It's fair to say action picked up, notably, in October but that's nothing compared to what we are set to get through November, as boxing races towards the end of the year with a brilliant, packed and stacked month. The next few weeks are among the best we've had in a long time with lots of notable names and interesting bouts, and thankfully we don't need to wait long between some of these exciting match ups!
Aioi Hall, Kariya, Aichi, Japan
Masanori Rikiishi (8-1, 4) vs Soreike Taichi (7-3, 5)
The first bout of real note in November takes place on November 1st, with Japanese Lightweight hopeful Masanori Rikiishi looking to continue his strong run of form. The talented fighter from the Midori Gym is looking for his 7th straight win following a 2018 loss to Kosuke Saka, and a win here would likely take him to within touching distance of a Japanese title fight. Taichi on the other hand will be there looking to get his career back on track following a loss in February to Kazuma Sanpei. Sadly for Taichi he has been stopped in 2 of his 4 losses to naturally smaller men than Rikiishi, and we see him failing to complete the schedule here too.
Intex Osaka, Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) vs Thanongsak Simsri (14-0, 12)
The first major bout of the month will see WBA Light Flyweight "Super" champion Hiroto Kyoguchi make his next defense as he takes on unbeaten Thai challenger Thanongsak Simsri. The talented Kyoguchi hasn't looked as good in recent bouts as he did when he won the title at the end of 2018, but will be regarded as the very clear favourite here as he takes on a relatively unknown contender. Although unknown outside of Asia Simsri has looked impressive and is a heavy handed youngster from the same region as Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. We do see Simsri as a future champion, but feel this may be too much too soon for him.
Jinki Maeda (5-0, 3) vs Kaito Okubo (5-1, 2)
Also on November 3rd is brilliant prospect Jinki Maeda, who won Rookie of the Year in 2020. The talented, sharp punching and fast rising Maeda isn't being matched easily here as he takes on the once beaten Kaito Okubo, who has notched up two wins since his sole defeat in 2019 and will tower over Maeda in the ring. We expect to see Maeda win, but we are expecting him to answer some questions on route to victory. The perfect type of match up for the unbeaten 24 year old
Korakuen Hall, Japan
Junto Nakatani (20-0, 15) Vs Giemel Magramo (24-1, 20)
After several delays it now seems we will finally see a new WBO Flyweight champion being crowned this month as we finally get the long awaited showdown between Junto Nakatani and Giemel Magramo. The title has been vacant since Kosei Tanaka vacated it earlier in the year, and we had hoped to see Nakatani and Magramo battle in the Spring, and then the summer. Despite the, repeated, delays this is still one of the most interesting Flyweight bouts on the docket and is a real 50/50 bout. Both men can box, both have solid power, and both are looking for a top tier divisional win. This is the sort of bout we, as fans, should all be behind.
Korakuen Hall, Japan (G+)
Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11) Vs Riku Kunimoto (4-0, 2)
In a delayed Champion Carnival bout we'll see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako taking on mandatory challenger Riku Kunimoto. As with the Nakatani Vs Magramo bout this has been delayed numerous times, due to the on going situation and then training issues affecting Kunimoto. On paper this is a massive step up for Kunimoto, who has never faced anyone even close to Takesako's ability or power. Despite the step up this is not a foregone conclusion, and will instead be an interesting way for both men to answer a lot of questions about their ability.
Takeshi Inoue (16-1-1, 10) Vs Nath Nwachukwu (6-0-2, 3)
WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight champion Takeshi Inoue is in action here, but not a title defense, as he takes on Japanese ranked Middleweight Nath Nwachukwu. On paper this really does just look like a stay busy bout for Inoue, who's best known for 2019 fight with Jaime Munguia, but in fairness Nwachukwu will be coming to win, and won't be wanting to give up his unbeaten record. Inoue's the clear favourite, but we do expect him being forced to work for a win here.
Takuma Takahashi (5-0, 5) Vs Kodai Kiyota (9-6-2, 9)
The exciting, flawed, heavy handed, crude, Takuma Takahashi looks to put controversy behind him and build on his highly entertaining bout with Leonardo Doronio from back in January. In that bout Takahashi was in all sorts of trouble, and seemed lucky that Biney Martin let him get away with some very questionable tactics. Here he's up against domestic foe Kodai Kiyota in what should be a very easy win for the unbeaten man. A real confidence builder more than anything else.
RCC Boxing Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (10-1, 7) vs Zoravor Petrosian (9-0, 4)
Back on to the subject of delayed fights here as we finally see Uzbek fighter Ravshanbek Umurzakov take on Ukrainian youngster Zoravor Petrosian. This bout was originally scheduled to take place in mid-September but fell through at the 11th hour when Umurzakov was unable to get into Russia. Despite the bout falling through a few weeks ago Petrosian fought anyway, looked really good, and we're now set to see them get in the ring together. This could be the hidden for the weekend.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Thananchai Charunphak (10-1, 8) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (61-13-2, 25)
Once beaten Thai prospect Thananchai Charunphak is among the most promising fighters in Thailand, and this week we get to see him step up again for what is essentially his third bout against a notable foe. The once beaten 20 year old, who already holds wins over Samartlek Kokietgym and Kompayak Porpramook, is tipped very highly.In the opponent corner will be veteran Pigmy Kokietygym, a former world title challenger who has seen better days, but should still provide something of a test for the youngster.
Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-8, 36) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-4, 6)
In a brilliant match up between veterans we'll see former WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu take on former IBF Flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng. At his best Pungluang was a strong, powerful aggressive fighter, who came forward and let his hands go. As he's aged he's slowed down, but is still having success and recently upset Campee Phayom. Amnat however has always been a tricky, awkward, fast, skilled, nightmare who knows the dark arts and how to get away with things. We're not expecting this to be the most action packed bout, but it is a genuinely intriguing one, and one of the most interesting non-title boutswe've seen in Thailand in years.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood, Florida, USA
Zhilei Zhang (21-0, 16) vs Devin Vargas (22-6, 9)
Chinese Heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang looks to continue his unbeaten record as he takes on Devin Vargas in Florida. The Chinese giant, who stands at 6'7", is a real talent, a quick handed, well schooled, southpaw with surprising speed and power. Sadly though he's 37, and any dreams of him getting a big fight before father time inflicts a loss on him are slim, even with Matchroom behind him. Vargas is a serviceable opponent for a prospect, but the 38 year old American is little more than that and shouldn't really ask questions of a contender, like Zhang. A really pointless match up that does little more than keep a 37 year old busy, rather than building his profile in what is the "now or never" part of his career.
So the new year is here! And although we've not got a lot happening in January, we do have more than we expected, with title bouts, eliminators, tournament finals and a little of everything!
Pyeongtaek, South Korea
Yoo Seung Jun (6-1) vs Seung Hee Lee (4-6, 1)
One of two KBM eliminators at 154lbs will see the once beaten Yoo Seung Jun take on Seung Hee Lee. Our understanding is that the winner here will fight for the vacant title later in the year against the winner of the other eliminator.
Sung Min Yuh (3-0) Vs Se Yul Yang (3-4-2, 1)
Talking about that other eliminator, that will see Sung Min Yuh take in Se Yul Yang. Notable if Yuh and Jun win their bouts it would be a rematch of the "Battle Royale" final from last November, and would have an interesting sub-plot of revenge or repeat, as well as being for the KBM title.
Da Won Gang (3-0, 1) Vs Jin Soo Kim (6-7-1, 3)
Another KBM eliminator will be at 140lbs where the touted Da Won Gang takes on Jin Soo Kim. The talented Gang is regarded by those in Korea as one of the countries best talents in recent years, and like Sung Min Yuh he won the "Battle Royale" last year. A win here sets him for a big 2020.
New Jersey, USA
Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22) vs Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1-1, 12)
The limited but heavy handed Bakhtiyar Eyubov, from Kazakhstan, is up against it here as he takes on touted American Jaron "Boots" Ennis in what looks likely to be a show case for the talented local hopeful.
Vladimir Baez (26-5-2, 24) vs Tuguldur Byambatsogt (1-0)
In a Knock Out Dynamite Final we'll see Japanese based Dominican slugger Vladimir Baez battle against Mongolian professional novice Tuguldur Byambatsogt. On paper a mismatch, but in reality this could be a big break out for Byambatsogt, who impressed us in his semi-final bout.
Ribo Takahata (16-8-1, 6) vs Marvin Esquierdo (15-2-1, 9)
Another final at the Knock Out Dynamite Tournament will see Japanese veteran Ribo Takahata take on Filipino foe Marvin Esquierdo. Notably Esquierdo fought in the first ever Knock Out Dynamite Tournament bout, and netted the highest bonus with an opening round win, will he look for the same here?
Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15) vs Adrian Estrella (29-4, 24)
Touted Uzbek puncher Shohjahon Ergashev looks to kick in the new year as he takes on once touted Mexican Adrian Estrella. Neither of these are the most polished of fighters, but both are heavy handed and we expect this one to be short, but very explosive!
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) vs Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11)
OPBF Middleweight champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa defends his belt against hard hitting Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako. This is not expected to hear the final bell, with both men being heavy handed fighters, and will be one of the highlights of the month!
Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) vs Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8)
Former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue will be looking to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title against Chinese challenger Cheng Su. Inoue, who is enjoying his second reign as the WBO Asia Pacific champion, will be looking to get a second world title shot in the near future, but needs to get past Su to keep that dream alive.
Kenia Enriquez (22-1, 9) vs Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5)
Talking about world title fights WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight champion Kenia Enriquez will be defending her title at home in Mexico against Japanese challenger Chaoz Minowa. For Minowa this is a third crack at world level, and a loss here will likely end her hopes of ever becoming a world champion.
The month of August is set to be a hectic one, both in terms of boxing and our personal lives. Despite being hectic it's a month that doesn't have many huge fights through out it, with pretty much all the big ones taking place over a single day, but does have a lot of notable right through the month. We have Japanese title fights, Japanese youth title bouts, OPBF title bouts, prospects in action and so much more, even if we don't have a huge number of world title bouts.
Knockout CP Freshmart (19-0, 7) Vs ArAr Andales (10-0, 2) - Bangkok, Thailand
The first major bout of the month is one of the few world title bouts and will see unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart return to the ring for his first bout of 2019. In the opposite corner to the unbeaten champion will be unbeaten Filipino youngster ArAr Andales, who looks to become one of the few Filipino's to have won a world title as a teenager. Knockout has had a frustrating reign, often showing glimpses of brilliance but crowding them with long stretches of tedium and his fanfare has certainly eroded, with the mocking name of "Unanimous Decision CP Freshmart" seeming a lot more apt than his actual name. Andales on the other hand was an unknown 12 months ago, but a regional title has boosted him to this fight and a chance to end the tiring and dull reign of the Thai champion.
Koki Eto (24-4-1-1, 19) Vs Jeyvier Cintron II (10-0-0-1, 5) II - Florida USA
A few hours later our attention turns to the US as we see Japanese slugger Koki Eto and unbeaten Puerto Rican hopeful Jeyvier Cintron go again. The two men fought just 3 months ago, with the bout ending in a No Contest due to a clash of heads, and they will both be looking to avoid a similar fate here. The winner will be the leading challenger for the WBO Super Flyweight title, currently held by Kazuto Ioka, though both men will bee annoyed that they have had to wait, given they would have expected a shot at the end of the year, had it not been for their headclash. From their first bout Cintron clearly looked the better fight, but Eto did look dangerous, especially with his booming and hard right hand. If we avoid a similar conclusion to last time we could be in for something very exciting.
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7) Vs Patomsuk Pathompothong (38-10-1-1, 24) - Tokyo, Japan
Recent world title challenger Takeshi Inoue returns to the ring for the first time since losing to Jamie Munguia, and will re-enter the title mix immediately as he battles against Thai veteran Patomsuk Pathompothong for the WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title. This really should be a straight forward win for the aggressive and physically strong Inoue, as he takes on a naturally smaller, older and limited for. For the Thai, who has been stopped in his last 2 bouts in Japan, this really will be his last chance at this level and another loss could well end his career.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0-1, 10) Vs Shuji Kato (10-1-2, 6) II - Tokyo, Japan
Another title fight on the same card will see Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako take part in a rematch with Shuji Kato. The two men had a real thriller earlier in the year, which resulted in a draw that pleased neither man. This rematch will see both men desperate to avoid another draw, though given how well their styles gelled the first time around we're struggling to see anything but another close one. Takesako, seeking his third defense here, is the big punching favourite but Kato is the smarter boxer, and his southpaw jab gave Takesako all sorts of issues in their first match up. This might not be a Fight of the Year contender but will certainly be a very entertaining and intriguing bout all the same.
Takuma Takahashi (3-0, 3) vs Sitthidet Bantti (11-4, 5)
The fast rising Takuma Takahashi looks to continue his perfect start as he takes on Thai visitor Sitthidet Bannti. The hard hitting Takahashi may not have polished his style, yet, but looks like a natural dangerman and wins in hs first 3 against Joepher Montano and Jonel Dapidran are impressive.He'll be a clear favourite here and will, hopefully, face a domestic opponent later in the year to begin moving towards some form of a title bout. Bantti on the other hand has never been stopped and has been in with some good fighters, including Atchariya Wirojanasunobol, Xiangxiang Sun and Saddam Kietyongyuth. A win for Takahashi is expected, but the way that win comes will be very interesting.
Issei Ochiai (0-0) Vs Lerdchai Chaiyawed (1-2)
Celes Kobayashi's big new signing Issei Ochiai makes his debut, with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. The Celes gym has failed to develop many guys, but their success with Ryosuke Iwasa is fairly notable and Ochiai is one of the more talented amateurs that the gym has signed since Iwasa won a world title. Although talented he should be asked some real questions here by a Thai who a win over Samartlek Kokietgym and gave tough 8 round bouts to Ryoki Hirai and Seita Ogido when fighting in Japan. The visitor is no bum, and this is a real test for the Japanese novice.
Takayuki Okumoto (22-8-4,10) Vs Dynamic Kenji (11-3, 7)- Osaka Japan
Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto looks to put 3 very close bouts behind him and score his third defense of the title he won last year as he takes on the heavy handed, though very unheralded, Dynamic Kenji. Okumoto is a true veteran, who debuted at the age of 15, and has been given a number of chances, before finally making the most of one last year when he usurped Hiroyuki Kudaka, since then he has narrowly retained the title and is a rather lucky champion. Kenji on the other hand is getting his first shot at this level, and he's unlikely to be in the mix again if he losses, given his lack of a big name promoter and his rather low profile. This is a hard bout to call, and like the Takesako Vs Kato bout certainly has one guy being much more skilled and the other being the much bigger puncher.
Toshiki Shimomachi (9-1-2, 5) Vs Kenta Nomura (6-2, 3) - Osaka Japan
Another title bout from Osaka will see Toshiki Shimomachi and Kenta Nomura battle for the currently vacant Japanese Youth Super Bantamweight title. Coming in both fighters have some momentum, with Shimomachi on a good unbeaten run following an early career and Shimomachi looking very powerful since moving up to Super Bantamweight after fighting mostly at Super Flyweight. This bout should be very exciting and could well give the winner a huge shot in the arm ahead of some bigger an better bouts over the next 24 months.
Thanongsak Simsri (9-0, 9) Vs Melianus Mirin (10-5, 6) - Osaka, Japan
Whilst the Osaka show will be a notable one thanks to the Japanese and Japanese youth titles it's hard to ignore that Thai youngster Thanongsak Simsri, who looks to score his 10th straight T/KO win and live up to the "Srisaket II" moniker the Thai boxing press have given him. In the opposite corner to the 19 year old Thai prospect will be the limited but tough Melianus Mirin, who has yet to be stopped and has fought stiff competition, including Wanheng Manyothin and
Daud Yordan (38-4-0-1, 26) Vs Patomsith Pathompothong (21-11, 10)- Pattaya, Thailand
The popular Indonesian fighter Daud Yordan gets his return from a 2018 loss to Anthony Crolla as he travels to Thailand to battle the limited Patomsith Pathompothong. The well travelled Yordan, who has fought will be fighting in his 6th different country in as many fights, will be strongly favoured here and will obviously be hoping to get his career back in track after inactivity and the Crolla loss. The Thai on the other hand has picked up 4 wins this year, but his level of competition has been incredibly low. Despite Yordan being the man on the road he has to be the favourite.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (19-2-2, 12) Vs Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) - Tokyo, Japan
Arguably the pick of the early month bouts is an OPBF Super Bantamweight title bout pitting hard nosed champion Hiroaki Teshigawara against the excellent Shohei Omori. For Teshigawara this is a big step up in class and a win will mark him a definitive fringe contender, at worst. He's on a good roll already and has been notching good wins over regional opposition, but this is a step up. Omori on the other hand is rebuilding following his second loss to Marlon Tapales, and has looked fantastic since moving to Super Bantamweight. The hard hitting southpaw challenger was once tipped as the successor to Shinsuke Yamanaka at Bantamweight but he really appears to have found his better weight 4lbs north and could see a win here as a launch pad to a second world title fight. An excellent match up and one we're really looking forward to.
Kenichi Horikawa (40-15-1, 13) Vs Ryuto Oho (12-5-1, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa looks to extend his second reign as the Japanese Light Flyweight champion as he takes on youngster Ryuto Oho. The often under-rated veteran, who holds the record for most wins of any active Japanese fighter, is heading towards his 40th birthday but continues to fight with the vigour and fire of a much, much younger man. Horikawa's reign isn't likely to lead to a world title fight, but we're certainly glad the little warrior is having some success towards the end of his career. Oho is a talented youngster but has shown durability issues and will need to rely on his youth and speed to survive Horikawa's aggression here. An interesting match up, but one where the champion enters as the clear favourite.
Masahiro Suzuki (2-0, 1) Vs Kosuke Arioka (9-3-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
Talented Japanese prospect Masahiro Suzuki might not be getting much fan fare but the highly skilled 24 year old has impressed us in both of his pro bouts so far and now he takes on his first domestic opponent. The excellent Suzuki has shown a lot in just 12 rounds of professional boxing, we know he's a smart fighter, we know he can fight on the front foot or the back foot and we know he's a very sharp puncher. His promoter now wants us to see how he copes against a puncher. Although fairly limited Kosuke Arioka can bang and he'll be expected to give Suzuki a real chin check before the unbeaten youngster looks to climb through the national rankings.
It appears that things got real this week, like really real, with some true Fight of the Year candidates, a notable upset, some stellar performances by lesser known fighters and some really under-rated fights from lesser known fighters. It was a weekend that saw attention being thrust on Asian fighters, with 3 major US bouts featuring fighters from Asia, as well as bouts in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (16-2, 2)
Entering his first "world" title bout as a 5/1 to one under-dog, Chinese fighter Can Xu was expected to be steam rolled by WBA"regular" Featherweight champion Jesus M Rojas. Instead however Xu shocked the bookmakers by not only surviving the bout, but also winning. The early rounds saw Rojas on the offensive, but Xu fought back and eventually came on strong in the second half, as Rojas began to feel the tempo, in what was an amazing all action bout. In the end Xu's energy and work rate in the second half of the fight was enough for him to take home the surprise win. The scorecards didn't do justice for how close the bout is, but this huge win for Xu is massive for Chinese boxing and should see the Max Power Promoted fighter become the new face of Chinese boxing.
Performance of the Week
Takeshi Inoue (13-1-1, 7)
It would be easy to crown Xu the double winner for the two main solo awards for this week, but the reality is that his performance was equalled by that of Japan's Takeshi Inoue. Inoue wasn't just expected to lose, but was expected to be stopped, and stopped early. Instead the little known Inoue was in Jamie Mungia's face from the first round to the last, pressing the touted Mexican all the way and giving him more problems than anyone as at world level. Some had suggested Inoue didn't belong in the ring with Munguia before hand but his performances here showed he belong in, and around, world level and he is certainly going to be a handful for other fighters at the world level. He may have lost, but his performance, against a supposed superstar in the making, was excellent.
Can Xu (15-2, 2) Vs Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2, 19)
The WBA "Regular" Featherweight title fight between China's Can Xu and Jesus M Rojas is likely to be forgotten at the end of the year, due to it taking place so early in 2019, but it will be one of the most action packed fighters of the year.From the opening round both men let their shots go, both set a high activity level and there was really grit and determination from both fighters. The fight changed in the middle rounds, when Rojas' work rate dropped, but he still looked the more dangerous man, and seemed to have Xu on the back foot in round 9. The only thing missing from making it a truly legendary fight was the lack of real drama and neither man ever seemed to be particularly hurt, but the action was so in tense that it was easy to ignore that flaw.
Alphoe Dagayloan Vs Danrick Sumabong, Tugstogt Nyambayar Vs Claudio Marrero, Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Munguia
Takeshi Inoue Vs Jamie Mungia (round 10)
The Inoue Vs Mungia fight will be marred by the scoring, which essentially made it clear that Inoue was never going to get the win on the scorecards, but it gave us some amazing action, the best of which was in round 10. Inoue started the round fast, having great success in the early going of the round, but was rocked in the final stages as Munguia finally began to show the offense and aggression that he's best known for.It was the only time Inoue looked hurt during the 12 round contest, and the only time Munguia looked like the monster he's been sold as in recent months. The assault from Munguia however didn't come until late in the round.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
ArAr Andales (9-0, 2)
There were several better known prospects in action this week but 19 year old ArAr Andales was the one that shone to us. He was aggressive, exciting and despite not being a power puncher really brought the fire before stopping Charlie Malupangue in the 5th round. On paper this was a very credible step up in class for the Filipino teenager, but he made it look easy and really put himself on the map, whilst claiming the WBA Asia Minimumweight title.He appears to be someone who could well end up in the mix in the coming years, and shouldn't be over-looked as a potential contender, at least on the regional scene.
Saddridin Akhmedov, Danrick Sumabong
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12) vs Naoki Mochizuki (15-3, 8)
After a few weeks of top level world class fights there isn't anything at that level over the next 7 days, however there are still some interesting contests. The most interesting of those appears to be the Japanese Flyweight title bout between the highly regarded Junto Nakatani and Naoki Mochizuki, who battle for the vacant belt. The match up won't make waves internationally, but will likely help push the winner towards major international bouts, as well as seeing them pick up their major title. Nakatani is widely considered as one of the best hopes in Japan, but Mochizuki is a very live under-dog and could well have the style to over-come the 21 year old. Very interesting bouts.
Gonte Lee Vs Aphisit Namkhot, Aston Palicte Vs Jose Martinez
Denver Cuello to return in March
Former Minimumweight world title contender Denver Cuello (36-5-6, 24) has been out of the ring for well over 3 years, yet this week we saw the news break that Cuello would be back in the ring in March, to take on Indonesian veteran Jack Amisa (21-45-2, 14). It's not a match up that will get peoples attention, but it is amazing to know that Cuello will be back in the ring, even if he has had so long away, due to injuries.
Despite a rather dry January we do see action pick up, in a big way, in the end portion of the month with several major fights featuring Asian fighters.
Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2-1, 19) Vs Can Xu (15-2, 2) - WBA "Regular" Featherweight title
Talented Puerto Rican Jesus M Rojas will be looking to defend the WBA "regular" Featherweight title, just a week after interim champion Jhack Tepora attempts to defend his title, as he takes on Chinese fighter Can Xu. For Rojas, who won the title way back in September 2017, this will be just huis first defense of the title, as Joseph Diaz failed to make weight for a clash last August. Rojas is a fantastic fighter, but alack of activity through his career has been a major issue. Xu on the other is fighting for just the second time in the US and is fighting in his first bout at this level, in fact a win for Xu would see him become the first Chinese fighter to win a "world" title above 112lbs.
Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26) Vs Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) - WBO Light Middleweight title
On the same card in Texas we'll an Inoue in action, as the little known Takeshi Inoue challenges WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. The champion was the breakout star of 2018, going 5-0 (4) and went from being not allowed to fight Gennady Golovkin in May to the WBO Light Middleweight champion with 2 defenses under his belt. Whilst Munguia was becoming a star in 2018 Inoue, no relation to Naoya, was stuck in negotiation hell with a fighter against Julian Williams seemingly being in negotiations for months before he managed to secure this match up with Munguia. With this bout now set Inoue will know he will be in a major bout, but one where he is a massive under-dog.
New York, USA
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17)
In an excellent match, perhaps the best of the month, we'll see unbeaten Mongolian puncher Tugstsogt Nyambayar battle against explosive Dominican fighter Claudio Marrero. This is about as good as it gets, and will set the winner up for a Featherweight world title fight later in the year. Both of these men have brutal power, both of these men have been down, and together we expect to see them producing fire works of the highest order. Nyambayar is the more technically gifted of the two men, but he has shown some poor balance issues and has been tagged before. Marrero on the other hand has a raw dangerous quality about him, defensively and offensively, and is incredibly quick. This could be an early runner for FOTY.
Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) Vs Jose Martinez (20-0-2, 13)
The final bout of note in January is a WBO Super Flyweight world title eliminator, as Filipino puncher Aston Palicte takes on Puerto Rican fighter Jose Martinez. This bout, which will be shown on UFC Fight Pass, will set the winner up for a world title fight later in the year. Palicte came to the attention of the boxing world in 2018 when he fought to a controversial draw with Donnie Nietes on Superfly 3, since then he has been inactive though comes into this fight with a lot of hunger. Martinez on the other hand is best known for two fortunate draws against the under-rated Alejandro Santiago Barrios, who proved himself against Jerwin Ancajas last year. Despite being unbeaten we've yet to be impressed by Martinez and this looks like his toughest test so far.
It's fair to say that 2017 has been one of the best years for boxing fans in a long time, that is perhaps even more true if you're either a Japanese fight fan or someone who follows the Japanese scene incredibly closely.
We're not saying that due to the wars and great fights Japanese boxing had during the year, but more based on the number of fighters who had genuine break out years. There was fighters who really exceeded all expectations and they have helped lay the ground work for what should be an incredible year.
Here we take a look at a number of those fighters, who in some cases were highly regarded prospects, and in other cases were relative unknowns.
In total Higa fought 17 rounds this year, having fought just 38 prior, and became arguably the new face at Flyweight. His style is thrilling, his fan base is growing and given his age he could have a very long reign at the top. His next defense is scheduled for February and there's no reason why he can't 3, or even 4 defenses into 2018 as he looks to distinguish himself as the elite fighter at Flyweight. He has an ultra aggressive style that is always so impressive to see and incredibly heavy hands.
He did however finish the year with a sterling performance as he stopped the very highly regarded Carlos Buitrago in what was a truly one-sided beat down by the Watanabe man, stopping Buitrago in the 8th round, when Robert Ramirez Jr finally intervened with a mercy stoppage. He'll now concentrate on building in 2018 but to have claimed his first 2 titles and moved from a 5 fight novice to a world champion in 2017 has been remarkable.
The plan now for the champion is to make his third defense in early 2018, facing off with Ganigan Lopez in a rematch of May's bout, and we're expecting that to be on live TV. His win over Pedroza and post fight interview should have been enough to convince Fuji not to hide him on a satellite channel and hopefully he'll manage to grow his profile even more in 2018, whilst continuing to develop his skills.
In December had the chance to make a name for himself at home, and took that as he defeated mandatory challenger Toshiyuki Igarashi in 9 rounds to record his first defense. Igarashi, a former WBC champion, had some moments early on but in the end the pressure and surprisingly heavy hands of the champion broke him down, with Igarashi's face being a mess and his body essentially giving in to the ever aggressive man from the Aoki gym.
To have gone from total obscurity to having featured on huge shows in both China and Japan, having had TV coverage in both and having impressed a televised audience in both it's hard to argue with Kimura being the biggest Japanese break out of the year. He wasn't a touted prospect going in to the year, only really the most hardcore of Japanese fans would have known much about him, but to end the year with wins over Shiming and Igarashi is incredibly impressive and he is worthy of whatever big fights come his way in 2018.
Whilst Inoue is currently in the world rankings we're not expecting to see him get a world title fight in 2018. What we are expecting to see from him is a lot excitement and hopefully he will be able to climb up the rankings and move to a potential title shot for 2019. Fighting at 154lbs he's in a tough division to make a mark in, but there's no reason who he can't crawl up the rankings towards a big bout, or a potential domestic showdown with the teak tough Yoshihiro Kamegai, in what would be a very interesting clash of styles.
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