With the sport's return to some, albeit limited, normality we thought it was time to begin doing our Monthly Awards again. The sport is certainly not going at full speed yet, but there actually was quite a lot that happened in July, with a number of upsets, a frightening KO, some brilliant action and a movement towards boxing's big return. Yes there is a lot for the sport to do going forward, but, for the first time since February, we've had more than just an odd fight here and there.
Fighter of the Month
Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14)
Aged 40 and coming in as the under-dog for his fight with Daiki Tomita the veteran really showed what he had left in the tank by not just beating Tomita, but stopping him to claim the OPBF Light Flyweight title. A 40 year at 108lbs is supposed to be retired and enjoying a post boxing career but Horikawa is still having real success years beyond his supposed prime. This wasn't necessarily the best performance of the month, but this was the most impressive in terms of context and the sort of win that really puts Horikawa on the verge of something big.
Fight of the Month
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh Vs Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai
Although not the most exciting fight as such the WBA Asia Light Welterweight bout between 16 year old prodigy Phoobadin Yoohanngoh and former Muay Thai standout Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai was a bout that had everything we needed. It was, technically a compelling bout on paper, it was a great match up of styles and a really competitive contest. Whilst Phoobadin won, he had to answer questions and despite the loss Kulabdam will come again, having learned more in that one bout that he would in 10 other bouts. This was two youngsters putting things on the line in a good, solid, 10 rounder. It may not have been the most action packed or dramatic, but it was a bout that had other intriguing aspects to it, that more than made up for the lack of knockdowns and back and forth exchanges.
KO of the Month
Rentaro Kimura TKO2 Yuta Azuma
When there is a lot of hype around a prospect ahead of their debut they need to shine, and Rentaro Kimura did just that, giving us a KO of the year contender. The youngster looked good, although not flawless, in the first round, and was caught a few times in round 2. That however was quickly forgotten thanks to the brutal finish he put on against Yuya Azuma. We see lots of 1-punch KO's but from Kimura was got a brutal combination to take out Azuma who had never previously been stopped. This was brutal and brilliant
Prospect of the Month
Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1)
It's a double for Rentaro Kimura. The talented Japanese debutant looked truly fantastic at times, and looks like someone who can be fast tracked over the coming years. He looked like there was areas to improve, of course he did, but he showed so much that it's hard not to get very excited about him. He's quick, sharp, powerful, skilled and has that pure killed instinct in the ring. He's going to be a must watch fighter, and his return to the ring in September is highly anticipated as he looks to be moved very quickly in the coming years.
Other prospects worth mentioning
Upset of the Month
Sandy Messaoud TD7 Nursultan Zhangabayev
There was an incredible number of upsets this past month in Asian boxing but the most surprising of them all was the technical decision win scored by French fighter Sandy Messaoud against previously unbeaten, and world ranked, Kazakh Nursultan Zhangabayev. The Kazakh was dropped early, had no answer for Messaoud's movement and accuracy in what was a massive shocker. The fact that not only Messaoud out boxed the talented Kazakh but also got the decision was a bit of a surprise, despite the awful scorecard of Jan Teleki.
As mentioned there was a number of other upsets these included:
Kenichi Horikawa Vs Daiki Tomita
Daishi Nagata Vs Koki Inoue
Round of the Month
Satoshi Shimizu Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (RD1)
When we see Satoshi Shimizu there some really obvious things that we always see. We always see a technically crude, easy to heat power puncher. Against the wrong opponent that will cost him, as we say last year against Joe Noynay, against the right opponent however it will give us something awesome. Against Kyohei Tonomoto we got something awesome in a number of rounds. Some will suggest round 7 was the pick of the bunch, and they'd have a damn good argument, but for us the opening round was the one. Tonomoto came out aggressive, forced Shimizu back and looked the better fighter and the more aggressive man, but yet found himself on the canvas twice in a round that had action, drama, excitement, wild fighting and heart.
Shimizu Vs Tonomoto (Rd 7)
Over the last few months we've not had much boxing to talk about, but thankfully that's all set to change in July with the sport returning to various countries after they have managed to get on top of the on going situation. With that in mind we have some fights to look forward this month!
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4)
OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu returns to the ring after a brutal loss to Joe Noynay last August as he defends his title against the unheralded Kyohei Tonomoto. The hard hitting Shimizu has a lot of questions to answer following his loss and will know that a loss here ends any hope he has of fighting for a world title. As for Tonomoto this is a huge opportunity to make a mark at Oriental level.
Koki Inoue (15-0, 12) Vs Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5)
Unbeaten Japanese Light Welterweight (140lbs) champion Koki Inoue will make his next defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Daishi Nagata. Originally this bout was scheduled for March, before Inoue was injured, then delayed due to the ongoing situation. For Inoue this could be his last bout at domestic level and he could well be looking to make a mark at a higher level in the very near future. As for Nagata this is his second shot at a title, after losing in an OPBF title bout against Rikki Naito. This could well be a very, very exciting bout.
Kazakhstan (IFL TV, ESPN+)
Dauren Yeleussinov (8-0-1, 7) Vs Arman Rysbek (7-0, 6)
In a very good looking all-Kazakh bout we'll see Dauren Yeleussinov, the brother of Olympic champion Daniyar Yeleussinov, take on Arman Rysbek. This is the sort of bout we're always excited about, two unbeaten, talented punchers facing off with everything to gain. At 34 Yeleussinov needs a big win, and this should be seen as a must win for him. Rysbek on the other hand is a bit younger, at 29, but can still ill afford a loss. Expect this one to be an excellent bout with two men looking to prove a point
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0) Vs Sagadat Rakhmankulov (6-1, 4)
We love seeing top amateurs matched hard in a their debuts and that's what we have here with Tursynbay Kulakhmet, the 2019 amateur champion at Middleweight and World Championship bronze medal winner, taking on the once beaten Sagadat Rakhmankulov. It's expected that Kulakhmet will be fast tracked and with a debut like this the intention is clear, he is being eyed as a super talent and will be raced to the top. As for Rakhmankulov this will actually be his domestic debut, after entirely in the West so far. This is a big test, and hugely interesting debut.
Talgat Shaiken (0-0) Vs Berikbay Nurymbetov (5-0, 1)
Another notable debut is that of Talgat Shaiken, another Kazakh who is tipped for big things. Shaiken is only a youngster, but is a very strong and powerful kid who if being matched tough here for such a youngster, as he takes on Berikbay Nurymbetov. This is a tough debut, but should be a win for the former Youth Olympic silver medal winner.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (Fuji TV)
Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) Vs Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) - Japanese Super Flyweight title fight
In the second Japanese title fight for the month we'll see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa defending his title, in a mandatory, against Yuta Matsuo. Given the styles of the two men this should be a very good bout, with Matsuo known for his pressure and Nakagawa being known for his solid punching. A very nice bout and one that should be a very competitive one.
Rentaro Kimura (0-0) Vs Yuya Azuma (5-3-1, 1)
Yet another debutant of note for the month is Rentaro Kimura, who will take on Yuya Azuma. Those in Japan are raving about Kimura, who has stated that he wants to fight for a world title in his first 10 bouts. His debut comes against the relatively unknown Yuya Azuma, in what should be a rather straight forward debut for the youngster.
Kobe Central Gymnasium, Japan
Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13) Vs Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) - OPBF Light Flyweight title fight
The second OPBF title bout for the month will see veteran Kenichi Horikawa take on Daiki Tomita for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. This bout was supposed to take place in March, though was postponed when boxing was put on an hiatus in Japan. The title, which was vacated by Edward Heno, is often regarded as a stepping stone for world champions, and the title has been held by numerous fighters who have gone on to bigger and better things. For Horikawa a loss will almost certainly be the end of his great career, though a win would see him complete a domestic and regional grandslam. As for Tomita this is his second chance at a title, and a win here would be a huge boost to his fledgling career.
Aioi Hall, Japan
Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10) Vs Tsuyoshi Sato (10-1-1, 5) - Japanese Light Flyweight title fight
The final Japanese title fight for the month will take place on July 25th and will see fans attending the event as Masamichi Yabuki and Tsuyoshi Sato battle for the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title. The title here became vacant when Yuto Takahashi announced his retirement from the sport following issues with motivation and training. Yabuki will be favoured here, given his brutal power, but Sato has been impressive with his pressure, high out put and under-rated power. For one of the first bouts with fans this should be a genuine highlight for the month, and the styles of the men should gell brilliantly.
The action involving Asian fighters really doesn't stop for breath in December, the middle part of the month is packed with some great fights, promising rising stars, title bouts, and everything we could have wished for as an early Christmas present!
Hironori Mishiro (8-0-1, 3) vs Yoshimitsu Kimura (12-1, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten Super Featherweight hopeful Hironori Mishiro looks to extend his reign as the OPBF Super Featherweight champion as he defends his title against the once beaten Yoshimitsu Kimura in an interesting looking bout. On paper the champion will be favoured, with his strong amateur background and early professional success, however Kimura will not be in the ring to lose and this could end up be a genuine thriller between two young men who are both expected to make their mark on the sport in the coming years.
Yudai Shigeoka (1-0, 1) Vs Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8)-Tokyo, Japan
Just weeks after making his professional debut Japanese prospect Yudai Shigeoka takes a huge step up in class to battle against OPBF Minimumweight champion Lito Dante. This is a monstrous step up in class for Shigeoka but a win here will instantly put him in the mix for a title fight, whilst Dante gets a second success bout against a touted and unbeaten Japanese fighter. With this bout being over 6 rounds Shigeoka's team have taken a calculated risk, but Dante will be there looking for the scalp of the very talented youngster.
Tsuyoshi Sato (9-1-1, 5) vs Masashi Tada (13-6-3, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
Although most the bouts on this list are title bouts, or something of some notable standing in the boxing world we felt the need to talk about this interesting little bout between Tsuyoshi Sato, who has smashed his way into the Japanese rankings, and 2-time Japanese title challenger Masashi Tada. This isn't an eliminator or anything like that, but Sato has quickly become one of the must watch youngsters in Japan and his future is going to be so much fun to follow. Whilst this bout might not be an easy one to see it's one worth having in the back of your mind, and we really do suggest that fans give Sato a follow, win or lose he's going to be great to watch in the coming years.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (20-2-2, 13) vs Shohei Kawashima (18-3-2, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
The in form Hiroaki Teshigawara looks to continue his impressive run of form as he defends the OPBF Super Bantamweight title against fellow Japanese fighter Shohei Kawashima. The talented Teshigawara has been edging towards a world title fight for a while now, and wins over the likes of Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori have shown what he can do. The highly skilled Kawashima is no push over, but we don't see him having the physical tools to deal with the powerful and exciting Teshigawara, who may well be in the world title mix next year.
Ryo Sagawa (8-1, 4) vs Ryo Hino (13-1-2, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
Talented Japanese Featherweight champion Ryo Sagawa looks for his first defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Ryo Hino in a great match up, at leats on paper. Sagawa has been in sensational form since an early career stoppage loss, and wins over the likes of Ryo Matsumoto, Al Toyogon and Reiya Abe really have shown that he has a very, very high ceiling. Hino on the other hand has failed to build on a 2017 win over Sho Nakazawa and has seemingly got this shot due to the mess of a good division, rather earning it on merit. Still this should be a very good first defense for Sagawa.
Haruki Ishikawa (8-1, 6) vs Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
A third title fight on the same card in Tokyo will see a new Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion being crowned, as the heavy handed Haruki Ishikawa takes on professional novice Toshiya Ishii. Both of these youngsters took part in a 4 man tournament to earn their shot at the the title, and both impressed. Albeit in very different ways. Ishii beat Fumiya Fuse, and looked like a really talented young boxer whilst Ishikawa battered Atsushi Takada into submission. This boxer Vs puncher and should be a very compelling contest.
Tenkai Tsunami (26-12-1, 15) vs Jessebelle Pagaduan (12-1-1, 5) - WBO Female Light Flyweight
The only world title fight during this stretch of the month is a female world title fight, though given the quality of regional title bouts we don't think the lack of world titles is a major issue. The bout will see WBO female Light Flyweight champion Tenkai Tsunami make her second defense as she battles aggressive Filipino Jessebelle Pagaduan, who is hoping it's third time lucky. This isn't a huge profile bout, but we can't stop thinking that it'll be an action packed and hotly competitive one.
Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2, 4) vs Ryotaro Motohashi (9-1, 2) -Osaka, Japan
In his first defense of the Japanese Youth Featherweight title Kyohei Tonomoto will take on the once beaten Ryotaro Motohashi in a very evenly matched bout on paper. Of the two men it's the champion who has impressed more, and he was the runner up in the All Japan Rookie of the Year way back in 2014, though Motohashi will be hungry for his first title and looking to build on a 7 fight winning run. This isn't the most appealing bout we'll see before the end of the year, but it is certainly an interesting match up all the same and the winner will be ear marked for more title glory down the line.
Kotatsu Takehara (15-12-3, 8) Vs Ryu Ueda (8-1-1, 5) II - Kariya, Japan
In a bit of an oddity we'll see a new Japanese Heavyweight champion crowned, as Kotatsu Takehara takes on Ryu Ueda, in a second bout between the two men. Takehara, a real veteran at the age of 41, stopped Ueda in their previous meeting, way back in 2016, but since then has aged whilst Ueda is now, technically, in his peak years. This is an interesting match up, but the reality is that the Japanese Heavyweight title will remain a bit of a joke, no matter who wins.
Rikito Shiba (4-0, 2) Vs Masamichi Yabuki (9-3, 9) - Kariya, Japan
In a really, really, good match up we'll see talented and unbeaten Rikito Shiba take on the hard hitting Masamichi Yabuki in a Japanese Light Flyweight title eliminator. Shiba has impressed us ever since turning professional and he looks like a genuine star of the future, but this is a real test of the youngsters ability to take a shot. Of course this isn't all about Shiba and Yabuki has been knocking on the door of a title fight for some time now, and has bounced back well from a loss to Daniel Matellon last year.
Tomomi Takano (11-5, 8) Vs Sachiko Kondo (2-4-2) - Kariya, Japan
In a pretty low level, yet very notable bout, we'll see Tomomi Takano return to a Japanese ring for the first time in over 2 years. The former world title challenger, who fellow out with her former gym and began fighting in Mexico, is certainly not looking for a test as she restarts in Japan against Sachiko Kondo, but in reality it's just great to see the enigmatic model-come-boxer back in action. Given how instantly marketable Takano is, we need to suspect their are big plans for her, and a win here will move those plans along to the next step.
Genesis Servania (33-2, 16) Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu (53-7, 35) - Ishikawa, Japan
Sometimes it's better late than never, and in reality we would have loved a clash between Genesis Servania and Pungluang Sor Singyu when both fighters were in their primes. Now though it feels like both are well past their best. Yes they are both very capable fighters but both have slipped. Regardless of being on the downslide a bout between the two just fills us with a little bit of Joy, as we suspect this could be one the gems of the month. Both fighters have similar styles, both like to have a fight, and both are rather flat footed. We suspect this is going to end up a very fun fight.
Jung Kyoung Lee (7-3-1, 3) Vs Saddam Kietyongyuth (28-6, 22) - Seoul, South Korea
To end this section out attention turns to South Korea as former OPBF Light Middlweight champion Jung Kyoung Lee takes once touted Thai fighter Saddam Kietyongyuth, in a bout for a regional WBO title. Coming into this Lee will be looking to rebuild following his title loss to Akinori Watanabe earlier in the year. Although once regarded highly Saddam host lost 4 of his last 6, and seems very unlikely he'll make anything notable of his career.
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