The month of Dacember really doesn't give room to think or catch our breath, and over the coming days we have prospects in action, Rookie of the Year action, world title action, a fighter heading off to the UK to face on one of the sports most promising youngsters, and so, so much more!
Akinori Watanabe (38-7-1, 32) vs Sitthidet Banti (12-5, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The always entertaining Akinori Watanabe looks to make his first defense of the OPBF Light Middleweight title as he takes on limited Thai foe Sitthident Banti. On paper this should be little more than a home coming defense for Watanabe, who won the title in Korea. Although we're not fans of the fight it's hard to criticise Watanabe for having an easy fight given his competition over the last few years, and the punishment he has taken. Given Banti was stopped by a Japanese novice a few months ago this should be an easy win for the champion.
Mikio Sakai (1-0) vs Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) - Tokyo, Japan
A much more attractive bout in Tokyo will see former amateur standouts Mikio Sakai and Ran Tomomatsu clash in a brilliantly matched contest. Of the two Sakai is the one who has impressed us more, with his better all round boxing skills, but Tomomatsu looks like a very strong fighter with an edge in power. It can be hard to get excited about two 1-0 guys facing off, but we really are looking forward to this clash, and we are expecting something very impressive from two men who are very, very capable.
Daniyar Yeleussinov (8-0, 4) vs Alan Sanchez (20-4-1, 10) - Arizona, USA
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Daniyar Yeleussinov looks to continue his climb through the rankings as he takes on experienced foe Alan Sanchez. On paper this looks like a good test for the talented, yet often frustrating, Yeleussinov but in reality it's hard to get too excited about the contest. Sanchez has proven to be a banana skin, taking the unbeaten record of John Carlo Sosa and beaten Pabo Cesar Cano, but he's only had 3 wins in 4 years, has been out of action for more than a year, and was last teen being stopped by Alexander Besputin, in September 2018. A win for the Kazakh is expected, and it's a shame we won't be able to read much into it.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (21-1, 13) Vs Daniel Dubois (13-0, 12) - London, United Kingdom
Former Japanese Heavyweight champion Kyotaro Fujimoto makes his international debut as he takes on destructive Englishman Daniel Dubois. On paper this looks like a solid step up in class for Dubois, but in reality it seems very much like Fujimoto is being thrown to the wolves. Fujimoto has been treading water looking for a big bout, but this is likely to be far too much for Fujimoto. The small, speedy Japanese Heavyweight will lack the power to get Dubois respect, and will lack the chin needed to take the bombs from "DDD". A mismatch and oddity.
All Japan Rookie of the Year finals - Tokyo, Japan
One of the highlights of the boxing calendar! The All Japan Rookie of the Year is a culmination of the various regional tournaments and will be shown live on G+. Whilst this likely won't get much international attention the Japanese Rookie of the Year is, by far, the best annual tournament in boxing, and had often been a launchpad for Japanese fighters who on to big things. Whether you get to watch it or not this is worth making a mental note of.
Yuki Strong Kobayashi (15-8, 9) vs Ki Chang Go (8-3, 4) - Osaka, Japan
Japanese warrior Yuki Strong Kobayashi looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title as he takes on Korean challenger Ki Chang Go, in what looks like a very safe match up. Kobayashi is a gutsy fighter, who has limitations but will always fight his heart out and has improved through his career to become a very solid fighter. Go on the other hand is just a few fights removed from losing to Kobayashi's then stable mate Masahiro Sakamoto, a man who is best known for losing a Flyweight world title fight. Kobayashi should be far too strong and big for the Korean here.
Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) Vs Yuta Matsuo (15-4-1, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final Japanese title eliminator of 2019 will be at Super Flyweight and see former world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka take on Yuta Matsuo for the right to fight the newly crowned Kenta Nakagawa. Although neither Kudaka or Matsuo are world beaters they do make for an interesting match up, and we think their limitations and styles should gel well for a very fun action bout. Don't expect a boxing bout here, but instead expect a fight! A real potential gem, among a month of great fights.
Ryota Murata (15-2, 12) Vs Steven Butler (28-1-1, 24) - Yokohama, Japan
Japanese mega star Ryota Murata looks to have a longer second reign with the WBA "regular" Middleweight title than his first, and faces off with hard hitting Canadian Steven Butler in his first defense. Murata really impressed when he avenged his loss to Rob Brant earlier this year, and another performance like that here should see him over-come Butler. The challenger is however dangerous and will be in Japan looking to score his biggest win to date. This could be very explosive.
Moruti Mthalane (38-2, 25) vs Akira Yaegashi (28-6, 16) - Yokohama, Japan
South African veteran Morruti Mthalane returns to Japan for this third defense of the IBF Flyweight title, and he takes on fellow veteran Akira Yaegashi. We don't just see this as being a bout for the title, but a bout for survival, and the loser really is going to struggle to have any sort of a future in the sport. Both have had great careers, but with both men now on the wrong side of 35 their future in the sport is limited, and fighting back up the ranks after a loss would be very difficult. Although the older man, and more experienced fighter, Mthalane has looked the fresher man, but 37 is ancient for a Flyweight and father will catch up to him sooner or later. Then again Yaegashi, at 36, is no spring chicken either. A very interesting and massively significant match up for the Flyweight division.
Kenshiro Teraji (16-0, 9) Vs Randy Petalcorin (31-3-1, 23) -Yokohama, Japan
Japanese fighter Kenshiro Teraji, who is mow fighting by his full name, was supposed to face IBF Lught Flyweight champion Felix Alvarado in a unification bout, until Alvarado fell ill. To replace Alvarado they've brought in Randy Petalcorin, who will challenger the unbeaten Japanese for the the WBC Light Flyweight title. The champion is looking for his 7th defense, and will be strongly favoured here but Petalcorin is a solid challenger and should give Kenshiro something of a test here.
Roman Gonzalez (47-2, 39) vs Diomel Diocos (14-5-3, 4) -Yokohama, Japan
Nicaraguan great Roman Gonzalez fights in his 50th professional bout as he takes on Filipino foe Diomel Diocos. The talented Gonzalez is clearly past his best, but looked great last time out, when he beat down Moises Fuentes and likely has more than enough in the tank to take a stoppage win here. Interestingly it's more than a year since Gonzalez last fought, and more than 5 years since he last stepped foot in a Japanese ring. Diocos has faced limited opponents, other than Daigo Higa who stopped him. We suspect Gonzalez does a number on Diocos like Higa did.
On December 16th we get a really, really interesting Japanese Middleweight match up between Ran Tomomatsu (1-0) and Mikio Sakai (1-0). To help fans know who the fighters are we'll be doing "introducing..." articles for both. This week we're going to look at the 25 year old Tomomatsu, who fights out of the Watanabe Gym and turned professional with a very impressive reputation from the amateur ranks.
Born in Kumamoto Prefecture Tomomatsu has been one of a rising number of fighters from the region, which did go through a real stretch without notable fighters. Despite that he he is now fighting out of the Tokyo based Watanabe gym, joining a number of fighters from across Japan who have joined the impressive stable under Hitoshi Watanabe's banner.
As an amateur Tomomatsu went an impressive 41-9 (16) and was regularly in the final 4 for major tournaments at 81KG's, which is above the professional Light Heavyweight limit, winning the 2016 Japanese National Championships and losing in the final in the 2017 version of the competition, he also came runner up in the 2017 Japanese National Sport Festival.
Following his solid amateur career Tomomatsu signed with the Watanabe Gym with out too much fanfare and fuss. Although he was well known in the circles that followed Japanese amateur boxing, he certainly wasn't get the attention that his style and credentials maybe deserved, especially given that he was fighting well above his natural weight as an amateur. When he turned professional the aim was to make a mark at his more natural weight, and he instantly made a mark thanks to a thrilling 6 round debut war.
Tomomatu's debut came on June 25th when he took part on a Japan Vs Korea show at the Korakuen Hall. The debuting Japanese fighter didn't have a gimme to represent his country and get an easy win. Instead he went up against the then unbeaten Korean puncher Sang Geun Lee (then 6-0, 4), and the two men really just wailed away on each other in what was, easily, the most competitive and exciting of the Japan Vs Korea bouts on the card. In the end Tomomatsu did enough to earn the win, but was given a solid test and essentially got the win due to a knockdown he scored.
Despite being a close one, and it was close, Tomomatsu answered a number of questions we don't tend to see debutants answer. He showed his will to win and impressive stamina, going 6 rounds at a very high pace, he took big shots and walk through them, and mixed both boxing and slugging into his work. It wasn't a flawless performance, not even close, but it was an exciting, memorable debut that gave us a lot to be excited about.
Against Mikio Tomomatsu will needto answer more questions, but what we have seen of him in his debut suggests that he is certainly one to watch, and win or lose against Mikio it's hard to imagine his career fizzling out without major success in the future.
The month of June is over, at last, and we can now look forward to a truly packed July after what has been a rather frustrating and meandering month of action. With that in mind lets have a look at our last weekly award winners for this past month.
Fighter of the Week
Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4)
The Korean boxing queen did it again, retaining her WBA female Super Featherweight title for the 7th time and moving one step closer to a big bout. The talented Hyun Mi Choi struggled for a couple of rounds with Wakako Fujiwara before figuring out the Japanese challenger and taking a clear and wide decision win. This wasn't Choi at her best, but was a comfortable victory for the Pyongyang born champion.
Performance of the Week
Mizuki Chimoto (2-0, 1)
Japanese female fighter Mizuki Chimoto may not be getting much attention right now, but in just her second bout she claimed the Japanese female Minimumweight title, out pointing the talented Chie Higano over 6 rounds, taking a technical decision. The bout was a huge step up in class for Chimoto but she did what she needed to to get the win, get the title, and take a huge step towards making her mark on the sport. She's certainly one to watch, and we wouldn't be surprised to see her mixing up for world titles by the end of 2020.
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee
Touted Japanese debutant Ran Tomomatsu wasn't expected to have an easy time with Korean puncher Sang Geun Lee but what few would have anticipated was this heavy handed slog the two men had in what was the standout bout of the week. Both men really dug their toes into the canvas and let some bombs go in what will be a very over-looked war of attrition. For Tomomatsu this was a real baptism of fire whilst Lee showed what he was made of in a thrilling action bout
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee - Round 3
We stick with the Tomomatsu Vs Lee war for the round of the week, and that was the third round, which was the one where really saw the two men both let their shots go at their most even and most competitive. This was a round where we really saw what Lee was made of, and why Tomomatsu is so highly regarded with every punch, even the jabs, looking like they were being thrown with bad intent.
We sadly missed the Thai show on Sunday, but from the highlights we were impressed by the finish scored by Vaibhav Singh Yadav, who scored a big KO over Phongsathon Sompol. From what we managed to see, this was the one for us.
Suzumi Takayama (2-0, 2)
We only got a cameo from Watanabe Gym's Suzumi Takayama in mid-week but he impressed in blowing away Korean foe In Soo Jang. This was Takayama making a statement on a card that saw Japanese fighters have a pretty dominant display against Korean foes, with Takayama being the stand out among the Japanese team. There were other prospects on the card worthy of a mention, including Ran Tomomatsu, and across Asia later in the week, including excellent showings from Saddridin Akhmedov, Anvar Turapov, Murodjon Yokubov and Padyod Keartjareunsiri, but for a man in his second fight Takayama stood out as the one who made the best statement.
Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11) v Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18)
It's pretty much last chance saloon time for Filipino fighter Arthur Villanueva as he takes on WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali. For the French champion this will be his first defense, and bigger challenges do await later in the year, but for Villanueva it's now or never. We're not expecting this to be a FOTY contender, or anything even close to that, but we are hoping for a good, high quality boxing contest between two men each looking to prove they are world class fighters.
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