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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