The month of May is set to be a very weird one, and one that could see bouts in Japan return to the no fan era, and has already seen shows for the 1st, 5th, 6th and 9th of May being postponed. With more potentially also needing to find new dates.
With that in mind we are going to look at what the current schedule looks like for May, though note that things are in a very fluid situation right now due to the on going pandemic, which has seen several parts of Japan go into another State of Emergency.
London, United Kingdom
Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11) vs Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9)
The first major bout of note will see Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA Light Heavyweight "Super" title as he takes on British fighter Craig Richards. The talented Bivol hasn't been in the ring since October 2019, so it's hard to complain too much about a relatively easy defense, but it's fair to say that this is certainly an underwhelming match up between arguably the best Light Heavyweight in the world and someone who, is potentially only the fifth best in the UK. Richards has the style to ask some questions of Bivol, though it's hard to imagine anything but a dominant win by the champion, who really needs to take this opportunity to look good, and not just take a clear win.
Saturday 8, May 2021
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, USA
Elwin Soto (18-1, 12) Vs Katsunari Takayama (32-8-0-1, 12)
A week after Bivol's in action we see Japanese veteran Katsunari Takayama get a chance to become a 2-weight world champion as he takes on WBO Light Flyweight champion Elwin Soto. The now 37 year old Takayama, who turns 38 just days after this fight, is one of the true fan favourites of the lower weights and his wars with the likes of Francisco Rodriguez Jr and Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr have been must watch affairs with drama and action. Soto on the other hand is an emerging force, with a really intimidating reputation as a big puncher, and a youngster with a point to prove. Soto will enter the bout as a very, very clear favourite, and he should be, though Takayama will be entering the bout knowing this is likely to be his final bout at world level, we expect he will go out on his shield, win or lose. For those who haven't seen these two in action before, this will be something to savour!
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Musashi Mori (12-0, 7) Vs Satoshi Shimizu (9-1, 9)
Given how many Japanese shows have already been affected by the State of Emergency, which is supposed to be lifted on May 11th, it seems likely that the first major Japanese show of the month will come on May 13th, and it is one that is headlined by something a little bit special. That's a Featherweight unification bout between WBO Asia Pacific champion Musashi Mori and OPBF champion Satoshi Shimizu. This will be a brilliant match up between a skilled youngster, in Mori, who is a very fighter with a good boxing brain, and a flawed, ugly fighter with insane power, in Shimizu. Although stylistically a potential mess, this should be really entertaining and see both men forced to answer some very serious questions about their ability.
Kazuki Nakajima (9-0-1, 8) Vs Kai Chiba (13-1, 8)
A second title bout on this show will see the unbeaten Kazuki Nakajima take on the once beaten Kai Chiba in a bout for the now vacant OPBF Bantamweight title, which was given up by Takuma Inoue a few weeks ago. Nakajima is an interesting fighter who isn't the most natural boxer, and does look rigid and stiff, but has frightening power and long powerful levers. He's the type of guy who can be befuddled by movement, but can destroy people if they stand in front of him. Likewise Chiba is a fighter who hasn't typically used his feet as much as he should, but also has very respectable pop on his shots and could the type of fighter who could get Nakajima's respect. Although Chiba should box and move there is a real chance that he will be dragged into a shoot out here and this could end up being a "blink and you miss it" type of bout.
Keisuke Matsumoto (2-0, 2) Vs Hiromu Murota (6-4-2, 4)
Third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto looks to build on his fledgling career as he takes on Hiromu Murota in a scheduled 8 rounder. Matsumoto hasn't looked the most convincing in his first two bouts, though he shown a lot to like, including an ability to bite down when he's needed to and we suspect the plan for him is to build up his experience in bouts like this going forward. The 25 year old Murota shouldn't be much of a threat, though does come in to this following a draw with former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada and is unbeaten in his last 5 following a 2-4-1 start his pro career.
Katsuya Yasuda (7-0, 4) Vs Tomoki Takada (8-5-2, 5)
Ohashi's "forgotten man" Katsuya Yasuda will be looking for his 8th win as he takes on Tomoki Takada. The plan for Yasuda seems to be much slower than some of the other top Ohashi fighters, but his talent is clear and his performance against Omrri Bolivar last September earned rave reviews from his promoter. Interestingly Takada, despite his record, comes into this bout ranked #9 by the JBC and a win for Yasuda would boost his standing in the sport massively. although no world beater Takada is dangerous and has scored 3 opening round KO's in his last 5. If he lands he could chin check Yasuda, though it's hard to imagine anything but a win for the Ohashi man.
Manchester Arena, Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Hyun Mi Choi (18-0-1, 4) Vs Terri Harper (11-0-1, 6)
Just 2 weeks after the Bivol bout our attention turns to the UK against as Korean fighter Hyun Mi Choi gets the chance to unify her WBA female Super Featherweight title with the WBC and IBO versions held by English fighter Terri Harper. Choi looked less than impressive in her international debut, last December against Calista Silgado, and will need a much better performance here to over come Harper, who is quickly becoming one of the faces of female boxing. Harper on the other hand needs to build on her last performance, which was an excellent display against Katharina Thanderz. The winner of this will be the queen of the division, and will be looking to the others titles to their collection in what should make for a great year or two at 130lbs in female boxing.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
After numerous delays we'll finally see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako defending his title in a mandatory against Riku Kunimoto. This bout was originally sheduled for the Champion Carnival in 2020, then got delayed due to covid, training issues, an injury and then the recent State of Emergency in Tokyo. On paper Takesako will be the big favourite and will be tipped to be too strong and too good for Kunimoto, who will be fighting for the first time in over 2 years. On the other hand Kunimoto has the style that could pose real issues for Takesako, who is powerful but a bit robotic, and the movement and speed of Kunimoto could see him asking real questions of the champion.
It's fair to say action picked up, notably, in October but that's nothing compared to what we are set to get through November, as boxing races towards the end of the year with a brilliant, packed and stacked month. The next few weeks are among the best we've had in a long time with lots of notable names and interesting bouts, and thankfully we don't need to wait long between some of these exciting match ups!
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masanori Rikiishi (8-1, 4) vs Soreike Taichi (7-3, 5)
The first bout of real note in November takes place on November 1st, with Japanese Lightweight hopeful Masanori Rikiishi looking to continue his strong run of form. The talented fighter from the Midori Gym is looking for his 7th straight win following a 2018 loss to Kosuke Saka, and a win here would likely take him to within touching distance of a Japanese title fight. Taichi on the other hand will be there looking to get his career back on track following a loss in February to Kazuma Sanpei. Sadly for Taichi he has been stopped in 2 of his 4 losses to naturally smaller men than Rikiishi, and we see him failing to complete the schedule here too.
Intex Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) vs Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12)
The first major bout of the month will see WBA Light Flyweight "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi make his next defense as he takes on unbeaten Thai challenger Thanongsak Simsri. The talented Kyoguchi hasn't looked as good in recent bouts as he did when he won the title at the end of 2018, but will be regarded as the very clear favourite here as he takes on a relatively unknown contender. Although unknown outside of Asia Simsri has looked impressive and is a heavy handed youngster from the same region as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. We do see Simsri as a future champion, but feel this may be too much too soon for him.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Also on November 3rd is brilliant prospect Jinki Maeda, who won Rookie of the Year in 2020. The talented, sharp punching and fast rising Maeda isn't being matched easily here as he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, who has notched up two wins since his sole defeat in 2019 and will tower over Maeda in the ring. We expect to see Maeda win, but we are expecting him to answer some questions on route to victory. The perfect type of match up for the unbeaten 24 year old
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) Vs Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
After several delays it now seems we will finally see a new WBO Flyweight champion being crowned this month as we finally get the long awaited showdown between Junto Nakatani and Giemel Magramo. The title has been vacant since Kosei Tanaka vacated it earlier in the year, and we had hoped to see Nakatani and Magramo battle in the Spring, and then the summer. Despite the, repeated, delays this is still one of the most interesting Flyweight bouts on the docket and is a real 50/50 bout. Both men can box, both have solid power, and both are looking for a top tier divisional win. This is the sort of bout we, as fans, should all be behind.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (G+)
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
In a delayed Champion Carnival bout we'll see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako taking on mandatory challenger Riku Kunimoto. As with the Nakatani Vs Magramo bout this has been delayed numerous times, due to the on going situation and then training issues affecting Kunimoto. On paper this is a massive step up for Kunimoto, who has never faced anyone even close to Takesako's ability or power. Despite the step up this is not a foregone conclusion, and will instead be an interesting way for both men to answer a lot of questions about their ability.
Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10) Vs Nath Nwachukwu (6-0-2, 3)
WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight champion Takeshi Inoue is in action here, but not a title defense, as he takes on Japanese ranked Middleweight Nath Nwachukwu. On paper this really does just look like a stay busy bout for Inoue, who's best known for 2019 fight with Jaime Munguia, but in fairness Nwachukwu will be coming to win, and won't be wanting to give up his unbeaten record. Inoue's the clear favourite, but we do expect him being forced to work for a win here.
Takuma Takahashi (5-0, 5) Vs Kodai Kiyota (9-6-2, 9)
The exciting, flawed, heavy handed, crude, Takuma Takahashi looks to put controversy behind him and build on his highly entertaining bout with Leonardo Doronio from back in January. In that bout Takahashi was in all sorts of trouble, and seemed lucky that Biney Martin let him get away with some very questionable tactics. Here he's up against domestic foe Kodai Kiyota in what should be a very easy win for the unbeaten man. A real confidence builder more than anything else.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (10-1, 7) vs Zoravor Petrosian (9-0, 4)
Back on to the subject of delayed fights here as we finally see Uzbek fighter Ravshanbek Umurzakov take on Ukrainian youngster Zoravor Petrosian. This bout was originally scheduled to take place in mid-September but fell through at the 11th hour when Umurzakov was unable to get into Russia. Despite the bout falling through a few weeks ago Petrosian fought anyway, looked really good, and we're now set to see them get in the ring together. This could be the hidden for the weekend.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Thananchai Charunphak (10-1, 8) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (61-13-2, 25)
Once beaten Thai prospect Thananchai Charunphak is among the most promising fighters in Thailand, and this week we get to see him step up again for what is essentially his third bout against a notable foe. The once beaten 20 year old, who already holds wins over Samartlek Kokietgym and Kompayak Porpramook, is tipped very highly.In the opponent corner will be veteran Pigmy Kokietygym, a former world title challenger who has seen better days, but should still provide something of a test for the youngster.
Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-8, 36) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-4, 6)
In a brilliant match up between veterans we'll see former WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu take on former IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng. At his best Pungluang was a strong, powerful aggressive fighter, who came forward and let his hands go. As he's aged he's slowed down, but is still having success and recently upset Campee Phayom. Amnat however has always been a tricky, awkward, fast, skilled, nightmare who knows the dark arts and how to get away with things. We're not expecting this to be the most action packed bout, but it is a genuinely intriguing one, and one of the most interesting non-title boutswe've seen in Thailand in years.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida, USA
Zhilei Zhang (21-0, 16) vs Devin Vargas (22-6, 9)
Chinese Heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang looks to continue his unbeaten record as he takes on Devin Vargas in Florida. The Chinese giant, who stands at 6'7", is a real talent, a quick handed, well schooled, southpaw with surprising speed and power. Sadly though he's 37, and any dreams of him getting a big fight before father time inflicts a loss on him are slim, even with Matchroom behind him. Vargas is a serviceable opponent for a prospect, but the 38 year old American is little more than that and shouldn't really ask questions of a contender, like Zhang. A really pointless match up that does little more than keep a 37 year old busy, rather than building his profile in what is the "now or never" part of his career.
We continue with our "Revisiting" series as we look at Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2), who we looked at in April 2019 as part of our "Introducing" series. At the time Kunimoto was 3-0 (1) and had been showing promise following his August 20118 debut. Sadly however Kunimoto hasn't been massively busy since we covered him last year, and has actually been affected by the current global situation, which postponed a Japanese title fight which was set to take place earlier this month.
Just days after we spoke about Kunimoto last year he scored a career best win, stopping Shoma Fukumoto in 6 rounds. This should have been a break out win, followed by more success. Instead however it was the start of a long, long break from the ring for Kunimoto, who hasn't fought since that bout. A real shame.
Following the win over Fukumoto the logical thing would have been for Kunimoto to have fought in a Japanese title eliminator, but essentially left in the cold there was there was no suitable dancer partners for the unbeaten hopeful. He also didn't have a stay busy fight against a foreign opponent, which would have helped tick him over given how the world has gone since.
Instead the plan was for Kunimoto to return to the ring in the first half of 2020 to clash with Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako, in what is still a mouth watering match up, as part of the Champion Carnival. That bout had been pencilled in for early May on a Dynamic Glove card. It was still coming after a long break for Kunimoto, but gave him something to train and prepare for. Something to focus on.
Sadly however with boxing in Japan being suspended from March the scheduled May date for Kunimoto's clash with Takesako has been, and gone.
At the moment it's really unclear on what will happen here. There's a chance that it will be rearranged, which seems the most likely, though it could end up taking place in 2021, rather than 2020, due to the JBC showing some potential flexibility on this year's Champion Carnival bouts being pushed into the new year. Alternatively we could also see either Kunimoto or Takesako taking another direction when boxing returns to Japan. We suspect Kunimoto will still pursue his title shot, but he may end up fighting for the vacant title if Takesako does decide to head towards bigger and better bouts.
Compared to where we were a year ago, Kunimoto's career really hasn't progressed in the way we would all have hoped. However at 23 years old the break from the ring may be a bit of a blessing in disguise. The youngster gets some extra time to mature, physically fill out his body and prepare a bit longer for the biggest and toughest bout of his career. It's a huge shame that he's been out of the ring, and we would have loved to have seen him fit in a bout in late 2019.
It'll be interesting to see how Kunimoto looks when he gets back in the ring, but the future is still very, very bright for the youngster from Osaka. He might not have been active, but with Muto gym behind him we know he has a smart team backing him, and they will get him back on track sooner rather than later.
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