Whilst February certainly didn't start quickly it does get going in the second half of the month with a flurry of fights taking place with Asian fighters involved.
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) Vs Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) -
In the headline bout of a Dimond Glove card in Tokyo we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino defending his title again mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka in the second of this year's Champion carnival bouts. For Yoshino this is expected to be a test of his technical boxing skills, as Tomioka is a genuinely talented boxer-mover. On the other hand Tomioka is taking on, arguably, his toughest opponent to date and did come up short in his last bout at this type of level.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
After almost 2 years away from the ring former world champion Daigo Higa returns, and takes on rugged Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra. This should be a win for Higa, but we expect him to be very emotional, and he is going up against someone who has never been stopped before, so he will have to work hard for the win. It's also worth noting that Buenaobra is the naturally bigger man and will not be there looking to just make up the numbers.
Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) Vs Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11)
Filipino Froilan Saludar returns to Japan to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, as he battles hard hitting, but technically limited, Japanese challenger Ryuji Fukunaga. On paper this looks like it could be very explosive, and we wouldn't be surprised at all with the bout ending early. Fukunaga hasn't been able to show his power when he has faced his toughest opponents, and Saludar is certainly among the best opponents that he has faced.
Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) Vs Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2)
In a mouth watering clash of young prospects we'll see Yuki Nakajima take on Shisui Kawabata. On paper this doesn't look like one that will get fans outside of Japan too excited, but given the skills of the two men we are really excited by this one. Nakajima, the younger brother of Kazuki Nakajima, is a former amateur standout and made a real mark on the domestic amateur scene whilst Kawabata has been used as a sparring partner by Naoya, showing the quality that he has shared the ring with. We expect this to be very, very good.
Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4) Vs MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4)
World ranked Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi looks to build on August's win over Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly Yamauchi's win over Dagayloan cost him a Japanese title eliminator, due to the injuries he suffered in that bout, and he'll be lookign to make up for it in 2020. MJ Bo, from the Philippines was stopped last time he fought in Japan, by Yuta Nakayama, but is a capable opponent and should ask questions of Yamauchi.
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
Mexican fighter Emanuel Navarrete looks to make his fifth defense of the WBO Super Bantamweight title as he takes on Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima. The bout is expected to be a mismatch by many, especially given Navarrete's run since winning the title in late 2018. The champion is seen a real monster in the Super Bantamweight division and will come into the bout full of confidence. Although the 23 Santisima isn't well known outside of the Philippines he is riding a 17 fight winning run and has stopped 15 of those, so he certainly enters with a punchers chance, if nothing else.
Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) Vs Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Unbeaten Japanese-Afghan fighter Kudura Kaneko looks to extend his perfect record as he goes up against the talented Riku Nagahama in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title. Although neither of these two are well known outside of Japan the bout is a significant one and the winner will see their hopes of landing a big international fight given a huge shot in the arm. Of the two Nagahama has faced better competition, but has lost in his 2 most notable bouts, whilst Kaneko looks to be a fighter on the rise. A very interesting clash.
Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) Vs Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5)
Potentially the hidden gem for the month is a clash between Jae Woo Lee and Shingo Kusano, who clash in one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. The little known Lee made fans sit up and take note last November, when he stopped Tsuyoshi Tameda in a thrilling little war. Shingo Kusano also thrilled when he fought on the same November card, pulling himself off the canvas and battling back through some real scares against Qiang Ma. Expect this one to be exciting, and not to go the distance.
Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6)
The other Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi final bout will see Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic battle Japanese foe Daisuke Watanabe. This has the potential to be very exciting, or a total mess. Both guys like to let their hands go but with 6 technical decisions between them there's a real risk of headbutts derailing the fight. Fingers crossed the heads don't come in to contact too often and we instead get a bit of a thriller!
As we continue into 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.
Yuki Beppu (21-1-1, 20) Vs Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
The Welterweight scene in Jappan doesn't get much attention, but last year it gave us a legitimate Fight of the Year contender, and whilst the talent isn't the best it does have a nice mix of fighters who all appear to be pretty evenly matched. It's this competitiveness that has made the division interesting to follow, without having a star to really create attention there. Today's bout looks an interesting match up that could take place in the coming year for a regional title and would promise to be a very interesting contest.
The hard hitting Yuki Beppu has had a really interesting career. He debuted in 2012 and won the Rookie of the Year in 2014, scoring his his 8th straight early win in the All Japan final against Hironobu Matsunaga. His KO run extended until he was 14-0, and then fought to a draw with Charles Bellamy, proving that he could box as well as punch despite only managing a draw. A loss to Yuki Nagano in a Japanese title eliminator in 2018 slowed his ascent but just 14 months later he won the WBO Asia Pacific title, winning a sensational bout with Ryota Yada. That Yada bout was truly amazing, with Beppu pulling himself off the canvas 5 times before stopping a swollen and tired Yada, in a remarkable come from behind win.
Japanese based Afghan born Welterweight Kudura Kaneko is relatively unknown, unless you follow the Japanese scene in depth, but has been quietly impressing over the last few years with wins against domestic foes like Masaharu Kaito, Change Hamashima, Toshio Arikawa, Rikuto Adachi and Moon Hyon Yun. The next step for him seems to be a title bout of some kind. The 21 year old Kaneko has really impressed and seems well on his way to winning major silverware, and a shot at the WBO Asia Pacific title seems like a logical choice. He is less experienced than Beppu, but like Beppu he's a strong boxer-puncher and given his recent form, his record isn't actually much behind that of Beppu, in terms of quality at least.
This would be two talented boxer-punchers against each other. Beppu is probably the more explosive, but Kaneko cannot be over-looked and he is a big, strong, powerful kid who is probably the more polished boxer of the two men. Beppu would find himself up against a guy who can box well, and throws everything with natural power, whilst Kaneko would be up against someone who could hurt him, something we've yet to see any opponent do so far.
This would be a very, very interesting, explosive and exciting match up, which genuinely could see Beppu build on his huge win over Yada or help Kaneko announce himself as a legitimate one to watch.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
This week hasn't been a week with a huge amount of activity but there was a lot of talking points, some really amazing fights and some great performances. A week where quality certainly made up for a relative lack of quantity.
Fighter of the Week
Bakhodir Jalolov (6-0, 6)*
For the first time since we began doing these awards the Fighter of the Week has been won by someone who didn't fight in a professional bout. Instead it's gone to a man who picked up 4 wins in a week and won the World Amateur Championships. That is Uzbek Super Heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov, who got people talking about the World Amateur Championships in a way that really did bring extra attention to the tournament. We know some are against professionals fighting in amateur tournaments but we've yet to see them have any notable success, that was until Jalolov, who won took gold and show that fighters can do both, pro and amateur boxing.
Performance of the Week
Taku Kuwahara (6-0, 4)
Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara took a big step up in class and dominated Filipino foe Jonathan Refugio over 8 rounds. Kuwahara showed his technical ability, speed and movement against Refugio, who was tough but totally out fought, out boxed, out classed and out-sped. Although not one of the more well known prospects in Japan Kuwahara is making a mark and looks like a youngster who is going to be ready for title fights very soon. His performance here was excellent, and the only thing it missed was a stoppage.
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa
We had some absolutely brilliant fights this past week, but the pick of them was then back and forth 8 round thriller between Masaka Taniguchi and Kai Ishizawa, who faced off in a Japanese title eliminator. Both of these men had a lot to gain from a win, and both fought as if winning was worth everything. The opening round saw both men being rocked, rounds 2-4 saw Taniguchi set a high pace and out box Ishizawa, before Ishizawa began to get close and dropped Taniguchi. The final rounds were all out action and the bout really exceeded all expectations. A truly fantastic fight
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa (Rd 6)
Our fight of the week also gave us the round of the week. The 6th round of the bout was something that was out of a movie. It was 3 minutes of back and forth brutality, both men hammering away with bombs. Whilst Minimumweights often have a reputation for not being able to punch both of these guys were rocked in the round, and both were fighting at such an incredible pace that you couldn't catch your breath.
Notable - Kento Matsuoka vs Suguru Ishikawa (Rd4)
Bakhodir Jalolov KO1 Richard Torrez
The big fuss this week was whether amateur fighters should be allowed to fight in the amateurs, with the WBC stating they shouldn't due to one brutal incident. That was the opening round KO win for Bakhodir Jalolov, who took out Richard Torrez in frightening fashion. The 20 year Torrez, one of the big hopes for the US, had won his first 2 bouts in World Amateur Championships and reached the Quarter finals where he faced Jalolov. With less than a 20 seconds of the round left the lanky Uzbek landed a booming left hand that put Torrez down hard. Whether you're in the camp of not letting pro's in amateur tournaments or not, one thing is clear, this was a KO of the Year contender.
Notable-Froilan Saludar KO8 Tsubasa Murachi
Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Japanese-Afghan Kudura Kaneko scored one of his best win to date as he stopped veteran Moon Hyon Yun, a man who had never been stopped and was pretty much known for his toughness. Kaneko boxed well behind his jab to begin with, then been Yun at his own game, fighting on the inside and breaking down the veteran. The stoppage seemed questionable, but it felt very inevitable that Kaneko was going to beat and stop Yun. Kaneko might not be well known internationally but we have a feeling that a lot of fans will hear a lot about him over the next 12-24 months. He is a class fighter, with a great back story and a very easy to watch style.
Notable - Carl Jammes Martin
Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (14-0, 11)
Unbeaten men colliding in a world titlke eliminator is always a good thing, and next week end we see just that as South African Azinga Fuzile takes on Russian based Tajik Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a bout that has all the ingredients to be something very special. The styles should gel, both men will be out there for a win and both are solid punching fighters with sound boxing skills. This might not be an all out war, but should be a very compelling, high tempo and hard hitting battle.
It's fair to say that May is typically a busy month in world boxing, with things picking up globally. It's with that in mind that we feel we don't really need to say that the month is going to be a hectic in terms of Asian boxers, with a host of notable fights taking place through the month. Here we look at the first part of the month, and it is set to be a huge first week for the month of May.
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) Vs Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
The first title bout takes place on May 1st and it's a brilliant match up, pitting hard hitting Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto up against slick southpaw Reiya Abe, in a mandatory defense of the title. Minamoto will be looking for his second defense, and will be hoping to putt in a performance more a kin to his title winning victory than his first defense, which was a poor performance. Abe on the other hand will be looking to extend his impressive winning run and make the most of his first title opportunity.
Hinata Maruta (8-1-1, 7) vs Coach Hiroto (13-2-2, 4)-Tokyo, Japan
On the same show as Minamoto's bout with Abe is a brilliant contest between highly tipped prospect Hinata Maruta and the experienced Coach Hiroto. Maruta is looking to build on an excellent win over Tsuyoshi Tameda late last year and move towards a potential title shot later in the year, possibly even against the winner of the Minamoto Vs Abe bout. Hiroto on the other hand is looking for redemption after essentially being kicked out of the Kadoebi gym following issues making weight last year. If Hiroto is up for this it could be very, very interesting.
Kudura Kaneko (9-0, 6) Vs Rikuto Adachi (12-1, 9) - Osaka, Japan
We often over-look the Japanese Welterweight scene, but the reality is that it is pretty interesting, and looks set to become more interesting in the coming years thanks to some good emerging young talent. Two of those talented youngsters clash here in a battle for the JBC Youth Welterweight title. In one corner is unbeaten champion Kudura Kaneko, an Afghan-Japanese fighter who really impressed last year when he stopped Toshio Arikawa. In the other corner is Hiroki Ioka protege Rikuto Adachi, talented boxer-puncher. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and the winner will likely find themselves in the mix to face newly crowned national champion Yuki Nagano in the near future.
Masaru Sueyoshi (18-1-1, 11) Vs Ken Osato (15-2-1, 4) II - Tokyo, Japan
The second Japanese title fight of the month will see Super Featherweight champion Masaru Sueyoshi defending his title against his mandatory challenger, Ken Osato. This is a rematch of a 2018 encounter that saw Osato scoring a knockdown before being stopped himself and we're again excepting a competitive contest. Since their first bout both have improved, with Osato gaining some valuable experience and building his confidence whilst Sueyoshi has fought to a draw with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The champion will be favoured, but he is in with a live challenger
Shokichi Iwata (1-0, 1) vs Daiki Kameyama (7-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
On the same card we'll also see touted prospect Shokichi Iwata make his Japanese debut, taking on 2018 Rookie of the Year Daiki Kameyama in a 6 round contest. Iwata made his professional debut in the US, among some solid fanfare, but this is a big step up in class and and Kameyama has won 4 in a row, including the Rookie of the Year title, winning that in December. This might look amazing on paper, but we're expecting a very good bout.
Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6) vs Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) - Metro Manila, Philippines
At the same type of time as the Tokyo show there will be an ESPN5 broadcast in the Philippines headlined by an amazing match up between WBC ABC Silver Super Featherweight champion Al Toyogon and talented Japanese fighter Ryo Sagawa. This has the ingredients of an excellent match up, with Toyogon's exciting but crude offense against Sagawa's skilled boxing, but somewhat questionable toughness. This may not get the attention the Japanese card gets, but could be an even better contest.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20) vs Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22) - California, USA
Another big bout of note on May 4th sees attention turn to California as IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas takes on mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai. For the champion this will be his 7th defense of the title, and follows a couple of disappointing performances including a forgetable win over Jonas Sultan and a draw with Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Funai on the other hand will be getting his first world title bout, and also having his first bout outside of Japan. If Ancajas fights like he has in his last 2 bouts this could be very, very tough for the champion, though he will clearly be favoured over the little known challenger.
Riku Kano (14-4-1, 7) Vs Mektison Marganti (5-10-1, 3) - Hyogo, Japan
Former world title challenger Riku Kano battled to repair his career when he fights for the WBC Youth Light Flyweight title. The talented Kano has had a tough time in recent years, losing to the likes of Katsunari Takayama and Shin Ono, but will feel confident of picking up a win here against limited Indonesian Mekitson Marganti, who has interestingly shared the ring with Wanheng Menayothin. This is a must win for Kano, and in fact he needs to win and look good.
Hikaru Matsuoka (15-4-3, 2) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (8-2, 4) - Hyogo, Japan
More Japanese youth title action will be on this same Hyogo show, with Hikaru Matsuoka making his first defense of the JBC Youth Featherweight title. Matsuoka won the title late last year, scoring his third straight win, but does have a lot of questions to answer in regards to his long term potentnial. Tonomoto, who reached the Rookie of the Year final all the way back in 2014, will be looking to claim his first title and this should make for a very, very interesting match up, even if it's only at domestic youth title level.
Arata Matsuoka (7-6, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-2-1, 2) - Hyogo, Japan
Hikaru Matsuoka's brother Arata Matsuoka also looks to make his first defense of a Japanese youth title, as he defends the JBC Youth Light Flyweight title against Jukiya Washio. Matsuoka, who also won his title late last year, has the clear edge in experience here, but Washio is very much a lice challenger and enters on the back of 3 straight wins. This is the weakest of the 3 bouts on the Hyogo card, but could end up being the most competitive.
Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8) Vs Sukkasem Kietyongyuth (22-9, 14) - Tokyo, Japan
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni returns to the ring for his second bout since losing the world title. The talented Kadoebi gym fighter had some ring rust lats year, when he ended a lengthy break from the ring, and will be looking to shake a bit more here as he goes in with a world ranked Thai. Although world ranked Sukkasem is nothing hugely special, and has lost the last 7 times he's fought outside of Thailand with 2 of those losses coming in Japan. Given Oguni's inactivity this could be tough, but he should still come out on top.
The second half of November is fast approaching and it's set to be a busy one for fans who follow Asian boxers. We have a nice mix of Youth, world, regional and female title fights coming up over the next 2 weeks or so
Tetsuya Hisada (32-9-2, 19) Vs Akihiro Toya (8-4, 1) - Japan
We kick off the second part of the months with a Japanese Light Flyweight title bout, as defending champion Tetsusya Hisada seeks his 5th defense, and takes on the unheralded Akihiro Toya. On paper this should be a mismatch, in favour of Hisada who is approaching a world title fight, but he can ill afford any sort of set back right now. The champion is now 34 and will know that even a serious cut here could end his dreams of a world title fight. For Toya this will be an unexpected chance, given he has lost 2 of his last 3, but he could pull out the upset if Hisada over-looks him.
Chaoz Minowa (6-1, 5) Vs Ibeth Zamora Silva (29-6, 12) - Mexico
On November 17th we'll see Japanese fighter Chaoz Minowa challenge Mexico Ibeth Zamora Silve, for Zamora's WBC Female Flyweight title. This will be Minowa's second shot t a world title, and another loss really will harm her hopes of ever winning a world title, despite her strong amateur credentials. Silva won the title earlier this year, and this will be her first defence, though she is a world class fighter and had a prolonged reign at Light Flyweight. A win for Silva will establish her reign, though she'll likely be looking for bigger and more notable fights, if she can over-come the aggressive but flawed Minowa.
West Japan Rookie of the Year Finals- Japan
The All Japan Rookie of the Year finals gets the second set of fighters as the West Japan representatives are decided on. The show's winners will be back in action just before Christmas as they take on their East Japan representatives in the crucial All Japan final. The regional final has a number of really good bouts on it, and if they manage to claim bot only the West crown but the All Japan one they will be expected to be moved into title fights in the relatively near future. This is a key show on the Japanese calendar, and is a very significant show for fans on the domestic scene.
Ryuto Oho (11-4-1, 3) Vs Yuta Nakayama (6-1-1, 3) - Japan
Just a day after the West Japan Rookie final we see youngsters colliding in a Japanese Youth Light Flyweight title bout. The bout will see 2013 All Japan Flyweight Rookie of the year Ryuto Oho making his first defense of the Japanese Youth title as he takes on the once beaten Nakayama, who is riding a 5 fight winning streak into this bout. Oho won the title back in April, stopping Tetsuya Tomioka, and looks to be a better fit at 108lbs than he was at 112lbs. Nakayama on the other hand looks to be stepping up a level, and may well face his stiffest test to date in what looks like an excellent match up.
Ayaka Miyao (22-7-1, 6) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-4-3, 5) III - Japan
It's not often that we support WBA "Interim" title bouts but with WBA “regular” Atomweight champion Monseratt Alcaron suffering an injury we can't help but support an “interim” title here as Ayaka Miyao and Nao Ikeyama face off in an excellent rematch. The first bout between these two came in 2016, when Ikeyama beat the much younger Miyao due to a nasty knee injury that kept Miyao out of the ring for over a year. That win for Ikeyama was her last victory, and she would lose the WBO Atamweight title this past July. Aged 49 a win for Ikeyama would be a massive statement whilst a win for Miyao would see her getting revenge for the loss a few years ago. A brilliant match up, and a rare example of the WBA using their “interim” titles properly!
Kudura Kaneko (8-0, 5) Vs Toshio Arikawa (15-5, 13) - Japan
Not every great match up needs a title, and we can't help but get very excited about the Japanese Welterweight bout between rising youngster Kudura Kaneko, a Japanese-Afghan prospect, and former champion Toshio Arikawa, fighting for the first time since losing the title. Both of these men have real belief in their power and this could end up being a shoot out, as well as a potential passing of the torch on the Japanese domestic scene. The bout won't get much attention globally, but that doesn't take away from the interest the bout has from us, and Japanese domestic fans.
Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11) vs Jean Pascal (33-5-1-1, 20) - USA
Outside of Asia the biggest fight with an Asian as we get towards the end of the month will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA Light Heavyweight title against Canadian based Haitian Jean Pascal. The talented Bivol, now widely regarded as one of the top Light Heavyweights on the planet, had looked at other opponents but due to various issues ended up with the 36 year old Pascal. The Canadian regularly makes for exciting bouts, due to his style, and he is still popular but he is 4-3 in his last 7 and has twice been stopped by Sergey Kovalev in the last 4 years. This should be fun, but comfortable for the champion.
Richard Pumicpic (21-8-2, 6) vs Musashi Mori (7-0, 5) - Japan
Filipino fighter Richard Pumipcic makes it 3 in a row in Japan as he returns to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title against teenager Musashi Mori. Pumicpic won the title when he defeated Hisashi Amagasa in Tokyolast year. His only defense of the belt saw far saw him defeat Yoshimitsu Kimura, in a clear but competitive bout, and now he returns to take on one of the country's best teenager. Mori has impressed, winning the All Japan Rookie of the Year, but this is a monstrous step up in class and if he wins he could find himself on the verges of the world rankings. It's a big risk with a huge reward for the challenger, but he is clearly the under-dog.
Knockout CP Freshmart (18-0, 7) Vs Byron Rojas (25-3-3, 11) II - Thailand
The final bout of note for the month comes from Thailand, as WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart defends the WBA title against former champion Byron Rojas, the man he actually beat for the belt back in back in June 2016. Since beating Rojas we've seen Knockout make 5 defenses, including wins over Shin Ono, Rey Loreto and Xiong Zhao Zhong, but he's failed to really impress on a consistent basis. He's a solid champion, but one who doesn't seem to look spectacular. Rojas is 8-0 since the loss to Knockout, but has only been fighting at the Nicaraguan domestic level and it's a little bit unclear on how good he's been since losing the belt. In saying that however he's incredibly hungry for this bout and does seem determined to take the title back to Nicaragua. This could be a great way to end what looks to be a fantastic month of action.
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