It's fair to say that January was a disappointing month in terms of action. We really didn't get too many shows, or bouts, and the month meandered slowly from one one notable bout to another, with little to keep our attention in between. Despite that we did have some stellar match ups, some great performances, and a lot of prospects. With that in mind we'll kick off the year with out first month awards for 2021!
Fighter of the Month
Despite the fact there wasn't a lot going on in January there were some standout performances, a number of really noteworthy bouts and several very solid contests. For us the winner for Fight of the Month was the fighter who impressed us the most, and that was Gakuya Furuhashi, who put on a determined and brilliant performance to stop Yusaku Kuga. Their bout was amazing, genuinely an amazing bout, but it was the performance of Furuhashi that made it what it was. He walked through bombs and looked like a man possessed as he broke down Kuga. At the age of 33 he would have known this was going to be his last chance, and fought like he knew it was now or never.
Fight of the Month
Jong Seon Kang vs Nam Jun Lee
It's fair to say that January was a very, very quiet month, and there really wasn't too many Asian shows taking place through the month. Despite that we did get some amazing bouts, and the most exciting of those was the brilliant, brutal and all action bout between Jong Seon Kang and Nam Jun Lee, who battled on January 9th in a bout for the WBO Oriental Featherweight title. This was 12 rounds of sensational action and could well be in the running for the Fight of the Year come December, a truly fantastic war to kick off the year.
Yusaku Kuga Vs Gakuya Furhashi
Riku Nagahama Vs Ryota Toyoshima
Joon Sun Lee v Tae Hyub Go
KO of the Month
No suitable KO
Note - We did get some solid TKO's but in terms of KO's there was nothing that seemed award worthy.
We had plenty of prospects in action in January but for us the one that stood out was Jukiya Iimura, who looked sensational in his debut win over Daisuke Yamada. The 22 year old, at the time, Iimura dropped Yamada twice and instantly generated buzz from a sensational debut that has left us really looking forward to seeing his next bout, which will take place in March. Iimura looked exciting, heavy handed and like a fighter who has instantly adapted to the professional style of boxing. There is work to do, but he looked really, really good, and is certainly one to get excited about.
Seigo Hanamori TKO4 Naoto Mizutani
On paper Seigo Hanamori's January 29th win over Naoto Mizutani didn't appear to be a shock, given the records of the two men. Paper however doesn't tell us the full story or explain just how big of a shock this actually was. Going into the bout Mizutani was ranked by the JBC and since 2018 his only losses had come to very good fighters, in Ryo Akaho and Fumiya Fuse. Not only that but he had real momentum in the back up upset wins over Joe Tanook and Naoya Okamoto. Despite the success of Mizutani coming in he was stopped in 4 rounds by Hanamori, who had never previously defeated a fight with more wins than losses. This really was a career best win by Hanamori, by some margin.
Yusaku Kuga Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (Rd 6)
Although we didn't get a lot of fights in January we did get a lot of amazing rounds from a number of all action wars, each delivering numerous round of the month contenders. If forced to pick a single one however round 6 of the Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight between Yusaku Kuga and Gakuya Furuhashi gets the nod, just. The fight had 8 amazing rounds, but for us the 6th stands out just a little more than the others, as it seemed, during the round, that the tide began to turn against the defending champion, giving the bout a swing. Despite the tide of the fight turning in the round, it was a round that swung one way then the other. It's a round that had intense action, clean, solid, exchanges, and the entire 3 minutes was pretty much a none stop highlight reel. A genuinely amazing 3 minutes of action.
It’s fair to say that January is usually a quiet month but this January is particularly quiet, with bouts really not being lined up for much of the month, we’ve already seen two scheduled bouts being cancelled due to Covid19 related issues. Despite that we do still have some stuff to be excited about, so let's take a look at what we’ve got coming up this month, and it is very much a prospect heavy month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) vs Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
The first genuinely big bout set to take place in Asia will be on January 14th as OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara looks to defend his title against Takuma Inoue. The bout is a genuinely good looking one and will see Kurihara’s power and aggression against the toughness and skills of Inoue. With both men entering the bout world ranked the winner of this will be banging on the door of a world title fight, and we wouldn't be surprised at all by them landing a really big, international level, fight at the end of the year.
Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) vs Sora Takeda (6-1, 1)
Highly skilled prospect Katsuki Mori looks to continue building his reputation as he takes on Sora takeda, in a battle between two former Rookie of the Year winners. Mori has received a lot of praise since breaking through in 2019, though with only a single bout in 2020 his career needs a big shot in the arm in 2021. Takeda on the other hand won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and has sadly seen his momentum slow with just 2 bouts since then. The winner of this will begin a move towards a potential Japanese Youth title bout, but could take a year or two for either man to land their first title fight.
Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) Vs Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1)
Touted Japanese third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto will be looking to record his second win as a professional as he takes on Dragonball Z inspired fighter Bejita Ishikawa, who is well known for his Vegeta styled entrance attire. Matsumoto is very highly regarded and his father was a multi time world title challenger, though he’ll want a better performance than his debut, which saw him being dropped before he stopped Hironori Miyake. Ishikawa shouldn’t provide much of a test here, but he is a unique fighter and certainly has popularity that exceeds his ability.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) vs Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3)
Another prospect looking for their second win is former amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki, who will be looking to build on a successful debut in a notable step up in class, as he takes on the experienced Yuji Okinori. Although perhaps not a big internationally there is very high expectations on Nakagaki in Japanese, after an excellent amateur career, and given how he looked on debut the 21 year old Super Flyweight hopeful really does seem to have the potential to go a very, very long way in the sport. Okinori is a very credible opponent for Nakagaki this early in his career, but it’s hard to see anything but a Nakagaki win.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) Vs Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) - OPBF Welterweight title
The second OPBF title fight of 2021 will see Riku Nagahama seek his first defense as he faces off with the heavy handed Ryota Toyoshima. Nagahama, who holds the OPBF Welterweight title, won the belt in 2020 but has had to wait almost a year to defend it. Although not the biggest puncher Nagahama does have a fan friendly style and does get involved in a tear, even if that’s not the best idea for him. Toyoshima is a more patient fighter than Nagahama, but he’s certainly a bigger puncher and he has very under-rated and sneaky body shots in his arsenal. This could, legitimately, turn out to be a genuine war for the OPBF title and could be a gem in a month where big bouts are few and far between.
Jukiya Iimura (0-0) Vs Daisuke Yamada (6-5, 1)
Whilst there is a lack of big bouts there are a lot of prospects in action over the coming days and one of those is Jukiya Iimura, who went 68-13 in the amateurs. He’ll be getting introduced to professional bout with a bout against the solid Daisuke Yamada, in what should be a solid test for the debuting Flyweight.
Jun Ikegawa (0-0) Vs Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-1-2)
Another debutant looking to make a mark in January is Jun Ikegawa, who went 51-15 in the unpaid ranks. The skilled Ikegawa looks to be in a very solid debut match up as he takes on Kakeru Yoshikawa. The 22 year old Ikegawa is tipped for success and will be looking to make his mark at 122lbs. Yoshikawa is a very credible opponent, and his only loss was a split decision back in July 22017. This is not a gimmie for Ikegawa!
Yugo Kon (0-0) Vs Koji Tsurumi (4-3-1, 1)
One other debutant on this show to make a note of is Yugo Kon. He went a less than spectacular 23-11 in the amateur ranks but is regarded as a long term prospect and we should see him being asked genuine questions by Koji Tsurumi, who is better than his record suggests.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) Vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21)
In another potential hidden gem Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka will take on Takuya Watanabe, and this may well end up being a genuinely brutal war. Saka is an aggressive, heavy handed and exciting fighter, but one who can also be super inconsistent. Despite being hot and cold Saka looked fantastic in his 2019 title winning performance, smashing Masaru Sueyoshi in 5 rounds. Watanabe on the other hand is a super tough, technical warrior who tends to box well, but is much more well known for his ability to genuinely fight. Watanabe’s bouts with Jaesung Lee and Taiki Minamoto showed his toughness and he will have to dip into that again here.
Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14)
Another Japanese title fight will see Yusaku Kuga defending his JBC Super Bantamweight title against Gakuya Furuhashi. For Kuga this is a must win after being taken out in a regional title fight by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019. Although talented Kuga has been in a number of tough wars, and bouts against the likes of Ryoichi Tamura, Shingo Wake and Yasutaka Ishimoto may well have aged him. As for Furuhashi the 33 year old challenger will know it’s now or never after coming up short in two previous Japanese title fights. Style wise Furuhashi is a grinder, who throws a lot and lacks 1-punch fight changing power, again Kuga his style may be his undoing, or it could lead to an early FOTY contender.
Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) v Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2)
In a B class tournament final the once beaten Koki Mioya takes on Tentaro Kimura, in what should be a very evenly matched and exciting 5 rounder. This bout, unlike many, has gotten a lot of interest for what is, for all intents, a lower level Japanese bout, with neither fighter being regarded as a major prospect. Both as popular fighters and the bout is being regarded as one that could end up delivering a lot of action. Fans in the west may overlook this one, but it is genuinely generating plenty of buzz among the hardcore Japanese fans.
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) v Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
In an A Class tournament final the fast rising, and heavy handed, Japanese Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki will battle Masashi Wakita. This looks like a mismatch on paper and we suspect it will be, but it will still be great to see Utsuki back in the ring, and there’s a real chance of him getting involved in the Japanese title mix in the next 12 to 24 months. Utsuki is a very nasty and serious puncher, and that is likely to be too much for Wakita, who’s been a genuine servant to Japanese boxing over the years.
Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) Vs Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2)
In a surprising world title fight we’ll see OPBF Minimumweight champion Sana Hazuki challenge IBF champion Yokasta Valle near the end of the month. This bout was only announced in January, after Valle had numerous issues securing a unification fight with WBC champion Tina Rupprecht. Valle will be the heavy, heavy favourite, though there is, maybe, a chance she has looked past Hazuki, who really shouldn’t be much of a taste for the Costa Rican world champion.
Manual Artime Community Center Theater, Miami, Florida, USA
Fazliddin Meliboev (0-0) vs Javonn Davis (3-0-1, 3)
Back to debutants we have talented Uzbek 24 year old Fazliddin Meliboev kicking off his career towards the end of January as he takes on unbeaten American Javonn Davis. Meliboev isn’t one of the elite level Uzbek amateurs we’ve seen making their name on the professional ranks in recent years but he was a very credible amateur and showed real potential in the WSB. He’ll come into this bout as an unknown, but we suspect he has the tools to overcome Davis, who has been fighting at a very, very low level so far.
Kozimbek Mardonov (0-0) vs Chown Sims (5-1, 2)
Another Uzbek making his debut is the touted 23 year old Kozimbek Mardonov, who won shone at the 2019 Military Games in Wuhan. On paper Mardonov looks to be in a serious test here as he goes up against 25 year old American Chown Sims. Sims is unbeaten in his last 3, and has taken a couple of cherry’s since beginning his professional career. He was, however, stopped in 2019 by Ty McLeod and we suspect Mardonov will have too much, in what could be a debut to remember for a very promising young Uzbek.
Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10) vs Stephen Danyo (17-3-3, 6)
Highly regarded Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov will return to the ring after well over a year out as he takes on Dutch fighter Setephen Danya in a bout for 4 minor titles. The excellent Akhmedov has been one of the most promising Kazakh fighters in recent years and he seems to have it all, with skills, power, stamina, a solid boxing brain and a solid promoter behind him. Given what we’ve seen of Akhmedov the view is that he’s one of the men heading towards world titles. Danyo on the other hand has never been stopped, he’s proven himself as a tough nut and he does have the durability and experience to test the Kazakh youngster, especially given his length lay off. This should be a real good test for Akhmedov, but if he’s as good as we think he should take a very clear win.
Luzhniki, Moscow, Russia
Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) Vs Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29)
Unbeaten Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev is set to take a massive step up in class at the end of the month as he takes on former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. With many tipping the “Bully” to be a future world champion this is the sort of test that will help fast track him to a title, and could be a shrewd bit of match making, or a case of biting off too much too soon. Kovalev has been on the slide for a while, and he no longer looks like the “Krusher” who dismantled the likes of Jean Pascal, but with his power and with a Russian crowd behind him he is very much a live under-dog here. On paper this is a real test for Melikuviez, but if he’s as good as we, and many others, think he could end up retiring Kovalev. Interestingly for Kovalev this will be his first bout since his 2019 loss to Saul Alvarez and at 37 father time may well be just as much of an enemy as Melikuziev. Potentially one of the smartest bits of matchmaking we’ll see in 2021, or a big mistake by Melikueziev’s team.
In the Middle part of September things get a little bit crazy, with a host of fights all crammed into a very small window of time.
Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13) Vs Ruben Manakane (25-18-1, 14) - Tokyo, Japan
Former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito fights for the first time since his world title loss, and takes on Indonesian foe Ruben Manakane. This bout is little more a confidence building home-coming bout for Ito, who should really dominate Manakane and force a mid-round stoppage. Despite that it's nice to see Ito back in the ring after his loss to Jamel Herring. We're expecting a simple, straight forward win for Ito here, but the rest of the card is much harder to predict.
Reiya Abe (19-2-1, 9) vs Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Talented Japanese Featherweights Reiya Abe and Ryo Sagawa clash for the vacant Japanese title, which has been vacated by Taiki Miniamoto. On paper this one of the best match ups of the entire month, it's a 50-50 type fight between two men in good form, who have really impressed in recent years. Both have contrasting styles that should gel well, and we're expecting a genuinely fantastic back and forth bout here. This is a tough one to call and should be very entertaining.
Gakuya Furuhashi (25-8-1, 14) vs Ryoichi Tamura (12-4-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling 8 rounder we'll see Gakuya Furuhashi and Ryoichi Tamura battle in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title eliminator. Furuhashi is a 2-time title challenger, having failed to pick up victory against Yasutaka Ishimoto and Yukinori Oguni, but is a very fun to watch fighter and did push Oguni very close. Tamura on the other hand won,and lost, the Japanese title this year and has developed a reputation for being in great fights due to his intense work rate, toughness and pressure. This should be an all out war between two men desperate for another shot at the title. Expect this one to be brutal.
Rikito Shiba (3-0, 2) vs Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten youngster clash here in a Japanese Youth title bout, with the touted Rikito Shiba and Shisui Kawabata both risking their unbeaten records at this very early stage in their careers. Of the two we've been more impressed by Shiba, though Kawabata has previously been a sparring partner for Naoya Inoue and has come to the pro-ranks with a very good reputation from his days in the amateur ranks. On paper this might look like two novices in a nothing bout, but given their pedigree this is much bigger than that, and the winner will likely be fast tracked to a senior title next year. This is a huge bout given how early it is in the careers of both men.
Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24) vs Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15) - Nevada, USA
The Elorde is one of the most famous in Filipino boxing and on the 14th of September we'll see Juan Miguel Elorde, the grandson of the legendary Flash Elorde, challenger WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete. The once beaten Navarrete has looked like a monster through much of his career and this very much has the hall marks of a cash out for Elorde who has done little to deserve a world title fight. On one hand it would be great to see another Elorde at the top of the sport, but the reality is that he will almost certainly be a lamb to the slaughter here.
Yuki Nonaka (33-10-3, 10) Vs Yang Hyun Min (8-2, 7) - Osaka, Japan
Japanese veteran Yuki Nonaka looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title as he goes up against Korean challenger Yang Hyun Min. The talented Nonaka, who is still showing what he can do past the age of 40, is hoping to get a world title fight before his career is over and knows keeping his regional title is the key to landing a shot at the big time. Min on the other hand enters as a bit of an unknown. On paper Min is a puncher, but in reality his competition has been so bad that it's hard to know what he really has to offer
Daiki Tomita (13-1, 5) vs Hayato Yamaguchi (15-7-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight takes place at Light Flyweight and will see Daiki Tomita take on Hayato Yamaguchi, in a bout for the vacant title. For Tomita this will be his second fight, following a loss last year in an OPBF Minimumweight title fight against Tsubasa Koura. At 21 years old Tomita's future is bright, but another loss here will leave him with a lot of rebuilding. On the other hand Yamaguchi is 30 years old and has gone 3-3 in his last 6 bouts, stretching back almost 5 years, a loss for him will almost certainly send him into retirement. Interestingly this will only Yamaguchi's second bout since the start of 2017 and that type of ring rust will almost certainly be an issue against the very capable Tomita.
Tomoko Okuda (5-2-1, 1) vs Kanako Taniyama (2-0, 1) - Osaka, Japan
Another title bout will see the Japanese Female Bantamweight title being fought for, as the unbeaten Kanako Tamiyama takes on Tomoko Okuda for the currently vacant title. Okuda is the more experienced boxer however Taniyama has got more combat experience than her record suggests following a successful career in kick boxing, a career that was ended due to a knee injury. With both women in their 30's it's hard to see where the loser goes, but the winner will likely look to move from domestic level to regional level and then, potentially, landing a world title fight before ending their career. In many way's it's a shame Taniyama turned to boxing just before her 31st birthday as she has shown some touches of potential. At 36 Okuda is showing signs of being old in the ring already and is 1-1-1 in her last 3.
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