Back on January 16th we saw the professional debut of Flyweight hopeful Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1), who instantly impressed us as he blew out Daisuke Yamada in the first round of a scheduled 6 rounder. Following that win we got really excited about him, and only days later it was announced that the 23 year old would be back in the ring in May for his second professional bout. With that in mind we felt it was a perfect time to give Iimura some attention in our “Introducing…” series, and explain why you should be excited about him, and what the youngster brings to the ring.
Iimura was born in Edogawa, Tokyo, one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, in January 1998. He picked up boxing at a young age, first taking to the sport in elementary school, and was getting some media attention way back as a teenager. That included attention he got in 2015, when he competed at the 69th National High School Boxing Championships in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo. In that competition he reached the semi-final of the Light Flyweight division, losing a decision to Ryutaro Nakagaki who is now making waves as a professional himself.
Following his impressive performances in the High School tournaments Iimura went to university and was quickly noted as a potential boxing star. In 2016 he won his first bout as part of the Nihon University team and in the years that followed he would go on to become the team captain, and a vital member of the team, for both his leadership and his in ring performances.
Not only was Iimura impressive on the University Boxing scene but also in his other performances, including the All Japan championships. He unfortunately ran into nemesis Ryutaro Nakagaki at the 2017 edition of the tournament, losing a close 3-2 decision. He bounced back the following year as he came runner up in the 2018 National Athletic Meet, and continued to impress for the Nihon University team.
After helping Nihon University to a several league titles Iimura had options in front of him, and in 2020 signed with Kadoebi, alongside fellow amateur standouts Jun Ikegawa and Yugo Kon, with all three passing their pro-tests in September, after a lengthy wait.
By the time he had taken part in his pro-test Iimura had racked up a very, very impressive 68-13 amateur record and it was clear that when he got round to making his professional debut there was going to be genuine intrigue into how he would adapt to professional boxing. Sadly, given he signed with Kadoebi in early 2020, the wait to see what Iimura could do was a long one. That was, in part, due to Covid19. Despite the effects of Covid19 delaying Iimura’s debut fans were able to see what Iimura could do in October, when he took part in an exhibition with the aforementioned Jun Ikegawa During this exhibition both men looked really good, and very exciting talented. Of the two it was Iimura who seemed to have the more polished professional style, pressing forward with educated pressure and showing a polished in ring style. Something very different to the still very amateur like Ikegawa, who was also the much bigger man.
In January we finally got the chance to see what the fuss with Iimura was about, as the youngster came out to the ring in a Sombrero and almost a year after signing with Kadoebi we got Iimura’s debut.
From the very early seconds of the bout you could see he was very much a professional style fighter. He stalked Daisuke Yamada around the ring, before dropping him with a perfectly timed right hand for the first knockdown. Yamada beat the count but Iimura dropped him a second time soon afterwards, forcing the referee to halt the bout, before Yamada was later stretchered from the ring.
Although it’s very, very early in his career it’s obvious that Iimura is a genuine talent. It’s going to be great to see how far he can go and how quickly he can get there. Given he’s at the Kadoebi gym he will be getting top notch sparring, a chance to learn from much older and more experienced heads and will get the chance to tweak his style, though in fairness he really does look like a very good professional boxer.
In his second professional bout Iimura will be facing off with Tomoki Kawasaki, himself a debutant who had a successful amateur career, with their bout set to take place in May. Although it’s a 1-0 (1) fighter taking on a debutant it’s a bout we are really, really looking forward to and think it’ll be a great chance to see what two, talented, youngsters have got to offer the sport. The winner will be moved quickly through the ranks, and the loser will have a lot of time to rebuild and get their career back on track. In a bout like this, neither guy should be written, win or lose.
For those that missed it we’ve included Iimura’s debut bout with Yamada below.
Whilst the start of March was quiet the middle portion of the month really does see action step up a great, and there is a lot of action in not a lot of time. Better than just having a lot of action is the fact it's really varied action as well ranging from world title fights to prospects.
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) vs Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8)
The most notable bout of the month, featuring an Asian fighter, will see Ring Magazine and WBA "Super" Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi making his US debut as he takes on Mexican youngster Axel Aragon Vega. The talented Kyoguchi had a frustrating 2020, with two bouts being cancelled, and will be looking to make a statement in his first bout since signing with Matchroom. As for Vega this will be his second world title fight, following a narrow loss last year in a WBO Minimumweight title bout, despite that he will be a clear under-dog.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (49-5-1, 42) Vs Kwanthai Sithmorseng (50-7-1, 27)
Former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion will be in a tune up bout here, with big plans for later in the year, as he takes on former WBA Minimumweight champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng. On paper this looks interesting, especially as Srisaket is taking on a former world champion, but in reality this should be little more than a brisk work out for Srisaket who should be too big, too strong, and too powerful for the rather limited Sithmorseng. Despite that this will be a good chance to see what Srisaket is like ahead of third bout with either Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada.
Phongsaphon Panyakum (11-1, 6) vs Karoon Jarupianlerd (44-10, 20)
Touted Thai prospect Phongsaphon Panyakum will look to secure his biggest win so far as he takes on former Naoya Inoue foe Karoon Jarupianlerd, aka Petchbarngborn Kokietgym. Although not too well known internationally Phongsaphon has been impressing on the Thai scene and we're really excited about his future. On paper this is a huge step up for Phongsaphon, though he will be favoured to pick up a win and answer a number of questions about his potential.
Chainoi Worawut (13-0-1, 12) Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-9, 36)
Another Thai looking to progress their career is Chainoi Worawut, who takes a massive step up to take on former 2-time WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu. The hard hitting and exciting "Rockman" has impressed through his career with an exciting style but has, mostly, had things his own way against typically under-skilled and over-matched opponents. Pungluang on the other hand is a skilled pressure fighter, with a good chin and a real will to win. We expect Pungluang to push Chainoi all the way here in a real test for the youngster.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7) Vs Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1)
Japanese veteran Saemi Hanagata will be looking to record her second defense of the IBF Atomweight title as she takes on fellow Japanese fighter Eri Matsuda. The aggressive and exciting Hanagata is a true veteran at 36 years old, and although being an "older" fighter she has looked full of energy in her most recent bouts. As well as an energetic fighter she is rugged, aggressive and exciting and brings a lot of pressure. Matsuda on the other hand is a rangy tall boxer, with a very smooth technical style, based on outside boxing. Despite being a professional novice Matsuda has been hugely impressive and she can't be written off here, even if this is only her 5th professional bout.
Narumi Yukawa (0-0) vs Yuya Azuma (5-4-1, 1)
Controversial fighter Narumi Yukawa will make his long awaited professional debut, almost 5 years after his last amateur bout. The talented Yukawa was given a suspended sentence after being convicted of drug offenses, which ended his amateur career and almost ended his entire boxing career. Now however he has served his time and is looking to make an impact on boxing once again. In the opposite corner to Yukawa will be Yuya Azuma, who is best known for his 2020 loss to Rentaro Kimura. This should be a really good test for Yukawa, and it'll be great to see what he looks like in the ring after all these years.
Banana Sports Complex, Binan City, Laguna, Philippines
Criztian Pitt Laurente (5-0, 3) Vs Ernesto Saulong (22-6-2, 9)
Over in the Philippines we're expecting to see touted youngster Criztian Pitt Laurente take on his most notable test, by far, since he turned pro in 2019. The talented 21 year old hopefully will be sharing the ring in an 8 rounder with former world title challenger Ernesto Saulong. Laurente turned professional with a lot of expectations after being a very solid amateur but has yet to make any sort of a mark at all on the professional scene. Saulong, best known for challenging Ryosuke Iwasa in 2018, should have the experience and skills to test Laurente, even if he is expected to come up short here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-2, 4) vs Tulio Kuwabata (3-1-1, 2)
Unbeaten hopeful Seiya Tsutsumi had a frustrating 2020, fighting to 2 draws, and he'll be looking for a much better 2021 as he returns to the ring here and takes on former amateur standout Tulio Kuwabata. The talented Tsutsumi is one to watch, and is a genuine prospect despite the setbacks last year, and he will enter this bout as a clear favourite. Kuwabata turned professional with a lot of hype back in 2018 but an upset loss in 2019 to Ken Jordan popped his hype bubble, and that was then followed by a technical draw with Yoshihiro Utsumi in 2020. Those setbacks have left Kuwabata in desperate need of a win. We expect this to be a very exciting bout, but one where Tsutsumi needs to be strongly favoured.
Takuya Kogawa (31-6-1, 14) vs Shun Kosaka (16-6, 4)
Former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa looks to continue his long career as he takes on Shun Kosaka, in what should be a very fan friendly match up. The talented Kogawa has shown some wear and tear in recent years, and his numerous wars have been catching up with him, however he still some tricks in the tank and he'll be hoping to show those here. Kosaka on the other hand has been beaten in 3 of his last 4 and desperately needs a win here if he's to remain relevant. Given the styles of the two men this should be very exciting, though neither fighter is likely to go on to big things after this bout.
Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) vs Tomoki Kawasaki (0-0)
A very easy to over-look bout will see novices Jukiya Iimura and Tomoki Kawasaki clash in a 6 rounder. Iimura really impressed us in his debut, back in January, and we are really excited to see him back in the ring, especially so soon after his debut and prior to turning professional he had been a very solid amateur. Kawasaki on the other hand was an impressive amateur who will be kicking off his professional career, and we're excited to see what he'll be bringing to the pros. This might not be a massive bout, but we are really excited to see how these two men will match off and it's arguably more interesting than any other bout on the March 24th show.
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.
It’s fair to say that January is usually a quiet month but this January is particularly quiet, with bouts really not being lined up for much of the month, we’ve already seen two scheduled bouts being cancelled due to Covid19 related issues. Despite that we do still have some stuff to be excited about, so let's take a look at what we’ve got coming up this month, and it is very much a prospect heavy month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) vs Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
The first genuinely big bout set to take place in Asia will be on January 14th as OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara looks to defend his title against Takuma Inoue. The bout is a genuinely good looking one and will see Kurihara’s power and aggression against the toughness and skills of Inoue. With both men entering the bout world ranked the winner of this will be banging on the door of a world title fight, and we wouldn't be surprised at all by them landing a really big, international level, fight at the end of the year.
Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) vs Sora Takeda (6-1, 1)
Highly skilled prospect Katsuki Mori looks to continue building his reputation as he takes on Sora takeda, in a battle between two former Rookie of the Year winners. Mori has received a lot of praise since breaking through in 2019, though with only a single bout in 2020 his career needs a big shot in the arm in 2021. Takeda on the other hand won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and has sadly seen his momentum slow with just 2 bouts since then. The winner of this will begin a move towards a potential Japanese Youth title bout, but could take a year or two for either man to land their first title fight.
Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) Vs Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1)
Touted Japanese third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto will be looking to record his second win as a professional as he takes on Dragonball Z inspired fighter Bejita Ishikawa, who is well known for his Vegeta styled entrance attire. Matsumoto is very highly regarded and his father was a multi time world title challenger, though he’ll want a better performance than his debut, which saw him being dropped before he stopped Hironori Miyake. Ishikawa shouldn’t provide much of a test here, but he is a unique fighter and certainly has popularity that exceeds his ability.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) vs Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3)
Another prospect looking for their second win is former amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki, who will be looking to build on a successful debut in a notable step up in class, as he takes on the experienced Yuji Okinori. Although perhaps not a big internationally there is very high expectations on Nakagaki in Japanese, after an excellent amateur career, and given how he looked on debut the 21 year old Super Flyweight hopeful really does seem to have the potential to go a very, very long way in the sport. Okinori is a very credible opponent for Nakagaki this early in his career, but it’s hard to see anything but a Nakagaki win.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) Vs Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) - OPBF Welterweight title
The second OPBF title fight of 2021 will see Riku Nagahama seek his first defense as he faces off with the heavy handed Ryota Toyoshima. Nagahama, who holds the OPBF Welterweight title, won the belt in 2020 but has had to wait almost a year to defend it. Although not the biggest puncher Nagahama does have a fan friendly style and does get involved in a tear, even if that’s not the best idea for him. Toyoshima is a more patient fighter than Nagahama, but he’s certainly a bigger puncher and he has very under-rated and sneaky body shots in his arsenal. This could, legitimately, turn out to be a genuine war for the OPBF title and could be a gem in a month where big bouts are few and far between.
Jukiya Iimura (0-0) Vs Daisuke Yamada (6-5, 1)
Whilst there is a lack of big bouts there are a lot of prospects in action over the coming days and one of those is Jukiya Iimura, who went 68-13 in the amateurs. He’ll be getting introduced to professional bout with a bout against the solid Daisuke Yamada, in what should be a solid test for the debuting Flyweight.
Jun Ikegawa (0-0) Vs Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-1-2)
Another debutant looking to make a mark in January is Jun Ikegawa, who went 51-15 in the unpaid ranks. The skilled Ikegawa looks to be in a very solid debut match up as he takes on Kakeru Yoshikawa. The 22 year old Ikegawa is tipped for success and will be looking to make his mark at 122lbs. Yoshikawa is a very credible opponent, and his only loss was a split decision back in July 22017. This is not a gimmie for Ikegawa!
Yugo Kon (0-0) Vs Koji Tsurumi (4-3-1, 1)
One other debutant on this show to make a note of is Yugo Kon. He went a less than spectacular 23-11 in the amateur ranks but is regarded as a long term prospect and we should see him being asked genuine questions by Koji Tsurumi, who is better than his record suggests.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) Vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21)
In another potential hidden gem Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka will take on Takuya Watanabe, and this may well end up being a genuinely brutal war. Saka is an aggressive, heavy handed and exciting fighter, but one who can also be super inconsistent. Despite being hot and cold Saka looked fantastic in his 2019 title winning performance, smashing Masaru Sueyoshi in 5 rounds. Watanabe on the other hand is a super tough, technical warrior who tends to box well, but is much more well known for his ability to genuinely fight. Watanabe’s bouts with Jaesung Lee and Taiki Minamoto showed his toughness and he will have to dip into that again here.
Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14)
Another Japanese title fight will see Yusaku Kuga defending his JBC Super Bantamweight title against Gakuya Furuhashi. For Kuga this is a must win after being taken out in a regional title fight by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019. Although talented Kuga has been in a number of tough wars, and bouts against the likes of Ryoichi Tamura, Shingo Wake and Yasutaka Ishimoto may well have aged him. As for Furuhashi the 33 year old challenger will know it’s now or never after coming up short in two previous Japanese title fights. Style wise Furuhashi is a grinder, who throws a lot and lacks 1-punch fight changing power, again Kuga his style may be his undoing, or it could lead to an early FOTY contender.
Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) v Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2)
In a B class tournament final the once beaten Koki Mioya takes on Tentaro Kimura, in what should be a very evenly matched and exciting 5 rounder. This bout, unlike many, has gotten a lot of interest for what is, for all intents, a lower level Japanese bout, with neither fighter being regarded as a major prospect. Both as popular fighters and the bout is being regarded as one that could end up delivering a lot of action. Fans in the west may overlook this one, but it is genuinely generating plenty of buzz among the hardcore Japanese fans.
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) v Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
In an A Class tournament final the fast rising, and heavy handed, Japanese Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki will battle Masashi Wakita. This looks like a mismatch on paper and we suspect it will be, but it will still be great to see Utsuki back in the ring, and there’s a real chance of him getting involved in the Japanese title mix in the next 12 to 24 months. Utsuki is a very nasty and serious puncher, and that is likely to be too much for Wakita, who’s been a genuine servant to Japanese boxing over the years.
Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) Vs Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2)
In a surprising world title fight we’ll see OPBF Minimumweight champion Sana Hazuki challenge IBF champion Yokasta Valle near the end of the month. This bout was only announced in January, after Valle had numerous issues securing a unification fight with WBC champion Tina Rupprecht. Valle will be the heavy, heavy favourite, though there is, maybe, a chance she has looked past Hazuki, who really shouldn’t be much of a taste for the Costa Rican world champion.
Manual Artime Community Center Theater, Miami, Florida, USA
Fazliddin Meliboev (0-0) vs Javonn Davis (3-0-1, 3)
Back to debutants we have talented Uzbek 24 year old Fazliddin Meliboev kicking off his career towards the end of January as he takes on unbeaten American Javonn Davis. Meliboev isn’t one of the elite level Uzbek amateurs we’ve seen making their name on the professional ranks in recent years but he was a very credible amateur and showed real potential in the WSB. He’ll come into this bout as an unknown, but we suspect he has the tools to overcome Davis, who has been fighting at a very, very low level so far.
Kozimbek Mardonov (0-0) vs Chown Sims (5-1, 2)
Another Uzbek making his debut is the touted 23 year old Kozimbek Mardonov, who won shone at the 2019 Military Games in Wuhan. On paper Mardonov looks to be in a serious test here as he goes up against 25 year old American Chown Sims. Sims is unbeaten in his last 3, and has taken a couple of cherry’s since beginning his professional career. He was, however, stopped in 2019 by Ty McLeod and we suspect Mardonov will have too much, in what could be a debut to remember for a very promising young Uzbek.
Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10) vs Stephen Danyo (17-3-3, 6)
Highly regarded Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov will return to the ring after well over a year out as he takes on Dutch fighter Setephen Danya in a bout for 4 minor titles. The excellent Akhmedov has been one of the most promising Kazakh fighters in recent years and he seems to have it all, with skills, power, stamina, a solid boxing brain and a solid promoter behind him. Given what we’ve seen of Akhmedov the view is that he’s one of the men heading towards world titles. Danyo on the other hand has never been stopped, he’s proven himself as a tough nut and he does have the durability and experience to test the Kazakh youngster, especially given his length lay off. This should be a real good test for Akhmedov, but if he’s as good as we think he should take a very clear win.
Luzhniki, Moscow, Russia
Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) Vs Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29)
Unbeaten Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev is set to take a massive step up in class at the end of the month as he takes on former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. With many tipping the “Bully” to be a future world champion this is the sort of test that will help fast track him to a title, and could be a shrewd bit of match making, or a case of biting off too much too soon. Kovalev has been on the slide for a while, and he no longer looks like the “Krusher” who dismantled the likes of Jean Pascal, but with his power and with a Russian crowd behind him he is very much a live under-dog here. On paper this is a real test for Melikuviez, but if he’s as good as we, and many others, think he could end up retiring Kovalev. Interestingly for Kovalev this will be his first bout since his 2019 loss to Saul Alvarez and at 37 father time may well be just as much of an enemy as Melikuziev. Potentially one of the smartest bits of matchmaking we’ll see in 2021, or a big mistake by Melikueziev’s team.
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