Our final "Introducing" of 2019 isn't going to be one of our usual articles looking at a specific fighter but instead a look back at some of the fighters we've mentioned during the last 12 months, ahead of the changes we'll be making to these articles in the coming year.
Since we started this way back on January 8th we've looked at some winners, some losers and some fighters who's future isn't as clear as we'd have hoped. We won't go through all 50 fighters here, but we will talk about those who have have shined the most, and those who have disappointed the most.
The first Introducing saw us talk about Mikito Nakano, who was 1-0 (1) at the time and has since added 3 wins, all inside the distance. He has gone from a good novice into a fine prospect and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him fighting for a title in 2020.
Just a week later we spoke about Ginjiro Shigeoka, who was also 1-0 (1) and his rise has been legitimately meteoric. In just his fourth bout he claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title and if he picks up a win on New Year's Eve, against Rey Loreto, there is no doubt that he will be in the world title mix in 2020.
We spoke about Shokichi Iwata in week 25 and since then he has scored back to back TKO5 wins, with both of those victories coming on massive Japanese cards. The 23 year old Teiken prospect looks like he has the potential to go all the way to the top, and to do so quickly. He has shown he can box, or brawl, and whilst he may not quite have figured out his style in the ring he already looks like a special talent.
What a year Andy Hiraoka has had! We featured him in week 26, when he was then 13-0 (9) and since then he has scored the biggest win of his career, signed with Top Rank and made his US debut. The talented 140lb'der showed he could go 10, as he did in victory over Akihiro Kondo, and looked very good in his American show case in November.
Another man who has had a great year is Toshiya Ishii, who was covered in week 33. He made his debut in April, took the unbeaten record of Fumiya Fuse in August then took the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title in December. His win Fuse, who we covered in an introducing article in week 4 was impressive but his war with Ishikawa was something special and we advise all fans to give that a watch.
In week 34 we looked at Yudai Shigeoka and although he didn't debut for a few weeks after that he has shone since some much. His debut was an easy win over a Thai, but despite the ease of the win he showed so much ability, brilliant crisp punching, fantastic movement and ring IQ. He then followed that up with a win over Lito Dante and looks set to have a monstrous 2020, following in his brother's footsteps.
In week 9 we looked at Yoji Saito, who entered the year 1-1 (1) and looked like a huge punching monster. He fought twice in 2019, and went 0-0-2. Notably his first bout of the year, a draw with Aso Ishiwaki, looks very good on reflection and Ishiwaki used that bout as a great opportunity to shine, and was the focus of his own "Introducing" in week 38!
In week 17 we discussed Tsubasa Murachi and his year is a really tricky one to try and dissect. On one hand he impressed, in his win over Raymong Tabugon, and there was clearly skill and ambition with the youngster. But on the other hand he ended the year in September, following a brutal KO loss to Froilan Saludar, and the road back up to that level is going to be a rough journey for the 22 year old. Don't write him off, but he's going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Another man who is hard to get a good read on was Kai Ishizawa who may take more credit from his loss to Masataka Taniguchi in September, than most fighters take from a win. He was fantastic in defeat, he showed his toughness, his braveness, his power and his will to win. Sadly he lacked in technical areas, and Taniguchi was too good for him, but the reality is that both men came out with enhanced reputations. Sadly it was still a loss, and his one other bout this year was a blow out against an over-matched Indonesian
We love watching Christiano Aoqui, who we introduced in week 40, and despite a loss to Daishi Nagata following our article it's hard to write off the hard hitting Japanese-Brazilian, who has lost in the past and bounced back. He's never going to be a world beater but we expect him to remain in the domestic title mix next year.
Well we got that one wrong
In week 35 we spoke about the return of Teppei Kayanuma, who was supposed to fight in September. Though didn't. And we're not totally sure why. We are hoping that changes, and that he does return to the ring, but with more than 3 years since his last bout it now seems unlikely.
For week 46 we spoke about Dominique Kenshin, by this point we were trying to tweak the formula slightly and pick fighters who were in action during the week of the article, and as a result felt Kenshin was the man to cover. That was the wrong choice and he was was stopped in a round by Hiro Ichimichi. He's not fought since, and being honest he has a lot of work to do, in every part of his boxing.
Changes Will be Made
So as for 2020, "Introducing..." is changing. We are taking it more international, and instead of being exclusively Japanese fighters, as it was in 2019, we will be looking around Asia for fighters to cover. Whilst the key focus will, again, be prospects, we aren't going to be too rigid in that and we'll look at covering other fighters we find interesting as the year goes on. This could mean anyone from novice, to journeyman, fringe contender to prospects. The only fighters we'll not cover in this section are clear world level fighters. We want to shine a light on a fighter without much attention, and the hope is that we help a bring a fans attention to a fighter they aren't aware of. In 2019 we generally had good success picking our prospects, and we hope that continues in 2020.
See you in the new year for the next "Introducing...", and the next chance to see a light shined on a fighter you may not have even knew existed!
(Image credits - Kadoebi and Teiken)
It feels like September began an eternity ago, though it only came to an end a week ago. Despite being a long month, with some dry patches in it terms of top boxing, it was a month that really delivered more than expected. It gave a legitimate contender for KO of the Year, Fight of the Year and Round of the Year. It had prospects who were willing to step up and some notable upsets. All in all September was a good month, even if we did have some slumps in action.
Fighter of the Month
Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11)
The 22 year old Pedro Taduran will never be described as a world class boxer. The reality is that he's not a world class boxer in any way shape or form, and he will find himself being out boxed on a regular basis. What he is, is a fighter, he's a warrior, he's a world champion and he is well and truly deserving of September's Fighter of the Month award. His win over Samuel Salva on September 7th saw him needing to come back from an opening round knockdown, and boy how he came back. He turned into a raw street fighter and despite being blatantly headbutted in round 4 he just battered Salva into submission.
Fight of the Month
Batyr Akhmedov vs Mario Barrios
The best fights, for us, swing one way then the other, with dramatic swings and changes in momentum of high tempo and high skilled action. On September 28th we got an incredibly bout that had it all. Uzbek born Batyr Akhmedov was dropped in round 4, roared back with 7 amazing rounds of high intensity action, but was dropped in the final minute by a swollen and exhausted Mario Barrios. The drama in the final rounds, as Barrios looked to survive the storm, then pulled out the late knockdown, were amazing. This was amazing and deserves to be considered at the end of the year for the Fight of the year.
KO of the Month
Bakhodir Jalolov KO1 Richard Torrez
Amazingly the KO of the month came in the amateurs and saw Uzbek giant Bakhodir Jalolov laying out American hopeful Richard Torrez in brutally eye catching fashion. We don't often see clean KO's in the amateurs, even with the removal of head gear, but here we saw one that left a massive impression and saw the head of the WBC complain about Jalolov competing in the amateur competition. The huge left hand from Jalolov was brutal and left Torrez out cold on the canvas. This will be up there with the best KO's we'll see in boxing in 2019 and deserves a lot more attention than it has got.
Taku Kuwahara (6-0, 4)
Japan's Taku Kuwahara might not be a name that international fan are aware of, but the youngster is fast rising through the ranks, and his win over world ranked Filipino Jonathan Refugio on September 17th was a big step up in class, and a very impressive win. This 24 year old is tipped for big things and we suspect he'll be pushed into title bouts in the next 12 months. If he can pick up a title in the middle of next year we expect to see Ohashi strap a rocket to him and push for him to get a world title fight sooner rather than later. His performance against Refugio was excellent and we only see him getting better and better.
Amazingly we couldn't find a single noteworthy upset from the month, which is a genuine surprise given how many bouts took place of the 30 days of September.
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa (Rd 6)
The Japanese eliminators, for which the winners will get a title fight at next year's Champions Carnival, promise a lot this year, and the Minimumweight bout between former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi and hard hitting youngster Kai Ishizawa delivered, in spades. The fight was an amazing 8 round war, with the 6th round being the best of them. It was back and forth, both men being hurt, both biting down on their gum shields and both giving everything they had. We could not have asked for more from the two men. An amazing round, from an amazing fight.
This week hasn't been a week with a huge amount of activity but there was a lot of talking points, some really amazing fights and some great performances. A week where quality certainly made up for a relative lack of quantity.
Fighter of the Week
Bakhodir Jalolov (6-0, 6)*
For the first time since we began doing these awards the Fighter of the Week has been won by someone who didn't fight in a professional bout. Instead it's gone to a man who picked up 4 wins in a week and won the World Amateur Championships. That is Uzbek Super Heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov, who got people talking about the World Amateur Championships in a way that really did bring extra attention to the tournament. We know some are against professionals fighting in amateur tournaments but we've yet to see them have any notable success, that was until Jalolov, who won took gold and show that fighters can do both, pro and amateur boxing.
Performance of the Week
Taku Kuwahara (6-0, 4)
Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara took a big step up in class and dominated Filipino foe Jonathan Refugio over 8 rounds. Kuwahara showed his technical ability, speed and movement against Refugio, who was tough but totally out fought, out boxed, out classed and out-sped. Although not one of the more well known prospects in Japan Kuwahara is making a mark and looks like a youngster who is going to be ready for title fights very soon. His performance here was excellent, and the only thing it missed was a stoppage.
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa
We had some absolutely brilliant fights this past week, but the pick of them was then back and forth 8 round thriller between Masaka Taniguchi and Kai Ishizawa, who faced off in a Japanese title eliminator. Both of these men had a lot to gain from a win, and both fought as if winning was worth everything. The opening round saw both men being rocked, rounds 2-4 saw Taniguchi set a high pace and out box Ishizawa, before Ishizawa began to get close and dropped Taniguchi. The final rounds were all out action and the bout really exceeded all expectations. A truly fantastic fight
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa (Rd 6)
Our fight of the week also gave us the round of the week. The 6th round of the bout was something that was out of a movie. It was 3 minutes of back and forth brutality, both men hammering away with bombs. Whilst Minimumweights often have a reputation for not being able to punch both of these guys were rocked in the round, and both were fighting at such an incredible pace that you couldn't catch your breath.
Notable - Kento Matsuoka vs Suguru Ishikawa (Rd4)
Bakhodir Jalolov KO1 Richard Torrez
The big fuss this week was whether amateur fighters should be allowed to fight in the amateurs, with the WBC stating they shouldn't due to one brutal incident. That was the opening round KO win for Bakhodir Jalolov, who took out Richard Torrez in frightening fashion. The 20 year Torrez, one of the big hopes for the US, had won his first 2 bouts in World Amateur Championships and reached the Quarter finals where he faced Jalolov. With less than a 20 seconds of the round left the lanky Uzbek landed a booming left hand that put Torrez down hard. Whether you're in the camp of not letting pro's in amateur tournaments or not, one thing is clear, this was a KO of the Year contender.
Notable-Froilan Saludar KO8 Tsubasa Murachi
Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Japanese-Afghan Kudura Kaneko scored one of his best win to date as he stopped veteran Moon Hyon Yun, a man who had never been stopped and was pretty much known for his toughness. Kaneko boxed well behind his jab to begin with, then been Yun at his own game, fighting on the inside and breaking down the veteran. The stoppage seemed questionable, but it felt very inevitable that Kaneko was going to beat and stop Yun. Kaneko might not be well known internationally but we have a feeling that a lot of fans will hear a lot about him over the next 12-24 months. He is a class fighter, with a great back story and a very easy to watch style.
Notable - Carl Jammes Martin
Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (14-0, 11)
Unbeaten men colliding in a world titlke eliminator is always a good thing, and next week end we see just that as South African Azinga Fuzile takes on Russian based Tajik Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a bout that has all the ingredients to be something very special. The styles should gel, both men will be out there for a win and both are solid punching fighters with sound boxing skills. This might not be an all out war, but should be a very compelling, high tempo and hard hitting battle.
After a flurry of activity over the past few days we now head into the back stretch of the month and it's another busy stretch, with some excellent match ups coming up.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Touted Ohashi gym prospect Taku Kuwahara is regarded highly in Japan but has yet to step up. That changes on September 17th when he takes on experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio in a big step up. This should serve as a genuine test for Kuwahara, who has shown touches of brilliance, but is certainly not a gimme for the unbeaten man as he goes against a foe who has given world class fighters decent competition.
Yusaku Kuga (18-3-1, 12) vs Yosuke Fujihara (18-6, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga will be looking to make his first defense of his second reign as he takes on the experienced, but limited, Yosuke Fujihara. On paper this looks a pretty even looking match up, but in reality should be little more than a showcase defense for the champion, who is a monster at the domestic level. We suspect Kuga runs through a brave Fujihara in only a handful of rounds.
Tsubasa Murachi (4-0, 3) Vs Froilan Saludar (30-3-1, 21) - Tokyo, Japan
A really good match up will see fast rising Japanese youngster Tsubasa Murachi take on former world title challenger Froiland Saludar in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. For Murachi this is a huge step up, a bit like the previously mentioned Kuwahara, though he has shown touches of being a fantastic young prospect and his team clearly have a lot of belief in him. Saludar has proven to not be world class, but he's certainly a good gate keeper type fighter and all 3 of his losses have come to world class opposition. A win for Murachi puts him on the fringes of the world rankings whilst a win for Saludar keeps his career alive, a very important bout.
Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) vs Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
In a Japanese eliminator at Minimumweight we'll see former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi take on Japanese Youth champion Kai Ishizawa. For Taniguchi this is not a bout he can afford to lose, following a loss earlier this year to Vic Saludar, and the talented Watanabe gym fighter has lost 3 of his most significant bout to date. On the other hand this is a massive step up in class for Ishizawa, and it could end up being too much too soon for the youngster. Ishizawa has looked good so far, but his aggression is crude and he may be a fight or two away from being polished enough to take on someone like Taniguchi. This should be very exciting, and very hard hitting.
Wakako Fujiwara (8-3-2, 3) vs Yoshie Wakasa (6-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
The in form Wakako Fujiwara looks to defend her OPBF Female Bantamweight title, as she takes on the once beaten Yoshie Wakasa. Both enter this bout on the back of a loss, though it's worth noting that Fujiwara's loss came at Super Featherweight to world champion Hyun Mi Choi, whilst Wakasa lost in a domestic Bantamweight title fight to Miyo Yoshida. Fujiwara should be strongly favoured, but Wakasa is going to be there to win and could make for a very tough challenge.
Miki Mitsuda (5-5, 4) vs Kimika Miyoshi (13-12-1, 5) - Osaka, Japan
Ina Japanese female Featherweight title bout Miki Mitsuda takes on veteran Kimika Miyoshi. Mitsuda will be looking to make her first defense of the title, following her title win in April against Asami Jinnari, and she is in good form, going 4-1 in her last 5. Miyoshi is a multi-weight OPBF champion, but has not lost her last 4 and is more than 3 years removed from her last win. This should be a competitive bout, but we can't see it really getting much attention given the limitations of both fighters.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (16-0-0-2, 13) vs Miguel Vazquez (41-8, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Unbeaten Kazakh Batyrzhan Jukembayev takes on his biggest test so far as he battles Mexican fighter Miguel Vazquez, himself a former IBF Lightweight champion. The aggressive Jukembayev has been screaming for a serious test for a while now and here he's getting one against a very talented, though some what faded Vazquez. At his best Vazquez was a real nightmare to fight, and whilst he's still talented he has shown signs of slipping in recent years. Jukambayev isn't the most polished, and we expect the Canadian based Kazakh to struggle at times, but youth and power should be enough to earn him a win here.
Batyr Akhmedov (7-0, 6) Vs Mario Barrios (24-0, 16) - Los Angeles, USA
The WBA have created a new title at Light Welterweight and look to fill it as Uzbek born, Russian based puncher Batyr Akhmedov takes on in form American Mario Barrios, in what should be a hard hitting and exciting contest. On paper neither of these men will be in the top 10 in the division, and neither would be ready to face the WBA "super" champion Regis Prograis, but the styles of the two men involved should make for a sensational battle. Back in the day this would have been a brilliant eliminator type bout, and it's a shame in many ways that the bout is instead for a secondary title. Saying that however it should still be a great fight and well worth tuning in for.
This past week hasn't been a big one for Asian fighters, unfortunately, as we hit the June slump, but there was still a fair bit of action, and some solid performances.
Fighter of the Week
Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18)
Unbeaten Thai Wanehng Menayothin extended his unbeaten record this past Friday, when he took a technical decision win over Tatsuya Fukuhara. The bout wasn't a great one, but again saw the talented Thai show off the skills, accuracy and sharp punching that has taken him to over 50 wins. It's a shame the bout ended when it did, with Fukuhara seemingly coming on at the time of the conclusion, but there is no doubting that Wanheng was value for his win.
Performance of the Week
Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14)
It didn't take long for Japanese Flyweight champion to go through Filipino foe Philip Luis Cuerdo, in what looked like an interesting assignment on paper. Instead of being a good test against a naturally bigger southpaw Nakatani took him out inside half a round to move a step closer to a world title fight. Whilst this won't prepare Nakatani for someone like Moruti Mthalane or Charlie Edwards it was a great statement win and the next step forward.
Mugicha Nakagawa vs Jin Miura
There wasn't a FOTY contender in Asia this past week, in fact there was little in terms of amazing bouts in general, there was however a solid, well contested and exciting bout on Friday in Tokyo, as Mugicha Nakagawa and Jin Miura fought to a draw. This was entertaining without ever becoming anything special. Just unfortunately the week lacked in terms of great fights, with lots of solid action and nothing spectacular.
Kook Min Moon vs Yo Sub Lee (1)
Sometimes the best rounds aren't the ones fought at the highest level, but instead the ones where we see some intense action and give a great sense of "action per second". There are few rounds this year that gave us more action second than the opening round of Kook Min Moon's battle with Yo Sub Lee, which featured 3 knockdowns in just over a minute. The quality wasn't amazing, the skills on show were limited, but the action was intense.
There was no valid KO for the award this week
Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6)
Hard hitting Japanese youngster Kai Ishizawa used Indonesian foe Silem Serang like a yo-yo, dropping him several times on route to a 4th round TKO win. Whilst the win was always expecred this was the sort of performance that Ishizawa needed after sych a tough bout against Yuga Inoue last year November. This was a sign that Ishizawa was still the destructive monster he had looked in his first 4 bouts, and fingers crossed he'll build on this win with a big step up later in the year.
Carl Jammes Martin (12-0, 11) vs Rakesh Lohchab (6-0, 2)
The Filipino fight scene has had a strange year, with ALA beign eerily quiet and the likes of Gerry Penalosa and Sanman beign the key promotional players this year. Although ALA, and their stable are quiet, there are a number of rising Filipino fighers bringing action and excitement to Filipino viewers. For us the most exciting rising prospect in the country is the all action Carl Jammes Martin, who takes on unbeaten Indian Rakesh Lohchab this coming weekend, and we are really looking forward to seeing Martin back in the ring. He is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet, and every fight of his going forward will be must watch TV, including this one.
After a truly hectic May, which has had big fights littered through the month, we drop back to reality in June as the schedule almost tails off completely and we sort of struggle to get too excited about too much taking place over the coming weeks. Thankfully here there is still enough to talk about without feeling the month is threadbare, but it's less about big fights, and more about emerging fighters.
The Minimumweight division is one of the most interesting in Japan, thanks to the sheer number of rising hopefuls breaking through the ranks. Not only is there a lot of rising Minimumweight hopefuls, but there is a wonderful mix of styles among those youngsters. We have highly skilled boxer punchers, like Ginjiro Shigeoka, slick boxers like Yuga Inoue and aggressive punchers, like Kai Ishizawa.
It's the last of those hopefules we're going to look to introduce today, with Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) being one of the most interesting, exciting and aggressive Minimumweights out there. He's not as technically gifted as the aforementioned Inoue or as wonderfully rounded as the sensationally talented Shigeoka, but he is very promising, very exciting and very, very aggressive. Often using his physicality and incredible strength to make up for his technical limitations.
The 22 year old Ishizawa, from Kanagawa, debuted in June 2017, following a 42 fight amateur career. In the unpaid ranks Ishizawa didn't really impress, running up a 28-14, record. What he did do however, was show a style that had the potential to be very successful in the professional ranks, albeit with the need to be refined and polished.
On his debut Ishizawa looked really powerful, taking out Thai novice Phongsaphon Panyakum in 2 rounds. Interestingly since losing to Ishizawa the Thai youngster has gone 3-0 in his native Thailand showing that he's not a total bum, even if he was given a JBC ban following the loss to Ishizawa.
Just a few weeks after his debut Ishizawa would return to the ring and stop Yoshimitsu Kushibe in 2 rounds, in what was Kushibe's 12th professional bout. It was a big step up, but a step up that the young puncher made with no problems at all.
Despite having fought his first 2 bouts in the space of about 8 weeks it would take almost 6 months before Ishizawa would have his next bout, and it was an incredibly short one as he blasted away Nrathip Sungsut inside a round. It was around this time that he was starting to get some attention. It's rare to see Minimumweight prospects blowing away opponents, but that's what Ishizawa was doing, and was doing in an exciting fahsion.
Not only was Ishizawa creating a buzz after his first 3 wins, but he was also creating real belief within his team, the MT Gym, that he was a genuine talent. That belief was tested in April 2018 when he was matched with the then unbeaten Tatsuro Nakashima. Nakshima was 7-0-1 (5) and had reached the East Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2017, being eliminated on a tie-breaker following a draw with Yuga Inoue. This looked a huge step up for Ishizawa, but he again came out on top scoring a TKO win over Nakashima, who was saved by the referee with a badly swollen left eye, the result of Ishizawa's power. This was a Japanese Youth title eliminator, though sadly Ishizawa was unable to take part in a planned title bout with Daiki Tomita in July 2018 due to suffering an injury in training.
Despite missing out on a clash with Tomita we did see Ishizawa get a shot at the Japanese Youth title in November of last year, when he took on 2017 Rookie of the Year Yuga Inoue for the belt. The bout saw Ishizawa being out boxed, out fought and out battled through the first 4 rounds. He was made to look slow, clumsy and ineffective against a more technical, sharper and smarter fighter. Despite being out classed Ishizawa was showing his will to win and refusing to just roll over, eventually cutting Inoue and breaking him down to score a 6th round TKO.
We'll see Ishizawa attempt to extend hi KO run on June 1st, when he takes on Indonesian visitor Silem Serang. On paper this looks a mismatch, with Serang having a record of 13-19-2 (1) however the Indonesian did recently go 8 rounds with Ishizawa's former foe Tatsuro Nakashima and has also gone put up good efforts, in losses, to Wanheng Menayothin, Andika Sabu and Palangpol CP Freshmart. He might have 11 stoppage losses but he rarely gets blown out early, and should ask some questions of Ishizawa before being stopped later in the bout.
Recently we did a list on 5 world title bouts we want to see in the new year, which can be read here 5 bouts we want to see in 2019 (World title version) for those who missed it. Now we're going to look at some All Japanese bouts we'd like to see in the new year. These bouts are all possible, so for example there is no issue with men being from the same gyms, and would all be really interesting fights, for at least one reason.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4) - Minimumweight
Back in July we were expecting the heavy handed Kai Ishizawa take on a then unbeaten Daiki Tomita. That bout was sadly cancelled when Ishizawa suffered a nose injury in the build up to the contest. Since then Ishizawa has become the Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion, stopping Yuga Inoue for the belt, whilst Tomita has challenged for the OPBF title, losing a decision to the world class Tsubasa Koura.
Getting this bout remade in the new year would be brilliant, and something to really look forward to. Both men have enhanced their reputations since the originally scheduled bout in the summer and we'd certainly love to see the power and desire of Ishizawa up against the skill and speed of Tomita.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) Vs Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) - Light Flyweight
We believe that Taku Kuwahara maybe one of the very best prospects in world boxing today, and think it would be great for him to prove that in 2019. A bout against Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa, potentially for the Japanese title late in the year. Kuwahara has proven his value as a prospect, was a stand out amateur and is an exceptional talent. Horikawa is a faded veteran, but a nightmare to fight and this would be a potential passing of the torch.
This isn't a bout that would make sense for early in the year, given that Horikawa has a Japanese title fight assured in the Champion Carnival, but towards the end of 2019 this bout would be a very good one, and could well be for the national title, if Horikawa wins his title shot.
Katsunori Nagamine (15-2-1, 11) Vs Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) - Flyweight
In 2017 we were impressed by the hunger and desire of Ryota Yamauchi. Sadly 2018 hasn't been the break out year we had anticipated from him, however that's not to say 2019 can't be. He does need a really good win next year however, and a real 50/50 bout with him would see him take on the exciting, hard hitting and talented Katsunori Nagamine, in what could be a very interesting match up between talented fighters looking to make a point in the new year.
Although we'd like to see this bout in the first half of the year, putting the winner in the mix for a title fight later in the year, it would be a very interesting title eliminator towards the end of the year, and potentially put the winner into the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) Vs Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) - Super Flyweight
When we started this list there was a bout that really whet our appetite, and looked like a potential FOTY candidate. That was a bout between former 3 weight world champion Akira Yaegashi and 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka. Both men have styles should gel perfectly, both are certainly shop worn, and both are a bit on the older side, still they should match up almost perfectly for an all out action packed bout. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will potentially be on the fringes of a world ranking.
With Yaegashi turning 36 in February and Kudaka turning 34 in April the hope is that this bout will take place as soon as possible. Kudaka does have a bout in December, potentially delaying this showdown, but there's no reason why we can't have this treat in late Spring or early Summer.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) Vs Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) - Super Bantamweight
When we talk about potential fights of the year it's hard to really know what bout will click. One we think will click perfectly is a show down between former world title challenger Shohei Omori and current OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hirokia Teshigawara. Omori is the more skilled man, and the bigger puncher, but Teshigawara is a proven tough guy, who will press the fight, throw a lot and really try to take the fight to Omori.
In theory this would make for a really interesting bout, with both men knowing a win would take them towards a world title fight. Neither man has their first bout of 2019 organised, and despite both fighting in the second half of 2018 neither took much punishment in their latest bout. If they can fit this bout in Spring it really would set up their year perfectly.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20)
A bonus fight for this list really excited us when we thought about it, and that is a show down between Super Featherweight's Masao Nakamura and Takuya Watanabe. Nakamura is a very heavy handed boxer-puncher, who can be hurt himself, whilst Watanabe is a rugged tough guy with under-rated boxing. Given Nakamura's power and Watanabe's proven durability we'd expect a war here, a bout that would really have fans on the edge of their seat.
Interestingly This bout would see the WBO Asia Pacific champion, Nakamura, taking on the OPBF "silver" champion, Watanabe, and would renove the loser from the mix domestically, potentially setting the winner up for a unification bout with Hironori Mishiro or Masaru Sueyoshi. Of the bouts on this list this may be one of the easier ones to make, and one of the most exciting all-Japanese bouts that could be made right now.
The month of November is a really packed one with amazing bouts every few days. In fact it's possible the most packed month of the year so far in regards to the Asia scene with big bouts in Japan, Thailand and the Philippines as well as bouts outside of Asia.
Kazuto Takesako (9-0, 9) v Sanosuke Sasaki (12-6, 6) - Japan
We turn our focus to the Korakuen Hall to begin the month of November, with a Japanese Middleweight title bout between hard hitting champion Kazuto Takesako and former champion Sanosuke Sasaki. The bout will be Takesako's first defense of the title that he won earlier this year, when he stopped Hikaru Nishida inside a round, whilst Sasaki will be looking to reclaim the title that he lost in his first defense, back in 2013 against Tomohiro Ebisu. It's hard to doubt the champion, but we are hoping he can use this bout to springboard towards bigger and better fights in 2019.
Ryan Burnett (19-0, 9) v Nonito Donaire (38-5, 24) - Scotland
A few hours after the Japanese title fight we get the final bout from the Quarter Round of the WBSS Bantamweight competition and will see Filipino icon Nonito Donaire challenge WBA Bantamweight “Super” champion Ryan Burnett. The winner of this bout will move on to the semi-final of the WBSS, where they will face Zolani Tete in a WBA/WBO world title unification bout. Donaire, at the age of 35, needs a win if he's to remain relevant whilst a win for Burnett would be huge for his career. We don't expect this to be an action packed war, but it is a very interesting match up.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (3-0, 1) Vs Vaughn Alexander (12-1, 8) - USA
Yet more notable action on the first Saturday of the month will see Kazakh prospect Janibek Alimkhanuly take on American foe Vaughn Alexander. This should be a good test for Alimkhanuly, but he really needs to shine after failing to impress on his US debut in September, when he took a decision win over Carlos Galvan. The 32 year old Alexander is a tough fighter who will be looking to upset the apple cart, and bounce back following a loss to Denis Doughlin last time out. This could be a very fun fight.
East Japan Rookie of the Year Finals - Japan
For a second day running attention turns to the Korakuen Hall where we will get the 2018 East Japan Rookie of the Year Finals. The winners from this show will fight in the All Japan Finals just before Christmas. Although the East Japan Rookie Finals aren't a huge story to international fans it is a launch pad, and the winners of the All Japan Finals do tend to make a mark in the years that follow, so we do suggest that fans keep a serious eye out for the results from this card.
Hikaru Nishida (17-9-1, 8) Vs Shuji Kato (9-1-1, 6) - Japan
The Japanese action resumes on November 7th when we see former Japanese Middleweight champion Hikaru Nishida takes on 2017 Middleweight Rookie of the Year Shuji Kato, with the winner becoming the mandatory for the Japanese title in 2019. Meaning the winner of this bout will face the winner of the Takesako Vs Sasaki bout from just a few days earlier. This will be Nishida's first bout since losing the title to Takesako whilst Kato will be coming into the bout on the back of 7 straight wins, including his Rookie of the Year victory.
Shawn Oda (9-0, 8) Vs Seiryu Toshikawa (10-4, 6) - Japan
More Japanese action on November 10th with an interesting triple header. One of those bouts will see young Lightweights collide as Shawn Oda takes on Seiryu Toshikawa for the vacant Japanese Youth Lightweight title. We've been impressed by the explosive Oda, who is a Rookie of the Year winner, and have tipped him to go on to great things in the years to come. This is however a notable test for him. Coming into this bout Toshikawa has won his last 4 bouts, with the last of those wins being a big domestic win over Ryuji Ikeda.
Yuga Inoue (7-0-1, 1) Vs Kai Ishizawa (4-0, 4) - Japan
A second Japanese Youth title fight on this card will see unbeaten youngsters collide as Yuga Inoue faces off with Kai Ishizawa. Yuga is another of the fighters to claim a Rookie of the Year crown, winning the Minimumweight tournament last year, and has since scored his first stoppage, taking out Daisuke Suda in May of this year. The 21 year old Ishizawa has gone a very different route, having began his career in 6 rounders, and he really impressed last time out, when he stopped Tatsuro Nakashima. This is a key bout for both men, and the winner will certainly give their career a huge boost.
Ryuichi Funai (30-7, 21) Vs Victor Emanuel Olivo (15-2-1, 7) - Japan
The third part of this triple header is an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator, as Japan's Ryuichi Funai takes on Victory Olivo, with the winner moving onto a potential world title fight with Jerwin Ancajas in 2019. For Funai this bout is the next step in his long career, and a set back will likely be the end of his world title dreams. Olivo on the other-hand is pretty unknown, though he did give Milan Melindo real issues when he faced the Filipino earlier in his career and has got the potential to upset the Watanabe man in Tokyo.
Melvin Jerusalem (13-2, 8) Vs Toto Landero (10-3-2, 2) - Philippines
Staying in Asia Filipino fans also get something really exciting to watch on November 10th as former world title challengers clash in a massive domestic clash. The bout will see former WBC Minimumweight challenger Melvin Jerusalem take on recent WBA title challenger Toto Landero. Both men have come up short to world class fighters, as well as domestic foe Joey Canoy strangely, and should make for a very compelling contest as both fighters look to gain another shot at a world title. It's hard to pick a winner, and bouts like that are always worthy of interest, especially at fringe world level.
Daud Yordan (38-3-0-1, 26) Vs Anthony Crolla (33-6-3, 13) - England
The busy November 10th date also plays host to an interesting looking match up between Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan and popular Englishman Anthony Crolla, who fight in a notable Lightweight bout. The winner of this will immediately find themselves in the mix for a WBA Lightweight title bout. Yordan will be entering this bout on the back of a huge, and thrilling, win over Pavel Malikov in Russia but will need a career best performance to over-come Crolla. The Englishman on the other hand has gone 2-2 in his last 4 bouts, but has suffered both of those losses to Jorge Linares and shouldn't have his recent form held against him. This really could be a fun, high tempo bout between two flawed but busy fighters.
Tomoki Kameda (35-2, 20) Vs Abigail Medina (19-3-2, 10) - Tokyo
On October 12th we get a really notable bout as former WBO Bantamweight champion Tomoki Kameda faces off with Abigail Medina for the WBC "Interim" Super Bantamweight. The winner of this bout will be lined up with regular champion Rey Vargas, who was injured when this bout was ordered by the WBC. Kameda is well known in boxing circles, and is the younger brother of former world champions Koki and Daiki Kameda, but we've yet to see him really tested at Super Bantamweight. The 30 year old Medina is unbeaten in over years and has claimed the European title en route to his shot at this “interim” title. This could be a very interesting bout for two men each looking to prove that they are a top Super Bantamweight.
Having gone through the champions and contenders at Light Flyweight our final look at the fighters comes from the prospects in the division. There isn't a huge amount of “name value” here, but for the long term success of the division these are among the guys that really should have fans keep an eye one. They might be 2 or 3 fights from a world title fight, or might be much further away, but these are some of the fighters who are likely to make a mark on the division in the near future.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 1 - The World Champions
If you missed past 2 that's available here - The Depth at Light Flyweight - Part 2 - The Contenders
Masataka Taniguchi (10-2, 7)
One of the few prospects of note with a loss against his name is Masataka Taniguchi, a 24 year old fighter from the Watanabe gym. As an amateur Taniguchi was a top domestic talent, the captain of his university and someone marked for professional success. As a professional he has been ultra busy, fighting 12 times in 24 months, and has been matched hard already.
The thing that stands out, on paper, about Taniguchi is his two defeats. They have however been to Reiya Konishi and Tsubasa Koura in title fights at Minimumweight, and both were razor thin majority losses. In both of those defeats Taniguchi showed that he was class, with all the skills needed to go all the way. We'd keep him in mind when talking about the best prospects in boxing, never mind the best at 108lbs.
At the moment it's unclear when he will be back in the ring but we are expecting him to fight in May and he will likely find himself in a title fight before the end of 2018.
Abraham Rodriguez (22-0, 11)
Unbeaten 23 year old Abraham Rodriguez is finely balanced between being a prospect and a contender, and with 22 bouts under his belt he is already racking up the experience to be ready for a title fight. Amazingly, given his age, he has already been a professional for over 5 years and in recent bouts has been stepping up.
Rodriguez's record isn't just impressive in terms of numbers but there is also some substance there, with wins over Saul Jaurez, Mauricio Fuentes and and Jose Alonso Nunez Lopez. Sadly removing those names does leave his record looking thin for a fighter with around 20 wins, but for a 23 year old that's a trio of solid wins and he is looking like a fighter who will push his team to give him more and more tests.
After fitting in 3 fights last year Rodriguez has been quiet thus far in 2018, and really hasn't built on a December win over Saul Juarez. Hopefully he'll be back in action shortly and hopefully will be able to get another good win to begin the year.
Christian Araneta (15-0, 13)
Filipino puncher Christian Araneta is a brutal 23 year old from Cebu who has looked fantastic on the domestic scene and already looks like he could be mixing at a higher level. He has been a professional since September 2013 and has already claimed the PBF and WBO Oriental Light Flyweight titles. Not only has he claimed titles but he has also scored several wins of note, including a very big one over Jessie Espinas.
With his power Araneta looks like the next great puncher in the division, a division that already boasts punchers like Jonathan Taconing, Felix Alvarado, Angel Acosta and Carlos Canizales, and with his youth there is a lot of time to develop the skills to match his power.
Araneta fought earlier this month, stopping Ian Ligutan in 2 rounds, and given the quick nature of that blow out he will likely be back in action in the summer and may well fit 3 more fights in this year, making up for a frustrating 2017 in which he just once.
Rene Mark Cuarto (15-1-1, 9)
Another man with a loss on his record, but can't be over-looked, is 21 year old Pinoy hopeful Rene Mark Cuarto. The youngster suffered an earlier career set back to Jerald Paclar, though has since avenged the loss and has now beaten every fighter he has faced. Not only that but he is riding a 6 fight winning run and has managed to pick up a win on foreign soil, winning in China last year. Just as impressive is his activity, which saw him fight 5 times last year.
Although rising through the ranks Cuarto is still lacking a win of note, even on the domestic scene. Whilst that can certainly be held against him he is, as mentioned, only 21 years old and is likely to get that notable win in the near future. In fact it could well come later this year, if his team can afford to get him a good enough foe.
Given that Cuarto fought 5 times last year we are expecting him to be busy this year. So far he has fought just once, scoring a 3rd round KO over the highly experienced Rodel Tejares back in March, though we expect him back out in the ring in the Summer before potentially getting a notable opponent in the fall, if not the winter.
Vince Paras (13-0, 11)
Another Filipino puncher is Vince Paras, a teenager who is really getting fans excited. Aged just 19 the belief is that Paras is something something, and that belief has been there for a while with his handlers debuting the youngster at just 16 years old! Of course he was matched very easily early on but has been progressed well, and and last year he scored an excellent domestic win over Jimboy Haya for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Light Flyweight title. That win over Haya showed that Paras could go 10 rounds and he looks like his potential is huge.
Although really promising Paras was dropped last time out, though did recover. He might be lacking in the toughness department though that's one of a number of questions that could make following Para really exciting, though the big question is how long he will remain at 108lbs.
Haya hasn't fought yet this year, though we suspect that he will be back in the ring in the Summer, potential moving towards a national title fight. There is however no need to race him, and he can have time to develop, even if he does mature into a Super Flyweight or Bantamweight.
Christian Bacolod (8-0, 6)
It really does seem like thee is a Filipino take over at 108lbs, and Christian Bacolod is yet another young Filipino rising through the division. At 23 he's older than some of the other's but has already began to come close in terms of achievements. His career only consists of 8 bouts but already features good domestic wins over Marlou Sandoval, Mike Kinaadman and Ryan Makiputin.
Bacolod was relatively inactive last year, fighting only twice, and he's not fought so far this year. At his age he can get away with some inactivity but won't want to waste too much time, especially given how many other good Filipino's are in his weight class. If he only fights twice this year there is a good chance he will get left behind.
In the ring Bacolod is a little rough around the edges but with his age there is time to smooth those edges off and add to what is a promising fighter with naturally heavy hands and some lovely combination punching. It's also worth noting that he has fought in front of the big lights on a ALA card and won't be worried about fighting on TV in the future.
Dave Apolinario (6-0, 4)
A final Filipino of note here is another 19 year old in the form of Dave Apolinario. The “Amazing” southpaw made his debut last June with an opening round TKO and has been managed well so far, with 6 fights in 10 months. Not only has he been busy but he has been stepped up and was last out in an 8 rounder, proving he had stamina to go with his power and skills. With that in mind it may be long until he's fighting in 10 rounders and even title bouts.
Apolinario has looked sensational so far and has shown glimpses of his amateur pedigree, skills that have allowed him and his team to be so aggressive with his development. That is likely to continue, and perhaps even step up a level as he continues to mature and physically develop.
Apolinario has already fought twice this year and will likely continue to be busy through the rest of 2018. We don't see him fighting for titles this year, but he will almost certainly break into the OPBF rankings before the year is over. A title fight at that level will be too much for him, for now, but in the next 24 months or so he should be looking Oriental titles.
Kai Ishizawa (4-0, 4)
Japanese youngster Kai Ishizawa is an over-looked 21 year old puncher who debuted last June but already looks like a sensation in the making. He debuted, like many Japanese prospects, against a Thai novice and looked great on debut. In his second bout he destroyed a domestic opponent before another Thai foe. Those first 3 opponents lasted just 5 rounds with Ishizawa. In his most recent bout Ishizawa stepped up and stopped Tatsuro Nakashima in an outstanding performance to further solidify his standing as one of Japan's most over-looked prospects.
Having already shown good power, a good boxing brain and a stiff hard jab Ishizawa is already showing the tools needed to go a very long way. His team have matched him hard already, with two good domestic opponents already on his record, and a good 42 fight amateur career behind him. There work to be done, but he really does look like he could be a diamond in the rough.
Ishizawa is expected to return later in the year in a Japanese Youth title fight. That will be a chance for him to prove himself, claim a title and begin to show he belongs to be fighting at title level. If he wins that belt we expect to see him bang on the door of a Japanese ranking soon afterwards.
Lu Bin (1-0, 1)
The division's wild card in some ways is Chinese sensation Lu Bin. The 23 year old from Jinan is an amateur stand out, who like very few other fighters seems to be a fighter who has made his professional debut, but is also fighting as an amateur. His amateur career seems to be standing in the way of his professional development, which is a huge shame as Bin has the ability to become the star that Chinese boxing want Zou Shiming to be. The novice professional is a true talent with speed, power, skills, defense and a really high ring IQ. Not only that but he already has a world ranking, a regional title and the skills to make an immediate impact on the professional scene.
If Bin can commit to being a professional fighter he can almost choose his rate of progress. He has the tools to be something very special, but a question can be asked of his desire and hunger.
Bin recently won the Chinese National Amateur crown, no big surprise given his pedigree, but the decision to chase professional glory doesn't seem like one he's in a rush to make. His debut professional bout looks like it's going to be an anomaly for now, and it could be a while until he's unleashed on the professional ranks again. Sadly.
(Image courtesy of Watanabe Boxing Gym, Boxrec and Boxmob.jp)
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