On Saturday night we were treat to a very public joke by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which again showed that replays in boxing are a long, long way from being an effective solution to modernise the sport and bring it in line with elite level Tennis, Cricket, Soccer and American football. In fact we saw it come under such scrutiny and questioning that it's perhaps better to be put on the side line and worked on quietly before trying to be re-introduced, much like Open Scoring.
The bout in question was the second bout between Joshua Franco and Andrew Moloney, which ended in a No Decision following serious swelling around Franco's eye, very early in the bout.
Afterwards the cause of the swelling was reviewed, over and over and over....taking more than 20 minutes to make a decision on the call. And then they still got it wrong. This has lead to some hilariously bad takes online, such as some suggesting it was the "worst robbery in history", unless you've just started following boxing you know that's crap. And others saying "fuck Las Vegas", including the show's promoter Bob Arum.
Lets just take a few steps back and look at things.
Is it the worst robbery in history?
No. Flat out no. We do a "Controversial Clashes" series and that often covers worst decisions, and we're considering just bouts with Asian fighters, ignoring travesties like the first bout between Juan Martin Coggi and Eder Gonzalez, or James Toney Vs Dave Tiberi, Paul Williams Vs Erislandy Lara. This was the wrong decision, but it's not even going to break into the top 50 worst robberies.
So lets stop the hyperbole, before the entire conversation falls on to an untruth and devalues the actual issues at hand.
Lets be honest folks, this probably isn't even the worst decision you've seen in the last few weeks. Unless you are very, very new to boxing. If you are, go check out that Coggi Vs Gonzalez bout to see something hilariously bad and that will make you feel a lot less angry about this week's action.
Fuck Las Vegas?
This is the more interesting one, and the one that we really want to discuss in two parts.
Firstly if the bout was ANYWHERE but Nevada the bout would have been a No Contest when it was stopped. The referee called the incident that caused Franco's injury an Accidental Head Clash, whether rightly or wrongly. In any other state that would have been it. There wouldn't have been replays. There wouldn't have been a 20 minute delay. That would have been the call and it wouldn't have been called to question in the way it was here. The referee's call would have stood.
Had the bout been held outside of Las Vegas we'd all be talking about wanting a rematch, and that's exactly what we should be pressing for now. That's the right thing to do, it's the thing the fans want, the fighters should be wanting and their teams should be looking to force. It's not often boxing can get an easy win, and that is an easy win. Re-hold the bout, and lets see them go again in an unofficial rubber match match. Their first one was great, and the second should have been great. Now we have even more intrigue going into a third bout.
But it was in Las Vegas, and they do have replay in action!
Indeed it was. It was in possibly the only regional using replays with any regularity, in fact this wasn't the first time during the current Top Rank in the Bubble run of shows and again it showed the issues with replay, which were laid very bare here. It's not replay it's self that is bad, but it's the unclear aim, and use of replay which is an issue.
Back in July, I know some boxing fans have short memories, we saw replay being used in the bout between Jose Pedraza and Mikkel LesPierre. Originally LesPierre has a knockdown called in his favour, in round 5, and then we entered round 6 before the referee left the ring and was convinced he had made a mistake, over-turning his original decision.
That was a farce, and in the end didn't actually matter. But at least they got it right. They should have had the decision made before we entered round 6, and in reality the ringside officials should have the power to over-rule the referee if there is a clear error. And this was a clear error.
In October we saw an improvement to the system, albeit still a flawed system. In October, for the bout between Arnold Barboza Jr Vs Alex Saucedo, we saw a ringside replay official look over a potential knockdown and over-rule the referee during a time out, ruling that a knockdown took place. The referee called a slip and he was quickly corrected, with Joe Cortez watching the replay and correcting the call from Celestino Ruiz. Ruiz then told the judges to score the knockdown, allowing them to correct their cards.
It still wasn't PERFECT, but it was a massive upgrade on what we had had just weeks earlier and it lead to Joe Tessitore, working for ESPN, to proudly state "by the way for everybody who has spent the entire day watching college football and getting angry at the TV as it takes 3 minutes and 5 minutes and 6 minutes for a review boxing just did it in about 10 seconds after the round...Well done by the Nevada State Athletic Commission".
Joe was right. This was impressive, it was timely it. It worked. It got it correct and it put the two fighters both clearly in the position that they knew what the ruling was, and could change their tactics accordingly. It was corrected within moments, and most done between rounds, with a time out being called before the action resumes for the referee to instruct the judges.
This is how it should be done. A decision should be made, it should be clear, and it should be explained to both the judges and the corners if need be. Everyone should be on the same page and know where they stand. They can they adapt their tactics if needed.
Right so they work, and they are improving!
Of course the system is improving, but those are the only times it's been used in boxing, and it's been used with mixed success in the past. There are three other notable examples, two where they got it right and one where they got it very, very wrong.
The wrong example is probably the least well known, and that's a 2012 bout between Nihito Arakawa and Daniel Estrada. A cut was caused on Estrada that was ruled, by the referee, to have come from a headclash. Due to the WBC accidental foul rule Arakawa was deducted a point before replays showed it was a punch that caused the cut and the point deduction was removed. Then the replay call was over-ruled, when the cut that was caused earlier in the bout stopped the contest, leading to a technical decision in favour of Estrada. Not the TKO win to Arakawa that the replay call, earlier in the bout, should have lead to. This lead to confusion in both corners and lead to massive confusion with the referee yelling that it was an elbow that caused the damage.
The WBC knew this was wrong and tried to sort out a rematch between the two men. Estrada declined it and we ended up getting Arakawa's bout with Omar Figueroa as a result. It was a complete cluster fuck of a situation.
Another example, where they got it right, also involved a Japanese fighter. That was Koki Eto's first bout with Jeyvier Cintron, when Cintron was dropped and out on his feet from what, initially, looked like a clean punch. It was then reviewed and showed an elbow had caught him and sent him loopy. The original decision, of a TKO1 for Eto, was rightfully over-turned, we had a rematch and Cintron won, securing a bout with Kazuto Ioka.
We also saw the review process kick in for the WBC Flyweight title bout between Charlie Edwards and Julio Cesar Martinez, with that bout being in England. This bout ended in round 3 after Martinez hit Edwards with a shot when the Englishman was on a knee. Originally ruled a KO3 win for Martinez it was later over-turned to a No Contest on review. The right call was made following the review.
This was the right decision, got the wrong way. As prior to the No Contest being delivered it was stated that replay wasn't in use, and then it was. And then it was used in a way that helped the promoters fighter. Something we need to worry about with retroactive reviews (more about these later).
Not only were these decisions very different, in terms of outcome of the review and the review it's self, but they also make it clear that not all reviews can be done the same. However that doesn't mean we can't have a general understanding of how review can be done correctly.
So they work, what's the problem? Why didn't they get it right?
Firstly we need to ask what is a review ACTUALLY for? Is it to get the result right or is it to clear up obvious mistakes?
This might seem a really silly question but if it's to get the right result, then in reality we should see all bouts go through a post fight review with post fight scoring. The biggest issue in getting the right result is rarely the single call of a referee but instead the judges. Yes referees have got it wrong, as we show regularly in out Controversial Clashes series, but more often it's the judging that is giving us the wrong result.
Sure we have cases like Gujelmo Ajor completely botching the Danny Lopez Vs Fel Clemente bout, or Armand Krief messing up the result of Hyung Chul Lee's first bout with Alimi Goitia, but by far and away the judge needs sorting first.
As a result we need to assume it's to tidy clear and obvious errors. The knockdowns that should have been rules a slip, or vice versa, the cuts that might have been from a headclash, and the borderline low blows. This would follow the line that VAR was brought into football, soccer for our American readers, with decisions only being looked at when there was a "clear and obvious error". We're not going to turn this into a rant about VAR, because that's for someone else, but the principle was clear. Only clear errors should be over-turned.
In our eyes a "clear" error is one that should be spotted quickly and effectively. Ideally between rounds, like the call of Joe Cortez in the Arnold Barboza Jr Vs Alex Saucedo bout we mentioned earlier. That left both men knowing where they stood entering the next round. There was no long and arduous task of correcting things and we were all ready to go within seconds.
What we saw at the weekend wasn't anything like that. What we saw at the weekend was a calamity of errors.
What do you mean?
What should have happened was in round 1 Russell Mora called an accidental clash of heads that caused a swelling around Joshua Franco's eye. The call should have been reviewed by ringside officials during the rest of the round, and there was a good chunk of it, and in the break between rounds 1 and 2 to clear up a "clear and obvious error". If they couldn't spot an a "clear and obvious error", the two fighters should have gone into round 2 with the referees call. This would have allowed both men to alter tactics to try and give a result, knowing that if the bout doesn't go beyond 4 rounds there will be no result.
For example had Moloney known the swelling was caused by a head clash he could have tried to leave the eye alone, racked up points attacking else where and then pressed the fight in round 5 to force a conclusion and take the technical decision. It would have been a hard ask, of course, but he would have known that if the bout was stopped due to the eye that would have been it. He'd not take the victory.
Likewise had Franco been under the illusion the damage was from a punch heading into round 2 he may have felt he had to put it all on the line, and go out swinging. Otherwise a loss was imminent. Likewise he may have realised he'd have to fight one-eyed and saved himself from further damage, whilst a accidental head clash ruling was going to work in his favour.
The problem was that heading into round 2 everyone was under the belief it was an accidental clash of heads. The call wasn't really looked at until after the fight. This was too late. This had left a material change on how the fight played out. The two men were clearly made aware it was being treat as a headclash, whether that was right or wrong, during the fight.
The post fight antics, multiple replays, and eventually getting the wrong decision is heart breaking for Moloney. Though had Franco lost his title due to following the referees instructions, we'd feel he was in a heart breaking decision. By reviewing the bout after the contest, in this manner, there was no way boxing was going to come out as a winner. Only a loser.
So what's the solution?
We hope, more than anything, that the outcome of this leads to a rematch and to the entire replay system being overhauled.
The way it was used was a disgrace to boxing. If it's to be used, it should only be used at the end of the round of the incident in question. Whether that's a knockdown call the previous round, or a knockout in the current round. Trying to retroactively correct errors from previous rounds isn't a workable solution. It isn't a fair solution, and it isn't the right solution. It's a slippery slope to chaos, to controversy and to bailing out referees and fighters, and potentially further helping favourites get their way.
Sit with us a moment longer and ponder this scenario. Fighter A is dropped in round 1 from a low blow, and in round 2 from a low blow. Both are called legitimate shots and give fighter B a couple of 10-8 rounds to start the bout. Fight B is then deducted points for low blows in rounds 9 and 10. Would it be fair to go back and review those earlier knockdowns, and deduct further points whilst over-ruling the knockdowns from earlier in the fight? Maybe even disqualify fighter B in round 11 for repeated low blows based on what he had done earlier in the fight?
It might seem silly, but that's what retroactively reviewing could cause. In fact we could see a small decision win, a 114-113 for example, swing the other way based on a point deduction correction, or a knockdown correction retroactively applied.
For the sake of our sanity we need to accept that whilst the replay officials may have taken 26 minutes to make a wrong decision on Saturday night, they also made the "right decision". They made it clear that this is a farce, it allows bouts to be altered retroactively, and that they are still not implementing a system that works.
We don't NEED replay in boxing. We would maybe like it, but we'd only like it if it was clear, it worked, and the decisions could be rendered in real time, or similar. So far it has felt like a half baked idea, badly implemented. It has been revised, but it still leaves much to be desired and a lot of work to do. Just as VAR does in football.
Technology in sport can be slow to progress, but can revolutionise how sport is done. Tennis and Cricket have used Hawkeye amazingly well, and maybe a similar, multi-camera, multi-replay system is needed in boxing, rather than this half baked thing we have. Or maybe we shouldn't have replay at all, and the referees decision is final, not a take we'd go with but a valid all the same. Maybe full fights should regularly be reviewed to get the right decision.
Fighters, camps, promoters, officials and fans all need to be fully in the loop of how it will be used, when it will be used, and what it's purpose is. This weekend showed that more than ever. Everything needs to be transparent.
Moloney was denied the title!
One final point to end this one, and one that we have seen echoed, a lot. "Moloney was robbed of the title", "that belt belongs to Moloney", "Franco is a fake champion", "Give that belt back". We get the point, Moloney should hold the WBA Regular Super Flyweight title.
Or should he?
Fans talking about that belt, at all, are legitimising another issue in boxing. The WBA's multiple titles. That belt shouldn't be Moloney's for the simple fact that that belt shouldn't exist. The WBA should recognise ONE champion per division, and the line of Roman Gonzalez, the WBA "Super" champion should be the only one we, as fans, care about. The belt that Franco has was created solely for the WBA to collection sanctioning fees. If you choose to recognise the belt, you lose the validity of arguing there's too many belts in the sport.
Roman Gonzalez's line as the WBA Super Flyweight champion goes back to 2014. He beat Kal Yafai, Kal Yafai beat Luis Concepcion, who beat Kohei Kono, who won the belt when he beat Denkaosan Kaovichit on March 26th 2014. The title Franco has appeared 3 months before Gonzalez beat Yafai for the belt, when Moloney beat Elton Dharry for the "interim" title, which was then upgraded to the "regular" title in June for the first bout between Moloney and Franco.
Lets not legitimise the WBA's bull crap by ignoring history.
The stronger case is that Moloney may lose out on an opportunity down the line. That case can be answered by everyone doing the right thing and sorting out a rematch. Alternatively Moloney is a Top Rank fighter. Top Rank have another fighter in the same division, with a world title, Jerwin Ancajas. There is an opportunity waiting in the wings for Moloney to fight for a legitimate world title. If he's denied both of those chances, then boxing has a lot to answer for, and that should be the bigger issue.
This coming December is absolutely insane with notable fights taking place almost daily. As has become traditional Japan has a packed scheduled for the month, but this time around it's not just Japan delivering the action in the final month of the year, in what is really a massive month all around the globe!
Koki Inoue (14-0, 11) Vs Jheritz Chavez (9-3-2, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
The first notable show of the month will see unbeaten Japanese national champion Koki Inoue look to add the WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight title to his collection as he takes on Filipino foe Jheritz Chavez, This should be a really interesting match up between two men who have power and can both take a show. Inoue should be favoured, as the unbeaten local is a real talent, but Chavez will not be there to just make up the numbers, and the Filipino has proven himself to be a dangerous fighter, having come close to beating Rikki Naito. This could end up being much, much tougher for Inoue than many expect.
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) vs Miguel Gonzalez (31-2, 8) - Puebla, Mexico
On a packer Saturday we'll see a lot going on. Among the most notable bouts, for us at least, we'll see IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas take on Chilean challenger Miguel Gonzalez, in what looks like a good bout on paper. Sadly we suspect the paper lies here and can't see anything other than an Ancajas win. The Filipino world champion should be too quick, too sharp and too powerful for the game, but light hitting and limited, Gonzalez who has come up short the two times he has mixed at close to world class. One thing worth noting is that Ancajas was supposed to fight a few weeks earlier, before having that bout cancelled, and may well look lacklustre as a result of having a change of opponent. Even with that in mind we still see this as being an easy win for the "Pretty Boy"
Marlon Tapales (33-2, 16) vs Ryosuke Iwasa (26-3, 16) - New York, USA
A second major IBF bout on December 7th will see former world champions collide for the IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight title. In one corner is the criminally under-rated Marlon Tapales, who is a former WBO Bantamweight and has proven himself as a hard hitting road warrior who is much more dangerous than his record suggests. Tapales will be up against former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa, who is the naturally bigger man, but very much a fighter who blows hot and cold. This is a hard one to call, though we are leaning to Tapales, and is a wonderful bout mixing fighters with different styles that should gel, and heavy hands. A potential hidden gem for the month, despite the "interim" title.
Joe Noynay (18-2-1, 7) vs Kenichi Ogawa (24-1, 18) - Tokyo, Japan
In 2019 Filipino fighter Joe Noynay has has impressed. He travelled to Japan and stopped Kosuke Saka to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title and then returned to stop Olympic bronze medal winner Satoshi Shimizu. Noynay looks to make it 3-0 against Japanese fighters this year as he takes on Kenichi Ogawa in a really, really, good looking bout. Ogawa is attempting to move towards a second world title bout, but will need to over-come the in form Noynay, which is tough for anyone. There's a lot on the line here, and the winner will be in the world title mix in 2020, whilst the loser will have some genuine rebuilding to do in the new year. This bout is very much high risk, high reward, for both men.
Masaru Sueyoshi (19-1-1, 11) vs Kosuke Saka (19-5, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
A second title bout at 130lbs, on the same show in Tokyo in fact, will see Japanese national champion Masaru Sueyoshi defending his title against Kosuke Saka, who looks to bounce back from his loss to Joe Noynay. For Sueyoshi this bout will mark his 5th defense of the title as he continues to edge closer and closer to a bout for some form of international or world title. The talented, though often frustrating, Sueyoshi is a tricky man to beat, though we do have questions over his chin. Hopefully Saka will manage to test Sueyoshi's whiskers though we suspect that the boxing brain and unique rhythm of the champion will be too much for the naturally smaller Saka to deal with here.
Sadriddin Akhmedov (10-0, 9) vs Jose Antonio Villalobos (12-5-2, 7)
Hard hitting Kazakh youngster Sadriddin Akhmedov looks like he has got superstar potential, with an exciting style, a great look, and the ability to box or bang. He is as a good a prospect as Kazakhstan has right now and his promoters in Canada seem to know they have a special talent on their hands. Despite Akhmedov being a special talent Eye of the Tiger Management aren't rushing him, and here he gets another fight to develop his experience and talent, as he goes up against tough Argentinian fighter Jose Antonio Villalobos, who has only been stopped once. This should be another win for Akhmedov, who already has 4 wins this year, but we're glad he's being kept active and getting experience at such a young age. Bigger fights will come for the 21 year old, and this is just the next step to those bigger bouts.
Musashi Mori (10-0, 6) vs Takuya Mizuno (17-1-1, 14) - Osaka, Japan
Unbeaten Japanese youngster Musashi Mori has been tipped as one to watch for a while by those in the know in Japan and the currently WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion is certainly an excellent prospect, with a lot of potential. Here we'll see him risking his title and unbeaten record against the heavy handed Takuya Mizuno in a very interesting test. Mori once looked like a bit of raw talent, but has been getting nurtured this year and has been taken under the win of Ismael Salas, who is expected to to help round off the rough edges that Mori has, and calm his offensive mentality. That'll be a big ask, but if Salas can get Mori to buy into the philosophy he can go a very long way. Mizuno is technically quite crude, but with heavy hands he tends to be able to punch his way to victory, and if he catches Mori the youngster could be in trouble. We suspect Mori should have the scales to win, but this is no walk in the park for the youngster.
Takayuki Okumoto (23-8-4, 11) Vs Kenta Nakagawa (17-3-1, 12) - Osaka, Japan
Takayuki Okumoto looks to make his next defense of the Japanese Super Flyweight title as he takes on former champion Kenta Nakagawa in what looks like a decent match up. Okumoto has been in great form over the last few years in terms of results, but looks to be very much a transitional champion, who is rather lucky the division is a weak one in Japan right now. Nakagawa held the title for 5 months in late 2016 and early 2017, but lost in his first defense and hasn't really impressed since then. Nakagawa has the skills to test Okumoto, but we suspect the champion will retain again here.
Yuki Beppu (20-1-1, 19) Vs Ryota Yada (19-5, 16) -Osaka, Japan
We'll see a potential shoot out at Welterweight as former Rookie of the Year Yuki Beppu faces former Japanese champion Ryota Yada for the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title. Both of these men can bang, both are aggressive and both believe in their power. Of the two Yada is the more proven, but he's also been stopped multiple times, whilst Beppu has shown a gritty toughness that could help here in what could be one of the most exciting bouts of the month. We don't expect this one to go the distance, and instead we expect fireworks, a lot of fireworks! If you're watching this one, don't blink!
Toshiki Shimomachi (10-1-2, 6) vs TBA -Osaka, Japan
The once beaten Toshiki Shimomachi is pencilled in to make his first defense of the JBC Youth Super Bantamweight title. At the moment no opponent has been named, sadly, We suspect an opponent was in mind but that bout has failed to materialise and Shimomachi has been left opponent-less. There is a chance his team will secure a decent opponent in the coming days but it is looking less and less likely as the days go by. As for Shimomachi he's a very talented, having won Rookie of the Year in 2018 and the Japanese Youth title earlier this year.
Thanongsak Simsri (12-0, 11) vs Christian Bacolod (12-0, 9) - Osaka, Japan
One of the most interesting match ups for the month comes quite low down the profile scale, but features two unbeaten young hopefuls in what could be a truly compelling match up. In one corner is Thai punch Thanongsak Simsri, who has already been compared to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, whilst the other corner plays home for world ranked Filipino Christian Bacolod. On paper this looks excellent, and despite being quite far down the card, and lacking any immediate title honours, we suspect this could be a bit of a thriller.
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.
We've finally seen the end of April and entered May, a month set to be one of the most hectic and crazy of the year. The move from April to May is certainly an exciting one, and this past week has certainly seen action pick up with a host of notable bouts featuring Asian fighters. We've already had some fantastic fights on US pay TV, Japanese streaming services and for free on Youtube. Boxing is certainly picking up and doing so fast!
Fighter of the Week
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21)
After a couple of disappointing performances Filipino world champion Jerwin Ancajas needed to shine, he needed to re-excite fans and show what he could do when he was on point. This past Saturday he got the perfect chance to show fans, and really did all he was asked of. He dominated mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai of Japan in a highly impressive fashion, forcing the doctor to save the challenger in at the start of round 7. Although Funai was the perfect foil for Ancajas it was the type of performance that reminds people what the Filipino can do, and why he should be regarded as a top fighter in one of the sports toughest divisions.
Performance of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4)
Whilst our Fighter of the week was a Filipino who stopped a Japanese fighter our performance of the week came from a Japanese fighter who dominated a Filipino. once beaten Japanese fighter travelled to the Philippines and put on a show, beating Al Toyogon to claim the WBA Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title. This was Sagawa's first bout outside of Japan, and his first fight at Super Featherweight, but he fought like a man determined to win, dominating the middle and later sections of the fight after a competitive start. Although Sagawa should have been on the map of fight fans before the bout, this win was certainly something that will get more fans talking about him.
Taiki Minamoto Vs Reiya Abe
Their was some real contenders for fight of the week, but for us the Japanese Featherweight title bout between Taiki Minamoto and takes the award. The fight had everything! There was drama early, with Abe being dropped in each of the first 2 rounds, it had heart, as Abe battled back from his poor start and Minamoto fought through a badly swollen eye, it had skill, from both fighters, and it was so close to call that the draw fight entirely fair. It wasn't an all out war but was a marvellous 10 round domestic title fight that showed what both could do and left fans wanting more. Whether we get a rematch or not is unclear, though it certainly appears to be something fans want. If a rematch doesn't happen it's likely due to Minamoto moving up weight and if he adds himself to the regional mix at 130lbs then that's not going to be a bad thing either!
Ryo Sagawa Vs Al Toyogon (round 11)
After being out boxed for 6 straight rounds Al Toyogon knew he had to turn things around, in a big way, and he came out fighting in the penultimate round of their bout. Sagawa was willing to respond and we got 3 minutes of brilliant action, with the Filipino giving all he had into trying to take down Sagawa. The bout was a little bit one sided overall, but this round really stood out as being something very special, and was one of the few where they both went for it. This was sustained action from start to end. A fantastic round!
Sadly their was no KO of note this past week, though we were very impressed by the shot from Kudura Kaneko that dropped Rikuto Adachi, who was stopped when he got to his feet rather than clean KO'd.
Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1)
The prospect of the week was one of the toughest to pick this week. Their was great performances from so many young fighters, such as Kudura Kaneko, impressive debuts for former amateur standouts Criz Russu Laurente and Criztian Pitt Laurente and Hinata Maruta. The most impressive however was Shokichi Iwata, who totally schooled 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama. This was a sensational domestic debut from Iwata and it is going to be a very exciting journey to see how far he can go. Notably he revealed he only showed 20% of what he feels he's capable of, if there's another 80% to go then we really do have another Japanese super talent ready to make a name for themselves.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23)
We all love a good shoot out and the upcoming OPBF Bantamweight title bout between Keita Kurihara and Warlito Parrenas is expected to be a full on shoot out, with both men believing in their power more than their boxing skills. We're not expecting a display of boxing IQ and nuances defense, but we are expecting a thrilling war for as long as this one lasts.
It's fair to say that May is typically a busy month in world boxing, with things picking up globally. It's with that in mind that we feel we don't really need to say that the month is going to be a hectic in terms of Asian boxers, with a host of notable fights taking place through the month. Here we look at the first part of the month, and it is set to be a huge first week for the month of May.
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) Vs Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
The first title bout takes place on May 1st and it's a brilliant match up, pitting hard hitting Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto up against slick southpaw Reiya Abe, in a mandatory defense of the title. Minamoto will be looking for his second defense, and will be hoping to putt in a performance more a kin to his title winning victory than his first defense, which was a poor performance. Abe on the other hand will be looking to extend his impressive winning run and make the most of his first title opportunity.
Hinata Maruta (8-1-1, 7) vs Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4)-Tokyo, Japan
On the same show as Minamoto's bout with Abe is a brilliant contest between highly tipped prospect Hinata Maruta and the experienced Coach Hiroto. Maruta is looking to build on an excellent win over Tsuyoshi Tameda late last year and move towards a potential title shot later in the year, possibly even against the winner of the Minamoto Vs Abe bout. Hiroto on the other hand is looking for redemption after essentially being kicked out of the Kadoebi gym following issues making weight last year. If Hiroto is up for this it could be very, very interesting.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) Vs Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9) - Osaka, Japan
We often over-look the Japanese Welterweight scene, but the reality is that it is pretty interesting, and looks set to become more interesting in the coming years thanks to some good emerging young talent. Two of those talented youngsters clash here in a battle for the JBC Youth Welterweight title. In one corner is unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko, an Afghan-Japanese fighter who really impressed last year when he stopped Toshio Arikawa. In the other corner is Hiroki Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi, talented boxer-puncher. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and the winner will likely find themselves in the mix to face newly crowned national champion Yuki Nagano in the near future.
Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11) Vs Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4) II - Tokyo, Japan
The second Japanese title fight of the month will see Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi defending his title against his mandatory challenger, Ken Osato. This is a rematch of a 2018 encounter that saw Osato scoring a knockdown before being stopped himself and we're again excepting a competitive contest. Since their first bout both have improved, with Osato gaining some valuable experience and building his confidence whilst Sueyoshi has fought to a draw with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The champion will be favoured, but he is in with a live challenger
Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) vs Daiki Kameyama (7-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
On the same card we'll also see touted prospect Shokichi Iwata make his Japanese debut, taking on 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama in a 6 round contest. Iwata made his professional debut in the US, among some solid fanfare, but this is a big step up in class and and Kameyama has won 4 in a row, including the Rookie of the Year title, winning that in December. This might look amazing on paper, but we're expecting a very good bout.
Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) vs Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) - Metro Manila, Philippines
At the same type of time as the Tokyo show there will be an ESPN5 broadcast in the Philippines headlined by an amazing match up between WBC ABC Silver Super Featherweight champion Al Toyogon and talented Japanese fighter Ryo Sagawa. This has the ingredients of an excellent match up, with Toyogon's exciting but crude offense against Sagawa's skilled boxing, but somewhat questionable toughness. This may not get the attention the Japanese card gets, but could be an even better contest.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) - California, USA
Another big bout of note on May 4th sees attention turn to California as IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas takes on mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai. For the champion this will be his 7th defense of the title, and follows a couple of disappointing performances including a forgetable win over Jonas Sultan and a draw with Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Funai on the other hand will be getting his first world title bout, and also having his first bout outside of Japan. If Ancajas fights like he has in his last 2 bouts this could be very, very tough for the champion, though he will clearly be favoured over the little known challenger.
Riku Kano (14-4-1, 7) Vs Mektison Marganti (5-10-1, 3) - Hyogo, Japan
Former world title challenger Riku Kano battled to repair his career when he fights for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. The talented Kano has had a tough time in recent years, losing to the likes of Katsunari Takayama and Shin Ono, but will feel confident of picking up a win here against limited Indonesian Mekitson Marganti, who has interestingly shared the ring with Wanheng Menayothin. This is a must win for Kano, and in fact he needs to win and look good.
Hikaru Matsuoka (15-4-3, 2) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (8-2, 4) - Hyogo, Japan
More Japanese youth title action will be on this same Hyogo show, with Hikaru Matsuoka making his first defense of the JBC Youth Featherweight title. Matsuoka won the title late last year, scoring his third straight win, but does have a lot of questions to answer in regards to his long term potentnial. Tonomoto, who reached the Rookie of the Year final all the way back in 2014, will be looking to claim his first title and this should make for a very, very interesting match up, even if it's only at domestic youth title level.
Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2) - Hyogo, Japan
Hikaru Matsuoka's brother Arata Matsuoka also looks to make his first defense of a Japanese youth title, as he defends the JBC Youth Light Flyweight title against Jukiya Washio. Matsuoka, who also won his title late last year, has the clear edge in experience here, but Washio is very much a lice challenger and enters on the back of 3 straight wins. This is the weakest of the 3 bouts on the Hyogo card, but could end up being the most competitive.
Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8) Vs Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (22-9, 14) - Tokyo, Japan
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni returns to the ring for his second bout since losing the world title. The talented Kadoebi gym fighter had some ring rust lats year, when he ended a lengthy break from the ring, and will be looking to shake a bit more here as he goes in with a world ranked Thai. Although world ranked Sukkasem is nothing hugely special, and has lost the last 7 times he's fought outside of Thailand with 2 of those losses coming in Japan. Given Oguni's inactivity this could be tough, but he should still come out on top.
Having already looked at 12 rumoured bouts, it makes sense to cover more bouts that appear to be getting spoke about, before we start to see action picking up in the coming days.
If you missed part 1 and part 2 they are available:
6 bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019
6 more bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019 (AKA Part 2!)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) vs Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20)
In part 1 of this mini-series, if you will, we mentioned that IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas had a mandatory title defense against Ryoichi Funai hanging over his head. In part 2 we mentioned that WBC Super Flyweight Srisaket Sor Rungvisai had his own mandatory looking against Juan Francisco Estrada. Interestingly however both Srisaket and Ancajas have expressed a desire to unify the WBC and IBF titles, and that bout has been rumoured as being something both fighters are targeting for March. It would seem likely that the two world title bodies would allow the champions to unify if, and only if, they can get the bout sorted sooner rather than later. We suspect March has been given to both parties as a sort target with April likely the hard deadline for the bout. If it gets made it will be a very special bout and we've got out fingers tightly crossed that this one does get made sooner rather than later!
Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7) Vs Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12)
WBO Flyweight champion Kosei Tanaka and countryman Ryoichi Taguchi were meant to meet when both were Light Flyweight world champions, but injuries suffered by Tanaka derailed those plans, before he moved up in weight. Now the two are supposedly targeting in a late Spring date for the match up, with Taguchi moving up to chase Tanaka. Of the two Tanaka is the more naturally gifted talent, and the more internationally well known due to his rapid rise to being a 3-weight world champion. Taguchi on the other hand is the naturally bigger fighter, the more experience man and arguably the fighter the fighter who's body will suit Flyweight better. The teams are said to be working on this bout and it's one both fighters want, and one without any TV issues, with the two fighters essentially both fighting on the same network. There really is no reason for this bout not to get made this year!
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16)
At the end of 2018 we saw Moruti Mthalane make his first defense, of his second reign, of the IBF Flyweight title, stopping Masahiro Sakamoto. Going in to that bout the two men knew he would have a mandatory defense against Japan's Masayuki Kuroda in 2019, with the IBF giving the winner 90 days to make that defense. Mthalane is one of the most over-looked and under-rated fighters out there, and although he has spoke about unification bouts it's unlikely he'll get one without facing his mandatory first, as the IBF do tend to enforce mandatory defenses. Kuroda is best known for losing in a WBA Flyweight world title bout against Juan Carlos Reveco, though has since re-established himself with a number of decent performances on the talent laded Japanese scene. Mthalane would be the favourite, but Kuroda is a live under-dog.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 16) Vs Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)
Originally rumoured for December 2018, though now seemingly delayed until 2019, is a world title eliminator between former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa and exciting Mexican warrior Cesar Juarez. When the bout was first mentioned it appeared Iwasa was still unsure about his future, but in recent weeks he has been training for a comeback to the ring. This is the sort of stylistic match up where we see heavy handed fighters face off, one is a more pure boxer, Iwasa, whilst the other is an aggressive pressure fighter and together it should make for some real fireworks.
Shakhram Giyasov (6-0, 5) Vs Shohjahon Ergashev (15-0, 14)
A lot of the Uzbek fighters seem to be good friends, however in recent weeks we've seen 2016 Olympic Silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov and fellow unbeaten Light Welterweight puncher Shohjahon Ergashev doing a TV Face-Off and allowing a lot of talk about the two fighting each other. The two are already world ranked, both had huge 2018's, with both climbing into the world rankings and scoring notable wins, and both can bang. It's hard to predict a winner between these two, but it would certainly be a very special bout between two fantastic fighters. Although they are already building hype in the bout there is a chance that the bout will be held off until one, if not both, hold a world title, adding a even more prestige to the contest.
Floyd Mayweather Jr (50-0, 27) Vs Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39) II
Although it's unlikely, at the time of writing, there has been talk of a rematch between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao, with the Filipino recently signing with Al Haymon, something that was seen as making the bout even more likely. These two clashed in a massive, yet well over-due, bout in May 2015 and could end up rematching again this year. Both are said to be keen on raising their profiles in Japan, with Mayweather recently featuring on Rizin 14 and having business interests in the country and Pacquiao also stating he wanted to fight in the country, following a deal with a fitness company. They could also fight in the US, where both are major names, even if fans are cynical based on their original contest. This has been rumoured, and we wouldn't be surprised if it's not rumoured every year going forward, even as the men both slide further and further beyond their primes.
Although not many fights for 2019 have been officially announced there are numerous contests rumoured and others that are thought to be in the pipe line, such as mandatory title challenges. Here we take a look at some of those fights.
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) [岡田 博喜] Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)
Supposedly set for February 10th in California is a bout between former Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion Hiroki Okada take on former WBO Lightweight champion Raymundo Beltran. The bout would have fireworks written all over it, and push the winner onto a potential title fight, with Jose Carlos Ramirez likely be an option. It now seems like the bout won't be taking place in February, but could end up happening later in the year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [谷口 将隆]
Rumoured to be set for February 25th we'll be seeing WBO Minimumweight champion Vic Saludar return to Japan to take on Japanese challenger Masataka Taniguchi. Both of these men are hard hitters in the lowest class, both have under-rated skills and this should make for a really exciting match up. The champion would, rightfully, be favoured, but it is a very dangerous first defense and could be a potential FOTY candidate, given the styles of the two fighters.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] Vs Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) [小浦 翼]
WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin is rumoured to be making his international debut later in the year, to take on unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura in Tokyo. This bout began to be rumoured after Wanehng's last bout, and has excited fan much more than a previously rumoured contest between the Thai and Japanese national champion Shin Ono, in a bout that didn't really get the juices flow. Koura would be the under-dog, but would be a very live challenger for the unbeaten Thai champion.
Angel Acosta (19-1, 19) vs Jonathan Taconing (28-3-1, 22)
Considered as a possible world title fight for Spring we could see WBO Light Flyweight champion Angel Acosta defending his belt against Jonathan Taconing, who is highly ranked by all of the 4 world title bodies. Taconing had been ordered to fight in a WBC world title eliminator, and may go that route, but a shot at the WBO champion certainly shouldn't be ruled out given he is ranked highly by the Puerto Rican organisation. This has the potential to be a very special bout, and something to get very excited about given that both men are hard hitters who fight with bad intentions.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) Vs Tetsuya Hisada (33-9-2, 19) [久田 哲也]
WBA "regular" Light Flyweight champion Carlos Canizales has twice fought in the Land of the Rising Sun and put on a show in both, fighting to a draw with Ryoichi Taguchi and taking a win over Reiya Konishi. He's now expected to return for a third visit to defend his title against veteran Tetsuya Hisada, who is the WBA's #1 contender for the title. Hisada vacated the Japanese title in late 2018 and is expected to make the most of his top ranking with the Panamanian outfit. He would be a very clear under-dog against the Venezuelan puncher, but at 34 years old it really is now or never for the Osaka.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) Vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) [船井 龍一]
If a much anticipated showdown between IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas and WBC counterpart Srisaket Sor Rungvisai can't be made in the coming weeks Ancajas is expected to be ordered to make a mandatory defense of his title against Ryuichi Funai, who earned his mandatory shot by stopping Victor Olivo in November. The Filipino champion would be favoured, but has under-delivered in recent bouts and Funai will be fully aware that this could be his one and only shot at a world title. This all Asian bout is likely to be pushed for hard by Funai's team, at the Watanabe gym, though Ancajas does have other options on the table including a move up in weight.
Earlier this month we looked at some of the most notable bouts of September to feature an Asian fighter. Here will be the second, and final, part covering the notable bouts which are set to take place from September 22nd too September 30th and there really is some great fights set to take place over the last week or so of the month.
Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22) Vs Vince Paras (13-1, 11) – Philippines
Hard hitting Filipino fighters collide as former 2-time world title challenger Jonathan Taconing defends his WBC International Light Flyweight title against youngster Vince Paras. Both of these men have fought at world level, have exciting styles and a lot of power, so we're expecting serious fire works here!
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7) – Japan
WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura seeks his third defense as he takes on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka, who is looking to become a 3-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! This is set to pit will against skills and we're expecting both men to have their moments in nail biting all-Japanese world title bout.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) Vs Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2, 8) – Japan
Former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi begins his Light Flyweight campaign as he takes on unbeaten Indonesian Tibo Monabesa. This is a tough first bout at a new one for Kyoguchi whilst Monabesa will know that a win here would almost certainly open the door to a world title fight for him. A really significant contest.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1, 11) vs Suthat Kalalek (12-9, 11)- Japan
If we did this list based sole on how competitive they were this bout wouldn't be here, but with the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Heavyweight titles on the line the bout between Kyotaro Fujimoto and Suthat Kalalek needs to be mentioned. The contest is a significant one, even if we do strongly favour the champion.
Yasuyuki Akiyama (12-7-1, 9) Vs Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (10-3, 9) – Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF title bout will see Yasyuki Akiyama defending the titles against hard hitting challenger Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa. Akiyama won the titles last year, in somewhat controversial fashion, but this will be his first defense and comes against a man he narrowly beat 18 months ago
Wulan Tuolehazi (8-3-1, 4) v Jayr Raquinel (10-0-1, 7) – China
In form Chinese hopeful Wulan Tuolehazi takes a big step up in class to face OPBF Flyweight champion Jayr Raquinel for the WBC Silver Flyweight strap. Raquinel has impressed this year, twice scoring stoppage wins in Japan to win and then defend the OPBF title but will be taking on a man in the form of his career.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20) Vs Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7) – USA
IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas continues to to face less than stellar competition as he defends his belt against little known challenger Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Ancajas is one of the best fighters at 115lbs and this will be his 6th defense of the belt, but it does feel like Top Rank are matching him far too softly with bouts like this.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (2-0, 1) Vs TBA – USA
On the same card as Ancajas' bout with Barrios we'll see the US debut of former Kazakh amateur standout Janibek Alimkhanuly. Sadly his opponent for the contest isn't yet known, though we do have a feeling that fans will be very excited about the Egis Klimas managed boxer-puncher.
Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-0, 4) – Japan
OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura looks to record his third defense as he takes on fellow unbeaten youngster Daiki Tomita. This has the potential to be one of the best bouts of the month and could, potentially, lead to a world title fight for the winner. The edge in power and competition is with Koura but Tomita cannot be over-looked here!
Yuko Kuroki (18-5-1, 8) Vs Saemi Hanagata (14-7-4, 7) III- Japan
On the same card in Japan fans will get an IBF Atomweight title fight with Yuko Kuroki battling against Saemi Hanagata, in what will be their 3rd bout. So far Hanagata is leading the series, winning the first bout before the two fought to a draw. Since then both have proven to be world class fighters and this should be action packed from the first bell to the last.
Muhamad Ridhwan (11-0, 8) Vs Paulus Ambunda (26-2, 11) – Singapore
In Singapore local fans will get the chance to see their best prospect Muhamad Ridhwan take a massive step up in class as he faces former world champion Paulus Ambunda in a bout for the IBO Super Bantamweight title. Ridhwan is a talent, and should be favoured over the shopworn Ambunda, but at 30 he really does need to kick on if he wins here.
Takuya Watanabe (34-8-1, 19) Vs Paiboon Lorkham (19-10, 8) – Taiwan
In Taiwan we see the biggest show in the countries history, headlined by a contest between the teak tough Japanese fighter Takuya Watanabe and Thailand's Paiboon Lorkham. The bout, for the OPBF Silver Super Featherweight title, is expected to be a straight forward win for Watanabe but is still a massive deal for boxing in Taiwan.
In the last few years we've seen more and more bouts between Asian fighters and European fighters. Unfortunately it hasn't often been the best from the two continents colliding, but it has been a start with two continental forces of world boxing clashing and opening the doors for inter-continental growth between the scenes which have often been kept away from each other.
Sadly we have typically seen a lot of mismatches. These have included bouts like Naoya Inoue's recent defence against Yoan Boyeaux, Daigo Higa against Thomas Masson, Jerwin Ancajas against Michael Conlan, Scott Quigg against Hidenori Otake and Kal Yafai against Suguru Muranaka. Bouts where the favourite wasn't really given too much of a challenge by the under-dog.
Sure we have seen some interesting bouts, such as the two bouts between Ryota Murata and Hassan N'Dam and, on paper, the Lee Haskins Vs Ryosuke Iwasa bout, but they haven't been as regular as they really should be. And that's not due to a lack of possible match ups. In fact right now there is a real host of fantastic fights that could be made at the world level between the two continents. Here we'll look at some of those possible bouts.
At the moment there is two Flyweight bouts that have some talk behind them, and they would both be very interesting.
One of those is a proposed WBC title bout between destructive world champion Daigo Higa (14-0, 14) and unbeaten Welshman Andrew Selby (10-0, 5). This bout was spoken about during 2017, though Selby seemed to suggest that he was against travelling to Japan where Higa is now a break out star and backed by the financially solid Fuji TV. The bout would put the most destructive fighter at Flyweight against one of the most decorated European amateurs, and would be a real clash of styles between ultra-aggressive champion and silky outside fighting challenger.
With a high WBC ranking it does look like this would be the shortest route to a world title for Selby, but he would be up against arguably the best Flyweight on the planet, and would almost certainly have to travel.
The other bout, and one that has had a public call out of sorts, is a WBO title fight between Sho Kimura (16-1-2, 9) and 2-time Olympic bronze medal winner Paddy Barnes (5-0, 2). Interestingly if this bout was made it would see Kimura taking on a third Olympian, following stoppage wins over Zou Shiming and Toshiyuki Igarashi, and a win could see him continue what has been a really surprising run of results. Barnes had targeted former amateur rival Zou Shiming earlier in his career, but may now see the man who stopped his amateur nemesis as the man to fight.
Given that Barnes is 31 later this year he may not want to wait around long for a fight at world level and Kimura hasn't been a fighter making big purses so far. A large offer could get Kimura over to Ireland for the fight, though he has got other options, including a domestic showdown with 2-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka and may look to delay a showdown with Barnes for now.
In 2017 there was several obvious bouts to make at 115lbs. That's because we have a world champion from Europe and several from Asia. But for whatever reason we never saw them face off. Thankfully however not all the doors are shut here, despite the fact Naoya Inoue is leaving the division rather than continue to get frustrated at the other top fighters.
Arguably the most even of the match ups we could get here would be an IBF/WBA unification bout, with Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19) defending the IBF title against WBA champion Kal Yafai (23-0, 14). Both men seemed to turn down Inoue, and it'd be very hard to favour either man against WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (44-4-1, 40), but against each other they should make for a compelling contest. The bout shouldn't be too tricky to make, with both fighters looking to make a huge name for themselves this coming year. The two teams, Top Rank and Matchroom, have worked together in the past and both could see this as an opportunity to get their guy in a position to make big money.
Sadly lower weight unification bouts have long been a troublesome issue. Both fighters will want to be financially compensated for taking on another top rival, and with the talent in the division it may make more sense to milk a title for a little while longer. A bout between the two is one that we'd love, and we suspect most fans would love to see, but it may be that the two men simply have other plans and too many other options.
Having mentioned Naoya Inoue (15-0, 13) a few times above it only makes sense to mention him here, seeing that he has stated his intent is to fight at Bantamweight in 2018. The “Monster” has been linked to pretty much every notable Bantamweight since mid-December.
Two of these options have some British link. One of those is WBO champion Zolani Tete (26-3, 21), who is South African but is promoted out of the UK and has began to build a cult status in the country. The bout has been spoken about by both teams and Inoue has stated he's willing to travel to the UK for the bout, showing his hunger for a big contest and a third divisional world title. The other British option would be a bout with the talented Northern Irishman Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9), the current WBA and IBF unified champion.
A bout with Tete seems the most likely given that the two teams are talking about the contest. However Inoue could get a unified title by beating Burnett, and get some revenge for the struggles he had at Super Flyweight. The one big spanner in the work for the Burnett bout may be Burnett's promoter Eddie Hearn, who seemed happy to keep Kal Yafai away from Inoue and would likely want to do the same for Burnett, unless life changing money was on offer for his man. Given that financial issue we're much more likely to see the Tete bout than the Burnett one.
Inoue isn't the only fighter moving up in 2018, another is Englishman Jamie McDonnell (29-2-1, 13). The former Bantamweight champion scored notable wins over Tomoki Kameda at Bantamweight and is now moving up to Super Bantamweight, which is stacked with Asian fighters. The amount of interesting match ups McDonnell could have at 122lbs really is huge, and he could have fights with someone like IBF champion Ryosuke Iwasa (24-2, 16) or the skilled and sharp shooting Shingo Wake (23-5-2, 15).
For us though the bout that has the most interest here would be a bout between McDonnell and Filipino warrior Marlon Tapales (30-2, 13). The bout may not have the big name quality of others, but stylistically this would be a lot of fun. Both men can let their hands go, both have pretty good styles and when put under pressure McDonnell can be involved in some real thrillers, as his first bout against Liborio Solis was. Although not a star Tapales is a tough, come forward fighter and could well bring the best out of McDonnell in a back and forth war, with the winner well deserving of a world title fight, and a chance to become a 2-weight world champion.
Unification bouts feel natural for us fans, and there are few more enticing than a Middleweight clash between IBF/WBC/WBA Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33) and WBO counterpart Billy Joe Saunders (26-0, 12). The bout would leave us with an undisputed champion at 160lbs and would be a brilliant match up between two unbeaten men with very different styles.
On one hand Kazakh fighter Golovkin is one of the sports purest punchers, with thudding power, a chin of rock and a very high intensity pressure style. One the other hand Saunders is a southpaw boxer-mover who moves like a much smaller man, and at his best is one of the purest boxers in and around the division. The questions about the contest would be whether or not Golovkin could cut the ring off and break down Saunders, or whether the fleet footed Englishman could avoid the Kazakh for 12 rounds.
On a much lesser level we'd also love to see a clash between Irishman Jason Quigley (13-0, 10) and Japanese champion Hikaru Nishida (17-8-1, 8). On paper this bout wouldn't get much attention in the build up but the action in the ring would be sensational, as would a bout between Nishida and Gary O'Sullivan (27-2, 19). If either of the Irish fighters are looking for someone with a fan friendly style they could do a lot worse than taking on the aggressive Nishida in a sure fire barn burner.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp and boxrec.com)
Fans of “the little guys” have had a wonderful few weeks with a load of notable bouts across 108lbs, 112lbs and 115lbs but maybe what the future holds is even better than what we've just had, and what we've just had is a huge shake up at both Flyweight and Super Flyweight.
For those who are perhaps just dipping your toes into the lower weight class lets go back a few weeks.
On August 31st Ryoichi Taguchi (25-2-1, 11) successfully defended the WBA Light Flyweight title defeating mandatory challenger Ryo Miyazaki (24-2-3, 15) with a 12 round decision. This now leaves Taguchi open to defend his title on December 31st on a yet to be announced show in Tokyo in a voluntary defense of the title.
On the same day the WBA Super Flyweight title changed hands, with Taguchi's stablemate Kohie Kono (32-9-1, 13) losing the title to Nicaraguan slugger Luis Concepcion (35-4, 24) in a 12 round decision. The future for Kono now looks unclear, with some suggesting he may be heading for retirement, or an easy bout at the end of the year. For Concepcion the rumour is that a world title unification may be around the corner with the WBO champion, but more about that later.
On September 3rd we saw a second Super Flyweight title change hands with Filipino Jerwin Ancajas (25-1-1, 16) announcing himself to the international boxing world by claiming the IBF title. The unheralded Filipino took a miniscule payday to face the unbeaten McJoe Arroyo (17-1, 8) but made the most of his chance and clearly beat the Puerto Rican.
The following day we saw a champion actually retain a title at Super Flyweight as WBO kingpin Naoya Inoue (11-0, 9) over-came the gutsy but outclassed Petchbarngborn Kokietgym (38-8-1, 18), scoring a 10th round win. After the win it reported that Inoue was seeking a unification bout and it now seems like terms are set for him to face Concepcion in December, with December 30th looking the most likely. The bout would see two of the titles unified and should see us move into 2017 with 3 title holders.
On September 10th we saw Filipino road warrior Johnriel Casimero (22-3, 14) travel to the UK where he notched the first defense of his title, with a 10th round TKO win against the previously unbeaten Englishman Charlie Edwards (8-1,3). The win saw Casimero being too good and too powerful for the novice and since the win he has called pretty much everyone else at the weight claiming that he now wants to unify the titles.
The very same night we saw Roman Gonzalez (46-0, 38) become the third new champion at Super Flyweight in the space of 2 weeks as he defeated Mexican Carlos Cuadras (35-1-1, 27) in a 12 round war. The win netted Gonzalez the WBC title and saw him become a genuine 4 weight world champion.
Since Gonzalez's win we've seen the team of his mandatory challenger, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (41-4-1, 38), state they would be happy to travel to the US to face the Nicaraguan. We've also seen Gonzalez's promoter suggest late 2017 would be the ideal time for their man to face Naoya Inoue.
Earlier today, September 14th, we saw further developments in the ever changing picture of the lower weights with former Gonzalez foe Juan Francisco Estrada (33-2, 24) vacating the WBA “super” and WBO Flyweight titles as he joins the fray at Super Flyweight, in pursuit of a rematch with Estrada. Gonzalez's WBC title is also expected to be made vacant in the coming days.
With all the title changes, vacating, weight changes and the such we have seen a real shake up at both 115lbs and 112lbs. Essentially we have seen Super Flyweight become, arguably, the hottest division in the sport and we've seen Flyweight suddenly become one of the most open with a title dash expected over the next 12 months.
At Super Flyweight we have a division with a leading list of Inoue, Gonzalez, Ancajas, Concepcion, Cuadras, Srisaket and Estrada. Below those we have fighters looking for opportunities like Sho Ishida, Khalid Yafai, Aston Palicte, Rex Tso, Norasing Kokietgym and Jose Martinez
At Flyweight we could end the weekend with only two recognised champions, Kazuto Ioka and Johnriel Casimero. However the division will be blown wide open with fighters like Donnie Nietes, Brian Viloria, Pedro Guevara, Moruti Mthalane, Takuya Kogawa, Juan Carlos Reveco, Daigo Higa, Zou Shiming, McWilliams Arroyo, Nawaphon Por Chokchai, Giemel Magramo, Muhammad Waseem, Andrew Selby, Yodmongkol Vor Saengthep, Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym and Kompayak Porpramook all likely looking at joining the mad dash for title fights.
At the moment the rumours are that the WBO title will be fought for in November between Zou Shiming and Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym and that the WBC title will be on the line between Nawaphon Por Chokchai and Juan Hernandez, also in November, though there is a good chance both the IBF and WBA titles will be defended before the year is out.
Despite Estrada and Gonzalez both moving up in weight they have arguably made Flyweight more interesting, with the mad dash for world glory almost certain to give us some great fights, and have strengthened the already brilliant Super Flyweight division. At 108lbs it seems like we could see Taguchi, Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka all in action in December, with potential unification bouts coming in 2017.
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