It's fair to say that January was a disappointing month in terms of action. We really didn't get too many shows, or bouts, and the month meandered slowly from one one notable bout to another, with little to keep our attention in between. Despite that we did have some stellar match ups, some great performances, and a lot of prospects. With that in mind we'll kick off the year with out first month awards for 2021!
Fighter of the Month
Despite the fact there wasn't a lot going on in January there were some standout performances, a number of really noteworthy bouts and several very solid contests. For us the winner for Fight of the Month was the fighter who impressed us the most, and that was Gakuya Furuhashi, who put on a determined and brilliant performance to stop Yusaku Kuga. Their bout was amazing, genuinely an amazing bout, but it was the performance of Furuhashi that made it what it was. He walked through bombs and looked like a man possessed as he broke down Kuga. At the age of 33 he would have known this was going to be his last chance, and fought like he knew it was now or never.
Fight of the Month
Jong Seon Kang vs Nam Jun Lee
It's fair to say that January was a very, very quiet month, and there really wasn't too many Asian shows taking place through the month. Despite that we did get some amazing bouts, and the most exciting of those was the brilliant, brutal and all action bout between Jong Seon Kang and Nam Jun Lee, who battled on January 9th in a bout for the WBO Oriental Featherweight title. This was 12 rounds of sensational action and could well be in the running for the Fight of the Year come December, a truly fantastic war to kick off the year.
Yusaku Kuga Vs Gakuya Furhashi
Riku Nagahama Vs Ryota Toyoshima
Joon Sun Lee v Tae Hyub Go
KO of the Month
No suitable KO
Note - We did get some solid TKO's but in terms of KO's there was nothing that seemed award worthy.
We had plenty of prospects in action in January but for us the one that stood out was Jukiya Iimura, who looked sensational in his debut win over Daisuke Yamada. The 22 year old, at the time, Iimura dropped Yamada twice and instantly generated buzz from a sensational debut that has left us really looking forward to seeing his next bout, which will take place in March. Iimura looked exciting, heavy handed and like a fighter who has instantly adapted to the professional style of boxing. There is work to do, but he looked really, really good, and is certainly one to get excited about.
Seigo Hanamori TKO4 Naoto Mizutani
On paper Seigo Hanamori's January 29th win over Naoto Mizutani didn't appear to be a shock, given the records of the two men. Paper however doesn't tell us the full story or explain just how big of a shock this actually was. Going into the bout Mizutani was ranked by the JBC and since 2018 his only losses had come to very good fighters, in Ryo Akaho and Fumiya Fuse. Not only that but he had real momentum in the back up upset wins over Joe Tanook and Naoya Okamoto. Despite the success of Mizutani coming in he was stopped in 4 rounds by Hanamori, who had never previously defeated a fight with more wins than losses. This really was a career best win by Hanamori, by some margin.
Yusaku Kuga Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (Rd 6)
Although we didn't get a lot of fights in January we did get a lot of amazing rounds from a number of all action wars, each delivering numerous round of the month contenders. If forced to pick a single one however round 6 of the Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight between Yusaku Kuga and Gakuya Furuhashi gets the nod, just. The fight had 8 amazing rounds, but for us the 6th stands out just a little more than the others, as it seemed, during the round, that the tide began to turn against the defending champion, giving the bout a swing. Despite the tide of the fight turning in the round, it was a round that swung one way then the other. It's a round that had intense action, clean, solid, exchanges, and the entire 3 minutes was pretty much a none stop highlight reel. A genuinely amazing 3 minutes of action.
With so few fights taking place to begin 2021 the founders of Asianboxing.info have decided to take a look at the boxing scene and put our predictions forward in a new series called "Who..."
The idea of this series is to answer a question with who we each think will achieve a specific activity or feat, or potentially even looking back on history and sharing our takes on something from the past.
We intend to mix these up between various categories and a mix of times frames. From the past, to the immediate future and the longer term future.
To begin this series we're going to look at South Korea, where the three of us will all aim to answer the following question:
"Who... will be the next OPBF champion from South Korea?"
Lee: "This should be the one where I am good, so a perfect start to this series for me. I'm really glad to see Korean boxing getting international attention recently, at least earlier this month, and it was the man who headlined that card that I think has the best chance to claim an OPBF title this year. That is, of course, Jong Seon Kang, the all action Featherweight fighter. Aged 19 he is very young, but with a 12-0-2 record, and with good wins stacking up I think he'll break into the OPBF rankings this year, and move towards an OPBF title in 2022.
Kang is also lucky that the winner of Musashi Mori and Satoshi Shimizu, will almost certainly vacate the title later this year, leaving the door open to a vacant title title fight next year. The perfect time for Kang to swoop in"
Takahiro: "Being truthful, my understanding of Korean boxing isn't as good as it should be and as good as it used to be. I have however been sneaky, and looked at the OPBF rankings and there is an obvious choice here. Light Middleweight Jung Kyoung Lee.
Lee is ranked #3 by the OPBF for a vacant title, which was given up last year by Akinori Watanabe. I don't think #1 ranked fighter Tim Tszyu will have any interest in the title and so the door is wide open for Lee to fight for the title. I'm not sure who he would fight for the belt though. I don't think we'll see Lee face Hironobu Matsunaga, but I would like that fight. Very exciting.
Regardless, my pick is Jung Kyoung Lee"
Scott: "There are a lot of really exciting Korean fighters coming through the ranks, like Da Won Gang, Sung Min Yuh, Jong Seon Kang, Min Jang and and Min Hyuk Jang. Those however are all youngsters who are probably a few years away from a big bout.
With that in mind I'm going with someone with more experience, and someone who has spoke about wanting to win the title before. That's Dong Myung Shin the excellent 32 year old Featherweight, who can ill afford to move slowly this year. He spoke about getting a fight at Oriental title level in 2020, before the pandemic destroyed various plans and I think he's probably got the best chance of fighting for the title in the next year or two. The Super Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions are tough ones, but they are both expected to have massive shake ups in the next 12-24 months and that could leave the door open for Shin to get a shot at the vacant title."
*Note - Takahiro's answer is based on the latest OPBF rankings - which are October 2020's. Oddly the OPBF have not published rankings since then.
July felt like a bit of a turning point with boxing, as we had shows return to Thailand and Japan, we managed to see a show in Belarus with some Kazakh hopefuls, we had upsets, action, excitement and some brilliant debuts as the sport finally begins to turn a corner. Thankfully that momentum looks likely to continue in August with a host of notable events set for the coming month. With their being a lot planned and scheduled for August lets take a look at what we're getting in the first half of the month!
PLEASE Note - All bouts are subject to change, cancellations and postponements, something that is a lot more rife right now than usual due to the on going situation.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6)
The month kicks off with one of the biggest non-title bouts in Thai history, as former world champions Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Amnat Ruenroeng clash in the headline bout of the month's WP Boxing event. The event, which will be streamed not just by Work Point but also by Matchroom, is expected to help launch Srisaket into world title bout, as he looks to become a 3-time champion. Although Amnat is a very capable fighter, and a master of the dark arts, we do wonder if he had enough left in the tank to make this as interesting in the ring as it seems.
Chainoi Worawut (10-0-1, 9) Vs Jomar Fajardo (17-16-2, 9)
In a supporting bout on that same WP Boxing show is a match up for talented Thai prospect Chainoi Worawut, one of the leading Thai hopefuls for the future. The unbeaten Worawut will be up against Jomar Fajardo, a man best known for his two wars with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sadly Fajardo has struggled, massively, since those battles and is 3-12-1 (2) in his last 16 bouts. This should be a straight forward win for Worawut, but he is certainly one to watch, and if you tune in to the WP Boxing show he's the guy on the under-card most likely to fight for a world title in the next few years.
Zhan Kossobutskiy (13-0, 12) Vs Kamil Sokolowski (9-17-2, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh Heavyweight hopeful Zhan Kossobutskiy looks to continue his unbeaten run as he returns to the ring in Minsk to take on English based Polish Heavyweight hopeful Kamil Sokolowski. On paper this is a total mismatch, but in reality Sokolowski is a very well respected journeyman in the UK who does come to win, rather than survive, and he will give this a genuine go. Kossobutskiy isn't the most talented, smooth or quickest and we wouldn't be surprised if Sokolowski managed to expose some of Koosobutskiy's flaws. Saying that however we do think the Kazakh will pick up the win.
Bucheon, Gyeonggi, South Korea
In Duck Seo (12-3-2, 7) Vs Jung Kyoung Lee (8-3-1, 4)
In South Korea we get a KBA show that was originally planned for July. The main event here is WBA Asia Welterweight title bout that looks mouth watering on paper and will pit In Duck Seo against former OPBF Light Middleweight champion Jung Kyoung Lee. We don't see many good looking All-Korean bouts so this one really does stand out as something to get excited about, and style wise this should be a war. Notably this is a KBA show, so the bouts are likely to end up being uploaded afterwards and we would advise fans to keep some time aside to catch up on this one if they can't catch it.
Jong Seon Kang (10-0-2, 6) Vs Seong Yeong Yang (8-2-5, 4)
In a second good looking all Korean bout we'll see the unbeaten Jong Seon Kang take on Seong Yeong Yang in a KBA Featherweight ranking bout. For those who have seen these two fighters in action it should be no surprise if this something very special. Both men were in some thrilling contests in 2019 with Kang's bout against Tomjune Mangubat being a sensational 10 round thriller whilst Yang's bout with Jian Wang was just an 10 round toe to toe slugest. Don't expect high quality boxing here, but do expect high intensity and thrilling action.
City Sogo Gym, Hirakata, Osaka, Japan
Toshiki Shimomachi (11-1-2, 7) vs Hiroki Hanabusa (8-0-3, 3)
In a very interesting looking Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title bout we'll see defending champion Toshiki Shimomachi defending his title against the unbeaten Hiroki Hanabusa. For Shimomachi this will be his first defense, and comes just over a year after he won the title, stopping Kenta Nomura. As for Hanabusa this will be his first title bout, though he has fought in notable bouts before including a Rookie of the Year Final and a bout in China, where he had the crowd against him. This should be a real test of what both men have in the locker, and hopefully the two youngsters will both go on to have successful, and perhaps a rematch somewhere down the line.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryo Sagawa (9-1, 4) Vs Yuri Takemoto (8-1-1, 4)
Action returns to Tokyo on August 13th for a Japanese Featherweight title bout between defending champion Ryo Sagawa and underwhelming challenger Yuri Takemoto. Originally the plan was for Sagawa to defend his title against Hinata Maruta, but with the Champion Carnival essentially messed up by what's been going on in the world that bout was essentially put on ice, for now. As a result we'll be getting Takemoto challenging the brilliant champion. Also this is an underwhelming title defense Takemoto is a solid fighter, who won the Rookie of the Year in 2018, but he's done nothing to suggest he'll be a test for the fantastic Sagawa.
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