As we head towards the new year we've had a big look at the current scene and come up with "20 fights we'd like to see in 2020", yeah another series ahead of the new decade!
As is always the case with what we do, these articles will have an Asian flavour, and every bout we mention in the series will have at least 1 fighter from Asia involved. So for those of you expecting us to talk about Deontay Wilder Vs Anthony Joshua, that won't be listed.
What we'll be looking at is well matched contests with either some form of back story, a great stylistic clash or bouts with some form of significant meaning. If they tick all the boxes then that is even better! Each fight will be given it's own article and each of these will come with an introduction to the fighters, and why the bout is being featured in the list.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (53-1, 38)
When we think about exciting action fights there are some combinations of styles that just make for amazing fights. Having two aggressive, come forward guys, who can take a shot and believe in their aggression, facing off tend to lead to amazing fights. Bouts that see two fighters try to out man each other, out fight each other, and out battle each other. Today we look at one of those bouts, between a man who has proven to be world class and a man who is knocking on the door of world class.
The 24 year old Daigo Higa first burst on to the scene in 2015, when he travelled to Thailand and stopped Kongfah CP Freshmart to become the WBC Youth Flyweight Champion. In 2016 he would win the OPBF title and then add the WBC belt to his collection in 2017. It didn't matter the level he was fighting at one thing stayed the same, he was stopping guys, and raced out to 15-0 (15), before failing to make weight for a WBC world title defense. That weight failure, followed by a loss to Cristofer Rosales, was punished by the JBC giving him an indefinite suspension and not allowing him to fight below Bantamweight going forward. That ban ended in late 2019 and he'll return in February, in an easy comeback, before looking for bigger fights. Later in the year he'll be wanting to make his mark at Bantamweight, and a bout against a fringe contender has to be in his thoughts.
Petch Sot Chitpattana, also known as Tasana Salapat, is a highly experienced and rugged Thai who hasn't had the greatest of competition but has shown a great engine, a fantastic work rate and a willingness to take one in the hope of landing one. His sole loss came in Japan to Takuma Inoue at the end of 2018 in a WBC "interim" title fight, and since then he has been can crushing at home with 5 stoppages. Despite his competition being limited he showed enough in the loss to Inoue to suggest that he belonged on the fringes of world class, even in a division as deep as the current Bantamweight one, and styles wise he could make for some really fun fights, if his team are willing to take risks. It seems clear his team can't bring good opponents over to Thailand, but for the right money we suspect he'd travel, and the right money could be offered by Higa and his team for a world title eliminator.
Both of these men like to let their hands go and both typically seem to believe that they are the bigger, stronger and more powerful man. Of the two Higa is the more crisp, combination punching fighter, who hits hard with every shot, and lets them flow in a eye catching fashion. If he looks good in his February comeback, and maintains his Flyweight style, he'll be so much fun to watch here. Petch on the other hand is a more basic fighter but again throws a lot, without really linking his punches together with the same level of crispness. He's more of a high activity fighter, who follows opponents, rather than mows them down.
We suspect these two would first have a battle of machismo, before Higa's skills and body shots take over. But whether Higa is destructive at Bantamweight as he was at Flyweight is yet to be seen. This bout would answer that, and would also set the winner up as a clear contender at 118lbs.
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