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.
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10) Vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9)
The Light Flyweight division might go over looked by many fans in the West but it is among the deepest divisions in the sport right now, and the one that is screaming out for a WBSS style tournament putting all the top guys in against each other and seeing who comes out the blender on the other side. It has a great mix of fighters, styles and a lot of fighters who want to make a statement, and that is what we need to see more of. Sadly we've not had any unification bouts in a while, but the fighters all seem to be up for prove who's the best, and there's a chance we will see the top guys facing each other in 2020. With that in mind we have picked the division's dream bout here.
Kenshiro Teraji, also known as Kenshiro by many fans, is the WBC champion and the longest reigning active champion in the division. The unbeaten 28 year old has held the title since May 2017, and although yet to unify had scored some genuinely top level wins, beating the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara, Milan Melindo, Saul Juarez, Jonathan Taconing and Randy Petalcorin, whilst racking up 7 defenses. He had been pencilled in to unify just before Christmas by Felix Alvarado was forced to pull out of that bout. In the ring Kenshiro is a fantastic boxer-puncher and not only has one of the sports most under-rated jabs and body attacks, but also some of the smartest foot work in the game, dictating the distance brilliantly behind his feet, which allow him to set up his offence with ease.
Hiroto Kyoguchi is currently enjoying a world title reign in his second weight class, and although he's looked solid at 108lbs, notably gate crashing the division with a stoppage against Hekkie Budler, he hasn't really built on his title win. Defenses against Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart and Tetsuya Hisada, are both decent but not the wins that will define a legacy, to do that Kyoguchi would need to beat another top name, and fighting Kenshiro would give him a chance to do that. At his best he's a physical pressure-boxer, with explosive combinations and under-rated skills, but we really don't quite know how good he's going to be at 108lbs until he faces another solid name, similar in stature to Budler. Standing toe-to-toe with Kyoguchi is generally a mistake, but when he's faced boxers his defensive flaws have been shown up, and he's still got some polishing to do before he really peaks.
What we'd get here is an excellent boxer mover, in Kenshiro, who can stick a jab in the opponents face whilst on the move and switch to the body at any second, taking on a fantastic pressure fighter, who can box really well on the front foot. This would be a wonderful mix of styles, and it would also have a great backstory running through it due to the amateur rivalry the two had. It's not the only great bout that could be made at 108lbs, but to us it's the most interesting, by far.
(Images courtesy of Watanabe Gym and Boxmob)
So the year is coming to a close, and this will be our final weekly awards for 2019! Despite this being the last one of the year there really wasn't all that much worthy of discussion sadly, but with Christmas in the middle of the week we were never expecting too much to speak about here. Thankfully though we did get one big show at the start of the week, and a splattering of bouts here and there, to fill things up.
Fighter of the Week
Ryota Murata (16-2, 13)
Japanese Middleweight Ryota Murata completed his year of redemption in style, not only beating Steve Butler, but stopping him, breaking him both physically and mentally along the way. Murata took the best shots of Butler, and walked through them, making a feared puncher question themselves before chipping away at them with heavy shots. It was an expected win, but one that was still impressive, smart and a signal of intent. The fact it was followed by huge statements from Bob Arum about getting Murata a major name at the Tokyo Dome in 2020 just added to the whole week for the 2012 Olympic gold medal winner.
Performance of the Week
Kenshiro Teraji (17-0, 10)
When a fighter drops a world class opponent 4 times, in 4 rounds, all from body shots, then it's hard not to be impressed. We won't pretend it was a flawless performance from Kenshiro, but his victory over Randy Petalcorin was very impressive. He hardly seemed to get out of second gear and still broke down a very accomplished rival, who had gone 7 rounds with the dangerous Felix Alvarado in 2018. To have this level of performance with all the changes going on, a change of opponent and a change in whether the bout was being televised live in Japan or not, showed that no matter you through at him, Kenshiro Teraji finds a way to adapt.
Akira Yaegashi Vs Moruti Mthalane
It was the week of the old men! On Saturday American fans got a thriller between Jean Pascal and Badou Jack, a genuine global Fight of the Year contender and another example of why end of year awards should wait until the end of the damn year! A few days earlier fans who follow the Asian scene got a similar, though less competitive treat, as Akira Yaegashi and Moruti Mthalane gave us a thrilling 9 round war. The bout had it all. It had skills, it had action, it had intensity, exchanges, raw violence, drama, both men looking hurt. This was, in many ways, what you'd expect of a 36 year old Yaegashi, and was a great pre-Christmas treat!
Akira Yaegashi Vs Moruti Mthalane (round 4)
The round of the week, came from the fight of the week, and boy what a round it was. It was the round that really began the start of the end for Yaegashi, who showed he was willing to fight the wrong fight, but it was also the round that sent nothing but adrenaline through the veins of everyone watching. This was high octane, back and forth thrilling stuff, the sort of action that has helped make Yaegashi one of boxing cult fan favourites. Sadly for the Japanese warrior he was just up against a more defensively smart, less shop worn, smarter, more accurate and heavier handed South African genius and this wasn't going to be the way Yaegashi was ever going to win.
Musheg Adoian KO2 Noppadol Khongchana
The obvious choice this week was Ryota Murata's win over Steven Butler, which was a fantastic looking KO. That however was pipped on the final day of the week by an obscure, but brutal KO by Thai based Armenian-Russian puncher Musheg Adoian in Singapore, as he took out Noppadol Khongchana. This was genuinely brutal, as a right hand from Adoian knocked the Thai clean out. This was another, of the many highlights shared this year by our good friend @Hock1717, who is well and truly worth a follow by all boxing fans.
Ju Wu (9-0-2)
Chinese youngster Ju Wu is not someone many would have expected to see on the final weekly award article, but it's hard to ignore just what he did on December 26th. Not only did he make his European debut, but he actually took a win, in Switzerland, against the local favourite Alain Chervet, winning a solid upset. The Chinese fighter boxed wonderfully in Berne and recorded his third solid win of the year. After drawing 2 of his first 3 career bouts the youngster has developed fantastically. Fingers crossed that he'll develop some confidence in his power, and build on his punching power in 2020 as that's the one area he's lacking at the moment.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17)
Although this fight won't be made immediately available to watch it's impossible to deny just how much we are looking forward to this one! It's a gut test for Japanese youngster Ginjiro Shigeoka, as he defends his WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweigt title against a former world title challenger. Despite their being world title fights coming up this one has us much, much more interested than the those world title bouts, and we are really interested to see what happens here, in a fantastic contest to end 2019.
The month of Dacember really doesn't give room to think or catch our breath, and over the coming days we have prospects in action, Rookie of the Year action, world title action, a fighter heading off to the UK to face on one of the sports most promising youngsters, and so, so much more!
Akinori Watanabe (38-7-1, 32) vs Sitthidet Banti (12-5, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The always entertaining Akinori Watanabe looks to make his first defense of the OPBF Light Middleweight title as he takes on limited Thai foe Sitthident Banti. On paper this should be little more than a home coming defense for Watanabe, who won the title in Korea. Although we're not fans of the fight it's hard to criticise Watanabe for having an easy fight given his competition over the last few years, and the punishment he has taken. Given Banti was stopped by a Japanese novice a few months ago this should be an easy win for the champion.
Mikio Sakai (1-0) vs Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) - Tokyo, Japan
A much more attractive bout in Tokyo will see former amateur standouts Mikio Sakai and Ran Tomomatsu clash in a brilliantly matched contest. Of the two Sakai is the one who has impressed us more, with his better all round boxing skills, but Tomomatsu looks like a very strong fighter with an edge in power. It can be hard to get excited about two 1-0 guys facing off, but we really are looking forward to this clash, and we are expecting something very impressive from two men who are very, very capable.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (8-0, 4) vs Alan Sanchez (20-4-1, 10) - Arizona, USA
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Daniyar Yeleussinov looks to continue his climb through the rankings as he takes on experienced foe Alan Sanchez. On paper this looks like a good test for the talented, yet often frustrating, Yeleussinov but in reality it's hard to get too excited about the contest. Sanchez has proven to be a banana skin, taking the unbeaten record of John Carlo Sosa and beaten Pabo Cesar Cano, but he's only had 3 wins in 4 years, has been out of action for more than a year, and was last teen being stopped by Alexander Besputin, in September 2018. A win for the Kazakh is expected, and it's a shame we won't be able to read much into it.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-1, 13) Vs Daniel Dubois (13-0, 12) - London, United Kingdom
Former Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto makes his international debut as he takes on destructive Englishman Daniel Dubois. On paper this looks like a solid step up in class for Dubois, but in reality it seems very much like Fujimoto is being thrown to the wolves. Fujimoto has been treading water looking for a big bout, but this is likely to be far too much for Fujimoto. The small, speedy Japanese Heavyweight will lack the power to get Dubois respect, and will lack the chin needed to take the bombs from "DDD". A mismatch and oddity.
All Japan Rookie of the Year finals - Tokyo, Japan
One of the highlights of the boxing calendar! The All Japan Rookie of the Year is a culmination of the various regional tournaments and will be shown live on G+. Whilst this likely won't get much international attention the Japanese Rookie of the Year is, by far, the best annual tournament in boxing, and had often been a launchpad for Japanese fighters who on to big things. Whether you get to watch it or not this is worth making a mental note of.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) vs Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4) - Osaka, Japan
Japanese warrior Yuki Strong Kobayashi looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title as he takes on Korean challenger Ki Chang Go, in what looks like a very safe match up. Kobayashi is a gutsy fighter, who has limitations but will always fight his heart out and has improved through his career to become a very solid fighter. Go on the other hand is just a few fights removed from losing to Kobayashi's then stable mate Masahiro Sakamoto, a man who is best known for losing a Flyweight world title fight. Kobayashi should be far too strong and big for the Korean here.
Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) Vs Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final Japanese title eliminator of 2019 will be at Super Flyweight and see former world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka take on Yuta Matsuo for the right to fight the newly crowned Kenta Nakagawa. Although neither Kudaka or Matsuo are world beaters they do make for an interesting match up, and we think their limitations and styles should gel well for a very fun action bout. Don't expect a boxing bout here, but instead expect a fight! A real potential gem, among a month of great fights.
Ryota Murata (15-2, 12) Vs Steven Butler (28-1-1, 24) - Yokohama, Japan
Japanese mega star Ryota Murata looks to have a longer second reign with the WBA "regular" Middleweight title than his first, and faces off with hard hitting Canadian Steven Butler in his first defense. Murata really impressed when he avenged his loss to Rob Brant earlier this year, and another performance like that here should see him over-come Butler. The challenger is however dangerous and will be in Japan looking to score his biggest win to date. This could be very explosive.
Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) vs Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16) - Yokohama, Japan
South African veteran Morruti Mthalane returns to Japan for this third defense of the IBF Flyweight title, and he takes on fellow veteran Akira Yaegashi. We don't just see this as being a bout for the title, but a bout for survival, and the loser really is going to struggle to have any sort of a future in the sport. Both have had great careers, but with both men now on the wrong side of 35 their future in the sport is limited, and fighting back up the ranks after a loss would be very difficult. Although the older man, and more experienced fighter, Mthalane has looked the fresher man, but 37 is ancient for a Flyweight and father will catch up to him sooner or later. Then again Yaegashi, at 36, is no spring chicken either. A very interesting and massively significant match up for the Flyweight division.
Kenshiro Teraji (16-0, 9) Vs Randy Petalcorin (31-3-1, 23) -Yokohama, Japan
Japanese fighter Kenshiro Teraji, who is mow fighting by his full name, was supposed to face IBF Lught Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado in a unification bout, until Alvarado fell ill. To replace Alvarado they've brought in Randy Petalcorin, who will challenger the unbeaten Japanese for the the WBC Light Flyweight title. The champion is looking for his 7th defense, and will be strongly favoured here but Petalcorin is a solid challenger and should give Kenshiro something of a test here.
Roman Gonzalez (47-2, 39) vs Diomel Diocos (14-5-3, 4) -Yokohama, Japan
Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez fights in his 50th professional bout as he takes on Filipino foe Diomel Diocos. The talented Gonzalez is clearly past his best, but looked great last time out, when he beat down Moises Fuentes and likely has more than enough in the tank to take a stoppage win here. Interestingly it's more than a year since Gonzalez last fought, and more than 5 years since he last stepped foot in a Japanese ring. Diocos has faced limited opponents, other than Daigo Higa who stopped him. We suspect Gonzalez does a number on Diocos like Higa did.
The middle portion of July is incredibly packed with a lot of action coming in just a few days, including 4 world title bouts, a regional title bout and several notable hopefuls. It really is set to be an insanely busy few days.
Unbeaten WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro looks to make his next defense as he battles against hard hitting Filipino challenger Jonathan Taconing, who enters as the mandatory challenger. At the moment Kenshiro is arguably the most under-rated world champion in the sport, and is certainly the most under appreciated fighter in Japan. This however is no gimme for the champion and Taconing brings a real air of danger with him thanks to his hard hitting southpaw style. On paper this may end up being the bout of the month, and is a true boxer Vs banger affair.
Yesterday we looked at 6 bouts rumoured to be in the works for the new year, and then we realised there was a lot more that were swirling around and ended up here, with part 2!
If you missed the first part that's available to read here 6 bouts rumoured to be in the works for 2019
Reymart Gaballo (20-0,17) Vs Liborio Solis (28-5-1-1, 13)
A bout between WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo and Venezuelan veteran Liborio Solis has been rumoured for a while, and is a bout that would keep both of the highly regarded fighters busy until the end of the WBSS, when the winner could then get a shot at a top title. Gaballo has really impressed, despite not being given too many opportunities, and the 22 year old looks like a major player in the future of the Bantamweight division. Solis on the other hand is a 36 year old, grizzled veteran who would want one more major fight. This make sense for both men, and has the makings of a great fight.
Daniel Roman (26-2-1, 10) Vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4)
WBA Super Bantamweight champion Daniel Roman is expected to have a mandatory title defense in early 2019 against insanely fast rising Uzbek fighter Murodjon Akhmadaliev. The champion, won the title in September 2017 and has made 3 defenses since then, over-coming Ryo Matsumoto, Moises Flores and Gavin McDonnell. Akhmadaliev on the other hand only turned professional last March and has risen in a sensationally quick way to become the #1 ranked WBA contender. Roman would be favoured, but this is a tough one to call and looks like it's going to be announced in the coming weeks.
Rey Vargas (32-0, 22) Vs Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20)
A match up between WBC Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas, from Mexico, and interim champion Tomoki Kameda, of Japan, is expected to be made at some point this year, and is a bout with history behind it. Vargas has made 3 defenses of the belt already, and is planning his next one for February before potentially facing Kameda in Summer. Kameda on the other hand won the interim in late 2018, when Vargas was out of the ring injured, and could well find himself getting a chance to avenge and amateur defeat to the Mexican. With both being able to speak Spanish this would be an easy sell to the Mexican markets, and could take place in Japan, Mexico or the US.
Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0, 12) Vs Edis Tatli (31-2, 10)
Supposedly in the works as Lightweight world title eliminator we could see Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani battle Finland's Edis Tatli in 2019. Nakatani has long been the OPBF champion, running up 11 defenses of the title, and is clearly in need of stiffer tests rather than continuing to battle on the regional circuit. As for Tatli, a former European champion, the bout would give him a potential push to fight for a world title. It should be noted that both fighters have generally fought at home, with Nakatani rarely leaving Osaka and Tatli only leaving Finland once, and we suspect that the fighter who secures home advantage will be favoured in this potentially compelling contest.
Kenshiro (15-0, 8) Vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9)
One of the most mouth watering bouts that could be made right now would see WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro unifying with WBA "super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. These two fought several times as amateurs, with Kenshiro holding the advantage from those days, and the two have also taken part in a recent public spar, to build hype towards this potential contest. Between then they are 10-0 (5) in world title bouts, and would make for a brilliant contest stylistically, as well as an incredibly rare all Japanese unification bout. Our fingers are tightly crossed that this one gets done!
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26) II
WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai narrowly got past Juan Fracnisco Estrada last February and is now expected to make another defense against Estrada in 2019, if a unification bout for the Thai can't be secured. Their first bout was a razor thin bout, and one where Srisaket's technical boxing surprised many, though Estrada did seem to finish the stronger man and would certainly start faster in a rematch, making things interesting once again. The WBC are expected to let Srisaket negotiate a unification contest, but if his team can't get it done quickly there's a good chance they will order this bout sooner, rather than later.
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