It’s fair to say that January is usually a quiet month but this January is particularly quiet, with bouts really not being lined up for much of the month, we’ve already seen two scheduled bouts being cancelled due to Covid19 related issues. Despite that we do still have some stuff to be excited about, so let's take a look at what we’ve got coming up this month, and it is very much a prospect heavy month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) vs Takuma Inoue (13-1, 3)
The first genuinely big bout set to take place in Asia will be on January 14th as OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara looks to defend his title against Takuma Inoue. The bout is a genuinely good looking one and will see Kurihara’s power and aggression against the toughness and skills of Inoue. With both men entering the bout world ranked the winner of this will be banging on the door of a world title fight, and we wouldn't be surprised at all by them landing a really big, international level, fight at the end of the year.
Katsuki Mori (7-0, 1) vs Sora Takeda (6-1, 1)
Highly skilled prospect Katsuki Mori looks to continue building his reputation as he takes on Sora takeda, in a battle between two former Rookie of the Year winners. Mori has received a lot of praise since breaking through in 2019, though with only a single bout in 2020 his career needs a big shot in the arm in 2021. Takeda on the other hand won Rookie of the Year in 2018, and has sadly seen his momentum slow with just 2 bouts since then. The winner of this will begin a move towards a potential Japanese Youth title bout, but could take a year or two for either man to land their first title fight.
Keisuke Matsumoto (1-0, 1) Vs Bejita Ishikawa (3-12-2, 1)
Touted Japanese third generation fighter Keisuke Matsumoto will be looking to record his second win as a professional as he takes on Dragonball Z inspired fighter Bejita Ishikawa, who is well known for his Vegeta styled entrance attire. Matsumoto is very highly regarded and his father was a multi time world title challenger, though he’ll want a better performance than his debut, which saw him being dropped before he stopped Hironori Miyake. Ishikawa shouldn’t provide much of a test here, but he is a unique fighter and certainly has popularity that exceeds his ability.
Ryutaro Nakagaki (1-0, 1) vs Yuji Okinori (10-5-2, 3)
Another prospect looking for their second win is former amateur stand out Ryutaro Nakagaki, who will be looking to build on a successful debut in a notable step up in class, as he takes on the experienced Yuji Okinori. Although perhaps not a big internationally there is very high expectations on Nakagaki in Japanese, after an excellent amateur career, and given how he looked on debut the 21 year old Super Flyweight hopeful really does seem to have the potential to go a very, very long way in the sport. Okinori is a very credible opponent for Nakagaki this early in his career, but it’s hard to see anything but a Nakagaki win.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Riku Nagahama (12-2-1, 4) Vs Ryota Toyoshima (12-2-1, 8) - OPBF Welterweight title
The second OPBF title fight of 2021 will see Riku Nagahama seek his first defense as he faces off with the heavy handed Ryota Toyoshima. Nagahama, who holds the OPBF Welterweight title, won the belt in 2020 but has had to wait almost a year to defend it. Although not the biggest puncher Nagahama does have a fan friendly style and does get involved in a tear, even if that’s not the best idea for him. Toyoshima is a more patient fighter than Nagahama, but he’s certainly a bigger puncher and he has very under-rated and sneaky body shots in his arsenal. This could, legitimately, turn out to be a genuine war for the OPBF title and could be a gem in a month where big bouts are few and far between.
Jukiya Iimura (0-0) Vs Daisuke Yamada (6-5, 1)
Whilst there is a lack of big bouts there are a lot of prospects in action over the coming days and one of those is Jukiya Iimura, who went 68-13 in the amateurs. He’ll be getting introduced to professional bout with a bout against the solid Daisuke Yamada, in what should be a solid test for the debuting Flyweight.
Jun Ikegawa (0-0) Vs Kakeru Yoshikawa (4-1-2)
Another debutant looking to make a mark in January is Jun Ikegawa, who went 51-15 in the unpaid ranks. The skilled Ikegawa looks to be in a very solid debut match up as he takes on Kakeru Yoshikawa. The 22 year old Ikegawa is tipped for success and will be looking to make his mark at 122lbs. Yoshikawa is a very credible opponent, and his only loss was a split decision back in July 22017. This is not a gimmie for Ikegawa!
Yugo Kon (0-0) Vs Koji Tsurumi (4-3-1, 1)
One other debutant on this show to make a note of is Yugo Kon. He went a less than spectacular 23-11 in the amateur ranks but is regarded as a long term prospect and we should see him being asked genuine questions by Koji Tsurumi, who is better than his record suggests.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Kosuke Saka (20-5, 17) Vs Takuya Watanabe (37-9-1, 21)
In another potential hidden gem Japanese Super Featherweight champion Kosuke Saka will take on Takuya Watanabe, and this may well end up being a genuinely brutal war. Saka is an aggressive, heavy handed and exciting fighter, but one who can also be super inconsistent. Despite being hot and cold Saka looked fantastic in his 2019 title winning performance, smashing Masaru Sueyoshi in 5 rounds. Watanabe on the other hand is a super tough, technical warrior who tends to box well, but is much more well known for his ability to genuinely fight. Watanabe’s bouts with Jaesung Lee and Taiki Minamoto showed his toughness and he will have to dip into that again here.
Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14)
Another Japanese title fight will see Yusaku Kuga defending his JBC Super Bantamweight title against Gakuya Furuhashi. For Kuga this is a must win after being taken out in a regional title fight by Jhunriel Ramonal at the end of 2019. Although talented Kuga has been in a number of tough wars, and bouts against the likes of Ryoichi Tamura, Shingo Wake and Yasutaka Ishimoto may well have aged him. As for Furuhashi the 33 year old challenger will know it’s now or never after coming up short in two previous Japanese title fights. Style wise Furuhashi is a grinder, who throws a lot and lacks 1-punch fight changing power, again Kuga his style may be his undoing, or it could lead to an early FOTY contender.
Koki Mioya (8-1-2, 2) v Tentaro Kimura (5-0-2)
In a B class tournament final the once beaten Koki Mioya takes on Tentaro Kimura, in what should be a very evenly matched and exciting 5 rounder. This bout, unlike many, has gotten a lot of interest for what is, for all intents, a lower level Japanese bout, with neither fighter being regarded as a major prospect. Both as popular fighters and the bout is being regarded as one that could end up delivering a lot of action. Fans in the west may overlook this one, but it is genuinely generating plenty of buzz among the hardcore Japanese fans.
Shu Utsuki (7-0, 6) v Masashi Wakita (10-10-2, 5)
In an A Class tournament final the fast rising, and heavy handed, Japanese Lightweight hopeful Shu Utsuki will battle Masashi Wakita. This looks like a mismatch on paper and we suspect it will be, but it will still be great to see Utsuki back in the ring, and there’s a real chance of him getting involved in the Japanese title mix in the next 12 to 24 months. Utsuki is a very nasty and serious puncher, and that is likely to be too much for Wakita, who’s been a genuine servant to Japanese boxing over the years.
Yokasta Valle (20-2, 9) Vs Sana Hazuki (8-4-1, 2)
In a surprising world title fight we’ll see OPBF Minimumweight champion Sana Hazuki challenge IBF champion Yokasta Valle near the end of the month. This bout was only announced in January, after Valle had numerous issues securing a unification fight with WBC champion Tina Rupprecht. Valle will be the heavy, heavy favourite, though there is, maybe, a chance she has looked past Hazuki, who really shouldn’t be much of a taste for the Costa Rican world champion.
Manual Artime Community Center Theater, Miami, Florida, USA
Fazliddin Meliboev (0-0) vs Javonn Davis (3-0-1, 3)
Back to debutants we have talented Uzbek 24 year old Fazliddin Meliboev kicking off his career towards the end of January as he takes on unbeaten American Javonn Davis. Meliboev isn’t one of the elite level Uzbek amateurs we’ve seen making their name on the professional ranks in recent years but he was a very credible amateur and showed real potential in the WSB. He’ll come into this bout as an unknown, but we suspect he has the tools to overcome Davis, who has been fighting at a very, very low level so far.
Kozimbek Mardonov (0-0) vs Chown Sims (5-1, 2)
Another Uzbek making his debut is the touted 23 year old Kozimbek Mardonov, who won shone at the 2019 Military Games in Wuhan. On paper Mardonov looks to be in a serious test here as he goes up against 25 year old American Chown Sims. Sims is unbeaten in his last 3, and has taken a couple of cherry’s since beginning his professional career. He was, however, stopped in 2019 by Ty McLeod and we suspect Mardonov will have too much, in what could be a debut to remember for a very promising young Uzbek.
Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
Sadriddin Akhmedov (11-0, 10) vs Stephen Danyo (17-3-3, 6)
Highly regarded Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov will return to the ring after well over a year out as he takes on Dutch fighter Setephen Danya in a bout for 4 minor titles. The excellent Akhmedov has been one of the most promising Kazakh fighters in recent years and he seems to have it all, with skills, power, stamina, a solid boxing brain and a solid promoter behind him. Given what we’ve seen of Akhmedov the view is that he’s one of the men heading towards world titles. Danyo on the other hand has never been stopped, he’s proven himself as a tough nut and he does have the durability and experience to test the Kazakh youngster, especially given his length lay off. This should be a real good test for Akhmedov, but if he’s as good as we think he should take a very clear win.
Luzhniki, Moscow, Russia
Bektemir Melikuziev (6-0, 5) Vs Sergey Kovalev (34-4-1, 29)
Unbeaten Uzbek destroyer Bektemir Melikuziev is set to take a massive step up in class at the end of the month as he takes on former multi-time Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. With many tipping the “Bully” to be a future world champion this is the sort of test that will help fast track him to a title, and could be a shrewd bit of match making, or a case of biting off too much too soon. Kovalev has been on the slide for a while, and he no longer looks like the “Krusher” who dismantled the likes of Jean Pascal, but with his power and with a Russian crowd behind him he is very much a live under-dog here. On paper this is a real test for Melikuviez, but if he’s as good as we, and many others, think he could end up retiring Kovalev. Interestingly for Kovalev this will be his first bout since his 2019 loss to Saul Alvarez and at 37 father time may well be just as much of an enemy as Melikuziev. Potentially one of the smartest bits of matchmaking we’ll see in 2021, or a big mistake by Melikueziev’s team.
So we've just had the latest week of fights and whilst it's been a great week overall we've decided to look at The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from the last 7 days of Asian Boxing.
1-Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire - in the Ring
We all know that this wasn't the match up that fans were really pining for in the final, but my god did it every deliver, over-deliver, and then deliver again. What was supposed to be a mismatch in favour of the monster ended up being the bout that allowed him to answer far more questions than anyone would have anticipated, and gave us a FOTY contender in the process. This was brilliant, and despite the injuries Inoue suffered I doubt either man would want to go back in time and undo what they did here.
2-Naoya Inoue Vs Nonito Donaire - out of the Ring
Whilst the fight it's self was amazing we also need to talk about the out of the ring situation with the fight. From the WBSS draw in 2018 to fight, and afterwards in fact, the two men showed nothing less than full respect to each other. They were classy in the build up and classy afterwards. Inoue notably let Donaire borrow the Muhammad Ali trophy to show his children and Donaire seemed genuinely disappointed to learn that Inoue had suffered several facial fractures. The bout proved that boxing doesn't need fake beef to sell a fight if the fight is good enough. The fact this fight was trending around the world shows what happens when fans actually want a fight, rather than being sold something they aren't too bothered by. Promoters need to learn from this!
3-Takuya Watanabe Vs Taiki Minamoto
It wasn't all about the WBSS final, and the fact that we got an 8 round thriller between Takuya Watanabe and Taiki Minamoto was an added bonus on Saturday. This bout, which was a Japanese title eliminator, was absolutely brilliant and had it come on nearly any other week we'd have been raving about it more in this article. This is again what happens when well matched fighters face off, and have a reason to give their all. Whilst this is tucked away on Boxing Raise, for those who missed it, it again shows the incredible quality of Japanese domestic match ups and was another brilliant eliminator, coming only weeks after the Minimumweight tear up between Masataka Taiguchi and youngster Kai Ishizawa.
1- Kenya Yamashita pulls out of God's Left Tournament
The much anticipated God's Left Bantamweight semi-final between Seiya Tsutsumi and Kenya Yamashita was cancelled the night before the weigh in when Yamashita was taken to hospital for "poor physical condition", code words for dehydration caused by trying to lose weight. We really though Yamashita Vs Tsutsumi was going to be special, so to see the bout cancelled at such show notice can't be regarded as anything but bad.
2-Japanese TV ignores Shokichi Iwata vs Alejandro Cruz Valladares
In the US DAZN subscribers had the chance to see the 6 round Light Flyweight bout between Shokichi Iwata and Alejandro Cruz Valladares, yet Japanese didn't. Whilst we understand the main Fuji TV broadcast not showing the bout due to time constraints, they actually went over the scheduled time limit with what they did show causing some issues with recording and downloading software, we don't understand why WOWOW didn't show it on Saturday. Iwata is a huge talent, this was a fun fight, and this should have been a great chance to show what the 23 year old youngster can do. A real missed opportunity.
3-Silem Serang pulls out
We're not 100% what happened with Silem Serang but he pulled out of a bout on Saturday causing a cancellation in the ring return of former OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura. We were looking forward to seeing what Koura was going to be like after being beaten up and battered last time out, in a huge upset loss to Lito Dante, but it now seems like we may need to wait until 2020 to see the once touted Koura in action again.
1-Alejandro Rochin and Robert Hoyle
We suspect this feature will be full of issues with judges going forward, though we don't imagine many judges will leave us scratching our heads as much as Alejandro Rochin and Robert Hoyle have this week. Rochin, some how, had the Nordine Oubaali Vs Takuma Inoue bout a shut out at 120-107, a score that nobody else could possibly have come to if they were watching the bout. Hoyle on the other hand had Naoya Inoue beating Nonito Donaire by a single point, 114-113, essentially needing the 11th round knockdown to take the win on his card. Thankfully both judges got the right winner, but both of those cards are just awful, and both judges should be forced to explain how they got to their tallies.
2-Jon Jon Jet gets taken out
In an ugly, yet beautiful moment, we saw previously unbeaten Indonesian prospect Jon Jon Jet lose his unbeaten record and suffer one of the most visually stunning KO losses of 2020. The then 10-0 (8) Jet was left out cold on the canvas by Aussie puncher Luke Boyd (now 8-0, 8). Whilst it wasn't great to see Boyd celebrating before we knew Jet was fine, it's hard to complain too much about the Aussie. What was ugly though the length of time Jet was down, and we do need to wonder if he will ever be quite the same fighter again. This really was up there with the most nasty KO's we've seen this year.
It took until Tuesday for Sky Sports to confirm they were airing the WBSS final bout, which was taking place just 2 days later! Whilst we know the bout it's self was on an awkward day for UK fans, with Thursday being a typical work day, there was no excuse to not give fans a genuine chance to watch it. The fight should have been signed and sorted the previous week, at the latest, giving many fans the required 1 weeks notice to request a day off work to watch the bout. It was great for Sky to pick it up, but given they had covered the previous WBSS final and Inoue's previous bout, it very much feels like they shot themselves in the foot and reduced the amount of fans watching. It was also odd that they didn't manage to pick up the co-feature bout between Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali.
Sandwiched between an awesome October and a brilliant looking December is a somewhat more normal November. It's not a bad month, by any stretch, but it does look a lot less interesting than the month that has come before it, and the month that is set to follow it. Despite that it does start in amazing fashion with a very hectic start to the month!
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) Vs Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (21-1, 15) -California, USA
Jerwin Ancajas looks for his next defense of the IBF Super Flyweight world title as he takes on Mexican challenger Javier Rodriguez. The talented Ancajas should have no problem at all with the Mexican, who has just a single win of note on his record, though we do wonder what motivation Ancajas has after a string of less than great challengers. He's a very talented fighter, but he needs to question why his team aren't matching him with any of the other notable fighters in the division.
Hiroki Okada (19-1, 13) Vs Javier Molina (20-2, 8) - California, USA
Japan's Hiroki Okada returns to the US for his third bout in the country as he takes on 2008 Olympian Javier Molina. For Okada the bout will be his first since being stopped by Ray Beltran in a thriller earlier this year, and it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back from that loss. For Molina the bout will be seen as a very winnable one, and a chance for him to continue a nice little winning run that's been going for a coupel of years. Neither man can really afford a loss here and so we're expecting a very good contest.
Romero Duno (21-1, 16) Vs Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15) - Las Vegas, USA
Months after the bout was first touted we now get Romero Duno against Ryan Garcia, in what looks like a mouth watering clash. The Filipino is a huge puncher, but technically rough around the edges, a bit crude and open and not particularly polished in how he fights. Garcia on the other hand is a talented pretty boy, who has a very flash and quick style. It'll be Duno's heavy hands against the speed and combinations of Garcia, in what could be one of the most intriguing bouts of the month.
Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8) vs Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13) - Las Vegas, USA
Talented Kazakh Meiirim Nursultanov looks to continue his unbeaten record as he faces off with Cristian Olivas, a very tough guy. Nursultanov will be going into this with momentum behind him and will know that if he keeps winning a big fight will come his way, but this is legitimately a tough one. Olivas has lost his last 3 but has never been stopped, is tough and rugged and will see this as a great chance to pick up a win against a touted prospect. We expect to see Nursultanov have to work for the win here.
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9) Vs Koki Koshikawa (9-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The once beaten Hironobu Matsunaga will look to make his first defense of the Japanese Light Middleweight title as he goes up against Koki Koshikawa. The talented Matsunaga has rebuilt amazingly well following a loss, years ago, to Yuki Beppu in the Rookie of the Year final and his current run has been excellent. Koshikawa on the other hand was tipped for success when he turned professional but has yet to really live up to the expectations put on his shoulders when he began his pro career. On paper this is a decent bout and we expect it to be even better in the ring. This could be a very fun title bout.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-5-2, 8) Vs Yuto Shimizu (13-4-2, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Interestingly the Japanese Middleweight title bout is joined on the same show by a Japanese Light Middleweight title eliminator, as former champion Nobuyuki Shindo takes on Yuto Shimizu. Both of these are big Light Middleweights, at least by Japanese standards, though they have very different styles. Shindo a very rangy southpaw who will look to back off the back foot, whilst Shimizu is a more come-forward slugger. We don't expect this to be a great gelling of styles, but it should be a compelling match up and both men will be battling hard to secure a Japanese title fight at the Champion Carnival in 2020.
East Japan Rookie of the Year finals - Tokyo, Japan
We won't go into all the bouts, but Korakuen Hall plays host to the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals and there are a number of excellent match ups on this card. The show is full of promising young fighters and this should be a very good watch, albeit on tape delay a week later.
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) vs Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26) - Saitama, Japan
The biggest bout of the month, by far, will see the IBF/WBA Bantamweight titles being unified in WBSS final between unbeaten Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue and Filipino icon Nonito Donaire. This bout is one of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 and whilst it's taken a long time to get to the bout it's still a huge contest, and has sold out the venue weeks in advance. The winner of this will be seen as the de fact #1 in the division, though we wouldn't be surprised to see the winner move up in weight in 2020. This is a huge bout, and something we're really looking forward to.
Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) vs Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) - Saitama, Japan
A second Bantamweight title bout will see WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali take on interim champion Takuma Inoue. This is a fantastic match up and will put two very skilled, though often over-looked, fighters against each other. For Oubaali the bout will be his second defense whilst Inoue will be fighting for the first time since winning the interim title back in December, though has been out some of that time due to an injury. Whilst this bout will be over-shadowed by the WBSS bout we do expect a fantastic, high skilled and very good match up between two legitimate top 10 Bantamweights.
As we into the middle of December we need to remember there's a lot to look forward in the back end of the month. Here we take a look at the final week or so of the month.
If you missed part 1 that's available here - What's to come in December...Part 1 and part 2 is here - What's to come in December...Part 2
All Japan Rookie of the Year Finals - Tokyo, Japan
Professional boxing's biggest annual tournament comes to a close on December 23rd in Tokyo, as we see the latest All Japan Rookie of the Year champions being crowned. The tournament might not make much of a mark internationally but it puts the winners on the fast track to domestic success and with the whole card being shown live on G+ it goes us a brilliant pre-Christmas being treat.
Keita Kurihara (12-5, 11) Vs Yuki Strong Kobayashi (14-7, 8) - Osaka, Japan
The final major bout for us before Christmas comes from Osaka and sees the hard hitting Keita Kurihara take on Yuki Strong Kobayashi for the vacant OPBF Bantamweight title. The match up is a solid looking lower tier match up, though what needs to be noted is that both men are better than their records suggest, with both suffering a number of defeats early in their careers, and to good fighters. We're expecting a hard hitting affair here and it should be very exciting.
Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12) Vs Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10) - Tokyo, Japan
After a little bit of a break for Christmas big action returns on December 30th, as we run towards an explosive end to 2018. One of 3 title bouts on the penultimate day of the year will see Masayuki Ito make his first defence of the WBO Super Featherweight title, as he takes on unbeaten mandatory challenger Evgeny Chuprakov. A win here will open up some big fights for Ito in the new year, and he has stated that he intends to return to the US, where he won the title, to make future defenses. For Chuprakov the bout is a big step up in class, but he is certainly a live challenger.
Kenshiro (14-0, 8) Vs Saul Juarez (24-8-2, 13) - Tokyo, Japan
The longest reigning Japanese champion Kenshiro will also be on the December 30th card, defending his WBC Light Flyweight title against Mexican veteran Saul Juarez. Kenshiro has been incredibly impressive recently, beating the likes of Ganigan Lopez, Pedro Guevara and Milan Melindo, and this looks like a step backwards, unfortunately. Juarez is a good fighter, or rather was a good fighter, but his form has been less than great recently and he is 2-4-2 in his last 8 bouts. Juarez, at his best, would be a good opponent for Kenshiro, but he looks to be beyond his best, even if he is only 28.
Takuma Inoue (12-0, 3) Vs Petch Sor Chitpattana (48-0, 33) - Tokyo, Japan
The third major bout on December 30th will see the unbeaten pairing of Takuma Inoue and Petch Sor Chitpattana facing off for the WBC "Interim" Bantamweight title, a title that's an interim belt whilst the WBC wait to sort out the mess of their vacant "regular" title. This is a brilliant match up, between two talented youngsters, though sadly the politics of the WBC have left this bout feeling less glamorous than it should be. The winner will get a shot at the full WBC title in the new year, if and when the WBC actually get around to crowning an actual champion. With a combined 60-0 record these two do make for an interesting fight, but this is a huge step up in class for the Thai, whilst Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue, has fought a number of world class opponents during his short career.
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13) Vs Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23) - Macau
It's not just December 30th that will be delivering a triple header, but also December 31st, which has one of the very best match ups of the year. The match up in question pits a couple of 3-weight world champions against each other, with Japan's Kazuto Ioka taking on Donnie Neites for the Vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. Both fighters are looking to become only the third man in history to win titles in the lowest 4 weight classes, both are looking to etch their names into the history books and help set up major bouts in 2019. Amazingly this will be the first time Nietes has ever faced a Japanese fighter whilst Ioka hasn't fought a Filipino in over 8 years! We expect to see a lot of skill on show here in what coul be a potential FOTY candidate.
Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) vs Hiroto Kyoguchi (11-0, 8) - Macau
The second best bout on New Year's Eve will see WBA Light Flyweight champion Hekkie Budler defending his title against former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi. This will be Budler's first defense of the title, which he won earlier this year in Japan by out point Ryoichi Taguchi, and he will be facing a stablemate of the man he beat for the belt. For Kyoguchi it's a great chance to become a 2-weight champion and to score a massive win to end the year. A win here for either man will set them up for massive bouts in 2019, with possible unification bouts in the new year.
Moruti Mthalane (36-2, 24) Vs Masahiro Sakamoto (13-1, 9) - Macau
A second South Africa Vs Japan bout will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title against little known Japanese fighter Masahiro Sakamoto. The South African is enjoying his second reign as the IBF champion, having won the title earlier this year in a nail biter against Pakistani fighter Muhammad Waseem, but at the age of 36 we do wonder what he has left, and he certainly looked like he was aging in the final rounds against Waseem. Sakamoto really is only known in boxing circles for losing to Sho Kimura, in a regional title bout, but has impressed since then and is a smart fighter who will know he has the opportunity of a life time here.
For most boxing fans in the west the year effectively comes to an end in mid-December with December 19th and 20th being the final couple of days with notable fights. Whilst we'll admit we're looking forward to a number of those contests, including the bout between Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar and Ruben Tamayo and the contest between Bryan Vasquez and Sergio Thompson, we've got to say they pale in comparison to what comes from the east in the days following.
Sunday December 21st [Tokyo]
The first of the days that we're looking forward to from Japan is more of an event than a single fight. That's because we get the All Japan Rookie of the Year on December 21st with 12 major domestic bouts involving some of the sports possible future stars.
We won't go through all 12 bouts here, we have a special feature coming later in the month regarding that, though it's hard not to get excited about some of those bouts, including a Welterweight clash between the heavy handed Yuki Beppu (7-0, 7) and fellow unbeaten fighter Hironobu Matsunaga (6-0, 3) and a Flyweight contest between Kenya Yamashita (6-0, 4) and Shun Kosaka (9-0).
The show is one of those traditional shows that Japanese boxing holds annually and although the fighters aren't big names they tend to have the ability to progress and numerous Rookie of the Year winners of the past have gone on to win world titles. We'd be shocked if we didn't get at least one world champion from this years batch of winners.
Sunday December 28th [Osaka]
The run in to the new year really kicks off after Christmas and the first of 4 notable cards comes on December 28th as we get 2 very interesting bouts.
The most notable of the bouts is a Japanese Light Middleweight title contest between the talented boxer Yuki Nonaka (26-8-2, 9), the current champion, and former title holder Charlie Ota (24-2-1, 16), who is best known by western fans for putting Jermell Charlo on his backside. The bout might only be a Japanese national title fight but it's an intriguing contest all the same and both men are expected to carry a low world ranking into this bout come fight night giving the bout extra significance.
The chief under-card bout here looks like a genuine thriller as Japan's “KO King” Masao Nakamura (18-2, 18) battles against Filipino tough guy Rey Labao (26-6, 17). Nakamura will be hoping to bounce back from a decision loss to Masayuki Ito and although Labao is tough he should make for a better opponent, stylistically at least, for Nakamura who will be happy to have a war with Labao, who was himself out pointed last time out by Roman Andreev. Don't be surprised if this ends up being an all out war.
Tuesday December 30th [Tokyo] (Fuji TV)
The first, of 3, genuinely huge shows left this year comes on December 30th as Ohashi gym put on what may well be the best show this year. It features another potential FOTY contender and possibly a fight involving a young man who could be the 2014 Fighter of the Year.
The weakest bout on the card, at least in our eyes, is a Middleweight contest between Ryota Murata (5-0, 4) and Jessie Nicklow (24-4-3, 8). When you consider that's probably the worst bout then it really does dawn on you how good this card is. The Murata/Nicklow bout is one of just 2 non-title bouts with the other being a huge step up in class for Takuma Inoue (3-0, 1) who will be fighting former world title challenger Nestor Daniel Narvaes (20-2-2, 9).
In an OPBF title bout the much touted Ryo Matsumoto (12-0, 10) will be fighting against Thailand's world ranked Rusalee Samor (25-5-2, 11) in a bout for the recently vacant OPBF Super Flyweight title. For Matsumoto a win here will likely push him towards a world title bout in 2014 whilst for Samor we suspect he'll defend the belt several times before even thinking about a world title fight.
Talking about world title bouts we get a trio on this show. The lesser of the 3 will see Jorge Linares (37-3, 24) attempting to become a 3-weight world champion as he battles Javier Prieto (24-7-2, 18) for the vacant WBC Lightweight title. This bout is rather weak over-all though should move the winner, we suspect Linares, onto a bout with WBC Emeritus champion Omar Figueroa in what could be a really exciting fight.
What is certain to be an exciting fight is the contest between Akira Yaegashi (20-4, 10) and Pedro Guevara (23-1-1, 15) for the vacant WBC Light Flyweight title. For Yaegashi this is a chance to become a 3-weight world champion though he'll have to go through hell to defeat his Mexican opponent who gave Johnriel Casimero a tough bout in an IBF title fight back in 2012. This has all the ingredients to be a FOTY type of fight and is, in terms of the styles, the most exciting bout in the final days of the year.
Whilst we are massively excited about the contest between Yaegashi and Guevara we're even more excited about this show's main event which will see Japanese wunderkind Naoya Inoue (7-0, 6) battling against WBO Super Flyweight champion Omar Andres Narvaez (43-1-2, 23). This bout will see Inoue moving from Light Flyweight to Super Flyweight and if he wins we suspect he should be the 2014 Fighter of the Year and be a man breaking into the top 10 pound for pound fighters. In Narvaez wins then this will be a genuinely huge win for the Argentinian veteran who has been criticised in recent times for the level of his opposition.
Wednesday December 31st [Tokyo] (TV Tokyo)
The final day of the year really sends us off in brilliant style with 2 separate Japanese shows that deserve a lot of attention.
In Tokyo we get another world title triple header headlined by Super Featherweight kingpin Takashi Uchiyama (21-0-1, 17) who will be defending his WBA world title against Argentinian challenger Israel Hector Enrique Perez (27-2-1, 16). Although the challenger is relatively unknown outside of Argentina he is unbeaten since 2003 and is on a 19 fight unbeaten run. For Uchiyama it will be his return to the ring after a year of inactivity following his hard fought win over Daiki Kaneko. On paper this is a genuine banana skin and a measuring to see just what Uchiyama has left.
The second world title will see 2-time Super Flyweight champion Kohei Kono (30-8, 13) defending his WBA world title against Norberto Jimenez (20-8-3, 10) for the first time. Kono, who won the belt earlier this year stopping Denkaosan Kaovichit, has had a frustrating year due to issues regarding Koki Kameda and will be hoping to take those frustrations out on his 23 year old Dominican foe who is stepping up massively for this fight. Whilst Jimenez is stepping up he is active and this will be his 11th fight in less than 24 months. Like Perez we also see Jimenez coming into the ring on the back of an impressive undefeated streak running back 20 bouts!
The third world title bout in Tokyo is easily the most interesting of the show as former Japanese Light Flyweight national champion Ryoichi Taguchi (20-2-1, 8) steps up to the world level to fight WBA Light Flyweight champion Alberto Rossel (32-8-0-1, 13). This is Taguchi's chance to follow in the footsteps of Kono and Uchiyama, stable mates of his at the Watanabe gym, and to move away from just being “the man Naoya Inoue beat”. For Rossel this will be his toughest bout since he was stopped in 9 rounds by Hugo Fidel Cazares back in October 2010. This is a brilliant match up and should tell us a lot about both men.
Wednesday December 31st [Osaka] (TBS)
On the same day in Osaka we get another 2 world title fights, a Japanese title fight and a world title “prelude”.
The “prelude” will see former 2-weight world champion Kazuto Ioka (15-1, 9) battling against former WBA interim Flyweight champion Jean Piero Perez (20-7-1, 14) in a bout expected to prepare Ioka for a WBA Flyweight world title bout next year. Ioka moved to Flyweight earlier this year though has yet to shine at the weight and will be hoping to have filled into the weight this time around. Perez on the other hand needs a win just to remain relevant in the world of professional boxing given that he has lost his last 2 bouts, both by stoppage. And has won just twice in the last 6 bouts.
The Japanese title fight on this show will see Japanese Super Flyweight champion Sho Ishida (17-0, 9) defending his belt for the first time. The talented Ishida, one of the top prospects at the Ioka gym, will be battling against the relatively unknown Masato Morisaki (9-3-1, 5) in what should be a straight forward defense for the touted champion who has shown some touches of sheer brilliance so far in his career. We suspect that if Ishida wins here, as he should, he'll be moved towards a world title bout in 2015 with opponents like Kono and Inoue both being possibilities, if they both win.
In a bout for the vacant IBF Minimumweight title fans will see the always exciting Katsunari Takayama (27-7-0-1, 10) battle against Japanese compatriot Go Odaira (11-3-3, 1) in what looks likely to be an all-action bout between two men who lack power but have amazing engines and activity. This is unlikely to end in a knock out but should be like watching a boxing equivalent to “Rock em Sock em robots”.
Whilst Takayama and Ioka are both solid names it's fair to say that the attention here will be focused on a Super Bantamweight world title bout between Cuban boxing sensation Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9) and Japan's relatively unknown Hisashi Amagasa (28-4-2, 19). The bout as has been a major talking point since the story was first mentioned and although Rigondeaux will be expected to do a number on his Japanese foe it's still great to see such an internationally regarded fighter travelling to Japan. For Amagasa this is a great chance to make a name for himself and will know it only takes 1 punch to become a star whilst Rigondeaux may be hoping to impress the local fans enough for them to want to bring him back and have him fight the likes of Shingo Wake in what would be an interesting contest.
(Images courtesy of boxmob.jp)
In July 1975 Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin, pictured, shocked the world by winning a world title in just his third professional contest. For much of the last 40 years fans thought that record was an untouchable record, one that would never be beaten and very few fighters would have either the testicular fortitude or skills to even dream about challenging it.
Just this past weekend however a fighter came very close to beating that record. Vasyl Lomachenko (1-1, 1), fighting for just the second time as a professional after a stunning amateur career, was just a single judge away from managing to win the WBO Featherweight world title in his second bout.
Lomachenko's failure to win the world tile might have been "bad" for his legacy and for those hoping to see "history" created that night, though in another way it may have been one of the greatest things to happen in recent memory for professional boxing. Lomachenko's competitive effort signalled that professional novices could hold their own against experienced championship level fighters. Although Lomachenko may have been an exceptional amateur he was still a baby in terms of professional experience and he showed that a fighter doesn't need to have been a professional for years to have world class skills.
In failing to secure the record Lomachenko has actually left the door open to others wanting to tie, or even beat the record.
One man who seems interested in trying to tie the record is Japanese teenage Takuma Inoue (1-0), pictured below, who faces the world ranked Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr (23-2, 15) on April 6th.
Sakkreerin Jr is currently ranked by all 4 organisations and a victory over him would open up doors with any of the WBA, WBC, WBO or IBF. Whilst some of these doors won't be worth trying open for obvious reasons, for example having a champion that you simply wouldn't risk a young novice against, others are very much open. In fact some of these possibilities are so open that it's hard to imagine Inoue refusing to consider them.
At the moment the WBA have a vacant title at Light Flyweight. If Inoue gets past Fahlan in their encounter it's hard to imagine Inoue not being rewarded with a top 5 rankings with the WBA. A top 5 ranking would surely leave Inoue in a position to challenge for either the vacant title, if it's still vacant, or have a shot at the next champion.
It may seem an extreme way to treat an 18 year old but with Inoue holding his own in sparring with WBC Flyweight champion Akira Yaegashi it's hard for Ohashi Gym and Inoue himself not to at least consider trying to tie the world record. He'd be in an ideal position, if he beats Sakkreerin Jr, to tie the record and most importantly he'll know a loss isn't a huge set back. He could easily rebound, like Lomachenko, at either the OPBF or Japanese level and rebuild from their.
Of course there is risk there for Inoue though the youngster will surely be aware that he could cement his place in the history books if he takes the risk and the gamble pays off.
The interesting thing for Inoue though isn't just that he'd be in a position to challenge for a world title in his third fight but that he's the next in the line of Japanese fighter who are swiftly coming through the ranks with ideas of grandeur.
We all know how great Joichiro Tatsuyoshi was and his rapid climb up the ranks back in the early 1990's was brilliant. Though of course his national record was beaten a few years back by Kazuto Ioka. Joichiro's national record had stood for almost 20 years before Kazuto Ioka burst on to the scene and defeated Oleydong Sithsamerchai to break "Jo's" record.
Now, just over 3 years after Ioka set a national record, Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4) is trying to beat Ioka's achievement. If Naoya is successful and claims a world title in his 6th fight, when he battles Adrian Hernandez for the WBC Light Flyweight title, then one must wonder what is next.
For me, and knowing what Takuma has been involved in in the gym, the next step is for Takuma to either get a world title fight in fight #3 or fight #4, if he gets past Sakkreerin Jr.
There is every chance that if Takuma does manage to fight for, and win, a world title in his third bout then more fighters will be looking to try and break the record and claim a world title in their second bout. On paper it's beyond what is currently allowed in Japan, due to domestic rules, but it's a marker set down to suggest that in this day and age Muangsurin's record is there to be challenged, not just admired.
(Pictures courtesy of boxrec and Ohashi Gym)
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