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.
Back in June 2019 we spoke about Katsuya Yasuda (then 3-0 (2), now 7-0 (4)) in our introducing series. Now, around 17 months later, we take another look at Yasuda as part of our "Revisiting" series, and how his career has moved on since we first spoke about him. In all honesty we've become more and more impressed with him, despite the fact his career hasn't moved quite as quickly as we'd have hoped.
We had been excited about Yasuda from the moment he turned professional, back in 2017. He had signed with the Ohashi Gym, and had turned professional following a very decent amateur career. In the unpaid ranks he had gone 64-12 (30), won a Japanese amateur title and had turned professional with some in Japan tipping him as something of a hidden gem.
Yasuda's debut had gone well, blowing out an over-matched Filipino, but he had struggled in his second professional bout, against Korean Ki Soo Lee. When he returned, after 8 months out, he blew away an over-matched Indonesian.
When we spoke about Yasuda last year he was preparing to face a big step up in class, with a bout against Filipino Jerry Castroverde on the docket. On paper that was expected to be a real test for Yasuda, who hadn't fought since September 2018. Sadly however that wasn't the test we had expected and Yasuda took a clear 6 round technical decision decision over Castroverde. Unfortunately the bout had to end before it could really get going, with Castroverde suffering a cut in round 5, that forced a halt right at the start of round 6.
On paper alone, that was a good win for Yasuda, with Castroverde being a decent opponent. In reality it was an underwhelming one, thanks, in part, to the frustrating ending. Despite the under-whelming nature of the win Yasuda was himself able to fight again around 10 weeks later, which saw him stopping Indonesian foe Jack Dolu in just 2 rounds. He then jumped back into the ring for a third fight in the space of just a few months as he took out another Indonesian opponent, Rengga Rengg, in 2 rounds.
Heading into 2020 it seemed Yasuda's career was starting to build momentum. He seemed to be busy, going in the right direction and moving forward, towards bigger and better things. The hope was that he would be moving towards something big through the year. He had had a few lengthy breaks in the early stages of his career, with 2 years separating his first 4 bouts, but that was behind him and he had managed 3 fights in just over 5 months in 2019.
Sadly 2020 happened and that momentum was essentially ended when boxing was paused to help deal with the on going global situation. The forward charge that seemed to be propelling Yasuda towards something of note hit a wall. He would again spend months out of the ring, and he turned 28 in April with a record of 6-0 (4). Thankfully he managed to finally get back in the ring in September, where he put on a very solid performance against Omrri Bolivar, to take an 8 round decision win.
In Yasuda's bout against Bolivar the Japanese hopeful was defensively smart, boxed fantastically well, and neutralised Bolivar. The performance wasn't the most exciting, and only highlights were shown on TV, but promoter Hideyuki Ohashi stated that Yasuda was the MVP on the show, which also featured Katsuki Mori and Kazuki Nakajima. High praise indeed from one of the best promoters in Japan.
Now boasting a 7-0 (4) record and with an excellent 8 round bout under his belt the future is still bright for Yasuda, though we do feel that he needs to make a move in 2021. Lightweight and Light Welterweight aren't the deepest divisions in Japan but at 28 years old it's now time to get on with things and move his career forward.
Yoshinio is at least 2 or 3 fights from a title bout, but we suspect that 2021 will see him rapidly rising through the domestic and regional rankings, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him go after a title when Shuichiro Yoshino focuses on getting himself a world title fight.
Can Yasuda go all the way to a world title? We suspect not, but we certainly suspect to see him in the regional and domestic title pictures before his career comes to an end.
It's fair to say that the bouts we expected to see taking places in September have shifted and swapped around a lot since the start of August. We had Misako announce a Diamond Glove card for the first week of the month, we saw Teiken postpone their Dynamic glove card for the first Saturday of the month and Fanlong Meng being forced out of his scheduled world title bout due to visa issues. With that said take a look at what will be coming in the first part of September!
Shuichiro Yoshino (12-0, 10) vs Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
The first major bout of the month for Asian boxing sees the Korakuen Hall place host to a triple title bout, as Lightweight triple crown winner Shuichiro Yoshino defends his Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles against exciting veteran Valentine Hosokawa. We expected this to be a genuine test for Yoshino, who's looked good, but never been up against someone quite like Hosokawa. This should be a gut check of what Yoshino has in the tank, and we genuinely looking forward to this one.
Bang Phun, Thailand
Chainoi Worawut (11-0-1, 10) vs Joel Kwong (5-9, 5)
At the Work Point Studio we'll see unbeaten Super Bantamweight hopeful Chainoi Worawut look to continue his unbeaten run, and his rise to a world title fight, as he defends his WBC Asian Boxing Council title against Thai based Filipino Joel Kwong. On paper this is a huge mismatch, though Kwong will be there to win, and has won his last 4, all by stoppage. See an easy win for the Thai, but hopefully Kwong does come out firing.
Phongsaphon Panyakum (9-1, 4) vs Arthit Kaewbantid (3-0, 2)
The once beaten Phongsaphon Panyakum will be looking to continue his winning run, which sits at 9 straight, as he takes on Arthit Kaewbantid. The 20 year old Phongsaphon is starting to look like a very good prospect and has really grown since being stopped on debut, in 2017 by Kai Ishizawa. He'll be the big favourite here and will know that his team will try to get him a regional title fight soon, if he wins. Arthit on the other hand is a big of an unknown, and this is a clear step up in class for the him.
Blue Arena, Thailand
Campee Phayom (20-4-2, 12) Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu (53-8, 35)
In a really interestin looking all-Thai bout we'll see WBA Asia Super Featherweight champion Campee Phayom defending his belt against former WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu. We suspect the younger, fresher, naturally bigger Campee will come out on top here, and if he does it would certainly be his biggest win to date. Although not a natural 130lb fighter Pungluang has shown enough in his recent bouts, in and around the weight, to suggest he could be a handful. To us this is much more interesting than we first imagined when we saw the two men being matched up.
Nattapong Jankaew (5-0, 3) vs Samartlek Kokietgym (34-12-1, 12)
In another interesting all Thai bout former amateur stand out Nattapong Jankaew will be seeking his biggest win to date as he takes on former world title challenger Samartlek Kokitgym, aka Wittawas Basapean. We've been really impressed by Nattapong, who has shown some exceptional skills for someone so early in their professional journey, and this is a logical step forward for him in a bout that should be a real chance for him to shine. Samartlek might be on the slide, but he should have enough about him to ask questions of Nattapong, but they should all be answered with ease by the youngster.
Kazuki Nakajima (8-0-1, 7) vs Kenta Nomura (7-3, 3)
Hard hitting Japanese hopeful Kazuki Nakajima looks to build on his unbeaten run as he dips his toes at Super Bantamweight to take on Kenta Nomura. On paper this looks like a really good bout, but we don't see the hard hitting Nakajima struggling to get past Nomura, who has been stopped before. Despite seeing this as an easy win for Nakajima his bouts are typically worth watching, with his power and aggression typically making things exciting, and short. This could be a very fun mismatch.
Katsuya Yasuda (6-0, 4) Vs Omrri Bolivar (8-3, 3)
The talented Katsuya Yasuda looks to kick off his 2020 with a bout against Japanese based Venezuelan Omrri Bolivar. Yasuda has shown a lot to like, but has had a bit of a stop-start career and will be looking to kick on, especially after the time he's lost this year. Bolivar is a decent enough fighter to ask questions of someone like Yasuda, but in reality it's hard to see Bolivar scoring the upset over the Japanese national. Saying that, this should be competitive in spots and Yasuda won't have things all his own way.
Katsuki Mori (6-0, 1) vs Yuki Uchida (7-7, 1)
A third Japanese prospect to make a note off for September 16th is 2019 Rookie of the Year winner Katsuki Mori, who looked fantastic last year. The talented 20 year old is wise beyond his years, an excellent boxer with a brilliant boxing brain. He'll fighting for the first time since his Rookie triumph as he dips his toes at Light Flyweight and takes on Yuki Uchida. We suspect this will be little more than a show case for Mori who's got a very high ceiling and should be on the watch for all fans of the lower weights. This is kid is special and will be looking to show that against an experienced and naturally bigger foe here.
The Ohashi gym has become a hotbed for fantastic young fighters, with the gym, along with the Watanabe Gym and the Teiken Gym, signing up much of the top amateur talent from Japan over the last few years. Among those fighters to sign with the Ohashi gym and join up with former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi is 27 year old Katsuya Yasuda (3-0, 2), who is set to take a major step up in class this coming July, and try to make up for a disappointing 2018.
The Ibaragi born Yasuda first made his mark on the sport as an amateur, winning a national amateur crown in 2013 and running up an excellent 64-12 (30) amateur record. Like many top Japanese amateurs he didn't really make a mark on the international scene, but his reputation from the domestic amateur ranks had seen him become a fighter with suitors for when he finally decided to turn professional.
Yasuda would make his professional debut on August 30th 2017, at the age of 25. He was older than many top Japanese prospects when he turned professional, but still not an old fighter by any stretch. On debut he needed just 62 seconds to stop Indonesian foe Reno Arizala. Despite it being a very short bout Yasuda showed excellent footwork, sharp punching and a very nasty straight left hand, that left Arizala down for the 10 count. Whilst the bout was a mismatch it was a good debut win for Yasuda who showed enough to get excited about.
Having blitzed his debut opponent Yasuda's second bout would see him take on sturdy Korean southpaw Ki Soo Lee, and Lee wasn't there to roll over, in fact Lee was there to win and to upset the former amateur stand out. The blows of Lee would take an effect early on, and he would leave Yasuda with an almost swollen shut right eye. With the eye a mess Yasuda had to focus on protecting himself more than he'd have liked, and this allowed Lee to be the aggressor, something that didn't Yasuda did struggle with.
Despite the adversity Yasuda would do enough to take the win, taking a majority decision with scores of 58-56, 58-57 and 57-57. It wasn't a lucky win, but was a real gut check, and something that forced him to prove his will to win.
Given the swelling under his eye in the Lee fight it was little wonder that Yasuda would be out of the ring for quite some time, in fact it was over 8 months that Yasuda would be out of the thing, before he returned at Lightweight, having had his first 2 bouts at Light Welterweight. On his return he battled Indonesian journeyman Anshori Anhar Pitulay, who was making his Japanese debut hut had suffered losses on the road in Australia and Thailand, often by stoppage and took him out in 3 rounds, making the most of his body shots which took out Pitulay.
The unbeaten Ohashi man will return to the ring on July 1st as he looks for his biggest win to date. He will be up against Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde in an 8 round bout. A win over Castroverde is expected, and would be a huge boost for his career, though it's not a given and the Filipino is no push over, despite just a single win in his last 5 bouts. A win here should give Yasuda's career a shot in the arm and hopefully lead him to really biting down and running with his career, which has lacked the activity it needs for him to fulfil his true potential.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces