The next few weeks are busy ones for Japanese boxing a lot of notable bouts taking place in not much time. These include a number for rising prospects, with one of the most promising being today's subject of our "Introducing..." series, Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3).
The talented Takayama made his professional debut in February 2019, but before then he had been a very solid amateur on the Japanese domestic scene.
In the unpaid ranks Takayama had gone 35-16 (10) after beginning boxing at High School. He was inspired to box by his uncle, former 2-time world challenger Yuji Watanabe who was a notable fighter in the 1990's right through to 2000. Although his uncle failed to win a world title he had been the Japanese Super Featherweight and OPBF Lightweight champion, and was a very clear inspiration to his talented nephew.
On debut Takayama was scheduled for 6 rounds against Thai visitor Nirun Baonok, aka Rungniran Korat Sport School. The Thai had previously fought a number of times in Japan, going 4 rounds with Teiru Kinoshita, 3 rounds with Kenji Oba and the 8 round schedule with Takashi Kunishige. Takayama took out the visitor in 3 rounds on the under-card of Vic Saludar's world title defense against Masataka Taniguchi.
Despite winning his debut Takayama's performance was overshadowed by that of two other Watanabe Gym prospects. Ginjiro Shigeoka, who stopped Gerttipong Kumsahwat inside a round, and Shut Utsuki, who stopped Jerry Castroverde in the 8th round.
Takayama would return to the ring 4 months later, when he took on Korean foe In Soo Jang as part of a Japan Vs Korea card at Korakuen Hall. On paper this was a tough test for Takayama, but he made it look easy. He wobbled Jang several times in the opening minute or so, before dropping him with a hard left hand. The bout continued after the first knockdown, but not for long, with the referee stepping in when Jang was rocked only a few moments later.
It was another 4 months before Takayama would return to the ring again, where he took on 2018 Super Flyweight Rookie of the Year Tetsuro Ohashi in a bout for the Japanese Youth Super Flyweight title. Before the bout Takayama stated that he felt this was his real debut, it was the first time he had faced a Japanese fighter and his first 8 round. On paper this was a brilliant match up, and it lived up to expectations.
In the first round Takayama dropped Ohashi, with a short left hand. In round 2 Takayama found himself on the canvas from a sensation straight left hand from Ohashi. The bout was a real high skilled, war, with both men knowing they hard the power to put the other down. In the end however it was Takayama's power that proved vital, stopping Ohashi in the 8th round, whilst narrowly down on all 3 cards. Takayama would drop Ohashi twice in the 8th round, with the corner throwing in the towel, and realising their man, who had put in an amazing effort, was simply done.
Having claimed the youth title in just his third bout Takayama is expected to be fast tracked over the next year or two. He was scheduled to return to the ring on March 17th, when he was expected to face Sophon Klachun, however that bout is now in limbo following the JBC's announcement that boxing would be suspended during the month of March. On paper it's a step backwards, following the win over Ohashi, but a stay busy fight followed by a step up in summer and then moving towards senior titles in 2021 wouldn't be a bad plan at all for Takayama, who isn't ready for top domestic guys, but can move his way there over the next year, or year and a bit.
Sadly for fans who haven't seen him, the only quality footage of him is on Boxing Raise, who have his second and third professional bouts on their service.
This past week hasn't been the busiest, yet there was still a lot to talk about, and whilst the bouts that took place weren't high profile, it was a week that delivered a lot of interestings action.
Fighter of the Week
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9)
Unbeaten Uzbek fighter Kudratillo Abdukakhorov did amaze or blow anyone away, but did look very good in taking a wide technical decision over former world champion Luis Collazo. The Uzbek fighter moved excellently, threw lovely little combinations on the back foot and simply used Collazo's pressure against him, until a head clash in the 10th round curtailed the bout a minute early. We don't think Abdukakhorov has proven he has the talent to win a world title, but this was still a very good performance from a very good fighter and someone who deserves to be inside the division's top 15, albeit at the lower end of the top 15.
Performance of the Week
Tuguldur Byambatsogt (1-0)
Aged just 20 years old Tuguldur Byambatsogt really, really impressed us, and yet seemed to fight well within himself as he easily out pointed Japanese veteran Shusaku Fujinaka. What was more impressive than just beating Fujinaka was the fact that Byambatsogt did it on his debut, and did with relatively ease. He out boxed, out fought and out brawled Fujinaka and although he was a bit too cautious and negative at times this was still a very accomplished performance for a young man making his debut. Keep an eye on this youngster going forward.
Xiang Li Vs Ryu Horikawa
We'll admit we had very high hopes for this one going in and in fairness it exceeded our expectations. It started relatively slowly but built into a very, very entertaining and exciting fight. As the fight went on and Li began to tire Horikawa tried to turn it on, going for the stoppage, making for some amazing action up close and some fantastic heart from Li, who tried to always fire back. The final rounds were amazing, and it really did get better and better as the fight went on, making for a fantastic bout. Rounds 9 and 10 of this were both great, even if they were a little on the sloppy side, and we would happily watch these two fight again in the future.
Marvin Esquierdo vs Koichi Ito (Round 1)
The first ever round of the Knockout Dynamite Tournament kicked off the tournament in style, with Marvin Esquierdo and Koichi Ito standing and unloading bombs on each from the opening seconds. This was thrilling action, with both men looking to claim the top reward for an opening round win. The fight may not have been a technical show case but it was all action and very, very exciting. Well worthy of a watch, and despite being on Boxing Raise the website has made it available for none-subscribers, so we suggest you check it out here.
Sadly there was no valid KO this week.
Suzumi Takayama (3-0, 3)
Whilst Tuguldur Byambatsogt and Ryu Horikawa were both in the running for this, as was Chainoi Worawut, we've gone with the newly crowned Japanese Youth Super Flyweight champion. Takayama got off to a great start, dropping Tetsuro Ohashi in the first round, got knocked down himself in round 2 but eventually broke down Ohashi in an excellent performance over 8 rounds. This was a great bout, with a great performance from both and Takayama really does deserve a lot more attention than he appears to be getting. Keep an eye on him over the coming years.
Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9) vs Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4)
There is a lot of good fights coming up over the next 7 days. For us the best one is likely to be the Japanese Flyweight title between the fast starting and all aggression Seigo Yuri Akui and tough guy Shun Kosaka. This should be a lot of fun, and a real test to see how legit Akui's power is. Whilst Akui's record only has 9 T/KO's in 16 bouts, 8 of those were scored in the opening round and he is very much a fast starter. Kosaka is rugged and could be the sort of fighter to get the very best out of Akui.
Following a pretty interesting start to the month things get really intense in the days to come with a lot of notable action, in not a lot of time.
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (11-4-1, 10) Vs Koki Tyson (14-3-3, 12) II - Tokyo, Japan
In a rematch for the OPBF Middleweight title we'll see Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa take on Koki Tyson, with both men looking to take the currently vacant title. These two fighters fought to a draw earlier in the year and will be going in again to try and take the title that was vacated by Yuki Nonaka. Given that both Hosokawa and Tyson are aggressive, heavy handed but technically flawed fighters we are expecting a very exciting contest here, and hopefully it avoids some of the messy action that their first bout had.
Shingo Wake (26-5-2, 18) Vs Jhunriel Ramonal (15-8-6, 8) II - Tokyo, Japan
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake is pursuing a second world title fight, and to tick over he will eb facing former foe Jhunriel Ramonal. These two fought back in in 2013, when Wake stopped Ramonal in 3 rounds, and it's hard to imagine anything other than a repeat here. Wake should be far too good for the Filipino visitor, but it's still a botu worthy of noting given that Wake is likely to fight for a world title sooner rather than later.
Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11) Vs Lenin Castillo (20-2-1, 15) - Illinois, USA
Unbeaten WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol was hoping for a big fight but will likely close out his 2019 with a bout against Dominican challenger Lenin Castillo. The champion has improved his resume with solid wins in recent years, but hasn't looked the dynamic and exciting fighter he once was, instead looking to win rather than to dazzle. He should have too much in the locker for Castillo, but the challenger is no "bum" and could give Bivol a genuine test herein he's being over-looked.
Wulan Tuolehazi (12-3-1, 5) vs Satoshi Tanaka (7-5, 1) - Shanghai, China
China's Wulan Tuolehazi has been carving out a solid resume in recent years, with wins over the likes of Jayr Raquinel, Kwanthai Sithmoseng, Ardin Diale and Ryota Yamauchi. He's now looking likely to get a world title shot sooner rather than later and will be defending his WBA International Flyweight title here against Satoshi Tanaka, a relatively weak Japanese challenger. This should be a show case for the champion if we're being honest.
Xiang Li (7-2-1, 2) vs Ryu Horikawa (2-0, 1) - Shanghai, China
We love seeing youngsters face off, with questions being asked of fighters when they are young, rather than seeing records padded before a fighter steps up. With that in mind we love the WBO Youth Light Flyweight title match between China's crafty Xiang Li and Japanese skillster Ryu Horikawa. This should be a real test for both, and despite the risk of some monkey business with the scorecards we're really excited by the contest, which should be a genuinely intriguing one from the first bell to the final bell.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9) vs Luis Collazo (39-7, 20) - Pennsylvania, USA
Unbeaten Uzbek Welterweight contender Kudratillo Abdukakhorov looks to continue his drive towards a world title fight as he takes on former world champion Luis Collazo. The unbeaten Abdukakhorov has shown a lot of promise, but has also shown flaws, and issues, and his lack of power is something has left some questioning whether or not he can make it at the top. At his best Collazo was world class, but at the age of 38 there are question marks about just what he has left in his legs. Collazo is a very skilled fighter, and should test the Uzbek in what is a very interesting match up.
Tetsuro Ohashi (7-0-1, 2) Vs Suzumi Takayama (2-0, 2) - Hyogo, Japan
The Japanese Youth title scene continues to give us great fights, and here we'll see the unbeaten pairing of Tetsuro Ohashi and Suzumi Takayama clash for the Youth Super Flyweight title. The 20 year old Ohashi won the Rookie of the Year back in December and this will be his second bout since that win, as he looks to build on his growing reputation. Takayama on the other hand lacks the experience of Ohashi in the pro ranks, but was a solid amateur and has looked very impressive since making his debut this past February. This will be Ohashi's boxing against Takayama's aggression in what should be an excellent match up.
Yusuke Sakashita (18-8-3, 13) vs Naoki Mochizuki (16-4, 8) II - Tokyo, Japan
In a really interesting rematch we'll see Yusuke Sakashita make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title as he takes on Naoko Mochizuki. These two fought back in December 2016, when Mochizuki took a clear win over Sakashita, but since then the two men have had contrasting careers. Mochizuki has gone 5-3, struggling for momentum and was stopped in February by Junto Nakatani. Sakashita however has gone 4-0-1 and claimed his title last time out in May, stopping Masahiro Sakamoto. This could be one of the real hidden gems of the month.
Cristiano Aoqui (14-7-2, 10) vs Daishi Nagata (13-2-1, 5) -Tokyo, Japan
Every so often we see a fight that gets us really excited due to the style match up and the mentality of the two men involved. That is the case here as the exciting Cristiano Aoqui and the rugged Daishi Nagata battle in a Japanese Light Welterweight title eliminator, with the winner getting a shot at the belt in the 2020 Champion Carnival. This bout has two men involved who enjoy a tear up, through heavy leather and should gel stylistically.
The month of June is over, at last, and we can now look forward to a truly packed July after what has been a rather frustrating and meandering month of action. With that in mind lets have a look at our last weekly award winners for this past month.
Fighter of the Week
Hyun Mi Choi (17-0-1, 4)
The Korean boxing queen did it again, retaining her WBA female Super Featherweight title for the 7th time and moving one step closer to a big bout. The talented Hyun Mi Choi struggled for a couple of rounds with Wakako Fujiwara before figuring out the Japanese challenger and taking a clear and wide decision win. This wasn't Choi at her best, but was a comfortable victory for the Pyongyang born champion.
Performance of the Week
Mizuki Chimoto (2-0, 1)
Japanese female fighter Mizuki Chimoto may not be getting much attention right now, but in just her second bout she claimed the Japanese female Minimumweight title, out pointing the talented Chie Higano over 6 rounds, taking a technical decision. The bout was a huge step up in class for Chimoto but she did what she needed to to get the win, get the title, and take a huge step towards making her mark on the sport. She's certainly one to watch, and we wouldn't be surprised to see her mixing up for world titles by the end of 2020.
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee
Touted Japanese debutant Ran Tomomatsu wasn't expected to have an easy time with Korean puncher Sang Geun Lee but what few would have anticipated was this heavy handed slog the two men had in what was the standout bout of the week. Both men really dug their toes into the canvas and let some bombs go in what will be a very over-looked war of attrition. For Tomomatsu this was a real baptism of fire whilst Lee showed what he was made of in a thrilling action bout
Ran Tomomatsu vs Sang Geun Lee - Round 3
We stick with the Tomomatsu Vs Lee war for the round of the week, and that was the third round, which was the one where really saw the two men both let their shots go at their most even and most competitive. This was a round where we really saw what Lee was made of, and why Tomomatsu is so highly regarded with every punch, even the jabs, looking like they were being thrown with bad intent.
We sadly missed the Thai show on Sunday, but from the highlights we were impressed by the finish scored by Vaibhav Singh Yadav, who scored a big KO over Phongsathon Sompol. From what we managed to see, this was the one for us.
Suzumi Takayama (2-0, 2)
We only got a cameo from Watanabe Gym's Suzumi Takayama in mid-week but he impressed in blowing away Korean foe In Soo Jang. This was Takayama making a statement on a card that saw Japanese fighters have a pretty dominant display against Korean foes, with Takayama being the stand out among the Japanese team. There were other prospects on the card worthy of a mention, including Ran Tomomatsu, and across Asia later in the week, including excellent showings from Saddridin Akhmedov, Anvar Turapov, Murodjon Yokubov and Padyod Keartjareunsiri, but for a man in his second fight Takayama stood out as the one who made the best statement.
Nordine Oubaali (15-0, 11) v Arthur Villanueva (32-3-1, 18)
It's pretty much last chance saloon time for Filipino fighter Arthur Villanueva as he takes on WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali. For the French champion this will be his first defense, and bigger challenges do await later in the year, but for Villanueva it's now or never. We're not expecting this to be a FOTY contender, or anything even close to that, but we are hoping for a good, high quality boxing contest between two men each looking to prove they are world class fighters.
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