After one of the quietest weeks in a long time we followed up with a genuinely solid, if rather over-looked, week featuring a lot of solid action, and bouts featuring 3 former champions! It may not have matched some of the weeks at the end of 2020, but this was an excellent week and one we really enjoyed thanks to free streams, from CBC and the GAB, a brilliant Boxing Raise show and a tape delay Fuji TV show.
Fighter of the Week
Ryoji Fukunaga (12-4, 12)
A week after our rule on "Fighter" of the week bit us on the backside, with the most significant win coming in a relative nothing bout, normality resumed this week with Ryoji Fukunaga being the well deserving winner this following a gutsy, brave and excellent win over Froilan Saludar. The unheralded Japanese puncher went into the bout as the major under-dog in what was a very big step up in class, but fought through some massive swelling to out gut Saludar. The performance wasn't an outstanding out, but the win was huge, and netter Fkunaga the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. We don't imagine he'll hold it long, but this week was his week!
Performance of the Week
Mark Sales (23-43-5, 8)
It's rare that we'll ever see the performance of the week come from a journeyman with more than 40 losses, but this week Mark Sales is well and truly worth attention and accolades. Sales had been out of the ring for almost a year, he'd only fought once in 2019 and once in 2018, and was more than 4 years removed from his last win. He wasn't expected to defeat Prabjhot Singh, but that's exactly what he did, relying on his more than 70 bouts of experience to out work, out fight, out punch and out smart his taller, younger opponent. Well done the "Slam Man"!
Kento Hatanaka vs Roland Jay Biendima
We really had some fantastic bouts this week, including a thriller between a pair of Richard's, Claveras and Rosales, in the Philippines. For us though the pick of the bunch was a 10 round action thriller between Kento Hatanaka and Roland Jay Biendima. This was absolutely thrilling, after a quiet first round Biendima came alive and gave us a brilliant, action packed 10 round bout that swung one way, then the other. Biendima was often on the wrong of the action, but hurt Hatanaka a number of time, bloodying his nose in round 3, damaging his ribs later in the bout and rocking him a number of times. This is the weeks must watch bout, and is really worth going back and rewatching. A brilliant fight.
Kento Hatanaka vs Roland Jay Biendima (RD 10)
There were amazing rounds through the week, though for us the final 3 minutes of the war for the WBC Youth Flyweight title between Kento Hatanaka and Roland Jay Biendima was the best. The round was one of a number of thrilling rounds between the two warriors, tried to make sure they didn't hear the final bell. At the end of the round it was clear the two men had fought to a standstill.
Yuki Nakajima vs Shisui Kawabata (Rd 4)
Elmar Zamora vs Justin Espejo (Rd 6)
Hiroki Hanabusa KO1 Sorawit Bamrungrai
We love body shot KO's, they don't come around too often, but we love seeing them when they do. With that in mind it was hard to note repeatedly rewatch Hiroki Hanabusa's left hook to the body against over-matched Thai Sorawit Bamrungrai. The talented Hanabusa, who will be fighting for a Japanese Youth title later in the year, did what he was supposed to do against an opponent who shouldn't have been in the ring with him, and left him in a heap on the canvas. This was perfect placement, took a fraction of a second for Sorawit to feel it, and left the Thai down and out. Pure brilliance
Elmar Zamora (3-0, 2)
The GAB show on Saturday was frustrating one to watch live with the official GAB stream being rather a nightmare at times. It was however worth watching for the performance of Elmar Zamora, who took a decision over Justin Espejo. Zamora showed he could box, bang, brawl, had a really exciting style and looks like the sort of fighter the Filipino scene should be looking to nurture. The youngster debuted in 2018 and fought twice that year before taking a year out and returning to face Espejo. Not sure if the break was the best thing for his career, but his performance this weekend was brilliant, keep an eye out for this talented and exciting youngster!
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
The biggest show of the weekend is at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and we an Asian interest with Emanuel Navarrete taking on Filipino Jeo Santisima, in what is a genuinely quiet week for Asian fighters. Before we go any further, we see this as a massive mismatch, however we also see this as a fun mismatch, with two men expected to try and out slug each other. Santisima is a massive under-dog, but fights in a style that should be fun, until he is eventually worn down by Navarrete. Expect this to be a lot of fun and brutal!
Whilst February certainly didn't start quickly it does get going in the second half of the month with a flurry of fights taking place with Asian fighters involved.
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) Vs Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) -
In the headline bout of a Dimond Glove card in Tokyo we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino defending his title again mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka in the second of this year's Champion carnival bouts. For Yoshino this is expected to be a test of his technical boxing skills, as Tomioka is a genuinely talented boxer-mover. On the other hand Tomioka is taking on, arguably, his toughest opponent to date and did come up short in his last bout at this type of level.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
After almost 2 years away from the ring former world champion Daigo Higa returns, and takes on rugged Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra. This should be a win for Higa, but we expect him to be very emotional, and he is going up against someone who has never been stopped before, so he will have to work hard for the win. It's also worth noting that Buenaobra is the naturally bigger man and will not be there looking to just make up the numbers.
Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) Vs Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11)
Filipino Froilan Saludar returns to Japan to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, as he battles hard hitting, but technically limited, Japanese challenger Ryuji Fukunaga. On paper this looks like it could be very explosive, and we wouldn't be surprised at all with the bout ending early. Fukunaga hasn't been able to show his power when he has faced his toughest opponents, and Saludar is certainly among the best opponents that he has faced.
Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) Vs Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2)
In a mouth watering clash of young prospects we'll see Yuki Nakajima take on Shisui Kawabata. On paper this doesn't look like one that will get fans outside of Japan too excited, but given the skills of the two men we are really excited by this one. Nakajima, the younger brother of Kazuki Nakajima, is a former amateur standout and made a real mark on the domestic amateur scene whilst Kawabata has been used as a sparring partner by Naoya, showing the quality that he has shared the ring with. We expect this to be very, very good.
Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4) Vs MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4)
World ranked Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi looks to build on August's win over Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly Yamauchi's win over Dagayloan cost him a Japanese title eliminator, due to the injuries he suffered in that bout, and he'll be lookign to make up for it in 2020. MJ Bo, from the Philippines was stopped last time he fought in Japan, by Yuta Nakayama, but is a capable opponent and should ask questions of Yamauchi.
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
Mexican fighter Emanuel Navarrete looks to make his fifth defense of the WBO Super Bantamweight title as he takes on Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima. The bout is expected to be a mismatch by many, especially given Navarrete's run since winning the title in late 2018. The champion is seen a real monster in the Super Bantamweight division and will come into the bout full of confidence. Although the 23 Santisima isn't well known outside of the Philippines he is riding a 17 fight winning run and has stopped 15 of those, so he certainly enters with a punchers chance, if nothing else.
Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) Vs Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Unbeaten Japanese-Afghan fighter Kudura Kaneko looks to extend his perfect record as he goes up against the talented Riku Nagahama in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title. Although neither of these two are well known outside of Japan the bout is a significant one and the winner will see their hopes of landing a big international fight given a huge shot in the arm. Of the two Nagahama has faced better competition, but has lost in his 2 most notable bouts, whilst Kaneko looks to be a fighter on the rise. A very interesting clash.
Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) Vs Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5)
Potentially the hidden gem for the month is a clash between Jae Woo Lee and Shingo Kusano, who clash in one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. The little known Lee made fans sit up and take note last November, when he stopped Tsuyoshi Tameda in a thrilling little war. Shingo Kusano also thrilled when he fought on the same November card, pulling himself off the canvas and battling back through some real scares against Qiang Ma. Expect this one to be exciting, and not to go the distance.
Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6)
The other Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi final bout will see Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic battle Japanese foe Daisuke Watanabe. This has the potential to be very exciting, or a total mess. Both guys like to let their hands go but with 6 technical decisions between them there's a real risk of headbutts derailing the fight. Fingers crossed the heads don't come in to contact too often and we instead get a bit of a thriller!
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