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.
Albert Pagara (32-1, 23) Vs Ryoichi Tamura (13-5-1, 7)
One of the things this series has been focused on is the under-the-radar action fights that could be made, and we deliver that again, in a bout that could be made relatively easily at Super Bantamweight, and be seen as a fight both fighters could win. One guy would be a definite favourite, but the under-dog has never entered the ring with the belief he can't win. Given the styles of the two men and their mentalities this has the potential to be an all out thriller.
Filipino boxer-puncher Albert Pagara has long been touted for the top, but is yet to hit the heights expected of him. The 25 year old is looking for a break out win, and will likely spend 2020 moving through the regional scene whilst awaiting a world title fight. He's an exciting fighter, but did come up short when he last faced a rugged and determined slugger, losing in 8 rounds to Cesar Juarez. His competition since losing to Juarez has been poor, with his last 5 opponents lasting just 11 rounds, and he desperately needs another gut check before having another fringe world level bout. He needs to get in with someone who can take his power, and will fire back at him, rather than decide to accept an early loss.
Former Japanese champion Ryoichi Tamura is a 32 year old tough as old boots warrior, who comes to fight every time he's in the ring. He's technically pretty crude, but so rugged, has such energy and refuses to back down. He can be out boxed, as we saw in his 2019 rematch with Yusaku Kuga, but few fighters will out last him in a toe to toe war. He is very much like a budget store version of Juarez, and like the Mexican he keeps coming, no matter what someone throws at him. At the moment he's the OPBF Silver champion, so he does hold a notable, though minor, regional title and this would be a good gateway for Pagara to secure a bigger regional level fight before, potentially, landing a world title fight. On the other hand If Tamura pulled off the upset, he would find himself on the fringes of his own world title bout.
Given how Pagara has got question marks over his head about mental toughness and will to win this will a great chance to see those questions answered against a man who simply doesn't know how to go backwards. Tamura would likely find himself before early on, likely a long way behind after 5 or 6 rounds, but his pressure and work rate in the middle rounds would be a major issue for Pagara who would struggle later on. The drive of Tamura is an issue for anyone and we would love to see him bring that pressure against someone with the skills and movement of Pagara.
The last 7 days have been relatively quiet in the world of Asian boxing, with little in terms of noteworthy shows, but with December looming there is a lot around the corner, a lot to be excited about, and potentially some late contenders for Fight of the Year.
1-John Riel Casimero
Although not always the most professional of fighters, or the most consistent, John Riel Casimero showed what he could do, again, as he travelled over to England and stopped Zolani Tete to become the new WBO Bantamweight champion. Casimero, now a 3-weight world champion, immediately called out Naoya Inoue and seems like the sort of fighter who genuinely wants to fight the best, rather than just talk about fighting the best. It was great to see Casimero win and even better to see him actively calling out Inoue.
2-Korea is live and kicking
It may have been obvious, given the low level of the fights, but there was a card in Korea in the past Saturday. More notable than that card was the announcement of a quadruple header in January, a title fight in late December and the full details of Hyun Mi Choi's unification bout with Maiva Hamadouche. Korean boxing is still not it was, and probably never will be, but this past week has proven their is still life left in the country's boxing scene and fingers crossed that will grow and grow in 2020.
3-Taiwan has Talent
Whilst Korean boxing seems to be growing again after years of inactivity we're just as excited about the activity we saw in Taiwan this past Saturday....or rather the activity of two Taiwanese fighters. Whilst the wins by Daisuke Sugita and Ryoichi Tamura are the two which got the attention of fans watching the show we loved the look of Yi Hung Chiang, who looks so excited, and Kai Ting Chuang, who looked so polished for a debutant. Taiwan might not be a country known for it's boxing scene but with these two emerging through the ranks we are excited to see what happens with Taiwanese boxing over the coming years.
1- Haasan Mwakinyo Vs Arnel Tinampay
Oh where do we start here? The bout had issues before the opening bell, with the fighters having their gloves changed before a punch was thrown, the online feed went down, the bell rang early a number of times and the judging all made this feel very amateurish. Given that the Tanzanian boxing market is relatively obscure it may well be a good idea for them to bring in officials from abroad to try and help them develop their know how. If they bring in some Japanese judges and for example, like Dubai has for their shows, things could be a lot smoother. If they can smooth off some of those rough edges there is real potential for Tanzania to become a notable scene. Sadly though images like the ones from Friday night are more likely to do harm than good.
2- JR Magboo
The Filipino fighter was far too happy to take his loss on Saturday against Yongqiang Yang for us to say anything positive. Had this been a his first loss that would have been one thing, but this is was his third stoppage loss in 4 fights, all in round 2. It very much feels like he will give it a go for a round, if that fails he will just accept a loss when he has an excuse to go down. Inb his last 5 fights he has either scored a win in the first round, or accepted a second round loss. In his 19 fights prior that 5 fight stretch he had never been stopped, and had been very competitive with the likes of Jhon Gemino and Jhunriel Ramonal.
3- The officiating of Tamura Vs Yor
Whilst we loved seeing the two Taiwanese youngsters show what they could do the officiating of the Ryouchi Tamura Vs Moensaku Yor fight, we believe by referee Yuji Fukuchi, left a lot to be desired. Tamura was never in any trouble, at all, but he should have been warned for hitting Yor when he was down. This wasn't a one off blow from Tamura but instead several shots when Yor was down. We understand the referee not disqualifying Tamura, but he could, or rather should, had admonished the Japanese fighter.
The balls on Andres Gutierrez must be massive! The Super Featherweight, or should that be Welterweight, missed weight to face Oscar Valdez, by 11lbs. He wasn't just above the divisional limit, but was above the limit 2 divisions higher! From what we understand Bob Arum kicked him out of the hotel and sent him packing back off home. The bout for Valdez was saved in the end by Adam Lopez, though in reality Valdez almost slipped up against a late replacement and no one won out of this whole situation.
Over the last few years British referees have become a huge joke. They've earned a reputation for early stoppage, when it favours the promoter, carrying fighters back to the corner, like we saw when Nathan Cleverly fought Sergey Kovalev, and allowing some fights to just continue for no reason, like Shannon Briggs being allowed to go 12 rounds with Vitali Klitschko. This weekend it was Steve Gray's chance to embarrass himself. He did everything he could do give Zolani Tete some help, holding Tete up, letting Tete go on when he should have been stopped, several times, and was so busy pushing Casimero to the neutral corner that he couldn't hide what he was doing. The reality is that, for Tete's health, this should have been stopped after the first knockdown. Allowing it to continue was serving the South Africa no favours. Very, very poor refereeing that could have ended up with much worse results.
(Images courtesy of boxingnews.jp and boxmob.jp)
In the Middle part of September things get a little bit crazy, with a host of fights all crammed into a very small window of time.
Masayuki Ito (25-2-1, 13) Vs Ruben Manakane (25-18-1, 14) - Tokyo, Japan
Former WBO Super Featherweight champion Masayuki Ito fights for the first time since his world title loss, and takes on Indonesian foe Ruben Manakane. This bout is little more a confidence building home-coming bout for Ito, who should really dominate Manakane and force a mid-round stoppage. Despite that it's nice to see Ito back in the ring after his loss to Jamel Herring. We're expecting a simple, straight forward win for Ito here, but the rest of the card is much harder to predict.
Reiya Abe (19-2-1, 9) vs Ryo Sagawa (7-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Talented Japanese Featherweights Reiya Abe and Ryo Sagawa clash for the vacant Japanese title, which has been vacated by Taiki Miniamoto. On paper this one of the best match ups of the entire month, it's a 50-50 type fight between two men in good form, who have really impressed in recent years. Both have contrasting styles that should gel well, and we're expecting a genuinely fantastic back and forth bout here. This is a tough one to call and should be very entertaining.
Gakuya Furuhashi (25-8-1, 14) vs Ryoichi Tamura (12-4-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling 8 rounder we'll see Gakuya Furuhashi and Ryoichi Tamura battle in a Japanese Super Bantamweight title eliminator. Furuhashi is a 2-time title challenger, having failed to pick up victory against Yasutaka Ishimoto and Yukinori Oguni, but is a very fun to watch fighter and did push Oguni very close. Tamura on the other hand won,and lost, the Japanese title this year and has developed a reputation for being in great fights due to his intense work rate, toughness and pressure. This should be an all out war between two men desperate for another shot at the title. Expect this one to be brutal.
Rikito Shiba (3-0, 2) vs Shisui Kawabata (2-0, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Unbeaten youngster clash here in a Japanese Youth title bout, with the touted Rikito Shiba and Shisui Kawabata both risking their unbeaten records at this very early stage in their careers. Of the two we've been more impressed by Shiba, though Kawabata has previously been a sparring partner for Naoya Inoue and has come to the pro-ranks with a very good reputation from his days in the amateur ranks. On paper this might look like two novices in a nothing bout, but given their pedigree this is much bigger than that, and the winner will likely be fast tracked to a senior title next year. This is a huge bout given how early it is in the careers of both men.
Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24) vs Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15) - Nevada, USA
The Elorde is one of the most famous in Filipino boxing and on the 14th of September we'll see Juan Miguel Elorde, the grandson of the legendary Flash Elorde, challenger WBO Super Bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete. The once beaten Navarrete has looked like a monster through much of his career and this very much has the hall marks of a cash out for Elorde who has done little to deserve a world title fight. On one hand it would be great to see another Elorde at the top of the sport, but the reality is that he will almost certainly be a lamb to the slaughter here.
Yuki Nonaka (33-10-3, 10) Vs Yang Hyun Min (8-2, 7) - Osaka, Japan
Japanese veteran Yuki Nonaka looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight title as he goes up against Korean challenger Yang Hyun Min. The talented Nonaka, who is still showing what he can do past the age of 40, is hoping to get a world title fight before his career is over and knows keeping his regional title is the key to landing a shot at the big time. Min on the other hand enters as a bit of an unknown. On paper Min is a puncher, but in reality his competition has been so bad that it's hard to know what he really has to offer
Daiki Tomita (13-1, 5) vs Hayato Yamaguchi (15-7-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight takes place at Light Flyweight and will see Daiki Tomita take on Hayato Yamaguchi, in a bout for the vacant title. For Tomita this will be his second fight, following a loss last year in an OPBF Minimumweight title fight against Tsubasa Koura. At 21 years old Tomita's future is bright, but another loss here will leave him with a lot of rebuilding. On the other hand Yamaguchi is 30 years old and has gone 3-3 in his last 6 bouts, stretching back almost 5 years, a loss for him will almost certainly send him into retirement. Interestingly this will only Yamaguchi's second bout since the start of 2017 and that type of ring rust will almost certainly be an issue against the very capable Tomita.
Tomoko Okuda (5-2-1, 1) vs Kanako Taniyama (2-0, 1) - Osaka, Japan
Another title bout will see the Japanese Female Bantamweight title being fought for, as the unbeaten Kanako Tamiyama takes on Tomoko Okuda for the currently vacant title. Okuda is the more experienced boxer however Taniyama has got more combat experience than her record suggests following a successful career in kick boxing, a career that was ended due to a knee injury. With both women in their 30's it's hard to see where the loser goes, but the winner will likely look to move from domestic level to regional level and then, potentially, landing a world title fight before ending their career. In many way's it's a shame Taniyama turned to boxing just before her 31st birthday as she has shown some touches of potential. At 36 Okuda is showing signs of being old in the ring already and is 1-1-1 in her last 3.
We now head into June, and we do so on the back of a huge May that had everything a fight fan could wish for. We had regular, frequent action, at every level, we had fantastic fights, brilliant performances, and a month that is going to be one of the very, very best of 2019.
Fighter of the Month
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We had some great performances through the month, but it was clearly only one man who was in the running to be regarded as the fighter of the month, and that was the Monster. Inoue not only boosted his profile to a point of international star, progressed to the WBSS final, claimed the IBF Bantamweight title, but did so in a fashion that seemed to tell the world how good he was, stopping the unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2 rounds. This was the type of win that made those, who dind't know of Inoue, sit up and take note. And for those who had long supported the Monster it was vindication that he wasn't just a normal fighter, in fact he was an historical fighter, becoming the first Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe.
Fight of the Month
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) vs Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
May really did have a lot going on it, with a huge number of fights, but we actually go back to the very start of the month for our Fight of the Month. That was the Japanese Featherweight title fight between between the hard hitting Taiki Minamoto and Reiya Abe, a bout that was sensational, with momentum shifts, excitement, skills, power, heart. Abe, the more skilled fighter, was dropped twice, but gritted his teeth and earned a draw in what wasn't a warm it wasn't a brawl, but it was a brilliant, high skilled, boxing contest. We love wars, and we had those through the month, but this was a brilliant fight and is a must watch for any fight fan.
KO of the Month
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
When a fighter is being out boxed, out sped, out fought and out skilled there is always a chance he can bail himself out, if he's a puncher. That's what we saw when Takenori Ohashi landed a brutal uppercut, leaving Wakabayashi out cold, flat on his back and rendering any of Wakabayashi's success as moot. It was proof of the adage of "it only takes 1 punch" and proof that when a fighter is a puncher, they are always in the fight. A massive KO and a huge statement for Ohashi.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Although we saw more notable prospects, and we saw bigger wins, we were really impressed by Macao's 22 year old Lap Cheong Cheong this month, as he took an excellent win over Muhammad Wahid in Hong Kong. The unbeaten Macau man pressed the fight through out, took the fight to his foe and tried to break him down from the first round the final seconds. Wahid's toughness prevented the stoppage, but Cheong couldn't have impressed much more. We loved hi style, mentality and hunger, and he looks like a really exciting young fighter.
Masafumi Ando KO3 Toshio Arikawa
Japanese domestic level journeyman Masafumi Ando scored the biggest win of his career, by far, by stopping former Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa in 3 rounds. Ando, who had won just 1 of his previous 4 bouts, was a huge under-dog against Arikawa and when he was dropped himself things seemed to be against him. That however instantly changed when he dropped Arikawa and sent him into retirement. What's particularly remarkable about this win is that Ando hadn't scored a stoppage in well over 5 years, and had only beaten 1 opponent with a winning record, the then 1-0 Masanori Iwai.
Ryoichi Tamura Vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
We had some amazing fights during the month, in what was a truly amazing month. Among the best was the 10 round rematch between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga. The bout had some amazing rounds, the pick of which was the 6th round, as Tamura, who knew he was well behind, moved through the gears and began to push Kuga back. Kuga held his ground more than he did in the later rounds, and gave us a really special 3 minutes of damaging and brutal action. An excellent 3 minutes in what was a fantastic bout, and is well worthy a watch by anyone who likes hard hitting wars.
This past week has been an incredible one in the grand scheme of things. We've had Asian fighters fighting for world titles on 3 different days, we've had a whole host of prospects, Japanese title bouts, two live streamed shows on Boxing Raise, more streamed action from Thailand and Taiwan and it really has been a week to remember. With that in mind it's been a really great week for our weekly awards, and an incredible hard one to decide in terms of some winners.
Fighter of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We suspect that there will be no argument at all with us selecting "The Monster" as our fighter of the week. He really was the talk of the boxing world through the last 7 days, not only in the build up to his WBSS semi-final bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez but also afterwards, with his 2nd round demolition of the Puerto Rican really being something very spectacular. Whilst we did feel that Rodriguez perhaps had an overly inflated reputation coming in to the bout there was no questioning Inoue's performance. He took a round to get a read on Rodriguez, then destroyed him to become the first ever Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe. This was the Monster announcing himself, and doing so in a way that leave no doubt about the Japanese star.
Performance of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
For the first time ever our Fighter of the Week, generally given to the fighter who scored the best win, and our Performance of the Week, the fighter who impressed us the most, are the same man. We won't bother to repeat ourselves, though we will say that if you've not yet seen the performance this was something amazing.
Despite Inoue picking up the double we will just add that the performances form Yusaku Kuga, Tsubasa Maruchi, Masayuki Kuroda and Reiya Konishi were all very impressive and all would likely have been a serious contender had we not had the Monster do what he did in Glasgow.
Moruti Mthalane Vs Masayuki Kuroda
We loved the rematch between Ryuichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, and the thriller between Tatsuya Yanagi and Koichi Aso, but the reality is that Monday's world title fight between Moruti Mthalane and Masayuki Kuroda was a level above the other bouts. This was something to behold, a 12 round war, with the skills of Mthalane put against the heart and desire of Kuroda. The champion retained his IBF Flyweight title relatively comfortably in the end, but that cannot take away from the fact that the bout was sensational. It was a really, really exciting, well fought contest that deserves to mentioned as a FOTY contender
Ryoichi Tamura vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
There was so many amazing rounds this past week. We had things like Yosuke Fujihara v Naoya Okamoto, round 3, Koichi Aso v Tatsuya Yanagi, round 7, and and several rounds from Moruti Mthalane vs Masayuki Kuroda bout. For us however the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga had the best round of the week. It's difficult to pick one, though we're edging with round 6, which was the round where the fight really came alive. Tamura, who was losing the bout quite clearly after 5 rounds, picked up his pace and we ended up with a 3 minute fire fight, that began the second half of a sensational fight. This was the sort of bout that we love, for the action, but hate knowing that there's a chance neither man will ever be the same. A truly brutal fight, with some truly amazing rounds.
Kenta Nakagawa TKO7 Ryosuke Nasu
For such an amazing, action packed week, we didn't really have many standout KO's on show. Whilst Naoya Inoue's stoppage of Emmanuel Rodriguez was impressive Rodriguez wasn't out cold. Arguably the best of the bunch was Kenta Nakagawa's brilliant left hand against Ryosuke Nasu, that left Nasu out in Nakagwa's corner. The bout hadn't been thje mopst notable but the stoppage was huge and really showed that, despite his limitations, Nakagawa can bang at this level.
Ryusei Kawaura (6-0, 4)
If we're being totally honest the Prospect of the Week was one of the harder categories this past week, even hard than the Fight and Round of the Week. We had notable wins for not only our winner, Ryusei Kawaura, but also Batyrzhan Jukembayev, Shakhobidin Zoirov, Elnur Abduraimov, Eric Pen and Tsubasa Maruchi. For us Kawaura's win over Renoel Pael, and the manner of that win, was what won him the award, but in reality it was really close and we got a real glimpse at some amazing talent this past week, talent that will make a mark at a much higher level in the near future future.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) vs Sho Kimura (18-2-2, 11)
As with the week we've just had there is a lot to look forward to over the coming 7 days. For us the highlight, at least on paper, is the WBA "regular" Light Flyweight title bout between Carlos Canizales and Sho Kimura. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and a true FOTY contender. Canizales, looking to make his second defense of the title, is the natural Light Flyweight, and is a strong powerful guy at 108lbs, whilst Kimura is dropping down from Flyweight for this. If Kimura makes the weight safely we should be in for something truly, and gruesomely violent.
We mentioned them at the start of this but they need mentioning again, Boxing Raise were tremendous. They gave us two live shows, one of which was totally free whilst one was for their members. The first of those shows was arguably the show of the week and featured a trio of amazing match ups, once again showing the level of service their cards have.
TVK were a real mixed bag, winning the first ever "Half assed" award. Whilst they were big winners on Monday, live streaming the IBF Flyweight title bout between Masayuki Kuroda and Moruti Mthalane, we are really disappointed that they've not uploaded the bout to their youtube channel for a chance to rewatch what was a FOTY candidate...come on folks!
Masafumi Ando, who scored a huge upset by stopping former Japanese Welterweght champion Toshio Arikawa. Ando was expected to be taken out but completely ripped up the script to score a career defining win, and prove that even with his poor record he can still be a banana skin to much more well known fighters.
Whilst the start of May was exciting, with a number of notable bouts taking place in the first few days of the month things go off the charts in the middle portion of the month with a string of major bouts, and some very, very exciting lesser bouts.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) Vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling bout for the OPBF Bantamweight title fight we'll see defending champion Keita Kurihara defending his title, for the first time, and battle against Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas. The champion is really exciting, and although not the most technically complete fighter is a really brutal puncher. The challenger, who also has brutal power, is regarded as a bit of a glass cannon, and will feel like he's in last chance saloon. This is set to be a really thrilling, all action shoot out. Of the two Kurihara is the younger, fresher, man but Parrenas has got experience at a very high level and will be looking to rely on that experience here. We're expecting fireworks aplenty here.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-2, 8) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (14-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
A second title bout on this day will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Nobuyuki Shindo defending his belt, for the second time, as he takes on mandatory challenger Hironobu Matsunaga. Shindo made his first defense late last year, fighting to a draw in a ridiculously good bout with Akinori Watanabe, and will be looking to build on some recent results as he takes on the in form Matsunaga is riding an 8 fight winning streak, including notable wins over Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Koshinmaru Saito.
Mark Anthony Geraldo (37-9-3, 18) vs Neil John Tabanao (17-4, 11) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
An interesting GAB Super Bantamweight title bout will see talented Mark Anthony Gerlado take on Neil John Tabanao. It's rare we get really good GAB title fights, but this one is worthy of some noting, partly due to the level that Geraldo has fought at, sharing the ring with a real who's who including McJoe Arroyo, Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali in recent years, and partly due to the fact Tabanao is a solid challenger. The champion is a good gatekeeper, and only tends to lose to people who can compete at the top. Tabanao on the other hand is a tough, game foe who has never been stopped and comes into this bout knowing a win could boost his standing.
Charly Suarez (2-0, 2) Vs Waldo Sabu (13-14, 3) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
A second notable bout on this card will see highly regarded former Filipino amateur standout Charly Suarez take on Waldo Sabu. This is a huge mismatch, but given how we're expecting to see Suarez make a mark at a higher level later in the near future this bout is pretty significant. We're going to be really excited to see where Suarez goes, but his next bout really does need to be a big step up in class, as he can't waste any more time at this level.
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest bouts for this portion of the month will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title, for the second time. The talented South African will take on mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda. The champion looked sensational in December, when he defended the title against Masahiro Sakamoto, but at the age of 36 father time will likely catch up with him before long. The talented Kuroda is solid, but this will be a big step up for him, and he will need a career best performance to even be competitive with the champion.
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4) vs Renoel Pael (23-8-1, 12) - Tokyo, Japan
Charly Suarez isn't the only hotly tipped former amateur stand out to be in action in the coming days, with Ryusei Kawaura set to take a notable step up in class and take on talented Filipino Renoel Pael. The unbeaten Japanese youngster is tipped for really, really big things and this is the next natural step forward for him. Pael has never been stopped, and has shared the ring with several notable fighters including Andrew Moloney. A stoppage for Kawaura here would be a huge statement, though a win would certainly be impressive at this early point in his career.
Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9) vs Jelbirt Gomera (14-5, 7) - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Filipino fighter Jelbirt Gomera is certainly not a big name, though has shared the ring with the likes of Can Xu and Hidenori Otake, and will now be taking on former world champion Ryan Burnett, in what will be Burnett's first bout since losing to Nonito Donaire last year. Gomera will clearly be the under-dog, but will come into the bout knowing that this is the perfect time to face Burnett, after his lay off and injury.
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) Vs Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11) II -Tokyo, Japan
A really interesting rematch that we'll see this month will pit Japanese Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura against former champion Yusaku Kuga. These two had an absolute war in their first bout, and we're expecting another brutal brawl here. Both are technically limited, but very aggressive and exciting. Tamura is a volume guy, who marches forward through an insane amount of thudding leather, whilst Kuga is a puncher, who looks to take opponents out. With that combination of styles we may be set for something really, really special here.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) - Glasgow, United Kingdom
One of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 will see top Bantamweights collide, as Naoya Inoue takes on Emmanuel Rodriguez in a WBSS Semi-final bout, which will have the IBF and Ring magazine titles up for grabs. Inoue will be looking to create history, as the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe, whilst Rodriguez will be looking to destroy the all-Asian WBSS dream final between Inoue and Nonito Donaire. Whilst the WBSS has had it's issues with this season, this semi-final, and the eventual final, are going massively anticipated by fans, and really can't complain about quality of this bout, or the final.
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.
With a new year comes new ideas, and one of the new things we'd like to try in 2019 is our weekly awards, and further to that an attempt at monthly awards as well. We know some weeks, and months, will see a lot of contenders for awards, and we're really hoping that that sparks debate with you, the readers, as well as feedback. That feed back will be looked at and potentially included in a follow up article .
Just as some basic ground rules, weeks run from Monday to Sunday, so the end of week 1 is Sunday January 6th. These pieces will be posted between Sunday and Tuesday, depending on time, and what fights take place when. Also all awards are for Asian fighters or bout that take place in Asia, or feature and Asian fighter, so please remember that!
As a general rule we want to recognise fighters and fights in the following categories:
Fighter - Straight forward, which fighter impressed the most during the week
Performance - Which fighter put on the best performance of the week
Fight - Which fight was the best of the week (where possible a video will be supplied)
Round - Which round was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
KO - Which KO was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
Prospect - Which prospect impressed us most during the week
Upcoming fight - Which fight, during the following week, are we the most excited about
As well as a "notable mentions" category, which are essentially for doing something that doesn't fit in one of the above categories or where someone is narrowly pipped.
We suspect over the next few weeks we'll see this whole thing change slightly, but hopefully by the Spring we'll have settled on a format that works. We also know not all fights are available to watch publicly, for example those on boxingraise, where that's the case we will look to add a notable mention for another fight.
So....with all that said, I would like to get on to the Asian Boxing Awards for Week 1 2019!
Fighter of the Week
Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19)
There wasn't too much action this past week, what with the year just starting at all that, but there was really only 2 contenders for this award. They were Jiang Xiang of China and Giemel Magramo, of the Philippines. For us Magramo gets the win by a nose hair. He went over to China and stopped the previously unbeaten Wenfeng Ge, to unify the WBO Oriental and WBO International titles at Flyweight. Not only beating someone highly regarded, like Ge, but to do it by stoppage in their back yard gets Magramo our first ever Fighter of the Week recognition.
Performance of the Week
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) [向静]
Whilst Magramo's stoppage against Ge was an impressive result, we thought Magramo actually was pipped in terms of his performance by Jing Xiang, who dominated former world champion Kompayak Porpramook over 12 rounds to retain the WBC Silver Light Flyweight title. The bout Chinese fighter was taking on a determined visitor and ended up schooling the Thai veteran, hardly dropping a round, and actually putting the Thai down. For us this was the much better performance, with Magramo's having the better result. We were thoroughly impressed by how Xiang shut down the pressure from the Thai, despite some tough moments.
Jiang Wang (7-1, 2) [王健] Vs Sung Young Yang (6-2, 3) [양성영]
Despite being a dominant win for Jing Xiang over Kompayak Porpramook we were totally captivated, from the first round to the last. Sadly, it was too one-sided to be our fight of the week, however the walk out bout from the same show, which saw Jian Wang and Sung Young Yang battle to 10 round split decision draw was just what we wanted. It was exciting, action packed and highly competitive. These two lacked the skills of some other fighters on the card but in terms of action they delivered, in a big way, often taking it in turns to wail away on each other from close range. If you love technical mastery you'll be disappointed in our choice, but for pure wild entertainment this was just fantastic.
Giemel Magramo Vs Wenfeng Ge (Round 2)
Although there wasn't a lot of action this past week we got more than our share of great rounds. Rounds 9 and 10 from the Wang Vs Yang bout were amazing, round 7 of Xiang Vs Kompayak was sensational, however our pick for the week was round 2 of Magramo Vs Ge. The round wasn't just a high intensity one, but also featured a high level of skill, with both men showing ring craft and skills. As the bout went on the contest became 1-sided, but this round was an ultra competitive one and a very entertaining contest, that seemed to give us a glimpse of a very special fight, that sadly we didn't really get.
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!
Xiang Li (4-0, 3) [李想]
Chinese novice Xiang Li may not get many mentions through the next 12 months, but he did more than get this honour by defeat. He took on tough Filipino Arvin Yurong, who had travelled with the intention of claiming the WBO Oriental Youth title. Li, a 22 year old puncher from Nanjing, managed to stop Yurong in the 4th round, enduring some problems from the hungry and gutsy Filipino who had travelled to fight and was really in Li's face. Whilt we don't imagine we'll see Li getting many mentions this year he certainly impressed today, and hopefully he'll be busier in 2019 than he has been the last few years.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) [武田勇太] Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) [田村 亮一]
There's not many fights this coming week, but we do like th elook of the January 12th Japanese Super Bantamweight bout between Mugicha Nakagawa and Ryoichi Tamura, in what could be a very exciting contest. The styles should gel well, and with a national title on the line we suspect both men will give all they've got to make their mark. Tamura is rarely in a bad fight, and we Nakagawa is the type of battle who will happily engage in a war. Potentally a thriller at the Korakuen Hall!
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!
So once again fans, worldwide, are complaining about the judges and their scoring of a fight. In fact once again we're being told boxing is dying because of the judges, and that it won't keep it's current fans or attract new ones, whilst ignoring the fact that the recent Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn fight was a really fantastic battle shown on ESPN. The fight may have left a bad taste in the mouths of many, and may have lead to more than a few forum bust ups, but it's fair to say that the sport isn't dying. In fact over the coming weeks, to the end of July, we have some real thrillers to look forward to. And in fact we have number which feature fighters from the Asian boxing scene.
The first two come on May 9th from a show in Russia which features a number of Japanese fighters getting out their passport for a potentially thrilling show in Ekaterinburg. One of those Japanese fighters is former world title challenger Daiki Kaneko (26-5-3, 18) who takes on unbeaten Russian Pavel Malikov (11-0, 5). This bout won't set the world on fire in terms of name value, but they fighters have the ability to put on an absolute classic of high skilled, high energy and highly aggressive fighting. Malikov will be the favourite, given his unbeaten record and home advantage, but Kaneko always brings the fight and should make for a real under-the-radar war.
On the same card in Russia fans will see the once beaten Dmitry Mikhaylenko (22-1, 10) face off with fast rising Uzbek prospect Qudratillo Abduqaxorov (11-0, 8), with the Uzbek defending his WBC silver Welterweight title. The Russian has been shown cased in the US and holds notable wins over the likes of Sechew Powell, Ronald Cruz, Johan Perez, Karim Mayfield and Breidis Prescott and is a fun fighter able to fight at a high pace. The Uzbek on the other hand is a hard matched boxer-puncher with a really solid record for such a novice. Interestingly Abduqaxorov won the title he's defending by stopping Charles Manyuchi, who won the belt himself by upsetting Mikhaylenko. Expect this to be a fun back and forth, fought at a high pace with real momentum shifts.
July 15th promises to be a day that has something special at the start, and at the end.
The day begins with a really exciting WBA Minimumweight title bout as the unbeaten Knockout CP Freshmart (15-0, 7) defends against mandatory challenger Rey Loreto (21-13, 15). On paper we know this looks like a mismatch, and can under-stand fans complaining about the fact a guy with 13 losses is fighting for a world title, but the reality is that Loreto, like many Filipino fighters, was matched hard and picked up early career losses. In recent years however he has gone on a 7-0 (6) run, with wins against former world champions Pornsawak Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi. Knockout is regarded as one of the top Minimumweights, and is an improving boxer with solid power and very good skills. The unbeaten champion will be favoured but this is no forgone conclusion and should be a real thriller.
Talking about thriller the days ends with the massively anticipated WBC Super Featherweight title fight between Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28) and former champion Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24). It's hard not to get excited about this one, as both men are aggressive, heavy handed, exciting and genuine world class. The younger, fresher, champion will be favoured and really impressed last time when he stopped Francisco Vargas for the title, but he has shown a dodgy chin in the past and was stopped inside a round back in 2014 by the unheralded Luis Eduardo Florez. Miura came to the attention of US fans back in 2015 when he lost a FOTY contender to the aforementioned Vargas, and has since had another war on US soil against Miguel Roman. This could be a very special, very explosive and a real blink and you miss it contest to end the day, and mark the mid-way point of the month.
On July 23rd Japanese fight fans get a world title double header in Tokyo. One of those looks like a real treat, as the Minimumweight division against looks like it's going to shine. That bout sees IBF champion Jose Argumedo (20-3-1, 12) defending his title against human wrecking ball Hiroto Kyoguchi (7-0, 6). Interestingly Argumedo won the title in Japan, beating Katsunari Takayama, and will be returning their for his next defense. He's not the best boxer out there but is a big, tough, strong fighter with a style that should gel against the all action Kyoguchi, who had always hunted stoppages and will be stepping up massively. This looks almost certain to be a war, and one that could have fight fans give some real attention to the Minimumweight division, at least for the duration of the contest.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the best in Japan right now, with the country having two world champions and a host of contenders. On the domestic scene the division is red hot and on July 29th we'll see heavy handed Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) defending his title against the under-rated Ryoichi Tamura (8-2-1, 5). Although this is one that will be for the truly hardcore, with the bout being shown on subscription site Boxingraise, it has the potential to be a thrilling and explosive fire fight. Kuga is spiteful puncher, who is relatively unrefined but so heavy handed that every shot he throws is hurtful. As for Tamura he has been matched hard from the off and comes into this on a 5-fight winning run, having stopped his last 4. This has the ingredients of a short lived war with combustible styles colliding in a thoroughly exciting stylistic match up. Both fighters fighters are going to be tagged, and this could be over very quickly, or be an all out thriller.
To end the month we stay with the type of bouts only the hardcore fans would look at with any excitement going in. That's the OPBF Bantamweight title fight between defending champion Mark John Yap (26-12, 12) and former 2-time Japanese national champion Kentaro Masuda (27-7, 15). On paper this doesn't look amazing, with the men having almost 20 losses between them, but records are certainly misleading and shouldn't be used to judge match quality as the styles, mentality and skills of these two are much better than the numbers suggest. What we have here are two rough and tough Bantamweights looking to move towards a world title fight and we're expecting a rough, punishing 12 round war for the Oriental title and for pride. Don't sleep on this one.
Yeah we know people are angry about the result of Pacquiao Vs Horn but don't let that cloud what should be a month of brilliant action, and really we should be excited that the next 4 weeks is set to be nothing short of brilliant and full of treats for us fans, hardcore and casual.
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