The month of August has already been pretty damn entertaining and we're about half way through it. Over the coming 2 weeks or so we see it get even better, with a host of notable fighters in action in varying level of match ups. Here we take the opportunity to highlight some of the best of what's still to come in August!
PLEASE Note - All bouts are subject to change, cancellations and postponements, something that is a lot more rife right now than usual due to the on going situation.
Israil Madrimov (5-0, 5) vs Eric Walker (20-2, 9)
In a WBA World title eliminator at Light Middleweight we'll see sensational Uzbek Israil Madrimov seek his 6th professional win as he takes on 37 year old Eric Walker. On paper this looks like a good step forward for Madrimov, despite Walker's advanced age. Unlike many older fighters Walker doesn't have a lot of miles on the clock, due to a very late start in boxing. Saying that however this is still likely to be more about Madrimov, and the Uzbek taking strides towards a world title fight, than it is about Walker and his redemption story.
Shakhram Giyasov (9-0, 7) vs Francisco Hernandez Rojo (22-3, 15)
Another Uzbek looking to move towards a world title fight is Olympic Silver medal winner Shakhram Giyasov. The talented Giyasov has shown some cracks in recent bouts and should be tested here as he takes on Francisco Hernandez Rojo. The Uzbek has shown some real potential but we do need to see him answering more questions and hopefully Rojo, who once lost a very close bout to Ryan Martin, will ask some of some of those questions. At his best Rojo could be the acid test needed for Giyasov, though it should be noted that it's well over 2 years since Rojo last fought, and this could be a genuine issue for the Mexican fighter.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryota Yamauchi (6-1, 5) Vs Satoru Todaka (10-3-4, 4)
In a bout for the now vacant WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title we'll see the once beaten Ryota Yamauchi take on Satoru Todaka, with the winner pushing their claim for a WBO world title fight. Yamauchi has long been tipped for a world title and looks like a real talent, though one with plenty of areas to work on. As for Todaka this is likely to be seen as a must win, following a loss last year to Kenichi Horikawa in a Japanese title bout. We suspect this has been put together to make Yamauchi look like a star, and that's exactly what we expect of the Kadoebi gym youngster.
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4) Vs Yuichiro Kasuya (13-2-2, 4)
In a real 50-50 match up we see former Rookie of the Year winner Yuichiro Kasuya take on the hard matched Masanori Rikiishi, in a mouth watering clash. This bout won't get the attention that many others will, but is, for us, one of the best match ups of the month. We favour the hard hitting Rikiishi, who comes into the bout on the back of a big win over Freddy Fonseca, but Kasuya is no push over and this could be a very intriguing match up, that could end super competitive on the cards
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6)
In the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary tournament final we'll see slippery southpaw Shingo Kusano take on the aggressive Daisuke Watanabe, in what could turn out to be a really, really intriguing match up. Neither of the two men were expected to make their way to the final but both have battled hard to get here, giving a very unexpected main event here. Of the two we think Watanabe has got the edge, but Kusano's performances in the tournament have been two of his very best and he is very much a man fighting for his career. We expect this one to gel very nicely and end up being a very nice match up from stylistic point of view.
Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) vs Shohei Kawashima (18-4-2, 4)
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake was shocked last year in his rematch with Jhunriel Ramonal. Now his career hangs by a thread and he can't afford another set back if he's to remain in the mix for a second shot at world honours. He'll be giving his all to not just win, but to shine when he takes on the talented but light punching Shohei Kawashima. On paper this looks a really even match up, but we expect it to be a mismatch, with Wake making an example of his fellow Japanese fighter, and making a statement. At the age of 33 Wake doesn't have long left and will be desperate to shine. Kawashima can play spoiler, but we don't think he has the ability to do it against a talented southpaw like Wake.
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0) Vs TBA, Talgat Shaiken (0-0) Vs TBA, Kamshybek Kunkabayev (0-0) Vs TBA
Due to the fact none of the above have had their opponents announced at the time of writing we're going to roll this into one and say it's time to take note of the Kazakh talent coming through the ranks under the guidance of MTK Kazakhstan. Although maybe unfair we dare say this trio are the most talented and interesting. For us Kulakhmet is the most talented, Shaiken the most exciting and as a Heavyweight Kunkabayev is the one most likely to make waves on the casual fan. Take note, all 3 of these men are looking to make an impact in the pros and all 3 have got barrels of potential. None of the trio need to be handled softly and all 3 could be let off the leash very quickly, given their incredible talent and amateur backgrounds.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryo Matsumoto (23-3, 21) vs Takuya Mizuno (17-2-1, 14)
Former world title challenger Ryo Matsumoto is in an awkward position in that cannot afford another loss any time soon, after 2 defeats in 2018. Saying that he is still a sensational talent, and one of the most amazing young boxers to watch, with speed, power, precision and skills. He has all the tools to go far, but now needs to make them work. In Takuya Mizuno we see a solid puncher, but someone who hasn't looked technically astute recently. If Mizuno can't blast Matsumoto out early on we expect to see Matsumoto take a very clear win. Still this is a real test of what both men have and is a very well matched but between very capable young fighters.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (0-0) vs Shohei Horii (3-5-2, 2)
Former multi-time Japanese amateur champion Ryutaro Nakagaki begins his professional career with a 6 round bout against Shohei Horii. The confident Nakagaki was a sensationally talented amateur who boxed with a pure boxing style, and the big question mark with him, going into the professional ranks, is whether he can add some spite to his shots. If so he's expected to be moved very quickly. Aged just 20 he is one to keep a real eye on, though the speed of his progression will depend on his early performances. Horii on the other hand has been stopped in 4 of his 5 losses and will not be expected to last the schedule with Nakagaki. If this goes 6 the hype will cool massively on Nakagaki, and he'll know that coming in so we expect this one to end early with Nakagaki making a statement.
Keisuke Matsumoto (0-0) vs Hironori Miyake (9-9-2, 1)
Another talented debutant on this show will be "Mirai Monster" Keisuke Matsumoto. Keisuke, no relation to Ryo, is a third generation fighter following in the foot steps of his father and grandfather. Given his father is Ohashi gym trainer Koji Matsumoto there is real pedigree here with Matsumoto, who has long been tipped as a star of the future. In the opposite corner will be Hironori Miyake. On paper this is a genuinely good test, despite the losses on Miyake's record. Miyake has never been stopped and has given the likes of Kyosuke Sawada and Yoshihiro Utsumi good tests. This should Matsumoto being asked questions, and needing to show what he got in the locker.
Shinjuku FACE, Tokyo, Japan
Shoki Sakai (23-11-2, 13) vs Hironori Shigeta (6-1-1, 3)
To end the month we get a card from Hachioji Nakaya. The show is actually a really interesting one, with a number of intriguing domestic level bouts, but it's the main event that is the pick of the bunch. It will see Shoki Sakai make his Japanese debut, after 36 fights in the West, and will see him up against 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Hironori Shigeta. Both men are 29 and yet both are at very different stages of their career's. Sakai is slowly becoming the rugged journeyman that gets matched hard against prospects, and has gone 0-4-1 in his last 5. Shigeta on the other hand is a man who will be looking at a potential national title fight if he wins here. Both guys will be coming to win, and this will be a very compelling bout, to top off a very, very good card.
This past week has been an interesting one in many ways. The quantity of shows has dropped off, noticeably, but the quality was high through out with two major Japanese cards from the Korakuen Hall as well as several other noteworthy cards.
Fighter of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (8-1, 4)
On Friday we had a hugely anticipated show at the Korakuen Hall, featuring a number of notable Japanese fighters, with many of them being in ultra competitive contests. The man who won the most significant of those was Ryo Sagawa, who defeated Reiya Abe for the Japanese Featherweight title. The bout was an ultra competitive contest over 10 excellent rounds, and for Sagawa it completes a remarkable run of results, which also includes a win over Ryo Matsumoto and Al Toyogon. Given how close it was it keeps Abe in the title mix, but Sagawa is well deserving of the Fight of the Week award, and we expect to see him in some much bigger bouts in the coming years.
Performance of the Week
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4)
Japanese fighter Masanori Rikiisi isn't someone Western fans will be too aware of, though they may see his name breaking into the world rankings sooner rather than later, especially his match makings, and this weeks performance. The unheralded 25 year old stepped up massively to take on his first non-Asian opponent, and completely schooled Nicaraguan Freddy Fonseca. Fonseca is best known by American fans for losing earlier in the year to the Jo Jo Diaz, and whilst Rikiishi couldn't stop Fonseca he did drop him twice and totally dominate him over 8 rounds to secure his best win to date.
Saemi Hanagata 915-7-4, 7) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-6-4, 5) III
After 2 thrilling bouts, both of which ended in draws, we got exactly what expected when Saemi Hanagata and Nao Ikeyama took to the ring to end their trilogy. From the first round to the last this was an engaging, competitive bout, that never seemed easy to score and always looked like both fighters felt they had what it took to take home the win. We love competitive back and forth and this was just that, even if neither fighter had the power to hurt the other. The momentum shifts, action and gelling of styles between these two is great, and it's a shame their rivalry now seems to be over after 30 extremely competitive rounds.
Note - Unfortunately the A-Sign card hasn't been made available, had been out there there's a good chance that 3 bouts from that card would have been in the mix for this award.
Ayaka Miyao vs Monserrat Alarcon (Rd 10)
Fans of female boxing were treat this past week. Not only did they have the big Amanda Serrano Vs Heather Hardy bout in the US but there was also a Japanese card that completely focused on female boxing. The card didn't get a lot of attention, but it should have given the quality of action on the show. The highlight for us was the final round of the WBA Atomweight title bout between Ayaka Miyao and Monserrat Alarcon. This was a sensational round of action, with so much leather thrown as both fighters tried to secure victory in an incredibly close bout. If you like female boxing this is well worth hunting down.
Note-As with the fight of the week some of the best rounds haven't yet been made available to watch due to one of the cards being put on a tape delay to much later in the month.
Muhammad Waseem KO1 Conrado Tanamor
Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem had been out of the ring for over a year until returning in a cameo on Friday in Dubai. The cameo was very short, lasting just over a minute with Waseem taking out Filipino fighter Conrado Tanamor with a brutal body shot. The bout was a mismatch, but the shot was still a beauty and it's clear that if Waseem can shake some ring rust, against a decent opponent, he could well find himself back in the world title mix before the end of the end of 2020.
Iskander Kharsan (7-0, 6)
Unbeaten US based Kazakh prospect Iskander Kharsan has some how remained under the radar despite showing the potential to be someone very special. That ability, power punching and confidence was on show this weekend when he stopped Isidro Ochoa in the 5th round. The Kazakh youngster applied intelligent pressure and sharp punching to take control, dropping Ochoa in round 5 with an excellent straight right hand. Ochoi, to his credit, saw out the round but retired in the corner as Kharsan picked up best win to date.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7)
There are a number of solid bouts coming up over the next week or so, but the one that really stands out is a match up between fast rising Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara and experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio. On paper this is a massive step up for Kuwahara, but the body punching phenom from the Ohashi gym is tipped for big things and will be expected take home the win here. Refugio is no world beater, but the Filipino is a durable, skilled and tough fighter, who can do enough to test rising hopefuls. This should be a great chance to see just how good Kuwahara is, and how quickly the Ohashi team can move him.
The end of July is upon us and we see another surge in action, especially in Japan, with tournaments, titles, prospects and a touted debutant!
On July 23rd we get something a little bit different as Dangan put on the quarter final bouts for their God's Left Bantamweight tournament:
Gaku Aikawa (9-7-1, 3) Vs Kenya Yamashita (13-5, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
Kazuki Nakajima (6-0, 5) Vs Kenichi Watanabe (8-4-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Jin Minamide (3-0, 3) Vs Tetsu Araki (14-1-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
The three matches above are all part of the God's Left tournament and on paper the stand out match up is the Minamide Vs Araki bout, pitting one of the most touted prospects against the man with the most success at title level, with Araki having been a Japanese Youth champion. It's hard to imagine anything but a win for Kazuki Nakajima in his bout with Kenichi Watanabe, with Aikawa Vs Yamashita has the potential to be an all out thriller.
Japanese fighter Masamichi Yabuki has been quietly creating a buzz in the lower weights thanks to his power. Win or lose Yabuki has always been someone worth following and has created a pretty solid following among those that follow the Japanese scene. What many perhaps aren't aware of is that Yabuki has a boxing brother, the talented and fast rising Masanori Rikiishi (5-1, 3), who is in the mix for a potential title fight in the near future. With that in mind we want to cover Rikiishi in this weeks "Introducing..." segment.
Interestingly Masamichi's birth name was Honma Sato whilst Rikiishi's was Masayoshi Sato, though of course both fighters are now better known by their current fighting names than their birth names.
Rikiishi was born in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture and prior to turning professional in 2017 he had managed to make a mark on the amateur scene, going 25-5 (15). His natural talent, and power, were obvious and when he turned professional he did so with a little of hype and expectancy on his shoulders, even without a hugely impressive record.
On debut Rikiishi took on Korean for Sa Ya Lee in a 6 round bout, and took a clear 6 round decision, whilst fighting out of the Yakushiji Gym. It wasn't a high profile debut, such as those enjoyed by someone like Naoya Inoue or Ryota Murata, but it was still an impressive debut against a live opponent over 6 rounds.
Rikiishi's second bout was also a 6 rounder against a live opponent coming to win, as he took on the then 4-1 Ryo Tanimoto, just 4 months after making his professional debut. Rikiishi would stop Tanimoto early in round 3, after scoring his second knockdown of the fight. This win saw Rikiiishi, who debuted under a B Class license, advance to becoming an A Class fighter and his ambition really was huge.
After his second bout Rikiishi left the Yakushiji gym and joined up with the Midori Gym, or the Green gym if you want to translate the term Midori. Sadly his first bout for the Midori gym showed too much ambition with the then 2-0 Rikiishi battling against former Japanese Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka. Saka would prove too good, at the time, and stop Rikiishi in round 2. Rikiishi looked worried by Saka's aggression from the off, and despite having some success he was almost always fighting on the back foot and taking more than he was giving. Eventually Saka's power and aggression got to Rikiishi, dropping him twice and forcing the referee to save him.
Having lost in such 1-sided fashion to Saka it made sence to give Rikiishi an easy confidence building bout on his return. That easy bout, 4 months after his loss, saw him take out Indonesian journeyman Egy Rotzen in 2 rounds.
With the win over Rotzen being used to rebuild Rikiishi's confidence it wasn't long until he was back in a real fight, taking on former Japanese Lightweight title challenger Genki Maeda. In the opening round Rikiishi dropped Maeda, with a sweeping left hand and he'd score another knockdown in round 3, from a clubbing left hand. He would drop Maeda twice in round 5, with the referee waving the bout off after the second one.
Most recently Rikiishi took a wide 8 round decision win over Kei Iwahara, going 8 rounds for the first time. The bout was a dominant win for Rikiiishi, who dropped his man and left him with some huge swelling around the right eye, in an excellent showing.
Rikiishi will return to the ring on July 23rd, fighting as part of a stacked Dangan card at Korakuen Hall. He will be up against Shogo Yamaguchi and a win should push Rikiiishi one step closer to his first title fight.
The talented Rikiishi is a boxer first and a puncher second. Although he can fight in a war when dragged into it, he's at his best at mid range, can switch hit and has real venom in his left hand. He's not a KO puncher, by any means, but he's a guy where every clean shot seems to hurt, and that includes his under utilised jab. The biggest issue he has is that he still has a reckless edge. He's quick enough to get away with it, usually, but when he steps up to title level that will need taming, and will need sorting. Saying that however Rikiishi is a very fun, very exciting and very talented young Lightweight who can go a very long way.
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