On Saturday night we were treat to a very public joke by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which again showed that replays in boxing are a long, long way from being an effective solution to modernise the sport and bring it in line with elite level Tennis, Cricket, Soccer and American football. In fact we saw it come under such scrutiny and questioning that it's perhaps better to be put on the side line and worked on quietly before trying to be re-introduced, much like Open Scoring.
The bout in question was the second bout between Joshua Franco and Andrew Moloney, which ended in a No Decision following serious swelling around Franco's eye, very early in the bout.
Afterwards the cause of the swelling was reviewed, over and over and over....taking more than 20 minutes to make a decision on the call. And then they still got it wrong. This has lead to some hilariously bad takes online, such as some suggesting it was the "worst robbery in history", unless you've just started following boxing you know that's crap. And others saying "fuck Las Vegas", including the show's promoter Bob Arum.
Lets just take a few steps back and look at things.
Is it the worst robbery in history?
No. Flat out no. We do a "Controversial Clashes" series and that often covers worst decisions, and we're considering just bouts with Asian fighters, ignoring travesties like the first bout between Juan Martin Coggi and Eder Gonzalez, or James Toney Vs Dave Tiberi, Paul Williams Vs Erislandy Lara. This was the wrong decision, but it's not even going to break into the top 50 worst robberies.
So lets stop the hyperbole, before the entire conversation falls on to an untruth and devalues the actual issues at hand.
Lets be honest folks, this probably isn't even the worst decision you've seen in the last few weeks. Unless you are very, very new to boxing. If you are, go check out that Coggi Vs Gonzalez bout to see something hilariously bad and that will make you feel a lot less angry about this week's action.
Fuck Las Vegas?
This is the more interesting one, and the one that we really want to discuss in two parts.
Firstly if the bout was ANYWHERE but Nevada the bout would have been a No Contest when it was stopped. The referee called the incident that caused Franco's injury an Accidental Head Clash, whether rightly or wrongly. In any other state that would have been it. There wouldn't have been replays. There wouldn't have been a 20 minute delay. That would have been the call and it wouldn't have been called to question in the way it was here. The referee's call would have stood.
Had the bout been held outside of Las Vegas we'd all be talking about wanting a rematch, and that's exactly what we should be pressing for now. That's the right thing to do, it's the thing the fans want, the fighters should be wanting and their teams should be looking to force. It's not often boxing can get an easy win, and that is an easy win. Re-hold the bout, and lets see them go again in an unofficial rubber match match. Their first one was great, and the second should have been great. Now we have even more intrigue going into a third bout.
But it was in Las Vegas, and they do have replay in action!
Indeed it was. It was in possibly the only regional using replays with any regularity, in fact this wasn't the first time during the current Top Rank in the Bubble run of shows and again it showed the issues with replay, which were laid very bare here. It's not replay it's self that is bad, but it's the unclear aim, and use of replay which is an issue.
Back in July, I know some boxing fans have short memories, we saw replay being used in the bout between Jose Pedraza and Mikkel LesPierre. Originally LesPierre has a knockdown called in his favour, in round 5, and then we entered round 6 before the referee left the ring and was convinced he had made a mistake, over-turning his original decision.
That was a farce, and in the end didn't actually matter. But at least they got it right. They should have had the decision made before we entered round 6, and in reality the ringside officials should have the power to over-rule the referee if there is a clear error. And this was a clear error.
In October we saw an improvement to the system, albeit still a flawed system. In October, for the bout between Arnold Barboza Jr Vs Alex Saucedo, we saw a ringside replay official look over a potential knockdown and over-rule the referee during a time out, ruling that a knockdown took place. The referee called a slip and he was quickly corrected, with Joe Cortez watching the replay and correcting the call from Celestino Ruiz. Ruiz then told the judges to score the knockdown, allowing them to correct their cards.
It still wasn't PERFECT, but it was a massive upgrade on what we had had just weeks earlier and it lead to Joe Tessitore, working for ESPN, to proudly state "by the way for everybody who has spent the entire day watching college football and getting angry at the TV as it takes 3 minutes and 5 minutes and 6 minutes for a review boxing just did it in about 10 seconds after the round...Well done by the Nevada State Athletic Commission".
Joe was right. This was impressive, it was timely it. It worked. It got it correct and it put the two fighters both clearly in the position that they knew what the ruling was, and could change their tactics accordingly. It was corrected within moments, and most done between rounds, with a time out being called before the action resumes for the referee to instruct the judges.
This is how it should be done. A decision should be made, it should be clear, and it should be explained to both the judges and the corners if need be. Everyone should be on the same page and know where they stand. They can they adapt their tactics if needed.
Right so they work, and they are improving!
Of course the system is improving, but those are the only times it's been used in boxing, and it's been used with mixed success in the past. There are three other notable examples, two where they got it right and one where they got it very, very wrong.
The wrong example is probably the least well known, and that's a 2012 bout between Nihito Arakawa and Daniel Estrada. A cut was caused on Estrada that was ruled, by the referee, to have come from a headclash. Due to the WBC accidental foul rule Arakawa was deducted a point before replays showed it was a punch that caused the cut and the point deduction was removed. Then the replay call was over-ruled, when the cut that was caused earlier in the bout stopped the contest, leading to a technical decision in favour of Estrada. Not the TKO win to Arakawa that the replay call, earlier in the bout, should have lead to. This lead to confusion in both corners and lead to massive confusion with the referee yelling that it was an elbow that caused the damage.
The WBC knew this was wrong and tried to sort out a rematch between the two men. Estrada declined it and we ended up getting Arakawa's bout with Omar Figueroa as a result. It was a complete cluster fuck of a situation.
Another example, where they got it right, also involved a Japanese fighter. That was Koki Eto's first bout with Jeyvier Cintron, when Cintron was dropped and out on his feet from what, initially, looked like a clean punch. It was then reviewed and showed an elbow had caught him and sent him loopy. The original decision, of a TKO1 for Eto, was rightfully over-turned, we had a rematch and Cintron won, securing a bout with Kazuto Ioka.
We also saw the review process kick in for the WBC Flyweight title bout between Charlie Edwards and Julio Cesar Martinez, with that bout being in England. This bout ended in round 3 after Martinez hit Edwards with a shot when the Englishman was on a knee. Originally ruled a KO3 win for Martinez it was later over-turned to a No Contest on review. The right call was made following the review.
This was the right decision, got the wrong way. As prior to the No Contest being delivered it was stated that replay wasn't in use, and then it was. And then it was used in a way that helped the promoters fighter. Something we need to worry about with retroactive reviews (more about these later).
Not only were these decisions very different, in terms of outcome of the review and the review it's self, but they also make it clear that not all reviews can be done the same. However that doesn't mean we can't have a general understanding of how review can be done correctly.
So they work, what's the problem? Why didn't they get it right?
Firstly we need to ask what is a review ACTUALLY for? Is it to get the result right or is it to clear up obvious mistakes?
This might seem a really silly question but if it's to get the right result, then in reality we should see all bouts go through a post fight review with post fight scoring. The biggest issue in getting the right result is rarely the single call of a referee but instead the judges. Yes referees have got it wrong, as we show regularly in out Controversial Clashes series, but more often it's the judging that is giving us the wrong result.
Sure we have cases like Gujelmo Ajor completely botching the Danny Lopez Vs Fel Clemente bout, or Armand Krief messing up the result of Hyung Chul Lee's first bout with Alimi Goitia, but by far and away the judge needs sorting first.
As a result we need to assume it's to tidy clear and obvious errors. The knockdowns that should have been rules a slip, or vice versa, the cuts that might have been from a headclash, and the borderline low blows. This would follow the line that VAR was brought into football, soccer for our American readers, with decisions only being looked at when there was a "clear and obvious error". We're not going to turn this into a rant about VAR, because that's for someone else, but the principle was clear. Only clear errors should be over-turned.
In our eyes a "clear" error is one that should be spotted quickly and effectively. Ideally between rounds, like the call of Joe Cortez in the Arnold Barboza Jr Vs Alex Saucedo bout we mentioned earlier. That left both men knowing where they stood entering the next round. There was no long and arduous task of correcting things and we were all ready to go within seconds.
What we saw at the weekend wasn't anything like that. What we saw at the weekend was a calamity of errors.
What do you mean?
What should have happened was in round 1 Russell Mora called an accidental clash of heads that caused a swelling around Joshua Franco's eye. The call should have been reviewed by ringside officials during the rest of the round, and there was a good chunk of it, and in the break between rounds 1 and 2 to clear up a "clear and obvious error". If they couldn't spot an a "clear and obvious error", the two fighters should have gone into round 2 with the referees call. This would have allowed both men to alter tactics to try and give a result, knowing that if the bout doesn't go beyond 4 rounds there will be no result.
For example had Moloney known the swelling was caused by a head clash he could have tried to leave the eye alone, racked up points attacking else where and then pressed the fight in round 5 to force a conclusion and take the technical decision. It would have been a hard ask, of course, but he would have known that if the bout was stopped due to the eye that would have been it. He'd not take the victory.
Likewise had Franco been under the illusion the damage was from a punch heading into round 2 he may have felt he had to put it all on the line, and go out swinging. Otherwise a loss was imminent. Likewise he may have realised he'd have to fight one-eyed and saved himself from further damage, whilst a accidental head clash ruling was going to work in his favour.
The problem was that heading into round 2 everyone was under the belief it was an accidental clash of heads. The call wasn't really looked at until after the fight. This was too late. This had left a material change on how the fight played out. The two men were clearly made aware it was being treat as a headclash, whether that was right or wrong, during the fight.
The post fight antics, multiple replays, and eventually getting the wrong decision is heart breaking for Moloney. Though had Franco lost his title due to following the referees instructions, we'd feel he was in a heart breaking decision. By reviewing the bout after the contest, in this manner, there was no way boxing was going to come out as a winner. Only a loser.
So what's the solution?
We hope, more than anything, that the outcome of this leads to a rematch and to the entire replay system being overhauled.
The way it was used was a disgrace to boxing. If it's to be used, it should only be used at the end of the round of the incident in question. Whether that's a knockdown call the previous round, or a knockout in the current round. Trying to retroactively correct errors from previous rounds isn't a workable solution. It isn't a fair solution, and it isn't the right solution. It's a slippery slope to chaos, to controversy and to bailing out referees and fighters, and potentially further helping favourites get their way.
Sit with us a moment longer and ponder this scenario. Fighter A is dropped in round 1 from a low blow, and in round 2 from a low blow. Both are called legitimate shots and give fighter B a couple of 10-8 rounds to start the bout. Fight B is then deducted points for low blows in rounds 9 and 10. Would it be fair to go back and review those earlier knockdowns, and deduct further points whilst over-ruling the knockdowns from earlier in the fight? Maybe even disqualify fighter B in round 11 for repeated low blows based on what he had done earlier in the fight?
It might seem silly, but that's what retroactively reviewing could cause. In fact we could see a small decision win, a 114-113 for example, swing the other way based on a point deduction correction, or a knockdown correction retroactively applied.
For the sake of our sanity we need to accept that whilst the replay officials may have taken 26 minutes to make a wrong decision on Saturday night, they also made the "right decision". They made it clear that this is a farce, it allows bouts to be altered retroactively, and that they are still not implementing a system that works.
We don't NEED replay in boxing. We would maybe like it, but we'd only like it if it was clear, it worked, and the decisions could be rendered in real time, or similar. So far it has felt like a half baked idea, badly implemented. It has been revised, but it still leaves much to be desired and a lot of work to do. Just as VAR does in football.
Technology in sport can be slow to progress, but can revolutionise how sport is done. Tennis and Cricket have used Hawkeye amazingly well, and maybe a similar, multi-camera, multi-replay system is needed in boxing, rather than this half baked thing we have. Or maybe we shouldn't have replay at all, and the referees decision is final, not a take we'd go with but a valid all the same. Maybe full fights should regularly be reviewed to get the right decision.
Fighters, camps, promoters, officials and fans all need to be fully in the loop of how it will be used, when it will be used, and what it's purpose is. This weekend showed that more than ever. Everything needs to be transparent.
Moloney was denied the title!
One final point to end this one, and one that we have seen echoed, a lot. "Moloney was robbed of the title", "that belt belongs to Moloney", "Franco is a fake champion", "Give that belt back". We get the point, Moloney should hold the WBA Regular Super Flyweight title.
Or should he?
Fans talking about that belt, at all, are legitimising another issue in boxing. The WBA's multiple titles. That belt shouldn't be Moloney's for the simple fact that that belt shouldn't exist. The WBA should recognise ONE champion per division, and the line of Roman Gonzalez, the WBA "Super" champion should be the only one we, as fans, care about. The belt that Franco has was created solely for the WBA to collection sanctioning fees. If you choose to recognise the belt, you lose the validity of arguing there's too many belts in the sport.
Roman Gonzalez's line as the WBA Super Flyweight champion goes back to 2014. He beat Kal Yafai, Kal Yafai beat Luis Concepcion, who beat Kohei Kono, who won the belt when he beat Denkaosan Kaovichit on March 26th 2014. The title Franco has appeared 3 months before Gonzalez beat Yafai for the belt, when Moloney beat Elton Dharry for the "interim" title, which was then upgraded to the "regular" title in June for the first bout between Moloney and Franco.
Lets not legitimise the WBA's bull crap by ignoring history.
The stronger case is that Moloney may lose out on an opportunity down the line. That case can be answered by everyone doing the right thing and sorting out a rematch. Alternatively Moloney is a Top Rank fighter. Top Rank have another fighter in the same division, with a world title, Jerwin Ancajas. There is an opportunity waiting in the wings for Moloney to fight for a legitimate world title. If he's denied both of those chances, then boxing has a lot to answer for, and that should be the bigger issue.
Once again we're back to looking at the Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the week we've just had, and if we're honest the lack of in ring action has left us with not too much good, and quite a lot of indifference, which thankfully isn't a header here!
1 - CBC confirm Kento Hatanaka's next fight will be streamed globally for free!
With the growing number of payment services in boxing, and PPV's again becoming more and more prevalent, it's great to see that CBC are again showing some common sense. The Japanese broadcaster confirmed this past week that the WBC Youth Flyweight title bout between Kento Hatanaka v Roland Jay Biendima will be streamed worldwide for free. The channel have helped make Kosei Tanaka a star, streaming a number of his fights, and seem to know that getting eyes on their product is key to their fighters becoming more notable. They've done it with Tanaka and are now doing it was 21 year old Hatanaka. Well done CBC and fingers crossed others see the logic behind what they do, and try to replicate it for emerging hopefuls.
2 - Junto Nakatani Vs Giemel Magramo, sign us up!
Although not officially confirmed the reports that Junto Nakatani and Giemel Magramo will battle for the WBO Flyweight title was certainly good news. In fact it was really good news! We're expecting the bout to be confirmed next week, following the report from the gondol that the bout was set. This is the sort of match up that the sport needs more of, and the type of bout that we're always going to get very, very excited about! Two young, up and coming fighters, who could go in different directions, clashing head on for a world title! Yes please. This is the type of match up that title vacancy's should be filled by, and the type of bout that instantly gives the new champion some legitimacy, even if the title had previously been vacant!
3 - Ioka Vs Tanaka in the works!
One of the few real good points from this week was the WBO ordering Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka. On one hand it did feel odd that they were ordering back to back mandatory defenses for Ioka, who defended the belt against a mandatory in December, but on the other hand what an amazing match up, and this is something to get really, really excited about for later in the year! It is worth noting that Tanaka didn't seem to be expecting it to be ordered immediately, and neither did we given Ioka's last defense was a mandatory, so we wouldn't be too surprised to see the WBO delay this, as the the teams try to set it up late the last half of the year.
1 - Dubois Vs Joyce on PPV
British fans really are unlucky right now. It seems that over the coming months they are going to be getting shafted by the powers that be. The Fury Vs Wilder rematch was expected to be PPV, and we expect the Joshua Vs Pulev bout to be on PPV, and both of those are legitimately big bouts. However for Daniel Dubois to face Joe Joyce on PPV in an all British clash, between two men who have yet to break through as any type of stars. Genuinely ridiculous for this bout to be on PPV, and a very tough sell given the lack of personality both men have. Don't get us wrong, we are looking forward to the match, but this shouldn't have been on PPV, and it's a missed opportunity for both fighters and for fans.
2 - Naoya Inoue picks up a fever
After taking part in his typical training camp in Guam Naoya Inoue had to miss the annual Japanese boxing award ceremony last week due to fever. The fever is said to have been brought on by muscle fatigue, and it's a real shame. Not only did he have to miss the award ceremony but also take days out of training. On the other hand it has given the John Riel Casimero camp some more ammunition to help sell the fight, and credit goes to Casimero and Sean Gibbons for their entertaining press conferences this week.
3 - Korean boxing Hiatus
Earlier in the year we had several events in China being cancelled due to Coronavirus and now, due to the spread of the illness, we've seen a number of Korean events falling victim, with 3 planned shows being postponed indefinitely. That included the much anticipated Hyun Mi Choi Vs Maiva Hamadouche female unification bout. Whilst we totally agree with the shows being cancelled, it's still a big disappointment.
1 - Jarrell Miller's comments
Our thoughts about drugs cheats are that they need to be punished. They need to be given lengthy bans, prohibited from profiting from the sport, and made to actually feel like they've been punished. The entire system in boxing right now however seems to be the opposite, and seems to be more like a toddler being told to sit in the corner for 5 minutes. That is...unless you're Jarrell Miller. Less than a year ago Miller was found guilty of, essentially, being a cocktail of banned substances. This week he came out with a pro-drug message in what was a rather clear "fuck you" to the sport, and the others taking part:
“Minor setback for a major comeback. I’m coming for everything and everyone. No one is safe. Say hello to the bad guy,” ...“Everyone wants to portray the superhero. We don’t live in a sunshine world. I’ll never be the superhero. In my world, the majority of the time, the villain wins.”
He's not just showing no remorse for failing multiple drug tests, but is using it as part of the marketing for his return and showing contempt of the sport he's participating in. Fuck him and fuck the commissions that go on to license him. We need this sort of thing to end.
2 - Eddie Hearn admits he doesn't want to match his guys
After telling us for years that "to fight X you need to sign with us" and after telling us for months that he was trying to match some of his guys, Eddie Hearn this week came out and admitted that he wants to cheer on one guy in a fight rather than two. Given the wealth of talent Matchroom have at Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Heavyweight this has really left a sour taste, especially when he's previously blamed the fighters. Given he has fingers in the purses of fighters like Gennady Golovkin, Demetrius Andrade, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders, at 160lbs and 168lbs, and Heavyweights like Michael Hunter, Filip Hrgovic, Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora there are great match ups to be made, in those divisions. What doesn't help is he then comes out and explains that certain men are divisional "boogeymen", as he did with with Michael Hunter this week. If you have most of the top names in the division and choose not to match them, they aren't boogeymen, they are just being badly handled!
3-Guillermo Rigondeaux's Career Sabotage continues
Generally we expect the most talented people in the field to be the best, make the most money and develop their reputation to a point where people want to see them show what they can do. For Guillermo Rigondeaux however we once again saw the Cuban's knack of messing things up for himself shine. "El Chacal" finally fought at his natural weight this weekend, dropping to Bantamweight at the age of 39, but once again stunk the joint out, and once again showed why HBO refused to touch him with a barge pole. Unfortunately however this time it was on Showtime, who are also now unlikely to work with him. Loud boos filled the arena for his fight against former Super Flyweight champion Liborio Solis. What didn't help Rigondeaux was that he hurt Solis several times, but refused to go for the finish, particularly in the later rounds when it was clear Solis couldn't bother him. From siding with Carbie when he Gary Hyde had something organised, to shitting the bed on HBO against Joseph Agebko to his string of B tier wins over the likes of James Dickens, Rigondeaux has made himself unwatchable in a sport that is dependent on fans and TV audience. He might be among the most gifted natural athletes in the sport, but also one of the stupidest. His ring IQ might be incredible, but his inability to see the bigger picture, really shows a complete lack of business smarts and once again he's going to find himself totally frozen out by TV and big fighters. We know the purists might enjoy his style, but unfortunately for the Cuban they aren't the people in charge of the TV companies, or the ones that the fighter needs to impress. They are a small minority, and even they seem to be realising what a truly disappointing under-achiever Rigondeaux is.
(Image of Rigondeaux Vs Solis courtesy of Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME)
As we head towards the new year we've had a big look at the current scene and come up with "20 fights we'd like to see in 2020", yeah another series ahead of the new decade!
As is always the case with what we do, these articles will have an Asian flavour, and every bout we mention in the series will have at least 1 fighter from Asia involved. So for those of you expecting us to talk about Deontay Wilder Vs Anthony Joshua, that won't be listed.
What we'll be looking at is well matched contests with either some form of back story, a great stylistic clash or bouts with some form of significant meaning. If they tick all the boxes then that is even better! Each fight will be given it's own article and each of these will come with an introduction to the fighters, and why the bout is being featured in the list.
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Since late 2019 there has been one potential all-Japanese title clash which has been spoken about a lot, and it now seems to have taken a step towards reality thanks, in part, to a ruling the WBO made in regards to one of the two men involved in the potential match up. The bout would see Japan's only male 4 weight champion up against someone looking to match him, and would pit two of the most skilled body punchers against each other in a mouth watering contest.
It's hard to believe that Kazuto Ioka only turns 31 this year. The talented Ioka turned pro all the way back in 2009 and fought through out the 10's, barring a short retirement that lasted less than a year. During the decade he won titles in 4 weight classes, unified belts at 105lbs, and scored a number of wins that aged really well, just look at what Akira Yaegashi and Felix Alvarado did as proof of that. He also became one of the foremost faces of the Japanese boxing scene, a huge draw, and a central figure for the New Year Eve shows that highlight the end of the year. As the current WBO Super Flyweight champion he enters 2020 with a lot of potentially thrilling match ups out there for him, but there is something about all Japanese title bouts that always excited us.
When talking about exciting all Japanese world title bouts we can't forget how Kosei Tanaka introduced himself to the Flyweight division, having a barnstormer against Sho Kimura in the 2018 Fight of the Year. Now the talented "KO Dream Boy" is the WBO Flyweight "Super" champion he is linked to another move up, and a potentially thrilling encounter with Ioka. Tanaka, like Ioka, has raced through the weights and raced through competition that has later made his victories look better, with Vic Saludar and Angel Acosta both going on to win world title. He has also chased the big fights and become a man who's face we tend to see at the end of the year, with 3 New Year Eve bouts bouts in the last 5 years. A win over Ioka would make Tanaka a star, and essentially force TBS to push him nationally, not just in Tokyo and Chukyo, the two regions that tend to get his fights in Japan.
With the talk of this bout starting way back in August 2019, then growing as the year went on, it does seem like there is real desire for these two to be matched. On paper it's a very, very, easy one to make as both fight for the same Japanese network, essentially the JNN which owns TBS and sister channel CBC, and there is desire from the WBO to make the bout. Of course both men have other options, but this seems to be getting a lot more talk and time than those other options in Japan, suggesting this is the bout the fans want first.
Of course if we do have to wait we could end up with things like Tanaka Vs Moruti Mthalane or Ioka Vs Juan Francisco Estrada, and lets be honest, we wouldn't complain at those options, if we eventually got this all Japanese super fight later in the year!
As we cross into a new year we've not really had much to talk about, despite that we did have results from New Year's Eve, and an obscure Korean show taking place in the last 7 days, and that's enough for us to be happy with!
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
The fight of the week was an easy call, with Kazuto Ioka taking the award on the back of his hard fought win over Jeyvier Cintron on New Year's Eve. Whilst Ioka was always expected to win it was great to see him being tested, and being pushed. Cintron wasn't there to make up the numbers, and instead the Puerto Rican was in the ring to win, using his size and skills to ask a lot of questions of the Japanese star. Also real credit goes to Cintron for fighting to the end of the bout, something we didn't expect when Ioka's body shots started to land with alarming consistency.
Performance of the Week
Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
With a nigh on punch perfect performance Kosei Tanaka retained his WBO Flyweight title and looked fantastic. From the opening moments it was clear that Tanaka was happy to use his tools to make life easy and dominate a challenger who was too slow, too clumsy and too open for him. This was exactly what Tanaka needed after a struggle last time out, against Jonathan Gonzalez.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Jeyvier Cintron
This was a long, long way, from Fight of the Year conversation, however it was a truly compelling 12 round championship level match that swung nicely back and forth. The early rounds were high level chess, with Cintron taking the early lead, before Ioka found his range and hammered the body of the Puerto Rican. Ioka seemed on the verge of a stoppage at one point, before Cintron bit down on his mouth piece and finished strongly. Not a fight of the year, but still a very high quality fight.
Jae Hyun Jo Vs Chul Hyun Lim (Round 6)
We really didn't have many stand out rounds if we're being honest though we did enjoy the final round of the relatively obscure bout between Jae Hyun Jo and Chul Hyun Lim on Sunday morning. It may have been our craving for boxing speaking but it felt like both men put their foot on the gas for the final 3 minutes and delivered something rather fun. Nothing special, but fun all the same.
Kosei Tanaka KO3 Wulan Tuolehazi
This was an easy pick with Tanaka's triple uppercut KO win over Wulan. This was spiteful, this was nasty and this was Tanaka using his speed to and boxing IQ to find a hole in Wulan's defense, breach it then again and again. A gorgeous KO, and one that will send Tanaka into the new with another highlight KO on his resume. After a relatively tough year this was the perfect way to finish it from the "KO Dream Boy".
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
It's hard to give even consider giving Prospect of the week to anyone other than Ginjiro Shigeoka, following his win over former world title challenger Rey Loreto. We all expected Shigeoka to win, but few would have anticipated him dropping Loreto in the opening round, then battling with Loreto, a feared puncher, before scoring a second knockdown. Shigeoka was rather honest post fight, explaining that he had injured his hand and ear drum and questioned whether he could have gone 12 rounds, but in the end that didn't really matter. He battled through some adversity and stopped a legitimate contender.
Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22) vs Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1-1, 12)
Sadly our pick for this week has been picked almost by default. Whilst Jaron Ennis, a fantastic US prospect, is a fantastic prospect this isn't a bout we'd typically get too excited about. Sadly there is very, very little else on in terms of fights involving Asian's this week. Eyubov, from Kazakhstan, has looked very limited when he's stepped up and we wouldn't be surprised to see him getting blasted out here.
Generally December is a very Japan centric month in Asian boxing, with the end of shows and Rookie of the Year. This year things seemed even more Japan centric than usual with a host of cards through the month. As a result December's awards were pretty much all in Japan, though that doesn't take away from what was a very interesting month.
Fighter of the Month
In December we had a host of world title fights, some were competitive, some weren't but for us the guy who shone the brightest was Kazuto Ioka. Ioka was in tough with a 2-time Olympian, who was tall, longer and faster. After taking a couple of rounds to figure his man out however Ioka began to adjust and slowly broke down Jeyvier Cintron in what was an excellent over all performance in a fantastic bout. Cintron, we suspect, will win a world title in the future and this is a win that will end up looking very good in a few year's time.
Fight of the Month
Yuki Beppu Vs Ryota Yada
Few fights can truly be described as dramatic, but with 6 knockdowns, bombs being traded through out, and a huge come from behind win it's hard to suggest that anything other than the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title bout between Yuki Beppu and Ryota Yada was going to win this. There were other great bouts, the rookie of the year bout between Kodai Honda vs Yasutaka Fujita being among them, but nothing was every going to compete with Beppu Vs Yada. A genuine must watch war.
KO of the Month
Mammoth Kazunori TKO5 Lerdchai Chaiyawed
It seemed that December wanted to try and provide us with the best of everything, and the brutal KO scored by Mammoth Kazunori, against Lerdchai Chaiyawed, tried to steal the KO of the Year with just over 2 weeks of the year left. This was originally doing the rounds from a fan cam, but when the bout was upload to Boxing Raise a few days after it took place the KO looked even better. A single solid left hand turned Lerdchai 's lights out...and then he hit the canvas. This was as clean a shot as Kazunori will likely ever land, and the way Lerdchai hit the canvas was just nasty.
Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
With a win against an OPBF champion in just his second professional bout, it was hard to give this award to anyone else. Shigeoka might not be as brutal as his younger brother, Ginjiro Shigeoka, but out pointing Lito Dante this early in his career was fantastic and a real statement of intent for someone wanting to be fast-tracked.
Amazingly Yudai's brother stopped Rey Loreto and Bektemir Melikuziev out pointed Vaughn Alexander, in just his 4th bout, during the month. This was an excellent month for prospects.
Renz Rosia UD8 Aston Palicte
The "Filipino fighters are involved in upsets" trend continued through December. Jhack Tepora being stopped by Oscar Escandon, Jhunriel Ramonal stopping Yusaku Kuga and Renz Rosia beating Aston Palicte were the short list for the month. For us Rosia's win gets the award due to the fact he completely out boxed, out fought and out though Palicte. This wasn't a wild shot, or beating someone before they warmed up. This was beating them round, after round, after round. This was Rosia exposing Palicte's flaws, and given where Palicte was at the start of this year was a genuine surprise. What made this really stand out is that Rosia was 1-4-1 in his previous 6 bouts! A genuine shocker.
Toshiya Ishii vs Haruki Ishikawa (Round 2)
We had some amazing rounds this past month, and round 4 of Akira Yaegashi Vs Moruti Mthalane will certainly be a hard one to forget. For sheer drama and too and fro action however the pick from the month was round 2 from Toshiya Ishii's incredible battle with Haruki Ishikawa. Ishii was dropped in the opening seconds, regrouped, the two men staggered each and both were hurt several times before the round concluded. This was sheer, unadulterated awesomeness. A real round of the ages, and came in a Japanese Youth title bout, proving that even this low level of title is worth putting it all on the line for.
The final part of December, in fact the final part of 2019 and the last part of the decade, is set to go out with a bang as we get a lot of action in the last few days.
Sho Ishida (28-1, 15) vs Israel Gonzalez (24-3, 11) - Osaka, Japan
In a really meaningful bout in Osaka we'll see two former world title challengers clash in an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator. In one corner will be Japan's Sho Ishida, looking to secure his second title fight, whilst his opponent is aggressive Mexican Israel Gonzalez, who has come up short twice in world title bouts. On paper Ishida, with home advantage, will be favoured but Gonzalez is no push over and will have travelled with the intention of not just winner, but of setting up a second clash with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. We expect this to be really exciting bout, and Gonzalez is better than he looked against Ancajas.
Joe Shiraishi (9-0-1, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-4-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
In a Japanese Youth title fight we'll see Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Joe Shiraishi defending his title against Jukiya Washio. The talented, yet relatively unknown Shiraishi, is slowly making a name for himself and a win here would help push him towards a potential domestic title fight in next year or two. For Washio this is a second title fight, and whilst he is the under-dog, he's a live fighter who will be in there to win. This could be a very fun, if some what over-looked, bout.
Tokyo, Japan [TBS - Live]
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) Vs Jeyvier Cintron (10-1-0-1, 5) -Tokyo, Japan
In what will be the final world title bout of the decade WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka will defend his title, for the first time, and take on mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka won the title earlier this year, when he stopped Aston Palicte, to become the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and will be looking to end a fantastic decade as a champion. For Cintron this will be his first title bout and is a huge step up from the competition he has been facing.
Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) vs Wulan Tuolehazi (13-3-1, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
Rising Japanese star Kosei Tanaka looked poor last time out, when he scored his second defense of WBO Flyweight title with a win over Jonthan Gonzalez, and will be hoping for a better performance here as he takes on Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi. The Chinese challenger has been a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing recently, and with wins against the likes of Ryota Yamauchi and Takeshi Kaneko, but this is a massive step up in class for him. Win or lose it's expected that Tanaka will move up in weight shortly and hunt a world title at Super Flyweight in the new year.
Miyo Yoshida (13-1) vs Li Ping Shi (5-2, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
A third world title bout on this card will see WBO Female Super Flyweight champion Miyo Yoshida hunt her first defense. The talented Yoshida will be looking to defend the title she won earlier in the year, when she out pointed Casey Morton, as she takes on aggressive Chinese challenger Li Ping Shi. Although Yoshida will be the favourite here, we do suspect that Shi will be there to win, and she could be a real nightmare for the champion with her aggression and physicality.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) Vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17) -Tokyo, Japan
Prospect of the year contender Ginjiro Shigeoka looks to end the year with his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, as he takes on former world title challenger Rey Loreto. The 20 year old Shigeoka has looked fantastic since making his debut but this is a massive step against a heavy handed, tough and expected fighter who has score a number of upsets during his career. A win for Shigeoka would take see him take a huge step towards a world title fight in the new year, whilst a win for Loreto would be another upset victory for the unpredictable Pinoy puncher.
Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13) vs Jhunriel Ramonal (16-8-6, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight will see heavy handed Japanese fighter Yusaku Kuga take on Filipino slugger Jhunriel Ramonal for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. For Kuga it's a chance to become a double champion, adding the belt to the Japanese title he won earlier this year, whilst Ramonal is looking to build on his huge upset win over Shingo Wake. We suspect this could be a genuinely explosive fight, between two hard hitting fighters who will both be looking to the title and a KO win. We expect this to be a lot of fun.
Marina Sayama (4-1-1, 2) vs Yume Hirayama (4-0)- Tokyo, Japan
One more title fight to close out the year will see Marina Sayama and Yume Hirayama battle for the vacant Japanese female Flyweight title, in what will be a second bout between the two women. The first time these two met Hirayama beat Sayama with a decision over 4 rounds, and if she does the same here she'll be a champion at the age of just 19! On the other hand Sayama is a former football player, and a win here would see her become a rare case of a competitor being a success in different sports.
It's fair to say that 2019 has been a really good year for boxing so far, with some great fights, brilliant KO's amazing upsets and exciting youngsters breaking through. Sadly however this past June was a less than great one for Asian boxing, with not a lot really happening. As a result our awards for the month are probably the least impressive ones of the year so far.
Fighter of the Month
The fighter of the month was an obvious pick, with Kazuto Ioka becoming the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and doping so in a brilliant win over Aston Palicte. The bout perhaps won't be as fondly remembered as Ioka's achievement, though was a fun bout that we'll talk about more shortly, but was the culmination of all of Ioka's work so far and really did show the technical ability of his against the strength and toughness of Palicte. The options for Ioka, now at Super Flyweight, are plentiful and both Akira Yaegashi and Kosei Tanaka are known to be sniffing around for a fight, both of which would be huge in Japan.
Fight of the Month
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte
Having just mentioned Kazuto Ioka's win over Aston Palicte we'll also award that bout our fight of the month award. It wasn't the most amazing and nail biting of bouts, but it was an excellent match up that saw skills, power, speed, excitement and the eventual breaking down of a bigger man but a more technically sound fighter. The bout won't be in the running at the end of the year for Fight of the Year but in a relatively weak month it was, for us, the bout that stood out the most in June.
KO of the Month
In Duck Seo KO1 Tysinn Best
Whilst the month didn't have many amazing KO's in Asia it did see an absolute beauty from Korean fighter In Duck Seon as he bested Tysinn Best in spectacular fashion. Seo was being out boxed, out thought and out sped, but had the toughness and the power so turn the tables, and boy did he turn the tables in an eye catching fashion. Best was sent crashing, face first, to the canvas and was down for quite some time whilst Seo knew he had just put his name on the regional boxing map.A huge win and a brilliant KO.
Dave Apolinario (11-0, 6)
Filipino fighter Dave Apolinario still isn't getting the buzz and fanfare he clearly deserves, though it seems like it's only a matter of time before the "Doberman" is on the mind of every knowledgeable fight fan. The talented youngster Adrian Lerasan and had to show what he could do against a solid southpaw foe. The unbeaten Apolinario couldn't blow his man out the water but showed he could do 10 rounds, at a decent pace, against a good, tough, rugged southpaw and clearly answered more questions. Their are still tests for the unbeaten Apolinario to answer, but so far he is looking like the goods.One to keep a serious eye on in the coming years.
Whilst the biggest upset in boxing occurred at the start of the month, when Andy Ruiz stopped Anthony Joshua in the US. Sadly there wasn't a big upset in Asian boxing, and whilst not everything went as expected there wasn't an sizable upset worthy of much attention.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte Round 7
We are back to that excellent WBO Super Flyweight title bout between Kazuto Ioka and Aston Palicte, which had a round of the year contender in the 7th. The round really saw Palicte attempt to turn the tide, and went after Ioka, hurting him early in the round before Ioka fought back. Whilst it's fair to say that June was a weak month this was still a great round, and would have been in the mix for month of the year.
We've had another quiet week in the world of Asian boxing, though thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel and in the coming weeks and when we get to July we're set for some great fights and hectic action. Despite the action still being slow we did have a great show in the middle of the week with a trio of world title fights. That show has really dominated awards this week, and without it we really would have been at a loss.
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14)
There was only one person really in the running for the Fighter of he Week and that was Japanese star Kazuto Ioka, who became a 4-weight world champion on Wednesday when he stopped Aston Palicte in Chiba. The bout, which was a huge ratings success for TBS, was Ioka's first bout in Japan in over 2 years and there was worries that a loss would send him into retirement. What we got from him however was a show case performance and an eventual stoppage of a much bigger, stronger fighter. This was the performance Ioka needed, and it was performance that has put him back among the top of the Japanese scene.
Performance of the Week
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5)
Thai fighter Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart travelled to Japan and was expected to be on the receiving end of a bad loss to WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. Whilst he did lose to the Japanese star he managed to put in an excellent performance, neutralising a lot of Kyoguchi's pressure and not only going the distance with the champion but actually taking a number of rounds from Kyoguchi. This was the sort of loss where the loser comes out with an enhanced reputation, and we're looking forward to seeing more of the Thai hopeful.
Kazuto Ioka TKO10 Aston Palicte
We're back to Kazuto Ioka and his WBO Super Flyweight title win against Filipino fighter Aston Palicte, in what really was a brilliant fight. Ioka's technique, speed and timing was up against the size, power and strength of Palicte, making for a fantastic dynamic to the fight. The bout was fought at a high skill level, with a solid tempo through out, and whilst it won't be regarded as a FOTY contender it was a fantastic bout all round, with a great atmosphere and a real tension, especially when Palicte threw some of his bombs. This will likely be one of the more forgotten bouts at the end of the year, best remembered for Ioka becoming a 4 weight champion rather than the in ring action, but it was a very solid fight and a great watch.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte (round 7)
Staying with the WBO Super Flyweight title bout the 7th round was something super special, with Palicte, who was starting to struggle with Ioka's accuracy and timing, putting his foot on the gas and putting the pressure on. For the first minute or so it looked like he was getting to Ioka and that his size advantage was going to be a major issue as we got into the second half of the fight. We then saw Ioka regroup and fight back amazingly well in the second half of the round, giving us a real back and forth round. Despite neither man being dropped the round was excellent, dramatic and exciting, all we could ever ask for.
There was no standout KO for this past week
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4)
We suspect we'll be talking about Shu Utsuki a lot in the years to come, and it's not with good cause with the Watanabe Gym fighter being a fantastic prospect, with solid power, heavy handed and a developing professional style. This past week he scored a career best win by stopping Omrri Bolivar, and will likely find himself in the Japanese and OPBF rankings in July. He might not be one of the gym's biggest name prospects but the Watanabe Gym has a real talent among their midst here, and hopefully they develop him through the next 18 months before pushing him towards title fights.
Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5) vs Takahiko Kobayashi (8-3, 6)
This coming week is another quiet one, thankfully the last quiet one for a while, though it does have some interesting bouts with the pick of the bunch being a mid-week Korea Vs Japan bout between Korean teenage prospect Jeong Han Cha and hard hitting Japanese fighter Takahiko Kobayashi. We expect this to be a shoot out, and we would be absolutely gob smacked if this goes the distance. On paper this is a true gem.
As we into the middle of December we need to remember there's a lot to look forward in the back end of the month. Here we take a look at the final week or so of the month.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - What's to come in December...Part 1 and part 2 is here - What's to come in December...Part 2
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals - Tokyo, Japan
Professional boxing's biggest annual tournament comes to a close on December 23rd in Tokyo, as we see the latest All Japan Rookie of the Year champions being crowned. The tournament might not make much of a mark internationally but it puts the winners on the fast track to domestic success and with the whole card being shown live on G+ it goes us a brilliant pre-Christmas being treat.
Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final major bout for us before Christmas comes from Osaka and sees the hard hitting Keita Kurihara take on Yuki Strong Kobayashi for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. The match up is a solid looking lower tier match up, though what needs to be noted is that both men are better than their records suggest, with both suffering a number of defeats early in their careers, and to good fighters. We're expecting a hard hitting affair here and it should be very exciting.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) Vs Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
After a little bit of a break for Christmas big action returns on December 30th, as we run towards an explosive end to 2018. One of 3 title bouts on the penultimate day of the year will see Masayuki Ito make his first defence of the WBO Super Featherweight title, as he takes on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov. A win here will open up some big fights for Ito in the new year, and he has stated that he intends to return to the US, where he won the title, to make future defenses. For Chuprakov the bout is a big step up in class, but he is certainly a live challenger.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) Vs Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
The longest reigning Japanese champion Kenshiro will also be on the December 30th card, defending his WBC Light Flyweight title against Mexican veteran Saul Juarez. Kenshiro has been incredibly impressive recently, beating the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Milan Melindo, and this looks like a step backwards, unfortunately. Juarez is a good fighter, or rather was a good fighter, but his form has been less than great recently and he is 2-4-2 in his last 8 bouts. Juarez, at his best, would be a good opponent for Kenshiro, but he looks to be beyond his best, even if he is only 28.
Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) - Tokyo, Japan
The third major bout on December 30th will see the unbeaten pairing of Takuma Inoue and Petch Sor Chitpattana facing off for the WBC "Interim" Bantamweight title, a title that's an interim belt whilst the WBC wait to sort out the mess of their vacant "regular" title. This is a brilliant match up, between two talented youngsters, though sadly the politics of the WBC have left this bout feeling less glamorous than it should be. The winner will get a shot at the full WBC title in the new year, if and when the WBC actually get around to crowning an actual champion. With a combined 60-0 record these two do make for an interesting fight, but this is a huge step up in class for the Thai, whilst Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue, has fought a number of world class opponents during his short career.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) Vs Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) - Macau
It's not just December 30th that will be delivering a triple header, but also December 31st, which has one of the very best match ups of the year. The match up in question pits a couple of 3-weight world champions against each other, with Japan's Kazuto Ioka taking on Donnie Neites for the Vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. Both fighters are looking to become only the third man in history to win titles in the lowest 4 weight classes, both are looking to etch their names into the history books and help set up major bouts in 2019. Amazingly this will be the first time Nietes has ever faced a Japanese fighter whilst Ioka hasn't fought a Filipino in over 8 years! We expect to see a lot of skill on show here in what coul be a potential FOTY candidate.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) - Macau
The second best bout on New Year's Eve will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler defending his title against former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. This will be Budler's first defense of the title, which he won earlier this year in Japan by out point Ryoichi Taguchi, and he will be facing a stablemate of the man he beat for the belt. For Kyoguchi it's a great chance to become a 2-weight champion and to score a massive win to end the year. A win here for either man will set them up for massive bouts in 2019, with possible unification bouts in the new year.
Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) Vs Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) - Macau
A second South Africa Vs Japan bout will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title against little known Japanese fighter Masahiro Sakamoto. The South African is enjoying his second reign as the IBF champion, having won the title earlier this year in a nail biter against Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem, but at the age of 36 we do wonder what he has left, and he certainly looked like he was aging in the final rounds against Waseem. Sakamoto really is only known in boxing circles for losing to Sho Kimura, in a regional title bout, but has impressed since then and is a smart fighter who will know he has the opportunity of a life time here.
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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