As we head towards the end of 2019 we're seeing more and more "...of the year" discussions popping up, and it's left people compiling short lists. With that in mind we've decided to do a quick feature over the coming days to look at some of the best rounds of the year. This, of course, is focused on just fights from Asia, but that's a chance for us to shine a light on a great round that you may well have missed the first time around!
To begin this mini series we go all the way back to January 5th in Suzhou for a Flyweight bout between once beaten Filipino hopeful Giemel Magramo and Chinese fighter Wenfeng Ge. The bout ended up getting quite one sided later on, but round 2 was fire from both as they slowly warmed to the task at hand and unloaded some seriously heavy fire at each other. This wasn't a round that many will remember now, but was a real fun start to the year, and is one that every fight fan deserves to give 3 minutes of their time to!
Sadly since this bout, which was genuine a good bout and not just a good round, neither man really did much. Magramo picked up a single win over Richard Claveras in September whilst Ge beat Kompayak Porpramook the following month, meaning this was pretty much the highlight for both men during the year.
The last week of October isn't a crazy one in terms of big fights, but is a very good in terms of noteworthy fights, with a world title bout, a Japanese world title bout a bunch of Japanese title eliminators, several notable prospects and a very good cross roads fight.
Wanheng Menayothin (53-0, 18) vs Simpiwe Konkco (19-5, 7) - Thailand
On Friday October 25th we'll see WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin make his next defense, as he takes on mandatory challenger Simpiwe Konkco from Aouth Africa. The unbeaten Thai is the longest reigning active champion, and whilst his competition, overall, hasn't been great this is a solid defense against a very under-rated challenger. Sadly Wanheng's best wins so far have come against the likes of Tatsuya Fukuhara and Pedro Taduran and he lacks consistency, so a win here will bolster his standing before a potential US debut. For Konkco the bout is a second world title shot a win would put him on the map, big time.
Sadriddin Akhmedov (9-0, 8) vs Johnny Navarrete (33-15-2, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Hard hitting Kazakh prospect Sadriddin Akhmedov fights for the first time as a married man as he takes on Mexican veteran Johnny Navarrete. The hard hitting Akhmedov will be strongly favoured here, and is expected to blow through the Mexican in terms to return for a December card at the Bll Centre. To dat Akhmedov has squeezes 3 fights and his weeding into 2019 and is a busy boy, but given his natural talent, and power, we have no reason to think this will be anything short of a blow out.
Kazuki Tanaka (11-2, 8) Vs Kyosuke Sawada (13-2-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
In a very even looking Japanese Bantamweight title eliminator we'll see the aggressive Kazuki Tanaka take on the skilled and smart Kyosuke Sawada. This pits puncher against boxer and should be a very interesting match up between two talented fighters with very different in ring mindsets. We expect Tanaka to press and Sawada try to keep behind his his jab, though we have seen Sawada dragged into a fight before and sooner or later we expect this one to break out into a war.
Hinata Maruta (9-1-1, 7) Vs Takenori Ohashi (17-5-2, 11) - Tokyo, Japan
The wonderfully smooth Hinata Maruta takes on the former Japanese Featherweight champion Takenori Ohashi in a Japanese Featherweight title eliminator. Although very talented Maruta has faltered in his biggest bout to date, losing a competitive decision to veteran Hidenori Otake in an OPBF title match, but has bounced back with some impressive results and will be looking to build on his recent wins over Tsuyoshi Tameda and Coach Hiroto. On the other hand Ohashi is no slouch, and whilst technicall he's slow and clunky he has lights out power, and is a danger through out a bout. This really is boxer against puncher in what could turn out to be the gem of the Japanese title eliminators taking place on October 26th.
Kazuki Saito (7-1, 5) Vs Izuki Tomioka (6-2-1, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
Another Japanese title eliminator will be taking place at Lightweight and will see the talented, but somewhat chinny, Kazuki Saito take on the skilled, but light hitting, Izuki Tomioka. This is a bout that pits two men who have real potential, but big flaws, against each other. Saito is a joy to watch offensively, but his durability issues cannot be ignored, and he has been down in a number of fights and we do worry about him whenever he's caught. Izuki gave Masayoshi Nakatani fights in a 2018 bout for the OPBF Lightweight title, but looked worried against Shuya Masaki just a few months later. Izuki is an excellent and fighter, but his lack of stopping power is a major question mark, even at this level.
Keita Obara (21-4-1, 19) Vs Toshiro Tarumi (12-3-3, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
Former world title challenger Keita Obara drops back down to domestic level for a Japanese Welterweight title eliminator against Toshiro Tarumi. Obara has proven to not be world class, but isn't too far behind and bouts against the likes of Kudratillo Abdukakhorov have shown some of his limitations. Despite that Obara has still only ever been beaten by 1 Japanese opponent, and that was on his debut. Tarumi is a solid domestic fighter, but this is a massive step up in class for him, and we suspect it's too much too soon for him. Tarumi lacks the power needed to get Obara's respect and isn't sharp enough to be able to replicate Abdukakhorov's gameplan.
Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-7, 41) - Chongqing, China
Chinese 32 year old Wenfeng Ge looks to bounce back from a loss in January to Giemel Magramo, which saw him being stopped in the 10th round. The Chinese fighter will be taking on former WBC Light Flyweight world champion Kompayak Porpramook, a 37 year old Thai who has been in some amazing bouts during his long career. We suspect the local fighter will have the energy and speed to avoid an all out tear up with Porpramook, but the Thai never stops trying and we'd expect at least some exciting exchanges here in a bout both men will see as a must win.
Seigo Yuri Akui (13-2-1, 9) vs Shun Kosaka (16-5, 4) - Okayama, Japan
In a bout to crown a new Japanese Flyweight champion we'll see the exciting Seigo Yuri Akui battle the rugged Shun Kosaka. So far we've seen both of these two lose to their best opponents, in fact both share a loss to Junto Nakatani, but they should make for a very interesting domestic title bout, with Akui's quick start and intense aggression being matched against Kosaka's toughness. If Akui can take out Kosaka early this would be very impressive, however the longer it goes the more and more Kosaka's toughness will play a part. A very interesting match up and one that feels very hard to call.
Shu Utsuki (5-0, 4) vs Somphot Seesa (4-2, 4) - Tokyo, Japan
Fast rising Japanese hopeful Shu Utsuki looks to continue his rapid rise as he takes on Thai foe Somphot Seesa. On paper this is, arguably, Utsuki's easiest bout to date and it has a "stay busy" feel to it for the hard hitting Watanabe gym fighter. Seesa has a bit of experience but he was stopped in both of his previous visits to Japan, to Daisuke Sugita and Ren Sasaki, and it's hard to imagine him lasting long with Utsuki here.
Yudai Shigeoka (0-0) vs Manop Audomphanawari (3-2, 3) - Tokyo, Japan
Former amateur standout Yudai Shigeoka, the older brother of Ginjiro Shigeoka, makes his professional as he takes on Thai foe Manop Audomphanawari. In reality this should be a simple win for Shigeoka, but we're looking forward to seeing him in the ring and seeing his rise, especially given the incredibly quick rise of his brother.
With a new year comes new ideas, and one of the new things we'd like to try in 2019 is our weekly awards, and further to that an attempt at monthly awards as well. We know some weeks, and months, will see a lot of contenders for awards, and we're really hoping that that sparks debate with you, the readers, as well as feedback. That feed back will be looked at and potentially included in a follow up article .
Just as some basic ground rules, weeks run from Monday to Sunday, so the end of week 1 is Sunday January 6th. These pieces will be posted between Sunday and Tuesday, depending on time, and what fights take place when. Also all awards are for Asian fighters or bout that take place in Asia, or feature and Asian fighter, so please remember that!
As a general rule we want to recognise fighters and fights in the following categories:
Fighter - Straight forward, which fighter impressed the most during the week
Performance - Which fighter put on the best performance of the week
Fight - Which fight was the best of the week (where possible a video will be supplied)
Round - Which round was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
KO - Which KO was the best of the week (again where possible a video will be supplied)
Prospect - Which prospect impressed us most during the week
Upcoming fight - Which fight, during the following week, are we the most excited about
As well as a "notable mentions" category, which are essentially for doing something that doesn't fit in one of the above categories or where someone is narrowly pipped.
We suspect over the next few weeks we'll see this whole thing change slightly, but hopefully by the Spring we'll have settled on a format that works. We also know not all fights are available to watch publicly, for example those on boxingraise, where that's the case we will look to add a notable mention for another fight.
So....with all that said, I would like to get on to the Asian Boxing Awards for Week 1 2019!
Fighter of the Week
Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19)
There wasn't too much action this past week, what with the year just starting at all that, but there was really only 2 contenders for this award. They were Jiang Xiang of China and Giemel Magramo, of the Philippines. For us Magramo gets the win by a nose hair. He went over to China and stopped the previously unbeaten Wenfeng Ge, to unify the WBO Oriental and WBO International titles at Flyweight. Not only beating someone highly regarded, like Ge, but to do it by stoppage in their back yard gets Magramo our first ever Fighter of the Week recognition.
Performance of the Week
Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) [向静]
Whilst Magramo's stoppage against Ge was an impressive result, we thought Magramo actually was pipped in terms of his performance by Jing Xiang, who dominated former world champion Kompayak Porpramook over 12 rounds to retain the WBC Silver Light Flyweight title. The bout Chinese fighter was taking on a determined visitor and ended up schooling the Thai veteran, hardly dropping a round, and actually putting the Thai down. For us this was the much better performance, with Magramo's having the better result. We were thoroughly impressed by how Xiang shut down the pressure from the Thai, despite some tough moments.
Jiang Wang (7-1, 2) [王健] Vs Sung Young Yang (6-2, 3) [양성영]
Despite being a dominant win for Jing Xiang over Kompayak Porpramook we were totally captivated, from the first round to the last. Sadly, it was too one-sided to be our fight of the week, however the walk out bout from the same show, which saw Jian Wang and Sung Young Yang battle to 10 round split decision draw was just what we wanted. It was exciting, action packed and highly competitive. These two lacked the skills of some other fighters on the card but in terms of action they delivered, in a big way, often taking it in turns to wail away on each other from close range. If you love technical mastery you'll be disappointed in our choice, but for pure wild entertainment this was just fantastic.
Giemel Magramo Vs Wenfeng Ge (Round 2)
Although there wasn't a lot of action this past week we got more than our share of great rounds. Rounds 9 and 10 from the Wang Vs Yang bout were amazing, round 7 of Xiang Vs Kompayak was sensational, however our pick for the week was round 2 of Magramo Vs Ge. The round wasn't just a high intensity one, but also featured a high level of skill, with both men showing ring craft and skills. As the bout went on the contest became 1-sided, but this round was an ultra competitive one and a very entertaining contest, that seemed to give us a glimpse of a very special fight, that sadly we didn't really get.
No fit contender - Unfortunately there wasn't any great KO's this week, that we deem worthy of attention, however if you feel there was please drop it in the comments!
Xiang Li (4-0, 3) [李想]
Chinese novice Xiang Li may not get many mentions through the next 12 months, but he did more than get this honour by defeat. He took on tough Filipino Arvin Yurong, who had travelled with the intention of claiming the WBO Oriental Youth title. Li, a 22 year old puncher from Nanjing, managed to stop Yurong in the 4th round, enduring some problems from the hungry and gutsy Filipino who had travelled to fight and was really in Li's face. Whilt we don't imagine we'll see Li getting many mentions this year he certainly impressed today, and hopefully he'll be busier in 2019 than he has been the last few years.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) [武田勇太] Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) [田村 亮一]
There's not many fights this coming week, but we do like th elook of the January 12th Japanese Super Bantamweight bout between Mugicha Nakagawa and Ryoichi Tamura, in what could be a very exciting contest. The styles should gel well, and with a national title on the line we suspect both men will give all they've got to make their mark. Tamura is rarely in a bad fight, and we Nakagawa is the type of battle who will happily engage in a war. Potentally a thriller at the Korakuen Hall!
After the hectic new year period we do see boxing slow down as we begin 2019, with January being a particularly quiet month. That's not to say there's nothing happen, just a lot less than we see in the usually busy months of September, October, November and December.
Wenfeng Ge (11-0, 6) vs Giemel Magramo (22-1, 18) - WBO International Flyweight title
The notable Asian card of the year features number of interesting match ups, including a fantastic Flyweight bout between unbeaten Chinese fighter Wenfeng Ge, who holds solid wins over Amnat Ruenroeng and Ivan Soriano, and the once beaten Filipino Giemel Magramo. The winner of this bout will immediately find themselves on the verge of a WBO title fight, and it's hard not to think this is a huge way to start the new year.
Jiang Xiang (15-4-2, 3) Vs Kompayak Porpramook (59-6, 40) - WBC silver Light Flyweight
On the same card fans will see Chinese hopeful Jiang Xiang take a huge step up in class to take on former world champion Kompayak Porpramook. The Chinese fighter is a relative unknown but will see this as a huge chance to climb up the WBC rankings, and towards a potential world title fight. Kompayak is well beyond his best, though is well known for his great fights with Adrian Hernandez and Koki Eto. If Kompayak can roll back the clock and put in solid performance here there is a very real chance that he could derail Xiang's charge. This a really interesting match up, and should be a very exciting one.
Mugicha Nakagawa (24-5-1, 14) Vs Ryoichi Tamura (11-3-1, 6) - Vacant Japanese Super Bantamweight title
The Japanese Super Bantamweight title was vacated in late 2018 by Shingo Wake, who now looks to chase a world title. To fill the vacancy we'll see Mugicha Nakagawa take on Ryoichi Tamura, in what should be a genuinely excellent contest between a boxer-puncher and an aggressive pressure fighter. On paper Nakagawa is the more experienced and more proven man, but Tamura is aggressive, hard hitting and gave Yusaku Kuga hell when they fought in 2018. This could be a very exciting match up.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) Vs Norihito Tanaka (17-7, 9) - Japanese Minimumweight title
On the same card in Tokyo we'll also see Shin Ono defending the Japanese Minimumweight title in a mandatory title defense against fellow veteran Norihito Tanaka. This will be Ono's second defense of the title, following his title win in 2018 against Ryoki Hirai and his TKO8 win over Riku Kano to defend the title in October. Ono is thought to be pursuing another world title fight in 2019 but will know that he needs to win here. For Tanaka this shot comes on the back of an upset win over Takumi Sakae in October, and is his third title fight, following losses to Akira Yaegashi and Tsubasa Koura. Ono will be the favourite, but this is a very competitive looking match up, and one that should deliver a lot of action!
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