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.
It's fair to suggest that February has been a slow month for fight fans in Asia, in fact at times it's felt down right glacial, with little happening, especially in the middle of the month. We had a good start, and a good end but then we had almost 2 weeks with nothing much happening. Thankfully March is set to be a whole different kettle of fish with interesting bouts right through the month.
With that said lets take a look at what to expect in the first part of March!
Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) vs Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13)
A new Month kicks off with OPBF Light Flyweight title action as Daiki Tomita and Kenichi Horikawa clash for the vacant title. For Tomita this is a second shot at an OPBF belt, having come up short against Tsubasa Koura in 2018, whilst Horikawa will be lookin to bounce back from the loss of the Japanese national title to Yuto Takahashi. Although neither man is a huge name this is a very interesting looking bout, and could either send Horikawa into one final title run, or into retirement.
Dennapa Kiatniwat (21-2, 16) Vs Jeny Boy Boca (13-6, 11) -
Former world title challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat defends his WBA Asia Flyweight title against heavy handed, but very much out of form, Filipino Jeny Boy Buca. The Thai local got a world title fight last year and looked second rate against WBA king Artem Dalakian, but should have too much at this level. Buca was once regarded as a promising puncher, but then went 4-5 (2) and lost pretty much all of the momentum he had built in his first 10 bouts.
Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) Vs Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart seeks his 8th defense as he takes on Japanese challenger Norihito Tanaka. The once highly regarded, and still unbeaten, champion has failed to inspire in recent bouts, and with 5 decision wins in a row his name has become rather a joke. Although talented Knockout has certainly not enthralled. Sadly however it's hard to imagine the 35 year old Tanaka having the energy and power needed to defeat the local fighter, and become the first Japanese man to ever claim a world title in Thailand.
Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) Vs Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5)
In the main event of the monthly "Dynamic Glove" show we'll see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga defending his title against mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu as part of the 2020 edition of the Champion Carnival. Matsunaga has looked mightily impressive in recent outings and will be looking to make his second defense. Although Shimizu is less exciting and aggressive than Matsunaga he is a big, awkward lump and give the champion fits with his size alone. A very interesting match up.
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) Vs Joe Tanooka (15-7-5, 1)
On the same Japanese show world ranked slugger Keita Kurihara takes on the talented, but feather fisted, Joe Tanooka in a bout that really does give us very different styles. Kurihara is a genuinely dynamite puncher who has gone 12-1 (10) in his last 13 bouts and will be looking to show he can box a but, before taking apart Tanooka. Tanooka on the other hand is a quick, technically capable fighter who will be looking to lure Kurihara into a mistake and countering. A very interesting contest, even if it lacks in terms of big name intrigue.
Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9) vs Ren Sasaki (10-0, 6)
Former 2-time Japanese national title challenger Reiya Abe looks to move towards a third potential title bout when he takes on unbeaten southpaw Ren Sasaki. The talented Abe had a 2019 to forget, fighting to a draw with Taiki Minamoto and losing to Ryo Sagawa, and needs to rebuild his moment. In terms of achievement he should be seen as a big favourite here, however he doesn't get a gimme. The unbeaten Sasaki is no push over, and is a very decent boxer himself, having won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2017. Expect this to be a compelling 8 rounder.
Jacob Ng (13-0, 10) vs Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
In a potential hidden gem Australian Jacob Ng will be defending his IBF International and WBO Oriental Lightweight titles against the under-rated Valentine Hosokawa. On paper Ng should be regarded as a big favourite. He's the bigger, younger, hard hitting, unbeaten champion. And he's at home. But Hosokawa can't be over-looked at this level and the Japanese fighter is a very strong, aggressive fighter who throws a lot of leather and can take a lot of punishment. Don't be surprised if this one is one of the real highlights of March.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0, 8) vs Mark Urvanov (17-2-1, 9)
Unbeaten 29 year old Kyrgyzstan born Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu will be looking to continue his rise through the ranks, and take a huge step towards a potential world title fight as he takes on Russian fighter Mark Urvanov. This will be Uulu's first 12 round bout and we dare say if he wins here his team will begin hunting a world title eliminator for him, for later in the year. Although no world beater Urvanov is a good test at this level and comes in on the back of a career best result, stopping former world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov back in November. Hard not to like this one....a lot!
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0, 9) Vs Tomas Rojas (51-18-1-1, 34)
Unbeaten Tajik hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov looks to take his next step forward as he faces former world title holder Tomas Rojas. On paper this looks like a step up against a grizzled old veteran, but with the fight taking place up at Super Featherweight we do wonder whether Rojas, who was a Super Flyweight at his best, will simply be over-powered and out manned by Yaqubov. At the age of 39 and with a 2-4 record in the last 3 years we really do wonder what Rojas has left, other than his name.
Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) Vs Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) -
Hard hitting Seigo Yuri Akui looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Flyweight title as he takes on mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita. The explosive punching Akui has proven to be scarily dangerous early on, with 9 opening round T/KO's, and will be looking to make it #10 here. Fujikita has never been stopped stopped but with only a single, low key, win in the since June 2018 it's hard to know what he has to offer. Fujikita could be the type of durable test who can see out the Akui storm, or could be the next early victim for the destroyer from Okayama.
Rey Caitom (9-0-1, 4) vs ArAr Andales (10-2, 2)
Former world title challenger ArAr Andales is going to be in rebuilding mode this year after back to back losses in 2019, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart and Joel Lino. Rather than having an easy bout to kick off 2020 the 20 year old will be up against the unbeaten Rey Caitom, in a tough looking bout. Andales will be favoured, and has impressed at a higher level, but with those losses we do wonder about how he is mentally. Caitom has fought at a much lower level will clearly be in the ring knowing a win pushes him to within touching distance of a world title shot.
Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) Vs Toshiya Yokogawa (11-12-2, 10)
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake was shockingly upset last year, by Jhunriel Ramonal, and now looks to begin rebuilding. He's being matched easily here, as he takes on 34 year old domestic foe Toshiya Yokogawa. Given the loss to Ramonal, and how brutal it was, we can't complain about Wake getting an easy bout here, but he really can't spend too long fighting at this level, and we suspect this will be a tune up to a much bigger bout in the summer as Wakes begins his climb, again, to a second world title fight.
Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2) Vs Issei Ochiai (2-0, 1)
On the same card we'll also see Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii make his first defense, as he takes on the touted Issei Ochiai. Ishii has impressed since turning professional and his title win, back in December over Haruki Ishikawa, was a sensational bout. The challenger hasn't quite impressed like the champion, but this is certainly a chance for him to shine. We expect big things from both men going forward, but the winner should be put on the fast track to more notable honours.
Yuto Takahashi (11-4, 5) vs Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10)
Another Japanese title fight will see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Yuto Takahashi make his first defense, as he goes up against his mandatory Masamichi Yabuki. Takahashi scored a surprise title win last October, when he over-came veteran Kenichi Horikawa, and will be looking to prove that he can over-come a prime puncher like Yabuki, as well as a faded veteran like Horikawa. For Yabuki this is his first title fight and he'll be looking to prove he really is destructive at Light Flyweight, having move down to the division last year.
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.
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) Vs Yusuke Suzuki (11-3, 7)
The Bantamweight division has had a lot of attention in recent years, thanks in part to the depth in quality of both fighters and fights. We've obviously seen Naoya Inoue's fantastic bout with Nonito Donaire earlier this year, and going back a little further Shinsuke Yamanaka's bouts with Anselmo Moreno. In regards to the lower weights the Bantamweight division has been the one with the consistent star power, and some of the most exciting bouts. With that in mind we want to see another Bantamweight war, and a fight between Keita Kurihara and Yusuke Suzuki. These two have styles that should gel to give us nothing other than unadulterated violence.
At 26 years old Kurihara is coming into his physical prime, and is proving to be a brutal, aggressive monster. He's heavy handed, very exciting, strong and although still somewhat crude he's the type of fighter you do not stand and fight toe-to-toe with. Coming into the new year he's on a real role, with 6 straight wins since a 2017 loss to Hiroaki Teshigawa. That winning run has seen him defeat an interesting array of fighters like Ryan Lumacad, Yuki Strong Kobayashi, Warlito Parrenas and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth.
Kurihara can be outboxed, we saw that against Kobayashi, but his power is often too much and Kobayashi was dropped 4 times during their 12 rounder. His aggression is intense and he is edging towards a world title fight in the next year or two,.
At 30 years old Suzuki is the much older man, but like Kurihara he's a fighter who loves a fighter. Suzuki was a solid amateur before turning professional way back in 2012. Sadly his career has been rather stop-start, and he lost the entire of 2018 due to injuries. Thankfully however he had a good 2019, and last time out he won a war with Yuta Saito to become the Japanese Bantamweight champion. In the ring he's tough, rough, exciting and aggressive. He's less of a puncher than Kurihara, but has a higher level of activity, and we have seen him battle through real adversity in the past. In fact his bout with Saito saw his face end up swollen and bloodied, but he refused to back down and just bit down and fought back.
Like Kurihara he can be out boxed, out moved and out thought, but few will beat him in a straight up fight. In many ways he and Kurihara are made for each other, and neither man would look to take a backwards step.
If the bout was made early in 2020 it would be a chance to see the Japanese and OPBF titles being unified, though Suzuki would likely make a mandatory defense first as part of the 2020 Champion Carnival. With that in mind maybe we'll see both men fight once before facing each other in a bout that really would leave fans speechless. This could be a legitimate fight of the year contender, and would see both men take a scary amount of punishment.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This past week has certainly not been a massive week for Asian boxing, but has still been a pretty interesting one, with upsets, debuts and action. This wasn't a week that will go down as a major one but was still fairly entertaining.
Fighter of the Week
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13)
Heavy handed Japanese fighter fighter Keita Kurihara took a huge step towards his first world title fight as he stopped fellow world ranked fighter Sukpraserd Ponpitak in 2 rounds. We all know that Kurihara isn't ready for a world title shot, and won't be for some time, but was another good win for the 26 year old who has now notched 6 straight wins since a 2017 loss to Hiroaki Teshigawara. Although not yet in the title mix, it seems like it'll only be a matter of time before he gets a shot at the big time.
Performance of the Week
Kenbati Haiyilao (6-2-1, 1)
Unheralded Chinese fighter Kenbati Haiyilao travelled to Thailand with a plan, and put that plan into effect perfectly as he ended the unbeaten run of Nick Frese. It's fair to say that Haiyilao was given little chance but put on an excellent performance to out box, out fight and out think Frese, who struggled to get into the bout. What makes Haiyilao's win even more impressive is that he was only a few weeks removed from his previous bout, a technical draw with Shaoheng Chang. An excellent performance for a fantastic, yet low key, upset win.
Aso Ishiwaki Vs Ryuji Ikeda
There wasn't many bouts that really stood out this week, though we genuinely enjoyed the exciting, though short, battle between 20 year old Aso Ishiwaki and former Japanese Light Welterweight title challenger Ryuji Ikeda. This was fought at a fun pace from the opening round, and saw both men unloading some big shots. The fight wasn't an all out war, it didn't last long enough to become such a thing, but it was very entertaining a lovely hidden gem in a very quiet week
Aso Ishiwaki Vs Ryuji Ikeda (Rd2)
Our Fight of the Week also provided the round of the week, with round 2 of the aforementioned contest between Aso Ishiwaki and Ryuji Ikeda. This was thrilling with Ikeda looking to set a fast pace and Ishiwaki boxing smartly, using his power and strength and eventually breaking down Ikeda in a very fan friendly round of action. In a different week this may not have got a mention, but as it is this is our recommendation for fans to give a view to this week!
No valid contender this week
Hasanboy Dusmatov (1-0, 1)
After winning an Olympic gold medal in 2016 Hasanboy Dusmatov was one of the fighters that so many fans wanted to see make his professional debut. It was assumed that he would be fast tracked and be moved aggressively and be in the title mix almost instantly. Instead though he flirted with the professional ranks, whilst remaining an amateur...until this week when he finally turned professional and looked sensational stopping an over-matched Mexican teenager. He looked, crisp, sharp and very confident in the ring, and fingers crossed he'll manage to move quickly through the next 12 months, like several other Uzbek fighters.
Can Xu (17-2, 3) vs Manny Robles III (18-0, 8)
The coming week is another that isn't packed with with huge fights, but it's hard to not get excited about the WBA Featherweight title fight between Can Xu and Manny Robles III. This has the makings of an all out war, and we're really excited about this. Neither man is a big puncher, but both let leather fly and both are tough so we suspect this will be less abotu boxing, and more about trying to out man the other in what could end up being a legitimate fight of the year contender.
What a week we've had! It may not have been day to day action and huge news, but what a week! We have had the WBSS Bantamweight final, and it was clearly worth the wait, we have seen the God's Left final being set, and we know who will challenger for the Japanese Super Featherweight title at the 2020 Champion Carnival. We've also seen Kazakh prospects shine Stateside and a lot more! Sadly though the awards have been dominated by 1 fight, though in fairness it was a little bit special!
Fighter of the Week
Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16)
Going into this week we all knew that Naoya Inoue was an offensive machine, he was stopping top fighters with ease and blitzing through the likes of Jamie McDonnell, Juan Carlos Payano and Emmanuel Rodriguez. What we didn't know was how he took a shot, how he handled real adversity, and what he'd do when a fighter didn't just wilt under his power and pressure. Was he going to break mentally? Was he chinny? This week Inoue's win over Nonito Donaire answered those questions in style. Inoue fought through his first professional cut, he gritted through Donaire's incredible hook, and even battled hard though what turned out to be a fractured orbital and a broken nose. He not only battled through injury but he did so against a really dangerous puncher, and should, really, have become the second man to stop Donaire, who was only allowed to continue after a 10 count in round 11 due to some bizarre work from the referee. Now the IBF and WBA Bantamweight champion and the Muhammad Aliu Trophy winner, there was never any doubt over the Fighter of the Week was
Performance of the Week
Nonito Donaire (40-6, 26)
A real rarity is a fighter who loses being given the Performance of the Week honours, but it's hard to argue with Nonito Donaire deserving almost as many plaudits as Naoya Inoue. The Filipino was expected to be destroyed, taken out early on and was hardly given a chance heading into the WBSS final. Many wanted to complain about how he'd reached the final, the injuries to Ryan Burnett and Zolani Tete and hoe he had essentially gotten to the WBSS final by default. He however knew he got there on merit, and was a legitimate top Bantamweight, even at the age of 36. Up against Inoue, as a massive under-dog Donaire put in one of his greatest ever performances. He managed to not only take the best shots of the Monster, but also injured Inoue, fracturing Inoue's right eye and nose, cutting Inoue and rocking Inoue. He managed to get up from a sickening body shot in round 11 and gave a performance that was truly exceptional. Even in defeat the "Filipino Flash" showed what a credit to the sport he was.
Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire
When the Fighter of the Week takes on the man who had the Performance of the Week it's fair to say they also had the bout of the week. In fact they had one of the bouts opf the year. The fight swung one way, then the other with several notable moment shifts, notably swinging to Donaire in round 2, Inour in round 3, Donaire in round 8, then back to Inoue at the end of round 10. Not only was there momentum shifts, but there was drama, with Inoue being cut early on, Donaire being rocked several times before being dropped, Inoue himself being rocked. Not only was it dramatic but it was also a technical war, with clean, power shots being landed by both. This was a war, but a very technical one, with massive punches, respect and heart from both. It was the WBSS final we deserved, more than 1 year after the tournament began.
Takuya Watanabe Vs Taiki Minamoto
Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire (Rd 11)
We should really just sub-title this weeks awards as "The Inoue Vs Donaire award week" as they have also taken the Round of the Week award for the dramatic and amazing 11th round. The round was the only 10-8 round in the fact, despite what one judge ended up doing, and in fact it could actually have been a 10-7 round. Despite that it was a round that was simple amazing, with the only complaints being about the referee. Inoue gone into the round with confidence rebuilt after some tough rounds and part way through the round he landed a huge left hand to the body which sent Donaire down. Inoue looked go for the finish before Donaire went down, but was essentially blocked by the referee who also gave Donaire a very long 10 count. Despite being robbed of the stoppage Inoue went for the finish through what was left of the round, hurting, wobbling and damaging Donaire. The Filipino some how stayed up right before for the full round in what was a sensational battle of aggression against heart. This was one of the best rounds of the year, despite being relatively one sided.
Takuya Watanabe Vs Taiki Minamoto (3)
Souhadou Traore KO1 Ekarat Gordon
We obviously need something obscure in our weekly awards right? Right! Well we head over to Thailand for the KO of the week as Thai based Souhadou Traore, originally from the Ivory Coast, blasted out 19 year old debutant Ekarat Gordon. The 34 year old Traore connected with a brutal right hand behind the ear that completely flattened Gordon. Thankfully Gordon did get up by himself after the bout, but was clearly out cold following the shot.
Shokichi Iwata (4-0, 3)
There were a number of prospects in action this week, though the one who impressed us the most was unbeaten Japanese youngster Shokichi Iwata, who stopped Alejandro Cruz Valladares live on DAZN. The performance wasn't flawless, in fact it was very flawed, but very exciting and saw Iwata fight to his opponents weaknesses. Valladares was lacking in power and Iwata knew he could take the shots of the Mexican whilst also being aggressive himself. Eventually the difference in punching power paid off, with Cruz being stopped in what was a fun bout, and a smart move from Iwata's team. Interestingly this bout wasn't shown on Japanese TV, but was on the American DAZN.
Keita Kurihara (14-5, 12) Vs Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (24-10, 16)
After a few really good weeks there is a bit of a downturn in bout quality this coming week, however we really like the look of the scheduled 8 rounder on Friday between Keita Kurihara and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. This bout won't be for Kurihara's OPBF title, but does pit two world ranked fighters against each other and we're expecting a genuine fire fight here between two men who do believe in their power. Kurihara, should he win, will likely be moved towards a potential world title eliminator, so is risking a lot against a very under-rated Thai foe.
This past week has been a strange week of action. We had two notable Japanese cards, a pretty interesting Thai card, a Korean card and brilliant Hong Kong card. It's made for a busy week, and a fairly interesting one!
Fighter of the Week
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9)
Japanese Light Middleweight Hironobu Matsunaga takes home top honours this week following his excellent win over Nobuyuki Shindo, to claim the Japanese title at 154lbs. Matsunaga had entered the bout was the under-dog against the taller, longer and more experienced Shindo. Despite all the disadvantages Matsunaga set the pace, was in Shindo's face and later went on to break down Shindo, who retired between rounds 6 and 7. The bout may end Shindo's career though for Matsunaga it's his biggest win, by far, and extends his current winning run to 9 bouts. It's hard to know how long Matsunaga will reign atop the Japanese domestic scene but this week is his week!
Performance of the Week
Keita Kurihara (14-5, 12)
The Performance of the Week award was one of the easier awards this week, with Japanese puncher Keita Kurihara being the run away winner. The OPBF Bantamweight king created history by scoring the fastest ever win an OPBF Bantamweight title fight. The performances lasted for a little over 30 seconds but the hard hitting Kurihara impressed with every one of those seconds, whilst sending the popular Warlito Parrenas into retirement. Given how Kurihara had failed to put away Yuki Strong Kobayashi in December this was a real return to form for the youngster!
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li
It's not often that Hong Kong gets our attention but it did this week for an excellent card from DEF HK. The main event of that card saw local hopeful Raymond Poon KaiChing take on aggressive Chinese southpaw Xiang Li in what turned out to be a really, really exciting 10 round back and forth war. On paper Poon had the advantages in terms of power, home advantages and crowd support but Li set a high tempo, fought with real hunger and looked the more technically sound fighter in what was a brilliant back and forth contest. This one is one that all fans should give a watch to, and it really was an instant Closet Classic between two young men each looking to prove a point.
Raymond Poon KaiChing vs Xiang Li (round 10)
We'll stay with the Fight of the Week for our Round of the Week, with the final round between Poon and Li being utterly brilliant as both dug deep, deeper than either was expected to dig. This was 3 minutes of desperation from two men desperate to take home the win, two men determined to give all they had, and two men who's styles just gelled. This was exactly what we love in the sport, and a reminder as to why some of these smaller cards are among the very, very best that the sport can provide.
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
Former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi was behind on the scorecards, being out boxing, out moved and out though by Shun Wakabayashi. It seemed like he was around 5 minutes from losing to the unheralded Wakabayashi. That was until he connected with a brutal uppercut that left Wakabayashi out cold, staring at the lights and made it easy to forget the action that had come before hand. The shot erased all of Wakabayashi's good work and showed what an amazing equliser Ohashi's power is.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Macau isn't known as a boxing hotspot but it's got a potential gem within it's ranks in the form of Lap Cheong Cheong, who secured his 6th win this Sunday, when he beat Muhammad Wahid of Indonesia. Cheong's win wasn't necessary a big win, but his performance filled us with a lot of excitement, as he spent 6 rounds going full tilt in pursuit of a stoppage. He had the bout easily won after 4 rounds, but wanted to put on a show, wanted to stop his Indonesian foe and showed touches of star potential He's not an amateur standout, like many Prospects of the Week, but there is a lot to like about him. Aged 22 we're expecting to see Cheong competing at a much higher level in the future and given his career so far he is going to be a very special fighter to watch.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12)
We have some amazing fights over the next 7 days, though the fight we're most looking forward to is, unsurprisingly, the WBSS semi final bout between Naoya Inoue and Emmanuel Rodriguez. The bout will be for a number of titles, including the IBF, WBA "regular" and Ring Magazine titles, it'll also be for a place in the WBSS final and a chance to claim the Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Whilst there are other great bouts, such as the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, as well as the potentially fantastic IBF Light Flyweight title bout between Felix Alvarado and Reiya Konishi, there was only ever going to be one bout winning this category. It is, however, a week to be very, very excited about. We are in for something very, very special!
We've finally seen the end of April and entered May, a month set to be one of the most hectic and crazy of the year. The move from April to May is certainly an exciting one, and this past week has certainly seen action pick up with a host of notable bouts featuring Asian fighters. We've already had some fantastic fights on US pay TV, Japanese streaming services and for free on Youtube. Boxing is certainly picking up and doing so fast!
Fighter of the Week
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21)
After a couple of disappointing performances Filipino world champion Jerwin Ancajas needed to shine, he needed to re-excite fans and show what he could do when he was on point. This past Saturday he got the perfect chance to show fans, and really did all he was asked of. He dominated mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai of Japan in a highly impressive fashion, forcing the doctor to save the challenger in at the start of round 7. Although Funai was the perfect foil for Ancajas it was the type of performance that reminds people what the Filipino can do, and why he should be regarded as a top fighter in one of the sports toughest divisions.
Performance of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4)
Whilst our Fighter of the week was a Filipino who stopped a Japanese fighter our performance of the week came from a Japanese fighter who dominated a Filipino. once beaten Japanese fighter travelled to the Philippines and put on a show, beating Al Toyogon to claim the WBA Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title. This was Sagawa's first bout outside of Japan, and his first fight at Super Featherweight, but he fought like a man determined to win, dominating the middle and later sections of the fight after a competitive start. Although Sagawa should have been on the map of fight fans before the bout, this win was certainly something that will get more fans talking about him.
Taiki Minamoto Vs Reiya Abe
Their was some real contenders for fight of the week, but for us the Japanese Featherweight title bout between Taiki Minamoto and takes the award. The fight had everything! There was drama early, with Abe being dropped in each of the first 2 rounds, it had heart, as Abe battled back from his poor start and Minamoto fought through a badly swollen eye, it had skill, from both fighters, and it was so close to call that the draw fight entirely fair. It wasn't an all out war but was a marvellous 10 round domestic title fight that showed what both could do and left fans wanting more. Whether we get a rematch or not is unclear, though it certainly appears to be something fans want. If a rematch doesn't happen it's likely due to Minamoto moving up weight and if he adds himself to the regional mix at 130lbs then that's not going to be a bad thing either!
Ryo Sagawa Vs Al Toyogon (round 11)
After being out boxed for 6 straight rounds Al Toyogon knew he had to turn things around, in a big way, and he came out fighting in the penultimate round of their bout. Sagawa was willing to respond and we got 3 minutes of brilliant action, with the Filipino giving all he had into trying to take down Sagawa. The bout was a little bit one sided overall, but this round really stood out as being something very special, and was one of the few where they both went for it. This was sustained action from start to end. A fantastic round!
Sadly their was no KO of note this past week, though we were very impressed by the shot from Kudura Kaneko that dropped Rikuto Adachi, who was stopped when he got to his feet rather than clean KO'd.
Shokichi Iwata (2-0, 1)
The prospect of the week was one of the toughest to pick this week. Their was great performances from so many young fighters, such as Kudura Kaneko, impressive debuts for former amateur standouts Criz Russu Laurente and Criztian Pitt Laurente and Hinata Maruta. The most impressive however was Shokichi Iwata, who totally schooled 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama. This was a sensational domestic debut from Iwata and it is going to be a very exciting journey to see how far he can go. Notably he revealed he only showed 20% of what he feels he's capable of, if there's another 80% to go then we really do have another Japanese super talent ready to make a name for themselves.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23)
We all love a good shoot out and the upcoming OPBF Bantamweight title bout between Keita Kurihara and Warlito Parrenas is expected to be a full on shoot out, with both men believing in their power more than their boxing skills. We're not expecting a display of boxing IQ and nuances defense, but we are expecting a thrilling war for as long as this one lasts.
Whilst the start of May was exciting, with a number of notable bouts taking place in the first few days of the month things go off the charts in the middle portion of the month with a string of major bouts, and some very, very exciting lesser bouts.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) Vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling bout for the OPBF Bantamweight title fight we'll see defending champion Keita Kurihara defending his title, for the first time, and battle against Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas. The champion is really exciting, and although not the most technically complete fighter is a really brutal puncher. The challenger, who also has brutal power, is regarded as a bit of a glass cannon, and will feel like he's in last chance saloon. This is set to be a really thrilling, all action shoot out. Of the two Kurihara is the younger, fresher, man but Parrenas has got experience at a very high level and will be looking to rely on that experience here. We're expecting fireworks aplenty here.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-2, 8) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (14-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
A second title bout on this day will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Nobuyuki Shindo defending his belt, for the second time, as he takes on mandatory challenger Hironobu Matsunaga. Shindo made his first defense late last year, fighting to a draw in a ridiculously good bout with Akinori Watanabe, and will be looking to build on some recent results as he takes on the in form Matsunaga is riding an 8 fight winning streak, including notable wins over Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Koshinmaru Saito.
Mark Anthony Geraldo (37-9-3, 18) vs Neil John Tabanao (17-4, 11) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
An interesting GAB Super Bantamweight title bout will see talented Mark Anthony Gerlado take on Neil John Tabanao. It's rare we get really good GAB title fights, but this one is worthy of some noting, partly due to the level that Geraldo has fought at, sharing the ring with a real who's who including McJoe Arroyo, Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali in recent years, and partly due to the fact Tabanao is a solid challenger. The champion is a good gatekeeper, and only tends to lose to people who can compete at the top. Tabanao on the other hand is a tough, game foe who has never been stopped and comes into this bout knowing a win could boost his standing.
Charly Suarez (2-0, 2) Vs Waldo Sabu (13-14, 3) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
A second notable bout on this card will see highly regarded former Filipino amateur standout Charly Suarez take on Waldo Sabu. This is a huge mismatch, but given how we're expecting to see Suarez make a mark at a higher level later in the near future this bout is pretty significant. We're going to be really excited to see where Suarez goes, but his next bout really does need to be a big step up in class, as he can't waste any more time at this level.
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest bouts for this portion of the month will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title, for the second time. The talented South African will take on mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda. The champion looked sensational in December, when he defended the title against Masahiro Sakamoto, but at the age of 36 father time will likely catch up with him before long. The talented Kuroda is solid, but this will be a big step up for him, and he will need a career best performance to even be competitive with the champion.
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4) vs Renoel Pael (23-8-1, 12) - Tokyo, Japan
Charly Suarez isn't the only hotly tipped former amateur stand out to be in action in the coming days, with Ryusei Kawaura set to take a notable step up in class and take on talented Filipino Renoel Pael. The unbeaten Japanese youngster is tipped for really, really big things and this is the next natural step forward for him. Pael has never been stopped, and has shared the ring with several notable fighters including Andrew Moloney. A stoppage for Kawaura here would be a huge statement, though a win would certainly be impressive at this early point in his career.
Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9) vs Jelbirt Gomera (14-5, 7) - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Filipino fighter Jelbirt Gomera is certainly not a big name, though has shared the ring with the likes of Can Xu and Hidenori Otake, and will now be taking on former world champion Ryan Burnett, in what will be Burnett's first bout since losing to Nonito Donaire last year. Gomera will clearly be the under-dog, but will come into the bout knowing that this is the perfect time to face Burnett, after his lay off and injury.
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) Vs Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11) II -Tokyo, Japan
A really interesting rematch that we'll see this month will pit Japanese Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura against former champion Yusaku Kuga. These two had an absolute war in their first bout, and we're expecting another brutal brawl here. Both are technically limited, but very aggressive and exciting. Tamura is a volume guy, who marches forward through an insane amount of thudding leather, whilst Kuga is a puncher, who looks to take opponents out. With that combination of styles we may be set for something really, really special here.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) - Glasgow, United Kingdom
One of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 will see top Bantamweights collide, as Naoya Inoue takes on Emmanuel Rodriguez in a WBSS Semi-final bout, which will have the IBF and Ring magazine titles up for grabs. Inoue will be looking to create history, as the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe, whilst Rodriguez will be looking to destroy the all-Asian WBSS dream final between Inoue and Nonito Donaire. Whilst the WBSS has had it's issues with this season, this semi-final, and the eventual final, are going massively anticipated by fans, and really can't complain about quality of this bout, or the final.
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.
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