Whilst March has been a busy month, it ends in amazing fashion with a lot of activity crammed into the last week or so of the month. The action isn't high profile stuff, by any stretch, but we will see a lot of exciting and talented prospects in action and we should end up seeing a lot of quality youngsters looking to show what they can do.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Gonte Lee (2-0-1, 1) Vs Aso Ishiwaki (8-3-1, 6)
On March 25th Teiken will be putting on a show, with several talented and unbeaten fighters in action. Arguably the pick of the match ups on the show will see the unbeaten Gonte Lee take on his first domestic foe and return to the ring after more than a year of inactivity. In the opposite corner will be the always fun to watch Aso Ishiwaki, who will be looking to return to winning ways after a shocking blow out loss to Jin Sasaki at the end of 2020. Give that both men have a lot to prove here we expect a really good bout, and given the styles of the two men we could end up with a very compelling match up.
Katsuya Fukui (2-0, 2) Vs Hiroki Hanabusa (8-1-3, 3)
Another unbeaten Japanese hopeful facing his first domestic foe is Katsuya Fukui, who goes up against the once beaten Hiroki Hanabusa. Fukui has impressed so far, but has only had 4 combined rounds in his career and this is a major step up for him. Saying that however he is regarded as a top prospect and was a good former amateur, who will be looking to get his career back on track after 2020, a year in which he was left out of the ring, twiddling his thumbs. Hanabusa on the other hand went unbeaten in his first 11 before suffering a TKO loss to the brilliabt Toshiki Shimomachi last year, in a Japanese Youth title fight. Hanabusa will be wanting to bounce back from that loss and is a very serious test for Fukui.
Kenji Fujita (0-0) Vs Motosuke Kimura (3-5-2, 1)
In a very easy to over-look bout on this show we'll see former amateur standout Kenji Fujita make his long awaited professional debut, as he takes on the under-rated Motosuke Kimura. On paper this shouldn't be a test for Fujita, who really was an excellent amateur, however Kimura has proven, more than once, that he has the tools to test touted prospects. Just last year we saw Kimura put Shigetoshi Kotari on his backside, and he has also managed to run Hikari Mineta very close. This is a much, much tougher debut than it looks on paper, and should be a very solid test for Fujita.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (16-0, 9) vs Lunga Sitemela (13-0, 7)
Unbeaten Tajik Super Featherweight hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov will be looking to make the next defense of his WBC International Super Featherweight title as he goes up against South African challenger Lunga Sitemela. On paper this is a brilliant match up, and one to get genuine excited by, with the records suggesting a genuine test for Yaqubov. Sadly we don't think the bout will be as good as it looks, with Sitemela having a rather padded record, but it's always good to see unbeaten fighters risking their records against each other, and Yaqubov is certainly someone to keep an eye on regardless.
Erzhan Turgumbekov (8-1-1, 2) vs Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev (7-2-1, 3)
The once beaten Erzhan Turgumbekov, from Kyrgyzstan, looks to bounce back from a TKO loss to the sensational Albert Batyrgaziev, as he takes on Gaibatulla Gadzhialiev in a very nicely matched bout. Turgumbekov showed good skills and heart in his loss, but was broken down after 10 rounds by Batyrgaziev, who looks like a future world champion, and we suspect his style should make for a fun to watch bout here against Gadzhialiev, from Russia. Notably Gadzhialiev is 1-2-1 in his last 4, but the 3 bouts he didn't win were all very close and we expect this to be another close one. This might be the hidden gem of the weekend.
Mark Anthony Barriga (9-1, 1) vs Junuel Lacar (8-6-3, 6)
After more than 2 years out of the ring we finally see the ring return of former world title contender Mark Anthony Barriga. The brilliantly talented Filipino is a true joy to watch and the boxing purists will love everything he does in the ring. Sadly though he has been out of action since a 2018 loss to Carlos Licona. Given the long break from the ring we can't really complain about him having an easy return here, and he really is in soft as he goes up against the very limited Junuel Lacar, who has lost 5 of his last 6.
Arthur Villanueva (32-4-1, 18) vs Bryan Tamayo (6-1-2, 2)
Another former world title challenger returning to the ring after a lengthy lay off is Arthur Villanueva, who takes on the once beaten Bryan Tamayo. "King" Arthur was once regarded as a talented Filipino who had the skills to go all the way. Sadly he has failed in his biggest fights and now has just 2 wins in the last 4 years. He needs an impressive showing here. Tamayo on the other hand is a rising 23 year old hopeful looking for his biggest win. This might be a case of "right place, right time" for Tamayo.
Suamlum Night Bazaar, Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok, Thailand
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (10-0, 5) Vs Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-7, 41)
Fast rising 17 year old prospect Phoobadin Yoohanngoh takes his next step forward as he battled against Thai veteran Conlatarn Piriyapinyo, who is more than twice Phoobadin's age. The talented teenager has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, winning "The Fighter" in 2019, then winning a regional title in 2020, which he has since defended with an excellent win against Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, and we could be just a year or two from him really breaking out. Chonlatarn on the other hand has become a faded force and is a long, long way from the fighter who was once 43-0. Despite being a faded force Chonlatarn is a former multi-time world title challenger and should have some tricks up his sleeve to test Phoobadin with.
Tanes Ongjunta (7-1, 4) vs Suriyan Satorn (61-11, 41) (AKA Kompayak Porpramook)
Talented former Thai amateur standout Tanes Ongjunta was shocked last year when he ran into an inspired Adrian Lerasan in March. Since then he has reeled off 3 low key wins and now takes a massive step up in class to face former world champion Suriyan Satorn, better known as Kompayak Porpramook. We've been impressed by the natural boxing of Ongjunta, but the loss last year does leave us with worries about his durability and he really did take a lot of punishment there. As for Suriyan, he's very, very much a faded fighter and he has been picking up a lot of losses in recent years, and is 2-6 in his last 8. Despite being a faded force the veteran always comes to fight and should put in a legitimate effort here, though we suspect he will come up short.
Central Gym, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Shun Kubo (14-2, 9) Vs Ruito Saeki (7-4-1, 1)
Former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo has gone through a few horrible years with his career, being battered by Daniel Roman and Can Xu, as well as suffering injuries, but he seems determined to get his career back on track and is after some confidence building wins. Here he's up against the under-rated and determined Reuito Saeki, who looks to return to winning ways after going 0-3-1 in his last 4. On paper this looks a bit like a mismatch, but the style of Saeki will almost certainly be a nightmare for the skilled but fragile Kubo and this could end up being a lot, lot more competitive than it looks on paper.
Takahiro Tai (1-0, 1) Vs Koichi Wakita (7-2-3, 2)
Charismatic prospect Takahiro Tai returns for his second professional bout after an eye catching and very fan friendly debut late last year. In the opposite corner is credible domestic fighter Koichi Wakita, who will not want to be embarrassed by the young upstart. For those who missed Tai's debut it was full of show boating, dropping hands and stance switching as he tried to show off just some of the tricks in his bag. Whilst it was against an over-matched foe we suspect the style he showed is the one we'll see from him a lot over the coming years. Whilst Wakita probably lacks the power to be a real dangerman here, he does have the skills and experience to punish Tai's slip ups and this could end up being a real learning experience for the youngster.
This past week has been an odd one, not a bad one, but an odd one, with of the action only really taking place, or becoming possible to watch, very, very late in the week. There was fights early on the week that weren't televised until Saturday, the biggest bout featuring an Asian took place on Saturday night in the US, there was two touted Uzbek's in action on Saturday night and a lot of action took place in Osaka on Sunday. Due to that these awards are going out a little later than usual, though we suspect we all know who's sweeping most of the awards this week!
Fighter of the Week
It's fair to say there was only one fighter in the running for the Fighter of the Week award and that was Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani, who scored a notable upset win as he stopped touted Puerto Rican hopeful Felix Verdejo. Not only did he win however, but there was so many under-lying stories before the bout and during the bout. Nakatani, who hadn't fought in 17 months, had retired in September 2019, had then refound his love for the sport, signed with Teiken, and was dropped twice en route to a great comeback. This week was Nakatani's week, and hopefully a world title fight in 2021 will follow.
Performance of the Week
Had Nakatani just won a pretty dull fight we'd have had to find someone else for our performance of the week, but lets be honest his performance was great, gutsy, determined and full of hunger. The things we had questioned before the bout. He had been dropped in the opening round, as Verdejo couldn't miss him with the right hand, and he was rocked several more times by huge right hands from the Puerto Rican. He was dropped to a knee in round 4 as a loss looked like a formality. Then he gritted it out, and turned it around, turning the bout on it's head with one of the greatest comebacks of 2019. It was a performance worthy of rave review and this weeks Performance of the Week.
Fight of the Week
Masayoshi Nakatani Vs Felix Verdejo
We're sad to do this, but we need to continue raving about the sensational bout between Nakatani and Verdejo which had it all. The fight had drama, it had action and it had intrigue. It wasn't a high tempo bout. It wasn't a slugfest, and it likely won't be on any Fight of the Year short lists, but as a contest it was truly compelling, utterly fascinating and high drama. A must watch, even if, at times, it did lack the intensity of our favourite style of fights.
Round of the Week
Rentaro Kimura Vs Thunder Teruya (Rd3)
Whilst the drama and excitement of Nakatani Vs Verdejo will linger for a long time we don't actually think it had any amazing rounds, and was instead a great fight due to the over arching drama. As for a great round however round 3 of the bout between super prospect Rentaro Kimura and the amazingly named Thunder Teruya was great. The tempo was solid through out, saw both men land some solid blows and even saw the prospect stumbling backwards before turning the tables and hammering Teruya late in the round. It wasn't a round of the year contender, but was very intriguing and entertianing round.
KO of the Week
Elnur Abduraimov KO1 Abraham Oliva
A very easy award here goes to Elnur Abduraimov for his brutal KO of Abraham Oliva in Mexico. This was a sensational one punch KO that had Oliva collapsing in a disgusting fashion with his legs buckling under him. If you've managed to see this one we seriously advise giving it a watch. Brutal.
Prospect of the Week
There was a lot of prospects in action over the last week, but for us the most impressive, and interesting, was the debuting Takahiro Tai, who put on a showcase in clowning, and made us sit up and take not. Tai's debut wasn't flawless, he didn't beat a big name, or score a win of note, but his performance will certainly have caught the eye with a very un-Japanese style. He was show boating through out, closed the show well and certainly proved to be a fighter worthy of attention.
On December 13th we see the debut of another promising Japanese youngster, as Takahiro Tai (0-0) begins his professional campaign at the age of 23. The youngster was a former standout amateur and is someone that we feel is worthy of the "Introducing..." treatment, especially with his debut being just a few days away, and his debuting an historic one for the RST Boxing Gym, run by his father.
Born in October 1997 in Hiemji City Tai's first combat sport wasn't actually boxing. Instead it was Kyokushin Karate, he then entered the Takasago Gym before beginning to training at the RST Boxing gym, where he learned to box as an orthodox fighter. He then learned, during college, how to fight southpaw and quickly became a capable switch hitter, something he's prided himself on.
Tai was getting attention for his amateur exploits rather early on and those exploits grew more when he represented his University Team. He wasn't just part of the Ashiya University Boxing team however, but actually went on to be the captain of the team and impressed regularly in 2018, in his third year at University.
During his days in the unpaid ranks Tai went 43-14 (15), and impressed in the 2019 All Japan Championships, reaching the business end of the competition. He also managed to have a notable rivalry with Jun Ikegawa, who beat Tai 2-1 in their 3 fight series. Notably Tai has declared revenge in the professional ranks against Ikegawa who recently turned professional himself with the Kadoebi Gym.
As an amateur Tai was a switch hitter, with long levers, clean, accurate, fast punches and a good understanding of the ring. There was a certain sense of flare to his work, an almost cocky confidence, and an exciting exuberance to his work. At times he did move too much, and even taunted opponents, but it was clear he was a natural talent, and he looked incredibly comfortable in the ring, even if he looked too comfortable at times. It was clear he was having fun in the ring, win or lose he wanted to entertain fans and himself.
Earlier this year Tai became the first fighter the at the RST Boxing Gym to turn professional, after the gym it's self got professional certification earlier this year. That might not seem big news, though it is worth noting that the gym is owned and run by Tai's father, and it's clear that Takahiro's professional dreams were a big reason why the gym became a professional boxing gym. He will be their sole professional focus here, and is the man they are pinning their hopes one for the foreseeable future.
Tai passed his B class license test back in September, on September 26th, just a month after the gym became a professional one,
Tai isn't getting a gimme on debut. Instead he will be up against the 6-6 Ryosei Hamaguchi, who has lost 4 of his last 5, but is a very capable fighter at this level and scored a very decent win just a few fights back against Hiroyuki Takahara. Although no world beater Hamaguchi has been in the ring with some genuinely talented fighters, including the very highly regarded Toshiki Shimomachi, who he faced in the 2017 Rookie of the Year. We suspect Tai will have too much, given his amateur showings, but this should still serve as a decent test on his debut, against a fighter who has been a professional for a few years now.
Given Tai's personality, his style and his comments to the media, we're expecting him to be a very entertaining fighter in the professional ranks. There is certainly an air of confidence to him, and in interviews he has spoke about wanting to increase his profile and make a name for himself. With that in mind we can't but feel excited about what Tai may have to offer over the coming years.
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