The month of May is set to be a very weird one, and one that could see bouts in Japan return to the no fan era, and has already seen shows for the 1st, 5th, 6th and 9th of May being postponed. With more potentially also needing to find new dates.
With that in mind we are going to look at what the current schedule looks like for May, though note that things are in a very fluid situation right now due to the on going pandemic, which has seen several parts of Japan go into another State of Emergency.
London, United Kingdom
Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11) vs Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9)
The first major bout of note will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA Light Heavyweight "Super" title as he takes on British fighter Craig Richards. The talented Bivol hasn't been in the ring since October 2019, so it's hard to complain too much about a relatively easy defense, but it's fair to say that this is certainly an underwhelming match up between arguably the best Light Heavyweight in the world and someone who, is potentially only the fifth best in the UK. Richards has the style to ask some questions of Bivol, though it's hard to imagine anything but a dominant win by the champion, who really needs to take this opportunity to look good, and not just take a clear win.
Saturday 8, May 2021
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, USA
Elwin Soto (18-1, 12) Vs Katsunari Takayama (32-8-0-1, 12)
A week after Bivol's in action we see Japanese veteran Katsunari Takayama get a chance to become a 2-weight world champion as he takes on WBO Light Flyweight champion Elwin Soto. The now 37 year old Takayama, who turns 38 just days after this fight, is one of the true fan favourites of the lower weights and his wars with the likes of Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr have been must watch affairs with drama and action. Soto on the other hand is an emerging force, with a really intimidating reputation as a big puncher, and a youngster with a point to prove. Soto will enter the bout as a very, very clear favourite, and he should be, though Takayama will be entering the bout knowing this is likely to be his final bout at world level, we expect he will go out on his shield, win or lose. For those who haven't seen these two in action before, this will be something to savour!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) Vs Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
Given how many Japanese shows have already been affected by the State of Emergency, which is supposed to be lifted on May 11th, it seems likely that the first major Japanese show of the month will come on May 13th, and it is one that is headlined by something a little bit special. That's a Featherweight unification bout between WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori and OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu. This will be a brilliant match up between a skilled youngster, in Mori, who is a very fighter with a good boxing brain, and a flawed, ugly fighter with insane power, in Shimizu. Although stylistically a potential mess, this should be really entertaining and see both men forced to answer some very serious questions about their ability.
Kazuki Nakajima (9-0-1, 8) Vs Kai Chiba (13-1, 8)
A second title bout on this show will see the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima take on the once beaten Kai Chiba in a bout for the now vacant OPBF Bantamweight title, which was given up by Takuma Inoue a few weeks ago. Nakajima is an interesting fighter who isn't the most natural boxer, and does look rigid and stiff, but has frightening power and long powerful levers. He's the type of guy who can be befuddled by movement, but can destroy people if they stand in front of him. Likewise Chiba is a fighter who hasn't typically used his feet as much as he should, but also has very respectable pop on his shots and could the type of fighter who could get Nakajima's respect. Although Chiba should box and move there is a real chance that he will be dragged into a shoot out here and this could end up being a "blink and you miss it" type of bout.
Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) Vs Hiromu Murota (6-4-2, 4)
Third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto looks to build on his fledgling career as he takes on Hiromu Murota in a scheduled 8 rounder. Matsumoto hasn't looked the most convincing in his first two bouts, though he shown a lot to like, including an ability to bite down when he's needed to and we suspect the plan for him is to build up his experience in bouts like this going forward. The 25 year old Murota shouldn't be much of a threat, though does come in to this following a draw with former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada and is unbeaten in his last 5 following a 2-4-1 start his pro career.
Katsuya Yasuda (7-0, 4) Vs Tomoki Takada (8-5-2, 5)
Ohashi's "forgotten man" Katsuya Yasuda will be looking for his 8th win as he takes on Tomoki Takada. The plan for Yasuda seems to be much slower than some of the other top Ohashi fighters, but his talent is clear and his performance against Omrri Bolivar last September earned rave reviews from his promoter. Interestingly Takada, despite his record, comes into this bout ranked #9 by the JBC and a win for Yasuda would boost his standing in the sport massively. although no world beater Takada is dangerous and has scored 3 opening round KO's in his last 5. If he lands he could chin check Yasuda, though it's hard to imagine anything but a win for the Ohashi man.
Manchester Arena, Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Hyun Mi Choi (18-0-1, 4) Vs Terri Harper (11-0-1, 6)
Just 2 weeks after the Bivol bout our attention turns to the UK against as Korean fighter Hyun Mi Choi gets the chance to unify her WBA female Super Featherweight title with the WBC and IBO versions held by English fighter Terri Harper. Choi looked less than impressive in her international debut, last December against Calista Silgado, and will need a much better performance here to over come Harper, who is quickly becoming one of the faces of female boxing. Harper on the other hand needs to build on her last performance, which was an excellent display against Katharina Thanderz. The winner of this will be the queen of the division, and will be looking to the others titles to their collection in what should make for a great year or two at 130lbs in female boxing.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
After numerous delays we'll finally see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako defending his title in a mandatory against Riku Kunimoto. This bout was originally sheduled for the Champion Carnival in 2020, then got delayed due to covid, training issues, an injury and then the recent State of Emergency in Tokyo. On paper Takesako will be the big favourite and will be tipped to be too strong and too good for Kunimoto, who will be fighting for the first time in over 2 years. On the other hand Kunimoto has the style that could pose real issues for Takesako, who is powerful but a bit robotic, and the movement and speed of Kunimoto could see him asking real questions of the champion.
One of the most amazing things about boxing is the sheer number of stories the sport has given us over the years. They range from the incredibly well documented, such as Muhammad Ali's and Mike Tyson's, to the almost unknown stories of fighters who never managed to become famous enough for fans around the world to know about them.
Over the years many, many stories of boxers, their careers and their lives have managed to be told through biopics, something that seems to be coming more and more popular in recent years. In recent years alone we have seen biopics released about a wide array of fighters from our great sport. These have included movies about legends like Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao, Roberto Duran and Max Schmelling, fan favourites like Vinny Pazienza, Chuck Wepner, Mickey Ward and national heroes like Mary Kom, Muhammad Shah and Olli Mäki.
With those movies in mind the team of guys behind Asian boxing was tasked with answering the question of:
"Who... should have a biopic made about their life and career?"
The only rule for this was that the fighter had to be Asian and the idea of the biopic was to tell a story that hadn't been told before to a wider, global audience.
Lee: "There are a lot of fantastic stories of fighters from Asia, and a lot of really good ones from Korea. I would love to see the tale of Yo Sam Choi given the big screen treatment, as I think it would really tear at the heart strings of viewers. His WBC world title win, with his battle to keep Korean boxing relevant, his retirements, his untimely death and his organ donations would be a really touching story with implications that could massively help raise the profile of organ donations. It could even end with interviews from the people who received organs and their families, as a poignant ending and showing that Choi still lives on. It's also worth noting that LeeSSang did a song regarding Choi, and it would be an amazing song to feature in the movie.
Another that I would love would be a biopic on Hyun Mi Choi. I know Choi's story is starting to be told thanks to her signing with Matchroom, but a lot of the story will never really be told. The way she was scouted for the 2008 Olympics, her and her family fleeing from North Korea, the need to create a new life in South Korea, the rise through the amateur ranks, her world title win, the double crossing of her team and the way she was taken advantage of, before finally making it big and fighting in the US.
Whilst I would love Yo Sam Choi's tale to be told, and I think it would be an amazing advert for what organ donations can do, I think the emotional push and pull would be an incredibly painful one to watch. As for Hyun Mi Choi it would be a feel good story, and a chance to get an insight into North Korea and what the regime was like. Two really good potential stories."
Takahiro: "If we were going to have a biopic about a fighter there are lots of names that spring to mind, but I think the best, as a viewer, would be Jiro Watanabe. The story would have carious chapters. Starting with his childhood and his success in Nippon Kempo as a youngster. Then for the middle portion we move on to boxing, the disappointment of his first world title fight, the eventual rise to the top, the politics between the WBC and WBA that denied him a unification, his world title reign and his unfulfilled rivalry with Khaosai Galaxy. Then we get to the bulk of the action and the eventual conclusion, his down fall, the Yakuza issues, and the stories that have plagued him since he hung up the gloves.
If I'm allowed a second choice I would also love to see a movie on the international stage of Iwao Hakamada. As many will know Hakamada wasn't a famous boxer, but his name is well known internationally due to the "Hakamada Incident" where he was found guilty of the murders of his boss and their family. He would serve a lengthy time on death row before his legal team, with the help of those in Japanese boxing, managed to get his case retried. I think a biopic on Hakamada, at one of the film festivals, would raise the profile of Hakamada further and really force the world to take a look at the Japanese criminal justice system. A system that has failed Hakamada, and needs to be changed. I think given the success of "The Hurricane" this would do well, and would be the spiritual brother of that movie
I will take biopics on Jiro Watanabe or Iwao Hakamada please!"
Scott: "Whenever I see this question one name that always jumps immediately to mind is Hiroyuki Sakamoto. He has a tale that would just feel so good to watch, despite a dark start. He was abused as a child, along with his brother, and he would end up in an orphanage. Despite that he was bit by the boxing bug, and ended up being a star in the sport. He was a star despite not being a loud mouth, or really talking much at all. He let his boxing do the talking and was known as the "Japanese Duran" due to his power and aggression.
After a sad start to the movie we would get to see Sakamoto fight through the rankings, becoming a multi time world title challenger, with a lot of focus on his astonishing fight with Gilberto Serrano, one of the craziest comebacks in the sport. Then his big opportunity against Takanori Hatakeyama. More disappointment. I would end the part about his in ring career here, though can see some value in showing the final few bouts of it. Then fast forward a few years and we'd get the chance to see Sakamoto's post boxing career, the success of the SRS Boxing Gym which he set up, as well as Sakamoto receiving the "HEROs SPORTSMANSHIP for THE FUTURE" award for his charitable work with the Aozora Foundation that he set up. We'd go from grief, and extreme sadness at Sakamoto's child hood and career to jubilation to what he does now.
As well as Sakamoto I think another fighter who deserves the big screen treatment is Sirimongkol Singwancha. His career and life is crazy. His father basically pushed him into boxing, he raced to a world title, had an incredible 1997 bout with Joichiro Tatsuyoshi, had a scandal with nudes back in 2005, a drug issue in 2009 saw him given a 20 year sentence, he was given an early pardon, then would fight on, and on, and on! Fighting all the way in to 2020, when he was in his early 40's and very much a washed up fighter."
This past week has been another of those weeks that has given us a lot of action, spread over a lot of days. We'll admit this is another week where there has been action late on, and sadly delayed our awards by a few hours. It is also, sadly, a week where a lot of footage hasn't been made available in a timely fashion, most notable the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals, which took place today but won't be aired on TV for another week.
Despite the delay of footage for some shows, we still had a lot to talk about, in what has been a really good week.
Fighter of the Week
Hyun Mi Choi
Unbeaten Korean fighter Hyun Mi Choi did what few ever thought she would, she fought in the USA this week, and managed to put on a showcase of aggression, making for a really fun and exciting bout against the over-matched Calista Silgado. It was certainly not a punch performance from the "Defector Girl Boxer", but that hardly mattered, this was a massive win for her, for Korea and for Korean boxing. Sadly Korean boxing isn't what it once was and Choi is the nation's only world champion, so here win here is massive for Korea and can hopefully help kick start boxing in the country again. Her fight was fun to watch and she fought with a style that wasn't really like her usual one, making sure to leave an impression. This was exactly what she needed to do, and exactly what fans needed to see from the 30 year old.
Performance of the Week
Whilst Choi was the fighter of the week her performance was a very flawed one. Gennady Golovkin on the other hand put in a near flawless performance, and rarely needed to get out of second gear en route to an easy win over Kamil Szeremeta. Golovkin controlled every minute of the fight, dropped Szeremeta 4 times, and landed at will against a Polish challenger who simply shouldn't have been in the ring with him. This was not a Golovkin who looked 38 or like he hadn't fought in over a year, this was a polished, revitalised Golovkin, wanting to show wrinkles in his style that hadn't been seen in years. An excellent performance.
Fight of the Week
Ali Akhmedov Vs Carlos Gongora
Despite the fact we had a lot of fights this past week a lot of this past week many of them failed to deliver drama or action. Mr "Big Drama Show" himself, for example, just battered someone who shouldn't have been in the ring with him. One bout that did stand out however was the 12 round thriller between the unbeaten pairing of Ali Akhmedov and Carlos Gongora. This was a genuinely great fight, with Akhmedov setting the early tempo, Gongora adjusting, Akhmedov tiring himself out, and Gongora coming from behind to score a 12th round stoppage. If you missed this one make sure to do yourself a favour and give it a watch, a genuinely fantastic bout with action, drama, momentum shifts, skills, and a huge comeback
Round of the Week
Ryoji Fukunaga vs Kenta Nakagawa (Rd 8)
The fantastic Boxing Raise service gave us a really great show this past week thanks to Kadoebi Promotions, and it was the main event bout from that show that gave us, arguably, the two best rounds of the week. They were rounds 8 and 9 of the triple title unification bout between Ryoji Fukunaga and Kenta Nakagawa, with both rounds being amazing back and forth battles between two men desperately wanting to become triple crown champions. Fukunaga's power and heavy hands hurt Nakagawa repeatedly in round 8, but he lacked the energy to finish his man, allowing Nakagawa to fire back, and land some huge left hands, that stiffened his legs, only to than have Fukunaga recover and come back at Nakagawa. This was Rocky-like stuff from both and made Boxing Raise well worth the price this month.
KO of the Week
Towa Tsuji TKO3 Kairi Suetsugu
We dip into the realm of the obscure for the KO of the week, which was a brutal left hook from hell from Towa Tsuji, which landed clean as a whistle on Kairi Suetsugu, sending him down hard. The bout was waved off quickly with Seutsugu down on the canvas before he was stretched out of the ring. We doubt Tsuji will ever score a better KO than this, and it was the perfect way for him to end his debut. A real eye catching finish.
Christian Araneta KO1 Roland Jay Biendima
Prospect of the Week
There was only real one contender here for Prospect of the Week and that was Japanese youngster Ryosuke Nishida who stepped up massively this week and scored a brilliant unanimous decision win over Shohei Omori. The talented Nishida, fighting just his third professional bout, started very sprightly, using his speed and movement really well, and despite some trouble in rounds 4 and 5 came back even stronger, Hurting Omori in the final 3 rounds. Credit to Omori for surviving some torid moments in rounds 7 and 8 but this was Nishida's day, and Nishida's week. A fantastic showcase of a sensational prospect.
It's fair to say that December is the best month of the year and over the next 2 weeks or so we are getting a great run of fights up to Christmas, with several notable names and big shows set to take place all over the world.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12) vs Kenta Nakagawa (19-3-1, 12)
In a bout for all the regional and domestic marbles at 115lbs we'll see JBC champion Kenta Nakagawa battle WBO Asia Pacific champion Ryoji Fukunaga, with two title the men hold, as well as the OPBF title, up for grabs. The two men are a long way behind world class, but against each other they are very well matched, and both men can punch, so this should be a genuinely thrilling shoot out. A very hard one to call and a potentially very exciting match up, with both men being hurt.
Hiroki Okada (19-2, 13) vs Izuki Tomioka (7-3-1, 2)
The out of form Hiroki Okada returns to a Japanese ring for the first time since May 2018 as he takes on the talented and slick Izuki Tomioka. Coming in to this Okada has lost his last 2, by stoppage, in the US and will known that a loss to a domestic foe could spell the end of his career. Tomioka, who is in his early 20's, has proven to be a very talented and tricky fighter, but very much a work in progress and has lost his 3 biggest bouts to date. Style wise this is a very interesting match up and it really could go either way, depending on how Okada is mentally following his recent set backs.
Mikio Sakai (2-0) vs Toshihiro Kai (6-11-3, 2)
It's not often we get to talk about Japanese Middleweights so with that in mind we felt it was worthy of giving this bout some attention. Mikio Sakai was a former Japanese amateur standout who has looked very good since turning professional. He'll be strongly backed to pick up win #3 here against the limited and somewhat fragile Kai, who has been stopped a number of times recently. Given the lack of depth on the Japanese scene at Middleweight a win here would likely leave Sakai only a fight or two away from a domestic title bout.
December 16th -
Aidos Yerbossynuly (14-0, 9) vs Issah Samir (19-0, 16)
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Aidos Yerbossynuly looks to extend his unbeaten record and take another step towards a potential world title bout as he takes on fellow unbeaten Issah Samir, from Ghana. This bout will see Yerbossynuly defending a number of minor titles and taking on his most dangerous foe to date, with Samir certainly being able to puncher and boasting an unbeaten record of his own. Although Yerbossynuly is stepping up it's also fair to state that Samir is taking on his toughest test to date, and will be doing so as the under-dog, in his first bout outside of Ghana. On paper one of the most attractive bouts in this pre-Christmas period.
Bek Nurmaganbet (2-0, 1) vs Emmanuel Danso (32-5, 26)
Touted Kazakh hopeful Bek Nurmaganbet fights for the third time this year as he takes on Emmanuel Danso, who like Samir is from Ghana. Danso has an imposing looking record and looks like a real danger man for the unbeaten 22 year old Kazakh former amateur standout. On paper a major test. Sadly however looking beneath the numbers Danso is perhaps a calculated risk and the "Kwahu Tyson" has been stopped in 4 of his 5 losses and has come up short every time he's left Africa for a bout. Despite, probably, being a mismatch it is worth noting that Danso has shared the ring with Umar Salamov, Ruslan Fayfer, Feng Manlong and Robin Krasniqi, so Nurmaganbet will be able to compare himself to some notable contenders after just 3 professional bouts.
Bekzad Nurdauletov (1-0, 1) vs Kabiru Towolawi (13-2, 10)
The sensationally talented Bekzad Nurdauletov returns to the ring for his second professional bout as he takes on Nigerian 40 year old Kabiru Towolaw. On paper this is another bout that looks dangerous until you dig below the numbers and realise that Towolawi hasn't beaten a fighter with a winning record, though has proven to be tough. We expect to see nothing other than an easy win for the Kazakh here, who will likely be looking for a second stoppage win.
Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, California, USA
Eumir Marcial (0-0) Vs Andrew Whitfield (3-1, 2)
Talented Filipino amateur standout Eumir Marcial will kick start his professional career as he takes on fellow professional novice Andrew Whitfield in a scheduled 4 rounder. Marcial is tipped for an Olympic medal at the Tokyo games and has turned professional to staty busy and get some rounds under his belt before the Olympics, and a subsequent full professional career. Whitfield shouldn't be much of a test, but will be there looking to pick up a win upset the very highly regarded Pinoy pugilist.
December 17th -
Wild Card Boxing, Los Angeles, California, USA
Madiyar Ashkeyev (14-0, 7) Vs Charles Conwell (13-0, 10)
Staying on the subject of Kazakh's the unbeaten Madiyar Ashkeyev takes a major step up in class he faces fellow unbeaten Charles Conwell on December 17th's edition of Ring City, the brilliant new idea to put on events with 50-50 match ups in the US with out promotional bias. Similar in some ways to some of the DANGAN cards in Japan. This is a really mouth watering bout with the 32 year old Ashkeyev now being given a chance to sink or swim. Conwell is a very highly regarded American prospect and a win here will shoot the 23 year old to within touching distance of a world title fight. A fantastic match up and one we are really looking forward to. In fact we're really looking forward to following the Ring City project in general as it's a brilliant concept.
December 18th -
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida, USA
Gennady Golovkin (40-1-1, 35) vs Kamil Szeremeta (21-0, 5)
Remaining on the subject of Kazakh fighters, the biggest name in Kazakh boxing returns as Gennady Golovkin looks to defend the IBF Middleweight title against relatively unknown Polish challenger Kamil Szeremeta. We are of the opinion that Golovkin is a shadow of the fighter he once was, but at 38 he's only coming down the other side of the hill, and has got tot he bottom yet. With that in mind we suspect he'll be too big, too strong and too powerful for Szeremeta. On the other hand Golovkin has been in tough fights recently and they are clearly taking a toll on him, with numerous injuries in recent years. This should be an easy one, but if he struggles we suspect Golovkin will consider 2021 as his final in the sport.
Ali Akhmedov (16-0, 12) vs Carlos Gongora (18-0, 13)
Another Kazakh on this card will be Ali akhmedov, who is in a really interesting looking match up against Ecuador's Carlos Gongora. The exciting Kazakh has run out his record to 16-0 but hasn't really been tested since his 2016 debut, with his toughest bouts being a wide 8 round decision win over Mike Guy and a wide 10 round decision over DeShon Webster. Gongora on the other hand was a 2-time Olympian who competed 3 times in the World Amateur Championships, but has sadly been matched very softly since turning professional. Gongora certainly has the amateur pedigree to suggest he's a talent, but the 31 year old has been matched even softer than Akhmedov. For both men this is a step up in class, and one that feels over-due for both fighters.
Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4) vs TBA
Unbeaten Korean Hyun Mi Choi makes her international debut though at the time of writing her opponent is unknown. She was originally slated to be rematching Mexican foe Jessica Gonzalez, though it appears that Choi's team have had to look elsewhere for an opponent and have seemingly offered the opportunity to vocal fighter who made it clear the offer wasn't suitable for her. Sadly what should have been a chance for Choi to increase her international profile has seen her become the latest fighter to sign with Matchroom and have her opponent be a mystery. Sadly this is becoming a trend with Matchroom in the both the UK and the USA
December 19th -
Mohegan Sun Casino, USA
Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26) Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12)
On December 19th Filipino boxing legend Nonito Donaire will face off with Emmanuel Rodriguez for the vacant WBC Bantamweight title. Originally we were supposed to see Donaire battle Nordine Oubaali, but Oubaali has contracted Covid19, forcing him to pull out of this bout and be given the WBC "champion in recess" tag and leaving the WBC title vacant. Interestingly Donaire and Rodriguez were both last seen in the ring losing to Naoya Inoue, though in very different fashion, with Donaire last 12 rounds with Inoue and Rodriguez being blasted early on. Donaire will be the favourite, but it's going to be interesting to see just how much the 38 year "Filipino Flash" has left more than a year removed from his excellent performance against Inoue in the WBSS final.
Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20) Vs Jose Velasquez (28-6-2, 19)
On the same show as Donaire Vs Roodriguez we get another interesting Bantamweight bout as unbeaten Pinoy puncher Reymart Gaballo takes on Chilean veteran Jose Velasquez in a bout for the WBA "interim" Bantamweight title. For Gaballo this is a chance to become a 2-time "interim" champion, having won the title in 2018 with a win over Stephon Young, though his first reign lead nowhere. For Velasquez this is a huge match up and his first shot at any form of a world title. On paper Gaballo is the favourite, but his wild, free swinging aggression may get him in some trouble against his tough Chilean foe.
Olive Convention Centre, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Moruti Mthalane (39-2, 26) vs Jayson Mama (15-0, 8)
The final big fight before Christmas sees us focusing on South Africa as unbeaten Filipino fighter Jayson Mama challenges Moruti Mthalane for the IBF Flyweight title. The 23 year old Pinoy is really taking a huge leap up in class here, going from bouts against faded contenders, like Fahlan Sakkreerin, and domestic fighters, like Dexter Alimento, up to genuine world class. Mthalane, now aged 38, is certainly fighting father time, but the "Babyface" has defied age over and over. Interestingly this will be Mthalne's first bout in his home town and we do wonder if he plans to wave good bye to the sport, win or lose, with a chance to bow out on top at home. Notably it has been almost a year since Mthalane beat Akira Yaegashi in Yokohama and we do wonder if age and ring rust will be an issue against a young and hungry fighter like Mama.
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