Whilst February certainly didn't start quickly it does get going in the second half of the month with a flurry of fights taking place with Asian fighters involved.
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) Vs Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) -
In the headline bout of a Dimond Glove card in Tokyo we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino defending his title again mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka in the second of this year's Champion carnival bouts. For Yoshino this is expected to be a test of his technical boxing skills, as Tomioka is a genuinely talented boxer-mover. On the other hand Tomioka is taking on, arguably, his toughest opponent to date and did come up short in his last bout at this type of level.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
After almost 2 years away from the ring former world champion Daigo Higa returns, and takes on rugged Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra. This should be a win for Higa, but we expect him to be very emotional, and he is going up against someone who has never been stopped before, so he will have to work hard for the win. It's also worth noting that Buenaobra is the naturally bigger man and will not be there looking to just make up the numbers.
Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) Vs Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11)
Filipino Froilan Saludar returns to Japan to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, as he battles hard hitting, but technically limited, Japanese challenger Ryuji Fukunaga. On paper this looks like it could be very explosive, and we wouldn't be surprised at all with the bout ending early. Fukunaga hasn't been able to show his power when he has faced his toughest opponents, and Saludar is certainly among the best opponents that he has faced.
Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) Vs Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2)
In a mouth watering clash of young prospects we'll see Yuki Nakajima take on Shisui Kawabata. On paper this doesn't look like one that will get fans outside of Japan too excited, but given the skills of the two men we are really excited by this one. Nakajima, the younger brother of Kazuki Nakajima, is a former amateur standout and made a real mark on the domestic amateur scene whilst Kawabata has been used as a sparring partner by Naoya, showing the quality that he has shared the ring with. We expect this to be very, very good.
Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4) Vs MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4)
World ranked Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi looks to build on August's win over Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly Yamauchi's win over Dagayloan cost him a Japanese title eliminator, due to the injuries he suffered in that bout, and he'll be lookign to make up for it in 2020. MJ Bo, from the Philippines was stopped last time he fought in Japan, by Yuta Nakayama, but is a capable opponent and should ask questions of Yamauchi.
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
Mexican fighter Emanuel Navarrete looks to make his fifth defense of the WBO Super Bantamweight title as he takes on Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima. The bout is expected to be a mismatch by many, especially given Navarrete's run since winning the title in late 2018. The champion is seen a real monster in the Super Bantamweight division and will come into the bout full of confidence. Although the 23 Santisima isn't well known outside of the Philippines he is riding a 17 fight winning run and has stopped 15 of those, so he certainly enters with a punchers chance, if nothing else.
Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) Vs Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Unbeaten Japanese-Afghan fighter Kudura Kaneko looks to extend his perfect record as he goes up against the talented Riku Nagahama in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title. Although neither of these two are well known outside of Japan the bout is a significant one and the winner will see their hopes of landing a big international fight given a huge shot in the arm. Of the two Nagahama has faced better competition, but has lost in his 2 most notable bouts, whilst Kaneko looks to be a fighter on the rise. A very interesting clash.
Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) Vs Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5)
Potentially the hidden gem for the month is a clash between Jae Woo Lee and Shingo Kusano, who clash in one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. The little known Lee made fans sit up and take note last November, when he stopped Tsuyoshi Tameda in a thrilling little war. Shingo Kusano also thrilled when he fought on the same November card, pulling himself off the canvas and battling back through some real scares against Qiang Ma. Expect this one to be exciting, and not to go the distance.
Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6)
The other Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi final bout will see Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic battle Japanese foe Daisuke Watanabe. This has the potential to be very exciting, or a total mess. Both guys like to let their hands go but with 6 technical decisions between them there's a real risk of headbutts derailing the fight. Fingers crossed the heads don't come in to contact too often and we instead get a bit of a thriller!
The month of June is over, at last, and we can now look forward to a truly packed July after what has been a rather frustrating and meandering month of action. With that in mind lets have a look at our last weekly award winners for this past month.
Fighter of the Week
Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4)
The Korean boxing queen did it again, retaining her WBA female Super Featherweight title for the 7th time and moving one step closer to a big bout. The talented Hyun Mi Choi struggled for a couple of rounds with Wakako Fujiwara before figuring out the Japanese challenger and taking a clear and wide decision win. This wasn't Choi at her best, but was a comfortable victory for the Pyongyang born champion.
Performance of the Week
Mizuki Chimoto (2-0, 1)
Japanese female fighter Mizuki Chimoto may not be getting much attention right now, but in just her second bout she claimed the Japanese female Minimumweight title, out pointing the talented Chie Higano over 6 rounds, taking a technical decision. The bout was a huge step up in class for Chimoto but she did what she needed to to get the win, get the title, and take a huge step towards making her mark on the sport. She's certainly one to watch, and we wouldn't be surprised to see her mixing up for world titles by the end of 2020.
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee
Touted Japanese debutant Ran Tomomatsu wasn't expected to have an easy time with Korean puncher Sang Geun Lee but what few would have anticipated was this heavy handed slog the two men had in what was the standout bout of the week. Both men really dug their toes into the canvas and let some bombs go in what will be a very over-looked war of attrition. For Tomomatsu this was a real baptism of fire whilst Lee showed what he was made of in a thrilling action bout
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee - Round 3
We stick with the Tomomatsu Vs Lee war for the round of the week, and that was the third round, which was the one where really saw the two men both let their shots go at their most even and most competitive. This was a round where we really saw what Lee was made of, and why Tomomatsu is so highly regarded with every punch, even the jabs, looking like they were being thrown with bad intent.
We sadly missed the Thai show on Sunday, but from the highlights we were impressed by the finish scored by Vaibhav Singh Yadav, who scored a big KO over Phongsathon Sompol. From what we managed to see, this was the one for us.
Suzumi Takayama (2-0, 2)
We only got a cameo from Watanabe Gym's Suzumi Takayama in mid-week but he impressed in blowing away Korean foe In Soo Jang. This was Takayama making a statement on a card that saw Japanese fighters have a pretty dominant display against Korean foes, with Takayama being the stand out among the Japanese team. There were other prospects on the card worthy of a mention, including Ran Tomomatsu, and across Asia later in the week, including excellent showings from Saddridin Akhmedov, Anvar Turapov, Murodjon Yokubov and Padyod Keartjareunsiri, but for a man in his second fight Takayama stood out as the one who made the best statement.
Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11) v Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18)
It's pretty much last chance saloon time for Filipino fighter Arthur Villanueva as he takes on WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali. For the French champion this will be his first defense, and bigger challenges do await later in the year, but for Villanueva it's now or never. We're not expecting this to be a FOTY contender, or anything even close to that, but we are hoping for a good, high quality boxing contest between two men each looking to prove they are world class fighters.
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