After a few weeks of not having much of note we've had a week that has created a bit of an accidental star, seen a debutant shine, seen new title holders in Indonesia and a lot actually happening. Sadly, due to the time issues in watching everything, we have seen a pro-Japanese week again, but there was clearly a lot of action in Asia in what was a great week for Asian fight fans.
Fighter of the Week
Koki Inoue (13-0, 10)
Whilst Koki Inoue, the cousin of Naoya and Takuma Inoue, didn't blow us away it's hard to argue with the quality of what he did this past Saturday. The talented Light Welterweight intelligently shut down Valentine Hosokawa to take a wide, and clear, decision over the talented and often high tempo Hosokawa. On paper the bout was a big step up in class for Inoue but he sort of made it look easy in the end as he took a comfortable decision over the veteran champion. Hosokawa, who usually controls the pace and tempo, struggled to catch Inoue clean, and struggled even more to change the pattern of the fight, whilst Inoue looked like a man comfortably fighting within himself. This wasn't exciting, but it was the biggest win of the week for an Asian fighter.
Performance of the Week
Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
Whilst Inoue failed to shine, winning Fighter of the week by virtue of getting the biggest win, there was real competition for Performance of the Week. We were really impressed by Tsuyoshi Sato, Aso Ishiwaki, Sultan Zaurbek and our winner for the week, Riku Kunimoto.
Sato, who was fighting for the 4th time as a professional, put on the complete performance in mid week as he stopped Shoma Fukumoto, and took a huge step towards a potential title fight. He out boxed Fukumoto, then stopped him later in the bout, in what was his Tokyo debut. On paper it was a leap up in class, but in the end he made it look easy and really announced himself as a Japanese Middleweight worthy of note. He's young, he's talented and he has the potential to go very, very far.
Yoji Saito (1-1, 1) vs Aso Ishiwaki (5-2, 3)
On paper the recent bout between Yoji Saito and Aso Ishiwaki didn't really promise a lot, though we genuinely over-looked the bout which proved to be a very exciting encounter. Saito set the early pace, pressing and pressuring Ishiwaki as he looked on route for his second win. Ishiwaki however refused to wilt, and instead came on strong, really strong, from round 3 giving us a huge momentum shift and an amazing fight. There wasn't any knockdowns but there was none stop action, and a really gritty determination from both. This is a great, great 6 round bout!
Yuki Yazawa (0-0) vs Kazuki Nakamura (0-0-1) - Round 1
The round of the week was a clear and easy one to decide, with the opening round of the Yuki Yazawa Vs Kazuki Nakamura fight easily being the best round of the week from Asia. The round, which actually only lasted 126 seconds, contained 3 knockdowns, a brutal finish, a strong scent of karma, taunting and everything you could ask for. This really was something that every fan deserves to watch.
Cristiano Aoqui KO5 Anthony Marcial
We had some awesome KO's this week, Yuki Yazawa's was a beauty against Kazuki Nakamura, Koki Tyson scored a brutal one, Sultan Zaurbek got a gorgeous one in Dubai but our pick of the bunch was Brazilian-Japanese fighter Cristiano Aoqui's brutal hook against Filipino Anthony Marcial.The shot was a highlight, or an otherwise dull fight, and was perfectly timed. Whilst Marcial wasn't out cold, like some of the others on the wrong end of a great KO, his stumble through the ropes whilst trying to beat the count was great to watch.
Shakhobidin Zoirov (1-0, 1)
We want to start this by saying we have nothing positive to say of Indonesian journeyman Anthony Holt, and the reason we think so little of Holt was shown this past Friday when he was in the ring with Shakhobidin Zoirov. The debuting Zoirov is an Olympic champion and a huge hope for Uzbek boxing. He deserved a real test, but instead took almost no time to destroy Holt. Despite the bout being a relative waste of time it was hard to not be impressed by the cameo, and it's obvious that Zoirov is a very, very special fighter. One to mark down as a super prospect.
Alphoe Dagayloan (12-2-5, 5) vs Esneth Domingo (11-0, 6)
There's no special fight this coming week, but we do love the look of several fighters over the coming 7 days. Perhaps the pick of the bunch is the WBA Asia Flyweight title bout between the under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan and the unbeaten Esneth Domingo. This is a brilliant match up and something that is very, very exciting! Neither guy is a big name, but both are promising and both could see this as a chance to move into the WBA rankings. A great fight and something that both will be looking to win!
We don't tend to see Japan as a hot bed of Middleweight talent, and that's because Japanese fighters typically don't have the frame for the weight. When Japanese fighters do make a name for themselves at the weight we usually see them being heavy handed fighters, like Ryota Murata, Shinji Takehara and Koji Sato. There is however a really skilled youngster making his mark in the division right now, and it looks like he could end up being some one who could go a long way based on his skills, speed, timing and boxing IQ.
That man is Riku Kunimoto (3-0, 1), who was a distinguished amateur before making his professional debut in August 2018.
The 21 year old from Osaka is based at the established Mutoh Gym and not only has a really good team behind him, headed by Takashi Edagawa, but also has the type of match making which will help him develop his skills at an advanced age. In fact through his first 3 bouts he has already gone 6 rounds twice, made his international debut and been in a scheduled 8 rounder, with his next 8 round bout set to come in April, but more about that a little later.
Kunimoto's debut came in a 6 round bout against Korean fighter Kyung Wook Kwon, a tough but light punching Korean who had never been stopped, but had also never scored a stoppage of his own. Kwon was, in many ways, the perfect opponent for the debuting youngster who could get away with some mistakes, but also had someone to test his stamina and concentration. Despite the bout being his debut Kunimoto shone, being taken 6 rounds by the Korean and showing a lot to be excited about. Kunimoto instantly looked like he was taking to professional boxing like a duck to water. He was accurate, calm, sharp and threw some brilliant combinations that switched from head to body. The only real issue was a lack of power, despite scoring a knockdown in the opening round, and an overall lack of physicality. He looked skilled but like a child and seemed to be smaller than Kwon.
Rather than staying at home and making the most of home comforts Kunimoto's second professional bout would take place in China, where he went 6 rounds again as he defeated Huwang Zhang, in a wide and clear decision. Although Zhang was nothing special he was an unbeaten Super Middleweight fighting at home and Kunimoto still easily out pointed him.
In his most recent bout Kunimoto faced his first domestic opponent, Toshihiro Kai, and scored an opening round win over Kai, showing more purpose to his shots and more power. He still wasn't boxing with a hugely physical style, relying on speed, timing and combinations, but was able to force a stoppage over the much more experienced Kai.
The 21 year old is set to fight on April 5th against the heavy handed and more experienced Shoma Fukumoto. This will be Kunimoto's first bout against a Japanese ranked opponent, and is a serious test of his chin, his guts, his desire and skills. If he passes this test then the future is incredibly bright, whilst a loss, at such a young age, will certainly not be the end.
The Japanese Middleweight scene might not be on fire, but it certainly has more depth to it than many assume, and Kunimoto might turn out to be the best of the bunch.
It's fair to say that March was a spotty month, with some real ups and downs, and little in terms on consistency. April however looks to be a month packed with great fights through the month, particularly in Japan where things really are a bit crazy!
April 6th-Naoya and Takuma. The champion is a true veteran, who won the Rookie of the Year more than a decade ago, and has battled through the Japanese scene the hard way. Inoue on the other hand was a touted amateur who has been avoided at times on the domestic stage, but will see this as a great chance to announce himself as a rising star. The styles of the men should make for a very special fight.
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