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.
So the new year is here! And although we've not got a lot happening in January, we do have more than we expected, with title bouts, eliminators, tournament finals and a little of everything!
Pyeongtaek, South Korea
Yoo Seung Jun (6-1) vs Seung Hee Lee (4-6, 1)
One of two KBM eliminators at 154lbs will see the once beaten Yoo Seung Jun take on Seung Hee Lee. Our understanding is that the winner here will fight for the vacant title later in the year against the winner of the other eliminator.
Sung Min Yuh (3-0) Vs Se Yul Yang (3-4-2, 1)
Talking about that other eliminator, that will see Sung Min Yuh take in Se Yul Yang. Notable if Yuh and Jun win their bouts it would be a rematch of the "Battle Royale" final from last November, and would have an interesting sub-plot of revenge or repeat, as well as being for the KBM title.
Da Won Gang (3-0, 1) Vs Jin Soo Kim (6-7-1, 3)
Another KBM eliminator will be at 140lbs where the touted Da Won Gang takes on Jin Soo Kim. The talented Gang is regarded by those in Korea as one of the countries best talents in recent years, and like Sung Min Yuh he won the "Battle Royale" last year. A win here sets him for a big 2020.
New Jersey, USA
Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22) vs Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1-1, 12)
The limited but heavy handed Bakhtiyar Eyubov, from Kazakhstan, is up against it here as he takes on touted American Jaron "Boots" Ennis in what looks likely to be a show case for the talented local hopeful.
Vladimir Baez (26-5-2, 24) vs Tuguldur Byambatsogt (1-0)
In a Knock Out Dynamite Final we'll see Japanese based Dominican slugger Vladimir Baez battle against Mongolian professional novice Tuguldur Byambatsogt. On paper a mismatch, but in reality this could be a big break out for Byambatsogt, who impressed us in his semi-final bout.
Ribo Takahata (16-8-1, 6) vs Marvin Esquierdo (15-2-1, 9)
Another final at the Knock Out Dynamite Tournament will see Japanese veteran Ribo Takahata take on Filipino foe Marvin Esquierdo. Notably Esquierdo fought in the first ever Knock Out Dynamite Tournament bout, and netted the highest bonus with an opening round win, will he look for the same here?
Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15) vs Adrian Estrella (29-4, 24)
Touted Uzbek puncher Shohjahon Ergashev looks to kick in the new year as he takes on once touted Mexican Adrian Estrella. Neither of these are the most polished of fighters, but both are heavy handed and we expect this one to be short, but very explosive!
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) vs Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11)
OPBF Middleweight champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa defends his belt against hard hitting Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako. This is not expected to hear the final bell, with both men being heavy handed fighters, and will be one of the highlights of the month!
Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) vs Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8)
Former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue will be looking to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title against Chinese challenger Cheng Su. Inoue, who is enjoying his second reign as the WBO Asia Pacific champion, will be looking to get a second world title shot in the near future, but needs to get past Su to keep that dream alive.
Kenia Enriquez (22-1, 9) vs Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5)
Talking about world title fights WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight champion Kenia Enriquez will be defending her title at home in Mexico against Japanese challenger Chaoz Minowa. For Minowa this is a third crack at world level, and a loss here will likely end her hopes of ever becoming a world champion.
So we're finally through what feels like an incredibly long January, and it's time to post our first ever Monthly award winners!
Fighter of the Month
On January 26th Can Xu, from China, upset Jesus M Rojas to become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion, that win netted him our Fighter of the Week for Week 4 2019 and saw him announce himself on the radar of many fight fans. Whether he will become the figure that Chinese boxing builds around is unclear, for now, but it's clear that this is one of the biggest ever wins for Chinese boxing, and to do it on foreign soil makes it even bigger.
Xu not only won, which was impressive by it's self but did so by out Rojasing' Rojas. He stood and traded, fought at a high tempo and forced the champion to tire down the stretch. Which is when he was particularly effective.
The win, the performance and his post fight interview, where he explained his power came from China, made him a fan favourite and it's clear that he will be welcomed back in the US in the future.
Fight of the Month
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
There was stiff competition for Fight of the Month, with Takeshi Inoue Vs Jaime Munguia and Kenshin Oshima Vs Ikura Sadatsune and Jian Wang Vs Seong Yeong Yang all being great fights. The winner however was the Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas fight, which was high Octane from the start to the end. It did, perhaps, lack the drama needed for a true Fight of the Year candidate, but it's the best we've had this year, and yes we know we are only in February now but it was a very enjoyable contest.
The tempo that was set was great, the momentum shifts, with Rojas starting fast, Xu coming into the bout, Rojas having a big 9th round, then Xu come back on strong, made it something that you couldn't take your eyes off of.
It seemed early on like Rojas was going to get Xu out of there. He looked too strong and too powerful, he then began to tire and Xu's punches too over as his toughness saw him staying up through the storm. What a great fight, and a great coming out party for Xu, who may prove to be one of the most TV friendly fighters out there.
KO of the Month
Mikhail Lesnikov KO1 Afrizal Tamboresi
There hasn't been many true KO's in Asian Boxing this month, but there was a really brutal one that stood out, and that was Mikhail Lesnikov's brutal knockout out of Indonesian journeyman Afrizal Tamboresi. The match was a disgusting mismatch, with Lesnikov being far too big for Tamboresi, and that was compounded by the fact Tamboresi had been numerous times prior to this contest. A disgusting mismatch that ended in brutal fashion, though credit to Lesnikov for not prolonging the beating of Tamboresi.
The bout it's self leads us to wondering why Tamboresi's team would throw him into such a mismatch but that's not really relevant to the discussion at hand.
We had a really good selection of prospects in action this month including Vikas Krishan, who made his debut, Li Xiang, who shined in China and Sadriddrin Akhmedov. For us the most impress was unheralded ArAr Andales.
We all know how good Akhmedov and Krishan were as amateurs, they were expected to win, and win good, Andales on the other hand was a bit of a mystery, an unknown teenager taking a notable step up in class. Despite the step up he stopped Charlie Malugpangue, his first stoppage win in 6 bouts.
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
We won't go into this too much, given the bout has already been mentioned twice, but Xu entered as a 5/1 under-dog across the British betting markets and still secured the win. A big win and a bit betting surprise.
Shin Ono Vs Norihito Tanaka (Round 6)
Stream live on Boxing Raise the Japanese Minimumweight title bout between Shin Ono and Norhito Tanaka is likely to be the start of the end for Ono's career. It was however a gutsy performance from the Watanabe man, who knew he was behind after 5 rounds and put everything in to trying to turn the bout around. He put in an incredible effort in round 6, but was unable to damage Tanaka, who would see him off the following round to claim the Japanese title.
The round was a brilliant see saw round, that saw Ono upping his pace and Tanaka refusing to release his grip on the bout. A fantastic 3 minutes of action!
Whilst Ono's career is unlikely to last too much longer, given his age and accumulated damage, this was a fantastic way to go out. As for Tanaka he has finally won a big one and will likely see himself defending the belt in the Spring.
After a slow start January picks up in the middle of the month, as we get a host of notable fighters in action.
Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39) Vs Adrien Broner (33-3-1-1, 24) - WBA Welterweight title
One of the first world title fights with an Asian fighter in this coming year will be a WBA "regular" Welterweight title fight, as Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao defends his title against 4-weight champion Adrien Broner. For Pacquiao's it's a chance to show that his win over Lucas Matthysse wasn't just a case of getting the Argentinian puncher at the right time, and to take a huge step towards a potential rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. For Broner this is another chance, one of many, to show that he is as good as the early hype suggested. Broner has been, for the most part, a disappointment, known more for his personality than his boxing. If Broner can perform to his best, this could be very interesting. If Broner instead fights within himself, this could be very forgetable.
Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17) Vs Hugo Ruiz (38-4, 33) - WBA "interim" Featherweight title
Prior to the Pacquiao Vs Broner fight we'll see another Filipino looking to establish their reign as WBA "interim" Featherweight champion Jhack Tepora takes on Mexican Hugo Ruiz. Both of these men are heavy handed, hard hitting and exciting fighters, suggesting we'll be given an explosive contest here. Tepora is the more wild fighter here, but is a natural Featherweight. Ruiz is technically the stronger fighter, he understands the ring more and has the better ring IQ. He also has the more suspect chin and has been stopped at the lower weights. Interestingly Ruiz is the much taller and longer man, despite having first made his name at Bantamweight.
Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17) Vs Takafumi Nakajima (29-11-1, 13)II
Japan's Shingo Wake has lost twice in the last 9 years, one of those was to Jonathan Guzman, in an IBF title fight, and the other was to Japanese domestic fighter Takafumi Nakajima. Now Wake gets a chance to avenge that loss to Nakajima, more than 6 years after it happened, as the two face off for the second time. A win for Wake is expected, as he continues his charge towards a second world title fight, however Nakajima will feel like this is a huge opportunity to get a second win over Wake, and give his career a huge shot in the arm. A possible mismatch, but one with some history behind it!
Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) Vs Daisuke Sugita (4-0, 3)
On the same card in Tokyo fight fans will also see world ranked Featherweight Reiya Abe, as he takes on former amateur stand out Daisuke Sugita. The talented Abe has been on an excellent run, since losing in early 2015 to Shingo Kusano. He hasn't just avenged the loss to Kusano but also strung together solid wins over the likes of Ryo Hino, Tsuyoshi Tameda and Satoshi Hosono. Sugita is taking a huge step up in class here, but is highly touted following his amateur career and his team are certainly not wanting to protect him. This could be a very interesting technical show case between two very talented fighters.
Jung Kyoung Lee (6-2-1, 2) Vs Samuel Colomban(25-10-1, 11)
Korean fans will get the chance to see local hopeful Jung Kyoung Lee take on veteran Samuel Colomban in a bout for the vacant OPBF Light Middleweight title. It's been a while since we've seen a Korean fighter fighting for an OPBF title so this bout will get attention on that basis, it will also get attention due to the fact it's the first card under the Annihilation banner, which has been formed by several MMA promotions working with the KBF. Lee is taking a huge step up here, but Colomban has seen better days and it's hard to know what he really has left to offer the sport. This should be a pretty interesting match without being anything huge.
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