We wouldn't be stretching things to suggest that February 2021 was one of the quietest months since boxing restarted following the start of the Covid19 pandemic. Thankfully it appears normality resumes in March as we have a lot to get excited about, and better yet it comes from all over the globe as Asian fighters look to make a name for themselves both internationally and at home.
With that in mind lets take a look at what's to come in the first part of the month.
Municipal Boxing Gym Felix Pagan Pintor, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Ruslan Madiyev (13-1, 5) Vs Danielito Zorrilla (14-0, 11)
The first notable bout to feature an Asian will see once beaten Kazakh Ruslan Madiyev return to the ring for the first time in well over a year as he takes on unbeaten Puerto Rican Danielito Zorrilla as part of the "Ring City USA" series. On paper this looks like a really well matched bout, and Madiyev will know that a win here can get his career back on track, though in reality we suspect Zorrilla will be too good and too strong for the US based Kazakh fighter.
Miami, Florida, USA
Kozimbek Mardonov (1-0, 1) vs Abel Nicolas Adriel (23-20-3, 5)
Former Uzbek amateur standout Kozimbek Mardonov will be another Central Asian fighter to keep an eye out for early in the month. The talented 23 year old made a quick impact on his debut, at the end of January and will be looking to impress against as he takes on 31 year old Argentinian Abel Nicolas Adriel. Stood at 6' and fighting at Super Middleweight Mardonov has the potential to be a star of the future and we suspect he'll impress against the experienced, but limited, Adriel. Despite having 20 losses to his name Adriel has only been stopped 4 times, though we suspect another stoppage is on the cards for him here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) Vs Fumisuke Kimura (9-6-1, 6)
Unbeaten Japanese Light Welterweight Andy Hiraoka returns to a Japanese ring for the first time since July 2019 as he takes on limited domestic foe Fumisuke Kimura. Hiraoka's last 2 bouts were both in the US, as he linked up with Top Rank, but there is clearly a desire to show what he can do at home as well, and we suspect he'll look to make a statement here. Sadly Kimura is 0-2-1 in his last 3, and we suspect Hiraoka will take him out relatively early on.
Yoshiki Takei (0-0) v Kazunori Takai (6-7-3, 3)
Former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei makes his professional boxing debut as he takes on Kazunori Takai in a 6 rounder. Despite making his name in kickboxing Takei looks like he has excellent hands, and has impressed not just in K-1 but also in his pro-test with Tsuyoshi Tameda and an exhibition bout with Sho Kimura. There is genuine a lot of buzz around Takei in Japanese boxing circles. As for Takai he's a 34 year old who is 0-5-1 in his last 6, and hasn't scored a victory since September 2017. This should be little more than a show case for Takei.
Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) vs Yoshiki Minato (9-3, 4)
In a mouth watering clash between youngsters we'll see the unbeaten Taku Kuwahara take on Yoshiki Minato, a former Rookie of the Year winner. The talented Kuwahara has been tipped for major success since turning professional, but his career stalled massively in 2020, due to Covid19, and he'll feel he needs to make up for lost time this year. Aged just 22 Minato has time on his side, but is 1-2 since winning the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year and his sole win came against the returning Kohei Oba, who looked shot to pieces.
Rikuto Adachi (14-2, 11) Vs Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3)
The first Japanese Youth title fight of the month takes place at Welterweight as the once touted Rikuto Adachi takes on Takeru Kobata. The bout will be Adachi's second shot at the title, and his first bout since signing with the Ohashi Gym in 2020, and he'll know that he needs a win to get his career back on track after an injury plagued 2020. Kobata on the other hand will be looking to build on a solid performance, albeit in a loss, against Shoki Sakai. Stylistically this could end up being a very exciting match up, and it's a real chance of being a banana skin for Adachi.
Bolton Whites Hotel (formerly De Vere Whites), Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Viktor Kotochigov (12-1, 5) Vs Gary Cully (11-0, 5)
Staying with title action we'll see once beaten Kazakh fighter Viktor Kotochigov look to get his career back on track, and bounce back from an upset loss to Maxi Hughes, as he takes on Gary Cully for the WBO European Lightweight title. The talented Kotochigov looked lost and confused at times against Hughes, who turned in one of the best performances of his career, and it's clear that Kotochigov cannot afford another loss here. The unbeaten 25 year old Cully is regarded as one of the most promising Irish fighters and will be looking to build on a successful 2020, which saw him beat Joe Fitzpatrick and Craig Woodruff. Although not a huge bout, this is very much an interesting match up to end this portion of the month with.
The third fighter we looked at last year in our "Introducing..." feature was Taku Kuwahara (then 3-0, 2), at the time he was relatively unknown except by those who really followed the Japanese amateur scene. He had shown some early promise, enough to get our attention, but lets have a look at what he has done since as we continue our "Revisiting" series.
As mentioned when we looked at Kuwahara in January he was 3-0 (2) during 2019 he moved his record along quickly, going 4-0 (2) and ended the year with a 7-0 (4) record, whilst scoring two notable wins late in the year. He also moved from testing the water at Light Flyweight to being a committed fighter at Flyweight, where we see his career being long term.
To begin 2019 Kuwahara was out of the ring until April, when he took out Indonesian fighter Aprilianto Rumahpasal. That was followed up with a win over domestic novice Kyomu Hamagami. On paper that bout with Hamagami was a step up, but in reality it was just a passing point before Kuwahara finally stepped up in class in September 2019 when he outpointed Jonathan Refugio.
The win over Refugio was a masterclass from Kuwahara who shut out the Filipino veteran over 8 rounds. He dropped Refugio once, and despite being unable to stop the Filipino he dominated thoroughly, taking his first win against a world ranked opponent. That win was followed by another 8 round decision against a rugged Filipino as Kuwahara took a wide decision over Ricardo Sueno. Those wins helped to show what a talent Kuwahara was and saw him getting more and more press time in Japan, where he was being dubbed "Ioka II" due to his affiliation to the same educational facility of Ioka, and just like Ioka he was gaining a serious reputation as a brutal body puncher.
With Kuwahara winning 4 bouts in 2019 it should be little surprise to hear that he managed to earn his first rankings. He first broke into the JBC rankings, following the win over Refugion, and then the OPBF rankings, following the win over Sueno. In 2020 we would expect Kuwahara to look towards racing through the rankings towards a title fight, and in reality he's likely to have any of the doors open to him, whether he wants to pursue a Japanese or Oriental title. We would expect Kuwahara, by the end of the year, to be ready to face either champion.
Unlike the first two men we "revisited" Kuwahara's first bout of 2020 has been announced at the time of writing. On March 16th Kuwahara will take on under-rated Filipino Jaysever Abcede, who is not only ranked #13 by the WBC at Light Flyweight but also has a top 10 OPBF ranking at Flyweight and a WBO Asia Pacific ranking. Essentially making this not only a step up in class for Kuwahara but also a chance to take serious strides towards getting a world ranking and moving towards his first title bout.
At the moment it's still relatively early in Kuwahara's career but given how he stepped up in late 2019, and how he now has his upcoming bout with Abcede, it's clear that Hideyuki Ohashi and the folks at the Ohashi gym are recognising his potential and looking to push him fast, potentially as the replacement for veteran Akira Yaegashi. He might not be that Elite level super talent that they have in Naoya Inoue, but he's still a fantastic fighter and at 24 years old they have a real prodigy on their hands.
We would expect Kuwahara to win his first title before the end of 2020 and then begin to climb the world rankings in 2021, perhaps even landing a shot by the end of the year. The one thing he needs to get now, is eyes on him. So far he's only really had televised highlights, but hopefully he'll be given more TV time when he gets his first title fight, and from there we can see his skills develop along with his in ring experience.
Although not yet a big name we expect to see 2020 being the year where Kuwahara goes from the periphery of the domestic scene right into the title mix, and sets out his stool for big things over the coming few years.
It feels like September began an eternity ago, though it only came to an end a week ago. Despite being a long month, with some dry patches in it terms of top boxing, it was a month that really delivered more than expected. It gave a legitimate contender for KO of the Year, Fight of the Year and Round of the Year. It had prospects who were willing to step up and some notable upsets. All in all September was a good month, even if we did have some slumps in action.
Fighter of the Month
Pedro Taduran (14-2, 11)
The 22 year old Pedro Taduran will never be described as a world class boxer. The reality is that he's not a world class boxer in any way shape or form, and he will find himself being out boxed on a regular basis. What he is, is a fighter, he's a warrior, he's a world champion and he is well and truly deserving of September's Fighter of the Month award. His win over Samuel Salva on September 7th saw him needing to come back from an opening round knockdown, and boy how he came back. He turned into a raw street fighter and despite being blatantly headbutted in round 4 he just battered Salva into submission.
Fight of the Month
Batyr Akhmedov vs Mario Barrios
The best fights, for us, swing one way then the other, with dramatic swings and changes in momentum of high tempo and high skilled action. On September 28th we got an incredibly bout that had it all. Uzbek born Batyr Akhmedov was dropped in round 4, roared back with 7 amazing rounds of high intensity action, but was dropped in the final minute by a swollen and exhausted Mario Barrios. The drama in the final rounds, as Barrios looked to survive the storm, then pulled out the late knockdown, were amazing. This was amazing and deserves to be considered at the end of the year for the Fight of the year.
KO of the Month
Bakhodir Jalolov KO1 Richard Torrez
Amazingly the KO of the month came in the amateurs and saw Uzbek giant Bakhodir Jalolov laying out American hopeful Richard Torrez in brutally eye catching fashion. We don't often see clean KO's in the amateurs, even with the removal of head gear, but here we saw one that left a massive impression and saw the head of the WBC complain about Jalolov competing in the amateur competition. The huge left hand from Jalolov was brutal and left Torrez out cold on the canvas. This will be up there with the best KO's we'll see in boxing in 2019 and deserves a lot more attention than it has got.
Taku Kuwahara (6-0, 4)
Japan's Taku Kuwahara might not be a name that international fan are aware of, but the youngster is fast rising through the ranks, and his win over world ranked Filipino Jonathan Refugio on September 17th was a big step up in class, and a very impressive win. This 24 year old is tipped for big things and we suspect he'll be pushed into title bouts in the next 12 months. If he can pick up a title in the middle of next year we expect to see Ohashi strap a rocket to him and push for him to get a world title fight sooner rather than later. His performance against Refugio was excellent and we only see him getting better and better.
Amazingly we couldn't find a single noteworthy upset from the month, which is a genuine surprise given how many bouts took place of the 30 days of September.
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa (Rd 6)
The Japanese eliminators, for which the winners will get a title fight at next year's Champions Carnival, promise a lot this year, and the Minimumweight bout between former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi and hard hitting youngster Kai Ishizawa delivered, in spades. The fight was an amazing 8 round war, with the 6th round being the best of them. It was back and forth, both men being hurt, both biting down on their gum shields and both giving everything they had. We could not have asked for more from the two men. An amazing round, from an amazing fight.
One of the areas of professional boxing that has started to get more and more attention in recent years has been Japan, thanks in a big part to Naoya Inoue's growing success, and the great work CBC have done in making Kosei Tanaka fights widely available. Whilst a lot of the emerging Japanese talent is competing in the lower weight classes it doesn't change the fact the country is over-flowing with talented youngsters all looking to make their name and become one of the countries next big stars.
With that in mind it seems the perfect time to try and predict who will be the next big Japanese star, and bring attention to 5 of Japan's brightest young prospects.
Although Shigeoka has only had 4 bouts it's impossible not to be impressed by what he has shown. He's an aggressive yet intelligent fighter, he presses well, has amazingly crisp punches, switches between head and body with ease and has nasty spiteful power, something we don't often see at 105lbs. Going forward the one issue will be a question of how much weight he can add to his frame, and at just over 5' he likely doesn't have the frame to hit the weights which get Western attention. Still he looks like a nailed future world champion, and we're really excited to see how his brother, Yudai Shigeoka goes with his career as well.
Kuwahara began his career as a Light Flyweight, but has now moved up to the Flyweight division and the reality is that he's grown into the 112lb weight class. It's fair to say Flyweight is currently a division that lacks in terms of depth, unlike Light Flyweight and Super Flyweight, and there's no reason why Kuwahara can't have a big 2020 and pick up a national or regional title as he climbs towards a potential world title fight in the next year or two.
Nakano looks to be a man with a real understanding of the ring, understands his advantages, and how to use them effectively. He's a very sharp puncher, a smart boxer and although he's certainly not untouchable he minimises the effect of shots when he has to take them. Fighting out of the Teiken gym it's clear he's getting top sparring, and with Kenichi Ogawa, Masaru Sueyoshi and Shuya Masaki there is real talent at the Featherweight and Super Featherweight divisions in the gym. Unlike many youngsters Nakano isn't in love with his power, but knows how to deliver it to head and body.
Although not a big puncher Iwata looks to have enough power in his shots to get the respect of his opponents, and combines that with brilliant footwork, handspeed, movement and a very smart boxing brain. There is obviously a feeling that he will be moved quickly, as most promising Japanese fighters are in the lower weights, and he's already in the JBC rankings, however we don't expect him to be fighting for a title for another year or two due to the depth at 108lbs.
Suzuki looked fantastic on debut, showing great composure, defense, stamina and clean punching to beat the dangerous Antonio Siesmundo last November. Since then he has notched 2 more wins, taking a decision over Filipino Kelvin Tenorio and stopping Kosuke Arioka. After just 3 fights he is already ranked by both the OPBF and the JBC and has proven to a be a strong fighter 140lb, never mind 135lbs.
Limiting this list to 5 was incredibly difficult, given the likes of Ryota Yamauchi, Yuki Yamauchi, Seiya Tsutsumi, Rikito Shiba, Shu Utsuki, Tomoya Ishii, Kuntae Lee, Ryu Horikawa and so many others. What this proves, more than anything, is the depth in Japan and the future is very, very bright for fight fans in the Land of the Rising Sun.
This week hasn't been a week with a huge amount of activity but there was a lot of talking points, some really amazing fights and some great performances. A week where quality certainly made up for a relative lack of quantity.
Fighter of the Week
Bakhodir Jalolov (6-0, 6)*
For the first time since we began doing these awards the Fighter of the Week has been won by someone who didn't fight in a professional bout. Instead it's gone to a man who picked up 4 wins in a week and won the World Amateur Championships. That is Uzbek Super Heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov, who got people talking about the World Amateur Championships in a way that really did bring extra attention to the tournament. We know some are against professionals fighting in amateur tournaments but we've yet to see them have any notable success, that was until Jalolov, who won took gold and show that fighters can do both, pro and amateur boxing.
Performance of the Week
Taku Kuwahara (6-0, 4)
Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara took a big step up in class and dominated Filipino foe Jonathan Refugio over 8 rounds. Kuwahara showed his technical ability, speed and movement against Refugio, who was tough but totally out fought, out boxed, out classed and out-sped. Although not one of the more well known prospects in Japan Kuwahara is making a mark and looks like a youngster who is going to be ready for title fights very soon. His performance here was excellent, and the only thing it missed was a stoppage.
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa
We had some absolutely brilliant fights this past week, but the pick of them was then back and forth 8 round thriller between Masaka Taniguchi and Kai Ishizawa, who faced off in a Japanese title eliminator. Both of these men had a lot to gain from a win, and both fought as if winning was worth everything. The opening round saw both men being rocked, rounds 2-4 saw Taniguchi set a high pace and out box Ishizawa, before Ishizawa began to get close and dropped Taniguchi. The final rounds were all out action and the bout really exceeded all expectations. A truly fantastic fight
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa (Rd 6)
Our fight of the week also gave us the round of the week. The 6th round of the bout was something that was out of a movie. It was 3 minutes of back and forth brutality, both men hammering away with bombs. Whilst Minimumweights often have a reputation for not being able to punch both of these guys were rocked in the round, and both were fighting at such an incredible pace that you couldn't catch your breath.
Notable - Kento Matsuoka vs Suguru Ishikawa (Rd4)
Bakhodir Jalolov KO1 Richard Torrez
The big fuss this week was whether amateur fighters should be allowed to fight in the amateurs, with the WBC stating they shouldn't due to one brutal incident. That was the opening round KO win for Bakhodir Jalolov, who took out Richard Torrez in frightening fashion. The 20 year Torrez, one of the big hopes for the US, had won his first 2 bouts in World Amateur Championships and reached the Quarter finals where he faced Jalolov. With less than a 20 seconds of the round left the lanky Uzbek landed a booming left hand that put Torrez down hard. Whether you're in the camp of not letting pro's in amateur tournaments or not, one thing is clear, this was a KO of the Year contender.
Notable-Froilan Saludar KO8 Tsubasa Murachi
Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Japanese-Afghan Kudura Kaneko scored one of his best win to date as he stopped veteran Moon Hyon Yun, a man who had never been stopped and was pretty much known for his toughness. Kaneko boxed well behind his jab to begin with, then been Yun at his own game, fighting on the inside and breaking down the veteran. The stoppage seemed questionable, but it felt very inevitable that Kaneko was going to beat and stop Yun. Kaneko might not be well known internationally but we have a feeling that a lot of fans will hear a lot about him over the next 12-24 months. He is a class fighter, with a great back story and a very easy to watch style.
Notable - Carl Jammes Martin
Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (14-0, 11)
Unbeaten men colliding in a world titlke eliminator is always a good thing, and next week end we see just that as South African Azinga Fuzile takes on Russian based Tajik Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a bout that has all the ingredients to be something very special. The styles should gel, both men will be out there for a win and both are solid punching fighters with sound boxing skills. This might not be an all out war, but should be a very compelling, high tempo and hard hitting battle.
After a flurry of activity over the past few days we now head into the back stretch of the month and it's another busy stretch, with some excellent match ups coming up.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Touted Ohashi gym prospect Taku Kuwahara is regarded highly in Japan but has yet to step up. That changes on September 17th when he takes on experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio in a big step up. This should serve as a genuine test for Kuwahara, who has shown touches of brilliance, but is certainly not a gimme for the unbeaten man as he goes against a foe who has given world class fighters decent competition.
Yusaku Kuga (18-3-1, 12) vs Yosuke Fujihara (18-6, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga will be looking to make his first defense of his second reign as he takes on the experienced, but limited, Yosuke Fujihara. On paper this looks a pretty even looking match up, but in reality should be little more than a showcase defense for the champion, who is a monster at the domestic level. We suspect Kuga runs through a brave Fujihara in only a handful of rounds.
Tsubasa Murachi (4-0, 3) Vs Froilan Saludar (30-3-1, 21) - Tokyo, Japan
A really good match up will see fast rising Japanese youngster Tsubasa Murachi take on former world title challenger Froiland Saludar in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. For Murachi this is a huge step up, a bit like the previously mentioned Kuwahara, though he has shown touches of being a fantastic young prospect and his team clearly have a lot of belief in him. Saludar has proven to not be world class, but he's certainly a good gate keeper type fighter and all 3 of his losses have come to world class opposition. A win for Murachi puts him on the fringes of the world rankings whilst a win for Saludar keeps his career alive, a very important bout.
Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) vs Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
In a Japanese eliminator at Minimumweight we'll see former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi take on Japanese Youth champion Kai Ishizawa. For Taniguchi this is not a bout he can afford to lose, following a loss earlier this year to Vic Saludar, and the talented Watanabe gym fighter has lost 3 of his most significant bout to date. On the other hand this is a massive step up in class for Ishizawa, and it could end up being too much too soon for the youngster. Ishizawa has looked good so far, but his aggression is crude and he may be a fight or two away from being polished enough to take on someone like Taniguchi. This should be very exciting, and very hard hitting.
Wakako Fujiwara (8-3-2, 3) vs Yoshie Wakasa (6-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
The in form Wakako Fujiwara looks to defend her OPBF Female Bantamweight title, as she takes on the once beaten Yoshie Wakasa. Both enter this bout on the back of a loss, though it's worth noting that Fujiwara's loss came at Super Featherweight to world champion Hyun Mi Choi, whilst Wakasa lost in a domestic Bantamweight title fight to Miyo Yoshida. Fujiwara should be strongly favoured, but Wakasa is going to be there to win and could make for a very tough challenge.
Miki Mitsuda (5-5, 4) vs Kimika Miyoshi (13-12-1, 5) - Osaka, Japan
Ina Japanese female Featherweight title bout Miki Mitsuda takes on veteran Kimika Miyoshi. Mitsuda will be looking to make her first defense of the title, following her title win in April against Asami Jinnari, and she is in good form, going 4-1 in her last 5. Miyoshi is a multi-weight OPBF champion, but has not lost her last 4 and is more than 3 years removed from her last win. This should be a competitive bout, but we can't see it really getting much attention given the limitations of both fighters.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (16-0-0-2, 13) vs Miguel Vazquez (41-8, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Unbeaten Kazakh Batyrzhan Jukembayev takes on his biggest test so far as he battles Mexican fighter Miguel Vazquez, himself a former IBF Lightweight champion. The aggressive Jukembayev has been screaming for a serious test for a while now and here he's getting one against a very talented, though some what faded Vazquez. At his best Vazquez was a real nightmare to fight, and whilst he's still talented he has shown signs of slipping in recent years. Jukambayev isn't the most polished, and we expect the Canadian based Kazakh to struggle at times, but youth and power should be enough to earn him a win here.
Batyr Akhmedov (7-0, 6) Vs Mario Barrios (24-0, 16) - Los Angeles, USA
The WBA have created a new title at Light Welterweight and look to fill it as Uzbek born, Russian based puncher Batyr Akhmedov takes on in form American Mario Barrios, in what should be a hard hitting and exciting contest. On paper neither of these men will be in the top 10 in the division, and neither would be ready to face the WBA "super" champion Regis Prograis, but the styles of the two men involved should make for a sensational battle. Back in the day this would have been a brilliant eliminator type bout, and it's a shame in many ways that the bout is instead for a secondary title. Saying that however it should still be a great fight and well worth tuning in for.
This past week has been an interesting one in many ways. The quantity of shows has dropped off, noticeably, but the quality was high through out with two major Japanese cards from the Korakuen Hall as well as several other noteworthy cards.
Fighter of the Week
Ryo Sagawa (8-1, 4)
On Friday we had a hugely anticipated show at the Korakuen Hall, featuring a number of notable Japanese fighters, with many of them being in ultra competitive contests. The man who won the most significant of those was Ryo Sagawa, who defeated Reiya Abe for the Japanese Featherweight title. The bout was an ultra competitive contest over 10 excellent rounds, and for Sagawa it completes a remarkable run of results, which also includes a win over Ryo Matsumoto and Al Toyogon. Given how close it was it keeps Abe in the title mix, but Sagawa is well deserving of the Fight of the Week award, and we expect to see him in some much bigger bouts in the coming years.
Performance of the Week
Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4)
Japanese fighter Masanori Rikiisi isn't someone Western fans will be too aware of, though they may see his name breaking into the world rankings sooner rather than later, especially his match makings, and this weeks performance. The unheralded 25 year old stepped up massively to take on his first non-Asian opponent, and completely schooled Nicaraguan Freddy Fonseca. Fonseca is best known by American fans for losing earlier in the year to the Jo Jo Diaz, and whilst Rikiishi couldn't stop Fonseca he did drop him twice and totally dominate him over 8 rounds to secure his best win to date.
Saemi Hanagata 915-7-4, 7) Vs Nao Ikeyama (18-6-4, 5) III
After 2 thrilling bouts, both of which ended in draws, we got exactly what expected when Saemi Hanagata and Nao Ikeyama took to the ring to end their trilogy. From the first round to the last this was an engaging, competitive bout, that never seemed easy to score and always looked like both fighters felt they had what it took to take home the win. We love competitive back and forth and this was just that, even if neither fighter had the power to hurt the other. The momentum shifts, action and gelling of styles between these two is great, and it's a shame their rivalry now seems to be over after 30 extremely competitive rounds.
Note - Unfortunately the A-Sign card hasn't been made available, had been out there there's a good chance that 3 bouts from that card would have been in the mix for this award.
Ayaka Miyao vs Monserrat Alarcon (Rd 10)
Fans of female boxing were treat this past week. Not only did they have the big Amanda Serrano Vs Heather Hardy bout in the US but there was also a Japanese card that completely focused on female boxing. The card didn't get a lot of attention, but it should have given the quality of action on the show. The highlight for us was the final round of the WBA Atomweight title bout between Ayaka Miyao and Monserrat Alarcon. This was a sensational round of action, with so much leather thrown as both fighters tried to secure victory in an incredibly close bout. If you like female boxing this is well worth hunting down.
Note-As with the fight of the week some of the best rounds haven't yet been made available to watch due to one of the cards being put on a tape delay to much later in the month.
Muhammad Waseem KO1 Conrado Tanamor
Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem had been out of the ring for over a year until returning in a cameo on Friday in Dubai. The cameo was very short, lasting just over a minute with Waseem taking out Filipino fighter Conrado Tanamor with a brutal body shot. The bout was a mismatch, but the shot was still a beauty and it's clear that if Waseem can shake some ring rust, against a decent opponent, he could well find himself back in the world title mix before the end of the end of 2020.
Iskander Kharsan (7-0, 6)
Unbeaten US based Kazakh prospect Iskander Kharsan has some how remained under the radar despite showing the potential to be someone very special. That ability, power punching and confidence was on show this weekend when he stopped Isidro Ochoa in the 5th round. The Kazakh youngster applied intelligent pressure and sharp punching to take control, dropping Ochoa in round 5 with an excellent straight right hand. Ochoi, to his credit, saw out the round but retired in the corner as Kharsan picked up best win to date.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7)
There are a number of solid bouts coming up over the next week or so, but the one that really stands out is a match up between fast rising Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara and experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio. On paper this is a massive step up for Kuwahara, but the body punching phenom from the Ohashi gym is tipped for big things and will be expected take home the win here. Refugio is no world beater, but the Filipino is a durable, skilled and tough fighter, who can do enough to test rising hopefuls. This should be a great chance to see just how good Kuwahara is, and how quickly the Ohashi team can move him.
After a relatively quiet month of June we see things really pick up in July, with what looks to be a truly hectic schedule. We though May was busy but even the craziness of May could end up playing second fiddle to June which features everything we could ever ask for.
It's fair to say that March was a spotty month, with some real ups and downs, and little in terms on consistency. April however looks to be a month packed with great fights through the month, particularly in Japan where things really are a bit crazy!
April 6th-Naoya and Takuma. The champion is a true veteran, who won the Rookie of the Year more than a decade ago, and has battled through the Japanese scene the hard way. Inoue on the other hand was a touted amateur who has been avoided at times on the domestic stage, but will see this as a great chance to announce himself as a rising star. The styles of the men should make for a very special fight.
Young Japanese talent really is coming through the ranks at an alarming rate, and a lot of it is signed to a handful of major gyms. One of those gyms that is now signing up fantastic fighters on a regular basis is the Ohashi Gym, lead by former world champion Hideyuki Ohashi. In recent years the gym has developed Naoya Inoue into an internationally recognised star and other fighters are joining the gym in the hope of making their name on the international stage as well.
Among those coming through the ranks is 23 year old Light Flyweight Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) [桑原拓], who looks like he will be the next fighter at the gym to be fast tracked to a title, and to making his mark on a wider stage.
Kuwahara began boxing at a young age and ran up a reported amateur record of 50-18, winning several notable titles along the way, including the 2013 National Light Flyweight crown.
He would join up with the Ohashi gym in 2018 and pass a B license pro-test before making his debut in May, on the same show that saw Kenshiro retain the WBC Light Flyweight title against Ganigan Lopez and saw Naoya Inoue defeat Jamie McDonnell to claim the WBA "regular" Bantamweight title. Although Kuwahara was only up against Indonesian journeyman Mochamad Sholimin he still impressed, stopping the visitor inside a round.
Kuwhara would face an Indonesian foe in his second bout as well, blitzing Ardi Tefa in 46 seconds last September.
Having stopped a pair of Indonesian foes Kuwahara was then matched against fellow unbeaten Japanese hopeful Takamori Kiyama, himself a former amateur standout and a very talented southpaw hope. This was a much better test of Kuwahara's skill, but a bout that really allowed Kuwahara to showcase his skills, as he took a clear 8 round decision win over the talented Kiyama, proving not only that he was skills, sharp, and could move but also that he could fight for 8 rounds, at a good pace. As a result of going 8 rounds Kuwahara answered some questions about his stamina and engine, whilst leaving many talking about just how promising he looked, and in fairness how talented Kiyama was.
At the moment it's unclear when Kuwahara will return to the ring to kick his 2019 off, but it's expected that he will be fighting for titles by the end of 2020, at the very latest. In fact we wouldn't be surprised to see him fighting for a belt this year, just given his natural talent, and how the Ohashi have allowed their talented youngsters to be fast tracked in recent years.
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