It's fair to suggest that February has been a slow month for fight fans in Asia, in fact at times it's felt down right glacial, with little happening, especially in the middle of the month. We had a good start, and a good end but then we had almost 2 weeks with nothing much happening. Thankfully March is set to be a whole different kettle of fish with interesting bouts right through the month.
With that said lets take a look at what to expect in the first part of March!
Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) vs Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13)
A new Month kicks off with OPBF Light Flyweight title action as Daiki Tomita and Kenichi Horikawa clash for the vacant title. For Tomita this is a second shot at an OPBF belt, having come up short against Tsubasa Koura in 2018, whilst Horikawa will be lookin to bounce back from the loss of the Japanese national title to Yuto Takahashi. Although neither man is a huge name this is a very interesting looking bout, and could either send Horikawa into one final title run, or into retirement.
Dennapa Kiatniwat (21-2, 16) Vs Jeny Boy Boca (13-6, 11) -
Former world title challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat defends his WBA Asia Flyweight title against heavy handed, but very much out of form, Filipino Jeny Boy Buca. The Thai local got a world title fight last year and looked second rate against WBA king Artem Dalakian, but should have too much at this level. Buca was once regarded as a promising puncher, but then went 4-5 (2) and lost pretty much all of the momentum he had built in his first 10 bouts.
Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) Vs Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart seeks his 8th defense as he takes on Japanese challenger Norihito Tanaka. The once highly regarded, and still unbeaten, champion has failed to inspire in recent bouts, and with 5 decision wins in a row his name has become rather a joke. Although talented Knockout has certainly not enthralled. Sadly however it's hard to imagine the 35 year old Tanaka having the energy and power needed to defeat the local fighter, and become the first Japanese man to ever claim a world title in Thailand.
Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) Vs Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5)
In the main event of the monthly "Dynamic Glove" show we'll see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga defending his title against mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu as part of the 2020 edition of the Champion Carnival. Matsunaga has looked mightily impressive in recent outings and will be looking to make his second defense. Although Shimizu is less exciting and aggressive than Matsunaga he is a big, awkward lump and give the champion fits with his size alone. A very interesting match up.
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) Vs Joe Tanooka (15-7-5, 1)
On the same Japanese show world ranked slugger Keita Kurihara takes on the talented, but feather fisted, Joe Tanooka in a bout that really does give us very different styles. Kurihara is a genuinely dynamite puncher who has gone 12-1 (10) in his last 13 bouts and will be looking to show he can box a but, before taking apart Tanooka. Tanooka on the other hand is a quick, technically capable fighter who will be looking to lure Kurihara into a mistake and countering. A very interesting contest, even if it lacks in terms of big name intrigue.
Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9) vs Ren Sasaki (10-0, 6)
Former 2-time Japanese national title challenger Reiya Abe looks to move towards a third potential title bout when he takes on unbeaten southpaw Ren Sasaki. The talented Abe had a 2019 to forget, fighting to a draw with Taiki Minamoto and losing to Ryo Sagawa, and needs to rebuild his moment. In terms of achievement he should be seen as a big favourite here, however he doesn't get a gimme. The unbeaten Sasaki is no push over, and is a very decent boxer himself, having won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2017. Expect this to be a compelling 8 rounder.
Jacob Ng (13-0, 10) vs Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
In a potential hidden gem Australian Jacob Ng will be defending his IBF International and WBO Oriental Lightweight titles against the under-rated Valentine Hosokawa. On paper Ng should be regarded as a big favourite. He's the bigger, younger, hard hitting, unbeaten champion. And he's at home. But Hosokawa can't be over-looked at this level and the Japanese fighter is a very strong, aggressive fighter who throws a lot of leather and can take a lot of punishment. Don't be surprised if this one is one of the real highlights of March.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0, 8) vs Mark Urvanov (17-2-1, 9)
Unbeaten 29 year old Kyrgyzstan born Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu will be looking to continue his rise through the ranks, and take a huge step towards a potential world title fight as he takes on Russian fighter Mark Urvanov. This will be Uulu's first 12 round bout and we dare say if he wins here his team will begin hunting a world title eliminator for him, for later in the year. Although no world beater Urvanov is a good test at this level and comes in on the back of a career best result, stopping former world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov back in November. Hard not to like this one....a lot!
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0, 9) Vs Tomas Rojas (51-18-1-1, 34)
Unbeaten Tajik hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov looks to take his next step forward as he faces former world title holder Tomas Rojas. On paper this looks like a step up against a grizzled old veteran, but with the fight taking place up at Super Featherweight we do wonder whether Rojas, who was a Super Flyweight at his best, will simply be over-powered and out manned by Yaqubov. At the age of 39 and with a 2-4 record in the last 3 years we really do wonder what Rojas has left, other than his name.
Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) Vs Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) -
Hard hitting Seigo Yuri Akui looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Flyweight title as he takes on mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita. The explosive punching Akui has proven to be scarily dangerous early on, with 9 opening round T/KO's, and will be looking to make it #10 here. Fujikita has never been stopped stopped but with only a single, low key, win in the since June 2018 it's hard to know what he has to offer. Fujikita could be the type of durable test who can see out the Akui storm, or could be the next early victim for the destroyer from Okayama.
Rey Caitom (9-0-1, 4) vs ArAr Andales (10-2, 2)
Former world title challenger ArAr Andales is going to be in rebuilding mode this year after back to back losses in 2019, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart and Joel Lino. Rather than having an easy bout to kick off 2020 the 20 year old will be up against the unbeaten Rey Caitom, in a tough looking bout. Andales will be favoured, and has impressed at a higher level, but with those losses we do wonder about how he is mentally. Caitom has fought at a much lower level will clearly be in the ring knowing a win pushes him to within touching distance of a world title shot.
Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) Vs Toshiya Yokogawa (11-12-2, 10)
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake was shockingly upset last year, by Jhunriel Ramonal, and now looks to begin rebuilding. He's being matched easily here, as he takes on 34 year old domestic foe Toshiya Yokogawa. Given the loss to Ramonal, and how brutal it was, we can't complain about Wake getting an easy bout here, but he really can't spend too long fighting at this level, and we suspect this will be a tune up to a much bigger bout in the summer as Wakes begins his climb, again, to a second world title fight.
Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2) Vs Issei Ochiai (2-0, 1)
On the same card we'll also see Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii make his first defense, as he takes on the touted Issei Ochiai. Ishii has impressed since turning professional and his title win, back in December over Haruki Ishikawa, was a sensational bout. The challenger hasn't quite impressed like the champion, but this is certainly a chance for him to shine. We expect big things from both men going forward, but the winner should be put on the fast track to more notable honours.
Yuto Takahashi (11-4, 5) vs Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10)
Another Japanese title fight will see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Yuto Takahashi make his first defense, as he goes up against his mandatory Masamichi Yabuki. Takahashi scored a surprise title win last October, when he over-came veteran Kenichi Horikawa, and will be looking to prove that he can over-come a prime puncher like Yabuki, as well as a faded veteran like Horikawa. For Yabuki this is his first title fight and he'll be looking to prove he really is destructive at Light Flyweight, having move down to the division last year.
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.
Akinori Watanabe (39-7-1, 33) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10)
Unlike some fights we will feature in this series, which are more "pipe dreams than potential reality" today's is one that is actually quite an organic fight to make, would see both men fighting to unify titles and would be a wonderfully dramatic fight between men who are aggressive, exciting and always come to fight. It may be a long way removed from world level, but sometimes we need to let the action do the talking, more than the titles on the line, and this is one such bout.
At 34 years old Akinori Watanabe is enjoying a career Renaissance of sorts, following 3 losses in 5 bouts between November 2015 and the start of 2018. That revival has seen him claim, and defend, the OPBF Light Middleweight title and we suspect he still has eyes on the Japanese title, a title that he came close to winning in 2018 when he fought to a brutal draw with Nobuyuki Shindo. The man now holding that national title is Hironobu Matsunaga, who we'll get on to in a minute, and it would be a great match up to see the two go at it in the summer at Korakuen Hall. Although no world beater Watanabe has always been a lot of fun to watch, with explosive power, vicious combinations, an aggressive mentality and a sense of fragility, in regards to his chin. Win or lose he has always been fantastic to watch and we would love to see him in a unification bout in the new year.
At 32 years old Matsunaga is on the wrong side of 30 himself, but appears to have aged like a fine wine since his 2014 loss to Yuki Beppu in the All Japan Rookie of the Year final. Since that loss he has won 10 in a row, scored notable wins over Hisao Narita, Je Ni Ma, Koshinmaru Saito and Nobuyuki Shindo, whilst also winning, and defending, the Japanese Light Middleweight title. In the ring he looks like a terror, marching forward with a highly aggressive style, and although he's technically rather flawed he's tough, strong and doesn't let fighters off the hook when he has them hurt. Instead he presses, presses and presses more, making him a fantastic fighter to watch, and he has emerged a real dangerman on the domestic scene in the last couple of years.
What we would have here is a fight of wills, with both men looking to out will, out fight and out power the other. Watanabe is the hard hitter and the more technically rounded fighter, but Matsunaga is like a steam train when he gets going, and if he sees out the first round or two we expect to see him beginning to march down Watanabe. Watanabe will have to respond, holding his feet and engaging in a fire fight.
This is a relatively organic fight to make, with it being a national and regional title unification, it's between arguably the #2 and #3 in Japan, with Takeshi Inoue being #1 in the division, and style wise this has "WAR" written all over it!
This past week was a busy week, without being a huge week, it was an interesting week, without being a banner week. It was the type of week where the little fights were allowed to shine, and one of the big talking points was what we didn't get, rather than what we did get.
With the IBF Super Flyweight title bout between Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) and Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (21-1, 15) falling through late on we did miss out on world title action but we did still get a lot of good stuff!
Fighter of the Week
Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10)
One of the strangest categories this week was the Fight of the Week. There was no huge bout, and the bigger bouts saw Asian fighters losing, an often losing in rather disappointing fashion. As a result we had to dig a little deeper than we'd have hoped for out Fighter of the Week, though we did get a deserving winner, with Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga successfully defending his title in a thrilling win over Koki Koshikawa. Matsunaga had to dig deep, work hard and ended up showing what he could do, in what was the biggest win by an Asian fighter this past week.
Performance of the Week
Akio Furutani (8-4, 3)
It's nice to get the chance to highlight someone who wouldn't have gotten a mention in a bigger week, and with Akio Furutani this is likely the only time he will ever be mentioned in one of our award articles. The unheralded fighter put in the best performance of his career to upset former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama. From the opening round to the last minute Furutani came forward, coming to fight and Nakayama really had no answer for the aggression of Furutani over the 8 round schedule. A great and very unexpected performance from 21 year old, who has now won 4 in a row following a loss in the 2018 Rookie of the Year competition.
Hironobu Matsunaga Vs Koki Koshikawa
The weekend's Dynamic Glove card was, overall, a disappointment, but one bout really stood out. That was the 4 round war for the Japanese Light Middleweight title. In one corner was the 32 year old champion, a diminutive figure, in the other corner was former amateur stand out Koki Koshikawa. From the off this set off at an amazing pace, and swung one way, then the other, in what was a really thrilling fight. It was a bit one sided by the time of the stoppage, but up to that point it had been great, with both showing their heart and will to win, and both getting through some sticky moment. A real gem on a card that lacked to quality action.
Hironobu Matsunaga Vs Koki Koshikawa (2)
We go back to our Fight of the week for our Round of the week, and what a great, great round this was. The first round for the Japanese Light Middleweight title bout between Hironobu Matsunaga and Koki Koshikawa was great but the second was even better. By now Matsunaga had began to find his groove, pressing the fight and forcing Koshikawa to respond in a round that was back and forth, exciting, and had power shots from both. This wasn't always pretty, but tense and the final 30 seconds or so really raised the roof as both looked to leave an impression on the judges. This won't go down as a Round of the Year contender, but was a brilliant and exciting round, from a fantastic fight.
Tatsuya Tsuge TKO3 Kyota Shinya
Although we had a lot of fights, and we mean a lot, we didn't get many KO's during the week, at least no clean ones. Thankfully this lead to us finding the wonderful, and very hidden uppercut uppercut finish from Tatsuya Tsuge, who stopped Kyota Shinya on a Dangan 4 round show. Whilst Shinya wasn't out cold or anything this was still a beauty to see. Tsuge landed a brilliant left uppercut that turned Shinya's lights off, before a follow up right hand clipped him on his way down. For Boxing Raise subscribers this one is worth looking for.
Yudai Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
The debuting Yudai Shigeoka may not have looked flawless in his 2nd round win over Thai visitor Manop Audomphanawari but he did impress with a real beating of the Thai. It seemed, for the most part, that Shigeoka only fought in the first couple of gears, and even that was impressive, especially with his body shots. We'll admit we were more impressed when his brother, Ginjiro Shigeoka, made his debut but this was still an excellent showing from a genuine elite level prospect.
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) vs Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26)
It was never going to be anything else, was it? The WBSS Bantamweight final between Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire is one of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 and it takes place this coming Thursday from the Saitama Super Arrena. The bout will potentially enhance Inoue's status as a modern great even further, or cap off a legendary career for Donaire. We're expecting fire works, an incredible atmosphere and something big here. Easily the one fight to keep an eye on this coming up this week!
Sandwiched between an awesome October and a brilliant looking December is a somewhat more normal November. It's not a bad month, by any stretch, but it does look a lot less interesting than the month that has come before it, and the month that is set to follow it. Despite that it does start in amazing fashion with a very hectic start to the month!
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) Vs Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (21-1, 15) -California, USA
Jerwin Ancajas looks for his next defense of the IBF Super Flyweight world title as he takes on Mexican challenger Javier Rodriguez. The talented Ancajas should have no problem at all with the Mexican, who has just a single win of note on his record, though we do wonder what motivation Ancajas has after a string of less than great challengers. He's a very talented fighter, but he needs to question why his team aren't matching him with any of the other notable fighters in the division.
Hiroki Okada (19-1, 13) Vs Javier Molina (20-2, 8) - California, USA
Japan's Hiroki Okada returns to the US for his third bout in the country as he takes on 2008 Olympian Javier Molina. For Okada the bout will be his first since being stopped by Ray Beltran in a thriller earlier this year, and it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back from that loss. For Molina the bout will be seen as a very winnable one, and a chance for him to continue a nice little winning run that's been going for a coupel of years. Neither man can really afford a loss here and so we're expecting a very good contest.
Romero Duno (21-1, 16) Vs Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15) - Las Vegas, USA
Months after the bout was first touted we now get Romero Duno against Ryan Garcia, in what looks like a mouth watering clash. The Filipino is a huge puncher, but technically rough around the edges, a bit crude and open and not particularly polished in how he fights. Garcia on the other hand is a talented pretty boy, who has a very flash and quick style. It'll be Duno's heavy hands against the speed and combinations of Garcia, in what could be one of the most intriguing bouts of the month.
Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8) vs Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13) - Las Vegas, USA
Talented Kazakh Meiirim Nursultanov looks to continue his unbeaten record as he faces off with Cristian Olivas, a very tough guy. Nursultanov will be going into this with momentum behind him and will know that if he keeps winning a big fight will come his way, but this is legitimately a tough one. Olivas has lost his last 3 but has never been stopped, is tough and rugged and will see this as a great chance to pick up a win against a touted prospect. We expect to see Nursultanov have to work for the win here.
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9) Vs Koki Koshikawa (9-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The once beaten Hironobu Matsunaga will look to make his first defense of the Japanese Light Middleweight title as he goes up against Koki Koshikawa. The talented Matsunaga has rebuilt amazingly well following a loss, years ago, to Yuki Beppu in the Rookie of the Year final and his current run has been excellent. Koshikawa on the other hand was tipped for success when he turned professional but has yet to really live up to the expectations put on his shoulders when he began his pro career. On paper this is a decent bout and we expect it to be even better in the ring. This could be a very fun title bout.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-5-2, 8) Vs Yuto Shimizu (13-4-2, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Interestingly the Japanese Middleweight title bout is joined on the same show by a Japanese Light Middleweight title eliminator, as former champion Nobuyuki Shindo takes on Yuto Shimizu. Both of these are big Light Middleweights, at least by Japanese standards, though they have very different styles. Shindo a very rangy southpaw who will look to back off the back foot, whilst Shimizu is a more come-forward slugger. We don't expect this to be a great gelling of styles, but it should be a compelling match up and both men will be battling hard to secure a Japanese title fight at the Champion Carnival in 2020.
East Japan Rookie of the Year finals - Tokyo, Japan
We won't go into all the bouts, but Korakuen Hall plays host to the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals and there are a number of excellent match ups on this card. The show is full of promising young fighters and this should be a very good watch, albeit on tape delay a week later.
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) vs Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26) - Saitama, Japan
The biggest bout of the month, by far, will see the IBF/WBA Bantamweight titles being unified in WBSS final between unbeaten Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue and Filipino icon Nonito Donaire. This bout is one of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 and whilst it's taken a long time to get to the bout it's still a huge contest, and has sold out the venue weeks in advance. The winner of this will be seen as the de fact #1 in the division, though we wouldn't be surprised to see the winner move up in weight in 2020. This is a huge bout, and something we're really looking forward to.
Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) vs Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) - Saitama, Japan
A second Bantamweight title bout will see WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali take on interim champion Takuma Inoue. This is a fantastic match up and will put two very skilled, though often over-looked, fighters against each other. For Oubaali the bout will be his second defense whilst Inoue will be fighting for the first time since winning the interim title back in December, though has been out some of that time due to an injury. Whilst this bout will be over-shadowed by the WBSS bout we do expect a fantastic, high skilled and very good match up between two legitimate top 10 Bantamweights.
This past week has been a strange week of action. We had two notable Japanese cards, a pretty interesting Thai card, a Korean card and brilliant Hong Kong card. It's made for a busy week, and a fairly interesting one!
Fighter of the Week
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9)
Japanese Light Middleweight Hironobu Matsunaga takes home top honours this week following his excellent win over Nobuyuki Shindo, to claim the Japanese title at 154lbs. Matsunaga had entered the bout was the under-dog against the taller, longer and more experienced Shindo. Despite all the disadvantages Matsunaga set the pace, was in Shindo's face and later went on to break down Shindo, who retired between rounds 6 and 7. The bout may end Shindo's career though for Matsunaga it's his biggest win, by far, and extends his current winning run to 9 bouts. It's hard to know how long Matsunaga will reign atop the Japanese domestic scene but this week is his week!
Performance of the Week
Keita Kurihara (14-5, 12)
The Performance of the Week award was one of the easier awards this week, with Japanese puncher Keita Kurihara being the run away winner. The OPBF Bantamweight king created history by scoring the fastest ever win an OPBF Bantamweight title fight. The performances lasted for a little over 30 seconds but the hard hitting Kurihara impressed with every one of those seconds, whilst sending the popular Warlito Parrenas into retirement. Given how Kurihara had failed to put away Yuki Strong Kobayashi in December this was a real return to form for the youngster!
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li
It's not often that Hong Kong gets our attention but it did this week for an excellent card from DEF HK. The main event of that card saw local hopeful Raymond Poon KaiChing take on aggressive Chinese southpaw Xiang Li in what turned out to be a really, really exciting 10 round back and forth war. On paper Poon had the advantages in terms of power, home advantages and crowd support but Li set a high tempo, fought with real hunger and looked the more technically sound fighter in what was a brilliant back and forth contest. This one is one that all fans should give a watch to, and it really was an instant Closet Classic between two young men each looking to prove a point.
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li (round 10)
We'll stay with the Fight of the Week for our Round of the Week, with the final round between Poon and Li being utterly brilliant as both dug deep, deeper than either was expected to dig. This was 3 minutes of desperation from two men desperate to take home the win, two men determined to give all they had, and two men who's styles just gelled. This was exactly what we love in the sport, and a reminder as to why some of these smaller cards are among the very, very best that the sport can provide.
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
Former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi was behind on the scorecards, being out boxing, out moved and out though by Shun Wakabayashi. It seemed like he was around 5 minutes from losing to the unheralded Wakabayashi. That was until he connected with a brutal uppercut that left Wakabayashi out cold, staring at the lights and made it easy to forget the action that had come before hand. The shot erased all of Wakabayashi's good work and showed what an amazing equliser Ohashi's power is.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Macau isn't known as a boxing hotspot but it's got a potential gem within it's ranks in the form of Lap Cheong Cheong, who secured his 6th win this Sunday, when he beat Muhammad Wahid of Indonesia. Cheong's win wasn't necessary a big win, but his performance filled us with a lot of excitement, as he spent 6 rounds going full tilt in pursuit of a stoppage. He had the bout easily won after 4 rounds, but wanted to put on a show, wanted to stop his Indonesian foe and showed touches of star potential He's not an amateur standout, like many Prospects of the Week, but there is a lot to like about him. Aged 22 we're expecting to see Cheong competing at a much higher level in the future and given his career so far he is going to be a very special fighter to watch.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12)
We have some amazing fights over the next 7 days, though the fight we're most looking forward to is, unsurprisingly, the WBSS semi final bout between Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez. The bout will be for a number of titles, including the IBF, WBA "regular" and Ring Magazine titles, it'll also be for a place in the WBSS final and a chance to claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Whilst there are other great bouts, such as the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, as well as the potentially fantastic IBF Light Flyweight title bout between Felix Alvarado and Reiya Konishi, there was only ever going to be one bout winning this category. It is, however, a week to be very, very excited about. We are in for something very, very special!
Whilst the start of May was exciting, with a number of notable bouts taking place in the first few days of the month things go off the charts in the middle portion of the month with a string of major bouts, and some very, very exciting lesser bouts.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) Vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling bout for the OPBF Bantamweight title fight we'll see defending champion Keita Kurihara defending his title, for the first time, and battle against Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas. The champion is really exciting, and although not the most technically complete fighter is a really brutal puncher. The challenger, who also has brutal power, is regarded as a bit of a glass cannon, and will feel like he's in last chance saloon. This is set to be a really thrilling, all action shoot out. Of the two Kurihara is the younger, fresher, man but Parrenas has got experience at a very high level and will be looking to rely on that experience here. We're expecting fireworks aplenty here.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-2, 8) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (14-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
A second title bout on this day will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Nobuyuki Shindo defending his belt, for the second time, as he takes on mandatory challenger Hironobu Matsunaga. Shindo made his first defense late last year, fighting to a draw in a ridiculously good bout with Akinori Watanabe, and will be looking to build on some recent results as he takes on the in form Matsunaga is riding an 8 fight winning streak, including notable wins over Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Koshinmaru Saito.
Mark Anthony Geraldo (37-9-3, 18) vs Neil John Tabanao (17-4, 11) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
An interesting GAB Super Bantamweight title bout will see talented Mark Anthony Gerlado take on Neil John Tabanao. It's rare we get really good GAB title fights, but this one is worthy of some noting, partly due to the level that Geraldo has fought at, sharing the ring with a real who's who including McJoe Arroyo, Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali in recent years, and partly due to the fact Tabanao is a solid challenger. The champion is a good gatekeeper, and only tends to lose to people who can compete at the top. Tabanao on the other hand is a tough, game foe who has never been stopped and comes into this bout knowing a win could boost his standing.
Charly Suarez (2-0, 2) Vs Waldo Sabu (13-14, 3) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
A second notable bout on this card will see highly regarded former Filipino amateur standout Charly Suarez take on Waldo Sabu. This is a huge mismatch, but given how we're expecting to see Suarez make a mark at a higher level later in the near future this bout is pretty significant. We're going to be really excited to see where Suarez goes, but his next bout really does need to be a big step up in class, as he can't waste any more time at this level.
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest bouts for this portion of the month will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title, for the second time. The talented South African will take on mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda. The champion looked sensational in December, when he defended the title against Masahiro Sakamoto, but at the age of 36 father time will likely catch up with him before long. The talented Kuroda is solid, but this will be a big step up for him, and he will need a career best performance to even be competitive with the champion.
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4) vs Renoel Pael (23-8-1, 12) - Tokyo, Japan
Charly Suarez isn't the only hotly tipped former amateur stand out to be in action in the coming days, with Ryusei Kawaura set to take a notable step up in class and take on talented Filipino Renoel Pael. The unbeaten Japanese youngster is tipped for really, really big things and this is the next natural step forward for him. Pael has never been stopped, and has shared the ring with several notable fighters including Andrew Moloney. A stoppage for Kawaura here would be a huge statement, though a win would certainly be impressive at this early point in his career.
Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9) vs Jelbirt Gomera (14-5, 7) - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Filipino fighter Jelbirt Gomera is certainly not a big name, though has shared the ring with the likes of Can Xu and Hidenori Otake, and will now be taking on former world champion Ryan Burnett, in what will be Burnett's first bout since losing to Nonito Donaire last year. Gomera will clearly be the under-dog, but will come into the bout knowing that this is the perfect time to face Burnett, after his lay off and injury.
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) Vs Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11) II -Tokyo, Japan
A really interesting rematch that we'll see this month will pit Japanese Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura against former champion Yusaku Kuga. These two had an absolute war in their first bout, and we're expecting another brutal brawl here. Both are technically limited, but very aggressive and exciting. Tamura is a volume guy, who marches forward through an insane amount of thudding leather, whilst Kuga is a puncher, who looks to take opponents out. With that combination of styles we may be set for something really, really special here.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) - Glasgow, United Kingdom
One of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 will see top Bantamweights collide, as Naoya Inoue takes on Emmanuel Rodriguez in a WBSS Semi-final bout, which will have the IBF and Ring magazine titles up for grabs. Inoue will be looking to create history, as the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe, whilst Rodriguez will be looking to destroy the all-Asian WBSS dream final between Inoue and Nonito Donaire. Whilst the WBSS has had it's issues with this season, this semi-final, and the eventual final, are going massively anticipated by fans, and really can't complain about quality of this bout, or the final.
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