It’s fair to say that January is usually a quiet month but this January is particularly quiet, with bouts really not being lined up for much of the month, we’ve already seen two scheduled bouts being cancelled due to Covid19 related issues. Despite that we do still have some stuff to be excited about, so let's take a look at what we’ve got coming up this month, and it is very much a prospect heavy month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) vs Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
The first genuinely big bout set to take place in Asia will be on January 14th as OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara looks to defend his title against Takuma Inoue. The bout is a genuinely good looking one and will see Kurihara’s power and aggression against the toughness and skills of Inoue. With both men entering the bout world ranked the winner of this will be banging on the door of a world title fight, and we wouldn't be surprised at all by them landing a really big, international level, fight at the end of the year.
Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) vs Sora Takeda (6-1, 1)
Highly skilled prospect Katsuki Mori looks to continue building his reputation as he takes on Sora takeda, in a battle between two former Rookie of the Year winners. Mori has received a lot of praise since breaking through in 2019, though with only a single bout in 2020 his career needs a big shot in the arm in 2021. Takeda on the other hand won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and has sadly seen his momentum slow with just 2 bouts since then. The winner of this will begin a move towards a potential Japanese Youth title bout, but could take a year or two for either man to land their first title fight.
Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) Vs Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1)
Touted Japanese third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto will be looking to record his second win as a professional as he takes on Dragonball Z inspired fighter Bejita Ishikawa, who is well known for his Vegeta styled entrance attire. Matsumoto is very highly regarded and his father was a multi time world title challenger, though he’ll want a better performance than his debut, which saw him being dropped before he stopped Hironori Miyake. Ishikawa shouldn’t provide much of a test here, but he is a unique fighter and certainly has popularity that exceeds his ability.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) vs Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3)
Another prospect looking for their second win is former amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki, who will be looking to build on a successful debut in a notable step up in class, as he takes on the experienced Yuji Okinori. Although perhaps not a big internationally there is very high expectations on Nakagaki in Japanese, after an excellent amateur career, and given how he looked on debut the 21 year old Super Flyweight hopeful really does seem to have the potential to go a very, very long way in the sport. Okinori is a very credible opponent for Nakagaki this early in his career, but it’s hard to see anything but a Nakagaki win.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) Vs Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) - OPBF Welterweight title
The second OPBF title fight of 2021 will see Riku Nagahama seek his first defense as he faces off with the heavy handed Ryota Toyoshima. Nagahama, who holds the OPBF Welterweight title, won the belt in 2020 but has had to wait almost a year to defend it. Although not the biggest puncher Nagahama does have a fan friendly style and does get involved in a tear, even if that’s not the best idea for him. Toyoshima is a more patient fighter than Nagahama, but he’s certainly a bigger puncher and he has very under-rated and sneaky body shots in his arsenal. This could, legitimately, turn out to be a genuine war for the OPBF title and could be a gem in a month where big bouts are few and far between.
Jukiya Iimura (0-0) Vs Daisuke Yamada (6-5, 1)
Whilst there is a lack of big bouts there are a lot of prospects in action over the coming days and one of those is Jukiya Iimura, who went 68-13 in the amateurs. He’ll be getting introduced to professional bout with a bout against the solid Daisuke Yamada, in what should be a solid test for the debuting Flyweight.
Jun Ikegawa (0-0) Vs Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-1-2)
Another debutant looking to make a mark in January is Jun Ikegawa, who went 51-15 in the unpaid ranks. The skilled Ikegawa looks to be in a very solid debut match up as he takes on Kakeru Yoshikawa. The 22 year old Ikegawa is tipped for success and will be looking to make his mark at 122lbs. Yoshikawa is a very credible opponent, and his only loss was a split decision back in July 22017. This is not a gimmie for Ikegawa!
Yugo Kon (0-0) Vs Koji Tsurumi (4-3-1, 1)
One other debutant on this show to make a note of is Yugo Kon. He went a less than spectacular 23-11 in the amateur ranks but is regarded as a long term prospect and we should see him being asked genuine questions by Koji Tsurumi, who is better than his record suggests.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) Vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21)
In another potential hidden gem Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka will take on Takuya Watanabe, and this may well end up being a genuinely brutal war. Saka is an aggressive, heavy handed and exciting fighter, but one who can also be super inconsistent. Despite being hot and cold Saka looked fantastic in his 2019 title winning performance, smashing Masaru Sueyoshi in 5 rounds. Watanabe on the other hand is a super tough, technical warrior who tends to box well, but is much more well known for his ability to genuinely fight. Watanabe’s bouts with Jaesung Lee and Taiki Minamoto showed his toughness and he will have to dip into that again here.
Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14)
Another Japanese title fight will see Yusaku Kuga defending his JBC Super Bantamweight title against Gakuya Furuhashi. For Kuga this is a must win after being taken out in a regional title fight by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019. Although talented Kuga has been in a number of tough wars, and bouts against the likes of Ryoichi Tamura, Shingo Wake and Yasutaka Ishimoto may well have aged him. As for Furuhashi the 33 year old challenger will know it’s now or never after coming up short in two previous Japanese title fights. Style wise Furuhashi is a grinder, who throws a lot and lacks 1-punch fight changing power, again Kuga his style may be his undoing, or it could lead to an early FOTY contender.
Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) v Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2)
In a B class tournament final the once beaten Koki Mioya takes on Tentaro Kimura, in what should be a very evenly matched and exciting 5 rounder. This bout, unlike many, has gotten a lot of interest for what is, for all intents, a lower level Japanese bout, with neither fighter being regarded as a major prospect. Both as popular fighters and the bout is being regarded as one that could end up delivering a lot of action. Fans in the west may overlook this one, but it is genuinely generating plenty of buzz among the hardcore Japanese fans.
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) v Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
In an A Class tournament final the fast rising, and heavy handed, Japanese Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki will battle Masashi Wakita. This looks like a mismatch on paper and we suspect it will be, but it will still be great to see Utsuki back in the ring, and there’s a real chance of him getting involved in the Japanese title mix in the next 12 to 24 months. Utsuki is a very nasty and serious puncher, and that is likely to be too much for Wakita, who’s been a genuine servant to Japanese boxing over the years.
Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) Vs Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2)
In a surprising world title fight we’ll see OPBF Minimumweight champion Sana Hazuki challenge IBF champion Yokasta Valle near the end of the month. This bout was only announced in January, after Valle had numerous issues securing a unification fight with WBC champion Tina Rupprecht. Valle will be the heavy, heavy favourite, though there is, maybe, a chance she has looked past Hazuki, who really shouldn’t be much of a taste for the Costa Rican world champion.
Manual Artime Community Center Theater, Miami, Florida, USA
Fazliddin Meliboev (0-0) vs Javonn Davis (3-0-1, 3)
Back to debutants we have talented Uzbek 24 year old Fazliddin Meliboev kicking off his career towards the end of January as he takes on unbeaten American Javonn Davis. Meliboev isn’t one of the elite level Uzbek amateurs we’ve seen making their name on the professional ranks in recent years but he was a very credible amateur and showed real potential in the WSB. He’ll come into this bout as an unknown, but we suspect he has the tools to overcome Davis, who has been fighting at a very, very low level so far.
Kozimbek Mardonov (0-0) vs Chown Sims (5-1, 2)
Another Uzbek making his debut is the touted 23 year old Kozimbek Mardonov, who won shone at the 2019 Military Games in Wuhan. On paper Mardonov looks to be in a serious test here as he goes up against 25 year old American Chown Sims. Sims is unbeaten in his last 3, and has taken a couple of cherry’s since beginning his professional career. He was, however, stopped in 2019 by Ty McLeod and we suspect Mardonov will have too much, in what could be a debut to remember for a very promising young Uzbek.
Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10) vs Stephen Danyo (17-3-3, 6)
Highly regarded Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov will return to the ring after well over a year out as he takes on Dutch fighter Setephen Danya in a bout for 4 minor titles. The excellent Akhmedov has been one of the most promising Kazakh fighters in recent years and he seems to have it all, with skills, power, stamina, a solid boxing brain and a solid promoter behind him. Given what we’ve seen of Akhmedov the view is that he’s one of the men heading towards world titles. Danyo on the other hand has never been stopped, he’s proven himself as a tough nut and he does have the durability and experience to test the Kazakh youngster, especially given his length lay off. This should be a real good test for Akhmedov, but if he’s as good as we think he should take a very clear win.
Luzhniki, Moscow, Russia
Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) Vs Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29)
Unbeaten Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev is set to take a massive step up in class at the end of the month as he takes on former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. With many tipping the “Bully” to be a future world champion this is the sort of test that will help fast track him to a title, and could be a shrewd bit of match making, or a case of biting off too much too soon. Kovalev has been on the slide for a while, and he no longer looks like the “Krusher” who dismantled the likes of Jean Pascal, but with his power and with a Russian crowd behind him he is very much a live under-dog here. On paper this is a real test for Melikuviez, but if he’s as good as we, and many others, think he could end up retiring Kovalev. Interestingly for Kovalev this will be his first bout since his 2019 loss to Saul Alvarez and at 37 father time may well be just as much of an enemy as Melikuziev. Potentially one of the smartest bits of matchmaking we’ll see in 2021, or a big mistake by Melikueziev’s team.
Man what a week we've had! We've had so many fights over the last 7 days that we're genuinely exhausted but in a good way, having enjoyed so many great fights, so much brilliant action and so many things that have left us excited about the future of the sport.
With that said here are our award winners for this past week, and there really were a lot of contenders for some of the categories.
Fighter of the Week
We don't think anyone was really up in the running for this award other than Naoya Inoue, who secured a win on his Las Vegas debut without too much trouble. The "Monster" was under pressure to perform and he did just that, easing his way through the first few rounds before putting his foot on the gas. He had stubborn resistance from Jason Moloney, who played his part with a really brave effort, but in the end the power, skills, speed and accuracy of Inoue were too much. The Monster was out on Halloween and did exactly what he needed to to leave an impression on those who maybe weren't too aware of him.
Performance of the Week
There was a lot of really good performances this week, all for varying reasons. Inoue shining in Las Vegas was the biggest performance, Nanthasith Petchnamthong scoring a win over a former world champion in his second pro bout was impressive, Kosuke Tomioka shining in his Rookie of the Year bout was great. For us however the the guy with the most impressive performance was Kazakh fighter Ablaikhan Zhussupov. The Kazakh amateur standout made his debut in Kazakhstan against the very solid Meshack Mwankemwa and looked like a man who had had 10 or 15 professional bouts. It's a shame he's expected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics and not commit to the professoinal ranks for sometime as on this performance this kid is special.
Fight of the Week
Nonthasith Petchnamthong Vs Kompayak Porpramook
Whilst we certainly had bigger fighters, and bouts with more significance it was hard to think of a more enjoyable bout, bell to bell, than the exciting, competitive, engaging 10 round back and forth between Nonthasith Petchnamthong and Kompayak Porpramook. As with every Kompayak bout he was there to win, he was pressing, pressuring and trying to break his novice opponent mentally. Nonthasith showed his ring IQ, toughness and determination as he blunted Kompayak's aggression in a truly fantastic 10 rounder. Credit to both men for this one!
As we write this footage for Kenta Kamimura vs Yuto Kagata hasn't been made available, though reports are that this was a very special bout between two young debutants who let it all hang. As a result of not being able to see this bout it's not been considered for either the Fight OR Round of the Week
Round of the Week
Wanchana Menayothin Vs Omar El Ouers (Rd3)
As with the fight of the week we stay in Thailand for a bit of a hidden gem. The bout pitted Thai youngster Wanchana Menayothin against Thai based Moroccan Omar El Ouers and boy did they put on an under-rated, and under-seen, battle here. It always seemed like Wanchana was too big and strong for El Ouers, but that didn't stop the Moroccan from holding his own at times, and giving his some of the most exciting exchanges of the week. If you missed this one we particular advise rounds 3 and 4, as they let shots go at will and put on a show.
KO of the Week
Shu Utsuki TKO2 Takayuki Sakai
Some weeks we don't get any noteworthy KO's but this week we had several fantastic ones. The best of the bunch was the one scored by Japanese Lightweight prospect Shu Utsuki in his DANGAN A Class tournament qualifying bout against Takayuki Sakai. This was a thing of beauty! With Sakai near the ropes Utsuki lined up his man and threw a perfect 1-2, with the straight going right through the guard. A genuine brilliant KO and our favourite of the week.
Wanchana Menayothin TKO5 Omar El Ouers
Naoya Inoue TKO5 Jason Moloney
Prospect of the Week
Some weeks we don't see a single prospect that makes us sit up and take note. This week we had an abundance of them. For us however scoring a win over a former world champion in just his second bout nets Nonthasith Petchnamthong the award. His performance may not have been the the best of the week, but the manner in which he has moved his career forward in a single week can't be questioned. This guy has a lot of promise, and fingers crossed TL Promotions don't mess him up with too many tough bouts too soon. So far however their match making for him has been ambitious but very good.
Phetmorakot Petchyindee Academy
In the summer of 2019 we did an "Introducing..." on Japanese hopeful Shu Utsuki (then 4-0 (3), now 6-0, (5)). Since then he has has fought twice, as we'll go through in this week's "Revisiting".
Before we get on to what Utsuki's done recently it's worth noting what he had done previously. He had captained his University boxing Club and as an amateur had gone an excellent 81-27. As a professional he had shined in 2018 and within a year of his debut he had raced out to 4-0 (3), with decent low key wins against Da Xu and Jerry Castroverde. He had impressed but was still a rather obscure Japanese prospect, who was bouncing around the Super Featherweight and Lightweight divisions.
When we spoke about Utsuki last year he was just 9 days from his 5th professional bout, which was to be against Japanese based Venezuelan Omrri Bolivar. Going in to that bout he seemed to be stepping up in class and was arguably in the toughest match up of his professional career. At least that's how it looked.
Instead of being tested by Bolivar we saw the talented, and heavy handed, Utsuki blow out the Venezuelan in 3 rounds. This bout, which came on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's bout with Aston Palicte, was a brutal KO by Utsuki at the start of round 3, showing his power was legit.
Utsuki would then build on that win a few months later when he defeated Thai foe Somphot Seesa in 2 rounds, finishing off Seesa with a third knockdown during the round.
Rather interestingly in early 2020 Japanese TV viewers got the chance to see Utsuki's 2019 bout with Castroverde, as it was, finally televised, almost a year after it took place. That performance was, by far, the most testing that Utsuki has had since entering the professional ranks. Although he managed to stop Castroverde in the 8th round he had been given a very, very serious test by the then Japanese based Filipino. That test was only passed after Utsuki landed some huge blows part way through the 8th round and forced the corner to throw in the towel and save Castroverde.
Like many of the recent Japanese prospects to turn from being solid amateurs to professional hopefuls Utsuki has a lot of things going for him. He has really solid balance, nice shot selection and imposing physical strength. Technically there is work for him to do, and he can be hit rather easily, which is disappointing for a man with over 100 amateur bouts to his name, but there is still a lot to get excited about.
Utsuki's power, strength and punching is all really impressive and we dare say that the hope, coming into 2020, was to have him knocking on the door of a domestic title fight before we got to 2021. Sadly 2020 has, for obvious reasons, not gone to plan for anyone but we will see Utsuki back in the ring before the year is over. In fact on October 30th we'll see Utsuki take on domestic foe Takayuki Sakai, in a decent looking 6 round Lightweight bout.
From when we first spoke about Utsuki his career has moved forward, but there is still a long, long way for him to go, and it's a shame that 2020 has slowed his momentum just as it seemed he was on the verge of something big. Fingers crossed 2021 does deliver something bigger for the talented fighter from the Watanabe Gym.
For those who haven't seen Utsuki before we have included his bout with Castroverde below.
October ends in a flurry of big bouts as we see a Japanese title fight, two world title bouts, and several other bouts worthy of attention. This is a great couple of weeks to close out the month and move into winter with the sport having some genuine momentum and plenty of reasons to get excited as we head closer and closer to Christmas!
Asakusa Park Gymnasium, Japan
Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) Vs Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6)
The first bout of note for this part of the month is a Japanese Flyweight title fight, which will see Seigo Yuri Akui look to make his first defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita. The heavy handed Akui is one of the most fun to Flyweights to watch, and he tends to either blow opponents away in the opening round, or struggle. Given that Fujikita has never been stopped before we're expecting this to be a genuinely tough first defense for the champion, who is certainly not unbeatable, despite being very destructive.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Ryusei Kawaura (7-0, 4) Vs Musashi Yoshino (9-5, 3)
We head back to Tokyo for action on October 19th for the next test in the career of the talented Ryusei Kawaura. The unbeaten Kawaura is regarded as a top prospect, who's just a win or two away from a Japanese or regional title fight. Here he goes up against domestic foe Musashi Yoshino in what should be little more than a tune up bout for Kawaura. The hope was that Kawaura would get a title fight this year, but instead it seems like he'll have to wait until 2021 to get his first shot at a belt.
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9) Vs Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12)
On October 24th attention turns to the US for an IBF "interim" Welterweight title bout between unbeaten Uzbek skillter Kudratillo Abdukakhorov and hard hitting Kazakh born Russian Sergey Lipinets. The two men were supposed to fight earlier in the year before various issues forced the bout to be delayed, and delayed again. These aren't two of the top name Welterweights, but they are pat of the chasing group and they should make for a very interesting clash of styles. We suspect Lipinets will be the favourites, but Abdukakhorov shouldn't be written off here, in a very, very interesting match up.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (TBS - Tape Delay)
Daigo Higa (16-1, 16) Vs Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-1, 4)
Former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa will be seeking his second win since losing the world title in to Cristofer Rosales in 2018, as he takes on the unbeaten Seiya Tstusumi. The exciting Higa will be up against a man who scored two wins over him as an amateur, and will be looking to move his own career forward massively. For Higa this is a must win if he's to move towards a second world title whilst Tsutusmi will know a win will put him on the verge of becoming a star.
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Shu Utsuki (6-0, 5) Vs Takayuki Sakai (9-2-2, 6)
On October 30th we'll see another unbeaten man looking to push his career forward as the talented Shu Utsuki takes on Takayuki Sakai. The hard hitting Utsuki is probably only two or three wins away from a title fight of some kind, and he'll see Sakai as the next obstacle on route to a title fight. As for Sakai a win would be a huge upset, but would be massive for his career. Given the styles of the two men, and their power, we expect this one to be a very exciting contest.
The Bubble, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16) Vs Jason Moloney (21-1, 18)
The month ends with a big one as WBA "Super" and IBF Bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue defends his titles against once beaten Australian Jason Moloney. This will be Inoue's first bout since his 2019 war with Nonito Donaire, and whilst it's not the bout we all wanted, which was Inoue Vs John Riel Casimero in a triple title unification, it's certainly not a bad replacement fight. Moloney might not be a big star but he's a very capable fighter and he should serve as a good test for what will be Inoue's Las Vegas debut. Moloney can fight, box and punch, and should ask questions of the "Monster" but it's hard to imagine him scoring the upset here against the Japanese pound for pound star.
The last week of October isn't a crazy one in terms of big fights, but is a very good in terms of noteworthy fights, with a world title bout, a Japanese world title bout a bunch of Japanese title eliminators, several notable prospects and a very good cross roads fight.
Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) vs Simpiwe Konkco (19-5, 7) - Thailand
On Friday October 25th we'll see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin make his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Simpiwe Konkco from Aouth Africa. The unbeaten Thai is the longest reigning active champion, and whilst his competition, overall, hasn't been great this is a solid defense against a very under-rated challenger. Sadly Wanheng's best wins so far have come against the likes of Tatsuya Fukuhara and Pedro Taduran and he lacks consistency, so a win here will bolster his standing before a potential US debut. For Konkco the bout is a second world title shot a win would put him on the map, big time.
Sadriddin Akhmedov (9-0, 8) vs Johnny Navarrete (33-15-2, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Hard hitting Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov fights for the first time as a married man as he takes on Mexican veteran Johnny Navarrete. The hard hitting Akhmedov will be strongly favoured here, and is expected to blow through the Mexican in terms to return for a December card at the Bll Centre. To dat Akhmedov has squeezes 3 fights and his weeding into 2019 and is a busy boy, but given his natural talent, and power, we have no reason to think this will be anything short of a blow out.
Kazuki Tanaka (11-2, 8) Vs Kyosuke Sawada (13-2-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
In a very even looking Japanese Bantamweight title eliminator we'll see the aggressive Kazuki Tanaka take on the skilled and smart Kyosuke Sawada. This pits puncher against boxer and should be a very interesting match up between two talented fighters with very different in ring mindsets. We expect Tanaka to press and Sawada try to keep behind his his jab, though we have seen Sawada dragged into a fight before and sooner or later we expect this one to break out into a war.
Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) Vs Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
The wonderfully smooth Hinata Maruta takes on the former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi in a Japanese Featherweight title eliminator. Although very talented Maruta has faltered in his biggest bout to date, losing a competitive decision to veteran Hidenori Otake in an OPBF title match, but has bounced back with some impressive results and will be looking to build on his recent wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. On the other hand Ohashi is no slouch, and whilst technicall he's slow and clunky he has lights out power, and is a danger through out a bout. This really is boxer against puncher in what could turn out to be the gem of the Japanese title eliminators taking place on October 26th.
Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) Vs Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another Japanese title eliminator will be taking place at Lightweight and will see the talented, but somewhat chinny, Kazuki Saito take on the skilled, but light hitting, Izuki Tomioka. This is a bout that pits two men who have real potential, but big flaws, against each other. Saito is a joy to watch offensively, but his durability issues cannot be ignored, and he has been down in a number of fights and we do worry about him whenever he's caught. Izuki gave Masayoshi Nakatani fights in a 2018 bout for the OPBF Lightweight title, but looked worried against Shuya Masaki just a few months later. Izuki is an excellent and fighter, but his lack of stopping power is a major question mark, even at this level.
Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) Vs Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former world title challenger Keita Obara drops back down to domestic level for a Japanese Welterweight title eliminator against Toshiro Tarumi. Obara has proven to not be world class, but isn't too far behind and bouts against the likes of Kudratillo Abdukakhorov have shown some of his limitations. Despite that Obara has still only ever been beaten by 1 Japanese opponent, and that was on his debut. Tarumi is a solid domestic fighter, but this is a massive step up in class for him, and we suspect it's too much too soon for him. Tarumi lacks the power needed to get Obara's respect and isn't sharp enough to be able to replicate Abdukakhorov's gameplan.
Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-7, 41) - Chongqing, China
Chinese 32 year old Wenfeng Ge looks to bounce back from a loss in January to Giemel Magramo, which saw him being stopped in the 10th round. The Chinese fighter will be taking on former WBC Light Flyweight world champion Kompayak Porpramook, a 37 year old Thai who has been in some amazing bouts during his long career. We suspect the local fighter will have the energy and speed to avoid an all out tear up with Porpramook, but the Thai never stops trying and we'd expect at least some exciting exchanges here in a bout both men will see as a must win.
Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9) vs Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4) - Okayama, Japan
In a bout to crown a new Japanese Flyweight champion we'll see the exciting Seigo Yuri Akui battle the rugged Shun Kosaka. So far we've seen both of these two lose to their best opponents, in fact both share a loss to Junto Nakatani, but they should make for a very interesting domestic title bout, with Akui's quick start and intense aggression being matched against Kosaka's toughness. If Akui can take out Kosaka early this would be very impressive, however the longer it goes the more and more Kosaka's toughness will play a part. A very interesting match up and one that feels very hard to call.
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4) vs Somphot Seesa (4-2, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Fast rising Japanese hopeful Shu Utsuki looks to continue his rapid rise as he takes on Thai foe Somphot Seesa. On paper this is, arguably, Utsuki's easiest bout to date and it has a "stay busy" feel to it for the hard hitting Watanabe gym fighter. Seesa has a bit of experience but he was stopped in both of his previous visits to Japan, to Daisuke Sugita and Ren Sasaki, and it's hard to imagine him lasting long with Utsuki here.
Yudai Shigeoka (0-0) vs Manop Audomphanawari (3-2, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
Former amateur standout Yudai Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, makes his professional as he takes on Thai foe Manop Audomphanawari. In reality this should be a simple win for Shigeoka, but we're looking forward to seeing him in the ring and seeing his rise, especially given the incredibly quick rise of his brother.
We've had another quiet week in the world of Asian boxing, though thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel and in the coming weeks and when we get to July we're set for some great fights and hectic action. Despite the action still being slow we did have a great show in the middle of the week with a trio of world title fights. That show has really dominated awards this week, and without it we really would have been at a loss.
Fighter of the Week
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14)
There was only one person really in the running for the Fighter of he Week and that was Japanese star Kazuto Ioka, who became a 4-weight world champion on Wednesday when he stopped Aston Palicte in Chiba. The bout, which was a huge ratings success for TBS, was Ioka's first bout in Japan in over 2 years and there was worries that a loss would send him into retirement. What we got from him however was a show case performance and an eventual stoppage of a much bigger, stronger fighter. This was the performance Ioka needed, and it was performance that has put him back among the top of the Japanese scene.
Performance of the Week
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (11-1, 5)
Thai fighter Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart travelled to Japan and was expected to be on the receiving end of a bad loss to WBA "Super" and Ring Magazine Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. Whilst he did lose to the Japanese star he managed to put in an excellent performance, neutralising a lot of Kyoguchi's pressure and not only going the distance with the champion but actually taking a number of rounds from Kyoguchi. This was the sort of loss where the loser comes out with an enhanced reputation, and we're looking forward to seeing more of the Thai hopeful.
Kazuto Ioka TKO10 Aston Palicte
We're back to Kazuto Ioka and his WBO Super Flyweight title win against Filipino fighter Aston Palicte, in what really was a brilliant fight. Ioka's technique, speed and timing was up against the size, power and strength of Palicte, making for a fantastic dynamic to the fight. The bout was fought at a high skill level, with a solid tempo through out, and whilst it won't be regarded as a FOTY contender it was a fantastic bout all round, with a great atmosphere and a real tension, especially when Palicte threw some of his bombs. This will likely be one of the more forgotten bouts at the end of the year, best remembered for Ioka becoming a 4 weight champion rather than the in ring action, but it was a very solid fight and a great watch.
Kazuto Ioka Vs Aston Palicte (round 7)
Staying with the WBO Super Flyweight title bout the 7th round was something super special, with Palicte, who was starting to struggle with Ioka's accuracy and timing, putting his foot on the gas and putting the pressure on. For the first minute or so it looked like he was getting to Ioka and that his size advantage was going to be a major issue as we got into the second half of the fight. We then saw Ioka regroup and fight back amazingly well in the second half of the round, giving us a real back and forth round. Despite neither man being dropped the round was excellent, dramatic and exciting, all we could ever ask for.
There was no standout KO for this past week
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4)
We suspect we'll be talking about Shu Utsuki a lot in the years to come, and it's not with good cause with the Watanabe Gym fighter being a fantastic prospect, with solid power, heavy handed and a developing professional style. This past week he scored a career best win by stopping Omrri Bolivar, and will likely find himself in the Japanese and OPBF rankings in July. He might not be one of the gym's biggest name prospects but the Watanabe Gym has a real talent among their midst here, and hopefully they develop him through the next 18 months before pushing him towards title fights.
Jeong Han Cha (5-0, 5) vs Takahiko Kobayashi (8-3, 6)
This coming week is another quiet one, thankfully the last quiet one for a while, though it does have some interesting bouts with the pick of the bunch being a mid-week Korea Vs Japan bout between Korean teenage prospect Jeong Han Cha and hard hitting Japanese fighter Takahiko Kobayashi. We expect this to be a shoot out, and we would be absolutely gob smacked if this goes the distance. On paper this is a true gem.
The Watanabe gym is stacked with great prospects, many of whom are tipped to be stars of the future. One of those is the unbeaten Shu Utsuki (4-0, 3), who made his professional debut in 2018 and has already impressed with some solid performances and good wins. He'll be looking to extend those good performances on June 19th, when he returns and faces Omri Bolivar (8-1, 3) on a big card in Chiba.
Utsuki, as with many of the top prospects at the Watanabe Gym, is a former amateur standout with a notable career in the unpaid ranks. That career as an amateur saw Utsuki go 81-27 and also captain the Heisei International University boxing team As an amateur he would fight in numerous tournaments on the domestic scene, notably coming runner up in the 2012 Junior Selection tournament in Ibaraki. Though unfortunately it doesn't appear that he turned good performances into notable tournament wins or notable international appearances.
In February 2018 Shu Utsuki, along with Seiya Tsutsumi and Eri Matsuda, took part in his B license pro-test. He looked really good at his pro-test and made his debut a month later, doing so on the same show as Tsutsumi. His debut was unspectacular if we're being honest, with the youngster beating Thai foe Meechaiya Kaewkwanresort in round 3. A few months later he would go on to defeat the debuting Yoji Saito, a fellow amateur standout, in what was a much tougher bout. Against Saito we saw Utsuki being dropped by the power punching Saito, but regroup well to take a narrow and hotly contest win. Despite it being Saito's debut it was an ultra-competitive bout, and is well worth hunting down on Boxing Raise, and is currently available to those who don't subscribe to the service.
In his third professional bout, which took place last November, Utsuki took on unbeaten Chinese fighter Da Xu, who travelled to Tokyo with ambition of upsetting Utsuki. He came with fire and put Utsuki under pressure, but the local hopeful boxed well, stayed composed during Xu's pressure and saw off the Chinese fighter in round 2 with a brilliant hand on the chin. Xu somehow got to his feet following he shot but had no idea where he was as the refere waved the bout off.
Utsuki's only bout so far this year was a big step up in class, but a successful one, as he defeat Japanese based Filipino Jerry Castroverde, with an 8th round TKO following the towel being thrown in. This was only the second time Castroverde had been stopped and was a real statement for Utsuki who proved he could go 8 rounds, and proved he still had power and speed late into bouts. Sadly this bout isn't available online, as his previous 2 were.
As mentioned Utsuki's next bout will take place in Chinba against Bolivar. That bout will take place on the under-card of Kazuto Ioka's bout with Aston Palicte and will be Utsuki's first contest outside of Korakuen Hall. Whilst the bout isn't expected to get any TV or streaming coverage it is a good step in the right direction for Utsuki, who will likely find himself in the title mix in 2020.
As a fighter Utsuki is well schooled, as you'd expect from a man with over 100 amateur bouts, heavy handed and composed. There is however a feeling that he will take longer to make his mark on the sport than the likes of Tsutsumi and Ginjiro Shigeoka, who both looked a lot more "pro-ready" straight from the off.
After a couple of quiet weeks, with only a single show or two of note, we had boxing really pick up this past week with notable cards in the Japan, the US and even Vietnam. Not only did we have notable shows but we also had a world title fight, and it now seems like the sport is starting to get into the swing of things.
Fighter of the Week
Manny Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39)
Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao turned 40 in December, an age that many fighters turn whilst they are retired. Not is Pacquiao 40 years old but this week he proved he was still a top class fighter, as he defeat Adrien Broner in the US. Pacquiao appeared to be giving away significant size to Broner, and was 11 years old than the American, but looked in total control through out their 12 round bout, even staggering Broner in rounds 7 and 9. It wasn't a vintage Pacquiao performance, by any stretch, and he did look like a faded version of his prime self, but it was still a comfortable and controlling display against the cocksure Broner. Sadly the performance, whilst it was controlled, did seem to show how far Pacman had slid from his destructive best, though at the age of 40 that is to be expected!
Notable mention - Shingo Wake
Performance of the Week
Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
We think that we'll be mentioning the name Reiya Abe a lot in 2019, and we don't believe that that's a bad thing! This week he shut down the talented and aggressive Daisuke Sugita in Tokyo, dropping Sugita twice and hardly losing a minute of the bout in what was a thoroughly controlled performance. For much of the fight Abe simply stuck to his boxing, using his skills to neutralise Sugita, before dropping his man twice. There was no real urgency from Abe, but he didn't need to be, he was just showcasing his skills from the first round to the final bell, only really going through the gears in the 8th round as he started to look to close the show. This wasn't an exciting fight, but it was a fantastic performance that showed what Abe can do.
Kenshin Oshima (4-1-1, 3) vs Ikuro Sadatsune (9-2-3, 3)
We stay in Japan for our Fight of the Week, an 8 round contest between two youngsters each looking to shine. This wasn't an all out war, like some Fight of the Weeks, but it was a bout that swung one way, then the other. It saw both men hurt, both having to over-come adversity and both digging deep in a fight that really exceeded expectations. The competitive nature of the bout will leave the door open to a potential rematch somewhere down the line. The was skills involved, making this more of a technical chess match at times, but they upped the pace regularly enough to give us some brilliant moments
Shohei Yamanaka vs Tatsuhito Hattori (Round 4)
There is something about these lower level Japanese bouts, over 4 rounds, that keep delivering fantastic rounds. This was seen perfectly this week when the debuting Shohei Yamanaka battled Tatsuhito Hattori in a bout that was easy to overlook. Yamanaka, as mentioned, was debuting whilst Hattori was fighting his 6th professional bout, more than a decade after his previous contest. Yamanaka had done enough to claim the first rounds on our card, but was dropped in round 3, meaning it was all to play for in round 4 and they both went out there seeking to do enough to take the victory. A fantastic and thoroughly engaging round.
Notable mention - Round 3 Oshima Vs Sadatsune
Mikhail Lesnikov KO Afrizal Tamboresi
It's taken a while but 2019 finally has a brutal KO thanks to Russian Mikhail Lesnikov, who blasted out Indonesian fighter Afrizal Tamboresi in Vietnam. Tamboresi was rocked hard from an uppercut, somehow remaining upright. That however wasn't a good thing for him and he would be caught by a brutal left hook just seconds later. He was dropped hard and stayed down. A gorgeous KO for the Russian, who had never previous scored a KO.
Vikas Krishan (1-0, 1)
We have a feeling that Indian boxing is going to be huge over the coming few years, and part of that rise will be linked, directly, to the "Indian Tank" Vikas Krishan. Krishan made his debut on Friday, against Steven Andrade, and looked like a pro-ready fighter immediately with his intense pressure style, sharp punching and intelligent footwork. His amateur background, which is arguably the best of any Indian fighter, shone through here and it seems like he has the ambition, drive and age to really progress. There are still things he needs to work on, but he showed enough here to get excited about.
Notable mention- Fazliddin Gaibnazarov
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17) (January 26th)
It feels like we've lacked a really explosive fight so far. We've had some excellent action fights, some brave performances but nothing truly explosive. That's likely to change next week when unbeaten Mongolian Tugstsogt Nyambayar takes on Dominican puncher Claudio Marrero. With a combined 33 wins, 26 by T/KO, it's hard to imagine this one goes the distance. Both men have been down and we would not be surprised to see both hitting the deck in what could end up be an early contender for Fight of the Year.
Vic Saludar (18-3, 10) Vs Masataka Taniguchi (11-2, 7) [and undercard]
After weeks of waiting we finally saw the announcement of the WBO Minimumweight title bout between Vic Saludar and Masataka Taniguchi. The bout was one of the worst kept secrets in the sport, but we were still awaiting the confirmation until this week. The bout is a really good looking one. Both are aggressive, both have nasty power, and both have exciting styles that should gel really well. Although the bout looks like it won't be televised live, unfortunately, it does look almost certain to be a really fun fight, when TBS finally get around to airing it.
As well as the main event we also saw the under-card being revealed, and includes Shu Utsuki (3-0, 2), Fumiya Fuse (7-0, 1), Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1) and the debut of Suzumi Takayama.
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