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.
November is very much a top heavy month, starting with pretty the best of what we're going to be getting. Despite there is some solid action in the second week of the month, thanks to a fantastic Dangan card.
Taiki Minamoto (16-5-1, 13) Vs Takuya Watanabe (36-9-1, 21) - Tokyo, Japan
This part of the month has a sensational Japanese Super Featherweight title eliminator
as former Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto takes on the always tough Takuya Watanabe. The hard hitting Minamoto moved up in weight earlier this year, after defending the Featherweight title against Reiya Abe, and will be hoping his concussive power carries up to Super Featherweight. For Watanabe another loss here will likely end his hopes if ever becoming a Japanese champion, but given his style and toughness he certainly has a chance against Minamoto.
Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0, 4) Vs Kenya Yamashita (14-5, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
A potentially thrilling God's Left Bantamweight tournament semi-final
will see the unbeaten Seiya Tsutsumi take on the much more experienced Kenya Yamashita in a bout we're expecting to be short and explosive. Both of these men throw bombs, both are aggressive and exciting and both come to fight. It's worth noting that this will be Tsutsumi's first bout since transferring to the Kadoebi gym though we don't expect them to have tempered his aggressive mentality.
Jin Minamide (4-0, 3) Vs Kuzuki Nakajima (7-0, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The second God's Left Bantamweight tournament semi-final
will be a clash of unbeaten men as the explosive pairing of Jin Minamide and Kazuki Nakajima clash. Both of these men solid amateurs and have been destructive professional fighters so far in their career's. Although Nakajima is the more experienced of the two we feel that Minamide is the more accomplished, and he answered a number of real questions against Tetsu Araki in his tournament quarter final bout. Expect this to be a highly skilled, big hitting war.
Alie Laurel (16-4-1, 10) vs Ernesto Saulong (22-5-2, 9) III - Gumaca, Philppinee
An all Filipino bout for the WBO Oriental Super Bantamweight title will see Alie Laurel take on Ernesto Saulong in a very interesting clash, though one at a sub regional title level. Notably this will be the third clash between the two men, with Sualong having won the first two, and this is supposed to be the final clash between the two Pinoy pugilists.
West Japan Rookie of Year finals- Osaka, Japan
Exactly 1 week after the East Japan Rookie of Year finals we get the West Japan Rookie of the Year finals. As with the show a week earlier we're expect a lot of great action as fighters compete for the chance to become the All Japan Rookie of the Year in December. This is set to be a great card for emerging young fighters, and we would suggest every fight fan keeps an eye on this show, even if the bouts won't be televised until the following week.
Mercito Gesta (32-3-2, 17) Vs Carlos Morales (19-4-3, 8) - California, USA
Former world title challenger Mercito Gesta was upset last time out, when he was stopped by Juan Antonio Rodriguez, suffering his first stoppage loss. Now the 32 year old Filipino is pretty much in the last chance saloon, and another loss would almost certainly spell the end for the southpaw. Morales isn't particularly well known but the 29 year old will know that a win over Gesta will put his name on the map, and although he's the under-dog he is a very, very live fighter here, following competitive bouts with Rene Alvarado and Ryan Garcia. Gesta might be expecting a win here, but we certainly wouldn't be surprised if Morales had too much for him here.
This past week has been an under-the-radar week, with a lot of action, even if there wasn't a lot of headlines. We've had some really interesting and eye catching moments, and it is certainly a week that will go down as being an over-looked one at the end of the year.
Fighter of the Week
Samuel Salva (17-0, 10)
There was a couple of world title eliminators this week and whilst neither really delivered in terms of being a FOTY candidate, it was good to see Samuel Salva put on a career best performance to over-come Rene Mark Cuarto. Salva hadn't looked great in some previous bouts, but the 22 year old showed a lot to like here, and had certainly improved from the fighter that had previous had footage available. Whether he goes all the way or not is yet to be seen, though he is now firmly in the mix for a world title fight.
Performance of the Week
Sadriddin Akhmedov (8-0, 7)
Kazakh fighter Sadriddin Akhmedov has been carving out a real reputation due to his performances in Canada but this week he returned to his motherland and put on a show for the fans in Kazakhstan, beating up tough Indonesian John Ruba. The bout, for a regional title, saw Akhmedov take the fight to Ruba round after round, though was surprisingly taken the 10 round distance. The "Soldier of Q" will have been disappointed in losing his 100% KO rate, but did get a chance to answer any questions about his stamina and work rate. A fantastic showing.
Ricky Sismundo Vs Maxim Dadashev
Although there was a lot of minor fights from Asia one of the most interesting fights from the week to feature an Asian came from the US as Ricky Sismundo took on hard hitting Russian Maxim Dadashev, and really forced the fight to be a good one. The fight won't be recalled as a Fight of the Year contender but had a great momentum swing and come back. In round 2 Sismundo dropped the unbeaten Russian and seemed confident of attacking Dadashev, before being taken out by a huge 2-punch combination in round 4. A very entertaining contest, even if it's nothing that will be remembered highly at the end of the year.
Notable mention - Jon Jon Estrada Vs Vladislav Krasnoshein
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu vs Mike Tawatchai Round 3
We had some great rounds this past week, and one of the best was the third round of the bout between Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu and Mike Tawatchai. The bout overall was 1-sided, with Uulu beating up the Thai veteran, but the 3rd round really saw the Thai gritting his teeth and taking the fight back to Uulu, almost fighting out of desperation. It wasn't an effective tactic for Tawatchai, but did make for some really exciting action before he was broken down.
Roy Nagulman KO2 Angelito Merin
We had a few great KO's this week, including one suffered by Ricky Sismundo, though none was as good as the one score by Filipino teenager Roy Nagulman, who left Angelito Merin out cold, and requiring a stretcher to get out of the ring. The shot that left Merin down was a huge right hand that could not possibly have landed any cleaner. At 17 years old Nagulman looks to be a real prospect and this performance was as much of an eye opener as he team could ever have hoped for.
Yuki Yamauchi (3-0, 2)
Japan's Yuki Yamauchi may not be on the radar of many fight fans yet, despite our recent "Introducing..." article about him, but it's only a matter of time before fans will begin talking about him. He stepped up this week and took the unbeaten record of Claudevan Sese in 3 rounds. Yamauchi could be the best Japanese fighter you're not aware of, and is well worth following. Unlike most Japanese prospects the 23 year old has international amateur experience and fighting at Super Bantamweight he's someone capable of making a big mark on the international stage.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20)
We sometimes get amazing match ups that make us lick our lips in anticipation, despite average fans not caring too much. We think we have one such bout this week, as OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro takes on Takuya Watanabe. This has the potential to be a very, very special bout between two talented fighters. These might not be a world title bout, or even a world title eliminator, but it's a bout we're incredibly excited about and we suspect we'll be getting something very special here.
Whilst March started somewhat quietly it certainly ends with a crescendo of action, thanks to a huge flurry of fights in the last week or so of the month. While they are of varying quality they do come thick and fast!
Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1) Vs Claudevan Sese (7-0-3, 1) - Hyogo, Japan
In a meeting of unbeaten fighters touted Japanese prospect Yuki Yamauchi battles against unbeaten Filipino Claudevan Sese. We're bit on Yamauchi, and this looks like a really good test for the former Japanese amateur standout, even if Sese hasn't shown much in terms of power through his career. It's not a huge bout, by any stretch, but we do love seeing touted amateurs tested and this should be an ideal test for Yamauchi.
Sergey Lipinets (14-1, 10) Vs Lamont Peterson (35-4-1, 17) - Maryland, USA
Kazakh-Russian Sergey Lipinets looks to continue the rebuilding process following his 2018 IBF world title loss to Mikey Garcia. In the opposite corner is another former world champion, Lamont Peterson, himself needing to rebuild from a loss to Errol Spence. This isn't an amazing match up in terms of names but in the ring the styles should gel to provide us with something very exciting and very enjoyable, with the volume and strength of Peterson against the explosive power and ruggedness of Lipinets.
Hironori Mishiro (6-0-1, 2) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20) - Tokyo, Japan
The potential hidden gem of the month will take place on March 27th and will see OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro defending his title against Slver champion Takuya Watanabe. Both of these men are very talented boxers, both can be dragged into a war and both can put on a show. Mishiro is the more natural talent, with amateur polish and the promising prospect tag, but Watanabe is a gritty veteran who has seen it all before. This really could be one of the best bouts of the month.
Wanheng Menayothin (52-0, 18) Vs Tatsuya Fukuhara (21-6-6, 7) II - Thailand
After several changes in regards to the date, we now finally see the rematch between unbeaten WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin and former WBO champion Tatsuya Fukuhara. We though their first bout was incredibly close, actually feeling as if Fukuhara's work rate should have earned him a win, but since then the Japanese fighter has failed to shine. Wanheng however has moved past Floyd Mayweather's 50-0 record and is unlikely to be just giving up the WBC title any time soon. An interesting match up that should tell us a lot about the future of both men.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) Vs Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5) - Shanghai, China
Touted Japanese youngster Ryota Yamauchi takes a huge step up in class, in his first bout away from Japan, as he battles world ranked Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi. The Japanese prospect has impressed from the off, with a couple of notable wins already, but this is a massive leap up in what will be his first bout scheduled for 12 rounds, and to do that in enemy territory shows his confidence. Tuolehazi isn't the most polished of fighters, but he's strong, makes fights ugly and is riding a good winning streak into this, including an excellent win over Jayr Raquinel.
Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) Vs Yusuke Konno (14-4, 7) - Shanghai, China
Another China Vs Japan bout will see Baishanbo Nasiyiwula take on Yusuke Konno, in what should be a chance for Baishanbo to look good. The Chinese hopeful looked less than brilliant against Ernesto Espana last time out, but has shown plenty to get excited about in the past, with a usually fun style, a rugged toughness and a dislikable streak of mean arrogance. Konno looks like the clear under-dog on paper but he's been enjoying a solid run of performances coming into this and will feel confident enough of over-coming the Chinese hopeful.
Sho Kimura (17-2-2, 10) Vs Pigmy Kokietgym (60-10-2, 24) - Shanghai, China
Arguably the biggest fight on the card, in terms of name value, is also the biggest mismatch, with former world champion Sho Kimura battling against Thai veteran Pigmy Kokietgym, himself a former world title challenger. For Kimura, who is still hugely popular in China, this will be his first bout since losing the WBO Flyweight title to Kosei Tanaka in 2018. Pimgy is a veteran, but a veteran who has lost 7 by stoppage and is already 37 years old. The Thai has gone on too long, and is likely to be used as little more than a confidence booster for Kimura.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9) Vs Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18) - Pennsylvania, USA
Unbeaten Uzbek Kudratillo Abdukakhorov takes on Japanese puncher Keita Obara in an IBF Welterweight eliminator, to earn a shot at the title later in the year. The unbeaten Uzbek is the more naturally gifted boxer and the more rounded fighter, with a good boxing brain, good movement and speed, but he is a relatively light punching fighter compared to Obara, who is technically less impressive but a solid hitter. This should make for an interesting dynamic, and both will see this as a potentially career defining bout, leading to a massive fight in the near future.
Tsubasa Koura (14-0, 9) Vs Lito Dante (15-10-4, 7) - Kanagawa, Japan
Also at the very end of the month will be the next OPBF Minimumweight title defense from unbeaten Japanese fighter Tsubasa Koura, who will be taking on limited but tough Filipino challenger Lito Dante. On paper this looks like a total mismatch, but in reality it should be a lot more competitive than it looks. Not to say we don't Koura will win, but he will have to work for the win against the very under-rated Dante, who has never been stopped and has faced world class fighters numerous times during his 29 fight career.
Recently we did a list on 5 world title bouts we want to see in the new year, which can be read here 5 bouts we want to see in 2019 (World title version) for those who missed it. Now we're going to look at some All Japanese bouts we'd like to see in the new year. These bouts are all possible, so for example there is no issue with men being from the same gyms, and would all be really interesting fights, for at least one reason.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4) - Minimumweight
Back in July we were expecting the heavy handed Kai Ishizawa take on a then unbeaten Daiki Tomita. That bout was sadly cancelled when Ishizawa suffered a nose injury in the build up to the contest. Since then Ishizawa has become the Japanese Youth Minimumweight champion, stopping Yuga Inoue for the belt, whilst Tomita has challenged for the OPBF title, losing a decision to the world class Tsubasa Koura.
Getting this bout remade in the new year would be brilliant, and something to really look forward to. Both men have enhanced their reputations since the originally scheduled bout in the summer and we'd certainly love to see the power and desire of Ishizawa up against the skill and speed of Tomita.
Taku Kuwahara (3-0, 2) Vs Kenichi Horikawa (38-15-1, 12) - Light Flyweight
We believe that Taku Kuwahara maybe one of the very best prospects in world boxing today, and think it would be great for him to prove that in 2019. A bout against Japanese veteran Kenichi Horikawa, potentially for the Japanese title late in the year. Kuwahara has proven his value as a prospect, was a stand out amateur and is an exceptional talent. Horikawa is a faded veteran, but a nightmare to fight and this would be a potential passing of the torch.
This isn't a bout that would make sense for early in the year, given that Horikawa has a Japanese title fight assured in the Champion Carnival, but towards the end of 2019 this bout would be a very good one, and could well be for the national title, if Horikawa wins his title shot.
Katsunori Nagamine (15-2-1, 11) Vs Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4) - Flyweight
In 2017 we were impressed by the hunger and desire of Ryota Yamauchi. Sadly 2018 hasn't been the break out year we had anticipated from him, however that's not to say 2019 can't be. He does need a really good win next year however, and a real 50/50 bout with him would see him take on the exciting, hard hitting and talented Katsunori Nagamine, in what could be a very interesting match up between talented fighters looking to make a point in the new year.
Although we'd like to see this bout in the first half of the year, putting the winner in the mix for a title fight later in the year, it would be a very interesting title eliminator towards the end of the year, and potentially put the winner into the 2020 Champion Carnival.
Akira Yaegashi (27-6, 15) Vs Hiroyuki Kudaka (26-18-2, 11) - Super Flyweight
When we started this list there was a bout that really whet our appetite, and looked like a potential FOTY candidate. That was a bout between former 3 weight world champion Akira Yaegashi and 4 time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka. Both men have styles should gel perfectly, both are certainly shop worn, and both are a bit on the older side, still they should match up almost perfectly for an all out action packed bout. The loser really has no where to go, but the winner will potentially be on the fringes of a world ranking.
With Yaegashi turning 36 in February and Kudaka turning 34 in April the hope is that this bout will take place as soon as possible. Kudaka does have a bout in December, potentially delaying this showdown, but there's no reason why we can't have this treat in late Spring or early Summer.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15) Vs Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11) - Super Bantamweight
When we talk about potential fights of the year it's hard to really know what bout will click. One we think will click perfectly is a show down between former world title challenger Shohei Omori and current OPBF Super Bantamweight champion Hirokia Teshigawara. Omori is the more skilled man, and the bigger puncher, but Teshigawara is a proven tough guy, who will press the fight, throw a lot and really try to take the fight to Omori.
In theory this would make for a really interesting bout, with both men knowing a win would take them towards a world title fight. Neither man has their first bout of 2019 organised, and despite both fighting in the second half of 2018 neither took much punishment in their latest bout. If they can fit this bout in Spring it really would set up their year perfectly.
Masao Nakamura (25-3, 24) Vs Takuya Watanabe (35-8-1, 20)
A bonus fight for this list really excited us when we thought about it, and that is a show down between Super Featherweight's Masao Nakamura and Takuya Watanabe. Nakamura is a very heavy handed boxer-puncher, who can be hurt himself, whilst Watanabe is a rugged tough guy with under-rated boxing. Given Nakamura's power and Watanabe's proven durability we'd expect a war here, a bout that would really have fans on the edge of their seat.
Interestingly This bout would see the WBO Asia Pacific champion, Nakamura, taking on the OPBF "silver" champion, Watanabe, and would renove the loser from the mix domestically, potentially setting the winner up for a unification bout with Hironori Mishiro or Masaru Sueyoshi. Of the bouts on this list this may be one of the easier ones to make, and one of the most exciting all-Japanese bouts that could be made right now.
Earlier this month we looked at some of the most notable bouts of September to feature an Asian fighter. Here will be the second, and final, part covering the notable bouts which are set to take place from September 22nd too September 30th and there really is some great fights set to take place over the last week or so of the month.
Jonathan Taconing (27-3-1, 22) Vs Vince Paras (13-1, 11) – Philippines
Hard hitting Filipino fighters collide as former 2-time world title challenger Jonathan Taconing defends his WBC International Light Flyweight title against youngster Vince Paras. Both of these men have fought at world level, have exciting styles and a lot of power, so we're expecting serious fire works here!
Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) Vs Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7) – Japan
WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura seeks his third defense as he takes on the unbeaten Kosei Tanaka, who is looking to become a 3-weight world champion in just 12 bouts! This is set to pit will against skills and we're expecting both men to have their moments in nail biting all-Japanese world title bout.
Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) Vs Tibo Monabesa (18-0-2, 8) – Japan
Former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi begins his Light Flyweight campaign as he takes on unbeaten Indonesian Tibo Monabesa. This is a tough first bout at a new one for Kyoguchi whilst Monabesa will know that a win here would almost certainly open the door to a world title fight for him. A really significant contest.
Kyotaro Fujimoto (19-1, 11) vs Suthat Kalalek (12-9, 11)- Japan
If we did this list based sole on how competitive they were this bout wouldn't be here, but with the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF Heavyweight titles on the line the bout between Kyotaro Fujimoto and Suthat Kalalek needs to be mentioned. The contest is a significant one, even if we do strongly favour the champion.
Yasuyuki Akiyama (12-7-1, 9) Vs Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (10-3, 9) – Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF title bout will see Yasyuki Akiyama defending the titles against hard hitting challenger Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa. Akiyama won the titles last year, in somewhat controversial fashion, but this will be his first defense and comes against a man he narrowly beat 18 months ago
Wulan Tuolehazi (8-3-1, 4) v Jayr Raquinel (10-0-1, 7) – China
In form Chinese hopeful Wulan Tuolehazi takes a big step up in class to face OPBF Flyweight champion Jayr Raquinel for the WBC Silver Flyweight strap. Raquinel has impressed this year, twice scoring stoppage wins in Japan to win and then defend the OPBF title but will be taking on a man in the form of his career.
Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-1, 20) Vs Alejandro Santiago Barrios (16-2-4, 7) – USA
IBF Super Flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas continues to to face less than stellar competition as he defends his belt against little known challenger Alejandro Santiago Barrios. Ancajas is one of the best fighters at 115lbs and this will be his 6th defense of the belt, but it does feel like Top Rank are matching him far too softly with bouts like this.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (2-0, 1) Vs TBA – USA
On the same card as Ancajas' bout with Barrios we'll see the US debut of former Kazakh amateur standout Janibek Alimkhanuly. Sadly his opponent for the contest isn't yet known, though we do have a feeling that fans will be very excited about the Egis Klimas managed boxer-puncher.
Tsubasa Koura (13-0, 9) Vs Daiki Tomita (12-0, 4) – Japan
OPBF Minimumweight champion Tsubasa Koura looks to record his third defense as he takes on fellow unbeaten youngster Daiki Tomita. This has the potential to be one of the best bouts of the month and could, potentially, lead to a world title fight for the winner. The edge in power and competition is with Koura but Tomita cannot be over-looked here!
Yuko Kuroki (18-5-1, 8) Vs Saemi Hanagata (14-7-4, 7) III- Japan
On the same card in Japan fans will get an IBF Atomweight title fight with Yuko Kuroki battling against Saemi Hanagata, in what will be their 3rd bout. So far Hanagata is leading the series, winning the first bout before the two fought to a draw. Since then both have proven to be world class fighters and this should be action packed from the first bell to the last.
Muhamad Ridhwan (11-0, 8) Vs Paulus Ambunda (26-2, 11) – Singapore
In Singapore local fans will get the chance to see their best prospect Muhamad Ridhwan take a massive step up in class as he faces former world champion Paulus Ambunda in a bout for the IBO Super Bantamweight title. Ridhwan is a talent, and should be favoured over the shopworn Ambunda, but at 30 he really does need to kick on if he wins here.
Takuya Watanabe (34-8-1, 19) Vs Paiboon Lorkham (19-10, 8) – Taiwan
In Taiwan we see the biggest show in the countries history, headlined by a contest between the teak tough Japanese fighter Takuya Watanabe and Thailand's Paiboon Lorkham. The bout, for the OPBF Silver Super Featherweight title, is expected to be a straight forward win for Watanabe but is still a massive deal for boxing in Taiwan.
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