Whilst the start of March was quiet the middle portion of the month really does see action step up a great, and there is a lot of action in not a lot of time. Better than just having a lot of action is the fact it's really varied action as well ranging from world title fights to prospects.
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
Hiroto Kyoguchi (14-0, 9) vs Axel Aragon Vega (14-3-1, 8)
The most notable bout of the month, featuring an Asian fighter, will see Ring Magazine and WBA "Super" Light Flyweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi making his US debut as he takes on Mexican youngster Axel Aragon Vega. The talented Kyoguchi had a frustrating 2020, with two bouts being cancelled, and will be looking to make a statement in his first bout since signing with Matchroom. As for Vega this will be his second world title fight, following a narrow loss last year in a WBO Minimumweight title bout, despite that he will be a clear under-dog.
Workpoint Studio, Bang Phun, Thailand
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (49-5-1, 42) Vs Kwanthai Sithmorseng (50-7-1, 27)
Former 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion will be in a tune up bout here, with big plans for later in the year, as he takes on former WBA Minimumweight champion Kwanthai Sithmorseng. On paper this looks interesting, especially as Srisaket is taking on a former world champion, but in reality this should be little more than a brisk work out for Srisaket who should be too big, too strong, and too powerful for the rather limited Sithmorseng. Despite that this will be a good chance to see what Srisaket is like ahead of third bout with either Roman Gonzalez or Juan Francisco Estrada.
Phongsaphon Panyakum (11-1, 6) vs Karoon Jarupianlerd (44-10, 20)
Touted Thai prospect Phongsaphon Panyakum will look to secure his biggest win so far as he takes on former Naoya Inoue foe Karoon Jarupianlerd, aka Petchbarngborn Kokietgym. Although not too well known internationally Phongsaphon has been impressing on the Thai scene and we're really excited about his future. On paper this is a huge step up for Phongsaphon, though he will be favoured to pick up a win and answer a number of questions about his potential.
Chainoi Worawut (13-0-1, 12) Vs Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-9, 36)
Another Thai looking to progress their career is Chainoi Worawut, who takes a massive step up to take on former 2-time WBO Bantamweight champion Pungluang Sor Singyu. The hard hitting and exciting "Rockman" has impressed through his career with an exciting style but has, mostly, had things his own way against typically under-skilled and over-matched opponents. Pungluang on the other hand is a skilled pressure fighter, with a good chin and a real will to win. We expect Pungluang to push Chainoi all the way here in a real test for the youngster.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Saemi Hanagata (16-7-4, 7) Vs Eri Matsuda (4-0, 1)
Japanese veteran Saemi Hanagata will be looking to record her second defense of the IBF Atomweight title as she takes on fellow Japanese fighter Eri Matsuda. The aggressive and exciting Hanagata is a true veteran at 36 years old, and although being an "older" fighter she has looked full of energy in her most recent bouts. As well as an energetic fighter she is rugged, aggressive and exciting and brings a lot of pressure. Matsuda on the other hand is a rangy tall boxer, with a very smooth technical style, based on outside boxing. Despite being a professional novice Matsuda has been hugely impressive and she can't be written off here, even if this is only her 5th professional bout.
Narumi Yukawa (0-0) vs Yuya Azuma (5-4-1, 1)
Controversial fighter Narumi Yukawa will make his long awaited professional debut, almost 5 years after his last amateur bout. The talented Yukawa was given a suspended sentence after being convicted of drug offenses, which ended his amateur career and almost ended his entire boxing career. Now however he has served his time and is looking to make an impact on boxing once again. In the opposite corner to Yukawa will be Yuya Azuma, who is best known for his 2020 loss to Rentaro Kimura. This should be a really good test for Yukawa, and it'll be great to see what he looks like in the ring after all these years.
Banana Sports Complex, Binan City, Laguna, Philippines
Criztian Pitt Laurente (5-0, 3) Vs Ernesto Saulong (22-6-2, 9)
Over in the Philippines we're expecting to see touted youngster Criztian Pitt Laurente take on his most notable test, by far, since he turned pro in 2019. The talented 21 year old hopefully will be sharing the ring in an 8 rounder with former world title challenger Ernesto Saulong. Laurente turned professional with a lot of expectations after being a very solid amateur but has yet to make any sort of a mark at all on the professional scene. Saulong, best known for challenging Ryosuke Iwasa in 2018, should have the experience and skills to test Laurente, even if he is expected to come up short here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0-2, 4) vs Tulio Kuwabata (3-1-1, 2)
Unbeaten hopeful Seiya Tsutsumi had a frustrating 2020, fighting to 2 draws, and he'll be looking for a much better 2021 as he returns to the ring here and takes on former amateur standout Tulio Kuwabata. The talented Tsutsumi is one to watch, and is a genuine prospect despite the setbacks last year, and he will enter this bout as a clear favourite. Kuwabata turned professional with a lot of hype back in 2018 but an upset loss in 2019 to Ken Jordan popped his hype bubble, and that was then followed by a technical draw with Yoshihiro Utsumi in 2020. Those setbacks have left Kuwabata in desperate need of a win. We expect this to be a very exciting bout, but one where Tsutsumi needs to be strongly favoured.
Takuya Kogawa (31-6-1, 14) vs Shun Kosaka (16-6, 4)
Former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa looks to continue his long career as he takes on Shun Kosaka, in what should be a very fan friendly match up. The talented Kogawa has shown some wear and tear in recent years, and his numerous wars have been catching up with him, however he still some tricks in the tank and he'll be hoping to show those here. Kosaka on the other hand has been beaten in 3 of his last 4 and desperately needs a win here if he's to remain relevant. Given the styles of the two men this should be very exciting, though neither fighter is likely to go on to big things after this bout.
Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) vs Tomoki Kawasaki (0-0)
A very easy to over-look bout will see novices Jukiya Iimura and Tomoki Kawasaki clash in a 6 rounder. Iimura really impressed us in his debut, back in January, and we are really excited to see him back in the ring, especially so soon after his debut and prior to turning professional he had been a very solid amateur. Kawasaki on the other hand was an impressive amateur who will be kicking off his professional career, and we're excited to see what he'll be bringing to the pros. This might not be a massive bout, but we are really excited to see how these two men will match off and it's arguably more interesting than any other bout on the March 24th show.
In May 2019 one of the fighters we looked at in our introducing series was Tulio Kuwabata (then 2-0, 2). Since we looked at the Osakan last year things haven't got amazingly well for him, fighting twice and going 1-1 to see his current record stand at 3-1 (2). He's gone from being regarded as a prospect of note to someone who many are doubting has the ability to go to the highest those at the Muto gym expected and showed real issues in his most recent bout, which came in December 2019. Sadly Kuwabata failed to get back on the horse and pick up a win before the world was plunged into chaos, and as a result has been out of the ring for more than 8 months and is more than a year removed from his last win, in May 2019.
When we spoke about Kuwabata last year he was days away from his third professional bout. That was originally planned to be a bout against the highly experienced John Mark Apolinario in what was scheduled to be a 6 rounder. Sadly Apolinario had to pull out of the bout and Kuwabata ended up taking on the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo, in what looked like a genuinely decent test.
Despite the change of opponent Kuwabata dealt with Pulgo without too many issues. In fact the Japanese youngster looked sharp, accurate, light on his feet and had a very nice jab. There were areas to work on, but for a man in his third professional bout there was a lot to like, and a lot of areas where his team could see mistakes and work on them. For all the nice work he showed with his jab there there was defensive issues in his performance, though he got away with them as Pulgo lacked the experience to punish him and make him pay for them. In the end Kuwabata won every round against Pulgo in what turned out to be little more than a public sparring session for the Japanese youngster.
In December Kuwabata took another step up, going from willing opponent there to lose, in Pulgo, to the hard hitting Ken Jordan, who boasted an 8-1-2 (7) record. The Filipino hadn't beaten anyone of note, but was entering the bout as a hungry fighter. Jordan had previously won a minor title and looked like was a genuine prospect from the Philippines, despite an early career loss to the under-rated Jimboy Haya.
Despite Jordan being regarded as a decent prospect few would have expected him to do what he did to Kuwabata. That was stop him, in a round. From the off Jordon looked relaxed and calm, and like he knew of Kuwabata's defensive lapses, throwing his left hook regularly. Kuwabata managed to have moments but it was clear that Jordan wasn't the willing sparring partner that Pulgo had been. He had ambitions of his own and rocked Kuwabata with a sweeping left hook, before sending him down what appeared to be a glancing shot. Kuwabata got to his feet but couldn't the follow up onslaught from Jordan, who dropped him again. The bout was stopped, despite Jordan getting to his feet.
The loss to Jordan is a major setback for Kuwabata however it's certainly not the end. He was caught, his defensive flaws were punished, and the hype around him was burst, big time. That is far, far from the end however and given what he now knows about himself, there are areas he and his team can work on, go back to the drawing board, tidy up that defense, tighten up, get that back hand up and get it tighter. Jordan spotted the hole for the left hook quickly and repeatedly threw it, knowing it was there for him.
Also the hype about Kuwabata needed to be scaled back. He seemed too bothered about getting a gimmicky name, going with "Dekanarudo Torio", when his focus should have been more on the in ring action.
We don't think Kuwabata should be written off, but we do see him struggling above domestic level. Sadly for him however he's not going to get an easy one when he returns to the ring. Instead he will be returning on August 9th to take on former Japanese Super Flyweight champion Takayuki Okumoto, in what appears to a very, very hard match up for the youngster.
Whilst we do see him having a ceiling of domestic class, we think Kuwabata's potential could fall short of that if he's not matched softly after the Okumoto bout. We see him losing that and then having a lot of rebuilding to do. That's not what we expected to be saying 12 months ago, which is a shame. Don't ignore Kuwabata, but his stablemates like Yuske Mine, appear to have more long term potential than him.
This past week hasn't been the best or the busiest for Asian Boxing, with a very clear down turn in weekly activity, despite some big fights over the weekend. Sadly with such a lack of activity it has made our weekly awards a little bit focused on the fights from the weekend.
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
The last 7 days have really lacked a big win for Asian fighters, other than China's Can Xu, who retained his WBA "regular" Featherweight title with an excellent stoppage win against Shun Kubo on Sunday. The under-rated Chinese "Monster" shocked us all when he beat Jesus M Rojas in January and the stoppage over Kubo was another impressive performance by a young man with a lot of potential. Although Kubo wasn't really suited to the fight that Xu brought it's hard to take away from Xu who looks like he really is coming into his own, and could very easily be the break out Chinese boxin star the country has needed.
Performance of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
For a second week running we have a double award winner. It was hard to see anyone really competing with Xu for the performance of the week, as he pressed the action, went through the gears and broke down the determined Kubo. Whilst Kubo seemed to be the more technically skilled fighter Xu's relentless attack, combinations and physicality were impressive and, it's great to see that Xu is now finding power on his shots.
Notable mention - Yuki Strong Kobayashi
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo
With so little action it was clear that this weeks Fight and Round were unlikely to be spectacular. That's seen notably in the Fight of the Week, which, whilst entertaining, wasn't a FOTY contender or anything like that. This was just a fun, fan friendly bout with Xu moving through the gears and throwing more punches by the round whilst Kubo was eventually broken down. Kubo played his part, standing at mid-distance, trying to fight with Xu and made for an entertaining contest, until he was stopped. No one can doubt Kubo's fighting heart, but with this being his second stoppage loss in 3 bouts it's hard to know where he goes form this.
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo (round 3)
As we've not managed to see the Osakan show from Sunday, the round of the week was another that will not stand the test at the end of 2019, despite again being fan friendly. This was the pick of the rounds from the Xu vs Kubo fight, and was the point where Xu began to step up his work rate, whilst Kubo would decline quickly in the rounds that followed and eventuaally be broken down.
We had no valid KO's this week
Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2)
Unbeaten Japanese prospect Tulio Kuwabata took a major step up this weekend and beat the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo in a 6 round bout in Osaka. The talented Kuwabata looked sharp and skilled and appears to be one to keep an eye on in the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight divisions. With this only being his third bout it's hard to know how far he will go, but there is a lot of talent here.
Notable mention - Shichao Gao
Charles Bellamy (28-3-2, 18) vs Yuto Shimizu (12-4-2, 5) II
Back in September Charles Bellamy took a split deciison over Yuto Shimizu in an entertaining 8 round battle. We're expect their rematch, this coming Saturday, to be even better than their first contest. Shimizu is the under-dog, as he was in their first bout, but at 37 years old we do wonder what Bellamy has left in the tank.
The Japanese Super Bantamweight scene is one of the most interesting, right across the levels. We have exciting prospects, a great domestic title scene, and some fantastic world class fighters finding themselves in the mix at world level. It's a division that is hard to break into, but is one where if you can conqueror domestically you're probably ready to fight at world level.
Today's introducing looks at one of the Japan's rising prospects in the division, Tulio Kuwabata (2-0, 2) who is set for a huge step up in class later this month when he takes on experienced Filipino John Mark Apolinario in a 6 round bout.
The 22 year old Kuwabata is a fighter at the well established Mutoh Gym, one of the best gyms in Osaka. He's one of their best prospects, along with Riku Kunimoto who has also featured in one of these articles, and like Kunimoto he was able to make his name in the amateurs. On paper his amateur record, reportedly 25-11, is unremarkable though the competition he was facing in the unpaid ranks was very interesting as he was part of the ultra competitive High School and University scenes, captaining teams at both levels.
The youngster turned professional last year and made his debut in China, stopping Zhiliang Yang in Kunming, on a show that also featured Riku Kunimoto. The youngster, fighting in a 4 round bout, stopped Yang in the second round of the bout and looked good without looking spectacular. It was interesting to note that he was kicking off his career on the road, something we rarely see from Japanese prospects.
Having debuted in September the youngster would return to action around 3 months later for his Japanese debut, and take a clear step up in class as he took on Japanese foe Yosuke Taniguchi at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center on Christmas Eve. This was a huge step up in class from his Chinese debut and yet Kuwabata made things look easy as he applied intelligent pressure on to his more experienced, and taller, opponent. It was obvious after just a few seconds of this bout that he was able to out jab the longer man, and was quickly able to establish his jab. It wasn't just the jab that shone here however, and he was showing off great variety with some crisp body shots and a brilliant knockdown at the end of the opening round with a looping right hand up top. He would close the show the following round, as he turned up the pressure and dropped Taniguchi for the second time.
Although not a true amateur star it's hard not to be impressed by his crisp punching, variety and confidence. Going in with Apolinario this early in his career is impressive, and a win over the Filipino, even if Apolinario is a somewhat faded force, would be a statement to the division, as Kuwabata begins to hunt rankings, and future title fights.
Sadly we can't share footage of his win over Taniguchi, but it it is available on Boxing Raise for those interested.
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