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.
It’s fair to say that January is usually a quiet month but this January is particularly quiet, with bouts really not being lined up for much of the month, we’ve already seen two scheduled bouts being cancelled due to Covid19 related issues. Despite that we do still have some stuff to be excited about, so let's take a look at what we’ve got coming up this month, and it is very much a prospect heavy month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) vs Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
The first genuinely big bout set to take place in Asia will be on January 14th as OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara looks to defend his title against Takuma Inoue. The bout is a genuinely good looking one and will see Kurihara’s power and aggression against the toughness and skills of Inoue. With both men entering the bout world ranked the winner of this will be banging on the door of a world title fight, and we wouldn't be surprised at all by them landing a really big, international level, fight at the end of the year.
Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) vs Sora Takeda (6-1, 1)
Highly skilled prospect Katsuki Mori looks to continue building his reputation as he takes on Sora takeda, in a battle between two former Rookie of the Year winners. Mori has received a lot of praise since breaking through in 2019, though with only a single bout in 2020 his career needs a big shot in the arm in 2021. Takeda on the other hand won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and has sadly seen his momentum slow with just 2 bouts since then. The winner of this will begin a move towards a potential Japanese Youth title bout, but could take a year or two for either man to land their first title fight.
Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) Vs Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1)
Touted Japanese third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto will be looking to record his second win as a professional as he takes on Dragonball Z inspired fighter Bejita Ishikawa, who is well known for his Vegeta styled entrance attire. Matsumoto is very highly regarded and his father was a multi time world title challenger, though he’ll want a better performance than his debut, which saw him being dropped before he stopped Hironori Miyake. Ishikawa shouldn’t provide much of a test here, but he is a unique fighter and certainly has popularity that exceeds his ability.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) vs Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3)
Another prospect looking for their second win is former amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki, who will be looking to build on a successful debut in a notable step up in class, as he takes on the experienced Yuji Okinori. Although perhaps not a big internationally there is very high expectations on Nakagaki in Japanese, after an excellent amateur career, and given how he looked on debut the 21 year old Super Flyweight hopeful really does seem to have the potential to go a very, very long way in the sport. Okinori is a very credible opponent for Nakagaki this early in his career, but it’s hard to see anything but a Nakagaki win.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) Vs Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) - OPBF Welterweight title
The second OPBF title fight of 2021 will see Riku Nagahama seek his first defense as he faces off with the heavy handed Ryota Toyoshima. Nagahama, who holds the OPBF Welterweight title, won the belt in 2020 but has had to wait almost a year to defend it. Although not the biggest puncher Nagahama does have a fan friendly style and does get involved in a tear, even if that’s not the best idea for him. Toyoshima is a more patient fighter than Nagahama, but he’s certainly a bigger puncher and he has very under-rated and sneaky body shots in his arsenal. This could, legitimately, turn out to be a genuine war for the OPBF title and could be a gem in a month where big bouts are few and far between.
Jukiya Iimura (0-0) Vs Daisuke Yamada (6-5, 1)
Whilst there is a lack of big bouts there are a lot of prospects in action over the coming days and one of those is Jukiya Iimura, who went 68-13 in the amateurs. He’ll be getting introduced to professional bout with a bout against the solid Daisuke Yamada, in what should be a solid test for the debuting Flyweight.
Jun Ikegawa (0-0) Vs Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-1-2)
Another debutant looking to make a mark in January is Jun Ikegawa, who went 51-15 in the unpaid ranks. The skilled Ikegawa looks to be in a very solid debut match up as he takes on Kakeru Yoshikawa. The 22 year old Ikegawa is tipped for success and will be looking to make his mark at 122lbs. Yoshikawa is a very credible opponent, and his only loss was a split decision back in July 22017. This is not a gimmie for Ikegawa!
Yugo Kon (0-0) Vs Koji Tsurumi (4-3-1, 1)
One other debutant on this show to make a note of is Yugo Kon. He went a less than spectacular 23-11 in the amateur ranks but is regarded as a long term prospect and we should see him being asked genuine questions by Koji Tsurumi, who is better than his record suggests.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) Vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21)
In another potential hidden gem Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka will take on Takuya Watanabe, and this may well end up being a genuinely brutal war. Saka is an aggressive, heavy handed and exciting fighter, but one who can also be super inconsistent. Despite being hot and cold Saka looked fantastic in his 2019 title winning performance, smashing Masaru Sueyoshi in 5 rounds. Watanabe on the other hand is a super tough, technical warrior who tends to box well, but is much more well known for his ability to genuinely fight. Watanabe’s bouts with Jaesung Lee and Taiki Minamoto showed his toughness and he will have to dip into that again here.
Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14)
Another Japanese title fight will see Yusaku Kuga defending his JBC Super Bantamweight title against Gakuya Furuhashi. For Kuga this is a must win after being taken out in a regional title fight by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019. Although talented Kuga has been in a number of tough wars, and bouts against the likes of Ryoichi Tamura, Shingo Wake and Yasutaka Ishimoto may well have aged him. As for Furuhashi the 33 year old challenger will know it’s now or never after coming up short in two previous Japanese title fights. Style wise Furuhashi is a grinder, who throws a lot and lacks 1-punch fight changing power, again Kuga his style may be his undoing, or it could lead to an early FOTY contender.
Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) v Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2)
In a B class tournament final the once beaten Koki Mioya takes on Tentaro Kimura, in what should be a very evenly matched and exciting 5 rounder. This bout, unlike many, has gotten a lot of interest for what is, for all intents, a lower level Japanese bout, with neither fighter being regarded as a major prospect. Both as popular fighters and the bout is being regarded as one that could end up delivering a lot of action. Fans in the west may overlook this one, but it is genuinely generating plenty of buzz among the hardcore Japanese fans.
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) v Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
In an A Class tournament final the fast rising, and heavy handed, Japanese Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki will battle Masashi Wakita. This looks like a mismatch on paper and we suspect it will be, but it will still be great to see Utsuki back in the ring, and there’s a real chance of him getting involved in the Japanese title mix in the next 12 to 24 months. Utsuki is a very nasty and serious puncher, and that is likely to be too much for Wakita, who’s been a genuine servant to Japanese boxing over the years.
Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) Vs Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2)
In a surprising world title fight we’ll see OPBF Minimumweight champion Sana Hazuki challenge IBF champion Yokasta Valle near the end of the month. This bout was only announced in January, after Valle had numerous issues securing a unification fight with WBC champion Tina Rupprecht. Valle will be the heavy, heavy favourite, though there is, maybe, a chance she has looked past Hazuki, who really shouldn’t be much of a taste for the Costa Rican world champion.
Manual Artime Community Center Theater, Miami, Florida, USA
Fazliddin Meliboev (0-0) vs Javonn Davis (3-0-1, 3)
Back to debutants we have talented Uzbek 24 year old Fazliddin Meliboev kicking off his career towards the end of January as he takes on unbeaten American Javonn Davis. Meliboev isn’t one of the elite level Uzbek amateurs we’ve seen making their name on the professional ranks in recent years but he was a very credible amateur and showed real potential in the WSB. He’ll come into this bout as an unknown, but we suspect he has the tools to overcome Davis, who has been fighting at a very, very low level so far.
Kozimbek Mardonov (0-0) vs Chown Sims (5-1, 2)
Another Uzbek making his debut is the touted 23 year old Kozimbek Mardonov, who won shone at the 2019 Military Games in Wuhan. On paper Mardonov looks to be in a serious test here as he goes up against 25 year old American Chown Sims. Sims is unbeaten in his last 3, and has taken a couple of cherry’s since beginning his professional career. He was, however, stopped in 2019 by Ty McLeod and we suspect Mardonov will have too much, in what could be a debut to remember for a very promising young Uzbek.
Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10) vs Stephen Danyo (17-3-3, 6)
Highly regarded Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov will return to the ring after well over a year out as he takes on Dutch fighter Setephen Danya in a bout for 4 minor titles. The excellent Akhmedov has been one of the most promising Kazakh fighters in recent years and he seems to have it all, with skills, power, stamina, a solid boxing brain and a solid promoter behind him. Given what we’ve seen of Akhmedov the view is that he’s one of the men heading towards world titles. Danyo on the other hand has never been stopped, he’s proven himself as a tough nut and he does have the durability and experience to test the Kazakh youngster, especially given his length lay off. This should be a real good test for Akhmedov, but if he’s as good as we think he should take a very clear win.
Luzhniki, Moscow, Russia
Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) Vs Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29)
Unbeaten Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev is set to take a massive step up in class at the end of the month as he takes on former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. With many tipping the “Bully” to be a future world champion this is the sort of test that will help fast track him to a title, and could be a shrewd bit of match making, or a case of biting off too much too soon. Kovalev has been on the slide for a while, and he no longer looks like the “Krusher” who dismantled the likes of Jean Pascal, but with his power and with a Russian crowd behind him he is very much a live under-dog here. On paper this is a real test for Melikuviez, but if he’s as good as we, and many others, think he could end up retiring Kovalev. Interestingly for Kovalev this will be his first bout since his 2019 loss to Saul Alvarez and at 37 father time may well be just as much of an enemy as Melikuziev. Potentially one of the smartest bits of matchmaking we’ll see in 2021, or a big mistake by Melikueziev’s team.
The month of August has already been pretty damn entertaining and we're about half way through it. Over the coming 2 weeks or so we see it get even better, with a host of notable fighters in action in varying level of match ups. Here we take the opportunity to highlight some of the best of what's still to come in August!
PLEASE Note - All bouts are subject to change, cancellations and postponements, something that is a lot more rife right now than usual due to the on going situation.
Israil Madrimov (5-0, 5) vs Eric Walker (20-2, 9)
In a WBA World title eliminator at Light Middleweight we'll see sensational Uzbek Israil Madrimov seek his 6th professional win as he takes on 37 year old Eric Walker. On paper this looks like a good step forward for Madrimov, despite Walker's advanced age. Unlike many older fighters Walker doesn't have a lot of miles on the clock, due to a very late start in boxing. Saying that however this is still likely to be more about Madrimov, and the Uzbek taking strides towards a world title fight, than it is about Walker and his redemption story.
Shakhram Giyasov (9-0, 7) vs Francisco Hernandez Rojo (22-3, 15)
Another Uzbek looking to move towards a world title fight is Olympic Silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov. The talented Giyasov has shown some cracks in recent bouts and should be tested here as he takes on Francisco Hernandez Rojo. The Uzbek has shown some real potential but we do need to see him answering more questions and hopefully Rojo, who once lost a very close bout to Ryan Martin, will ask some of some of those questions. At his best Rojo could be the acid test needed for Giyasov, though it should be noted that it's well over 2 years since Rojo last fought, and this could be a genuine issue for the Mexican fighter.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5) Vs Satoru Todaka (10-3-4, 4)
In a bout for the now vacant WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title we'll see the once beaten Ryota Yamauchi take on Satoru Todaka, with the winner pushing their claim for a WBO world title fight. Yamauchi has long been tipped for a world title and looks like a real talent, though one with plenty of areas to work on. As for Todaka this is likely to be seen as a must win, following a loss last year to Kenichi Horikawa in a Japanese title bout. We suspect this has been put together to make Yamauchi look like a star, and that's exactly what we expect of the Kadoebi gym youngster.
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4) Vs Yuichiro Kasuya (13-2-2, 4)
In a real 50-50 match up we see former Rookie of the Year winner Yuichiro Kasuya take on the hard matched Masanori Rikiishi, in a mouth watering clash. This bout won't get the attention that many others will, but is, for us, one of the best match ups of the month. We favour the hard hitting Rikiishi, who comes into the bout on the back of a big win over Freddy Fonseca, but Kasuya is no push over and this could be a very intriguing match up, that could end super competitive on the cards
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6)
In the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament final we'll see slippery southpaw Shingo Kusano take on the aggressive Daisuke Watanabe, in what could turn out to be a really, really intriguing match up. Neither of the two men were expected to make their way to the final but both have battled hard to get here, giving a very unexpected main event here. Of the two we think Watanabe has got the edge, but Kusano's performances in the tournament have been two of his very best and he is very much a man fighting for his career. We expect this one to gel very nicely and end up being a very nice match up from stylistic point of view.
Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) vs Shohei Kawashima (18-4-2, 4)
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake was shocked last year in his rematch with Jhunriel Ramonal. Now his career hangs by a thread and he can't afford another set back if he's to remain in the mix for a second shot at world honours. He'll be giving his all to not just win, but to shine when he takes on the talented but light punching Shohei Kawashima. On paper this looks a really even match up, but we expect it to be a mismatch, with Wake making an example of his fellow Japanese fighter, and making a statement. At the age of 33 Wake doesn't have long left and will be desperate to shine. Kawashima can play spoiler, but we don't think he has the ability to do it against a talented southpaw like Wake.
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0) Vs TBA, Talgat Shaiken (0-0) Vs TBA, Kamshybek Kunkabayev (0-0) Vs TBA
Due to the fact none of the above have had their opponents announced at the time of writing we're going to roll this into one and say it's time to take note of the Kazakh talent coming through the ranks under the guidance of MTK Kazakhstan. Although maybe unfair we dare say this trio are the most talented and interesting. For us Kulakhmet is the most talented, Shaiken the most exciting and as a Heavyweight Kunkabayev is the one most likely to make waves on the casual fan. Take note, all 3 of these men are looking to make an impact in the pros and all 3 have got barrels of potential. None of the trio need to be handled softly and all 3 could be let off the leash very quickly, given their incredible talent and amateur backgrounds.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryo Matsumoto (23-3, 21) vs Takuya Mizuno (17-2-1, 14)
Former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto is in an awkward position in that cannot afford another loss any time soon, after 2 defeats in 2018. Saying that he is still a sensational talent, and one of the most amazing young boxers to watch, with speed, power, precision and skills. He has all the tools to go far, but now needs to make them work. In Takuya Mizuno we see a solid puncher, but someone who hasn't looked technically astute recently. If Mizuno can't blast Matsumoto out early on we expect to see Matsumoto take a very clear win. Still this is a real test of what both men have and is a very well matched but between very capable young fighters.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (0-0) vs Shohei Horii (3-5-2, 2)
Former multi-time Japanese amateur champion Ryutaro Nakagaki begins his professional career with a 6 round bout against Shohei Horii. The confident Nakagaki was a sensationally talented amateur who boxed with a pure boxing style, and the big question mark with him, going into the professional ranks, is whether he can add some spite to his shots. If so he's expected to be moved very quickly. Aged just 20 he is one to keep a real eye on, though the speed of his progression will depend on his early performances. Horii on the other hand has been stopped in 4 of his 5 losses and will not be expected to last the schedule with Nakagaki. If this goes 6 the hype will cool massively on Nakagaki, and he'll know that coming in so we expect this one to end early with Nakagaki making a statement.
Keisuke Matsumoto (0-0) vs Hironori Miyake (9-9-2, 1)
Another talented debutant on this show will be "Mirai Monster" Keisuke Matsumoto. Keisuke, no relation to Ryo, is a third generation fighter following in the foot steps of his father and grandfather. Given his father is Ohashi gym trainer Koji Matsumoto there is real pedigree here with Matsumoto, who has long been tipped as a star of the future. In the opposite corner will be Hironori Miyake. On paper this is a genuinely good test, despite the losses on Miyake's record. Miyake has never been stopped and has given the likes of Kyosuke Sawada and Yoshihiro Utsumi good tests. This should Matsumoto being asked questions, and needing to show what he got in the locker.
Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 13) vs Hironori Shigeta (6-1-1, 3)
To end the month we get a card from Hachioji Nakaya. The show is actually a really interesting one, with a number of intriguing domestic level bouts, but it's the main event that is the pick of the bunch. It will see Shoki Sakai make his Japanese debut, after 36 fights in the West, and will see him up against 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hironori Shigeta. Both men are 29 and yet both are at very different stages of their career's. Sakai is slowly becoming the rugged journeyman that gets matched hard against prospects, and has gone 0-4-1 in his last 5. Shigeta on the other hand is a man who will be looking at a potential national title fight if he wins here. Both guys will be coming to win, and this will be a very compelling bout, to top off a very, very good card.
Despite Coronavirus essentially cancelling the sport of boxing right now, globally, we have to face facts and admit the sport will be back. We don't know when but it will be back. With that in mind it makes sense for us to take this downtime to continue our "Introducing" series. Obviously the articles won't be talking about someone ahead of an upcoming bout, but upcoming bouts were always secondary for the "Introducing" behind what were essentially a chance to shine a torch on a fighter that deserved some attention.
So, with that out of the way, lets return to the "Introducing" series with someone we've been looking forward to writing about for years. Like legitimately years. That is Keisuke Matsumoto, a second generation hopeful who will be hoping to make his professional debut in 2020, if the coronavirus pandemic can be gotten under-control and if boxing can resume in Japan this year.
When we mentioned that we've been wanting to write about Matsumoto for years we really are serious. Our very first mentioned of him was way back in August 2014, when the then 14 year old Matsumoto was making headlines in Japan for winning 5 consecutive Under 15 titles. Whilst the under 15 titles doesn't guarantee success the fact he was essentially dominating the field at such a young age was getting the Japanese media excited about his potential for the 2020 Olympics.
Not only was Matsumoto showing great talented at a very, very, young age, but he was also a second generation fighter. He was following in the footsteps of his father Koji Matsumoto, himself a former 2-time world title challenger, who was making a name for himself as a trainer at the Ohashi gym. It was the Ohashi gym that had essentially been a second home for the younger Matsumoto who was able to rub shoulders with world class fighter like of Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegahsi, who he could consider training buddies and gym mates.
As the years went on, from 2014, the younger Matsumoto would continue his amateur career, running up an impressive 80-15 (30) record in the unpaid ranks. He couldn't quite replicate the dominant success he had had in the under 15's but the tall and lanky frame of the youngster still found success, both nationally and internationally. We won't go through all his amateur achievements but just a few notables. He reached the semi-finals of the 2015 Asian Junior Championships, won the 2016 Japanese High School National Championships, a tournament that also saw Ginjiro Shigeoka picking up a winners medal, lost in the final of the 2018 Japanese National Championships and won the Taipei City Cup, also in 2018.
Sadly for Matsumoto he found himself a nemesis in the amateur ranks, the exceptionally talented Hayato Tsutsumi. Had it not been for Tsutsumi it's fair to say that Matsumoto would have taken more senior honours in the amateur ranks. Sadly though Tsutsumi was around and Matsumoto failed to secure a place in the Japanese set up for the Asia Oceania qualfiers for the 2020 Olympics. As a result he had a hard choice to make and decided that, instead of waiting for the 2024 Olympics, he would turn professional.
Matsumoto announced his decision to turn professional at the start of 2020 over social media, before taking part in a press conference in February to announce he had signed with the Ohashi gym and would be taking part in his pro-test in March before debuting in May. Sadly his original pro-test plans went awry due to coronavirus, though he still managed to pass his test in a very different environment, taking the test at the Ohashi Gym rather than Korakuen Hall as planned.
As we write this Matsumoto is still technically pencilled in for a May debut, though the reality is that his debut will likely be pushed back and it could be much, much later in the year before we see the wonderfully talented youngster kick off his professional career.
We've had another relatively quiet week of action, barring one US show, but it's a week that has also seen a lot of fighters taking part in press conference to announce that they would be turning professional this year, and a cancelled show. So lets take a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the week ending February 23rd 2020!
1 - Top amateurs turn pro
Over the last week we saw no less than 5 Japanese amateur standouts turn professional. Whilst not all of them will reach the top we are really excited to see the development of Keisuke Matsumoto, Ryutaro Nakagaki and Toshihiro Suzuki, who were all genuinely exceptional talents in the unpaid ranks. Of that trio we expect to see them all fight for, if not win, world titles, and wouldn't be surprised at all to see them being just the first wave of amateur stars turning professional before the Olympics. It's an exciting time in Japanese boxing, that's for sure!
2 - Mark Breland doing the right thing
We often have coaches who are too brave for their fighters, but Mark Breland was the bravest of them all, making the right decision in stopping Deontay Wilder from taking further punishment on Saturday. By the time of the stoppage Wilder was a bloody, beaten mess and he looked completely hapless. He had been unable to back up Tyson Fury, and was being tagged repeatedly. Whilst Wilder might want to complain the reality is that his trainer did the right thing and saved him for another day. Wilder's future might not look great in the sport, but at least he has a future. Had that bout gone on a round or two longer there's a chance Wilder wouldn't have much of a future at all as a fighter. Well done Mark Breland for doing the right thing.
3 - Tyson Fury backing up his words
Staying in the wider world it was fantastic to see Tyson Fury back up his words. We assumed he was taking the piss when he spoke about going out with the intention of knocking out Deontay Wilder, but for him then to go out and batter the then reigning WBC Heavyweight champion was just fantastic. We wouldn't go as far as to say it was the greatest performance by a British fighter, as some have suggested, but it was one of the rare times that we've seen a long term champion undressed and embarrassed. This was a showcase from the best Heavyweight in the world, and hopefully we won't see Fury facing any more weak opponents, as he did in the build up to this fight.
1 - A lack of action
Whilst not every week will be busy we were really surprised by little action took place this past week. It wasn't helped that there was an interesting looking Filipino event cancelled due to coronavirus and a card in Korea cancelled for the same reason. Thankfully we do have action coming up, and it does appear this was a one off quiet week.
2 - Muto gym tax evasion news
In a weird story from Osaka it appears the Muto Gym, and chairman Takashi Edagawa could be in some hot water over some issues with tax, and more exactly evasion of tax. It's unclear how serious the issue is, but it doesn't sound great with the gym accused of faking real estate purchases among other things. Even if the gym is innocent, or has corrected the issue, there will be a cloud over their head going forward, and it doesn't sound like the first time the gym have been accused of something like this.
Whilst we have stated we were impressed by Mark Breland, who made the right decision in stopping Deontay Wilder from taking too much unnecessary punishment. Sadly post fight comments from Wilder's other trainer, Jay Deas, were just ugly. They were full of excuses, blaming the attire Wilder wore into the ring, and criticised Breland. We understand the idea of doing what's in your bosses interest, but here Wilder needed a unified team to help him after his loss and to look after him in the ring. Deas seemed to want to blame Breland for the loss, rather than accepting their man was beaten, and was able to come again thanks to pulling the plug on the bout before took potentially life changing punishment.
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