One of the great things about this "Who are you?" Series, at least for us writing them, is that there really isn't a limit on who we can cover, and whether we think they can win or lose their upcoming. The reality is that this is a chance to just shine a light on someone who isn't a prospect, look at their career, their style, their records and their achievements, without really being limited by how big of a name they are, or that they will become.
This week we look at someone who is a great example of hard work, dedication, and crafting a style that works for him. He's never going to be a world champion, but will always be a really good gate keeper, and someone who can test anyone over 12 rounds. Today we look at Lito Dante (17-11-4, 9), the man with one of the most misleading records in the entire sport.
The 20 year old Lito Dante is pretty much a 10 year veteran as we write this, and with 32 on his ledger he's a genuine young veteran. On paper he may look like a typical journeyman. A "win some, lose some" type of fighter, but the reality is he is so much more than that. He is a world level journeyman, he is one of the most rugged and mentally challenging fighters in the sport. He's technically not the best, but everyone will have problems with his toughness and tenacity.
Lets rewind! Dante made his professional debut in 2010 as a 20 year old. He would go unbeaten in his first 6 bouts, running up a 3-0-3 record before back to back losses to Louie Arlos and Raymond Tabugon in 2012 saw him fall to 3-2-3 after 8 bouts. Although Dante stopped the rot, with a TKO win over Gilbert Magos, he struggled to build momentum due to another loss, this time to Michael Enriquez.
After his unbeaten 6 fight start Dante had quickly dropped to 4-3-3 (1) and seemed unlikely to make any sort of a mark on the sport. Even when he managed to build some moment, though 2013, with a trio of wins the momentum was killed the following year, with a loss to Richard Barrios.
The loss to Barrios was followed by 11 months out of the ring for Dante, who returned to stop Dexter Dimaculangan and then beat Oliver Gregorio just weeks later, taking his first 10 round decision win. Once again just as he started to build momentum he would suffer another loss, losing in South Africa to Siyabonga Siyo, in what was not only Dante's first 12 round fight but also his first bout outside of the Phlippines.
The loss to Siyo saw Dante fall to 9-5-3 (5), and it was the fourth time he had lost a decision to an unbeaten fighter. Despite the loss Dante's hunger didn't fade, and 4 months later he won the LuzProBA Minimumweight title by taking a decision over Lester Abutan. That was Dante's first title win and the perfect way for him to end 2015.
To kick off a very busy 2016, in which Dante fought 5 times, he stopped Junel Lacar in 4 rounds before facing future world champion Vic Saludar for the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title. Dante came up short to Saludar, who was fighting for the first time since losing to Kosei Tanaka in a WBO world title fight, but became the first fighter to survive 10 rounds with Saludar, something he would beat in 2017. In his third bout of 2016 Dante travelled to Japan and gave the then touted Takumi Sake fits, before the bout was curtailed in round 4, resulting in a technical draw. Just weeks later Dante would be in the ring and would stop Jaysever Abcede, becoming the first fighter to stop the gutsy "Lion Hearted". The year would however end with another loss, as Dante lost a close technical decision to Jesse Espinas.
In 2017 we not only had Dante go 10 rounds with Vic Saludar again, something he did in December, but also notch one of his better wins, defeating Jay Loto over 12 rounds for the WBC International title. Sadly though he couldn't build on the win over Loto as that was followed, just 3 months later, by a loss in South Africa to Simpiwe Konkco, in an IBO world title fight.
Dante came into 2018 on the back of his second loss to Vic Saludar and didn't have the start to the year he would have wanted, losing a technical decision to Tibo Monabesa, when Monabesa was cut from a clash of head. Despite the back to back losses Dante would go on to beat Naoya Haruguchi in Japan, taking his first win on international soil in his fifth bout outside of the Philippines.
Following on from the win over Haruguchi we would see Dante return to Japan and score his biggest to date on March 31st 2019. He had travelled over to Yokohama to take on OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura. Koura, then 14-0, was expected to move on to a world title fight later in the year but Dante ripped up the script completely and pressed Koura, out boxing him, out fighting him, and then, mid way through round 12, stopped him. Dante had not only gone over to Japan, but had battered their rising star to claim the Oriental title, and put himself in the world rankings.
More than 8 months after his massive win over Koura we saw Dante return to Japan, looking to make it a hat-trick of wins in the country, but lose a clear 6 round decision to talented youngster Yudai Shigeoka. The highly skilled Shigeoka, fighting for the second time as a professional, used his speed and movement to out box, out think, out speed and out skill Dante, and made the most of the shorter distance of the bout. It was a brilliant bit of match making from Shigeoka's team, who knew that the win over the OPBF champion would massively enhance his standing, but also be a good test.
To begin 2020 Dante took on Indonesian Sulis Barrera, and battered Barrera into submission in 2 rounds, dropping him from a barrage of body shots.
Next for the Filipino, we suspect, is a return to Japan to take on Masataka Taniguchi. The bout will not only be Dante's first defense of the OPBF title he won last year, but also be for the vacant Japanese Minimumweight title, giving the bout really big stakes. The bout was announced for the middle of March, but is expected to be postponed until the JBC lift's their suspension on professional boxing activity in Japan.
In the ring Dante isn't the best, he's not the most skilled, he's not the biggest puncher, or the quickest, or the most accurate. What he is, however, is a nightmare. He's really physically strong, scarily so for a Minimumweight, he's insanely tough, and he's mentally durable. If he doesn't have early success that's not a major problem to him, he just keeps coming. He's defensively smart, though knows he can get away with errors due to his toughness, offensively smart, delivers wicked body shots and is a physical monster. To beat him you need to either have excellent speed or stamina, or hope your fighting over a short distance.
Dante's fights can be ugly, real ugly, and he has 3 technical decisions on his record but ugly or not he will always be a handful, for anyone.
This past week has been a rather interesting one, with a lot happening, and some fantastic action, some great performances and some real disappointments. It's been a week where the awards were mostly easy selections, though we did have a problem with award, and we have noted it accordingly.
Fighter of the Week
Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17)
Japan's Ryosuke Iwasa has been been a man who has long promised a lot, but has struggled to deliver. He has been inconsistent, he has slipped up too much and he has failed to live up to what he is capable of. This week however he delivered, his stoppage of Marlon Tapales was a notable upset with the bookies and saw Iwasa do it on the big stage. It wasn't a flawless performance but it was the best we've seen from him, and it showed what he can do, something we've not seen enough of. Fingers crossed he can build on this one and go on to become the fighter many expected him to be.
Performance of the Week
Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17)
In just over two years Kosuke Saka has had a career that has gone down, up, down and is up again. The way he lost the Japanese Featherweight title to Takenori Ohashi was embarrassing, his win over Masanori Rikiishi looks great on on reflect, his loss to Joe Noynay was a major set back. This weekend Saka was essentially fighting for his career, and it showed as he battered, beat up and broke down Masaru Sueyoshi in one of, if not them, best performance of his career. He pressed and pressured Sueyoshi, eventually dropping him and stopping him to become a 2-weight Japanese national champion. An excellent performance, a great win and a victory that sets up a mouth watering encounter with Takuya Watanabe in 2020.
Ryosuke Iwasa vs Marlon Tapales
Whilst we didn't have a Fight of the Year contender this past week we did have some solid bouts, including the IBF "interim" Super Bantamweight clash between Ryosuke Iwasa and Marlon Tapales. This was exciting to begin with, slowed in the middle then finished in style. It was a solid action bout early on and is well worth a watch, as long as you're not jumping in expecting a FOTY contender. Solid and high level stuff, but not quite a spectacular fight.
Note - Due to a lack of footage at the time of writing the 10 round, 6 knockdown thriller between Ryota Yada and Yuki Beppu wasn't able to be considered, though going off all reports this likely was the Fight of the Week.
Daiki Funayama vs Suradech Ruhasiri (RD4)
Sometimes the best rounds are just crazy, and round 4 of the contest between Daiki Funayama and Suradech Ruhasiri was crazy. The bout wasn't a great one, in fact it was one sided for the most part, but the effort Ruhasiri put in, and the beating he took, during the round make it thrilling. Funayama hurt his man early in the round and went for the kill. The Thai fought back, landing some huge right hand counters, making for a round that was truly amazing to watch. This won't be in the discussions for round of the year, but watching live, this is one that deserves a rewatch.
Sadriddin Akhmedov KO7 Jose Antonio Villalobos
We had a number of impressive KO's this week, but the best of the bunch was scored by Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov, who brutally took out Argentinian foe Jose Antonio Villalobos in the 7th round. This came from a monstrous right hand and really left poor Villalobos wondering what sort of thunderbolt he had been caught by, a really impressive and eye catching KO from the future of Kazakh boxing.
Thanongsak Simsri (13-0, 11)
Aged 20, a professional for less than 18 months and now with just 38 rounds under his belt Thai youngster Thaniongsak Simsri proved he was one to watch. The youngster claimed the biggest win of his career this weekend when he narrowly, though fairly, out pointed world ranked Filipino Christian Bacolod over 8 rounds. The Thai was the stronger man and finished better than his talented Filipino foe, and showed that whilst there is still a lot of work to be done he is a top prospect rising through the ranks at a rapid pace. The man from Si Sa Ket might be dubbed "Srisaket II" by those in Thailand, but don't be surprised if he ends up making a name for himself in the coming years. This kid is a talent.
Yudai Shigeoka (1-0, 1) Vs Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8)
We love seeing fighters on the fast track, so for a man with just 1 fight to his name to face on an OPBF champion we were always going to jump all this. Yudai Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, is stepping up massively to take on rugged Filipino Lito Dante in what should be a really serious test of the youngster. A win for Shigeoka will put him in the title mix in the new year, but a win is certainly not a foregone conclusion and Dante is never an easy man to over-come. This is a serious test, and this is the sort of risk we love seeing from prospects.
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.
The month of March is over and whilst it hasn't been an amazing month it has had it's moments, and has had a very clear Fighter of the Month, Fight of the Month and Upset of the Month. It's a month that had some down time, and didn't seem to be as memorable as either January or February, but was still a pretty good month in terms of highlights.
Fighter of the Month
The "KO Dream Boy" managed to really shine in the middle of the month, retaining his WBO Flyweight title in style as he clearly out pointed former unified Light Flyweight champion Ryoichi Taguchi. The bout, like most Tanaka fights, was high tempo, exciting and saw the talented Hatanaka promoted fighter trying to put on a show. Tanaka, who at 13-0 is already a 3 weight world champion, is one of the real young stars of world boxing and his performance this month was sensational. He is clearly going looking to create history and it's now assumed that he only has a fight or two left at Flyweight before seeking a 4th divisional world title.
Fight of the Month
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi
Whilst we could wax lyrical about Tanaka it does take two to tango and his bout with Ryoichi Taguchi was clearly the best bout of the month. It was relatively one sided, but was highly skilled, hugely entertaining and pitted the desire and hunger of Tanaka against the guts and heart of Taguchi. To his credit Taguchi refused to lie down and quit, and despite being clearly beaten his will to win cannot be questioned. A fantastic bout, and as good a 1-sided bout as we'll see this year.
KO of the Month
Israil Madrimov vs Frank Rojas
Uzbek fighter Israil Madrimov is no normal prospect. His first 2 professional bouts have both been title bouts, over 10 rounds, with fighters holding records with more wins than losses. He isn't just a fighter with ambitious match making but also real skill, confident, and as seen this month, dynamite punching. The way he took out Venezuelan Frank Rojas on March 9th was clinical and brutal with the final left hook being as brutal a shot as they come.
Canadian based Kazakh Sadriddin Akhmedov has long been a bit of a hidden secret with fight fans who don't follow the Asian scene or the Canadian scene in a hardcore fashion. This month Akhmedov fought in Kazakhstan for the first time and whilst it wasn't his best performance to date he did clearly beat Indonesian tough guy John Ruba over 10 rounds, and prove he had the stamina to go 10 rounds, with out any problem. It's just a shame he was later diagnosed as having suffered an injury in his bout.
Lito Dante TKO12 Tsubasa Koura
The biggest upset of the month, and in fact one of the biggest upsets of the year so far, saw unheralded Filipino tough guy Lito Dante break down the previously unbeaten Tsubasa Koura. Koura, who was ranked #3 by the WBC, seemed set to make one final defense of the OPBF title before moving on to a world title fight, but those planned have been destroyed by Dante. The Filipino had given Koura fits through out the bout before finally forcing the referee to save the Japanese fighter in the final round. A huge upset!
Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi - Round 2
We go back to the Kosei Tanaka Vs Ryoichi Taguchi for our round of the month, which gave us an amazing second round. The round was high skilled back and forth, and despite being one of the only really competitive rounds from the fight was a round that gave us everything. Skills, action, intensity, back and forth, guts and desire. This is what boxing is about and this is why we all love this sport.
After a few relatively disappointing weeks we've managed to have a really amazing 7 days of Asian boxing, where every category of our weekly awards could, very easily, have multiple contenders. This wasn't a typical week, of course it wasn't, we had a host of cards across the continent, but we didn't just have quantity but also real quality with proof, again, that 50-50 match making provides the best from boxing!
Fighter of the Week
Hironori Mishiro (7-0-1, 2)
OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro may not have got a huge amount of attention this week but his win over Takuya Watanabe, to make his second defense of the Oriental title. The bout was competitive, at times, but Mishiro always seemed to be a step ahead and was well deserving of his win, arguably the best of his career so far. He showed how good he was as a boxer, as a brawler and as a general fighter that he it. This was the sort of win that proved what Mishiro has to offer, and that he is edging towards a world title fight, even at this very early stage in his career.
Performance of the Week
Lito Dante (16-10-4, 8)
In one of the final Asian bouts of the week Filipino Lito Dante proved that records are for DJ's as he travelled to Japan and ripped the OPBF Minimumweight title from the previously unbeaten Tsubasa Koura. Koura, who had been ranked #3 by the WBC, had looked the clear favourite against a man who was known as a tough but limited fighter. Dante however broke down the previously unbeaten Japanese fighter, scoring a shock 12th round TKO in what is, by far, the best win of his career and one of the biggest upsets of 2019 so far.
Wulan Tuolehazi vs Ryota Yamauchi
One of the best things this week has been the sheer number of amazing fights we've had, across all levels of the sport. For us the one that had everything was the WBA International Flyweight bout between Wulan Tuolehazi and Ryota Yamauchi from Shanghai. The bout saw both men going down, both men digging in deep, both landing hurtful shots and both adapting. The only real issue was two score-cards of 117-109, which didn't reflect the action in the ring, and again leaves question marks over judging. Rather than dwell on the negatives we'll just state that this is a must watch bout.
Juan Miguel Elorde vs Shohei Kawashima
Hironori Mishiro vs Takuya Watanabe
Fangyong Zhang vs Ryuto Maekawa
Fuga Komatsu vs Yota Sato
Fuga Komatsu vs Yota Sato (Round 1)
Given how many great fights we had, we also, obviously, had a lot of great rounds. For us the one that perhaps stood out the most was the opening round of the all-debutant bout between Fuga Komatsu and Yota Sato. The bout was a 4 round contest on a small card in Yokohama, but was fought at a frantic, exciting and exhilarating pace. Komatsu would drop his man in the opening seconds, with Sato managing to see out the storm. It wasn't the most evenly contested round of the week, but in terms of sheer excitement and heart it was amazing.
No fit contender - Despite all the great action, there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
Jayson Mama (12-0, 6)
Filipino youngster Jayson Mama may not be a big name, yet, but the 21 year old "Smasher" sure did impress this past week when he travelled to China and clearly out boxed Thai Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr. The Filipino, who had never really beaten anyone of note prior to this week, took a huge step up and totally dominated the Thai former world title challenger. This was the sort of win that will help put anyone on the map and should well help Mama move into the world rankings. For those unaware of Mama it's now time to make a mental note of the youngster.
Valentine Hosokawa (24-6-3, 11) vs Koki Inoue (12-0, 10)
We don't have any world level bouts coming up this week, be we do have a potentially amazing Japanese Light Welterweight title bout set for Saturday as veteran champion Valentine Hosokawa takes on mandatory challenger Koki Inoue. Given the styles of the two men, and what's on the line this has the potential to be something very, very special. One to be really 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