Back on December 31st we saw the end of 2020 and the year ended on a high for fight fans with a brilliant matchup between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka. Sadly for the thrilling and exciting Tanaka the bout saw him suffer his first loss, being stopped by the more experienced Ioka, who boxed brilliantly and showcased some sensational counter punching throughout the contest.
Despite the loss it was clear that Tanaka was going to bounce back and return to the ring in 2021.
With that in mind the three co-founders of Asianboxing.info got together to put their ideas forward as to what is next for Tanaka in the third instalment of “Who…” as we try to answer the question:
“Who... should Kosei Tanaka face next?”
Lee: “I think in all honesty the options for Tanaka right now are quite limited, due to Covid19, and it’s clear he won’t be bringing in a limited imported opponent just to get a win. Saying that though, Tanaka has never had an easy bout and I don’t expect that to change now he has a loss on his record. Instead I think he will fight a good Japanese domestic fighter. The question really is “Who?” And sadly there aren’t that many options for him to look to face at the moment. The gulf between Kazuto Ioka and the rest in Japan is massive and anyone will feel like a massive downgrade for Tanaka.
For Tanaka I think the focus needs to be on testing his stamina and testing his strength at Super Flyweight. He can work on the skills in the gym, but he needs to get rounds, he needs to be pushed and made to work hard. With that at the forefront of my thinking, I think he should fight Hiroyuki Kudaka next. Kudaka is a 4 time world title challenger. He’s tough. He comes to fight. He presses and pressures. He always makes fighters work hard. He also knows some veteran tricks. To me he is the ideal opponent for Tanaka to learn things from. An easy win, but also a good win.”
Takahiro: “The answer here is easy for me. Ryoji Fukunaga. There are not many fighters in Japan at 115lbs who are world ranked and the one that stands out the most is JBC, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific unified champion Ryoji Fukunaga. I know that Tanaka will want to fight someone suitable. Someone good. And get in there with someone who will ask questions. He has something to lose themselves. Someone who, if he beats, he is still in the world title mix. With that in mind Fukunaga is the easy answer. The only answer.
At the moment Fukunaga has 2 world rankings. He is unlikely to get a world title fight himself, without scoring a massive win, and a win over Tanaka would be appealing to him as well. The bout would also work with the current covid19 issues, and not require Hatanaka and CBC to pay money for a fighter to sit in quarantine.
Make this bout and get it in Tokyo. Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoji Fukunaga! Triple crown on the line”
Scott: “I’ve gone with a similar tactic to Takahiro and looked through the world rankings for Japanese fighters given the Covid19 situation. There isn’t as many Japanese ranked fighters as I assumed there would be at 115lbs and there’s also some oddities, like the IBF ranking Koki Eto #7 despite the fact he’s retired. I’m also at a loss as to how Akio Furutani is ranked #11, even with his win over Takayuki Okumoto fresh in my mind. Doing this left me with two options.
The first of those was Sho Ishida, who is world ranked, a very live contender, best known for losing his biggest bouts, a friend of Ioka’s and a former stablemate of Ioka’s. On paper Ishida ticks almost every box, though I think Ishida will probably stick to fighting at Bantamweight and won’t move back down to Super Flyweight again.
With that in mind I was left with one other name, and it’s a name of someone I genuinely want to see Tanaka share the ring with again. That’s former WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura. This bout just seems to make so much sense to re-do. Their first bout was the 2018 Fight of the Year and given the super close nature of that bout it deserves a rematch. It’s also one of the bouts that CBC know they can sell to an international audience, and if they are smart they could get this on TV in Latin America and potentially the UK. Kimura might not be the natural Super Flyweight that some would want to see Tanaka in with, but iron sharpens iron and if Tanaka wants a good test to return to the ring with Kimura is the man for me.”
So, Christmas is just around the corner, and we want to wish you all a great, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. We also bring good tidings, with the final "What's to come" of 2020, the third part of our look at what December will bring, and it's a lot between December 26th and December 21st!
Sumida City Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) Vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
One of the most interesting match ups from this end of year run will see former WBO world champion Masayuki Ito clash with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The two men are best known for their exploits at 130lbs, but will be clashing at Lightweight here in what should be a really good fight. Ito is, by far, the more experienced professional and has fought at a higher level, but Mishiro was a very good amateur, and appears to be the more rounded and technically polished professional. This should be a compelling 10 rounder.
Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6)
The hidden gem from this part of the year will be the 140lb Japanese Youth title fight pitting 19 year old hard hitting sensation Jin Sasaki against all out warrior and toughnut Aso Ishiwaki. This is one we expect to be a complete and utter war. Sasaki has been really impressive in recent bouts, and has blown out his last 3 opponents in the opening round, but this is a genuine step up in class for him. Ishiwaki isn't the most skilled, but he's teak tough, comes to fight and is physically very strong. If Ishiwaki can see out the opening storm this could become something truly spectacular to end the year.
Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) vs Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6)
We expect fireworks to fly when we finally see Kai Chiba and Haruki Ishikawa trading blows. The men were set to fight earlier this year before Ishikawa tested positive for Covid19 at the weigh in, and going into the original date we were hugely excited of what we were set to see. Despite the delay hanging over this one we are still expecting something of a thrilling nature, and both men will believe they have the power to take the other man out.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) vs Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8)
Hard hitting Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki puts his title on the line for the first time as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi. Yabuki won the title in the summer, when he blitzed Tsuyoshi Sato, and will be looking to end the year on a high and move towards a potential world title fight in 2021. As for Ouchi this will be his third, shot at a title, and likely his last. It really is hard to imagine the 35 year old Ouchi getting another big fight if he loses here.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Ryota Yada (20-6, 17) Vs Yuichi Ideta (13-15-1, 7)
Former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada returns to the ring in what looks likely to be a stay busy bout, as he takes on limited veteran Yuichi Ideta. Yada, who is eyeing an OPBF title fight in 2021, will be looking to get a couple of rounds here, before seeing off Ideta. As for Ideta the bout the bout will be his 30th professional contest, and at the age of 36 could prove to be his last one. Not a great bout, but very clearly put together to keep Yada ticking over.
Takayuki Okumoto (23-9-4, 11) Vs Akio Furutani (8-4, 3)
Another former Japanese champion looking for a relatively easy win is former Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, who looks to bounce back from a 2019 loss to Kenta Nakagawa. The solid, and generally fun to watch, Okumoto should have far too much in the locker for Furutani, who is the naturally smaller man. Despite that Furutani has momentum and has won his last 4 in a row, including a big upset win over former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama. Whilst we don't imagine this will be a competitive bout, we do expect it will be an exciting one.
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
We get a potential post-Christmas cracker as we get the rescheduled show down between Katsunari Takayama and Reiya Konishi. This was originally meant to take place in November before Konishi tested positive for Covid19, in what now appears to have been a false positive. The two men should make for a sensational bout, with both known for letting their hands go, being tough, and fighting with intensity. The big question going in is what does a 37 year old Takayama look like after more than 4 years away from professional boxing? If he's half the fighter he used to be this will be an amazing battle.
Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) Vs Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) II
Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi looks to make his second, and final, defend of the Youth title as he takes on the aggressive and exciting Satoru Hoshiba. These two men clashed in the 2017 Rookie of the Year, with Shimomachi winning, and since then he has gone on to become one of the top prospects in Japan. Hoshiba on the other hand will be after revenge, after the title and a chance to go into 2021 with a big win to his name. We expect this to be boxer against brawler, and the styles should gel well to give is a very, very good fight.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) Vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Exciting 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Jinki Maeda looks to extend his unbeaten start at he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, in a very good match up. We've been really impressed by Maeda in recent bouts, and the youngster appears to have the tools to go a long way, with good boxing, brilliant movement and smart understanding of distance. Okubo on the other hand shouldn't be over-looked and he has stopped his last 2. We're expecting a cat and mouse style fight early on, but this could descend into a very compelling fight after a couple of rounds.
Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
In a huge all-Japanese year ending WBO Super Flyweight world title bout we'll see Kazuto Ioka take on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka. For Ioka the bout will serve as his second defense of the title he won in 2019, and a win here will see him keep his status as not just a world champion but also one of the biggest and most important names in Japanese boxing. For Tanaka the bout is a chance to become a 4-weight world champion and essentially rip the torch of stardom from Ioka. This is expected to be a very, very high level bout, with both men hungry to make a point and go into the new year as a world champion. Expect excitement, and a lot of adapting and altering game plans from both men here.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) vs Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16)
A second title fight in Japan on New Year's Eve will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi defending his title against former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa. This is a huge opportunity for Kobayashi to make his way towards a potential world title fight and get a big name on his record, whilst Higa desperately needs to shine after an under-whelming performance against Seiya Tsutsymi last time out. Although clearly over-shadowed by the world title bout this should end up being a brilliant bout, and could well end up being a sensational 12 round back and forth battle as Higa goes up against a naturally much bigger man.
Time feels like it's flying and we can't believe it's been a fortnight since we last had a "Fights we wish we had..." article. This week we move to the very lowest end of the scales for a bout between two men we wish we'd seen clash just a few short years ago. As we write this both men are still active, and world class, fighters, but they are now in very different divisions and the bout, for all intents, is now definitely not going to happen.
Kosei Tanaka Vs Knockout CP Freshmart
At one point both Kosei Tanaka and Knockout CP Freshmart were in the Minimumweight division and both were regarded as being among the top 10 fights at 105lbs. On paper it was a match up that few were talking about, but in reality it would have made for a very, very interesting clash of styles, strengths and weaknesses. Looking back at the potential match up now, it appears only one guy could have won, but at the time it would have been a very intriguing match up.
The window for this is, sadly, quite a small one and it's not really a wonder why the fight never took place. The only real time the fight was plausible would have been in late 2014 to the end of 2015.
During this time Tanaka won the OPBF and WBO Minimumweight titles, made one defense of the WBO belt then left the division in 2016. During the same time Knockout CP Freshmart won and defended the WBA "interim" title. At the end of 2015 they were ranked #3, Tanaka, and #4, Knockout, by Ring Magazine and it looked like a potential clash for the future.
Japan's Kosei Tanaka is one of the most notable names in Japanese boxing right now and one of the guy figures of the lower weight classes. The talented, speed, boxer-fighter is a must watch fighter who can do it all, though often makes things much, much more difficult for himself than they need to be. At his best he's a sensational boxer, able to keep opponents at range with his incredibly speed and solid straight punches, along with his under-rated body punching. The rest of the time he's someone who finds himself caught up in unnecessary wars, giving away his technical and physical advantages.
Since 2015 Tanaka has moved up the weights, winning world title titles at Light Flyweight and Flyweight and is now targeting a Super Flyweight world title. As he's moved up the weight he has put on some of his more memorable performances, including brilliant wins over Angel Acosta, Sho Kimura and Ryoichi Taguchi. Despite being unbeaten he has been notoriously inconsistent in his performances, struggling against the likes of Vic Saludar, Palangpol CP Freshmart and Jonathan Gonzalez, who have all dropped him.
Thailand's Knockout CP Freshmart, also known as Thammanoon Niyomtrong, is a technically boxer who received a lot of attention for his fighting name, but has since gone on to distinguish himself as one of the best fighters at 105lbs. Early in his career he looked exciting and was scoring stoppages, but later on he has removed the exciting aggression he once had, and polished off his boxing skills to the point where he's become "effective but dull" to watch. Despite being a but boring to watch he has secured a pretty decent resume with wins over the likes of Carlos Buitrago, Byron Rojas, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong.
Unlike Tanaka Knockout has remained at 105lbs for his entire career, as we write this, and seems unlikely to race up the weights like Tanaka has. Whilst that could hurt him in terms of legacy it doesn't seem like he's struggling too badly to make Minimumweight, where he looks strong and powerful. The one thing that is a question mark is his stamina, and despite often going 12 rounds he has often slowed down massively in the deeper stages of fights. It is worth noting that he is usually in a comfortable lead before taking his foot off the gas.
How would we see it playing out?
When it comes to Japan Vs Thailand one bit consideration is where the bout will take place. Japanese fighters have had a notoriously unsuccessful history in Thailand and with that in mind we wouldn't expect Tanaka's team to allow their man over to the "Land of Smiles" to face the unbeaten Knockout. As a result we're assuming this one would take place in Japan. We're also sticking with the time frame of late 2014-2015.
At the point in time Knockout was a lock way removed from the fighter he is today. In 2014 he had looked very raw and crude when he narrowly beat Carlos Buitrago in what was a bit of a controversial one. He looked like he was improving through 2015 however when he beat Muhammad Rachman and Alexis Diaz. As for Tanaka he looked brilliant in his gut check win over Ryuji Hara then eased past Julian Yedras before a very, very tough come from behind win against Vic Saludar. The win over Saludar made it clear that he was taking too much out of his body to make weight, and he was a much lesser fighter than he had been 14 months earlier.
The crude offense and relatively poor defense the Knockout had at the time would allow Tanaka to get his shots off and allow him to tag the Thai, but the pressure of Knockout and the weight problems Tanaka had could certainly play against the Japanese star. Likewise Knockout's physical strength and toughness would give Tanaka fits.
We suspect that if the bout took place in the first half of 2015, or earlier, Tanaka would manage to have enough in his body to take a clear, but hard fought, decision over the Thai. Had it been in late 2015 however we would, looking back, have been seeing a very competitive bout. Tanaka's punch resistance looked poor against Saludar, he looked like he had very much lost his way, and it took a sensational body shot for him to pull out the win. There's a chance, in late 2015, that Knockout could indeed have have taken the drained, weigh cutting, Tanaka out.
Would history of been changed?
Assuming the bout takes place before, or in, December 2015 we wouldn't have seen Tanaka take on Vic Saludar, meaning Saludar may have had to wait much, much longer for a shot at the WBO belt.
Regardless of the outcome we would expect to see Tanaka abandoning the division and not looking back. A bout with Knockout would make him realise it was too tough to make 105lbs we suspect he'd go on to make his mark at Light Flyweight, as he did anyway. His rise to a second, and third, world title would have been slowed down, and he likely wouldn't have tied Vasyl Lomachenko for the fewest fights to become a 3-weight world champion.
Had Knockout beaten Tanaka he'd likely still be holding the WBO title today, instead of the WBA belt. This could have mean some interesting match ups with Knockout taking on the likes of Vic Saludar, Ryuya Yamanaka and Tatsuya Fukuhara, certainly better than some of his competition. His name would be spoken about a lot more, and he'd be more well known now than he is.
In terms of wider history the Minimumweight division would look a lot different now, with Knockout either holding the WBO title or not a world champion at all, and the Thai would never have fought for the WBA title.
Once again we're back to looking at the Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the week we've just had, and if we're honest the lack of in ring action has left us with not too much good, and quite a lot of indifference, which thankfully isn't a header here!
1 - CBC confirm Kento Hatanaka's next fight will be streamed globally for free!
With the growing number of payment services in boxing, and PPV's again becoming more and more prevalent, it's great to see that CBC are again showing some common sense. The Japanese broadcaster confirmed this past week that the WBC Youth Flyweight title bout between Kento Hatanaka v Roland Jay Biendima will be streamed worldwide for free. The channel have helped make Kosei Tanaka a star, streaming a number of his fights, and seem to know that getting eyes on their product is key to their fighters becoming more notable. They've done it with Tanaka and are now doing it was 21 year old Hatanaka. Well done CBC and fingers crossed others see the logic behind what they do, and try to replicate it for emerging hopefuls.
2 - Junto Nakatani Vs Giemel Magramo, sign us up!
Although not officially confirmed the reports that Junto Nakatani and Giemel Magramo will battle for the WBO Flyweight title was certainly good news. In fact it was really good news! We're expecting the bout to be confirmed next week, following the report from the gondol that the bout was set. This is the sort of match up that the sport needs more of, and the type of bout that we're always going to get very, very excited about! Two young, up and coming fighters, who could go in different directions, clashing head on for a world title! Yes please. This is the type of match up that title vacancy's should be filled by, and the type of bout that instantly gives the new champion some legitimacy, even if the title had previously been vacant!
3 - Ioka Vs Tanaka in the works!
One of the few real good points from this week was the WBO ordering Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka. On one hand it did feel odd that they were ordering back to back mandatory defenses for Ioka, who defended the belt against a mandatory in December, but on the other hand what an amazing match up, and this is something to get really, really excited about for later in the year! It is worth noting that Tanaka didn't seem to be expecting it to be ordered immediately, and neither did we given Ioka's last defense was a mandatory, so we wouldn't be too surprised to see the WBO delay this, as the the teams try to set it up late the last half of the year.
1 - Dubois Vs Joyce on PPV
British fans really are unlucky right now. It seems that over the coming months they are going to be getting shafted by the powers that be. The Fury Vs Wilder rematch was expected to be PPV, and we expect the Joshua Vs Pulev bout to be on PPV, and both of those are legitimately big bouts. However for Daniel Dubois to face Joe Joyce on PPV in an all British clash, between two men who have yet to break through as any type of stars. Genuinely ridiculous for this bout to be on PPV, and a very tough sell given the lack of personality both men have. Don't get us wrong, we are looking forward to the match, but this shouldn't have been on PPV, and it's a missed opportunity for both fighters and for fans.
2 - Naoya Inoue picks up a fever
After taking part in his typical training camp in Guam Naoya Inoue had to miss the annual Japanese boxing award ceremony last week due to fever. The fever is said to have been brought on by muscle fatigue, and it's a real shame. Not only did he have to miss the award ceremony but also take days out of training. On the other hand it has given the John Riel Casimero camp some more ammunition to help sell the fight, and credit goes to Casimero and Sean Gibbons for their entertaining press conferences this week.
3 - Korean boxing Hiatus
Earlier in the year we had several events in China being cancelled due to Coronavirus and now, due to the spread of the illness, we've seen a number of Korean events falling victim, with 3 planned shows being postponed indefinitely. That included the much anticipated Hyun Mi Choi Vs Maiva Hamadouche female unification bout. Whilst we totally agree with the shows being cancelled, it's still a big disappointment.
1 - Jarrell Miller's comments
Our thoughts about drugs cheats are that they need to be punished. They need to be given lengthy bans, prohibited from profiting from the sport, and made to actually feel like they've been punished. The entire system in boxing right now however seems to be the opposite, and seems to be more like a toddler being told to sit in the corner for 5 minutes. That is...unless you're Jarrell Miller. Less than a year ago Miller was found guilty of, essentially, being a cocktail of banned substances. This week he came out with a pro-drug message in what was a rather clear "fuck you" to the sport, and the others taking part:
“Minor setback for a major comeback. I’m coming for everything and everyone. No one is safe. Say hello to the bad guy,” ...“Everyone wants to portray the superhero. We don’t live in a sunshine world. I’ll never be the superhero. In my world, the majority of the time, the villain wins.”
He's not just showing no remorse for failing multiple drug tests, but is using it as part of the marketing for his return and showing contempt of the sport he's participating in. Fuck him and fuck the commissions that go on to license him. We need this sort of thing to end.
2 - Eddie Hearn admits he doesn't want to match his guys
After telling us for years that "to fight X you need to sign with us" and after telling us for months that he was trying to match some of his guys, Eddie Hearn this week came out and admitted that he wants to cheer on one guy in a fight rather than two. Given the wealth of talent Matchroom have at Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Heavyweight this has really left a sour taste, especially when he's previously blamed the fighters. Given he has fingers in the purses of fighters like Gennady Golovkin, Demetrius Andrade, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders, at 160lbs and 168lbs, and Heavyweights like Michael Hunter, Filip Hrgovic, Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora there are great match ups to be made, in those divisions. What doesn't help is he then comes out and explains that certain men are divisional "boogeymen", as he did with with Michael Hunter this week. If you have most of the top names in the division and choose not to match them, they aren't boogeymen, they are just being badly handled!
3-Guillermo Rigondeaux's Career Sabotage continues
Generally we expect the most talented people in the field to be the best, make the most money and develop their reputation to a point where people want to see them show what they can do. For Guillermo Rigondeaux however we once again saw the Cuban's knack of messing things up for himself shine. "El Chacal" finally fought at his natural weight this weekend, dropping to Bantamweight at the age of 39, but once again stunk the joint out, and once again showed why HBO refused to touch him with a barge pole. Unfortunately however this time it was on Showtime, who are also now unlikely to work with him. Loud boos filled the arena for his fight against former Super Flyweight champion Liborio Solis. What didn't help Rigondeaux was that he hurt Solis several times, but refused to go for the finish, particularly in the later rounds when it was clear Solis couldn't bother him. From siding with Carbie when he Gary Hyde had something organised, to shitting the bed on HBO against Joseph Agebko to his string of B tier wins over the likes of James Dickens, Rigondeaux has made himself unwatchable in a sport that is dependent on fans and TV audience. He might be among the most gifted natural athletes in the sport, but also one of the stupidest. His ring IQ might be incredible, but his inability to see the bigger picture, really shows a complete lack of business smarts and once again he's going to find himself totally frozen out by TV and big fighters. We know the purists might enjoy his style, but unfortunately for the Cuban they aren't the people in charge of the TV companies, or the ones that the fighter needs to impress. They are a small minority, and even they seem to be realising what a truly disappointing under-achiever Rigondeaux is.
(Image of Rigondeaux Vs Solis courtesy of Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME)
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.
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
Since late 2019 there has been one potential all-Japanese title clash which has been spoken about a lot, and it now seems to have taken a step towards reality thanks, in part, to a ruling the WBO made in regards to one of the two men involved in the potential match up. The bout would see Japan's only male 4 weight champion up against someone looking to match him, and would pit two of the most skilled body punchers against each other in a mouth watering contest.
It's hard to believe that Kazuto Ioka only turns 31 this year. The talented Ioka turned pro all the way back in 2009 and fought through out the 10's, barring a short retirement that lasted less than a year. During the decade he won titles in 4 weight classes, unified belts at 105lbs, and scored a number of wins that aged really well, just look at what Akira Yaegashi and Felix Alvarado did as proof of that. He also became one of the foremost faces of the Japanese boxing scene, a huge draw, and a central figure for the New Year Eve shows that highlight the end of the year. As the current WBO Super Flyweight champion he enters 2020 with a lot of potentially thrilling match ups out there for him, but there is something about all Japanese title bouts that always excited us.
When talking about exciting all Japanese world title bouts we can't forget how Kosei Tanaka introduced himself to the Flyweight division, having a barnstormer against Sho Kimura in the 2018 Fight of the Year. Now the talented "KO Dream Boy" is the WBO Flyweight "Super" champion he is linked to another move up, and a potentially thrilling encounter with Ioka. Tanaka, like Ioka, has raced through the weights and raced through competition that has later made his victories look better, with Vic Saludar and Angel Acosta both going on to win world title. He has also chased the big fights and become a man who's face we tend to see at the end of the year, with 3 New Year Eve bouts bouts in the last 5 years. A win over Ioka would make Tanaka a star, and essentially force TBS to push him nationally, not just in Tokyo and Chukyo, the two regions that tend to get his fights in Japan.
With the talk of this bout starting way back in August 2019, then growing as the year went on, it does seem like there is real desire for these two to be matched. On paper it's a very, very, easy one to make as both fight for the same Japanese network, essentially the JNN which owns TBS and sister channel CBC, and there is desire from the WBO to make the bout. Of course both men have other options, but this seems to be getting a lot more talk and time than those other options in Japan, suggesting this is the bout the fans want first.
Of course if we do have to wait we could end up with things like Tanaka Vs Moruti Mthalane or Ioka Vs Juan Francisco Estrada, and lets be honest, we wouldn't complain at those options, if we eventually got this all Japanese super fight later in the year!
As we cross into a new year we've not really had much to talk about, despite that we did have results from New Year's Eve, and an obscure Korean show taking place in the last 7 days, and that's enough for us to be happy with!
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14)
The fight of the week was an easy call, with Kazuto Ioka taking the award on the back of his hard fought win over Jeyvier Cintron on New Year's Eve. Whilst Ioka was always expected to win it was great to see him being tested, and being pushed. Cintron wasn't there to make up the numbers, and instead the Puerto Rican was in the ring to win, using his size and skills to ask a lot of questions of the Japanese star. Also real credit goes to Cintron for fighting to the end of the bout, something we didn't expect when Ioka's body shots started to land with alarming consistency.
Performance of the Week
Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
With a nigh on punch perfect performance Kosei Tanaka retained his WBO Flyweight title and looked fantastic. From the opening moments it was clear that Tanaka was happy to use his tools to make life easy and dominate a challenger who was too slow, too clumsy and too open for him. This was exactly what Tanaka needed after a struggle last time out, against Jonathan Gonzalez.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Jeyvier Cintron
This was a long, long way, from Fight of the Year conversation, however it was a truly compelling 12 round championship level match that swung nicely back and forth. The early rounds were high level chess, with Cintron taking the early lead, before Ioka found his range and hammered the body of the Puerto Rican. Ioka seemed on the verge of a stoppage at one point, before Cintron bit down on his mouth piece and finished strongly. Not a fight of the year, but still a very high quality fight.
Jae Hyun Jo Vs Chul Hyun Lim (Round 6)
We really didn't have many stand out rounds if we're being honest though we did enjoy the final round of the relatively obscure bout between Jae Hyun Jo and Chul Hyun Lim on Sunday morning. It may have been our craving for boxing speaking but it felt like both men put their foot on the gas for the final 3 minutes and delivered something rather fun. Nothing special, but fun all the same.
Kosei Tanaka KO3 Wulan Tuolehazi
This was an easy pick with Tanaka's triple uppercut KO win over Wulan. This was spiteful, this was nasty and this was Tanaka using his speed to and boxing IQ to find a hole in Wulan's defense, breach it then again and again. A gorgeous KO, and one that will send Tanaka into the new with another highlight KO on his resume. After a relatively tough year this was the perfect way to finish it from the "KO Dream Boy".
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
It's hard to give even consider giving Prospect of the week to anyone other than Ginjiro Shigeoka, following his win over former world title challenger Rey Loreto. We all expected Shigeoka to win, but few would have anticipated him dropping Loreto in the opening round, then battling with Loreto, a feared puncher, before scoring a second knockdown. Shigeoka was rather honest post fight, explaining that he had injured his hand and ear drum and questioned whether he could have gone 12 rounds, but in the end that didn't really matter. He battled through some adversity and stopped a legitimate contender.
Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22) vs Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1-1, 12)
Sadly our pick for this week has been picked almost by default. Whilst Jaron Ennis, a fantastic US prospect, is a fantastic prospect this isn't a bout we'd typically get too excited about. Sadly there is very, very little else on in terms of fights involving Asian's this week. Eyubov, from Kazakhstan, has looked very limited when he's stepped up and we wouldn't be surprised to see him getting blasted out here.
When we think of the best rounds in world title fights this year there are lots that have been forgotten, lost in the haze of a year of amazing fights. One or two might stand out, but many have just faded into a blur of great action we've had in 2019.
Today we bring you one of the rounds that stood out to us, and one that swung one way, then the other. It was a round from a very highly anticipated all-Japanese world title clash. A clash that perhaps came a year later than it should have, but still delivered some top level action through out.
The bout we're talking about is Kosei Tanaka's March clash with Ryoichi Taguchi, in a bout that Tanaka clearly won, by a landslide, but was tested in early the early going by a determined Taguchi. That determination was most clearly seen in this brilliant round, round 3, where Taguchi came forward and rocked Tanaka in the opening seconds.
With his man hurt Taguchi smelled his opportunity and went all out, before the momentum began to shift back. This led to a 3 minute back and forth fought at an incredibly high skill level, almost entirely in range. The referee was featured once or twice, splitting them, but that didn't take away from what was a pulsating round of action. A real forgotten round and something deserves a rewatch by those who saw the card live...and a first watch for those who missed it!
Since this bout Taguchi has announced his retirement whilst Tanaka has had a more interesting year. The youngster from Chukyo has beaten Jonathan "Bomba" Gonzalez, in a come from behind stoppage win, and is now days away from facing off with Wulan Tuolehazi, on New Year's Eve.
Disclaimer - If you're in Japan this round is sadly not available
The final part of December, in fact the final part of 2019 and the last part of the decade, is set to go out with a bang as we get a lot of action in the last few days.
Sho Ishida (28-1, 15) vs Israel Gonzalez (24-3, 11) - Osaka, Japan
In a really meaningful bout in Osaka we'll see two former world title challengers clash in an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator. In one corner will be Japan's Sho Ishida, looking to secure his second title fight, whilst his opponent is aggressive Mexican Israel Gonzalez, who has come up short twice in world title bouts. On paper Ishida, with home advantage, will be favoured but Gonzalez is no push over and will have travelled with the intention of not just winner, but of setting up a second clash with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. We expect this to be really exciting bout, and Gonzalez is better than he looked against Ancajas.
Joe Shiraishi (9-0-1, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-4-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
In a Japanese Youth title fight we'll see Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Joe Shiraishi defending his title against Jukiya Washio. The talented, yet relatively unknown Shiraishi, is slowly making a name for himself and a win here would help push him towards a potential domestic title fight in next year or two. For Washio this is a second title fight, and whilst he is the under-dog, he's a live fighter who will be in there to win. This could be a very fun, if some what over-looked, bout.
Tokyo, Japan [TBS - Live]
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) Vs Jeyvier Cintron (10-1-0-1, 5) -Tokyo, Japan
In what will be the final world title bout of the decade WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka will defend his title, for the first time, and take on mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka won the title earlier this year, when he stopped Aston Palicte, to become the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and will be looking to end a fantastic decade as a champion. For Cintron this will be his first title bout and is a huge step up from the competition he has been facing.
Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) vs Wulan Tuolehazi (13-3-1, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
Rising Japanese star Kosei Tanaka looked poor last time out, when he scored his second defense of WBO Flyweight title with a win over Jonthan Gonzalez, and will be hoping for a better performance here as he takes on Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi. The Chinese challenger has been a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing recently, and with wins against the likes of Ryota Yamauchi and Takeshi Kaneko, but this is a massive step up in class for him. Win or lose it's expected that Tanaka will move up in weight shortly and hunt a world title at Super Flyweight in the new year.
Miyo Yoshida (13-1) vs Li Ping Shi (5-2, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
A third world title bout on this card will see WBO Female Super Flyweight champion Miyo Yoshida hunt her first defense. The talented Yoshida will be looking to defend the title she won earlier in the year, when she out pointed Casey Morton, as she takes on aggressive Chinese challenger Li Ping Shi. Although Yoshida will be the favourite here, we do suspect that Shi will be there to win, and she could be a real nightmare for the champion with her aggression and physicality.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) Vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17) -Tokyo, Japan
Prospect of the year contender Ginjiro Shigeoka looks to end the year with his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, as he takes on former world title challenger Rey Loreto. The 20 year old Shigeoka has looked fantastic since making his debut but this is a massive step against a heavy handed, tough and expected fighter who has score a number of upsets during his career. A win for Shigeoka would take see him take a huge step towards a world title fight in the new year, whilst a win for Loreto would be another upset victory for the unpredictable Pinoy puncher.
Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13) vs Jhunriel Ramonal (16-8-6, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight will see heavy handed Japanese fighter Yusaku Kuga take on Filipino slugger Jhunriel Ramonal for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. For Kuga it's a chance to become a double champion, adding the belt to the Japanese title he won earlier this year, whilst Ramonal is looking to build on his huge upset win over Shingo Wake. We suspect this could be a genuinely explosive fight, between two hard hitting fighters who will both be looking to the title and a KO win. We expect this to be a lot of fun.
Marina Sayama (4-1-1, 2) vs Yume Hirayama (4-0)- Tokyo, Japan
One more title fight to close out the year will see Marina Sayama and Yume Hirayama battle for the vacant Japanese female Flyweight title, in what will be a second bout between the two women. The first time these two met Hirayama beat Sayama with a decision over 4 rounds, and if she does the same here she'll be a champion at the age of just 19! On the other hand Sayama is a former football player, and a win here would see her become a rare case of a competitor being a success in different sports.
August seems to have been a very long month. It's hard some highlights, and some huge weekends, but has also had some stretches without fights. At the top level we've struggled to see fighters really shine, but there has been a lot happening below world level which really has been worth talking about.
Fighter of the Month
For the second time this year Kosei Tanaka has taken our Fighter of the Month award, though this was more down to the fact few others at world level shone. We had a number of world title fights, but in reality Johnriel Casimero toyed with his foe, Knockout CP Freshmart struggled against a relative unknown and Vic Saludar lost a clear decision in Puerto Rico. Tanaka on the other hand struggled against a former amateur standout but pulled out the win when a long way behind on the cards. It was a flawed performance but one that resulted in fantastic ending for the WBO Flyweight champion.
Fight of the Month
Hiroaki Teshigawara vs Shohei Omori
The best fights for the month really came at Oriental level, with arguably the best of them being a 12 round tactical war between OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hiroaki Teshigawara and Shohei Omori. The bout wasn't an all action battle but was a brilliantly engaging fight with skills, excitement, exchanges and to much great back and forth. A fantastic fight well worth watching, even if it's not a Fight of the Year contender.
KO of the Month
Jayr Raquinel TKO Takuya Kogawa
Another OPBF title fight picks up another of our awards. This time it's Filipino Jayr Raquinel's KO win over Takuya Kogawa, to retain the OPBF Flyweight title, which was truly brutal and scary in combined measure. The shot that sent the tough Kogawa down was as clean a whistle and left Kogawa's team rushing to his aid before he was removed from the ring on a stretcher. Thankfully he's fine, but their was some genuinely scary moments here.
Notable mention - Xiao Tao Su Vs Shota Yukawa
There was some great performances by prospects this month, though the one that stood out to us was the excellent performance by Ryota Yamauchi, who narrowly defeated the world ranked Alphoe Dagayloan in a thrilling 8 round battle. Not a lot separated the two fighters, but what both showed was incredible and when, or if, Kadoebi put the bout on youtube we suggest everyone watches this thrilling battle.
Notable mentions - Kento Hatanaka, Bektemir Melikuziev
Abdallah Paziwapazi TKO3 Zulipikaer Maimaitiali
In Asia this month there's not been many notable upsets, a few minor surprises but little in terms of real upsets. That was until very close to the end of the month when Tanzania's Abdallah Paziwapazi shocked us all and defeated Zulipikaer Maimaitiali to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title. The local was expected to take an easy win here but was instead stopped in 3 rounds in what is one of the biggest surprises to take place in a Chinese ring this year.
Shuhei Hamano vs Nobuo Maruoka (Rd1)
We finish this with out round of the month and it's an obscure one, but a thrilling one as Shuhei Hamano and Nobuo Maruoka engaged in a phone booth war, with an incredible intensity, high work rate and, for the most part, none stop action. This was crude, low level, but thrilling action.
The past few days have been incredible ones in Asian boxing circles with so much activity that it's been hard to keep tabs on everything. Thanks to the incredible activity it's made the awards for this week really interesting, with some really hard competition in some of the categories!
Fighter of the Week
Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8)
This week has been one of the weirdest in some ways with our Fighter of the Week being one who really under-performed yet turned it on when it mattered to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. That was Kosei Tanaka who seemed to realise the WBO Flyweight title was slipping from his grasp before turning it on in round 7 and stopping Jonathan Gonzalez to record his second defense. This was an really under-whelming performance, on the whole, but the way he stepped it up,
Performance of the Week
Jayr Raquinel (11-1-1, 8)
This was arguably the toughest category this week, with great performances from the likes of Shakhram Giyasov, Shohjahon Ergashev, Ryota Yamauchi and John Riel Casimero. For us the winner, just, was Jayr Raquinel, who shines again on Japanese soil and became the first man to stop Takuya Kogawa. The talented and young Filipino was dropped in the opening round but bounced back brilliantly and took Kogawa out truly sickening fashion. At just 22 years old the Flyweight division has got a wonderful little talent in it's ranks, but one that needs just a bit more nurturing.
Orlie Silvestre vs Ronald Alapormina
Despite us having some great performances the actual overall quality of bouts wasn't amazing with the 6 round bout between Orlie Silvestre and the upset minded Ronald Alapormina being the best of the bunch. This was just a really fun, low level action packed bout with the skills of Silvestre going up against the aggression and work rate of Alapormina. A very fun fan friendly bout.
Alphoe Dagayloan vs Ryota Yamauchi (Rd8)
Whilst overall bouts weren't amazing, on the whole, we did have some great rounds and the 8th round of a nail biter between Alphoe Dagayloan and Ryota Yamauchi was one such round. The bout had aggression from both, moments were both seemed to be exhausted, brilliant exchanges and bombs being thrown back and forth. Despite the high volume of power shots this wasn't sloppy, and instead the shots were being landed clean and hard, with high level of skills on show from both.
Jayr Raquinel TKO8 Takuya Kogawa
We've seen few KO's this year that have caused the rushed panic of a fighters team as Jayr Raquinels 8th round knockout of veteran Takuya Kogawa. The tough Kogawa was wobbled hard and responded by trying to throw big power shots, he was then countered by a monstrous straight left hand from Raquinel which dropped him hard. The referee instantly called off the bout, Kogawa's team rushed to his aide and Raquinel walked over to the corner to prey. Thankfully Kogawa is fine, and this KO will be one that deserves serious consideration at the end of the year.
Notable mention - John Riel Casimero KO10 Cesar Ramirez
Kento Hatanaka (10-0, 9)
We love seeing prospects stepping up in class and that's what Kento Hatanaka did this week as he moved from young local hopefuls to the world ranked Jaysever Abcede, and was pushed all the way. This was a huge step up for the youngster and a step up he made, just. For the first time Hatanaka was forced to go to the final bell, was forced to pick himself off the canvas and was forced to fight against someone who was physically stronger. After the win Hatanaka seemed to realise he had been given a real test, but he it was just the next step forward in a very interesting career for the youngster who will likely find himself in, or near, the world rankings shortly.
Notable mention - Criztian Pitt Laurente (3-0, 3), Charly Suarez (3-0, 3)
Fumiya Fuse (8-0, 1) vs Toshiya Ishii (1-0, 1)
Not ever bout that intrigues us is at the highest level, and a Japanese Youth title eliminator between Fumiya Fuse and Toshiya Ishii is proof of that. Fuse really impressed us in his 2017 Rookie of the Year win and Ishii was a former amateur standout who has been tipped for big things. For Fuse this will be a real test, against a very capable and well schooled youngster whilst Ishii will be expected to answer some real questions. This is a bout that may not interest international fans in the same way that some of the other bouts coming up will, but for us this is a brilliant match up and something to geet very, very excited about.
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