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!
It's fair to say that 2020 has been an odd year so far, with a very stop-start feel to the boxing we've had. Things, of course, haven't been helped by shows being cancelled due to Coronavirus in Asia, but this week was just an odd, odd one. There was fights, but mostly at a low level. The top Asian fighters in action failed to pick up the wins we;d hoped for and the best of the action really came on some obscure cards. With that in mind lets have a look at this weeks award winners
Fighter of the Week
Shuma Nakazato (10-1-2, 7)
Given our criteria of fighter of the week this week was a really weird one. The criteria is the fighter who scored the best win from the week, not the best performance, which comes under the "Performance of the Week" which can account for losses. As a result we really had to look outside the box, given there was so few wins of note by Asian fighters in what was a truly odd week. In the end it seemed hard to argue that Shuma Nakazato's win over Yuji Awata was the best, and most significant. The win came on the first sole-promoted by former world title challenger Shigeru Nakazato, and gave the promoter the result they needed for the show to be a success.
Sadly this week may well end up with us reviewing how we do fighter of the week going forward, though this week was an odd one in general, and this could be an anomaly rather than anything else.
Performance of the Week
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9)
It really was an odd week for Asian boxers, with no one getting a truly big win, in fact the two biggest fights involving Asian fighters both ended in a loss. It was however hard not to be pretty impressed with how Tugstsogt Nyambayar ended up acquitting himself in his loss to Gary Russell Jr. The Mongolian started slowly, but warmed to the task well and proved that he certainly deserves to remain in the world title picture, despite a loss to the talented and speedy American. Don't be surprised to see Nyambayar's loss serve as a learning experience, and the way he picked up the pace in the final 8 rounds showed what he could do. A mixed performance, sure, but also one which showed a lot to get excited about.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar vs Gary Russell Jr
In a fight that had high level skills and was a genuine chess match Tugstsogt Nyambayar and Gary Russell Jr gave us something that was both compelling, exciting, and technical. There was no real debating the winner, with Russell Jr banking the early rounds for the win against Nyambayar's slow start, but this was still a fantastic bout, and something that is well worthy of a watch. It's not going to be a fight of the year contender, but don't let that take away from what was a genuinely solid 12 round, world level bout between two men who are both legitimate top fighters at 126lbs.
Ryosuke Maruta vs Kazunari Kosaka (Rd1)
We'll admit we tend to skip the 4 round Dangan cards, but on a week lacking in action like this the show was certainly worthy of some interest, and it provided some really great action. The best of it, for us, was the opening round of Ryosuke Maruta's bout with Kazunari Kosaka, who really went all out, swinging bombs in a thrilling action packed 3 minutes of chaos. For those wanting technically perfect boxing, counter punching and smart defense do not look at this round, but for those who wild and heavy offense this is for your. This is just great and thrilling wild, crude fun.
Andy Atsushi v Yuta Hasegawa (Rd 2)
Naoya Mitsuhashi TKO2 Harunobu Yamasaki
We stick with the 4 round Dangan cards for the KO of the week, as Naoya Mitsuhashi cleaned out Harunobu Yamasaki in brutal fashion in the second round of their bout. This is one you'll need to hunt down to find, and be a Boxing Raise subscriber to see, but it's worth it as a single clean right hand to the temple sent the 37 year old Yamasaki crashing to his knees, then flat out on his back. This is not what we expected from Mitsuhashi, who was fighting for just the second time, but we'll be keeping an eye on him after this fantastic KO
Narimichi Miura TKO1 Yota Matsui
Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov (1-0, 1)
Talented Uzbke fighter Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov kicked off his career with an expected easy win over Benjie Ebido in the Philippines. Despite stopping Ebido inside the opening round there was a lot to like about Sharakhmatov's performance, and he is certainly one to watch going forward. Make a mental note of his name as he is going to make a big splash in the years to come and should be on people's radar's now. He intelligently pressed Ebido and broke him down mentally and physically in very quick fashion. A real talent with a nice, easy introduction to the professional ranks.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
Although our upcoming bout selection is usually the bout we expect to be the most exciting of the coming week this week's is a little bit different however as the bout we are most looking forward to is a bit of a mismatch. Despite it being a mismatch it's one we're excited about because it's the long awaited return of former world champion Daigo Higa after almost 2 years out of the ring. We expect Higa to beat Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra, without too many problems, however the key here is that the Higa express is back on the line after such a long break from the ring!
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