VsThe back end of April is a brilliant month, as we run into what will be a packed May. Over the next 2 weeks or we get title fights at almost every level, from Japanese youth to World, we get world title eliminators and we get notable names all in action as the sport begins to kick on and we head towards bigger and better times in the world of Asian boxing.
Amakusa Park Gym, Asakuchi, Okayama, Japan
Seigo Yuri Akui (15-2-1, 10) Vs Yuto Nakamura (11-6-1, 8)
To begin this part of the month attention turns to Okayama for a bout featuring Japanese Flyweight champion Seigo Yuri Akui, who tests the water at Super Flyweight. The explosive puncher will be up against youngster Yuto Nakamura, who's a talented fighter but was really thrown to the wolves last time out, when he took on Ryo Akaho at 122lbs. This should be a good test for Akui and a chance for him to go a few rounds, though he should be favoured to pick up the win and give local fans something to cheer about.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Hironobu Matsunaga (17-1, 11) Vs Rei Nakajima (4-0)
In a compelling Japanese Light Middleweight title bout we'll see defending champion Hironobu Matsunaga take on unbeaten challenger Rei Nakajima. This bout is one that's easy to over-look, but do so at your own peril. Matsunaga has proven to be one of the most fan friendly fighters in Japan, with an aggressive pressure style, that makes for great viewing whilst Nakajima is one of the smartest and quickest fighters in the country. The styles here should gel and we're expecting a really interesting contest between two men with very different styles.
Kai Ishizawa (7-1, 7) Vs Yuni Takada (8-6-2, 3)
Another title bout will see JBC Youth Minimumweight champion Kai Ishizawa defending his title against Yuni Takada. The exciting Ishizawa is expected to go on to bigger and better things over the coming years, but it seems clear that he wants to make at least one defense of the Youth title, which he won in 2018, before being forced to vacate it. Takada isn't a terrible challenger, though sadly for him he's up against a very special young fighter and we suspect Takada will struggle to survive when Ishizawa begins to go through the gears.
Reiya Abe (20-3-1, 9) Vs Koshin Takeshima (4-1-1, 3)
In a compelling non-title fight we'll see "genius" boxer Reiya Abe take on former amateur standout Koshin Takeshima. The once touted Abe has struggled in recent years, and we've often felt that for all his talent his style doesn't make for the most fun viewing, as he's a negative technician. A tweak to his in ring mentality and style would serve him well. As for Takeshima he was touted when he turned professional but has struggled to really put a complete performance together and another setback here will see his floundering career move to the point of no return. Interestingly this is a bout neither man can really afford to lose, but yet it's not a bout that we expect will be particularly fun, or exciting.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) Vs Tetsuya Hisada (34-10-2, 20)
Long reigning WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji looks to make his 8th defense as he takes on determined Japanese challenger Tetsuya Hisada in a bout that is 4 years in the making. These two were meant to fight in 2017, when Kenshiro was the Japanese champion and Hisada the mandatory to that title. Since then the two men have gone their own ways, with Kenshiro winning the WBC title and Hisada winning the Japanese belt before challenging Hiroto Kyoguchi in 2019. Last year these two were again pencilled in to fight, before legal issues saw the bout being cancelled. Although we've waited a long time for this bout, it is one that still has some real allure, and it should be an excellent match up, with Kenshiro's footwork and boxing brain taking on the pressure and aggression of Hisada. A really compelling contest.
Ayumu Hanada (5-0, 4) Vs Mammoth Kazunori (6-3-1, 6)
Perhaps the hidden gem of the next few weeks is a match up between youngsters, as Ayumu Hanada takes on Mammoth Kazunori in what should be a genuine shoot out. Hanada, aged 19, is dubbed "Flaco" and despite his record hasn't really been seen by Japanese fans. Instead his first 4 bouts took place in Mexico, and he really is just starting to connected with Japanese fans. Sadly however he's only fought for 104 seconds in front of a Japanese audience. As for Kazunori he's a very flawed fighter, and he can be out boxed relatively easily, but with his light out power, he is always a threat and he can really mess people up with just a single clean shot, as we saw in 2019 against Lerdchai Chaiyawed. This might not be on your radar, but it really should be!
Convention Center, Ginowan, Okinawa, Japan
Daigo Higa (17-1-1, 17) Vs Ryosuke Nishida (3-0, 1)
Former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa looks to make his first defense of WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title as he takes on unbeaten hopeful Ryosuke Nishida, in what is a huge step up for Nishida. The talented and exciting Higa impressed everyone early in his career, until he lost the WBC title on the scales, prior to a bout against Cristofer Rosales. He would go on to lose to Rosales and be given a lengthy suspension for failing to make weight. Since then has had to move up 2 weight classes, and has struggled to really look like the fighter he once was, though was very impressive last time out against Yuki strong Kobayashi. In the opposite corner to Higa is a taller, longer, rangier and naturally bigger southpaw, looking for a chance to shine and make a name for himself. Nishida will enter as a very clear under-dog, but a win for him will see Nishida be the latest young Japanese fighter to have a rocket strapped to him and be sent to the moon. A high, high reward bout for both men, and a brilliant match up of pressure fighter and pure boxer.
Banana Sports Complex, Binan City, Laguna, Philippines
Charly Suarez (5-0, 4) Vs Lorence Rosas (9-5-2, 3)
Over the in the Philippines talented Filipino fighter Charly Suarez looks to secure his next win as he takes on Lorence Rosas. Sadly, given his talent, this is the latest in a line of underwhelming match ups for Suarez who turned professional with high expectations but is still treading water. Whilst this is only his 6th bout as a professional he is now 32 and his best years are behind him. Coming in to this Rosas haslost 4 in a row, and it's hard to imagine that run changing against someone as talented as Suarez. Fingers crossed Suarez's next bout will be a, long over due, step up in class.
Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Christian Araneta (19-1, 15) Vs Sivenathi Nontshinga (9-0, 9)
Over in South Africa we get a IBF Light Flyweight world title eliminator eliminator as once beaten Filipino puncher Christian Araneta takes on heavy handed South African Sivenathi Nontshinga, in a bout that will certain go under-the-radar of many fans. The talented Araneta was unfortunate in his sole loss, which came due to an injury against Daniel Valladares, but other than that loss he has looked fantastic and like one of the best pure punchers at 108lbs. Nontshinga is still a boxing baby with just 9 professional bouts to his name, adding up for 44 rounds, but he has already scored solid wins against Siyabonga Siyo and Ivan Soriano and has looked really exciting, heavy handed and dangerous. Interestingly the winner of this will, likely, become the mandatory for Felix Alvarado in what would be a sensational bout later in the year.
A new month is upon us and once again we have a lot to look forward to, in fact just over the first 8 days of the month we have more action than we typically get in a month, with some absolutely huge bouts taking place in Japan and in Thailand!
Joana Pastrana (13-1, 4) Vs Samson Tor Buamas (40-4, 22) – Spain
The month, for us, kicks off on Friday in Spain and will see Thai female veteran Samson Tor Bumas, aka Siriporn Taweesuk, take on IBF female Minimumweight champion Joana Pastrana. The Spanish fighter will be making her first defense of the title whilst Samson will be looking to roll back the clock and score her biggest win in over a decade.
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1, 41) Vs Iran Diaz (14-2-3, 6) – Thailand
Thai icon Srisaket Sor Rungvisai returns to ring Saturday to make his third defense of the WBC Super Flyweight title, taking on Mexican foe Iran Diaz. The destructive Thai had a huge 2017, defeating Roman Gonzakez twice, and began thus year with a win over Juan Francisco Estrada. This bout however is huge for another reason, with it headlining a One Championship card. For Diaz this is a huge step up in class but he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0, 2) Vs Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1, 11) – Japan
Srisaket's bout isn't the only major bout on Saturday as OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro takes on Japanese champion Masaru Sueyoshi in a compelling title unification bout. The unbeaten Mishiro claimed his title in June, when he defeated Carlo Magali, but this is a very tough first defense. On the other hand Sueyoshi on the other hand has made two defenses of the title and is much more experienced in the professional ranks.
Kirill Relikh (22-2, 19) Vs Eduard Troyanovsky (27-1, 24) – Japan
The first part of a triple header in Yokohama on the first Sunday of the month will see WBA Light Welterweight champion Kirill Relikh defending his title against Eduard Troyanovsky, in a bout that will see both men kick off their WBSS campaign. This has the potential to be very explosive, given that both have solid power, and being a real treat for fans tuning in. We know the WBSS is a big attraction and this bout could well be the real gem of the first round bouts
Ken Shiro (13-0, 7) Vs Milan Melindo (37-3, 13) – Japan
The second part of the Yokohama triple header is a brilliant looking Light Flyweight title bout between WBC champion Ken Shiro and former IBF champion Milan Melindo. The bout pits two very high skilled fighters against each other and although neither is a huge name on the global scene but are notable fighters globally. Both are genuine top 10 fighters in one of the toughest divisions in the sports and both are continuing to face tough opponent after tough opponent to make a name for themselves.
Naoya Inoue (16-0, 14) Vs Juan Carlos Payano (20-1, 9)– Japan
The final part of the triple header sees WBA “regular” champion Naoya Inoue take on former champion Juan Carlos Payano in another WBSS bout. The “Monster” is hotly tipped to win the WBSS tournament but is up against a talented southpaw here, who has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Payano is a former 2-time Olympian but is seen as being as little more than fodder for the Japanese sensation.
Unfortunately October looks to be a somewhat front heavy month with a lot of the highlights coming in the first weekend. We will however cover the rest of the month in part 2, which should be available to read in a couple of weeks time!
Earlier this week Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人] confirmed that he would be making a fully fledged move to Light Flyweight, and would be returning to the ring on September 25th to take on unbeaten Indonesian prospect Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2, 8), in what is an excellent match up to introduce Kyoguchi to the 108lb weight class. The plan is, if Kyoguchi defeats Monabesa at least, for the Watanabe gym fight to move into a bout with WBA super champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) in late December.
Although Kyoguchi Vs Budler looks to be “agreed in principle”, the move up in weight for Kyoguchi does leave the already strong Light Flyweight division with some more dream match ups, and it was a division with more than a handful of those to begin with. With that in mind we've had a look at 3 possible wars for Kyoguchi to get involved in down the line, though the reality is this list could easily have gotten to 10 or so bouts!
Vs Ken Shiro (13-0, 7)
We don't get enough all-Japanese world title bouts, which is a huge shame, but it's hard not to salivate over a potential bout between the all action Kyoguchi and the baby faced Ken Shiro to decide the #1 in Japan, if not the world, at 108lbs.
Kyoguchi, at 24, would be the younger man and naturally the bigger puncher, but whether he could apply his trade mark pressure on the intelligent and technically excellent Ken Shiro would be a major question. If Kyoguchi could apply his pressure another massive question is whether or not Ken Shiro would be able to get Kyoguchi's respect in the pocket, and provide a more durable target himself than the fighters that Kyoguchi had been beating at Minimumweight.
As the WBC champion Ken Shiro has already defeated the likes of Pedro Guevara, Gilberto Pedroza and Ganigan Lopez. He has proven himself to be a real talent who has matured as the champion, and his knockout of Lopez earlier this year showed how much more confidence he has now he's the champion. He's certainly not unbeatable, but the longer his reign as a world champion goes the more accomplished his boxing will become.
Sadly the biggest issues with this bout taking place is television, with Kyoguchi's promoter working with TBS whilst Ken Shiro is being built as a star by Fuji TV. It's unlikely that either man would want to leave their current network, but it's a great potential bout, that could happen down the line.
Vs Angel Acosta (18-1, 18)
Whilst Ken Shiro is the most proven Light Flyweight champion, at the moment, it could be argued that the most dangerous is the once beaten WBO king pin Angel Acosta. The 27 year old Puerto Rican has shown a willingness to travel and has fought in front of a Japanese audience before, battling Kosei Tanaka in May 2017 when he suffered his sole defeat. With Kyoguchi being a big puncher himself this has the makings of being something special.
Following his loss to Tanaka we've seen Acosta go on to win the WBO world title and made one defense back in June against Carlos Buitrago, a man that Acosta and Kyoguchi have both stopped. Having been out of the ring since June we suspect that Acosta will be looking to fight a notable name on his return and what would be better than travelling over to Japan to take on another of their young upstarts?
For Kyoguchi the bout would be all about trying to out do Tanaka's unanimous decision over Acosta and ripping the title from the champion. It wouldn't be a simple task at all, and Acosta isn't just a tough fighter but someone with a reputation of being a very dangerous fighter, much like Kyoguchi. If Kyoguchi decided to go to war with Acosta he could be made to pay and dragged through hell, win or lose.
This one makes a lot of sense, if the Budler bout falls through, and would almost certainly be fire works from the opening round. There's no television deal in the way and the only real problem could be a potential mandatory defense that Acosta might have to deal with sooner rather than later.
Felix Alvarado (33-2, 29)
Acosta is probably the most dangerous champion at 108lbs, but Alvarado has the title as the most dangerous fighter in the division. At the moment the Nicaraguan 29 year old doesn't hold a world title, though will be fighting or the vacant IBF title on October 21st against Randy Petalcorin. Given the timing there is almost no chance that he will be available again to fight in December, but in 2019 he'll certainly be looking to stay busy.
Alvarado is, without a doubt, one of the most avoided men in the sport. Both of his losses have come at world level, to Kazuto Ioka and Juan Carlos Reveco, and neither man really wanted to go toe-to-toe with Alvarado, who has improved since those defeats. He has gone 15-0 (14) since the back-to-back defeats and stopped notable contenders like Luis de la Rosa, Karluis Diaz, Jose Antonio Jimenez and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr during that run.
Kyoguchi, as mentioned, holds a win over Buitrago but his countryman is a totally different kettle of fish. Unlike Buitrago we wouldn't be seeing Alvarado back off him. Instead we could see Kyoguchi being forced to box off the back foot, and that would tell us a lot more about the Japanese fighter. If he elects to stand toe-to-toe with Alvarado he in real danger, though we can't help but feel like he will, at some point.
From the perspective of wanting to see two fighters who like putting opponents away face off this is probably the most mouth watering bout at 108lbs, and is one that is really hard to call. As with Acosta we know that Alvarado will travel and would go to Japan for the right money!
(Image courtesy of http://www.watanabegym.com)
The argument over which division in boxing is the best is an interesting one and is often one where there is a number of divisions of real consideration. For me however one division currently stands out above all the others due to a combination of talent, depth of competition and the match ups we've been getting in recent times, along with the bout scheduled to take place in coming months.
The division is the Light Flyweight division, which is scarily deep right now, has a brilliant mixture of talent and styles and is delivering top quality bouts on a regular basis. It also has one of the sports few unified champions and is a division with so many exciting contenders that it's almost inevitable that some top fighters will miss out on big opportunities.
For part 1 of this 4 part series we'll begin by looking at the division's word champions. The second part will look at the contenders, part 3 will look at the divisions top prospects and part 4 will be a brief look at some of the match ups coming up in the division over the coming weeks, and there are several big bouts coming up as the divisions continues to deliver.
Ryoichi Taguchi (27-2-2, 12) - WBA “Super”, IBF and Ring Magazine Champion
The 31 year old from the Watanabe Gym made his debut back in 2006, as a 19 year old and after an inauspicious start to his career, fighting in 4 rounders he would go on to claim the 2007 Rookie of the Year. A loss in 2009 slowed his rise but he would continue to develop and in 2012 he got his first title fight, fighting to a draw with Masayuki Kuroda in a bout for the Japanese national title. After Kuroda vacated the title Taguchi would claim the vacant Japanaese belt, by over-coming Yuki Chinenin 2013. Sadly for Taguchi his national title reign was a short one, lasting less than 5 months, as he came up against the sensational Naoya Inoue and was dethroned in his first defense, losing a decision to the "Monster" and becoming the first fighter to last the distance with the rising Ohashi fight.
The set back to Inoue was a big one but Taguchi bounced back and has subsequently gone 9-0-1 (4). He claimed the WBA title in late 2014 by defeating Alberto Rossel and after several defenses he went on to add the IBF and Ring titles last year, defeating Milan Melindo in an excellent bout to end 2017 and unify three world title. His current 10 fight unbeaten run has seen him defeat not only Rossel and Melindo but also Ryo Miyazaki, Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Robert Barrera, and he has also fought to a draw with big punching Carlos Canizlaes.
Tough with a great engine, the ability to adapt and freakish size for a Light Flyweight Taguchi is going to be a tough man to dethrone and is already lined up for his next defense, on May 20th against former WBA Minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler. That bout is an IBF mandatory, and Taguchi is likely to be be returning in September and December as he looks to finish 2018 with 10 defenses of some version of the WBA belt.
Ken Shiro (12-0, 6) – WBC champion
Aged 26 Ken Shiro is significantly younger than Taguchi, but is already an accomplished fighter on the professional scene, and that's despite the fact he's been a professional for less than 4 years. In what has been a really short career he has already claimed the WBC Youth, Japanese, OPBF and WBC world titles. He was earmarked for success from his debut and aggressively fast tracked, winning a title within 3 years of his debut. His record already features wins over the likes of Pedro Guevara, Ganigan Lopez, Gilberto Pedroza and Kenichi Horikawa and clearly shows the belief that his team, headed by his father, have in him.
Ken Shiro a former amateur stand out on the Japanese doemstic scene and is blessed with speed, a high boxing IQ and the youthfulness to develop his skills further. Those traits are why Ken Shiro looks like he will become one of the key faces of Japanese boxing over the next few years, along with the likes of Daigo Higa and Kosei Tanaka. Although unfortunate to have his first two world title fights, both thrillers, shown on delay in Japan he did have his opportunity to shine on live TV last time out. And he took that chance as he impressed by showing off his boxing, power, skills, speed and personality, which will certainly have won over fans who hadn't seen him before.
Although more of a pure boxer than many in the division he really does have the ability to box, brawl or fight and and is very much a chameleon in the ring.
Ken Shiro will make his next defense of the WBC title on May 25th against former champion Ganigan Lopez, the man that he originally beat for he belt last May. A win there, in impressive fashion, could well secure Ken Shiro's place as one of Fuji TV's top fighters, and could see them building shows around him in the future.
Angel Acosta (17-1, 17) – WBO champion
Puerto Rican puncher Angel Acosta is one of the divisions many big punchers and the 27 year old not only has power but also heart, skills, under-rated speed, a very good amateur back ground and stamina. He blew out his first 15 opponents in just 41 rounds, but has since gone 32 rounds in his last 3 bouts, proving his power carries late in to bouts, with 10th round stoppages against Japhet Uutoni and Juan Alejo. His only loss has also come in his last 3 bouts, suffering a decision loss to Kosei Tanaka last May, though he has since bounced back with the win over Alejo, which came in December 2017.
At the moment Acosta is one of two Puerto Rican world champions, along with Alberto Machado, and will likely have his team try to build him as one of the new faces of Puerto Rican boxing. He lacks the star power of a Tito Trinidad, Miguel Cotto or even a Juanma Lopez but like those 3 he is a naturally heavy handed fighter and will certainly thrill fans, especially given he has such brutal power at such a low weight
Acosta was pencilled in to fight Ryuji Hara earlier this year but Hara was injured in the build up, a potential bout with Merlito Sabillo also fell through for Acosta but he is now set to defend his title on June 16th. His opponent for that bout isn't yet set, though Hara is said to be the front runner. That will be his first defense as he looks to begin to establish his reign as a world champion and build on his repuation as one of the divisions stars. It's worth noting he has also been linked to potential unification bouts with both both Taguchi and Ken Shiro, and both of those bouts would be great
Carlos Canizales (20-0-1, 16) – WBA “regular” champion
The most recent man to pick up a “world” title is 25 year old Venezuelan punch Carlos Canizales, who claimed his title this past March with a close decision win over the previously unbeaten Reiya Konishi. That win saw Canizales claim a “world” title in his second attempt, having previously been held to a draw by Ryoichi Taguchi in 2016. Although a powerful puncher Canizales has shown an ability to box and move, brawl and punch. Though he has got question marks about his own durability and about his stamina, as he did appear to slow down massively against Konishi.
Canizales's best win was the one over Konishi, but he does hold one other win of note, a victory over Robert Barerra. Sadly Canizales is some way from really proving himself as a top tier fighter, but his bouts against Konishi and Taguchi proved that he was much, much better than we'd think given his competition. Sadly though he does look to be a step behind in terms of accomplishment compared to the others. Saying that however with the depth in the division Canizales has the opportunity to prove that he is world class and establish himself as a top fighter, much like the other champions.
Having only won his title in March it's unclear when Canizales will return to defend it. He may be in the queue to face Taguchi, in a rematch of their 2016 draw, or may look to have some lower tier defenses to try and help with his development. Given how the rankings currently look their will be a lot of options of Canizales and he has a great chance to establish his name as a top fighter, rather than just a secondary title holder.
(Images courtesy of Watanabe Gym, Boxmob and promociones Miguel Cotto)
It's fair to say that 2017 has been one of the best years for boxing fans in a long time, that is perhaps even more true if you're either a Japanese fight fan or someone who follows the Japanese scene incredibly closely.
We're not saying that due to the wars and great fights Japanese boxing had during the year, but more based on the number of fighters who had genuine break out years. There was fighters who really exceeded all expectations and they have helped lay the ground work for what should be an incredible year.
Here we take a look at a number of those fighters, who in some cases were highly regarded prospects, and in other cases were relative unknowns.
In total Higa fought 17 rounds this year, having fought just 38 prior, and became arguably the new face at Flyweight. His style is thrilling, his fan base is growing and given his age he could have a very long reign at the top. His next defense is scheduled for February and there's no reason why he can't 3, or even 4 defenses into 2018 as he looks to distinguish himself as the elite fighter at Flyweight. He has an ultra aggressive style that is always so impressive to see and incredibly heavy hands.
He did however finish the year with a sterling performance as he stopped the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago in what was a truly one-sided beat down by the Watanabe man, stopping Buitrago in the 8th round, when Robert Ramirez Jr finally intervened with a mercy stoppage. He'll now concentrate on building in 2018 but to have claimed his first 2 titles and moved from a 5 fight novice to a world champion in 2017 has been remarkable.
The plan now for the champion is to make his third defense in early 2018, facing off with Ganigan Lopez in a rematch of May's bout, and we're expecting that to be on live TV. His win over Pedroza and post fight interview should have been enough to convince Fuji not to hide him on a satellite channel and hopefully he'll manage to grow his profile even more in 2018, whilst continuing to develop his skills.
In December had the chance to make a name for himself at home, and took that as he defeated mandatory challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi in 9 rounds to record his first defense. Igarashi, a former WBC champion, had some moments early on but in the end the pressure and surprisingly heavy hands of the champion broke him down, with Igarashi's face being a mess and his body essentially giving in to the ever aggressive man from the Aoki gym.
To have gone from total obscurity to having featured on huge shows in both China and Japan, having had TV coverage in both and having impressed a televised audience in both it's hard to argue with Kimura being the biggest Japanese break out of the year. He wasn't a touted prospect going in to the year, only really the most hardcore of Japanese fans would have known much about him, but to end the year with wins over Shiming and Igarashi is incredibly impressive and he is worthy of whatever big fights come his way in 2018.
Whilst Inoue is currently in the world rankings we're not expecting to see him get a world title fight in 2018. What we are expecting to see from him is a lot excitement and hopefully he will be able to climb up the rankings and move to a potential title shot for 2019. Fighting at 154lbs he's in a tough division to make a mark in, but there's no reason who he can't crawl up the rankings towards a big bout, or a potential domestic showdown with the teak tough Yoshihiro Kamegai, in what would be a very interesting clash of styles.
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