With the sport's return to some, albeit limited, normality we thought it was time to begin doing our Monthly Awards again. The sport is certainly not going at full speed yet, but there actually was quite a lot that happened in July, with a number of upsets, a frightening KO, some brilliant action and a movement towards boxing's big return. Yes there is a lot for the sport to do going forward, but, for the first time since February, we've had more than just an odd fight here and there.
Fighter of the Month
Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14)
Aged 40 and coming in as the under-dog for his fight with Daiki Tomita the veteran really showed what he had left in the tank by not just beating Tomita, but stopping him to claim the OPBF Light Flyweight title. A 40 year at 108lbs is supposed to be retired and enjoying a post boxing career but Horikawa is still having real success years beyond his supposed prime. This wasn't necessarily the best performance of the month, but this was the most impressive in terms of context and the sort of win that really puts Horikawa on the verge of something big.
Fight of the Month
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh Vs Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai
Although not the most exciting fight as such the WBA Asia Light Welterweight bout between 16 year old prodigy Phoobadin Yoohanngoh and former Muay Thai standout Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai was a bout that had everything we needed. It was, technically a compelling bout on paper, it was a great match up of styles and a really competitive contest. Whilst Phoobadin won, he had to answer questions and despite the loss Kulabdam will come again, having learned more in that one bout that he would in 10 other bouts. This was two youngsters putting things on the line in a good, solid, 10 rounder. It may not have been the most action packed or dramatic, but it was a bout that had other intriguing aspects to it, that more than made up for the lack of knockdowns and back and forth exchanges.
KO of the Month
Rentaro Kimura TKO2 Yuta Azuma
When there is a lot of hype around a prospect ahead of their debut they need to shine, and Rentaro Kimura did just that, giving us a KO of the year contender. The youngster looked good, although not flawless, in the first round, and was caught a few times in round 2. That however was quickly forgotten thanks to the brutal finish he put on against Yuya Azuma. We see lots of 1-punch KO's but from Kimura was got a brutal combination to take out Azuma who had never previously been stopped. This was brutal and brilliant
Prospect of the Month
Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1)
It's a double for Rentaro Kimura. The talented Japanese debutant looked truly fantastic at times, and looks like someone who can be fast tracked over the coming years. He looked like there was areas to improve, of course he did, but he showed so much that it's hard not to get very excited about him. He's quick, sharp, powerful, skilled and has that pure killed instinct in the ring. He's going to be a must watch fighter, and his return to the ring in September is highly anticipated as he looks to be moved very quickly in the coming years.
Other prospects worth mentioning
Upset of the Month
Sandy Messaoud TD7 Nursultan Zhangabayev
There was an incredible number of upsets this past month in Asian boxing but the most surprising of them all was the technical decision win scored by French fighter Sandy Messaoud against previously unbeaten, and world ranked, Kazakh Nursultan Zhangabayev. The Kazakh was dropped early, had no answer for Messaoud's movement and accuracy in what was a massive shocker. The fact that not only Messaoud out boxed the talented Kazakh but also got the decision was a bit of a surprise, despite the awful scorecard of Jan Teleki.
As mentioned there was a number of other upsets these included:
Kenichi Horikawa Vs Daiki Tomita
Daishi Nagata Vs Koki Inoue
Round of the Month
Satoshi Shimizu Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (RD1)
When we see Satoshi Shimizu there some really obvious things that we always see. We always see a technically crude, easy to heat power puncher. Against the wrong opponent that will cost him, as we say last year against Joe Noynay, against the right opponent however it will give us something awesome. Against Kyohei Tonomoto we got something awesome in a number of rounds. Some will suggest round 7 was the pick of the bunch, and they'd have a damn good argument, but for us the opening round was the one. Tonomoto came out aggressive, forced Shimizu back and looked the better fighter and the more aggressive man, but yet found himself on the canvas twice in a round that had action, drama, excitement, wild fighting and heart.
Shimizu Vs Tonomoto (Rd 7)
Over the last few months we've not had much boxing to talk about, but thankfully that's all set to change in July with the sport returning to various countries after they have managed to get on top of the on going situation. With that in mind we have some fights to look forward this month!
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) Vs Kyohei Tonomoto (9-2-1, 4)
OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu returns to the ring after a brutal loss to Joe Noynay last August as he defends his title against the unheralded Kyohei Tonomoto. The hard hitting Shimizu has a lot of questions to answer following his loss and will know that a loss here ends any hope he has of fighting for a world title. As for Tonomoto this is a huge opportunity to make a mark at Oriental level.
Koki Inoue (15-0, 12) Vs Daishi Nagata (14-2-1, 5)
Unbeaten Japanese Light Welterweight (140lbs) champion Koki Inoue will make his next defense as he takes on mandatory challenger Daishi Nagata. Originally this bout was scheduled for March, before Inoue was injured, then delayed due to the ongoing situation. For Inoue this could be his last bout at domestic level and he could well be looking to make a mark at a higher level in the very near future. As for Nagata this is his second shot at a title, after losing in an OPBF title bout against Rikki Naito. This could well be a very, very exciting bout.
Kazakhstan (IFL TV, ESPN+)
Dauren Yeleussinov (8-0-1, 7) Vs Arman Rysbek (7-0, 6)
In a very good looking all-Kazakh bout we'll see Dauren Yeleussinov, the brother of Olympic champion Daniyar Yeleussinov, take on Arman Rysbek. This is the sort of bout we're always excited about, two unbeaten, talented punchers facing off with everything to gain. At 34 Yeleussinov needs a big win, and this should be seen as a must win for him. Rysbek on the other hand is a bit younger, at 29, but can still ill afford a loss. Expect this one to be an excellent bout with two men looking to prove a point
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (0-0) Vs Sagadat Rakhmankulov (6-1, 4)
We love seeing top amateurs matched hard in a their debuts and that's what we have here with Tursynbay Kulakhmet, the 2019 amateur champion at Middleweight and World Championship bronze medal winner, taking on the once beaten Sagadat Rakhmankulov. It's expected that Kulakhmet will be fast tracked and with a debut like this the intention is clear, he is being eyed as a super talent and will be raced to the top. As for Rakhmankulov this will actually be his domestic debut, after entirely in the West so far. This is a big test, and hugely interesting debut.
Talgat Shaiken (0-0) Vs Berikbay Nurymbetov (5-0, 1)
Another notable debut is that of Talgat Shaiken, another Kazakh who is tipped for big things. Shaiken is only a youngster, but is a very strong and powerful kid who if being matched tough here for such a youngster, as he takes on Berikbay Nurymbetov. This is a tough debut, but should be a win for the former Youth Olympic silver medal winner.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (Fuji TV)
Kenta Nakagawa (18-3-1, 12) Vs Yuta Matsuo (15-4-2, 8) - Japanese Super Flyweight title fight
In the second Japanese title fight for the month we'll see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Kenta Nakagawa defending his title, in a mandatory, against Yuta Matsuo. Given the styles of the two men this should be a very good bout, with Matsuo known for his pressure and Nakagawa being known for his solid punching. A very nice bout and one that should be a very competitive one.
Rentaro Kimura (0-0) Vs Yuya Azuma (5-3-1, 1)
Yet another debutant of note for the month is Rentaro Kimura, who will take on Yuya Azuma. Those in Japan are raving about Kimura, who has stated that he wants to fight for a world title in his first 10 bouts. His debut comes against the relatively unknown Yuya Azuma, in what should be a rather straight forward debut for the youngster.
Kobe Central Gymnasium, Japan
Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13) Vs Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) - OPBF Light Flyweight title fight
The second OPBF title bout for the month will see veteran Kenichi Horikawa take on Daiki Tomita for the vacant OPBF Light Flyweight title. This bout was supposed to take place in March, though was postponed when boxing was put on an hiatus in Japan. The title, which was vacated by Edward Heno, is often regarded as a stepping stone for world champions, and the title has been held by numerous fighters who have gone on to bigger and better things. For Horikawa a loss will almost certainly be the end of his great career, though a win would see him complete a domestic and regional grandslam. As for Tomita this is his second chance at a title, and a win here would be a huge boost to his fledgling career.
Aioi Hall, Japan
Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10) Vs Tsuyoshi Sato (10-1-1, 5) - Japanese Light Flyweight title fight
The final Japanese title fight for the month will take place on July 25th and will see fans attending the event as Masamichi Yabuki and Tsuyoshi Sato battle for the vacant Japanese Light Flyweight title. The title here became vacant when Yuto Takahashi announced his retirement from the sport following issues with motivation and training. Yabuki will be favoured here, given his brutal power, but Sato has been impressive with his pressure, high out put and under-rated power. For one of the first bouts with fans this should be a genuine highlight for the month, and the styles of the men should gell brilliantly.
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.
Satoshi Shimizu (8-1, 8) Vs Reiya Abe (19-3, 9)
Many of the fights in this serious will feature men with momentum behind them and will be fighters who look like they are heading in the right direct. Here however we have a mouth watering match all southpaw match up between men who suffered major set backs in 2019, and both need a big win in the new year. Neither man will be in a rush to look back over the year, but both will know one big win gets them right back on track for something big towards the end of the year. Better yet this bout pits skills and technique against a crude power puncher.
The 33 year old Satoshi Shimizu was an amateur standout, going as far as to take a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. He turned professional in 2016 with big expectations on his shoulders and raced his way to the OPBF Featherweight title in his 4th professional bout, less than 13 months after his debut. Despite his success, which included 4 defenses, there was always an uneasy feeling watching him. Whilst he could punch, and boy did he show that early on, he was defensively very open, often swinging wild, looping shots and leaving himself in place for a counter. This past July he tested the water at Super Featherweight and was beaten into submission by Joe Noynay, in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific title. That bout saw Noynay make the most of Shimizu's poor defense, and although Shimizu is said to have recovered physically, it's hard to know what mental scars are left for the southpaw slugger.
Coming into 2019 Reiya Abe was on a hot streak, and he looked like a man on his way to something special. He had won 11 in a row since a 2015 loss to Shingo Kusano, which he later avenged, and had notched notable wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda, Joe Noynay and Satoshi Hosono. He entered the year the mandatory challenger for the Japanese Featherweight title, though could only manage a draw with Taiki Minamoto in July and then suffered a narrow defeat to Ryo Sagawa in a second title shot. Despite those set-backs he's never looked outclassed, and at 26 there is certainly time for him to rebuild, make slight alterations to his style and go on to have genuine success at the top level. His main issue is that he can be too inactive, and that is an easy thing top fix, especially given how good of a pure boxer he is.
With both fighters being legitimately fantastic fighters this sells it's self in terms of names, and the stylistic differences between them makes it a mouth watering one to think about. Shimizu can hurt anyone at Featherweight, if he catches them clean, and Abe on his day is a slippery cat to catch. If Abe can use his skills to out box Shimizu he would be able to take a clear win, but there is always that that chance he gets caught, and Shimizu jumps on him.
With both men needing a big win, and with this bout being as interesting on paper as it is, we would love to see this one taking place early in 2020!
(Image courtesy of boxmob.jp)
The middle portion of July is incredibly packed with a lot of action coming in just a few days, including 4 world title bouts, a regional title bout and several notable hopefuls. It really is set to be an insanely busy few days.
Unbeaten WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro looks to make his next defense as he battles against hard hitting Filipino challenger Jonathan Taconing, who enters as the mandatory challenger. At the moment Kenshiro is arguably the most under-rated world champion in the sport, and is certainly the most under appreciated fighter in Japan. This however is no gimme for the champion and Taconing brings a real air of danger with him thanks to his hard hitting southpaw style. On paper this may end up being the bout of the month, and is a true boxer Vs banger affair.
As, has become custom in recent years, the calendar for December is genuinely stacked, from wall to wall, making it probably the busiest month for us arguably ever! As a result we'll be breaking our "What's to come" into 3 different parts. The first part, this one, will look at the hectic start to the month, covering everything from a world title fight to a former world champion returning after more than a year away to great looking prospect Vs prospect match!
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-0, 1) Vs Carlos Licona (13-0, 2)- USA
A crazy December 1st starts Japan, but the highlight of the day is in the US due to a stacked American card. Among the bouts on that card is an IBF Minimumweight title bout, as the Filipino sensation Mark Anthony Barriga takes on Carlos Licona, for the title that was vacated by Hiroto Kyoguchi. We've not seen anything much of Licona but Barriga has always impressed and we're expecting this to be an excellent technical contest.
Valentine Hosokawa (23-6-3, 10) Vs Takashi Inagaki (20-17-2, 9) -Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Light Welterweight champion Valentine Hosokawa returns for his second defense as he takes on fellow veteran Takashi Inagaki. This bout looks like it's going to be one sided, at least on paper, but Inagaki will know that this will be his final shot, and will almost certain risk it all for a chance to become a champion, after previously coming up short twice.
Yukinori Oguni (19-2-1, 7) Vs Arega Yunian (6-11, 1) - Tokyo, Japan
Former IBF Super Bantamweight champion Yukinori Oguni returns to the ring after more than a year out, as he fights in a tune up bout against limited Indonesian visitor Arega Yunian. This really will be a mismatch, but it's great to see the popular Oguni back in the ring and he's seemingly got serious plans for 2019.
Kayoko Ebata (12-7, 6) Vs Etsuko Tada (17-3-2, 5) - Osaka, Japan
The Barriga Vs Licona bout isn't the only world title fight this coming Saturday, as WBO female Minimumweight champion Kayoko Ebata defends her title against former WBA and IBF champion Etsuko Tada. Ebata is looking to make her second defense of the belt, and if we're being honest a loss will almost certainly end her career. The talented Tada isn't the fighter she once was, but is the younger fighter and will likely be the crowd favourite here.
Eri Matsuda (1-0) Vs Minayo Kei (6-3, 1) - Osaka, Japan
Talented novice Eri Matsuda looks to claim her first title in just her second professional bout, as she takes on Minayo Kei in an OPBF Atomweight title fight. This could be a good test for Matsuda, who is tipped to have a very successful career, and if she wins she could well end up moving into world title bouts by the summer of 2019. For Kei this is a chance to over-come a touted opponent.
Wakako Fujiwara (6-2-2, 2) Vs Kimika Miyoshi (13-11-1, 5) II - Osaka, Japan
The relatively unknown Wakako Fujiwara shocked Kimika Miyoshi earlier this year, to claim the OPBF female Featherweight title. Now she'll be looking to repeat the feat in a rematch against the former champion, and former world title challenger. It's hard to see where the loser goes from here, whilst the winner may well end up moving in the direction of a world title fight in the new year.
Kasumi Saeki (2-0, 1) Vs Wassana Kamdee (3-4, 2) - Osaka, Japan
Matsuda isn't the only novice looking to claim their first title very early in their career as Kasumi Saeki looks to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Female Minimumweight in just her third bout. The talented Saeki will be up against Thai visitor Wassana Kamdee. We suspect Saeki will win, but we're more intrigued by her performance, rather than just the result.
Reiya Konishi (16-1, 6) Vs Richard Rosales (13-7-2, 7) - Osaka, Japan
Former world title challenger Reiya Konishi looks to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight, and move a step closer to a second world title fight as he takes on Filipino Richard Rosales. The talented Konishi failed to shine in his title win, but is expected to look really good against Rosales. To his credit Rosales has mixed with good opponents, but isn't expected to be a serious test here.
Masao Nakamura (24-3, 23) Vs Carlo Magali (23-10-3, 12) - Osaka, Japan
Another Japan Vs Philippines bout will see former OPBF Super Featherweight champions Masao Nakamura and Carlo Magali face off for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title. The heavy handed Nakamura was once tipped for big things, but has shown a frailty through his career, whilst Magali has a very misleading record and he can be a nightmare at this level. We're expecting a pretty exciting tear up when these two get in the ring together, and the winner will take a huge step towards a potential WBO world title fight.
Arata Matsuoka (6-6, 4) Vs Hikaru Ota (9-8, 5) - Hyogo, Japan
In a bout for the Japanese Youth Flyweight title we'll see Arata Matsuoka and Hikaru Ota face off. This bout doesn't scream amazing on paper, but these youth title bouts are typically very good to watch and this one looks amazingly competitive, with both being very limited fighters. In a way it's a shame that these two are fighting for a title vacated by the brilliant Junto Nakatani, but we should at leats get a 50-50 bout, something we wouldn't have got had Nakatani defended the belt against one of these two.
Hikaru Matsuoka (14-4-3, 2) Vs Noboru Osato (10-6-4, 2)- Hyogo, Japan
A second Japanese Youth title fight will see Hikaru Matsuoka take on Noboru Osato for the Super Bantamweight belt. Hikaru Matsuoka, is the twin brother of Arata Matsuoka, from the Flyweight bout, and we could potentially see twins ending the day as Japanese Youth champions. Osato is however a very capable fighter and footage of both men suggest that this will be a match up between two technically capable fighters each looking to box at range in what could an interest chess match.
Satoshi Shimizu (7-0, 7) Vs Takuya Uehara (16-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
Reigning OPBF Featherweight champion Satoshi Shimizu will be looking top make his 4th defense, and take a huge step towards a world title fight as he takes on unbeaten challenge Takuya Uehara. The champion, a 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner, is a technically flawed fighter, but one who has serious power and throws from awkward angles. Uehara is a more technically fighter, rather than the free swinging and unorthodox style of Shimizu, but it is the challenger who is taking a massive step up in class.
Hinata Maruta (7-1-1, 6) Vs Tsuyoshi Tameda (18-3-2, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
A brilliant prospect vs prospect bout for this part of the month will see the very highly regarded Hinata Maruta taking on the heavy handed Tsuyoshi Tameda in a really outstanding bit of match making. Maruta is the more naturally gifted, and when he made his debut he genuinely impressed, beating Jason Canoy, but has yet to really show what he can really do. Tameda is a real brutish puncher, with several wins of note, but he has come up short against the better boxers he's been up against. This could seriously be the bout of the month and is fantastically matched!
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