This past week promised plenty and whilst it may have slightly under-delivered there was certainly plenty of highlights in a week that seemed to suggest action was picking up, and that boxing was, slowly, continuing in the right direction. We did, sadly, lose two bouts that looked fantastic on paper, though we got more than enough to talk about in the week's weekly awards.
Fighter of the Week
Although there wasn't any monstrously big fights this week there was an OPBF title bout on Saturday that saw the talented Rikki Naito retain his 140lb belt with a TKO9 over Yusuke Konno. It wasn't a standout performance from Naito, in fact in round 6 it looked like he was in real trouble, but he gritted out some tough times and resumed dominance after Konno suffered a shoulder injury. Despite being the Fighter of the Week, we do still worry about Naito's long term success at 140lbs and we do wonder whether he has the physical power and strength to get the respect of fighters, something he really struggled with here. Despite that he showed some lovely boxing skills, movement, handspeed, timing and a brilliant jab to earn our weekly award.
Performance of the Week
After more than a year out of the ring, and with only 1 fight in 24 months, we didn't really know what to expect from US based Tajik Mekhrubon Sanginov. In the end he really just dominated and controlled American foe Cleotis Pendarvis in what was a controlled yet dominant performance that netted him his first win in over 2 years. We'll not pretend he blew us away, but it was certainly a solid performance, where he forced the action, used his size and controlled a more experienced opponent. This was a solid performance, without being spectacular and left us wanting to see more of Sanginov, who clearly has some tools to work with going forward. Sadly there was no one with a performance that really made us think "wow", but Sanginov getting a solid win in a controlled fashion almost nets this award by default.
Fight of the Week
Yoshimitsu Kimura Vs Shuma Nakazato
Going into the weekend we felt like the 8 round Super Featherweight bout between Yoshimitsu Kimura and Shuma Nakazato could deliver something very special, with both men being hungry youngsters looking to make a mark on the sport, and both able to fight or box. In the end it didn't quite reach the heights we expected of the bout, but it certainly was the standout contest from the week. We had boxing skills on show, we had both men hitting the canvas, flash points early and the a real crascendo late on as Kimura tried to stop Nakazato in the final round. If you missed this one it's on Boxing Raise and is well and truly worthy of a watch. A very good bout, even if it didn't quite become the special bout we had been hoping for.
Round of the Week
Ryoichi Tamura Vs Ryu Oba (RD1)
If you are ever feeling depressed by the state of boxing we seriously recommend just putting on a fight with Ryoichi Tamura, his mentality in the ring is that of someone who wants to let leather fly and at an incredible pace. That was on show this weekend when he took on Ryu Oba and spent the entire first round setting a pace that was simply insane. To his credit Oba fought back bravely, and saw out the storm, but it was Tamura who stole the limelight with some of the most intense offense we've seen in a long time, making this a thrill a second round. It wasn't competitive, or dramatic, but it was just what we needed and was the type of action that it is pure enjoyment as a fan of the sport.
KO of the Week
Jameson Bacon KO2 Roque Agustin Junco
By far, and away, the easiest award this week was the KO of the Week award, which was taken in spectacular fashion by Filipino slugger Jameson Bacon. The hard hitting Pinoy landed brutal left hand on Roque Agustin Junco, who was out cold before heading to the canvas. For fans of brutal 1-punch KO's this is among the best we've seen in 2020 and is well worth hunting down. Truly brutal.
Prospect of the Week
Sadly there was a surprising lack of prospects in action over the last week, due in part to fights featuring Ryosuke Nishida, Suzumi Takayama and Hiroto Yashiro being cancelled. As a result we were really left with very few possible for this award. Despite those issues we did like what we saw of Filipino youngster Dave Apolinario, who again impressed with his boxing brain, ring craft, shot selection and movement as he beat Bonjun Loperez. The youngster, who we have raved about in the past, looks like one of the most rounded Filipino prospects out there and fingers crossed that he does get a much deserved step up to fringe Oriental title level in 2021.
When we talk about the best Filipino prospects there are few that rival the very talented, and incredibly promising Dave Apolinaro (13-0, 8). The 21 year old "Doberman" is someone we expect to see reaching the top of the sport in the coming years, but for now he is very much a prospect carving out the early stages of his very, very promising career.
Apolinario turned professional in 2017 but before than he had real buzz surrounding him following a very promising amateur career, and for being the younger brother of a solid, fringe world level fighter. In fact Apolinario has boxing flowing through his veins with several fighters in his family, though his brother clearly an influential figures.
Dave Apolinario's older brother, John Mark Apolinario, had turned professional in 2006 and fought a genuine who's who. During his 12 year career he fought the likes of Roberto Vasquez, twice earning a draw with the man from Panama, Koki Kameda, Hernan Marquez, Drian Francisco, Luis Nery and Giemel Magramo. Sadly for the "Iceman" he always always founding at the that level, but was decent enough to make a mark.
Whilst his older brother was fighting in the professional ranks Dave was making a name for himself as an amateur. He shined at the Philippines National Games in 2016, winning at 48KG's, and then winning at the Palarong Pambansa in 2016 and 2017, at 49KG's. That amateur seasoning saw Apolinario turn professional with some expectations on his shoulders when he turned professional later in 2017.
On June 10th 2017 Apolinario made his debut, taking on Prince Canonero. The prince was downed in the opening round the bout was stopped with just a single second of the opening round left. It was pretty much a perfect debut for the talented Apolinario. A month later he would take his first decision win, as he was taken 4 rounds by Rio Gulipatan. Apolinario would remain active through 2017, picking up 2 more wins to move to 4-0 (3) by the end of the year.
Apolinario was kept busy through 2018, just like he had been in 2017, a year that saw him fight 5 times. His first bout of the year was a gimme, against Frankie Batuon, but he would step up through the year, taking 8 round decision wins over the tough Jenuel Lauza and over Michael Camelion. Those 2 decisions had been partnered with 3 early wins, to advance Apolinario's record to 9-0 (6).
As we entered 2019 Apolinario was someone who we had hoped to see develop during the year, and boy did we get to see him prove himself. The talented youngster kicked off the year with a bout against Romshane Sarguilla, and Apolinario looked great whilst easily out pointing the game Sarguilla. Interestingly Arguilla went 0-4 in 2019, but this was the only clear loss he had, and he was very live with Andika Sabu and Pongsaklek Sithdabnij, and on reflection this was an excellent win for Apolinario.
Exactly 4 months after Apolinario's win over Sarguilla he took on another tough domestic foe, as he clashed with Adrian Lerasan. For the first time in his career Apolinario was forced to go 10 rounds, and he did so in a very impressive, composed and mature win over Lerasan. Although Lerasan was no world beater he had come to win, and he asked questions of Apolinario, who answered them in impressive fashion.
Sadly after back to back tests Apolinario ended the year with two stoppages against over-matched opponents who were no threat to the promising youngster.
For a 21 year old fighter we see a lot of maturity in Apolinario's boxing style and mentality in the ring. He's patient, he's smart, he uses his feet and moved well. There are question marks over his power and physicality, but even those are likely to change in the future when Apolinario physically matures.
At this point it's too early to call for Aploninario to take any sort of huge steps up in class, but over the next few years we do expect to see Apolinario mixing at Oriental level, and then moving on to world title level as he reaches his mid to late 20's.
It's fair to say that 2019 has been a really good year for boxing so far, with some great fights, brilliant KO's amazing upsets and exciting youngsters breaking through. Sadly however this past June was a less than great one for Asian boxing, with not a lot really happening. As a result our awards for the month are probably the least impressive ones of the year so far.
Fighter of the Month
The fighter of the month was an obvious pick, with Kazuto Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and doping so in a brilliant win over Aston Palicte. The bout perhaps won't be as fondly remembered as Ioka's achievement, though was a fun bout that we'll talk about more shortly, but was the culmination of all of Ioka's work so far and really did show the technical ability of his against the strength and toughness of Palicte. The options for Ioka, now at Super Flyweight, are plentiful and both Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka are known to be sniffing around for a fight, both of which would be huge in Japan.
Fight of the Month
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte
Having just mentioned Kazuto Ioka's win over Aston Palicte we'll also award that bout our fight of the month award. It wasn't the most amazing and nail biting of bouts, but it was an excellent match up that saw skills, power, speed, excitement and the eventual breaking down of a bigger man but a more technically sound fighter. The bout won't be in the running at the end of the year for Fight of the Year but in a relatively weak month it was, for us, the bout that stood out the most in June.
KO of the Month
In Duck Seo KO1 Tysinn Best
Whilst the month didn't have many amazing KO's in Asia it did see an absolute beauty from Korean fighter In Duck Seon as he bested Tysinn Best in spectacular fashion. Seo was being out boxed, out thought and out sped, but had the toughness and the power so turn the tables, and boy did he turn the tables in an eye catching fashion. Best was sent crashing, face first, to the canvas and was down for quite some time whilst Seo knew he had just put his name on the regional boxing map.A huge win and a brilliant KO.
Dave Apolinario (11-0, 6)
Filipino fighter Dave Apolinario still isn't getting the buzz and fanfare he clearly deserves, though it seems like it's only a matter of time before the "Doberman" is on the mind of every knowledgeable fight fan. The talented youngster Adrian Lerasan and had to show what he could do against a solid southpaw foe. The unbeaten Apolinario couldn't blow his man out the water but showed he could do 10 rounds, at a decent pace, against a good, tough, rugged southpaw and clearly answered more questions. Their are still tests for the unbeaten Apolinario to answer, but so far he is looking like the goods.One to keep a serious eye on in the coming years.
Whilst the biggest upset in boxing occurred at the start of the month, when Andy Ruiz stopped Anthony Joshua in the US. Sadly there wasn't a big upset in Asian boxing, and whilst not everything went as expected there wasn't an sizable upset worthy of much attention.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte Round 7
We are back to that excellent WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Aston Palicte, which had a round of the year contender in the 7th. The round really saw Palicte attempt to turn the tide, and went after Ioka, hurting him early in the round before Ioka fought back. Whilst it's fair to say that June was a weak month this was still a great round, and would have been in the mix for month of the year.
One again we've have a relatively quiet week for Asian fighters, despite some pretty notable fighters in action. It wasn't a week that will stand out as something special at the end of the year, or a highlight, but we certainly shouldn't write the week off as a fail, because it really wasn't. In fact it was a week of showcases for unbeaten prospects and rising hopefuls.
Fighter of the Week
Israil Madrimov (3-0, 3)
The Uzbek has done it again and stolen the week with another fantastic performance, as he became only the third man to stop Mexican veteran Norberto Gonzalez. And he did so in just his third bout. We tend to have a general rule that we don't regard world ranked fighters as prospects, and we do, admittedly, hold a fighter like Madrimov to a high level than we do with many others, but even at an elevated standard he is something special and deserves not only the plaudits he's getting, but a legitimately big fight next time out. He's something special and it's going to become a waste of time to have him face any more gatekeepers like Gonzalez.
Performance of the Week
Carl Jammes Martin (13-0, 12)
When we have a TV friendly fighter like Carl Jammes Martin we always want to watch more of him, and that was certainly the case this week when he put on a showcase to stop Yutthichai Wannawong inside a round. Whether Martin had scored an opening round stoppage or a UD we'd always want to see more of him, and for the 20 year old that's exactly what we need from him. If he keeps putting on performances like this he will remain a must watch fighter, though hopefully his competition will step up shortly.
Bakhtiyar Eyubov vs Brian Ceballo
Kezakh fighter Bakhtiyar Eyubov may not have been able to take the upset win over Brian Ceballo but the bout was a fun one, with a number of really good rounds early in the bout, as Ceballo seemed to look fight fire with fire. In fairness Ceballo realised he had the skills to take an easy win of the previously unbeaten Kazakh, but he did pick moments to stand and fight in what was really fun as a bout. A nice combination of power punching, fighting and skills. And Ceballo ended the bout looking like a surefire star of the future, he is well worth following.
Gennady Golovkin Vs Steve Rolls (round 3)
Former Middleweight king Gennady Golovkin was supposed to steam roll Steve Roll, and whilst he did stop him in round 4 that wasn't until we saw Rolls attempt to take the fight to Golovkin. The first round was quiet but Rolls grew into the fight and rounds 2 and 3 were both very fan friendly with the under-dog trying to shock the world. They weren't round of the year contenders or anything but was exciting and it was great to see Rolls standing up to the champion for the round, and having success of his own.
In Duck Seo KO1 Tysinn Best
Korean fighter In Duck Seo travelled over to Australia and was expected to be the man to move unbeaten Australian Tysin Best to 11-0. Instead Seo ripped up the script and sent Best crashing to the canvas, with one of the most brutal KO's of 2019. The Australian was dropped hard before being knocked out in spectacular fashion by the Korean who really announced himself as the type of fighter who cannot be over-looked at this level. Unfortunately for Best he looked the better boxer, but that was that a moot point given Seo's toughness and power, which decided the bout.
Dave Apolinario (11-0, 6)
It's beecoming harder and harder to ignore just how good Dave Apolinario is, and this week we saw him having his stiffest test so far. The unbeaten "Dobermann" was up against fellow Filipino southpaw Adrian Lerasan, and was genuinely tested, but came out on top and answered a lot of questions. Apolinario showed he could fight for 10 rounds, at a good pace, and against a southpaw. He also showed that even when he can't hurt his opponent he can easily out box them, has solid concentration for 10 rounds and very good stamina. Lerasan hadn't got in to the ring to lose, and as a result Apolinario was forced to work for his win, and he showed so much against a fighter trying to beat him. A fantastic step forward for the unbeaten youngster.
Artem Dalakian (18-0, 13) vs Dennapa Kiatniwat (20-1, 15)
This next week is another quiet looking one, but there is a world title fight, as unbeaten WBA Flyweight champion Artem Dalakian defends his belt against mandatory challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat, aka Sarawut Thawornkham. On paper this looks great and whilst the Ukrainian champion will be strongly favoured he could be surprised by the Thai, who has travelled over with a lot of confidence.
After a truly hectic May, which has had big fights littered through the month, we drop back to reality in June as the schedule almost tails off completely and we sort of struggle to get too excited about too much taking place over the coming weeks. Thankfully here there is still enough to talk about without feeling the month is threadbare, but it's less about big fights, and more about emerging fighters.
This past week has been one of the quietest of the year so far, at least in terms of Asian fighters and fighters involving Asian fighters. It wasn't silent by any stretch, but much of the action was relatively low key. That however doesn't take away from what we did have.
Fighter of the Week
Ben Mananquil (17-1-3, 4)
Although his fight isn't yet available to watch, with Boxing Raise set to post next week, it's hard to argue that anyone deserves Fighter of the Week more than Filipino fighter Ben Mananaquil. The 26 year old southpaw travelled to Japan and easily outboxed Japanese youngster Tenta Kiyose on Sunday to become the new WBO Asia Pacfic Bantamweight champion.Mananquil has been one of the sports over-looked men in recent years, with a number of unlucky results on the round, including bouts with Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym and Jing Xiang. He did get a bit of luck last year, with a draw against Hinata Maruta, but generally hasn't had much luck. He didn't need it against Kiyose, dropping the Japanese fighter on route to a clear win.
Performance of the Week
Reymart Gaballo (21-0, 18)
The unbeaten Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men of the Bantamweight division, but he really shouldn't be. The 22 year old boxer-puncher is one of the best young fighters in boxing, and can box, bang, brawl and really excite. This past Saturday he showed how good he was as he completely destroyed the brave but outgunned Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo would drop Nakamura twice in the opening round and once in round 2 to record a 2nd round TKO. At times he looked wild, yet found the target time, and time, and time again. It was the sort of performance that deserved a bigger platform than ESPN5, and hopefully fans will find the time watch the bout, just to see how good Gaballo looked, and how good he is. We're really hoping for Gaballo to have a big bout this year, and this performance showed exactly why so many are so high on him.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34)
This past week has had some good fights, but nothing really stood out in terms of overall quality, excitement or value. There was good fights that just missed something, or had a lack of intensity. With that in mind we're taking the odd step of selecting the televised exhibition between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Nawaphon Por Chokchai as out fight of the week. It was fought with headgear and over-sized gloves, fought for charity and fought an insane pace as both men looked to try and take the other out. It won't go down on either man's record, but it was certainly fun to watch on Friday morning.
Hiroki Okada Vs Raymundo Beltran (Round 2)
A great round is made from the combination of drama and excitement and the second round of the enthralling bout between Japan's Hiroki Okada and Mexican Raymundo Beltran is hard to beat. The round saw Beltran applying pressure, dropping Okada then being hurt badly himself as Okada came close to forcing a knockdown of his own. It was a really great round and deserves to be in the conversation for round of the year so far. Sadly the bout had too many slower rounds, especially in the middle of the fight, to be in the Fight of the Year conversation, but it was a great round in a very good, but not amazing, fight. Had the bout not had it's slow spell in the middle this would likely have taken the Fight of the Week award.
Romero Duno KO2 Kuldeep Dhanda
This week we saw arguably the KO of the Year so far when heavy handed Filipino Romero Duno flattened over-matched Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what was a really scary KO. The Indian had been down and wobbled badly in the opening round, but had shown bravery to try and fight back. That turned out to be a huge mistake and he was left out cold from a monstrous right hand from Duno about a minute into the second round. Referee Ferdinand Estrella gave a 10 count, when he really didn't need to, and it took a good few minutes for Dhanda to move after getting medical assistance. Thankfully he did get to his feet and seemed to walk out of the ring by himself, following some really worrying scenes.
Dave Apolinario (10-0, 6)
We had a number of prospects in action though none shone like Dave Apolinario, who clearly beat Romshane Sarguilla over 8 rounds. The fight was a clear win, Apolinario near enough shut out his countryman, but was force to work though out the contest and never had time to relax. Despite the hot tempo Apolinario seemed to enjoy the fact he had an opponent who came to win, and that drew the best out of the southpaw who really did look like one to watch in the Flyweight division. At just 20 years old
he is someone who should be on everyone's radar going forward. A fantastic, sharp, quick, intelligent fighter who has the potential to go all the way!
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) vs Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4)
This coming week has a lot of great bouts scheduled for it, though the one that has us most interested is Thurday's OPBF Super Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Hiroaki Teshigawara and 21 year old challenger Yuki Iriguchi. Watching both men we see two aggressive, exciting, fighters who are happy to engage in a real fight. Stylistically this bout is the one that intrigues us the most, despite not being the most significant contest of the week. We do expect Teshigawara to win, but we also expect some all out violence until he gets the victory.
Ryosuke Iwasa Vs Cesar Juarez, Edward Heno Vs Koji Itagaki, Shohjahon ErgashevVs Mykal Fox
Katsunari Takayama to compete on March 1st!
There wasn't a huge announcement this week, though the Japanese Boxing Awards did get plenty of attention. Instead we had a bit of a scatter gun news week, with arguably the most notable single story being that of Katsunari Takayama's return to action. The hugely popular warrior will be fighting at the Japanese selection event for the Asian Championships, beginning his journey towards a potential Olympic berth. Whether Takayama's dream comes to reality or note, and he manages to make it to Tokyo 2020 is yet to be seen, but we're so glad to hear that he will be in the ring on March 1st as he continues to be a bit of a Japanese trail blazer.
If we're being honest January was a bit of a slow burn month, with a lack of action at the start of the month before picking up over the last 2 weekends. There was action through January but it was very bitty and very slow to get going. Thankfully the same can't be said for February which starts hot and continues to be busy throughout, even if the action doesn't hit the same heights as January in terms of quality.
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) Vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese title fight of the new month sees Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki battle for the vacant Japanese fight title, which Masayuki Kuroda vacated in late 2018. Coming in to the bout Nakatani will start as the favourite but Mochizuki is a tough and underrated fighter who will know this is a huge opportunity to claim a national title, put himself in the mix for big fights down the line and impress on a televised Japanese card.
Kenichi Ogawa (21-1-0-1, 17) vs Roldan Aldea (12-6-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa returns to the ring after more than a year out of action, following a failed drugs test. The hard hitting Ogawa, who is best known for taking a controversial win over Tevin Farmer that was later over-turned due to the aforementioned drug test, will be facing off with Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea, in what is supposed to be a show case for the talented and returning Japanese fighter.
Gonte Lee (0-0) vs Aphisit Namkhot (1-1, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest debuts of 2019 will see Japanese-Korean fighter Gonte Lee, a former amateur standout, take on Thai foe Aphisit Namkhot. The talented Lee won over 100 amateur fighters, with 62 wins in a row, competed for North Korea and was expected to go to the 2020 Olympics. Instead he chose to go professional and his debut is something to be very highly excited about. The Thai foe is expected to provide little more than the perfect foil for Lee's debut.
Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) vs TBA - Tokyo, Japan
Talking about amateur standouts it's worth noting that another Japanese amateur stand out will also be on this card, Mikito Nakano. Nakano, who debuted last year, is tipped for huge success and will be looking to score his second professional win. His opponent is currently unknown, though we do know it will be a Thai, and like Lee's bout this should be little more than a show case for a fantastically talented young prospects.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1) vs Steven Martinez (18-4, 13) - Texas, USA
In the US we'll see Kazakh fighter Janibek Alimkhanuly take a good step up in class as he battles Steven Martinez. The talented Alimkhanuly has yet to shine since signing with Top Rank in 2018, putting in two forgetable performances last year. Despite failing to look great recently we do have high hopes for the 25 year old Kazakh and we're expecting to see him show that potential sooner rather than later. Martinez is a tough opponent, with ambitions of his own, but we suspect that Alimkhanuly will have the skills to defeat the tough American.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) vs Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Young prospect Dave Apolinario takes on his stiffed test to date as he battled against fellow unbeaten Filipino Mark Vicelles, in what looks like an excellent bout on paper. Apoinarion, the younger brother of former world title challenger Mark John Apolinario, has looked like an excellent prospect since making his debut back in 2017 but has yeat to face someone looking to score a win of their own. Vicelles on the other hand has proven he can get through hungry fighters, taking the unbeaten records of Rey Tagulaylay and Roldan Sasan. He's a capable fighter himself and will know a win here would be huge. This has the hallmarks of a weekend stealing contest.
Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) vs Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7)- Metro Manila, Philippines
WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men at 118lbs, due to the WBSS, but is building a reputation at home, a reputation he'll be looking to enhance here when he takes on charismatic Japanese warrior Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo is an excellent boxer-puncher with really crisp punching and he looks like one of the better contenders in the division. Nakamura on the other hand is a fun but limited fighter who we suspect will play his part in a fun fight, but a fight that he loses.
Romero Duno (18-1, 14) vs Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Filipino boxer-puncher Romero Duno put his name on the international stage when he travelled to the US and upset the much fancied Christian Gonzalez in 2 rounds. Since then he has fought only once in the Philippines, and 4 times in the US, whilst building his international presence. He returns "home" to face Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what appears to be a stay busy contest for the Filipino hopeful, who will be expected to return to the US later in the year for potential world title eliminator, or minor title bout of some kind.
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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