One of the areas of professional boxing that has started to get more and more attention in recent years has been Japan, thanks in a big part to Naoya Inoue's growing success, and the great work CBC have done in making Kosei Tanaka fights widely available. Whilst a lot of the emerging Japanese talent is competing in the lower weight classes it doesn't change the fact the country is over-flowing with talented youngsters all looking to make their name and become one of the countries next big stars.
With that in mind it seems the perfect time to try and predict who will be the next big Japanese star, and bring attention to 5 of Japan's brightest young prospects.
Although Shigeoka has only had 4 bouts it's impossible not to be impressed by what he has shown. He's an aggressive yet intelligent fighter, he presses well, has amazingly crisp punches, switches between head and body with ease and has nasty spiteful power, something we don't often see at 105lbs. Going forward the one issue will be a question of how much weight he can add to his frame, and at just over 5' he likely doesn't have the frame to hit the weights which get Western attention. Still he looks like a nailed future world champion, and we're really excited to see how his brother, Yudai Shigeoka goes with his career as well.
Kuwahara began his career as a Light Flyweight, but has now moved up to the Flyweight division and the reality is that he's grown into the 112lb weight class. It's fair to say Flyweight is currently a division that lacks in terms of depth, unlike Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight, and there's no reason why Kuwahara can't have a big 2020 and pick up a national or regional title as he climbs towards a potential world title fight in the next year or two.
Nakano looks to be a man with a real understanding of the ring, understands his advantages, and how to use them effectively. He's a very sharp puncher, a smart boxer and although he's certainly not untouchable he minimises the effect of shots when he has to take them. Fighting out of the Teiken gym it's clear he's getting top sparring, and with Kenichi Ogawa, Masaru Sueyoshi and Shuya Masaki there is real talent at the Featherweight and Super Featherweight divisions in the gym. Unlike many youngsters Nakano isn't in love with his power, but knows how to deliver it to head and body.
Although not a big puncher Iwata looks to have enough power in his shots to get the respect of his opponents, and combines that with brilliant footwork, handspeed, movement and a very smart boxing brain. There is obviously a feeling that he will be moved quickly, as most promising Japanese fighters are in the lower weights, and he's already in the JBC rankings, however we don't expect him to be fighting for a title for another year or two due to the depth at 108lbs.
Suzuki looked fantastic on debut, showing great composure, defense, stamina and clean punching to beat the dangerous Antonio Siesmundo last November. Since then he has notched 2 more wins, taking a decision over Filipino Kelvin Tenorio and stopping Kosuke Arioka. After just 3 fights he is already ranked by both the OPBF and the JBC and has proven to a be a strong fighter 140lb, never mind 135lbs.
Limiting this list to 5 was incredibly difficult, given the likes of Ryota Yamauchi, Yuki Yamauchi, Seiya Tsutsumi, Rikito Shiba, Shu Utsuki, Tomoya Ishii, Kuntae Lee, Ryu Horikawa and so many others. What this proves, more than anything, is the depth in Japan and the future is very, very bright for fight fans in the Land of the Rising Sun.
This past week has been an odd one for Asian boxing, with a real lack of notable shows, but what we have had has been fairly interesting, and we certainly had two thrilling OPBF title fights, though was fought with out any TV footage being available.
Fighter of the Week
Hiroaki Teshigawara (20-2-2, 13)
Japan's Hiroaki Teshigawara has been on a roll since losing a split decision to Ryo Akaho in 2016, and this Thursday that roll sped up a bit more as he scored a 12th round TKO win over the talented Shohei Omori. The bout promised a lot and it delivered, with Teshigawara shining in terms of his toughness, his aggression, his fighting spirit and his ability to go to war. This was a great win, by a a fighter who really is now deserving of a big bout.
Performance of the Week
Akinori Watanabe (38-7-1, 32)
Teshigawara came close to netting a double, that was until Akinori Watanabe became a 2-weight OPBF champion and stopped Jung Kyoung Lee on one of the very last bouts of the week. Watanabe had travelled to Korea and had seemingly had the deck stacked against him. He dropped Lee in round 2, with Lee reportedly getting a long count, appeared to be in control but was only level when the cards were announced after 8 rounds then managed to pull out two late knock downs to secure the win. A great performance by a 34 year old who had been out of the ring since a really hard fought war in December.
Hiroaki Teshigawara Vs Shohei Omori
We've already mentioned Hiroake Teshigawara and his win over Shohei Omori but what we didn't mention is what an incredible fight it was.It was 12 rounds of action and violence that got better as the fight went on. It started rather technically but became a war as the two men, both of whom are solid punchers, increased the tempo in the middle rounds giving us some really brutal exchanges. This wasn't an all action battle of attrition but was a hard hitting, gruelling war, which featured a lot of mini battles and awesome back and forth sequences.
Hiroaki Teshigawara Vs Shohei Omori (6)
With the bout slipping away from his Omori set off for the middle part of his bout with Teshigawara by trying to up the pace, and for around a minute or so of the round he did he did that well, landing some of his dynamite left hands with Teshigawara on the ropes. Teshigawara did well to escape and fire back some solid right hands before a big finish from Teshigawara left Omori running for the bell. It wasn't an all out round of action, but it was a round that showed the story of the bout. Everytime Omori got a foot hold, he seemed to have it taken away before he got the chance to really build on things
No bout was considered for this award this week.
Masahiro Suzuki (3-0, 2)
In just his third bout Masahiro Suzuki has made yet another statement as he beat JBC ranked Kosuke Arioka, doing so in 2 rounds to take a ranking and move closer to his first title fight. The talented, well schooled former amateur standout has so much upside right now and he's already showing himself to be a smart boxer-puncher, with real grit and toughness, solid power and a very smart boxing brain. Although he admitted to being buzzed by the hard hitting Arioka he got through the storm and stopped his man. This kid is special and it's really clear that he's going a long way in the sport.
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) vs Jomar Caindog (10-1-1, 4)
The best bout, on paper, is probably the WBO International Minimumweight title fight between Jing Xiang and Jomar Caindog, but for us it's the most interesting. Xiang, who is a fringe world class fighter at 108lbs, is dropping down to Minimumweight and, if he looks good at the weight, could find himself very close to landing a world title title bout. At Light Flyweight he was deep down the queue but at 105lbs he'll be well in the mix, and may well have the style to trouble anyone. Caindog on the other hand is a relative unknown, but a win here puts him on the boxing map, regionally at least. An really intriguing match up, as opposed to a thrilling one. But one we are really excited about.
The month of August is set to be a hectic one, both in terms of boxing and our personal lives. Despite being hectic it's a month that doesn't have many huge fights through out it, with pretty much all the big ones taking place over a single day, but does have a lot of notable right through the month. We have Japanese title fights, Japanese youth title bouts, OPBF title bouts, prospects in action and so much more, even if we don't have a huge number of world title bouts.
Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) Vs ArAr Andales (10-0, 2) - Bangkok, Thailand
The first major bout of the month is one of the few world title bouts and will see unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart return to the ring for his first bout of 2019. In the opposite corner to the unbeaten champion will be unbeaten Filipino youngster ArAr Andales, who looks to become one of the few Filipino's to have won a world title as a teenager. Knockout has had a frustrating reign, often showing glimpses of brilliance but crowding them with long stretches of tedium and his fanfare has certainly eroded, with the mocking name of "Unanimous Decision CP Freshmart" seeming a lot more apt than his actual name. Andales on the other hand was an unknown 12 months ago, but a regional title has boosted him to this fight and a chance to end the tiring and dull reign of the Thai champion.
Koki Eto (24-4-1-1, 19) Vs Jeyvier Cintron II (10-0-0-1, 5) II - Florida USA
A few hours later our attention turns to the US as we see Japanese slugger Koki Eto and unbeaten Puerto Rican hopeful Jeyvier Cintron go again. The two men fought just 3 months ago, with the bout ending in a No Contest due to a clash of heads, and they will both be looking to avoid a similar fate here. The winner will be the leading challenger for the WBO Super Flyweight title, currently held by Kazuto Ioka, though both men will bee annoyed that they have had to wait, given they would have expected a shot at the end of the year, had it not been for their headclash. From their first bout Cintron clearly looked the better fight, but Eto did look dangerous, especially with his booming and hard right hand. If we avoid a similar conclusion to last time we could be in for something very exciting.
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7) Vs Patomsuk Pathompothong (38-10-1-1, 24) - Tokyo, Japan
Recent world title challenger Takeshi Inoue returns to the ring for the first time since losing to Jamie Munguia, and will re-enter the title mix immediately as he battles against Thai veteran Patomsuk Pathompothong for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title. This really should be a straight forward win for the aggressive and physically strong Inoue, as he takes on a naturally smaller, older and limited for. For the Thai, who has been stopped in his last 2 bouts in Japan, this really will be his last chance at this level and another loss could well end his career.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0-1, 10) Vs Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6) II - Tokyo, Japan
Another title fight on the same card will see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako take part in a rematch with Shuji Kato. The two men had a real thriller earlier in the year, which resulted in a draw that pleased neither man. This rematch will see both men desperate to avoid another draw, though given how well their styles gelled the first time around we're struggling to see anything but another close one. Takesako, seeking his third defense here, is the big punching favourite but Kato is the smarter boxer, and his southpaw jab gave Takesako all sorts of issues in their first match up. This might not be a Fight of the Year contender but will certainly be a very entertaining and intriguing bout all the same.
Takuma Takahashi (3-0, 3) vs Sitthidet Bantti (11-4, 5)
The fast rising Takuma Takahashi looks to continue his perfect start as he takes on Thai visitor Sitthidet Bannti. The hard hitting Takahashi may not have polished his style, yet, but looks like a natural dangerman and wins in hs first 3 against Joepher Montano and Jonel Dapidran are impressive.He'll be a clear favourite here and will, hopefully, face a domestic opponent later in the year to begin moving towards some form of a title bout. Bantti on the other hand has never been stopped and has been in with some good fighters, including Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, Xiangxiang Sun and Saddam Kietyongyuth. A win for Takahashi is expected, but the way that win comes will be very interesting.
Issei Ochiai (0-0) Vs Lerdchai Chaiyawed (1-2)
Celes Kobayashi's big new signing Issei Ochiai makes his debut, with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. The Celes gym has failed to develop many guys, but their success with Ryosuke Iwasa is fairly notable and Ochiai is one of the more talented amateurs that the gym has signed since Iwasa won a world title. Although talented he should be asked some real questions here by a Thai who a win over Samartlek Kokietgym and gave tough 8 round bouts to Ryoki Hirai and Seita Ogido when fighting in Japan. The visitor is no bum, and this is a real test for the Japanese novice.
Takayuki Okumoto (22-8-4,10) Vs Dynamic Kenji (11-3, 7)- Osaka Japan
Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto looks to put 3 very close bouts behind him and score his third defense of the title he won last year as he takes on the heavy handed, though very unheralded, Dynamic Kenji. Okumoto is a true veteran, who debuted at the age of 15, and has been given a number of chances, before finally making the most of one last year when he usurped Hiroyuki Kudaka, since then he has narrowly retained the title and is a rather lucky champion. Kenji on the other hand is getting his first shot at this level, and he's unlikely to be in the mix again if he losses, given his lack of a big name promoter and his rather low profile. This is a hard bout to call, and like the Takesako Vs Kato bout certainly has one guy being much more skilled and the other being the much bigger puncher.
Toshiki Shimomachi (9-1-2, 5) Vs Kenta Nomura (6-2, 3) - Osaka Japan
Another title bout from Osaka will see Toshiki Shimomachi and Kenta Nomura battle for the currently vacant Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title. Coming in both fighters have some momentum, with Shimomachi on a good unbeaten run following an early career and Shimomachi looking very powerful since moving up to Super Bantamweight after fighting mostly at Super Flyweight. This bout should be very exciting and could well give the winner a huge shot in the arm ahead of some bigger an better bouts over the next 24 months.
Thanongsak Simsri (9-0, 9) Vs Melianus Mirin (10-5, 6) - Osaka, Japan
Whilst the Osaka show will be a notable one thanks to the Japanese and Japanese youth titles it's hard to ignore that Thai youngster Thanongsak Simsri, who looks to score his 10th straight T/KO win and live up to the "Srisaket II" moniker the Thai boxing press have given him. In the opposite corner to the 19 year old Thai prospect will be the limited but tough Melianus Mirin, who has yet to be stopped and has fought stiff competition, including Wanheng Manyothin and
Daud Yordan (38-4-0-1, 26) Vs Patomsith Pathompothong (21-11, 10)- Pattaya, Thailand
The popular Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan gets his return from a 2018 loss to Anthony Crolla as he travels to Thailand to battle the limited Patomsith Pathompothong. The well travelled Yordan, who has fought will be fighting in his 6th different country in as many fights, will be strongly favoured here and will obviously be hoping to get his career back in track after inactivity and the Crolla loss. The Thai on the other hand has picked up 4 wins this year, but his level of competition has been incredibly low. Despite Yordan being the man on the road he has to be the favourite.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (19-2-2, 12) Vs Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) - Tokyo, Japan
Arguably the pick of the early month bouts is an OPBF Super Bantamweight title bout pitting hard nosed champion Hiroaki Teshigawara against the excellent Shohei Omori. For Teshigawara this is a big step up in class and a win will mark him a definitive fringe contender, at worst. He's on a good roll already and has been notching good wins over regional opposition, but this is a step up. Omori on the other hand is rebuilding following his second loss to Marlon Tapales, and has looked fantastic since moving to Super Bantamweight. The hard hitting southpaw challenger was once tipped as the successor to Shinsuke Yamanaka at Bantamweight but he really appears to have found his better weight 4lbs north and could see a win here as a launch pad to a second world title fight. An excellent match up and one we're really looking forward to.
Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13) Vs Ryuto Oho (12-5-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa looks to extend his second reign as the Japanese Light Flyweight champion as he takes on youngster Ryuto Oho. The often under-rated veteran, who holds the record for most wins of any active Japanese fighter, is heading towards his 40th birthday but continues to fight with the vigour and fire of a much, much younger man. Horikawa's reign isn't likely to lead to a world title fight, but we're certainly glad the little warrior is having some success towards the end of his career. Oho is a talented youngster but has shown durability issues and will need to rely on his youth and speed to survive Horikawa's aggression here. An interesting match up, but one where the champion enters as the clear favourite.
Masahiro Suzuki (2-0, 1) Vs Kosuke Arioka (9-3-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
Talented Japanese prospect Masahiro Suzuki might not be getting much fan fare but the highly skilled 24 year old has impressed us in both of his pro bouts so far and now he takes on his first domestic opponent. The excellent Suzuki has shown a lot in just 12 rounds of professional boxing, we know he's a smart fighter, we know he can fight on the front foot or the back foot and we know he's a very sharp puncher. His promoter now wants us to see how he copes against a puncher. Although fairly limited Kosuke Arioka can bang and he'll be expected to give Suzuki a real chin check before the unbeaten youngster looks to climb through the national rankings.
March is always an interesting month in Asian boxing, as bouts across the globe began to ramp up, after a relatively quiet start to the year. The month this year is packed with bouts right across the continent, including a lot of promising prospects.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) Vs Shuji Kato (10-1-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The first major bout in March will see unbeaten Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako defending his belt against mandatory challenger Shuji Kato. The bout is expected to be another KO win for the champion, but the champion is certainly not unbeatable and Kato comes into this bout full of confidence following an upset win over former champion Hikaru Nishida.
Takuma Takahashi (2-0, 2) Vs Jonel Dapidran (10-3, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Touted and unbeaten prospect Takuma Takahasi made his debut last year, and has scored back to back early wins against visitors. Now he takes a step up in class going up against Filipino opponent Jonel Dapidran. Dapidran was beaten in 3 rounds last October, by Rikuto Adachi, but we're expecting a better performance form him here. It's also worth noting that this will be Takahashi's first 8 round bout.
Masahiro Suzuki (1-0, 1) Vs Kelvin Tenorio (4-4, 2)- Tokyo, Japan
We were incredibly impressed by Masahiro Suzuki on his debut, showing all the touches of a future star, and we're really excited to see him return to the ring here as he takes on Filipino foe Kelvin Tenorio. We suspect this will be easier for Suzuki than his debut, which came against a very dangerous foe, but he's certainly not being matched softly at this early stage.
Jin Minamide (2-0, 2) Vs Marjun Pantilgan (18-7, 14) -Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten Celes Kobayashi managed fighter Jin Minamide has fought for just over 3 minutes as a professional, taking out two experienced Filipino's already. Now he'll be taking a major step up in class to take on Marjun Pantilgan, who has been brought over to Japan a couple of times and tested very good prospects. Pntilgan is tough and will come to win, making this a very risky bout for Minamide at this stage in his career.
Charly Suarez (1-0, 1) Vs Justin Cabarles (4-0, 2) -Davao del Norte, Philippines
We travel over to the Philippines for the next notable bout, as former Olympian Charly Suarez goes for his first title. The 2016 Olympian will be up against fellow unbeaten Justin Carbarles in a bout for the MinProBA Lightweight title. It's hard to imagine Suarez losing, but he will need to be fast tracked after this bout if he's to make the most of his talent, as he is already the wrong side of 30.
Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) Vs Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14) - Philippines
Former world title challenger Denver Cuello has been out of the ring for well over 3 years but returns this month to take on Indonesian journeyman Jack Amisa. Cuello was once seen as a potential star of the Minimumweight division, and had huge support from Filipino fans due to his hard hitting style, but injuries destroyed a number of his prime years. It's unclear what he has left, but it is great to see him return, and give the sport one last chance.
Sonny Boy Jaro (44-14-5, 31) Vs Frans Damur Palue (15-21-3, 10) - Philippines
Cuello isn't the only Filipino veteran in action today, as former WBC Flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro returns to the ring for his 64th professional bout. Jaro has been a professional since 2001 and faced a real who's who, so Indonesian journeyman Frans Damur Palue will not pose much of a threat. At the age of 36 however we do wonder how much longer Jaro has left in the tank.
Robert Paradero (17-0, 11) Vs Wilfredo Mendez (11-1, 4) - Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico
The on again off again match up between Filipino Robert Paradero and Puerto Rican Wilfredo Mendez is pencilled in again here, in what will be a WBO Inter-Continental Minimumweight title bout. This bout was supposed to take place in December, being arranged for, then re-arranged for the month, so we'd not be shocked to see this being cancelled, but it is a very good match up and hopefully does take place this time around.
Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) vs Joe Smith Jr (24-2, 20) - Verona, USA
Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol will be making his next defense of the WBA Light Heavyweight title as he takes on big punching American Joe Smith Jr in what should be a very exciting contest. Bivol is the much more rounded fighter, but Smith is tough, heavy handed, and has proven to be very dangerous at the fringe world level. This should be a clear win for Bivol, but he won't be able to get cocky against someone who hits as hard as Smith does.
The World Sport Boxing Gym got a good amount of attention on January 26th when their biggest name fighter, Takeshi Inoue battled Jamie Munguia. The gym does however have some other very interesting fighters there, including Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) and one of Japan's truly elite prospects, Masahiro Suzuki (1-0, 1) [鈴木雅弘].
Suzuki made his professional debut on November 3rd last year, fighting on the under-card of Takesako's Japanese title defense against Sanosuke Sasaki at the Korakuen Hall. On his debut he really impressed, over-coming hard hitting Filipino foe Antonio Siesmundo, who had travelled with the intention of stopping Suzuki.
On his debut Suzuki relied on his amateur skills to see off the aggression of Siesmundo, before stopping the tiring Filipino in the 6th, and final, round. By that point Suzuki had proven more in 6 rounds than many fighters prove in 12 fights. He had shown a high level of skill, a fantastic ring IQ, sharp punching and maturity not often seen in a debutant. He had immediately looked like a star in the making.
Suzuki's performance shouldn't have been a surprise. He was an excellent amateur, going 64-26 (21) in the unpaid ranks, he had competed internationally and had travelled to Finland for the 2015 Tammer Tournament. He was an accomplished fighter before he turned professional, and it showed.
The 23 year old from Tokyo will be returning to the ring on March 2nd, again fighting at the Korakuen Hall. His opponent for that bout hasn't yet been confirmed but given how he made his debut we are expecting someone rather testing for the Light Welterweight hopeful, who we have really high hopes for. The World Sport gym aren't known for regressing the competition level that their fighters fight and and this should mean that we see Suzuki progressing to big fights fairly soon, with national titles potential within his grasp at some point in 2020.
If you want to watch Suzuki's debut a link to the fight with Siesmundo is below, and his March bout is expected to be shown live on G+ as part of the Dynamic Glove card headlined by Takesako's Japanese title defense against Shuji Kato.
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