This past week has been a brilliant one for us. We've had great fights on a number of days, we've celebrated Christmas, and managed, for at least a week, to enjoy a mix of boxing and normal life. We're of course not the only ones who have had a good week, and so have a number of fighters! So with that said lets take a look at the big winners of the past week as we hand out our weekly awards!
Fighter of the Week
We open this up with a somewhat peculiar pick, but a very valid one, and that is Yuichi Ideta as the fighter of the week. The 36 year old Ideta hadn't won a fight in almost 10 years. He was being given almost no chance and the popular opinion, including that of ourselves, was that he was a patsy for Ryota Yada to swat aside. A mere showcase bout for Yada, a former Japanese champion. We were wrong, very, very wrong, and instead of coming to the ring to lose Ideta out worked, out muscled, out battled and out fought the younger, more proven Yada. This was a huge, career defining win for Ideta, who looked like a man with a point to prove and proved it in the perfect way. Ideta has almost certainly gone from the cast of yard, to the regional and domestic title mix.
Performance of the Week
Aged 37 and having not been in a professional boxing ring for well over 4 years few gave Katsunari Takayama much of a chance when he returned to the ring on Sunday. He had been written off by many, but within seconds of the bout starting it was the Takayama of old, the sharp, quick, mosquito like fighter who was light on his feet, with good upper body movement and accurate jabs. He looked much smaller than Reiya Konishi but that never looked like it mattered as he easily out boxed, out fought, out though and out pointed Konishi. Konishi was there to win, don't get us wrong, but he could never cope with the incessant movement and punching of Takayama. This was a hell of a performance from a man we thought was done.
Fight of the Week
Hironori Mishiro Vs Masayuki Ito
The 10 round Lightweight bout between OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro and Masayuki Ito was streamed live, worldwide on Boxing Day and it delivered a brilliant, technical, well matched bout that saw both men showing exactly what they could do. Through the bout it seemed like Ito was landing the heavier single shots but Mishiro's jab was a constant weapon and turned out to be the difference on the scorecards, with Mishiro sneaking the win. This was 10 rounds of high skill chess, fought at a very high speed, with momentum shifts, and each man needing to find a solution to their opponents strengths. Maybe not a Fight of the Year contender, but a genuinely fantastic bout.
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov
Round of the Week
Bakhodur Usmonov vs Vildan Minasov (Rd 4)
Talented Tajik amateur Bakhodur Usmonov made his debut this past week, on Christmas eve, when he took on Vildan Minasov in what turned out to be a truly fantastic 6 round back and forth that saw both men showing off solid boxing skills, heart, power and determination. Minasov looked to make it a war from the off and Usmonov was under intense pressure, whilst trying to stick to his boxing. In round 4 Usmonov was in troubler again, before he gritted his teeth and tried to turn the fight around, going to war with Minasov, giving us 3 minutes of brutal, back and forth action. This was fantastic
KO of the Week
Jinki Maeda TKO2 Kaito Okubo
In one of the final bouts of the week we saw the brilliantly talented Jinki Maeda in action, as he took on Kaito Okubo. In round 2 of their bout, with Okubo near the ropes Maeda landed a dynamite straight left hand that forced Okubo to spin and sent him down hard. His team immediately signalled to the referee to stop this and let them help Okubo. This was a sensational KO by a young man who has been very impressive in 2021 and fingers crossed we'll see him in an interesting fight next year.
Ryo Akaho TKO2 Yuto Nakamura
Jin Sasaki TKO3 Aso Ishiwaki
Prospect of the Week
We were expecting to see the hard hitting 19 year old Jin Sasaki being given a genuine test this week when he took on Aso Ishiwaki. Instead Sasaki just went into the ring and made a statement, dropping Ishiwaki 3 times to secure the Japanese Youth Light Welterweight title. Sasaki stormed out and came close to stopping Ishiwaki in the first round, dropping him twice and leaving him on wobbly legs at the end of the opening round. It seemed clear Sasaki wanted an early win and wanted to use his power to make a statement. In round 2 he took his foot off the gas but closed the show in style in round 3 and made it very clear that this was his week. This was a prospect announcing himself in a big, big way and putting the 140lb division in Japan on notice.
So, Christmas is just around the corner, and we want to wish you all a great, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. We also bring good tidings, with the final "What's to come" of 2020, the third part of our look at what December will bring, and it's a lot between December 26th and December 21st!
Sumida City Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) Vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
One of the most interesting match ups from this end of year run will see former WBO world champion Masayuki Ito clash with OPBF champion Hironori Mishiro. The two men are best known for their exploits at 130lbs, but will be clashing at Lightweight here in what should be a really good fight. Ito is, by far, the more experienced professional and has fought at a higher level, but Mishiro was a very good amateur, and appears to be the more rounded and technically polished professional. This should be a compelling 10 rounder.
Jin Sasaki (9-0, 8) vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-2-1, 6)
The hidden gem from this part of the year will be the 140lb Japanese Youth title fight pitting 19 year old hard hitting sensation Jin Sasaki against all out warrior and toughnut Aso Ishiwaki. This is one we expect to be a complete and utter war. Sasaki has been really impressive in recent bouts, and has blown out his last 3 opponents in the opening round, but this is a genuine step up in class for him. Ishiwaki isn't the most skilled, but he's teak tough, comes to fight and is physically very strong. If Ishiwaki can see out the opening storm this could become something truly spectacular to end the year.
Kai Chiba (12-1, 8) vs Haruki Ishikawa (8-2, 6)
We expect fireworks to fly when we finally see Kai Chiba and Haruki Ishikawa trading blows. The men were set to fight earlier this year before Ishikawa tested positive for Covid19 at the weigh in, and going into the original date we were hugely excited of what we were set to see. Despite the delay hanging over this one we are still expecting something of a thrilling nature, and both men will believe they have the power to take the other man out.
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masamichi Yabuki (11-3, 11) vs Toshimasa Ouchi (22-9-3, 8)
Hard hitting Japanese Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki puts his title on the line for the first time as he takes on veteran Toshimasa Ouchi. Yabuki won the title in the summer, when he blitzed Tsuyoshi Sato, and will be looking to end the year on a high and move towards a potential world title fight in 2021. As for Ouchi this will be his third, shot at a title, and likely his last. It really is hard to imagine the 35 year old Ouchi getting another big fight if he loses here.
EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Ryota Yada (20-6, 17) Vs Yuichi Ideta (13-15-1, 7)
Former Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada returns to the ring in what looks likely to be a stay busy bout, as he takes on limited veteran Yuichi Ideta. Yada, who is eyeing an OPBF title fight in 2021, will be looking to get a couple of rounds here, before seeing off Ideta. As for Ideta the bout the bout will be his 30th professional contest, and at the age of 36 could prove to be his last one. Not a great bout, but very clearly put together to keep Yada ticking over.
Takayuki Okumoto (23-9-4, 11) Vs Akio Furutani (8-4, 3)
Another former Japanese champion looking for a relatively easy win is former Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, who looks to bounce back from a 2019 loss to Kenta Nakagawa. The solid, and generally fun to watch, Okumoto should have far too much in the locker for Furutani, who is the naturally smaller man. Despite that Furutani has momentum and has won his last 4 in a row, including a big upset win over former OPBF Flyweight champion Keisuke Nakayama. Whilst we don't imagine this will be a competitive bout, we do expect it will be an exciting one.
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
We get a potential post-Christmas cracker as we get the rescheduled show down between Katsunari Takayama and Reiya Konishi. This was originally meant to take place in November before Konishi tested positive for Covid19, in what now appears to have been a false positive. The two men should make for a sensational bout, with both known for letting their hands go, being tough, and fighting with intensity. The big question going in is what does a 37 year old Takayama look like after more than 4 years away from professional boxing? If he's half the fighter he used to be this will be an amazing battle.
Toshiki Shimomachi (12-1-2, 8) Vs Satoru Hoshiba (7-4, 2) II
Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight champion Toshiki Shimomachi looks to make his second, and final, defend of the Youth title as he takes on the aggressive and exciting Satoru Hoshiba. These two men clashed in the 2017 Rookie of the Year, with Shimomachi winning, and since then he has gone on to become one of the top prospects in Japan. Hoshiba on the other hand will be after revenge, after the title and a chance to go into 2021 with a big win to his name. We expect this to be boxer against brawler, and the styles should gel well to give is a very, very good fight.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) Vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Exciting 2019 All Japan Rookie of the Year winner Jinki Maeda looks to extend his unbeaten start at he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, in a very good match up. We've been really impressed by Maeda in recent bouts, and the youngster appears to have the tools to go a long way, with good boxing, brilliant movement and smart understanding of distance. Okubo on the other hand shouldn't be over-looked and he has stopped his last 2. We're expecting a cat and mouse style fight early on, but this could descend into a very compelling fight after a couple of rounds.
Ota-City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Ioka (25-2, 14) Vs Kosei Tanaka (15-0, 9)
In a huge all-Japanese year ending WBO Super Flyweight world title bout we'll see Kazuto Ioka take on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka. For Ioka the bout will serve as his second defense of the title he won in 2019, and a win here will see him keep his status as not just a world champion but also one of the biggest and most important names in Japanese boxing. For Tanaka the bout is a chance to become a 4-weight world champion and essentially rip the torch of stardom from Ioka. This is expected to be a very, very high level bout, with both men hungry to make a point and go into the new year as a world champion. Expect excitement, and a lot of adapting and altering game plans from both men here.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (16-8, 9) vs Daigo Higa (16-1-1, 16)
A second title fight in Japan on New Year's Eve will see WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion Yuki Strong Kobayashi defending his title against former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa. This is a huge opportunity for Kobayashi to make his way towards a potential world title fight and get a big name on his record, whilst Higa desperately needs to shine after an under-whelming performance against Seiya Tsutsymi last time out. Although clearly over-shadowed by the world title bout this should end up being a brilliant bout, and could well end up being a sensational 12 round back and forth battle as Higa goes up against a naturally much bigger man.
In the Middle part of September things get a little bit crazy, with a host of fights all crammed into a very small window of time.
Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13) Vs Ruben Manakane (25-18-1, 14) - Tokyo, Japan
Former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito fights for the first time since his world title loss, and takes on Indonesian foe Ruben Manakane. This bout is little more a confidence building home-coming bout for Ito, who should really dominate Manakane and force a mid-round stoppage. Despite that it's nice to see Ito back in the ring after his loss to Jamel Herring. We're expecting a simple, straight forward win for Ito here, but the rest of the card is much harder to predict.
Reiya Abe (19-2-1, 9) vs Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Talented Japanese Featherweights Reiya Abe and Ryo Sagawa clash for the vacant Japanese title, which has been vacated by Taiki Miniamoto. On paper this one of the best match ups of the entire month, it's a 50-50 type fight between two men in good form, who have really impressed in recent years. Both have contrasting styles that should gel well, and we're expecting a genuinely fantastic back and forth bout here. This is a tough one to call and should be very entertaining.
Gakuya Furuhashi (25-8-1, 14) vs Ryoichi Tamura (12-4-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling 8 rounder we'll see Gakuya Furuhashi and Ryoichi Tamura battle in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title eliminator. Furuhashi is a 2-time title challenger, having failed to pick up victory against Yasutaka Ishimoto and Yukinori Oguni, but is a very fun to watch fighter and did push Oguni very close. Tamura on the other hand won,and lost, the Japanese title this year and has developed a reputation for being in great fights due to his intense work rate, toughness and pressure. This should be an all out war between two men desperate for another shot at the title. Expect this one to be brutal.
Rikito Shiba (3-0, 2) vs Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten youngster clash here in a Japanese Youth title bout, with the touted Rikito Shiba and Shisui Kawabata both risking their unbeaten records at this very early stage in their careers. Of the two we've been more impressed by Shiba, though Kawabata has previously been a sparring partner for Naoya Inoue and has come to the pro-ranks with a very good reputation from his days in the amateur ranks. On paper this might look like two novices in a nothing bout, but given their pedigree this is much bigger than that, and the winner will likely be fast tracked to a senior title next year. This is a huge bout given how early it is in the careers of both men.
Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24) vs Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15) - Nevada, USA
The Elorde is one of the most famous in Filipino boxing and on the 14th of September we'll see Juan Miguel Elorde, the grandson of the legendary Flash Elorde, challenger WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete. The once beaten Navarrete has looked like a monster through much of his career and this very much has the hall marks of a cash out for Elorde who has done little to deserve a world title fight. On one hand it would be great to see another Elorde at the top of the sport, but the reality is that he will almost certainly be a lamb to the slaughter here.
Yuki Nonaka (33-10-3, 10) Vs Yang Hyun Min (8-2, 7) - Osaka, Japan
Japanese veteran Yuki Nonaka looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title as he goes up against Korean challenger Yang Hyun Min. The talented Nonaka, who is still showing what he can do past the age of 40, is hoping to get a world title fight before his career is over and knows keeping his regional title is the key to landing a shot at the big time. Min on the other hand enters as a bit of an unknown. On paper Min is a puncher, but in reality his competition has been so bad that it's hard to know what he really has to offer
Daiki Tomita (13-1, 5) vs Hayato Yamaguchi (15-7-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight takes place at Light Flyweight and will see Daiki Tomita take on Hayato Yamaguchi, in a bout for the vacant title. For Tomita this will be his second fight, following a loss last year in an OPBF Minimumweight title fight against Tsubasa Koura. At 21 years old Tomita's future is bright, but another loss here will leave him with a lot of rebuilding. On the other hand Yamaguchi is 30 years old and has gone 3-3 in his last 6 bouts, stretching back almost 5 years, a loss for him will almost certainly send him into retirement. Interestingly this will only Yamaguchi's second bout since the start of 2017 and that type of ring rust will almost certainly be an issue against the very capable Tomita.
Tomoko Okuda (5-2-1, 1) vs Kanako Taniyama (2-0, 1) - Osaka, Japan
Another title bout will see the Japanese Female Bantamweight title being fought for, as the unbeaten Kanako Tamiyama takes on Tomoko Okuda for the currently vacant title. Okuda is the more experienced boxer however Taniyama has got more combat experience than her record suggests following a successful career in kick boxing, a career that was ended due to a knee injury. With both women in their 30's it's hard to see where the loser goes, but the winner will likely look to move from domestic level to regional level and then, potentially, landing a world title fight before ending their career. In many way's it's a shame Taniyama turned to boxing just before her 31st birthday as she has shown some touches of potential. At 36 Okuda is showing signs of being old in the ring already and is 1-1-1 in her last 3.
The action really doesn't stop this month, and the final third of the month gives us 5 world title bouts along with a lot of other great action as we really end the month with a great flurry of fights.
As we into the middle of December we need to remember there's a lot to look forward in the back end of the month. Here we take a look at the final week or so of the month.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - What's to come in December...Part 1 and part 2 is here - What's to come in December...Part 2
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals - Tokyo, Japan
Professional boxing's biggest annual tournament comes to a close on December 23rd in Tokyo, as we see the latest All Japan Rookie of the Year champions being crowned. The tournament might not make much of a mark internationally but it puts the winners on the fast track to domestic success and with the whole card being shown live on G+ it goes us a brilliant pre-Christmas being treat.
Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final major bout for us before Christmas comes from Osaka and sees the hard hitting Keita Kurihara take on Yuki Strong Kobayashi for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. The match up is a solid looking lower tier match up, though what needs to be noted is that both men are better than their records suggest, with both suffering a number of defeats early in their careers, and to good fighters. We're expecting a hard hitting affair here and it should be very exciting.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) Vs Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
After a little bit of a break for Christmas big action returns on December 30th, as we run towards an explosive end to 2018. One of 3 title bouts on the penultimate day of the year will see Masayuki Ito make his first defence of the WBO Super Featherweight title, as he takes on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov. A win here will open up some big fights for Ito in the new year, and he has stated that he intends to return to the US, where he won the title, to make future defenses. For Chuprakov the bout is a big step up in class, but he is certainly a live challenger.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) Vs Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
The longest reigning Japanese champion Kenshiro will also be on the December 30th card, defending his WBC Light Flyweight title against Mexican veteran Saul Juarez. Kenshiro has been incredibly impressive recently, beating the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Milan Melindo, and this looks like a step backwards, unfortunately. Juarez is a good fighter, or rather was a good fighter, but his form has been less than great recently and he is 2-4-2 in his last 8 bouts. Juarez, at his best, would be a good opponent for Kenshiro, but he looks to be beyond his best, even if he is only 28.
Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) - Tokyo, Japan
The third major bout on December 30th will see the unbeaten pairing of Takuma Inoue and Petch Sor Chitpattana facing off for the WBC "Interim" Bantamweight title, a title that's an interim belt whilst the WBC wait to sort out the mess of their vacant "regular" title. This is a brilliant match up, between two talented youngsters, though sadly the politics of the WBC have left this bout feeling less glamorous than it should be. The winner will get a shot at the full WBC title in the new year, if and when the WBC actually get around to crowning an actual champion. With a combined 60-0 record these two do make for an interesting fight, but this is a huge step up in class for the Thai, whilst Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue, has fought a number of world class opponents during his short career.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) Vs Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) - Macau
It's not just December 30th that will be delivering a triple header, but also December 31st, which has one of the very best match ups of the year. The match up in question pits a couple of 3-weight world champions against each other, with Japan's Kazuto Ioka taking on Donnie Neites for the Vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. Both fighters are looking to become only the third man in history to win titles in the lowest 4 weight classes, both are looking to etch their names into the history books and help set up major bouts in 2019. Amazingly this will be the first time Nietes has ever faced a Japanese fighter whilst Ioka hasn't fought a Filipino in over 8 years! We expect to see a lot of skill on show here in what coul be a potential FOTY candidate.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) - Macau
The second best bout on New Year's Eve will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler defending his title against former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. This will be Budler's first defense of the title, which he won earlier this year in Japan by out point Ryoichi Taguchi, and he will be facing a stablemate of the man he beat for the belt. For Kyoguchi it's a great chance to become a 2-weight champion and to score a massive win to end the year. A win here for either man will set them up for massive bouts in 2019, with possible unification bouts in the new year.
Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) Vs Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) - Macau
A second South Africa Vs Japan bout will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title against little known Japanese fighter Masahiro Sakamoto. The South African is enjoying his second reign as the IBF champion, having won the title earlier this year in a nail biter against Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem, but at the age of 36 we do wonder what he has left, and he certainly looked like he was aging in the final rounds against Waseem. Sakamoto really is only known in boxing circles for losing to Sho Kimura, in a regional title bout, but has impressed since then and is a smart fighter who will know he has the opportunity of a life time here.
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