October ends in a flurry of big bouts as we see a Japanese title fight, two world title bouts, and several other bouts worthy of attention. This is a great couple of weeks to close out the month and move into winter with the sport having some genuine momentum and plenty of reasons to get excited as we head closer and closer to Christmas!
Asakusa Park Gymnasium, Japan
Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) Vs Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6)
The first bout of note for this part of the month is a Japanese Flyweight title fight, which will see Seigo Yuri Akui look to make his first defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita. The heavy handed Akui is one of the most fun to Flyweights to watch, and he tends to either blow opponents away in the opening round, or struggle. Given that Fujikita has never been stopped before we're expecting this to be a genuinely tough first defense for the champion, who is certainly not unbeatable, despite being very destructive.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4) Vs Musashi Yoshino (9-5, 3)
We head back to Tokyo for action on October 19th for the next test in the career of the talented Ryusei Kawaura. The unbeaten Kawaura is regarded as a top prospect, who's just a win or two away from a Japanese or regional title fight. Here he goes up against domestic foe Musashi Yoshino in what should be little more than a tune up bout for Kawaura. The hope was that Kawaura would get a title fight this year, but instead it seems like he'll have to wait until 2021 to get his first shot at a belt.
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9) Vs Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12)
On October 24th attention turns to the US for an IBF "interim" Welterweight title bout between unbeaten Uzbek skillter Kudratillo Abdukakhorov and hard hitting Kazakh born Russian Sergey Lipinets. The two men were supposed to fight earlier in the year before various issues forced the bout to be delayed, and delayed again. These aren't two of the top name Welterweights, but they are pat of the chasing group and they should make for a very interesting clash of styles. We suspect Lipinets will be the favourites, but Abdukakhorov shouldn't be written off here, in a very, very interesting match up.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (TBS - Tape Delay)
Daigo Higa (16-1, 16) Vs Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-1, 4)
Former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa will be seeking his second win since losing the world title in to Cristofer Rosales in 2018, as he takes on the unbeaten Seiya Tstusumi. The exciting Higa will be up against a man who scored two wins over him as an amateur, and will be looking to move his own career forward massively. For Higa this is a must win if he's to move towards a second world title whilst Tsutusmi will know a win will put him on the verge of becoming a star.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Shu Utsuki (6-0, 5) Vs Takayuki Sakai (9-2-2, 6)
On October 30th we'll see another unbeaten man looking to push his career forward as the talented Shu Utsuki takes on Takayuki Sakai. The hard hitting Utsuki is probably only two or three wins away from a title fight of some kind, and he'll see Sakai as the next obstacle on route to a title fight. As for Sakai a win would be a huge upset, but would be massive for his career. Given the styles of the two men, and their power, we expect this one to be a very exciting contest.
The Bubble, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) Vs Jason Moloney (21-1, 18)
The month ends with a big one as WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue defends his titles against once beaten Australian Jason Moloney. This will be Inoue's first bout since his 2019 war with Nonito Donaire, and whilst it's not the bout we all wanted, which was Inoue Vs John Riel Casimero in a triple title unification, it's certainly not a bad replacement fight. Moloney might not be a big star but he's a very capable fighter and he should serve as a good test for what will be Inoue's Las Vegas debut. Moloney can fight, box and punch, and should ask questions of the "Monster" but it's hard to imagine him scoring the upset here against the Japanese pound for pound star.
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)
Whilst February certainly didn't start quickly it does get going in the second half of the month with a flurry of fights taking place with Asian fighters involved.
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) Vs Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) -
In the headline bout of a Dimond Glove card in Tokyo we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino defending his title again mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka in the second of this year's Champion carnival bouts. For Yoshino this is expected to be a test of his technical boxing skills, as Tomioka is a genuinely talented boxer-mover. On the other hand Tomioka is taking on, arguably, his toughest opponent to date and did come up short in his last bout at this type of level.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
After almost 2 years away from the ring former world champion Daigo Higa returns, and takes on rugged Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra. This should be a win for Higa, but we expect him to be very emotional, and he is going up against someone who has never been stopped before, so he will have to work hard for the win. It's also worth noting that Buenaobra is the naturally bigger man and will not be there looking to just make up the numbers.
Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) Vs Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11)
Filipino Froilan Saludar returns to Japan to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, as he battles hard hitting, but technically limited, Japanese challenger Ryuji Fukunaga. On paper this looks like it could be very explosive, and we wouldn't be surprised at all with the bout ending early. Fukunaga hasn't been able to show his power when he has faced his toughest opponents, and Saludar is certainly among the best opponents that he has faced.
Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) Vs Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2)
In a mouth watering clash of young prospects we'll see Yuki Nakajima take on Shisui Kawabata. On paper this doesn't look like one that will get fans outside of Japan too excited, but given the skills of the two men we are really excited by this one. Nakajima, the younger brother of Kazuki Nakajima, is a former amateur standout and made a real mark on the domestic amateur scene whilst Kawabata has been used as a sparring partner by Naoya, showing the quality that he has shared the ring with. We expect this to be very, very good.
Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4) Vs MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4)
World ranked Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi looks to build on August's win over Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly Yamauchi's win over Dagayloan cost him a Japanese title eliminator, due to the injuries he suffered in that bout, and he'll be lookign to make up for it in 2020. MJ Bo, from the Philippines was stopped last time he fought in Japan, by Yuta Nakayama, but is a capable opponent and should ask questions of Yamauchi.
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
Mexican fighter Emanuel Navarrete looks to make his fifth defense of the WBO Super Bantamweight title as he takes on Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima. The bout is expected to be a mismatch by many, especially given Navarrete's run since winning the title in late 2018. The champion is seen a real monster in the Super Bantamweight division and will come into the bout full of confidence. Although the 23 Santisima isn't well known outside of the Philippines he is riding a 17 fight winning run and has stopped 15 of those, so he certainly enters with a punchers chance, if nothing else.
Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) Vs Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Unbeaten Japanese-Afghan fighter Kudura Kaneko looks to extend his perfect record as he goes up against the talented Riku Nagahama in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title. Although neither of these two are well known outside of Japan the bout is a significant one and the winner will see their hopes of landing a big international fight given a huge shot in the arm. Of the two Nagahama has faced better competition, but has lost in his 2 most notable bouts, whilst Kaneko looks to be a fighter on the rise. A very interesting clash.
Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) Vs Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5)
Potentially the hidden gem for the month is a clash between Jae Woo Lee and Shingo Kusano, who clash in one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. The little known Lee made fans sit up and take note last November, when he stopped Tsuyoshi Tameda in a thrilling little war. Shingo Kusano also thrilled when he fought on the same November card, pulling himself off the canvas and battling back through some real scares against Qiang Ma. Expect this one to be exciting, and not to go the distance.
Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6)
The other Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi final bout will see Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic battle Japanese foe Daisuke Watanabe. This has the potential to be very exciting, or a total mess. Both guys like to let their hands go but with 6 technical decisions between them there's a real risk of headbutts derailing the fight. Fingers crossed the heads don't come in to contact too often and we instead get a bit of a thriller!
It's fair to say that 2020 has been an odd year so far, with a very stop-start feel to the boxing we've had. Things, of course, haven't been helped by shows being cancelled due to Coronavirus in Asia, but this week was just an odd, odd one. There was fights, but mostly at a low level. The top Asian fighters in action failed to pick up the wins we;d hoped for and the best of the action really came on some obscure cards. With that in mind lets have a look at this weeks award winners
Fighter of the Week
Shuma Nakazato (10-1-2, 7)
Given our criteria of fighter of the week this week was a really weird one. The criteria is the fighter who scored the best win from the week, not the best performance, which comes under the "Performance of the Week" which can account for losses. As a result we really had to look outside the box, given there was so few wins of note by Asian fighters in what was a truly odd week. In the end it seemed hard to argue that Shuma Nakazato's win over Yuji Awata was the best, and most significant. The win came on the first sole-promoted by former world title challenger Shigeru Nakazato, and gave the promoter the result they needed for the show to be a success.
Sadly this week may well end up with us reviewing how we do fighter of the week going forward, though this week was an odd one in general, and this could be an anomaly rather than anything else.
Performance of the Week
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9)
It really was an odd week for Asian boxers, with no one getting a truly big win, in fact the two biggest fights involving Asian fighters both ended in a loss. It was however hard not to be pretty impressed with how Tugstsogt Nyambayar ended up acquitting himself in his loss to Gary Russell Jr. The Mongolian started slowly, but warmed to the task well and proved that he certainly deserves to remain in the world title picture, despite a loss to the talented and speedy American. Don't be surprised to see Nyambayar's loss serve as a learning experience, and the way he picked up the pace in the final 8 rounds showed what he could do. A mixed performance, sure, but also one which showed a lot to get excited about.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar vs Gary Russell Jr
In a fight that had high level skills and was a genuine chess match Tugstsogt Nyambayar and Gary Russell Jr gave us something that was both compelling, exciting, and technical. There was no real debating the winner, with Russell Jr banking the early rounds for the win against Nyambayar's slow start, but this was still a fantastic bout, and something that is well worthy of a watch. It's not going to be a fight of the year contender, but don't let that take away from what was a genuinely solid 12 round, world level bout between two men who are both legitimate top fighters at 126lbs.
Ryosuke Maruta vs Kazunari Kosaka (Rd1)
We'll admit we tend to skip the 4 round Dangan cards, but on a week lacking in action like this the show was certainly worthy of some interest, and it provided some really great action. The best of it, for us, was the opening round of Ryosuke Maruta's bout with Kazunari Kosaka, who really went all out, swinging bombs in a thrilling action packed 3 minutes of chaos. For those wanting technically perfect boxing, counter punching and smart defense do not look at this round, but for those who wild and heavy offense this is for your. This is just great and thrilling wild, crude fun.
Andy Atsushi v Yuta Hasegawa (Rd 2)
Naoya Mitsuhashi TKO2 Harunobu Yamasaki
We stick with the 4 round Dangan cards for the KO of the week, as Naoya Mitsuhashi cleaned out Harunobu Yamasaki in brutal fashion in the second round of their bout. This is one you'll need to hunt down to find, and be a Boxing Raise subscriber to see, but it's worth it as a single clean right hand to the temple sent the 37 year old Yamasaki crashing to his knees, then flat out on his back. This is not what we expected from Mitsuhashi, who was fighting for just the second time, but we'll be keeping an eye on him after this fantastic KO
Narimichi Miura TKO1 Yota Matsui
Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov (1-0, 1)
Talented Uzbke fighter Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov kicked off his career with an expected easy win over Benjie Ebido in the Philippines. Despite stopping Ebido inside the opening round there was a lot to like about Sharakhmatov's performance, and he is certainly one to watch going forward. Make a mental note of his name as he is going to make a big splash in the years to come and should be on people's radar's now. He intelligently pressed Ebido and broke him down mentally and physically in very quick fashion. A real talent with a nice, easy introduction to the professional ranks.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
Although our upcoming bout selection is usually the bout we expect to be the most exciting of the coming week this week's is a little bit different however as the bout we are most looking forward to is a bit of a mismatch. Despite it being a mismatch it's one we're excited about because it's the long awaited return of former world champion Daigo Higa after almost 2 years out of the ring. We expect Higa to beat Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra, without too many problems, however the key here is that the Higa express is back on the line after such a long break from the ring!
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.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (53-1, 38)
When we think about exciting action fights there are some combinations of styles that just make for amazing fights. Having two aggressive, come forward guys, who can take a shot and believe in their aggression, facing off tend to lead to amazing fights. Bouts that see two fighters try to out man each other, out fight each other, and out battle each other. Today we look at one of those bouts, between a man who has proven to be world class and a man who is knocking on the door of world class.
The 24 year old Daigo Higa first burst on to the scene in 2015, when he travelled to Thailand and stopped Kongfah CP Freshmart to become the WBC Youth Flyweight Champion. In 2016 he would win the OPBF title and then add the WBC belt to his collection in 2017. It didn't matter the level he was fighting at one thing stayed the same, he was stopping guys, and raced out to 15-0 (15), before failing to make weight for a WBC world title defense. That weight failure, followed by a loss to Cristofer Rosales, was punished by the JBC giving him an indefinite suspension and not allowing him to fight below Bantamweight going forward. That ban ended in late 2019 and he'll return in February, in an easy comeback, before looking for bigger fights. Later in the year he'll be wanting to make his mark at Bantamweight, and a bout against a fringe contender has to be in his thoughts.
Petch Sot Chitpattana, also known as Tasana Salapat, is a highly experienced and rugged Thai who hasn't had the greatest of competition but has shown a great engine, a fantastic work rate and a willingness to take one in the hope of landing one. His sole loss came in Japan to Takuma Inoue at the end of 2018 in a WBC "interim" title fight, and since then he has been can crushing at home with 5 stoppages. Despite his competition being limited he showed enough in the loss to Inoue to suggest that he belonged on the fringes of world class, even in a division as deep as the current Bantamweight one, and styles wise he could make for some really fun fights, if his team are willing to take risks. It seems clear his team can't bring good opponents over to Thailand, but for the right money we suspect he'd travel, and the right money could be offered by Higa and his team for a world title eliminator.
Both of these men like to let their hands go and both typically seem to believe that they are the bigger, stronger and more powerful man. Of the two Higa is the more crisp, combination punching fighter, who hits hard with every shot, and lets them flow in a eye catching fashion. If he looks good in his February comeback, and maintains his Flyweight style, he'll be so much fun to watch here. Petch on the other hand is a more basic fighter but again throws a lot, without really linking his punches together with the same level of crispness. He's more of a high activity fighter, who follows opponents, rather than mows them down.
We suspect these two would first have a battle of machismo, before Higa's skills and body shots take over. But whether Higa is destructive at Bantamweight as he was at Flyweight is yet to be seen. This bout would answer that, and would also set the winner up as a clear contender at 118lbs.
In the last few years we've seen more and more bouts between Asian fighters and European fighters. Unfortunately it hasn't often been the best from the two continents colliding, but it has been a start with two continental forces of world boxing clashing and opening the doors for inter-continental growth between the scenes which have often been kept away from each other.
Sadly we have typically seen a lot of mismatches. These have included bouts like Naoya Inoue's recent defence against Yoan Boyeaux, Daigo Higa against Thomas Masson, Jerwin Ancajas against Michael Conlan, Scott Quigg against Hidenori Otake and Kal Yafai against Suguru Muranaka. Bouts where the favourite wasn't really given too much of a challenge by the under-dog.
Sure we have seen some interesting bouts, such as the two bouts between Ryota Murata and Hassan N'Dam and, on paper, the Lee Haskins Vs Ryosuke Iwasa bout, but they haven't been as regular as they really should be. And that's not due to a lack of possible match ups. In fact right now there is a real host of fantastic fights that could be made at the world level between the two continents. Here we'll look at some of those possible bouts.
At the moment there is two Flyweight bouts that have some talk behind them, and they would both be very interesting.
One of those is a proposed WBC title bout between destructive world champion Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) and unbeaten Welshman Andrew Selby (10-0, 5). This bout was spoken about during 2017, though Selby seemed to suggest that he was against travelling to Japan where Higa is now a break out star and backed by the financially solid Fuji TV. The bout would put the most destructive fighter at Flyweight against one of the most decorated European amateurs, and would be a real clash of styles between ultra-aggressive champion and silky outside fighting challenger.
With a high WBC ranking it does look like this would be the shortest route to a world title for Selby, but he would be up against arguably the best Flyweight on the planet, and would almost certainly have to travel.
The other bout, and one that has had a public call out of sorts, is a WBO title fight between Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) and 2-time Olympic bronze medal winner Paddy Barnes (5-0, 2). Interestingly if this bout was made it would see Kimura taking on a third Olympian, following stoppage wins over Zou Shiming and Toshiyuki Igarashi, and a win could see him continue what has been a really surprising run of results. Barnes had targeted former amateur rival Zou Shiming earlier in his career, but may now see the man who stopped his amateur nemesis as the man to fight.
Given that Barnes is 31 later this year he may not want to wait around long for a fight at world level and Kimura hasn't been a fighter making big purses so far. A large offer could get Kimura over to Ireland for the fight, though he has got other options, including a domestic showdown with 2-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka and may look to delay a showdown with Barnes for now.
In 2017 there was several obvious bouts to make at 115lbs. That's because we have a world champion from Europe and several from Asia. But for whatever reason we never saw them face off. Thankfully however not all the doors are shut here, despite the fact Naoya Inoue is leaving the division rather than continue to get frustrated at the other top fighters.
Arguably the most even of the match ups we could get here would be an IBF/WBA unification bout, with Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19) defending the IBF title against WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14). Both men seemed to turn down Inoue, and it'd be very hard to favour either man against WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40), but against each other they should make for a compelling contest. The bout shouldn't be too tricky to make, with both fighters looking to make a huge name for themselves this coming year. The two teams, Top Rank and Matchroom, have worked together in the past and both could see this as an opportunity to get their guy in a position to make big money.
Sadly lower weight unification bouts have long been a troublesome issue. Both fighters will want to be financially compensated for taking on another top rival, and with the talent in the division it may make more sense to milk a title for a little while longer. A bout between the two is one that we'd love, and we suspect most fans would love to see, but it may be that the two men simply have other plans and too many other options.
Having mentioned Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) a few times above it only makes sense to mention him here, seeing that he has stated his intent is to fight at Bantamweight in 2018. The “Monster” has been linked to pretty much every notable Bantamweight since mid-December.
Two of these options have some British link. One of those is WBO champion Zolani Tete (26-3, 21), who is South African but is promoted out of the UK and has began to build a cult status in the country. The bout has been spoken about by both teams and Inoue has stated he's willing to travel to the UK for the bout, showing his hunger for a big contest and a third divisional world title. The other British option would be a bout with the talented Northern Irishman Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9), the current WBA and IBF unified champion.
A bout with Tete seems the most likely given that the two teams are talking about the contest. However Inoue could get a unified title by beating Burnett, and get some revenge for the struggles he had at Super Flyweight. The one big spanner in the work for the Burnett bout may be Burnett's promoter Eddie Hearn, who seemed happy to keep Kal Yafai away from Inoue and would likely want to do the same for Burnett, unless life changing money was on offer for his man. Given that financial issue we're much more likely to see the Tete bout than the Burnett one.
Inoue isn't the only fighter moving up in 2018, another is Englishman Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1, 13). The former Bantamweight champion scored notable wins over Tomoki Kameda at Bantamweight and is now moving up to Super Bantamweight, which is stacked with Asian fighters. The amount of interesting match ups McDonnell could have at 122lbs really is huge, and he could have fights with someone like IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) or the skilled and sharp shooting Shingo Wake (23-5-2, 15).
For us though the bout that has the most interest here would be a bout between McDonnell and Filipino warrior Marlon Tapales (30-2, 13). The bout may not have the big name quality of others, but stylistically this would be a lot of fun. Both men can let their hands go, both have pretty good styles and when put under pressure McDonnell can be involved in some real thrillers, as his first bout against Liborio Solis was. Although not a star Tapales is a tough, come forward fighter and could well bring the best out of McDonnell in a back and forth war, with the winner well deserving of a world title fight, and a chance to become a 2-weight world champion.
Unification bouts feel natural for us fans, and there are few more enticing than a Middleweight clash between IBF/WBC/WBA Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33) and WBO counterpart Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12). The bout would leave us with an undisputed champion at 160lbs and would be a brilliant match up between two unbeaten men with very different styles.
On one hand Kazakh fighter Golovkin is one of the sports purest punchers, with thudding power, a chin of rock and a very high intensity pressure style. One the other hand Saunders is a southpaw boxer-mover who moves like a much smaller man, and at his best is one of the purest boxers in and around the division. The questions about the contest would be whether or not Golovkin could cut the ring off and break down Saunders, or whether the fleet footed Englishman could avoid the Kazakh for 12 rounds.
On a much lesser level we'd also love to see a clash between Irishman Jason Quigley (13-0, 10) and Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8). On paper this bout wouldn't get much attention in the build up but the action in the ring would be sensational, as would a bout between Nishida and Gary O'Sullivan (27-2, 19). If either of the Irish fighters are looking for someone with a fan friendly style they could do a lot worse than taking on the aggressive Nishida in a sure fire barn burner.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp and boxrec.com)
It's fair to say that 2017 has been one of the best years for boxing fans in a long time, that is perhaps even more true if you're either a Japanese fight fan or someone who follows the Japanese scene incredibly closely.
We're not saying that due to the wars and great fights Japanese boxing had during the year, but more based on the number of fighters who had genuine break out years. There was fighters who really exceeded all expectations and they have helped lay the ground work for what should be an incredible year.
Here we take a look at a number of those fighters, who in some cases were highly regarded prospects, and in other cases were relative unknowns.
In total Higa fought 17 rounds this year, having fought just 38 prior, and became arguably the new face at Flyweight. His style is thrilling, his fan base is growing and given his age he could have a very long reign at the top. His next defense is scheduled for February and there's no reason why he can't 3, or even 4 defenses into 2018 as he looks to distinguish himself as the elite fighter at Flyweight. He has an ultra aggressive style that is always so impressive to see and incredibly heavy hands.
He did however finish the year with a sterling performance as he stopped the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago in what was a truly one-sided beat down by the Watanabe man, stopping Buitrago in the 8th round, when Robert Ramirez Jr finally intervened with a mercy stoppage. He'll now concentrate on building in 2018 but to have claimed his first 2 titles and moved from a 5 fight novice to a world champion in 2017 has been remarkable.
The plan now for the champion is to make his third defense in early 2018, facing off with Ganigan Lopez in a rematch of May's bout, and we're expecting that to be on live TV. His win over Pedroza and post fight interview should have been enough to convince Fuji not to hide him on a satellite channel and hopefully he'll manage to grow his profile even more in 2018, whilst continuing to develop his skills.
In December had the chance to make a name for himself at home, and took that as he defeated mandatory challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi in 9 rounds to record his first defense. Igarashi, a former WBC champion, had some moments early on but in the end the pressure and surprisingly heavy hands of the champion broke him down, with Igarashi's face being a mess and his body essentially giving in to the ever aggressive man from the Aoki gym.
To have gone from total obscurity to having featured on huge shows in both China and Japan, having had TV coverage in both and having impressed a televised audience in both it's hard to argue with Kimura being the biggest Japanese break out of the year. He wasn't a touted prospect going in to the year, only really the most hardcore of Japanese fans would have known much about him, but to end the year with wins over Shiming and Igarashi is incredibly impressive and he is worthy of whatever big fights come his way in 2018.
Whilst Inoue is currently in the world rankings we're not expecting to see him get a world title fight in 2018. What we are expecting to see from him is a lot excitement and hopefully he will be able to climb up the rankings and move to a potential title shot for 2019. Fighting at 154lbs he's in a tough division to make a mark in, but there's no reason who he can't crawl up the rankings towards a big bout, or a potential domestic showdown with the teak tough Yoshihiro Kamegai, in what would be a very interesting clash of styles.
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