The month of May is set to be a very weird one, and one that could see bouts in Japan return to the no fan era, and has already seen shows for the 1st, 5th, 6th and 9th of May being postponed. With more potentially also needing to find new dates.
With that in mind we are going to look at what the current schedule looks like for May, though note that things are in a very fluid situation right now due to the on going pandemic, which has seen several parts of Japan go into another State of Emergency.
London, United Kingdom
Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11) vs Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9)
The first major bout of note will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA Light Heavyweight "Super" title as he takes on British fighter Craig Richards. The talented Bivol hasn't been in the ring since October 2019, so it's hard to complain too much about a relatively easy defense, but it's fair to say that this is certainly an underwhelming match up between arguably the best Light Heavyweight in the world and someone who, is potentially only the fifth best in the UK. Richards has the style to ask some questions of Bivol, though it's hard to imagine anything but a dominant win by the champion, who really needs to take this opportunity to look good, and not just take a clear win.
Saturday 8, May 2021
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, USA
Elwin Soto (18-1, 12) Vs Katsunari Takayama (32-8-0-1, 12)
A week after Bivol's in action we see Japanese veteran Katsunari Takayama get a chance to become a 2-weight world champion as he takes on WBO Light Flyweight champion Elwin Soto. The now 37 year old Takayama, who turns 38 just days after this fight, is one of the true fan favourites of the lower weights and his wars with the likes of Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr have been must watch affairs with drama and action. Soto on the other hand is an emerging force, with a really intimidating reputation as a big puncher, and a youngster with a point to prove. Soto will enter the bout as a very, very clear favourite, and he should be, though Takayama will be entering the bout knowing this is likely to be his final bout at world level, we expect he will go out on his shield, win or lose. For those who haven't seen these two in action before, this will be something to savour!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) Vs Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
Given how many Japanese shows have already been affected by the State of Emergency, which is supposed to be lifted on May 11th, it seems likely that the first major Japanese show of the month will come on May 13th, and it is one that is headlined by something a little bit special. That's a Featherweight unification bout between WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori and OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu. This will be a brilliant match up between a skilled youngster, in Mori, who is a very fighter with a good boxing brain, and a flawed, ugly fighter with insane power, in Shimizu. Although stylistically a potential mess, this should be really entertaining and see both men forced to answer some very serious questions about their ability.
Kazuki Nakajima (9-0-1, 8) Vs Kai Chiba (13-1, 8)
A second title bout on this show will see the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima take on the once beaten Kai Chiba in a bout for the now vacant OPBF Bantamweight title, which was given up by Takuma Inoue a few weeks ago. Nakajima is an interesting fighter who isn't the most natural boxer, and does look rigid and stiff, but has frightening power and long powerful levers. He's the type of guy who can be befuddled by movement, but can destroy people if they stand in front of him. Likewise Chiba is a fighter who hasn't typically used his feet as much as he should, but also has very respectable pop on his shots and could the type of fighter who could get Nakajima's respect. Although Chiba should box and move there is a real chance that he will be dragged into a shoot out here and this could end up being a "blink and you miss it" type of bout.
Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) Vs Hiromu Murota (6-4-2, 4)
Third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto looks to build on his fledgling career as he takes on Hiromu Murota in a scheduled 8 rounder. Matsumoto hasn't looked the most convincing in his first two bouts, though he shown a lot to like, including an ability to bite down when he's needed to and we suspect the plan for him is to build up his experience in bouts like this going forward. The 25 year old Murota shouldn't be much of a threat, though does come in to this following a draw with former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada and is unbeaten in his last 5 following a 2-4-1 start his pro career.
Katsuya Yasuda (7-0, 4) Vs Tomoki Takada (8-5-2, 5)
Ohashi's "forgotten man" Katsuya Yasuda will be looking for his 8th win as he takes on Tomoki Takada. The plan for Yasuda seems to be much slower than some of the other top Ohashi fighters, but his talent is clear and his performance against Omrri Bolivar last September earned rave reviews from his promoter. Interestingly Takada, despite his record, comes into this bout ranked #9 by the JBC and a win for Yasuda would boost his standing in the sport massively. although no world beater Takada is dangerous and has scored 3 opening round KO's in his last 5. If he lands he could chin check Yasuda, though it's hard to imagine anything but a win for the Ohashi man.
Manchester Arena, Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Hyun Mi Choi (18-0-1, 4) Vs Terri Harper (11-0-1, 6)
Just 2 weeks after the Bivol bout our attention turns to the UK against as Korean fighter Hyun Mi Choi gets the chance to unify her WBA female Super Featherweight title with the WBC and IBO versions held by English fighter Terri Harper. Choi looked less than impressive in her international debut, last December against Calista Silgado, and will need a much better performance here to over come Harper, who is quickly becoming one of the faces of female boxing. Harper on the other hand needs to build on her last performance, which was an excellent display against Katharina Thanderz. The winner of this will be the queen of the division, and will be looking to the others titles to their collection in what should make for a great year or two at 130lbs in female boxing.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
After numerous delays we'll finally see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako defending his title in a mandatory against Riku Kunimoto. This bout was originally sheduled for the Champion Carnival in 2020, then got delayed due to covid, training issues, an injury and then the recent State of Emergency in Tokyo. On paper Takesako will be the big favourite and will be tipped to be too strong and too good for Kunimoto, who will be fighting for the first time in over 2 years. On the other hand Kunimoto has the style that could pose real issues for Takesako, who is powerful but a bit robotic, and the movement and speed of Kunimoto could see him asking real questions of the champion.
This past week has been a brilliant one for us. We've had great fights on a number of days, we've celebrated Christmas, and managed, for at least a week, to enjoy a mix of boxing and normal life. We're of course not the only ones who have had a good week, and so have a number of fighters! So with that said lets take a look at the big winners of the past week as we hand out our weekly awards!
Fighter of the Week
We open this up with a somewhat peculiar pick, but a very valid one, and that is Yuichi Ideta as the fighter of the week. The 36 year old Ideta hadn't won a fight in almost 10 years. He was being given almost no chance and the popular opinion, including that of ourselves, was that he was a patsy for Ryota Yada to swat aside. A mere showcase bout for Yada, a former Japanese champion. We were wrong, very, very wrong, and instead of coming to the ring to lose Ideta out worked, out muscled, out battled and out fought the younger, more proven Yada. This was a huge, career defining win for Ideta, who looked like a man with a point to prove and proved it in the perfect way. Ideta has almost certainly gone from the cast of yard, to the regional and domestic title mix.
Performance of the Week
Aged 37 and having not been in a professional boxing ring for well over 4 years few gave Katsunari Takayama much of a chance when he returned to the ring on Sunday. He had been written off by many, but within seconds of the bout starting it was the Takayama of old, the sharp, quick, mosquito like fighter who was light on his feet, with good upper body movement and accurate jabs. He looked much smaller than Reiya Konishi but that never looked like it mattered as he easily out boxed, out fought, out though and out pointed Konishi. Konishi was there to win, don't get us wrong, but he could never cope with the incessant movement and punching of Takayama. This was a hell of a performance from a man we thought was done.
Fight of the Week
Hironori Mishiro Vs Masayuki Ito
The 10 round Lightweight bout between OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro and Masayuki Ito was streamed live, worldwide on Boxing Day and it delivered a brilliant, technical, well matched bout that saw both men showing exactly what they could do. Through the bout it seemed like Ito was landing the heavier single shots but Mishiro's jab was a constant weapon and turned out to be the difference on the scorecards, with Mishiro sneaking the win. This was 10 rounds of high skill chess, fought at a very high speed, with momentum shifts, and each man needing to find a solution to their opponents strengths. Maybe not a Fight of the Year contender, but a genuinely fantastic bout.
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov
Round of the Week
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov (Rd 4)
Talented Tajik amateur Bakhodur Usmonov made his debut this past week, on Christmas eve, when he took on Vildan Minasov in what turned out to be a truly fantastic 6 round back and forth that saw both men showing off solid boxing skills, heart, power and determination. Minasov looked to make it a war from the off and Usmonov was under intense pressure, whilst trying to stick to his boxing. In round 4 Usmonov was in troubler again, before he gritted his teeth and tried to turn the fight around, going to war with Minasov, giving us 3 minutes of brutal, back and forth action. This was fantastic
KO of the Week
Jinki Maeda TKO2 Kaito Okubo
In one of the final bouts of the week we saw the brilliantly talented Jinki Maeda in action, as he took on Kaito Okubo. In round 2 of their bout, with Okubo near the ropes Maeda landed a dynamite straight left hand that forced Okubo to spin and sent him down hard. His team immediately signalled to the referee to stop this and let them help Okubo. This was a sensational KO by a young man who has been very impressive in 2021 and fingers crossed we'll see him in an interesting fight next year.
Ryo Akaho TKO2 Yuto Nakamura
Jin Sasaki TKO3 Aso Ishiwaki
Prospect of the Week
We were expecting to see the hard hitting 19 year old Jin Sasaki being given a genuine test this week when he took on Aso Ishiwaki. Instead Sasaki just went into the ring and made a statement, dropping Ishiwaki 3 times to secure the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title. Sasaki stormed out and came close to stopping Ishiwaki in the first round, dropping him twice and leaving him on wobbly legs at the end of the opening round. It seemed clear Sasaki wanted an early win and wanted to use his power to make a statement. In round 2 he took his foot off the gas but closed the show in style in round 3 and made it very clear that this was his week. This was a prospect announcing himself in a big, big way and putting the 140lb division in Japan on notice.
So, Christmas is just around the corner, and we want to wish you all a great, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. We also bring good tidings, with the final "What's to come" of 2020, the third part of our look at what December will bring, and it's a lot between December 26th and December 21st!
Sumida City Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) Vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
One of the most interesting match ups from this end of year run will see former WBO world champion Masayuki Ito clash with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The two men are best known for their exploits at 130lbs, but will be clashing at Lightweight here in what should be a really good fight. Ito is, by far, the more experienced professional and has fought at a higher level, but Mishiro was a very good amateur, and appears to be the more rounded and technically polished professional. This should be a compelling 10 rounder.
Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6)
The hidden gem from this part of the year will be the 140lb Japanese Youth title fight pitting 19 year old hard hitting sensation Jin Sasaki against all out warrior and toughnut Aso Ishiwaki. This is one we expect to be a complete and utter war. Sasaki has been really impressive in recent bouts, and has blown out his last 3 opponents in the opening round, but this is a genuine step up in class for him. Ishiwaki isn't the most skilled, but he's teak tough, comes to fight and is physically very strong. If Ishiwaki can see out the opening storm this could become something truly spectacular to end the year.
Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) vs Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6)
We expect fireworks to fly when we finally see Kai Chiba and Haruki Ishikawa trading blows. The men were set to fight earlier this year before Ishikawa tested positive for Covid19 at the weigh in, and going into the original date we were hugely excited of what we were set to see. Despite the delay hanging over this one we are still expecting something of a thrilling nature, and both men will believe they have the power to take the other man out.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) vs Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8)
Hard hitting Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki puts his title on the line for the first time as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi. Yabuki won the title in the summer, when he blitzed Tsuyoshi Sato, and will be looking to end the year on a high and move towards a potential world title fight in 2021. As for Ouchi this will be his third, shot at a title, and likely his last. It really is hard to imagine the 35 year old Ouchi getting another big fight if he loses here.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Ryota Yada (20-6, 17) Vs Yuichi Ideta (13-15-1, 7)
Former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada returns to the ring in what looks likely to be a stay busy bout, as he takes on limited veteran Yuichi Ideta. Yada, who is eyeing an OPBF title fight in 2021, will be looking to get a couple of rounds here, before seeing off Ideta. As for Ideta the bout the bout will be his 30th professional contest, and at the age of 36 could prove to be his last one. Not a great bout, but very clearly put together to keep Yada ticking over.
Takayuki Okumoto (23-9-4, 11) Vs Akio Furutani (8-4, 3)
Another former Japanese champion looking for a relatively easy win is former Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, who looks to bounce back from a 2019 loss to Kenta Nakagawa. The solid, and generally fun to watch, Okumoto should have far too much in the locker for Furutani, who is the naturally smaller man. Despite that Furutani has momentum and has won his last 4 in a row, including a big upset win over former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama. Whilst we don't imagine this will be a competitive bout, we do expect it will be an exciting one.
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
We get a potential post-Christmas cracker as we get the rescheduled show down between Katsunari Takayama and Reiya Konishi. This was originally meant to take place in November before Konishi tested positive for Covid19, in what now appears to have been a false positive. The two men should make for a sensational bout, with both known for letting their hands go, being tough, and fighting with intensity. The big question going in is what does a 37 year old Takayama look like after more than 4 years away from professional boxing? If he's half the fighter he used to be this will be an amazing battle.
Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) Vs Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) II
Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi looks to make his second, and final, defend of the Youth title as he takes on the aggressive and exciting Satoru Hoshiba. These two men clashed in the 2017 Rookie of the Year, with Shimomachi winning, and since then he has gone on to become one of the top prospects in Japan. Hoshiba on the other hand will be after revenge, after the title and a chance to go into 2021 with a big win to his name. We expect this to be boxer against brawler, and the styles should gel well to give is a very, very good fight.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) Vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Exciting 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Jinki Maeda looks to extend his unbeaten start at he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, in a very good match up. We've been really impressed by Maeda in recent bouts, and the youngster appears to have the tools to go a long way, with good boxing, brilliant movement and smart understanding of distance. Okubo on the other hand shouldn't be over-looked and he has stopped his last 2. We're expecting a cat and mouse style fight early on, but this could descend into a very compelling fight after a couple of rounds.
Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
In a huge all-Japanese year ending WBO Super Flyweight world title bout we'll see Kazuto Ioka take on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka. For Ioka the bout will serve as his second defense of the title he won in 2019, and a win here will see him keep his status as not just a world champion but also one of the biggest and most important names in Japanese boxing. For Tanaka the bout is a chance to become a 4-weight world champion and essentially rip the torch of stardom from Ioka. This is expected to be a very, very high level bout, with both men hungry to make a point and go into the new year as a world champion. Expect excitement, and a lot of adapting and altering game plans from both men here.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) vs Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16)
A second title fight in Japan on New Year's Eve will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi defending his title against former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa. This is a huge opportunity for Kobayashi to make his way towards a potential world title fight and get a big name on his record, whilst Higa desperately needs to shine after an under-whelming performance against Seiya Tsutsymi last time out. Although clearly over-shadowed by the world title bout this should end up being a brilliant bout, and could well end up being a sensational 12 round back and forth battle as Higa goes up against a naturally much bigger man.
We're going to be honest, November has felt like a very, very long month, but also a strangely exciting one, with a lot of action and a lot of great fights. Now we're in the final stretch of the month and we return with our final look at what's to come in the penultimate month of the year.
Bunka Center, Sanda, Hyogo, Japan
Riku Kano (16-4-1, 8) vs Ryoki Hirai (12-6-1, 4)
In the main event of a 2-part show in Hyogo we'll see a new WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight champion being crowned, as former world title challenger Riku Kano takes on Ryoki Hirai for the vacant title. Of the two men it's Kano who has the pressure on his shoulders, despite being the much younger man. After challenging Hiroki Ioka's Japanese record for youngster world champion his career has really struggled and another set back here would likely end his hopes of ever reaching the top of the mountain. Hirai on the other hand is an often over-looked fighter who will almost certainly see this as a chance to make a name for himself. Don't expect a knockout, but do expect a high intensity game of cat and mouse in this regional title fight.
Sho Ishida (28-2, 15) vs Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2)
If you must have fire works then the fight to expect them from on November 23rd is the show down between former world title challenger Sho Ishida and thrilling Japanese youngster Toshiya Ishii. For Ishida this is a must win bout following a loss to Israel Gonzalez last December, but he will be moving up in weight and for the bout and he's never really looked all that impressive in jaunts to 118lbs. Ishii on the other hand is a thrilling youngster who won the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title last year and will be looking to score a massive win here. If he can over-come Ishida we suspect Ishii will find himself right in the mix for a Japanese or regional title next year. A compelling match up and one of the most interesting of the month.
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
Of course fireworks come in various forms and we are guaranteed explosive action in the 6 round bout between former multi-time world champion Katsunari Takayama and Reiya Konishi. This has the makings of an all out war between two men who like massive power but make up for it in grit, determination and work rate. At the 37 Takayama knows he can't afford a loss, but a win could open doors to another world title fight to the always fun to watch "Lightning Kid". Konishi on the other hand has come up short in 2 world title bouts and will almost certainly know that another one here ends his dream of becoming a world champion. If you like intense action, and incessant output this is almost certainly set to be right down your alley!
Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) Vs Tatsuya Miyazaki (9-13-1, 9)
Hard hitting Japanese teenager Jin Sasaki might not be a name on the lips of many fans but he certainly should be. The 19 year old power puncher is one of the hottest prospects in Japan and looks capable of making a mark at both 140lbs and 147lbs. Blessed with power, good looks and natural charisma he's a fighter that will be worth following for every bout. Here he's up against an over-matched foe, but that hardly matter. Tatsuya Miyazaki will be there hunting an upset but, in all honesty, he's going to get mowed down here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Norihito Tanaka (19-8, 10) Vs Yuni Takada (8-5-2, 3)
Former world title challenger Norihito Tanaka returns to the ring for the first time since losing to Knockout CP Freshmart earlier this year as he takes on Yuni Takada. It's unlikely we'll see Tanaka get another big fight, given he's already 35, but the former Japanese national champion will likely be looking to land another major domestic fight before his career is over. As for Takada he's a very live under-dog having recently fought to a draw with future Japanese title challenger Hizuki Saso. This might not look a good one on paper, but sometimes we need to ignore the paper and look at the actual fighters involved.
Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Wanheng Menayothin (54-0, 18) Vs Panya Pradabsri (34-1, 22)
The highlight for this part of the month will see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin return to the ring for his 13th defense as he takes on fellow Thai Panya Pradabsri, in what will be the 13th "Bloodline Battle". The unbeaten champion has received widespread attention for his record, and the way he has gone past Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record, though a loss here would be a nasty mark before his retirement. For Panya this is an opportunity to grab the torch for Thai boxing and plant himself on the wider boxing stage. This is a compelling all-Thai world title bout, and the first in over a decade!
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida, USA
Daniyar Yeleussinov (9-0, 5) vs Julius Indongo (23-2, 12)
Unbeaten Daniyar Yeleussinov takes his first major step up in class since turning professional as he takes on former unified world champiuon Julius Indongo. The talented Kazakh looked great in 2016, when he won Gold at the Rio Olmypics, but has yet to set the world on fire as a professional. A win over Indongo would be a good step in the right direction and a notable name on his record before bigger and better fights next year. As for Indongo he has seen better days, but he has shocked the boxing world before, and may well have one final upset in him. This isn't likely to be the most exciting of clashes, but it could be an intriguing one.
Mahammadrasul Majidov (2-0, 2) vs Sahret Delgado (8-0, 7)
Former Azeri Super Heavyweight standout Mahammadrasul Majidov goes for win #3 as he takes on unbeaten Puerto Rican foe Sahret Delgado. The heavy handed Majidov signed with Matchroom in 2019, and it seemed the plan was to move him quickly, given he was 32 when he made his debut, but with two low key bouts and and now this one it seems clear that Matchroom have already given up on ever getting the Azeri ready for a world title fight. At 34 it's a shame Majidov isn't 3 or 4 years younger. As for Delgado the 26 year old Puerto Rican has a nice looking record but his competition is very poor and we suspect this will be a serious wake up call for him as he goes in with a live opponent for the first time.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Musashi Mori (11-0, 6) vs Tsuyoshi Tameda (21-5-2, 19)
In the final noteworthy bout of the month we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Musashi Mori defending his title against the hard hitting Tsuyoshi Tameda in an intriguing match up of Skills Vs Power. Mori is by far the more skilled fighter in here, and Tameda has typically struggled with skilled fighters, such as Reiya Abe and Hinata Maruta, but Tameda is a legitimate power house and has dynamite fists, which could be too much at this early stage for Mori. A very interesting match up that should tell us a lot about where both men can go with their career's.
With no fights currently taking place, and we don't need to explain why, we've decided to begin a new series looking at fights that could have been. These are match ups that may, or may not, have been mooted but are fights that could have happened. Not only do we intend to look at who the men involved were, but when the bout could have been made, why we would have liked it, how we feel the bout played out and how history played out instead.
Katsunari Takayama Vs Akira Yaegashi
Whilst there are other more logical fights to begin this series with we're being a touch self indulgent and picking a fight we wanted more than any other at one point, and one that would have delivered incredible action. In fact if we could suggest any fight would have been a memorable fight of the year candidate it would have been a clash between Katsunari Takayama and Akira Yaegashi.
Unlike many fights that we could cover going forward for this series the window for this potential bout is a pretty big one. Yaegashi had his first world title bout way back in June 2007, losing to Den Junlaphan, by that point in time Takayama had already won the WBC Minimumweight title and the WBA interim title. So lets speculate this bout could be staged any time from 2007 to 2012, when Yaegashi moved up to Flyweight.
We know that in reality Takayama handed back his JBC license to chase the IBF title around the globe after losing to Roman Gonzalez, but even considering that in mind it would give us a cut off of 2010, still a pretty big window for the fight.
At the time period we're looking at Katsunari Takayama, the Lightning Kid, was still very much a secret outside of Japan. He had been in some entertaining bouts, was a former world and interim world champion and was someone who had turned pro young and learned on the job. Although not a destructive beast, like Roman Gonzalez, he was a tough, energetic fighter who always threw a lot of leather, and was willing to take one to land one. Later in his career he became well remembered for his incredible unification bout with Francisco Rodriguez Jr, but even before that he had been in a number of incredible bouts and was very much boxing's answer to the energiser bunny. He could box and move, but almost always got dragged into a war.
Akira Yaegashi was very, very similar to Takayama. Like Takayama we knew Yaegashi could box, he liked to move and use his feet, but he could quickly be dragged into a war and it rarely took much to make Yaegashi fight fire with fire. During the window this fight could have taken place Yaegashi hadn't quite proven he was world class, coming up short against Den Junlaphan, but was banging on the door and he had won the OPBF and Japanese titles. He had proven his ability as an amateur, had adapted to the professional ranks and, with Koji Matsumoto and Hideyuki Ohashi in his corner, had two very smart boxing men helping him get ready to become a star.
How would we see it playing out?
We see this starting with both men boxing, keeping their form and moving early on. Although both were often dragged into wars they could both box, something that many fans forget. During the time window we're looking at the two guys still had very sprightly legs, could go 12 rounds with no issues and both were in their 20's.
After the boxing and moving early on, we suspect the pace will begin to rise, the man who feels like they are behind after a few rounds will then pick up the pace. When they do that we'll see a war begin to brew. Both men turning from boxers to fighters, and for the final 4 rounds the intensity will become something scary, with both standing and trading in some thrilling, rock em sock em style action.
Picking a winner would be almost impossible, though it would have been amazing to watch this one and we would have gotten something very, very exciting!
Would history of been changed?
Depending on when this took place, within the window, there are some interesting changes to history. Had it taken place before Yaegashi fought Kazuto Ioka, there's a chance that we wouldn't have gotten that bout, there's also a chance that Yaegashi wouldn't have moved up and beaten Toshiyuki Igarashi and we have missed out on Yaegashi Vs Gonzalez as well.
It is worth noting those 3 bouts took a lot out of Yaegashi, and his career, although different, may have ended up better for him, and for us as fans.
On the other hand Takayama may have ended up giving up in his pursuit of the IBF title, and his desire to become a Grandslam champion had he taken a title from Yaegashi. Had that happened we may still be looking at the JBC only recognising the WBA and WBC. We would almost certainly have not got Takayama's bouts against Mario Rodriguez, Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr.
On the balance of probability we missed out on a great bout, but we probably ended up with a history that was better for it. We would have loved to have seen this, but thinking about what we might have missed had these two fought, and how history could have diverged, we'll happily accept we got more than our share of great bouts from these two.
This past week has been one of the quietest of the year so far, at least in terms of Asian fighters and fighters involving Asian fighters. It wasn't silent by any stretch, but much of the action was relatively low key. That however doesn't take away from what we did have.
Fighter of the Week
Ben Mananquil (17-1-3, 4)
Although his fight isn't yet available to watch, with Boxing Raise set to post next week, it's hard to argue that anyone deserves Fighter of the Week more than Filipino fighter Ben Mananaquil. The 26 year old southpaw travelled to Japan and easily outboxed Japanese youngster Tenta Kiyose on Sunday to become the new WBO Asia Pacfic Bantamweight champion.Mananquil has been one of the sports over-looked men in recent years, with a number of unlucky results on the round, including bouts with Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym and Jing Xiang. He did get a bit of luck last year, with a draw against Hinata Maruta, but generally hasn't had much luck. He didn't need it against Kiyose, dropping the Japanese fighter on route to a clear win.
Performance of the Week
Reymart Gaballo (21-0, 18)
The unbeaten Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men of the Bantamweight division, but he really shouldn't be. The 22 year old boxer-puncher is one of the best young fighters in boxing, and can box, bang, brawl and really excite. This past Saturday he showed how good he was as he completely destroyed the brave but outgunned Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo would drop Nakamura twice in the opening round and once in round 2 to record a 2nd round TKO. At times he looked wild, yet found the target time, and time, and time again. It was the sort of performance that deserved a bigger platform than ESPN5, and hopefully fans will find the time watch the bout, just to see how good Gaballo looked, and how good he is. We're really hoping for Gaballo to have a big bout this year, and this performance showed exactly why so many are so high on him.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Nawaphon Por Chokchai (44-1-1, 34)
This past week has had some good fights, but nothing really stood out in terms of overall quality, excitement or value. There was good fights that just missed something, or had a lack of intensity. With that in mind we're taking the odd step of selecting the televised exhibition between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Nawaphon Por Chokchai as out fight of the week. It was fought with headgear and over-sized gloves, fought for charity and fought an insane pace as both men looked to try and take the other out. It won't go down on either man's record, but it was certainly fun to watch on Friday morning.
Hiroki Okada Vs Raymundo Beltran (Round 2)
A great round is made from the combination of drama and excitement and the second round of the enthralling bout between Japan's Hiroki Okada and Mexican Raymundo Beltran is hard to beat. The round saw Beltran applying pressure, dropping Okada then being hurt badly himself as Okada came close to forcing a knockdown of his own. It was a really great round and deserves to be in the conversation for round of the year so far. Sadly the bout had too many slower rounds, especially in the middle of the fight, to be in the Fight of the Year conversation, but it was a great round in a very good, but not amazing, fight. Had the bout not had it's slow spell in the middle this would likely have taken the Fight of the Week award.
Romero Duno KO2 Kuldeep Dhanda
This week we saw arguably the KO of the Year so far when heavy handed Filipino Romero Duno flattened over-matched Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what was a really scary KO. The Indian had been down and wobbled badly in the opening round, but had shown bravery to try and fight back. That turned out to be a huge mistake and he was left out cold from a monstrous right hand from Duno about a minute into the second round. Referee Ferdinand Estrella gave a 10 count, when he really didn't need to, and it took a good few minutes for Dhanda to move after getting medical assistance. Thankfully he did get to his feet and seemed to walk out of the ring by himself, following some really worrying scenes.
Dave Apolinario (10-0, 6)
We had a number of prospects in action though none shone like Dave Apolinario, who clearly beat Romshane Sarguilla over 8 rounds. The fight was a clear win, Apolinario near enough shut out his countryman, but was force to work though out the contest and never had time to relax. Despite the hot tempo Apolinario seemed to enjoy the fact he had an opponent who came to win, and that drew the best out of the southpaw who really did look like one to watch in the Flyweight division. At just 20 years old
he is someone who should be on everyone's radar going forward. A fantastic, sharp, quick, intelligent fighter who has the potential to go all the way!
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) vs Yuki Iriguchi (10-2-1, 4)
This coming week has a lot of great bouts scheduled for it, though the one that has us most interested is Thurday's OPBF Super Bantamweight title bout between defending champion Hiroaki Teshigawara and 21 year old challenger Yuki Iriguchi. Watching both men we see two aggressive, exciting, fighters who are happy to engage in a real fight. Stylistically this bout is the one that intrigues us the most, despite not being the most significant contest of the week. We do expect Teshigawara to win, but we also expect some all out violence until he gets the victory.
Ryosuke Iwasa Vs Cesar Juarez, Edward Heno Vs Koji Itagaki, Shohjahon ErgashevVs Mykal Fox
Katsunari Takayama to compete on March 1st!
There wasn't a huge announcement this week, though the Japanese Boxing Awards did get plenty of attention. Instead we had a bit of a scatter gun news week, with arguably the most notable single story being that of Katsunari Takayama's return to action. The hugely popular warrior will be fighting at the Japanese selection event for the Asian Championships, beginning his journey towards a potential Olympic berth. Whether Takayama's dream comes to reality or note, and he manages to make it to Tokyo 2020 is yet to be seen, but we're so glad to hear that he will be in the ring on March 1st as he continues to be a bit of a Japanese trail blazer.
For most boxing fans in the west the year effectively comes to an end in mid-December with December 19th and 20th being the final couple of days with notable fights. Whilst we'll admit we're looking forward to a number of those contests, including the bout between Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar and Ruben Tamayo and the contest between Bryan Vasquez and Sergio Thompson, we've got to say they pale in comparison to what comes from the east in the days following.
Sunday December 21st [Tokyo]
The first of the days that we're looking forward to from Japan is more of an event than a single fight. That's because we get the All Japan Rookie of the Year on December 21st with 12 major domestic bouts involving some of the sports possible future stars.
We won't go through all 12 bouts here, we have a special feature coming later in the month regarding that, though it's hard not to get excited about some of those bouts, including a Welterweight clash between the heavy handed Yuki Beppu (7-0, 7) and fellow unbeaten fighter Hironobu Matsunaga (6-0, 3) and a Flyweight contest between Kenya Yamashita (6-0, 4) and Shun Kosaka (9-0).
The show is one of those traditional shows that Japanese boxing holds annually and although the fighters aren't big names they tend to have the ability to progress and numerous Rookie of the Year winners of the past have gone on to win world titles. We'd be shocked if we didn't get at least one world champion from this years batch of winners.
Sunday December 28th [Osaka]
The run in to the new year really kicks off after Christmas and the first of 4 notable cards comes on December 28th as we get 2 very interesting bouts.
The most notable of the bouts is a Japanese Light Middleweight title contest between the talented boxer Yuki Nonaka (26-8-2, 9), the current champion, and former title holder Charlie Ota (24-2-1, 16), who is best known by western fans for putting Jermell Charlo on his backside. The bout might only be a Japanese national title fight but it's an intriguing contest all the same and both men are expected to carry a low world ranking into this bout come fight night giving the bout extra significance.
The chief under-card bout here looks like a genuine thriller as Japan's “KO King” Masao Nakamura (18-2, 18) battles against Filipino tough guy Rey Labao (26-6, 17). Nakamura will be hoping to bounce back from a decision loss to Masayuki Ito and although Labao is tough he should make for a better opponent, stylistically at least, for Nakamura who will be happy to have a war with Labao, who was himself out pointed last time out by Roman Andreev. Don't be surprised if this ends up being an all out war.
Tuesday December 30th [Tokyo] (Fuji TV)
The first, of 3, genuinely huge shows left this year comes on December 30th as Ohashi gym put on what may well be the best show this year. It features another potential FOTY contender and possibly a fight involving a young man who could be the 2014 Fighter of the Year.
The weakest bout on the card, at least in our eyes, is a Middleweight contest between Ryota Murata (5-0, 4) and Jessie Nicklow (24-4-3, 8). When you consider that's probably the worst bout then it really does dawn on you how good this card is. The Murata/Nicklow bout is one of just 2 non-title bouts with the other being a huge step up in class for Takuma Inoue (3-0, 1) who will be fighting former world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-2-2, 9).
In an OPBF title bout the much touted Ryo Matsumoto (12-0, 10) will be fighting against Thailand's world ranked Rusalee Samor (25-5-2, 11) in a bout for the recently vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title. For Matsumoto a win here will likely push him towards a world title bout in 2014 whilst for Samor we suspect he'll defend the belt several times before even thinking about a world title fight.
Talking about world title bouts we get a trio on this show. The lesser of the 3 will see Jorge Linares (37-3, 24) attempting to become a 3-weight world champion as he battles Javier Prieto (24-7-2, 18) for the vacant WBC Lightweight title. This bout is rather weak over-all though should move the winner, we suspect Linares, onto a bout with WBC Emeritus champion Omar Figueroa in what could be a really exciting fight.
What is certain to be an exciting fight is the contest between Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) and Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15) for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title. For Yaegashi this is a chance to become a 3-weight world champion though he'll have to go through hell to defeat his Mexican opponent who gave Johnriel Casimero a tough bout in an IBF title fight back in 2012. This has all the ingredients to be a FOTY type of fight and is, in terms of the styles, the most exciting bout in the final days of the year.
Whilst we are massively excited about the contest between Yaegashi and Guevara we're even more excited about this show's main event which will see Japanese wunderkind Naoya Inoue (7-0, 6) battling against WBO Super Flyweight champion Omar Andres Narvaez (43-1-2, 23). This bout will see Inoue moving from Light Flyweight to Super Flyweight and if he wins we suspect he should be the 2014 Fighter of the Year and be a man breaking into the top 10 pound for pound fighters. In Narvaez wins then this will be a genuinely huge win for the Argentinian veteran who has been criticised in recent times for the level of his opposition.
Wednesday December 31st [Tokyo] (TV Tokyo)
The final day of the year really sends us off in brilliant style with 2 separate Japanese shows that deserve a lot of attention.
In Tokyo we get another world title triple header headlined by Super Featherweight kingpin Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) who will be defending his WBA world title against Argentinian challenger Israel Hector Enrique Perez (27-2-1, 16). Although the challenger is relatively unknown outside of Argentina he is unbeaten since 2003 and is on a 19 fight unbeaten run. For Uchiyama it will be his return to the ring after a year of inactivity following his hard fought win over Daiki Kaneko. On paper this is a genuine banana skin and a measuring to see just what Uchiyama has left.
The second world title will see 2-time Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8, 13) defending his WBA world title against Norberto Jimenez (20-8-3, 10) for the first time. Kono, who won the belt earlier this year stopping Denkaosan Kaovichit, has had a frustrating year due to issues regarding Koki Kameda and will be hoping to take those frustrations out on his 23 year old Dominican foe who is stepping up massively for this fight. Whilst Jimenez is stepping up he is active and this will be his 11th fight in less than 24 months. Like Perez we also see Jimenez coming into the ring on the back of an impressive undefeated streak running back 20 bouts!
The third world title bout in Tokyo is easily the most interesting of the show as former Japanese Light Flyweight national champion Ryoichi Taguchi (20-2-1, 8) steps up to the world level to fight WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel (32-8-0-1, 13). This is Taguchi's chance to follow in the footsteps of Kono and Uchiyama, stable mates of his at the Watanabe gym, and to move away from just being “the man Naoya Inoue beat”. For Rossel this will be his toughest bout since he was stopped in 9 rounds by Hugo Fidel Cazares back in October 2010. This is a brilliant match up and should tell us a lot about both men.
Wednesday December 31st [Osaka] (TBS)
On the same day in Osaka we get another 2 world title fights, a Japanese title fight and a world title “prelude”.
The “prelude” will see former 2-weight world champion Kazuto Ioka (15-1, 9) battling against former WBA interim Flyweight champion Jean Piero Perez (20-7-1, 14) in a bout expected to prepare Ioka for a WBA Flyweight world title bout next year. Ioka moved to Flyweight earlier this year though has yet to shine at the weight and will be hoping to have filled into the weight this time around. Perez on the other hand needs a win just to remain relevant in the world of professional boxing given that he has lost his last 2 bouts, both by stoppage. And has won just twice in the last 6 bouts.
The Japanese title fight on this show will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (17-0, 9) defending his belt for the first time. The talented Ishida, one of the top prospects at the Ioka gym, will be battling against the relatively unknown Masato Morisaki (9-3-1, 5) in what should be a straight forward defense for the touted champion who has shown some touches of sheer brilliance so far in his career. We suspect that if Ishida wins here, as he should, he'll be moved towards a world title bout in 2015 with opponents like Kono and Inoue both being possibilities, if they both win.
In a bout for the vacant IBF Minimumweight title fans will see the always exciting Katsunari Takayama (27-7-0-1, 10) battle against Japanese compatriot Go Odaira (11-3-3, 1) in what looks likely to be an all-action bout between two men who lack power but have amazing engines and activity. This is unlikely to end in a knock out but should be like watching a boxing equivalent to “Rock em Sock em robots”.
Whilst Takayama and Ioka are both solid names it's fair to say that the attention here will be focused on a Super Bantamweight world title bout between Cuban boxing sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9) and Japan's relatively unknown Hisashi Amagasa (28-4-2, 19). The bout as has been a major talking point since the story was first mentioned and although Rigondeaux will be expected to do a number on his Japanese foe it's still great to see such an internationally regarded fighter travelling to Japan. For Amagasa this is a great chance to make a name for himself and will know it only takes 1 punch to become a star whilst Rigondeaux may be hoping to impress the local fans enough for them to want to bring him back and have him fight the likes of Shingo Wake in what would be an interesting contest.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
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