, though we are leaning to Tapales, and is a wonderful bout mixing fighters with different styles that should gel, and heavy hands. A potential hidden gem for the month, despite the "interim" title.
Joe Noynay (18-2-1, 7) vs Kenichi Ogawa (24-1, 18) - Tokyo, Japan
In 2019 Filipino fighter Joe Noynay has has impressed. He travelled to Japan and stopped Kosuke Saka to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title and then returned to stop Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu. Noynay looks to make it 3-0 against Japanese fighters this year as he takes on Kenichi Ogawa in a really, really, good looking bout. Ogawa is attempting to move towards a second world title bout, but will need to over-come the in form Noynay, which is tough for anyone. There's a lot on the line here, and the winner will be in the world title mix in 2020, whilst the loser will have some genuine rebuilding to do in the new year. This bout is very much high risk, high reward, for both men.
Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) vs Kosuke Saka (19-5, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
A second title bout at 130lbs, on the same show in Tokyo in fact, will see Japanese national champion Masaru Sueyoshi defending his title against Kosuke Saka, who looks to bounce back from his loss to Joe Noynay. For Sueyoshi this bout will mark his 5th defense of the title as he continues to edge closer and closer to a bout for some form of international or world title. The talented, though often frustrating, Sueyoshi is a tricky man to beat, though we do have questions over his chin. Hopefully Saka will manage to test Sueyoshi's whiskers though we suspect that the boxing brain and unique rhythm of the champion will be too much for the naturally smaller Saka to deal with here.
Sadriddin Akhmedov (10-0, 9) vs Jose Antonio Villalobos (12-5-2, 7)
Hard hitting Kazakh youngster Sadriddin Akhmedov looks like he has got superstar potential, with an exciting style, a great look, and the ability to box or bang. He is as a good a prospect as Kazakhstan has right now and his promoters in Canada seem to know they have a special talent on their hands. Despite Akhmedov being a special talent Eye of the Tiger Management aren't rushing him, and here he gets another fight to develop his experience and talent, as he goes up against tough Argentinian fighter Jose Antonio Villalobos, who has only been stopped once. This should be another win for Akhmedov, who already has 4 wins this year, but we're glad he's being kept active and getting experience at such a young age. Bigger fights will come for the 21 year old, and this is just the next step to those bigger bouts.
Musashi Mori (10-0, 6) vs Takuya Mizuno (17-1-1, 14) - Osaka, Japan
Unbeaten Japanese youngster Musashi Mori has been tipped as one to watch for a while by those in the know in Japan and the currently WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion is certainly an excellent prospect, with a lot of potential. Here we'll see him risking his title and unbeaten record against the heavy handed Takuya Mizuno in a very interesting test. Mori once looked like a bit of raw talent, but has been getting nurtured this year and has been taken under the win of Ismael Salas, who is expected to to help round off the rough edges that Mori has, and calm his offensive mentality. That'll be a big ask, but if Salas can get Mori to buy into the philosophy he can go a very long way. Mizuno is technically quite crude, but with heavy hands he tends to be able to punch his way to victory, and if he catches Mori the youngster could be in trouble. We suspect Mori should have the scales to win, but this is no walk in the park for the youngster.
Takayuki Okumoto (23-8-4, 11) Vs Kenta Nakagawa (17-3-1, 12) - Osaka, Japan
Takayuki Okumoto looks to make his next defense of the Japanese Super Flyweight title as he takes on former champion Kenta Nakagawa in what looks like a decent match up. Okumoto has been in great form over the last few years in terms of results, but looks to be very much a transitional champion, who is rather lucky the division is a weak one in Japan right now. Nakagawa held the title for 5 months in late 2016 and early 2017, but lost in his first defense and hasn't really impressed since then. Nakagawa has the skills to test Okumoto, but we suspect the champion will retain again here.
Yuki Beppu (20-1-1, 19) Vs Ryota Yada (19-5, 16) -Osaka, Japan
We'll see a potential shoot out at Welterweight as former Rookie of the Year Yuki Beppu faces former Japanese champion Ryota Yada for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. Both of these men can bang, both are aggressive and both believe in their power. Of the two Yada is the more proven, but he's also been stopped multiple times, whilst Beppu has shown a gritty toughness that could help here in what could be one of the most exciting bouts of the month. We don't expect this one to go the distance, and instead we expect fireworks, a lot of fireworks! If you're watching this one, don't blink!
Toshiki Shimomachi (10-1-2, 6) vs TBA -Osaka, Japan
The once beaten Toshiki Shimomachi is pencilled in to make his first defense of the JBC Youth Super Bantamweight title. At the moment no opponent has been named, sadly, We suspect an opponent was in mind but that bout has failed to materialise and Shimomachi has been left opponent-less. There is a chance his team will secure a decent opponent in the coming days but it is looking less and less likely as the days go by. As for Shimomachi he's a very talented, having won Rookie of the Year in 2018 and the Japanese Youth title earlier this year.
Thanongsak Simsri (12-0, 11) vs Christian Bacolod (12-0, 9) - Osaka, Japan
One of the most interesting match ups for the month comes quite low down the profile scale, but features two unbeaten young hopefuls in what could be a truly compelling match up. In one corner is Thai punch Thanongsak Simsri, who has already been compared to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, whilst the other corner plays home for world ranked Filipino Christian Bacolod. On paper this looks excellent, and despite being quite far down the card, and lacking any immediate title honours, we suspect this could be a bit of a thriller.
Having gone through the champions and contenders at Light Flyweight our final look at the fighters comes from the prospects in the division. There isn't a huge amount of “name value” here, but for the long term success of the division these are among the guys that really should have fans keep an eye one. They might be 2 or 3 fights from a world title fight, or might be much further away, but these are some of the fighters who are likely to make a mark on the division in the near future.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
If you missed past 2 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 2 - The Contenders
Masataka Taniguchi (10-2, 7)
One of the few prospects of note with a loss against his name is Masataka Taniguchi, a 24 year old fighter from the Watanabe gym. As an amateur Taniguchi was a top domestic talent, the captain of his university and someone marked for professional success. As a professional he has been ultra busy, fighting 12 times in 24 months, and has been matched hard already.
The thing that stands out, on paper, about Taniguchi is his two defeats. They have however been to Reiya Konishi and Tsubasa Koura in title fights at Minimumweight, and both were razor thin majority losses. In both of those defeats Taniguchi showed that he was class, with all the skills needed to go all the way. We'd keep him in mind when talking about the best prospects in boxing, never mind the best at 108lbs.
At the moment it's unclear when he will be back in the ring but we are expecting him to fight in May and he will likely find himself in a title fight before the end of 2018.
Abraham Rodriguez (22-0, 11)
Unbeaten 23 year old Abraham Rodriguez is finely balanced between being a prospect and a contender, and with 22 bouts under his belt he is already racking up the experience to be ready for a title fight. Amazingly, given his age, he has already been a professional for over 5 years and in recent bouts has been stepping up.
Rodriguez's record isn't just impressive in terms of numbers but there is also some substance there, with wins over Saul Jaurez, Mauricio Fuentes and and Jose Alonso Nunez Lopez. Sadly removing those names does leave his record looking thin for a fighter with around 20 wins, but for a 23 year old that's a trio of solid wins and he is looking like a fighter who will push his team to give him more and more tests.
After fitting in 3 fights last year Rodriguez has been quiet thus far in 2018, and really hasn't built on a December win over Saul Juarez. Hopefully he'll be back in action shortly and hopefully will be able to get another good win to begin the year.
Christian Araneta (15-0, 13)
Filipino puncher Christian Araneta is a brutal 23 year old from Cebu who has looked fantastic on the domestic scene and already looks like he could be mixing at a higher level. He has been a professional since September 2013 and has already claimed the PBF and WBO Oriental Light Flyweight titles. Not only has he claimed titles but he has also scored several wins of note, including a very big one over Jessie Espinas.
With his power Araneta looks like the next great puncher in the division, a division that already boasts punchers like Jonathan Taconing, Felix Alvarado, Angel Acosta and Carlos Canizales, and with his youth there is a lot of time to develop the skills to match his power.
Araneta fought earlier this month, stopping Ian Ligutan in 2 rounds, and given the quick nature of that blow out he will likely be back in action in the summer and may well fit 3 more fights in this year, making up for a frustrating 2017 in which he just once.
Rene Mark Cuarto (15-1-1, 9)
Another man with a loss on his record, but can't be over-looked, is 21 year old Pinoy hopeful Rene Mark Cuarto. The youngster suffered an earlier career set back to Jerald Paclar, though has since avenged the loss and has now beaten every fighter he has faced. Not only that but he is riding a 6 fight winning run and has managed to pick up a win on foreign soil, winning in China last year. Just as impressive is his activity, which saw him fight 5 times last year.
Although rising through the ranks Cuarto is still lacking a win of note, even on the domestic scene. Whilst that can certainly be held against him he is, as mentioned, only 21 years old and is likely to get that notable win in the near future. In fact it could well come later this year, if his team can afford to get him a good enough foe.
Given that Cuarto fought 5 times last year we are expecting him to be busy this year. So far he has fought just once, scoring a 3rd round KO over the highly experienced Rodel Tejares back in March, though we expect him back out in the ring in the Summer before potentially getting a notable opponent in the fall, if not the winter.
Vince Paras (13-0, 11)
Another Filipino puncher is Vince Paras, a teenager who is really getting fans excited. Aged just 19 the belief is that Paras is something something, and that belief has been there for a while with his handlers debuting the youngster at just 16 years old! Of course he was matched very easily early on but has been progressed well, and and last year he scored an excellent domestic win over Jimboy Haya for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Light Flyweight title. That win over Haya showed that Paras could go 10 rounds and he looks like his potential is huge.
Although really promising Paras was dropped last time out, though did recover. He might be lacking in the toughness department though that's one of a number of questions that could make following Para really exciting, though the big question is how long he will remain at 108lbs.
Haya hasn't fought yet this year, though we suspect that he will be back in the ring in the Summer, potential moving towards a national title fight. There is however no need to race him, and he can have time to develop, even if he does mature into a Super Flyweight or Bantamweight.
Christian Bacolod (8-0, 6)
It really does seem like thee is a Filipino take over at 108lbs, and Christian Bacolod is yet another young Filipino rising through the division. At 23 he's older than some of the other's but has already began to come close in terms of achievements. His career only consists of 8 bouts but already features good domestic wins over Marlou Sandoval, Mike Kinaadman and Ryan Makiputin.
Bacolod was relatively inactive last year, fighting only twice, and he's not fought so far this year. At his age he can get away with some inactivity but won't want to waste too much time, especially given how many other good Filipino's are in his weight class. If he only fights twice this year there is a good chance he will get left behind.
In the ring Bacolod is a little rough around the edges but with his age there is time to smooth those edges off and add to what is a promising fighter with naturally heavy hands and some lovely combination punching. It's also worth noting that he has fought in front of the big lights on a ALA card and won't be worried about fighting on TV in the future.
Dave Apolinario (6-0, 4)
A final Filipino of note here is another 19 year old in the form of Dave Apolinario. The “Amazing” southpaw made his debut last June with an opening round TKO and has been managed well so far, with 6 fights in 10 months. Not only has he been busy but he has been stepped up and was last out in an 8 rounder, proving he had stamina to go with his power and skills. With that in mind it may be long until he's fighting in 10 rounders and even title bouts.
Apolinario has looked sensational so far and has shown glimpses of his amateur pedigree, skills that have allowed him and his team to be so aggressive with his development. That is likely to continue, and perhaps even step up a level as he continues to mature and physically develop.
Apolinario has already fought twice this year and will likely continue to be busy through the rest of 2018. We don't see him fighting for titles this year, but he will almost certainly break into the OPBF rankings before the year is over. A title fight at that level will be too much for him, for now, but in the next 24 months or so he should be looking Oriental titles.
Kai Ishizawa (4-0, 4)
Japanese youngster Kai Ishizawa is an over-looked 21 year old puncher who debuted last June but already looks like a sensation in the making. He debuted, like many Japanese prospects, against a Thai novice and looked great on debut. In his second bout he destroyed a domestic opponent before another Thai foe. Those first 3 opponents lasted just 5 rounds with Ishizawa. In his most recent bout Ishizawa stepped up and stopped Tatsuro Nakashima in an outstanding performance to further solidify his standing as one of Japan's most over-looked prospects.
Having already shown good power, a good boxing brain and a stiff hard jab Ishizawa is already showing the tools needed to go a very long way. His team have matched him hard already, with two good domestic opponents already on his record, and a good 42 fight amateur career behind him. There work to be done, but he really does look like he could be a diamond in the rough.
Ishizawa is expected to return later in the year in a Japanese Youth title fight. That will be a chance for him to prove himself, claim a title and begin to show he belongs to be fighting at title level. If he wins that belt we expect to see him bang on the door of a Japanese ranking soon afterwards.
Lu Bin (1-0, 1)
The division's wild card in some ways is Chinese sensation Lu Bin. The 23 year old from Jinan is an amateur stand out, who like very few other fighters seems to be a fighter who has made his professional debut, but is also fighting as an amateur. His amateur career seems to be standing in the way of his professional development, which is a huge shame as Bin has the ability to become the star that Chinese boxing want Zou Shiming to be. The novice professional is a true talent with speed, power, skills, defense and a really high ring IQ. Not only that but he already has a world ranking, a regional title and the skills to make an immediate impact on the professional scene.
If Bin can commit to being a professional fighter he can almost choose his rate of progress. He has the tools to be something very special, but a question can be asked of his desire and hunger.
Bin recently won the Chinese National Amateur crown, no big surprise given his pedigree, but the decision to chase professional glory doesn't seem like one he's in a rush to make. His debut professional bout looks like it's going to be an anomaly for now, and it could be a while until he's unleashed on the professional ranks again. Sadly.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Boxing Gym, Boxrec and Boxmob.jp)
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