Just over a year ago we began our "Introducing" series, looking at a fighter that we thought needed a light shining on them, generally at the start of their career. Now, more than a year on, it makes sense to have a look back over some of those fighters, in what we're terming out "revisiting" feature. This gives us a chance to look at the progress the fighters have made since we first looked at them, and whether we are to re-evaluate their hopes in the sport.
Given we started the "Introducing" series with with Mikito Nakano (who was 1-0, 1 at the time) it makes sense to begin this new series by looking back over Mikito Nakano's 2019 and looking at where he is now.
In 2019 Nakano moved from 1-0 (1) to 4-0 (4) with a trio of stoppage wins. They weren't against sensational fighters, with his February win over Ekkalak Ratprakhon being particularly poor, but he did step up in class and stopped Filipino pair Arvin Yurong and KJ Natuplag, in what were very solid wins for this stage of his career.
At the time of writing Nakano has broken into the OPBF Featherweight rankings, and has a #8 ranking with the regional title body. That is based primarily on his 3rd round TKO win over KJ Natuplag last November, with Natuplag entering with an OPBF ranking himself. That ranking suggests that Nakano and Teiken will be taking him the Oriental title route rather than the Japanese title route, and in all honest it seems a more open title picture for him to attack.
As we write this the Japanese Featherweight title scene is an insanely tough one. The champion, Ryo Sagawa is a fringe world level fighter, his next defense will come in April against the very highly regarded Hinata Maruta, as part of the Champion Carnival. Below Maruta in the late rankings are Reiya Abe and Genesis Servania, with others ranked including Ryo Hino and Tsuyoshi Tameda. Whilst the OPF title scene isn't an easy one, one it's title is likely to become vacant sooner rather than later and it does give Nakano a way to move towards a belt. Another title option would be the WBO Asia Pacific title which we wouldn't be surprised by see Nakano look at as an option. This may be very tempting as some of the fighters ranked there are ones that Nakano would strongly favour himself against, even this early in his career.
So how has he actually looked? Well after being not too impressed by Nakano on his debut we really have been won over by his showings in 2019. His win over Yurong showed him applying smart pressure through out, fantastic punch variety, crisp punching and the ability to move through the gears. There was still areas for him to work on but there was a lot of improvements from his debut and he was neutralising a pretty solid fighter with genuine else.
It's worth noting that Nakano was apparently under pressure against Natuplag, in a bout that wasn't televised, but that isn't a bad thing and seemed to tell those in the venue that he could fight on the back foot when he needed to. That's a good sign, showing that he can be versatile and soak up the aggression of a dangerous fighter when he needs to.
Nakano's first bout of 2020 hasn't been announced yet though it would seem likely he'd be fighting in the Spring, the Summer and then again towards the end of the year. Although we would plot his route for a title to one of the regional belts, it would be a surprise to see him fighting for a belt this year. Instead of fighting for gold in 2020 we would imagine Nakano and his team putting down a marker in the rankings and putting things in place for a shot in early 2021.
Although impressing, and looking like a fighter who is improving with every fight Nakano only has 8 rounds to his name, and the 24 year old certainly needs more ring time this year. We would imagine his team are going to look at getting him in with a solid guy to take him rounds, and a bout with someone like Ryo Hino, Nathaniel May or Eugene Lagos would do him the world of good.
We see Nakano as a future world champion, but only if he can get the tests he needs in the coming year or two. We'd like to see 2020 to be a year of development, 2021 to be the year in which he begins to make moves for his first titles, then potential world title fights in 2022 or 2023. We'd be surprised to see him being put on the super fast track, but we'd be equally surprised to see him fail to reach the top in the coming years.
Our final "Introducing" of 2019 isn't going to be one of our usual articles looking at a specific fighter but instead a look back at some of the fighters we've mentioned during the last 12 months, ahead of the changes we'll be making to these articles in the coming year.
Since we started this way back on January 8th we've looked at some winners, some losers and some fighters who's future isn't as clear as we'd have hoped. We won't go through all 50 fighters here, but we will talk about those who have have shined the most, and those who have disappointed the most.
The first Introducing saw us talk about Mikito Nakano, who was 1-0 (1) at the time and has since added 3 wins, all inside the distance. He has gone from a good novice into a fine prospect and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him fighting for a title in 2020.
Just a week later we spoke about Ginjiro Shigeoka, who was also 1-0 (1) and his rise has been legitimately meteoric. In just his fourth bout he claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title and if he picks up a win on New Year's Eve, against Rey Loreto, there is no doubt that he will be in the world title mix in 2020.
We spoke about Shokichi Iwata in week 25 and since then he has scored back to back TKO5 wins, with both of those victories coming on massive Japanese cards. The 23 year old Teiken prospect looks like he has the potential to go all the way to the top, and to do so quickly. He has shown he can box, or brawl, and whilst he may not quite have figured out his style in the ring he already looks like a special talent.
What a year Andy Hiraoka has had! We featured him in week 26, when he was then 13-0 (9) and since then he has scored the biggest win of his career, signed with Top Rank and made his US debut. The talented 140lb'der showed he could go 10, as he did in victory over Akihiro Kondo, and looked very good in his American show case in November.
Another man who has had a great year is Toshiya Ishii, who was covered in week 33. He made his debut in April, took the unbeaten record of Fumiya Fuse in August then took the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title in December. His win Fuse, who we covered in an introducing article in week 4 was impressive but his war with Ishikawa was something special and we advise all fans to give that a watch.
In week 34 we looked at Yudai Shigeoka and although he didn't debut for a few weeks after that he has shone since some much. His debut was an easy win over a Thai, but despite the ease of the win he showed so much ability, brilliant crisp punching, fantastic movement and ring IQ. He then followed that up with a win over Lito Dante and looks set to have a monstrous 2020, following in his brother's footsteps.
In week 9 we looked at Yoji Saito, who entered the year 1-1 (1) and looked like a huge punching monster. He fought twice in 2019, and went 0-0-2. Notably his first bout of the year, a draw with Aso Ishiwaki, looks very good on reflection and Ishiwaki used that bout as a great opportunity to shine, and was the focus of his own "Introducing" in week 38!
In week 17 we discussed Tsubasa Murachi and his year is a really tricky one to try and dissect. On one hand he impressed, in his win over Raymong Tabugon, and there was clearly skill and ambition with the youngster. But on the other hand he ended the year in September, following a brutal KO loss to Froilan Saludar, and the road back up to that level is going to be a rough journey for the 22 year old. Don't write him off, but he's going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Another man who is hard to get a good read on was Kai Ishizawa who may take more credit from his loss to Masataka Taniguchi in September, than most fighters take from a win. He was fantastic in defeat, he showed his toughness, his braveness, his power and his will to win. Sadly he lacked in technical areas, and Taniguchi was too good for him, but the reality is that both men came out with enhanced reputations. Sadly it was still a loss, and his one other bout this year was a blow out against an over-matched Indonesian
We love watching Christiano Aoqui, who we introduced in week 40, and despite a loss to Daishi Nagata following our article it's hard to write off the hard hitting Japanese-Brazilian, who has lost in the past and bounced back. He's never going to be a world beater but we expect him to remain in the domestic title mix next year.
Well we got that one wrong
In week 35 we spoke about the return of Teppei Kayanuma, who was supposed to fight in September. Though didn't. And we're not totally sure why. We are hoping that changes, and that he does return to the ring, but with more than 3 years since his last bout it now seems unlikely.
For week 46 we spoke about Dominique Kenshin, by this point we were trying to tweak the formula slightly and pick fighters who were in action during the week of the article, and as a result felt Kenshin was the man to cover. That was the wrong choice and he was was stopped in a round by Hiro Ichimichi. He's not fought since, and being honest he has a lot of work to do, in every part of his boxing.
Changes Will be Made
So as for 2020, "Introducing..." is changing. We are taking it more international, and instead of being exclusively Japanese fighters, as it was in 2019, we will be looking around Asia for fighters to cover. Whilst the key focus will, again, be prospects, we aren't going to be too rigid in that and we'll look at covering other fighters we find interesting as the year goes on. This could mean anyone from novice, to journeyman, fringe contender to prospects. The only fighters we'll not cover in this section are clear world level fighters. We want to shine a light on a fighter without much attention, and the hope is that we help a bring a fans attention to a fighter they aren't aware of. In 2019 we generally had good success picking our prospects, and we hope that continues in 2020.
See you in the new year for the next "Introducing...", and the next chance to see a light shined on a fighter you may not have even knew existed!
(Image credits - Kadoebi and Teiken)
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.
We start the month of August by looking backwards, over what has been a rather emotional rollercoaster of a month of fight fans. Rather than focusing on the bad, the ugly and the negative we'll try to stay upbeat as we cover our monthly award winners for this past July.
Fighter of the Month
It's fair to saw that we, like many others, had written Ryota Murata off at the start of the month, and expected to see him sent into retirement by Rob Brant, the man who had taken the WBA "regular" Middleweight title form him last year. Instead we got a resurgent Murata who battered Brant to the point where Luis Pabon had no option but to step in. This wasn't just a man avenging a loss, this was a man telling the world his career had real legs left in it, and that he had a new found fire in his belly. If this Murata turns up against some of the better fighters in the division he could give some of those guys a real test, though the top 2 or 3 guys in the division would still be far too good for him.
Kenshiro, Joe Noynay, Manny Pacquiao
Fight of the Month
Naoko Fujioka (18-2, 7) vs Tenkai Tsunami (26-12, 15)
Whilst female boxing is still criminally under-rated and over-looked there are bouts that really shine above the rest, and in the last few years we've had some amazing female contests. This month we actually had one as 5-weight world champion Naoko Fujioka battled in a thrilling 10 round battle against Tenkai Tsunami. The bout really swung with momentum shifting in the second half, when it became a question of whether Fujioka could do enough to reel in Tsunami's lead and what we ended up getting was a real treat, combining boxing with fighting. This wasn't an all out war, but it was a wonderfully balanced, competitive, exciting and thrilling clash.
Manny Pacquiao Vs Keith Thurman, Han Bin Suh Vs Jong Won Jung, Jin Minamide Vs Tetsu Araki
KO of the Month
Kanat Islam KO1 Julio De Jesus
Kazakh fighter Kanat Islam returned to the ring for the first time in almost 2 years and took part in one of the shortest bouts we've ever seen. In fact he only needed to land around 3 right hands and a short left hook to leave Julio De Jesus down, flat on his face. This a short fight but a brutal finish for Islam, who showed he still had it, despite having had his body ravaged by injury. Aesthetically this probably wasn't the most beautiful KO of the month, but it as vicious and truly nasty. A great KO.
Roldan Aldea Vs Mikhail Alexeev, Ginjiro Shigeoka Vs Clyde Azarcon
Mikito Nakano (3-0, 3)
We had a lot of prospects in action this month, a number of which took on their biggest opponents so far. For us the man that left impression from those who are clearly just prospects was Mikito Nakano, who scored his third win by taking out decent Filipino Arvin Yurong in impressive fashion. Nakano, who weren't sold on originally, looks very much like the real deal and we don't expect him to take long to reach title level as he is an excellent talent.
It should be noted that this month Ginjiro Shigeoka showed he is no longer a prospect, but a fully fledged contender, taking his first title. Despite being just 19 and fighting in his 4th bout it's hard to consider a regional champion as still a "prospect"
Andy Hiraoka, Koshin Takeshima
Roldan Aldea KO8 Mikhail Alexeev
Filipino fighter Roldan Aldea will never be a world beater but recent bouts proved he was a solid fighter, going the distance with Shawn Oda, Xiangxiang Sun and Kenichi Ogawa. Despite being solid no one would have given him any chance against unbeaten Russian hopeful Mikhail Alexeev, but he held his own through a brilliant and pulsating 8 round affair, before scoring a brutal KO of Alexeev. This was a shocker, even if Alexeev was never one of the most touted or Russian hopefuls, as Aldea seemed to have become little more than a journeyman.
Sho Nakazawa v Jinya Ito
Manny Pacquiao Vs Keith Thurman (10)
We had some brilliant fights through the month but few rounds really stood out, with consistency over the course of a fight really being more notable than the actual rounds themselves. There was however a few rounds that did make us sit up, and the best of those was the 10th round between Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman. The round was at the very highest level and saw momentum swing, from being a Thurman round to a Pacquiao in the final moments. It was brilliant drama and although not a round with a phonebooth war it was compelling and absolutely worthy of a rewatch.
Jin Minamide Vs Tetsu Araki (6)
It feels like the last few weeks I've started our weekly awards by apologising for a lack of action, and interesting awards winners. It was as if I was making excuses for these articles not being the most interesting. This week however things have suddenly changed and we've had a lot of incredible action, compelling match ups and interesting fights. It's not been a perfect week, but given what we've had recently it has been a very solid week.
Fighter of the Week
Koki Inoue (13-0, 10)
After a couple of forgetful performances from Koki Inoue he managed to put on a show as he defended the Japanese Light Welterweight title and stopped Ryuji Ikeda. On paper this was an easy first defense, it was supposed to be, but he still put on the performance he needed, shining like the exciting fighter he proved to be earlier in his career. There was, obviously, areas to still improve on, but his ring IQ, control of distance and powerful flowing combinations were excellent, and it's obvious that matched with the right opponent he can be very fun to watch.
Performance of the Week
Kanat Islam (26-0, 21)
After being out of the ring for close to 2 years we saw Kazakh hopeful Kanat Islam return to the ring and put in one of the shortest bout's well see in 2019. In fact it lasted less time than it would take for most fans to sit down after the national anthem, but still put the 154lbs division on alert. Islam pretty hurt Julio De Jesus with the first connect then let only a handful of shots go before De Jesus hit the canvas and the referee instantly waved off the contest. Officially this was stopped after 14 seconds, and it was all Islam.
Tsuyoshi Tameda (19-4-2, 17) vs Tae Il Atsumi (16-2, 8)
We expected a great fight when Japanese puncher Tsuyoshi Tameda took on Japanese based Korean foe Tae Il Atsumi. There was something about the match up that got us really excited before a punch was thrown and it took only seconds to see that out expectations were pretty accurate. This bout was dominated by Tsuyoshi throwing bombs from the off, his lack of accuracy left him open but it was only a matter of time before he was going to land. When he did Atsumi tried to respond, and the touchpaper was lit! This didn't last long, but was thoroughly entertaining.
Tsuyoshi Tameda vs Tae Il Atsumi RD1
Whilst we had some great fights no single round really stood out, with the best of them arguably being the pick of the bunch. It was a round that had some really fun back and forth moments, some knockdowns and some wild brawling as Tameda forced his fight on to Atsumi. The second round was too short to really steal the show, but the first round was damn good action!
Kanat Islam KO1 Julio De Jesus
Whilst it wasn't beautiful it's hard to argue with the blow out KO that Kanat Islam scored as the best of the week, it was certainly the most impactful, eye catching and destructive. A huge right hand over the top started things and 2 more followed to send De Jesus crashing to the canvas. Yes this bout was an horrific mismatch, even when you accept the long lay off for Islam, but the finish was truly brutal.
Mikito Nakano (3-0, 3)
We had a lot of prospects in action over the last 7 days, and they included some sure fire stars like Taku Kuwahara, Kuntae Lee, Sultan Zaurbek and even the unheralded Mark Vicelles. The one who impressed the most however was Mikito Nakano, who took a huge step up and blew out Filipino Arvin Yurong in what was a really credible test. Yurong had shown some ability against Xiang Li back in January but Nakano went through him like a knife through hot butter to score a 2nd round KO. We knew Nakano was good, but this was special and the Asian scene at Featherweight is seemingly on the verge of a new star.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-4, 10) v Koki Tyson (14-3-2, 12)
This coming week has 4 male world title fights, a female world title fight and so much more, though for us the bout we're most excited about is the OPBF Middleweight title bout between Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa and Koki Tyson, in what we're expecting will be a full on shoot out. It's not the highest quality bout we're expecting to see, but it has the real potential to be the most exciting, the most fan friendly and the most entertianing. In fact if this bout doesn't end up being a shoot out we'll be truly surprised...and a little bit disappointed!
After a relatively quiet month of June we see things really pick up in July, with what looks to be a truly hectic schedule. We though May was busy but even the craziness of May could end up playing second fiddle to June which features everything we could ever ask for.
It's fair to say that action is picking up, and going through February we are expecting to see a lot of great fights, in fact we've already seen some fantastic stuff, with this weekend being very notable.
Fighter of the Week
Junto Nakatani (18-0, 13)
Japan's Junto Nakatani has long been viewed as a major prospect as Flyweight and as one of Japan's hottest young talents. Coming into 2019 he had claimed the Rookie of the Year and Japanese Youth titles, showing that he had progressed beyond the novice leagues. This week he showed that he was far beyond that level as he took the Japanese Flyweight title, stopping the very brave, but thoroughly out classed, Naoki Mochizuki. Some had anticipated a walk in the park for Nakatani, though he was forced to work for this win and that brought out the best in him as he showed he could box, bang, move, and soak up pressure, before unleashing his uppercuts later on. It wasn't flawless from the youngster, but it was impressive.
Performance of the Week
Aston Palicte (25-2-1, 21)
Filipino puncher Aston Palicte really left us with no option this week, when it came to the "Performance of the Week", as he decimated the previously unbeaten Jose Martinez in just 2 rounds. The win saw Palicte become the WBO Super Flyweight mandatory challenger, but it was how he earned that position that was so impressive. The first round was quiet, it was as if Palicte wanted to see what Martinez had, before moving through the gears and just battering Martinez, dropping him repeatedly before the referee decided enough was enough. It was destructive, brutal and a real statement of intent from "Mighty".
Notable mention - Janibek Alimkhanuly - We had long criticised Alimkhanuly and his ability to fight with a professional boxing style, but few can fault how he performance this week. He did appear to carry Steven Martinez but was in total control. Now we will expecting top performances from the former amateur star.
Koki Eto (23-4-1, 18) Vs Romel Oliveros (9-4-1,4)
This past week is the first one where we didn't really get a fight that stood out as being something amazing, however it did have some really great moments. The best single bout, was another from the Japanese card on Saturday and saw the always amusing Koki Eto end up getting involved in a war with Filipiono Romel Oliveros. The fight looked like a mismatch, especially at the end of the opening round, when Oliveros was dropped twice. The Filipino however seemed to have the attitude of "if I'm going down I'm going to try and take you with me" which drew out the machismo from Eto who stood and had a war with Oliveros. Eto has long been a must watch fighter, making even mismatches incredibly tough for himself, and here he was again in a stupidly entertaining battle.
Ryugo Ushijima vs Shota Ogasawara (Round 2)
We know we're picking quite a lot of obscure rounds in this series for our Weekly Round of the Week section, but we can't help the fact that it's the Japanese under-card bout that are delivering breath taking stanza's. That was seen again this week when unbeaten 17 year old Ryugo Ushijima took on Shota Ogasawara. On paper this was not a bout worthy of attention, it was the first bout on a televised Japanese card, neither man was well known and, if we're being honest, the opening round seemed to suggest that Ushijima was too good of a boxer to struggle with Ogasawara. In round 2 however things went crazy as Ogsawara dropped Ushijima and we ended up getting something very special. A show of hear, courage and will to win. This is easily worth 3 minutes of time from any boxing fan.
Mikito Nakano KO1 Ekarak Laprakorn
We've not seen many real KO's this year, and even fewer have been body shots, but Mikito Nakano, take a bow. The former Japanese amateur standout knew he was too good for his over-match Thai opponent, Ekarak Laprakorn, and wasn't going to waste time carrying his man. Instead he closed the show mid-way through the opening round with a truly brutal straight left hand to the body. The shot was so painful you could almost see tears in Ekarak's eyes as he wondered whether or not his liver was going to function properly afterwards. It wasn't a competitive match up, which does take some shine away from the blow, but it was brutal and gorgeous to watch in all the angles that G+ later showed the shot from.
Notable mentions: Kuntae Lee KO1 Aphisit Namkhot, Ryugo Ushijima TKO2 Shota Ogasawara
Kuntae Lee (1-0, 1)
This was a strange week for prospects. You had two top Japanese prospects, Kuntae Lee and Mikot Nakano, in total mismatches against Thai's and the only other fighters you could regard as a prospect would be Takuya Mizuno, a who had his 17th fight and has bene a professional for more than 5 years, Junto Nakatani, who is now a Japanese national champion with 18 fights, or 25 year old former World Amateur Champion Janibek Alimkhanuly, who made his debut in 2016. Given those options we'll give this week to the debuting Lee. He was in a mismatch, and everyone knew it, but he showed a really sharp jab, lovely control of distance and lived up to the expectations put on his shoulders. Hopefully his next bout will be a more significant test though, as this was too easy.
Notable mentions: Mikito Nakano and Janibek Alimkhanuly
Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13) Vs Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1-1, 21)
The coming week sees quite a lot of exciting action to come, with notable shows in Thailand, the US and the Philippines. The pick of the bunch, at least on paper, seems to be the final bout with an Asian interest of the week, and will see unbeaten Japanese fighter Hiroki Okada taking on Mexican veteran Raymundo Beltran, in what looks likely to be a really interesting war. Okada will be the betting under-dog, given how disappointing he was on his US debut, but Beltran has looked old and worn and knows he will be fighting for his career. A really good match up! Our preview of this bout can be read here Okada and Beltran set to battle in must win bout!
Srisaket to fight on DAZN, will be featured on Febaruy 8th charity show!
This past week was a busy one, out of the ring, for Thailand with numerous stories, the most significant, by some margin, was that Srisaket Sor Rungvisai's future lies with DAZN. The WBC and Ring Magazine Super Flyweight champion has signed up with the streaming service who will air his next official fight. We say "official" fight as he is set to take part in an exhibition before that with Nawaphon Pro Chokchai, in what will be a charity event to raise money for medical supplies.The rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada is now expected to take place in early April on DAZN US.
If we're being honest January was a bit of a slow burn month, with a lack of action at the start of the month before picking up over the last 2 weekends. There was action through January but it was very bitty and very slow to get going. Thankfully the same can't be said for February which starts hot and continues to be busy throughout, even if the action doesn't hit the same heights as January in terms of quality.
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) Vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
The first Japanese title fight of the new month sees Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki battle for the vacant Japanese fight title, which Masayuki Kuroda vacated in late 2018. Coming in to the bout Nakatani will start as the favourite but Mochizuki is a tough and underrated fighter who will know this is a huge opportunity to claim a national title, put himself in the mix for big fights down the line and impress on a televised Japanese card.
Kenichi Ogawa (21-1-0-1, 17) vs Roldan Aldea (12-6-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa returns to the ring after more than a year out of action, following a failed drugs test. The hard hitting Ogawa, who is best known for taking a controversial win over Tevin Farmer that was later over-turned due to the aforementioned drug test, will be facing off with Filipino journeyman Roldan Aldea, in what is supposed to be a show case for the talented and returning Japanese fighter.
Gonte Lee (0-0) vs Aphisit Namkhot (1-1, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest debuts of 2019 will see Japanese-Korean fighter Gonte Lee, a former amateur standout, take on Thai foe Aphisit Namkhot. The talented Lee won over 100 amateur fighters, with 62 wins in a row, competed for North Korea and was expected to go to the 2020 Olympics. Instead he chose to go professional and his debut is something to be very highly excited about. The Thai foe is expected to provide little more than the perfect foil for Lee's debut.
Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) vs TBA - Tokyo, Japan
Talking about amateur standouts it's worth noting that another Japanese amateur stand out will also be on this card, Mikito Nakano. Nakano, who debuted last year, is tipped for huge success and will be looking to score his second professional win. His opponent is currently unknown, though we do know it will be a Thai, and like Lee's bout this should be little more than a show case for a fantastically talented young prospects.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (4-0, 1) vs Steven Martinez (18-4, 13) - Texas, USA
In the US we'll see Kazakh fighter Janibek Alimkhanuly take a good step up in class as he battles Steven Martinez. The talented Alimkhanuly has yet to shine since signing with Top Rank in 2018, putting in two forgetable performances last year. Despite failing to look great recently we do have high hopes for the 25 year old Kazakh and we're expecting to see him show that potential sooner rather than later. Martinez is a tough opponent, with ambitions of his own, but we suspect that Alimkhanuly will have the skills to defeat the tough American.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) vs Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Young prospect Dave Apolinario takes on his stiffed test to date as he battled against fellow unbeaten Filipino Mark Vicelles, in what looks like an excellent bout on paper. Apoinarion, the younger brother of former world title challenger Mark John Apolinario, has looked like an excellent prospect since making his debut back in 2017 but has yeat to face someone looking to score a win of their own. Vicelles on the other hand has proven he can get through hungry fighters, taking the unbeaten records of Rey Tagulaylay and Roldan Sasan. He's a capable fighter himself and will know a win here would be huge. This has the hallmarks of a weekend stealing contest.
Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) vs Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7)- Metro Manila, Philippines
WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo is one of the forgotten men at 118lbs, due to the WBSS, but is building a reputation at home, a reputation he'll be looking to enhance here when he takes on charismatic Japanese warrior Yuya Nakamura. Gaballo is an excellent boxer-puncher with really crisp punching and he looks like one of the better contenders in the division. Nakamura on the other hand is a fun but limited fighter who we suspect will play his part in a fun fight, but a fight that he loses.
Romero Duno (18-1, 14) vs Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1) - Metro Manila, Philippines
Filipino boxer-puncher Romero Duno put his name on the international stage when he travelled to the US and upset the much fancied Christian Gonzalez in 2 rounds. Since then he has fought only once in the Philippines, and 4 times in the US, whilst building his international presence. He returns "home" to face Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda in what appears to be a stay busy contest for the Filipino hopeful, who will be expected to return to the US later in the year for potential world title eliminator, or minor title bout of some kind.
One of the new series we want to look at for 2019 is the "Introducing" series, where we try and shine a light on a new fighter, who perhaps hasn't had much exposure in the West, and sometimes not much in the East either. These aren't supposed to be lengthy biopics but a quick overview of a fighter that we'd like to out on your radar. They will also be put on youtube, as voice overs only to begin with.
The first fighter to be covered in this series will be a prodigy signed to the world famous Teiken Gym in Tokyo, in fact it's someone who will almost certainly be among the future faces for the gym as they look to rebuild following the recent retirements and losses of some of their biggest name fighters.
The gym that was, until recently, the major one in Japan right now has no world champions and is really looking to acquire top amateur talent to rebuild their ranks. Among those amateur standouts is Mikito Nakano (1-0, 1) [中野幹士], a talented southpaw looking to make his name in, or around, the Featherweight division.
Prior to turning professional last year Nakano had been a true amateur standout for Japan. He had gone 68-9 (48), winning a number of national titles and competed internationally at the Asian Students Championships and the President's Cup. His amateur credentials may not be on par with a Naoya Inoue or a Kosei Tanaka, but they were strong and he had impressed in competitions time and time again. He had been a name on the radar of most professional gyms and in 2018 decided the time was right to go pro.
He would make his professional debut last October, though missed out on live TV exposure due to other programming. Despite his debut not being shown live, we did get the chance to see the bout soon afterwards, as G+ showed the contest on tape delay. On his debut he defeated Thai visitor Thanawat Yancharoen at the Korakuen Hall, and looked razor sharp, aggressive and talented. He was the instant eye grabbing fighter than Ginjiro Shigeoka was, but you could see some of the things he was doing weren't typically in the arsenal of a debutant. The way he moved, the way he knew where he had to be and how he could control Thanawat with his feet were really impressive.
Since making his debut there hasn't been too much fuss about Nakano, though we do now know that he will be back in the ring on February 2nd as part of the live G+ broadcast of the Dyanmic Glove card. He will be one of the supporting bouts for Kenichi Ogawa's ring return against Roldan Aldea. Sadly his opponent hasn't been named for that bout, but we're not expecting anyone too testing for Nakano at this early stage in his career.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces