Whilst March has been a busy month, it ends in amazing fashion with a lot of activity crammed into the last week or so of the month. The action isn't high profile stuff, by any stretch, but we will see a lot of exciting and talented prospects in action and we should end up seeing a lot of quality youngsters looking to show what they can do.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Gonte Lee (2-0-1, 1) Vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6)
On March 25th Teiken will be putting on a show, with several talented and unbeaten fighters in action. Arguably the pick of the match ups on the show will see the unbeaten Gonte Lee take on his first domestic foe and return to the ring after more than a year of inactivity. In the opposite corner will be the always fun to watch Aso Ishiwaki, who will be looking to return to winning ways after a shocking blow out loss to Jin Sasaki at the end of 2020. Give that both men have a lot to prove here we expect a really good bout, and given the styles of the two men we could end up with a very compelling match up.
Katsuya Fukui (2-0, 2) Vs Hiroki Hanabusa (8-1-3, 3)
Another unbeaten Japanese hopeful facing his first domestic foe is Katsuya Fukui, who goes up against the once beaten Hiroki Hanabusa. Fukui has impressed so far, but has only had 4 combined rounds in his career and this is a major step up for him. Saying that however he is regarded as a top prospect and was a good former amateur, who will be looking to get his career back on track after 2020, a year in which he was left out of the ring, twiddling his thumbs. Hanabusa on the other hand went unbeaten in his first 11 before suffering a TKO loss to the brilliabt Toshiki Shimomachi last year, in a Japanese Youth title fight. Hanabusa will be wanting to bounce back from that loss and is a very serious test for Fukui.
Kenji Fujita (0-0) Vs Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1)
In a very easy to over-look bout on this show we'll see former amateur standout Kenji Fujita make his long awaited professional debut, as he takes on the under-rated Motosuke Kimura. On paper this shouldn't be a test for Fujita, who really was an excellent amateur, however Kimura has proven, more than once, that he has the tools to test touted prospects. Just last year we saw Kimura put Shigetoshi Kotari on his backside, and he has also managed to run Hikari Mineta very close. This is a much, much tougher debut than it looks on paper, and should be a very solid test for Fujita.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (16-0, 9) vs Lunga Sitemela (13-0, 7)
Unbeaten Tajik Super Featherweight hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov will be looking to make the next defense of his WBC International Super Featherweight title as he goes up against South African challenger Lunga Sitemela. On paper this is a brilliant match up, and one to get genuine excited by, with the records suggesting a genuine test for Yaqubov. Sadly we don't think the bout will be as good as it looks, with Sitemela having a rather padded record, but it's always good to see unbeaten fighters risking their records against each other, and Yaqubov is certainly someone to keep an eye on regardless.
Erzhan Turgumbekov (8-1-1, 2) vs Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev (7-2-1, 3)
The once beaten Erzhan Turgumbekov, from Kyrgyzstan, looks to bounce back from a TKO loss to the sensational Albert Batyrgaziev, as he takes on Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev in a very nicely matched bout. Turgumbekov showed good skills and heart in his loss, but was broken down after 10 rounds by Batyrgaziev, who looks like a future world champion, and we suspect his style should make for a fun to watch bout here against Gadzhialiev, from Russia. Notably Gadzhialiev is 1-2-1 in his last 4, but the 3 bouts he didn't win were all very close and we expect this to be another close one. This might be the hidden gem of the weekend.
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1) vs Junuel Lacar (8-6-3, 6)
After more than 2 years out of the ring we finally see the ring return of former world title contender Mark Anthony Barriga. The brilliantly talented Filipino is a true joy to watch and the boxing purists will love everything he does in the ring. Sadly though he has been out of action since a 2018 loss to Carlos Licona. Given the long break from the ring we can't really complain about him having an easy return here, and he really is in soft as he goes up against the very limited Junuel Lacar, who has lost 5 of his last 6.
Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) vs Bryan Tamayo (6-1-2, 2)
Another former world title challenger returning to the ring after a lengthy lay off is Arthur Villanueva, who takes on the once beaten Bryan Tamayo. "King" Arthur was once regarded as a talented Filipino who had the skills to go all the way. Sadly he has failed in his biggest fights and now has just 2 wins in the last 4 years. He needs an impressive showing here. Tamayo on the other hand is a rising 23 year old hopeful looking for his biggest win. This might be a case of "right place, right time" for Tamayo.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-7, 41)
Fast rising 17 year old prospect Phoobadin Yoohanngoh takes his next step forward as he battled against Thai veteran Conlatarn Piriyapinyo, who is more than twice Phoobadin's age. The talented teenager has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, winning "The Fighter" in 2019, then winning a regional title in 2020, which he has since defended with an excellent win against Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, and we could be just a year or two from him really breaking out. Chonlatarn on the other hand has become a faded force and is a long, long way from the fighter who was once 43-0. Despite being a faded force Chonlatarn is a former multi-time world title challenger and should have some tricks up his sleeve to test Phoobadin with.
Tanes Ongjunta (7-1, 4) vs Suriyan Satorn (61-11, 41) (AKA Kompayak Porpramook)
Talented former Thai amateur standout Tanes Ongjunta was shocked last year when he ran into an inspired Adrian Lerasan in March. Since then he has reeled off 3 low key wins and now takes a massive step up in class to face former world champion Suriyan Satorn, better known as Kompayak Porpramook. We've been impressed by the natural boxing of Ongjunta, but the loss last year does leave us with worries about his durability and he really did take a lot of punishment there. As for Suriyan, he's very, very much a faded fighter and he has been picking up a lot of losses in recent years, and is 2-6 in his last 8. Despite being a faded force the veteran always comes to fight and should put in a legitimate effort here, though we suspect he will come up short.
Central Gym, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Shun Kubo (14-2, 9) Vs Ruito Saeki (7-4-1, 1)
Former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo has gone through a few horrible years with his career, being battered by Daniel Roman and Can Xu, as well as suffering injuries, but he seems determined to get his career back on track and is after some confidence building wins. Here he's up against the under-rated and determined Reuito Saeki, who looks to return to winning ways after going 0-3-1 in his last 4. On paper this looks a bit like a mismatch, but the style of Saeki will almost certainly be a nightmare for the skilled but fragile Kubo and this could end up being a lot, lot more competitive than it looks on paper.
Takahiro Tai (1-0, 1) Vs Koichi Wakita (7-2-3, 2)
Charismatic prospect Takahiro Tai returns for his second professional bout after an eye catching and very fan friendly debut late last year. In the opposite corner is credible domestic fighter Koichi Wakita, who will not want to be embarrassed by the young upstart. For those who missed Tai's debut it was full of show boating, dropping hands and stance switching as he tried to show off just some of the tricks in his bag. Whilst it was against an over-matched foe we suspect the style he showed is the one we'll see from him a lot over the coming years. Whilst Wakita probably lacks the power to be a real dangerman here, he does have the skills and experience to punish Tai's slip ups and this could end up being a real learning experience for the youngster.
It's fair to say that 2020 has been a bit of a write off so far boxing. Thankfully for fans of the sport there are good times ahead, and as always in this "Introducing" series we want to talk about someone we're excited to see building their career. Today we're going to look at a Japanese fighter many tipped for Olympic success, but he failed to qualify for the Japanese team, and as a result announced his plans to turn professional earlier this month. That is is the brilliant Kenji Fujita.
Fujita, along with 3 other top Japanese amateurs, signed with Teiken earlier this year, and was announced officially as a Teiken fighter on June 6th. That was great given that back in November Fujita announced he was retiring from amateur boxing, after 10 years of being involved in the sport. He had lost in the All Japan final in 2019 to Hayato Tsutsumi and stated that he was done ending his days in the unpaid ranks with a career record of 153-21 (40).
It was just amazing numbers that Fujita put up but also great achievements. Going all the way back to 2010 he had won at the Japanese Junior Selection Tournament, winning at 54KG's in the same tournament that Naoya Inoue won the 48KG division. We won't go through all his success but he would claim 3 All Japan amateur titles and a bronze at the 2013 Asian Championships in Jordan. It's fair to add that had it not been for Arashi Morisaka and Hayato Tsutsumi there's a real chance he would have claimed a lot more in terms of domestic titles.
Fighting out of the Self Defenses Forces Physicla Education School, Fujita has come from a hot bed of boxing talent, including new professional stable mate Subaru Murata.
Despite having around 175 amateur bouts to his name Fujita is still relatively young. He only turned 26 earlier this year. He has his best years ahead of him, unlike Satoshi Shimizu who was also a former SDF fighter who remained an amateur for far too long. Fujita mixes experience and youthfulness perfectly here.
As a fighter Fujita has a really nice style, fighting out of the southpaw stance. He moves around the ring really easily, he's very light on his feet, going forward and backwards, he's a very accurate puncher, with lightning quick hands. Although very technical he's also able to show an aggressive side when he needs to but does appear to be the type of fighter who prefers action at mid to long range.
We do like how Fujita fighters but it seems likely that Teiken will try to take what they have and just tweak things a bit. We suspect they will try to add an extra bit of offensive zing to Fujita's mind set. We also suspect they will look to work on his inside game, which is the one area where he is deficient, as was seen in a number of his meetings with Morisaka.
We've seen Teiken sign up a lot of talented amateur fighters in recent years, such as Mikito Nakano, Kuntae Lee, Kenshi Noda, Shokichi Iwata and Fujita is another in that mould. The gym, which did seem to fall asleep at the wheel, is now building an excellent stable of former amateur standouts, and Fujita is among the very best.
At the moment Fujita hasn't had a date set for his professional debut or pro-test, but it seems likely that his pro-test will be in late summer with his debut coming in late 2020.
For those wanting to see what Fujita is about we've included one of his many clashes with Arashi Morisaka below.
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