It's fair to suggest that February has been a slow month for fight fans in Asia, in fact at times it's felt down right glacial, with little happening, especially in the middle of the month. We had a good start, and a good end but then we had almost 2 weeks with nothing much happening. Thankfully March is set to be a whole different kettle of fish with interesting bouts right through the month.
With that said lets take a look at what to expect in the first part of March!
Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) vs Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13)
A new Month kicks off with OPBF Light Flyweight title action as Daiki Tomita and Kenichi Horikawa clash for the vacant title. For Tomita this is a second shot at an OPBF belt, having come up short against Tsubasa Koura in 2018, whilst Horikawa will be lookin to bounce back from the loss of the Japanese national title to Yuto Takahashi. Although neither man is a huge name this is a very interesting looking bout, and could either send Horikawa into one final title run, or into retirement.
Dennapa Kiatniwat (21-2, 16) Vs Jeny Boy Boca (13-6, 11) -
Former world title challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat defends his WBA Asia Flyweight title against heavy handed, but very much out of form, Filipino Jeny Boy Buca. The Thai local got a world title fight last year and looked second rate against WBA king Artem Dalakian, but should have too much at this level. Buca was once regarded as a promising puncher, but then went 4-5 (2) and lost pretty much all of the momentum he had built in his first 10 bouts.
Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) Vs Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart seeks his 8th defense as he takes on Japanese challenger Norihito Tanaka. The once highly regarded, and still unbeaten, champion has failed to inspire in recent bouts, and with 5 decision wins in a row his name has become rather a joke. Although talented Knockout has certainly not enthralled. Sadly however it's hard to imagine the 35 year old Tanaka having the energy and power needed to defeat the local fighter, and become the first Japanese man to ever claim a world title in Thailand.
Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) Vs Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5)
In the main event of the monthly "Dynamic Glove" show we'll see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga defending his title against mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu as part of the 2020 edition of the Champion Carnival. Matsunaga has looked mightily impressive in recent outings and will be looking to make his second defense. Although Shimizu is less exciting and aggressive than Matsunaga he is a big, awkward lump and give the champion fits with his size alone. A very interesting match up.
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) Vs Joe Tanooka (15-7-5, 1)
On the same Japanese show world ranked slugger Keita Kurihara takes on the talented, but feather fisted, Joe Tanooka in a bout that really does give us very different styles. Kurihara is a genuinely dynamite puncher who has gone 12-1 (10) in his last 13 bouts and will be looking to show he can box a but, before taking apart Tanooka. Tanooka on the other hand is a quick, technically capable fighter who will be looking to lure Kurihara into a mistake and countering. A very interesting contest, even if it lacks in terms of big name intrigue.
Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9) vs Ren Sasaki (10-0, 6)
Former 2-time Japanese national title challenger Reiya Abe looks to move towards a third potential title bout when he takes on unbeaten southpaw Ren Sasaki. The talented Abe had a 2019 to forget, fighting to a draw with Taiki Minamoto and losing to Ryo Sagawa, and needs to rebuild his moment. In terms of achievement he should be seen as a big favourite here, however he doesn't get a gimme. The unbeaten Sasaki is no push over, and is a very decent boxer himself, having won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2017. Expect this to be a compelling 8 rounder.
Jacob Ng (13-0, 10) vs Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
In a potential hidden gem Australian Jacob Ng will be defending his IBF International and WBO Oriental Lightweight titles against the under-rated Valentine Hosokawa. On paper Ng should be regarded as a big favourite. He's the bigger, younger, hard hitting, unbeaten champion. And he's at home. But Hosokawa can't be over-looked at this level and the Japanese fighter is a very strong, aggressive fighter who throws a lot of leather and can take a lot of punishment. Don't be surprised if this one is one of the real highlights of March.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0, 8) vs Mark Urvanov (17-2-1, 9)
Unbeaten 29 year old Kyrgyzstan born Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu will be looking to continue his rise through the ranks, and take a huge step towards a potential world title fight as he takes on Russian fighter Mark Urvanov. This will be Uulu's first 12 round bout and we dare say if he wins here his team will begin hunting a world title eliminator for him, for later in the year. Although no world beater Urvanov is a good test at this level and comes in on the back of a career best result, stopping former world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov back in November. Hard not to like this one....a lot!
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0, 9) Vs Tomas Rojas (51-18-1-1, 34)
Unbeaten Tajik hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov looks to take his next step forward as he faces former world title holder Tomas Rojas. On paper this looks like a step up against a grizzled old veteran, but with the fight taking place up at Super Featherweight we do wonder whether Rojas, who was a Super Flyweight at his best, will simply be over-powered and out manned by Yaqubov. At the age of 39 and with a 2-4 record in the last 3 years we really do wonder what Rojas has left, other than his name.
Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) Vs Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) -
Hard hitting Seigo Yuri Akui looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Flyweight title as he takes on mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita. The explosive punching Akui has proven to be scarily dangerous early on, with 9 opening round T/KO's, and will be looking to make it #10 here. Fujikita has never been stopped stopped but with only a single, low key, win in the since June 2018 it's hard to know what he has to offer. Fujikita could be the type of durable test who can see out the Akui storm, or could be the next early victim for the destroyer from Okayama.
Rey Caitom (9-0-1, 4) vs ArAr Andales (10-2, 2)
Former world title challenger ArAr Andales is going to be in rebuilding mode this year after back to back losses in 2019, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart and Joel Lino. Rather than having an easy bout to kick off 2020 the 20 year old will be up against the unbeaten Rey Caitom, in a tough looking bout. Andales will be favoured, and has impressed at a higher level, but with those losses we do wonder about how he is mentally. Caitom has fought at a much lower level will clearly be in the ring knowing a win pushes him to within touching distance of a world title shot.
Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) Vs Toshiya Yokogawa (11-12-2, 10)
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake was shockingly upset last year, by Jhunriel Ramonal, and now looks to begin rebuilding. He's being matched easily here, as he takes on 34 year old domestic foe Toshiya Yokogawa. Given the loss to Ramonal, and how brutal it was, we can't complain about Wake getting an easy bout here, but he really can't spend too long fighting at this level, and we suspect this will be a tune up to a much bigger bout in the summer as Wakes begins his climb, again, to a second world title fight.
Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2) Vs Issei Ochiai (2-0, 1)
On the same card we'll also see Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii make his first defense, as he takes on the touted Issei Ochiai. Ishii has impressed since turning professional and his title win, back in December over Haruki Ishikawa, was a sensational bout. The challenger hasn't quite impressed like the champion, but this is certainly a chance for him to shine. We expect big things from both men going forward, but the winner should be put on the fast track to more notable honours.
Yuto Takahashi (11-4, 5) vs Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10)
Another Japanese title fight will see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Yuto Takahashi make his first defense, as he goes up against his mandatory Masamichi Yabuki. Takahashi scored a surprise title win last October, when he over-came veteran Kenichi Horikawa, and will be looking to prove that he can over-come a prime puncher like Yabuki, as well as a faded veteran like Horikawa. For Yabuki this is his first title fight and he'll be looking to prove he really is destructive at Light Flyweight, having move down to the division last year.
We've sadly had another very quiet week in the realm of Asian boxing, meaning that, once again, our awards aren't littered with big name winners and outstanding rounds. We have had a few notable performances, though many of those won't even be aired until next week, with the real talking piint being the latest Uzbek amateur star to turn professional
Fighter of the Week
Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Mid-week fights can often be over-looked and that was likely the case this past week, with a couple of Japanese cards in the middle of the week. It was on one of those shows that Japanese Minimumweight champion Norihito Tanaka made his first defense, avenging a prior loss to Naoya Haruguchi in the process. The under-rated Tanaka is rumoured to be next in line for Wanheng Menayothin and, in all honesty, he would make for a compelling for the unbeaten Thai world champion., especially given the run he's on and performances like the one this week.
Performance of the Week
Bektemir Melikuziev (1-0, 1)
Former Uzbek amateur star Bektemir Melikuziev made his debut, and although it was only a short one, lasting 99 seconds, it was easily the best performance by an Asian fighter this week. He took on Argentinian veteran Martin Fidel Rios and almost gutted him with a brutal body shot. Although big things were expected of Melikuziev we really didn't expect him to take Rios out this quickly! Very impressive.
Kyonosuke Kameda vs Ryugo Ushijima
We didn't see a fight of the year contender this past week, but did see some interesting action, and for us the most interesting was between Kyonosuke Kameda, the cousin of Koki Daiki and Tomoki, and Ryugo Ushijima in a qualifier for the Rookie of the Year. This was hotly contested, highly competitive and really good from a fans perspective. Yes, this wasn't an all out war, but was a genuinely fantastic 4 round bout.
No round, that we saw, stood out this week. It's a shame that there was so little actually visible though, with various shows not being available to watch at the time of writing.
Bektemir Melikuziev KO1 Martin Fidel Rios
It may have been a body shot, m but what a body shot it was! Bektemir Melikuziev showed straight out of the box that he knew how to find the body and how land a fight ending blow to the body, with what was an amazing shot to the mid-section to take Rios out.
Ryu Horikawa (1-0, 1)
Japanese teenager Ryu Horikawa, who turned professional with a fair bit of buzz, may not have had a flawless debut but he looked exciting and fought with a really aggressive style. There's a lot of defensive flaws for him to work on, but he still impressed and looks like the sort of fighter who we could easily see getting big fights after just a couple of years on the domestic scene, make a note of this young man's name.
Whilst Bektemir Melikuziev did look more impressive it's hard to consider hima prospect given he's just beaten a man regarded as a gate keeper, and it's obvious that Melikuziev will be looking to skip the prospect stage of his career.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (12-0, 9) vs Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-0, 5)
We have some great fights coming up, with the pick of them being the WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight title fight between Hiroto Kyoguchi and Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart, aka Tanawat Nakoon. It's always great to see unbeaten fighters clash at world level, and we're expecting to see something very exciting.
So we're finally through what feels like an incredibly long January, and it's time to post our first ever Monthly award winners!
Fighter of the Month
On January 26th Can Xu, from China, upset Jesus M Rojas to become the WBA "regular" Featherweight champion, that win netted him our Fighter of the Week for Week 4 2019 and saw him announce himself on the radar of many fight fans. Whether he will become the figure that Chinese boxing builds around is unclear, for now, but it's clear that this is one of the biggest ever wins for Chinese boxing, and to do it on foreign soil makes it even bigger.
Xu not only won, which was impressive by it's self but did so by out Rojasing' Rojas. He stood and traded, fought at a high tempo and forced the champion to tire down the stretch. Which is when he was particularly effective.
The win, the performance and his post fight interview, where he explained his power came from China, made him a fan favourite and it's clear that he will be welcomed back in the US in the future.
Fight of the Month
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
There was stiff competition for Fight of the Month, with Takeshi Inoue Vs Jaime Munguia and Kenshin Oshima Vs Ikura Sadatsune and Jian Wang Vs Seong Yeong Yang all being great fights. The winner however was the Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas fight, which was high Octane from the start to the end. It did, perhaps, lack the drama needed for a true Fight of the Year candidate, but it's the best we've had this year, and yes we know we are only in February now but it was a very enjoyable contest.
The tempo that was set was great, the momentum shifts, with Rojas starting fast, Xu coming into the bout, Rojas having a big 9th round, then Xu come back on strong, made it something that you couldn't take your eyes off of.
It seemed early on like Rojas was going to get Xu out of there. He looked too strong and too powerful, he then began to tire and Xu's punches too over as his toughness saw him staying up through the storm. What a great fight, and a great coming out party for Xu, who may prove to be one of the most TV friendly fighters out there.
KO of the Month
Mikhail Lesnikov KO1 Afrizal Tamboresi
There hasn't been many true KO's in Asian Boxing this month, but there was a really brutal one that stood out, and that was Mikhail Lesnikov's brutal knockout out of Indonesian journeyman Afrizal Tamboresi. The match was a disgusting mismatch, with Lesnikov being far too big for Tamboresi, and that was compounded by the fact Tamboresi had been numerous times prior to this contest. A disgusting mismatch that ended in brutal fashion, though credit to Lesnikov for not prolonging the beating of Tamboresi.
The bout it's self leads us to wondering why Tamboresi's team would throw him into such a mismatch but that's not really relevant to the discussion at hand.
We had a really good selection of prospects in action this month including Vikas Krishan, who made his debut, Li Xiang, who shined in China and Sadriddrin Akhmedov. For us the most impress was unheralded ArAr Andales.
We all know how good Akhmedov and Krishan were as amateurs, they were expected to win, and win good, Andales on the other hand was a bit of a mystery, an unknown teenager taking a notable step up in class. Despite the step up he stopped Charlie Malugpangue, his first stoppage win in 6 bouts.
Can Xu Vs Jesus M Rojas
We won't go into this too much, given the bout has already been mentioned twice, but Xu entered as a 5/1 under-dog across the British betting markets and still secured the win. A big win and a bit betting surprise.
Shin Ono Vs Norihito Tanaka (Round 6)
Stream live on Boxing Raise the Japanese Minimumweight title bout between Shin Ono and Norhito Tanaka is likely to be the start of the end for Ono's career. It was however a gutsy performance from the Watanabe man, who knew he was behind after 5 rounds and put everything in to trying to turn the bout around. He put in an incredible effort in round 6, but was unable to damage Tanaka, who would see him off the following round to claim the Japanese title.
The round was a brilliant see saw round, that saw Ono upping his pace and Tanaka refusing to release his grip on the bout. A fantastic 3 minutes of action!
Whilst Ono's career is unlikely to last too much longer, given his age and accumulated damage, this was a fantastic way to go out. As for Tanaka he has finally won a big one and will likely see himself defending the belt in the Spring.
The first week of 2019 wasn't a huge on for Asian boxing, and sadly neither was week 2, though we did have enough action to talk about, and to hand out our second weekly awards! As with last week's awards pretty much everything was focused on one show, which is a shame, but is set to end with the boxing calendar picking up significantly in the coming weeks
Fighter of the Week
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6)
The new Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura shines the brightest this weekend with an excellent performance against the insanely tough Matcha Nakagawa. From the first round to the final one Tamura pressed Nakagawa incessantly, setting a high tempo, finding holes in Nakagawa's defense and generally handcuffing his opponent. Although it wasn't a flawless performance, he did get caught a lot with uppercuts, his willingness to walk through fire to get his own shots off mentally defeated Nakagawa and showed why Tamura will be such a tough guy to dethrone.
Performance of the Week
Norhito Tanaka (18-7, 10)
33 year old Japanese fighter Norihito Tanaka became the first new Japanese title holder of 2019 as he surprisingly stopped former world title challenger Shin Ono in what turned out to be relatively 1-sided bout. Tanaka was regarded as the under-dog but that never really showed. He spent the first round scouting Ono before breaking the 36 year old down, rocking him in round 2, dropping him in round 3 then stopping him in round 7. He forced Ono to fight his fight and drowned the veteran. It's worth noting this is only the 4th time Ono has been stopped, only the second time since the start of 2011 and the only time at Minimumweight!
Shu Nawai (0-1) Vs Kengo Hatsushika (0-1-1)
The first Japanese fight of 2019 saw the unbeaten pairing of Shu Nawai and Kengo Hatsushika battle in a 4 round bout, and it was a pulsating all action fight as both men dug deep and looked to score their first win.The skill level wasn't high but the action was and it was a fantastic, competitive, exciting back and forth. In the end Nawai did just enough to take the decision and we'd love to see these two go at each other again down the line. Sadly with the bout taking place on Boxingraise we can't show footage from the fight, but it is well worth a watch if you're on the subscription service.
Shin Ono Vs Norihito Tanaka (Round 6)
After Shin Ono learned he was down on the scorecards in his Japanese title defense against Norihito Tanaka the defending champion upped the pace in round 6 and took the fight to Tanaka. It was, tactically, an awful misjudgement, but for the action it gave us it was a clear round of the week and again a real treat for Boxingraise subscribers. It was a round that saw the two men standing essentially toe-to-toe and trading blows with Ono setting the pace and Tanaka responding in the pocket. There was good competition for round of the week, with round 3 of Nawai Vs Hatsushika being a very notable it's self, but in the end the quality of Ono and Tanaka shone through.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
Daiki Imanari (2-0, 2)
Unfortunately we were really limited in terms of prospects this week, and unfortunately Daiki Imanari has essentially won by default. The 21 year old Imanari defeated fellow novice Keiichi Inoue in 2 rounds to advance his record. It was a solid performance from the southpaw youngster, though it's really unclear what he'll go on to achieve.
Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17) Vs Hugo Ruiz (38-4, 33) (January 19th)
We see action really pick up over the next week or so and next weekend we do have a lot to get excited about. For us the pick of the bunch is the WBA "interim" Featherweight title bout between Jhack Tepora and Hugo Ruiz. The bout isn't the biggest match up on paper but stylistically it's a hard one not to get excited about. Both men have real power, with Ruiz the more pure boxer and Tepora being the more aggressive, both men are flawed and together we suspect those flaws could be exposed on both sides. This is a really mouth watering clash and one that we're incredibly excited about.
Kosei Tanaka to face Ryoichi Taguchi, March 16th!
The biggest story of the week, by far, came on Wednesday when a press conference was held to announce the WBO Flyweight title bout between Kosei Tanaka (12-0, 7), the defending champion, and former IBF and WBA Light Flyweight "super" champion Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12). The bout will take place in Gifu and is the first huge bout to be announced for Japan this year. Better yet the bout will be aired across Japan, not just in the Chubu region like many of Tanaka's bouts. It was always going to be hard for anything to match up with this story, but it was also nice to hear that Gonte Lee would be making his debut on February 2nd.
After the hectic new year period we do see boxing slow down as we begin 2019, with January being a particularly quiet month. That's not to say there's nothing happen, just a lot less than we see in the usually busy months of September, October, November and December.
Wenfeng Ge (11-0, 6) vs Giemel Magramo (22-1, 18) - WBO International Flyweight title
The notable Asian card of the year features number of interesting match ups, including a fantastic Flyweight bout between unbeaten Chinese fighter Wenfeng Ge, who holds solid wins over Amnat Ruenroeng and Ivan Soriano, and the once beaten Filipino Giemel Magramo. The winner of this bout will immediately find themselves on the verge of a WBO title fight, and it's hard not to think this is a huge way to start the new year.
Jiang Xiang (15-4-2, 3) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (59-6, 40) - WBC silver Light Flyweight
On the same card fans will see Chinese hopeful Jiang Xiang take a huge step up in class to take on former world champion Kompayak Porpramook. The Chinese fighter is a relative unknown but will see this as a huge chance to climb up the WBC rankings, and towards a potential world title fight. Kompayak is well beyond his best, though is well known for his great fights with Adrian Hernandez and Koki Eto. If Kompayak can roll back the clock and put in solid performance here there is a very real chance that he could derail Xiang's charge. This a really interesting match up, and should be a very exciting one.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) - Vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title
The Japanese Super Bantamweight title was vacated in late 2018 by Shingo Wake, who now looks to chase a world title. To fill the vacancy we'll see Mugicha Nakagawa take on Ryoichi Tamura, in what should be a genuinely excellent contest between a boxer-puncher and an aggressive pressure fighter. On paper Nakagawa is the more experienced and more proven man, but Tamura is aggressive, hard hitting and gave Yusaku Kuga hell when they fought in 2018. This could be a very exciting match up.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) Vs Norihito Tanaka (17-7, 9) - Japanese Minimumweight title
On the same card in Tokyo we'll also see Shin Ono defending the Japanese Minimumweight title in a mandatory title defense against fellow veteran Norihito Tanaka. This will be Ono's second defense of the title, following his title win in 2018 against Ryoki Hirai and his TKO8 win over Riku Kano to defend the title in October. Ono is thought to be pursuing another world title fight in 2019 but will know that he needs to win here. For Tanaka this shot comes on the back of an upset win over Takumi Sakae in October, and is his third title fight, following losses to Akira Yaegashi and Tsubasa Koura. Ono will be the favourite, but this is a very competitive looking match up, and one that should deliver a lot of action!
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