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.
Whilst much of the action in early to mid-January was spaced out the end of January really sees things coming in at us thick and fast with a lot happening in the final week of the month, including some top unbeaten prospects, world, Japanese youth and Japanese female title fights and a tournament final!
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (17-0-0-1, 13) Vs Maximiliano Ricardo Veron (12-3-1, 4)
Talented Canadian based-Kazakh hopeful Batyrzhan Jukembayev looks to kick his 2020 off in style when he meets 31 year old Argentinian fighter Maximiliano Ricardo Veron. A win for the Kazakh will move him a step closer to a potential world title fight later in the year, and will see him defending minor WBA and IBF titles.
Yumiko Shimooka (4-7, 1) vs Yumi Narita (3-4-3, 1)
On paper not something to be raving about, but Yumiko Shimooka and Yumi Narita will face off in the hope of crowning a new Japanese Female Minimumweight champion. The title was vacated by former champion Mizuki Chimoto, and whilst neither of these two are stellar fighters they should make for an interesting bout all the same.
Kazuki Nakajima (8-0, 7) vs Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0, 4)
One of the real standout bouts for Asia this month is the God's Left Bantamweight final, pitting unbeaten punchers Kazuki Nakajima and Seiya Tsutsumi against each other. This should be a very explosive bout, that could be a blink and you miss it affair. Both can bang, both have some question marks about their defense, both were solid amateurs and both will be looking to claim the God's Left crown. If you have Boxing Raise this is really the one you need to catch this month!
Ayaka Miyao (23-8-1, 6) Vs Etsuko Tada (19-3-2, 6)
Former female world champion Ayaka Miyao and Etsuko Tada clash for the vacant WBO Female Minimumweight title, which was vacated by Kasumi Saeki. Miyao is coming into the bout looking to become a 2-weight world champion, having previously reigned at Atomweight, whilst Tada is looking to reclaim the WBO title, the she previously vacated. This should be a very fan friendly bout between two women who like to let their hands go, and have styles that should work well together, with Miyao being a speed boxer-mover and Tada being someone who will apply pressure behind her volume.
Kaiki Yuba (6-0-2, 4) vs Kanta Takenaka (7-4-1, 2)
Second generation fighter Kaiki Yuba looks to claim his first title as he takes on Kanta Takenaka for the vacant Japanese Youth Lightweight title. Yuba's father, the legendary Tadashi Yuba, was a 5-weight Japanese national champion and dubbed "Mr Korakuen" due to his success as the Korakuen Hall. There is pressure on the 21 year old Kaiki but he should have too much for the tough but limited Takenaka here.
Kanako Taniyama (2-0-1, 1) vs Tomoko Okuda (5-2-2, 1) II
Another Japanese female title should see a champion being crowned as Kanako Taniyama and Tomoko Okuda battle for the second time, with the stakes being the Japanese female Bantamweight title. These two fought to a draw last year, with Taniyama somewhat unlucky not to pick up the win, and we expect another interesting contest this time around. Taniyama was the aggressive, front foot fighter whilst Okuda relied on keeping things long, making for an interesting dynamic that we expect to be repeated here. Could be a bit of a hidden gem here.
Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 10) vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6)
The highest profile bout for an Asian fighter in January is an obvious choice, as unbeaten Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev takes on WBA "Super" and IBF Super Bantamweight champion Daniel Roman, in a truly mouth watering clash. These two were supposed to fight last year, before Roman suffered an injury in training. For Roman a win would continue an excellent run, which has seen him beat Shun Kubo, Ryo Matsumoto and TJ Doheny, and help stamp him as the #1 fighter in the division. For Akhmadaliev a win would be a huge statement from him, and from Uzbek boxing. Stylistically this is very interesting, with the fighters having styles that should gel, and very significant. One to be very excited about.
Jade Bornea (14-0, 10) vs Ernesto Delgadillo (11-0-2, 2)
Unbeaten Filipino fighter Jade Bornea features in his international debut at the end of the month when he takes on American for Ernesto Delgadillo in a bout for the NABF Super Flyweight title. The fight should tell us a lot about what both men have in their lockers and the winner will find themselves in the mix for a world title fight later in the year.
So the new year is here! And although we've not got a lot happening in January, we do have more than we expected, with title bouts, eliminators, tournament finals and a little of everything!
Pyeongtaek, South Korea
Yoo Seung Jun (6-1) vs Seung Hee Lee (4-6, 1)
One of two KBM eliminators at 154lbs will see the once beaten Yoo Seung Jun take on Seung Hee Lee. Our understanding is that the winner here will fight for the vacant title later in the year against the winner of the other eliminator.
Sung Min Yuh (3-0) Vs Se Yul Yang (3-4-2, 1)
Talking about that other eliminator, that will see Sung Min Yuh take in Se Yul Yang. Notable if Yuh and Jun win their bouts it would be a rematch of the "Battle Royale" final from last November, and would have an interesting sub-plot of revenge or repeat, as well as being for the KBM title.
Da Won Gang (3-0, 1) Vs Jin Soo Kim (6-7-1, 3)
Another KBM eliminator will be at 140lbs where the touted Da Won Gang takes on Jin Soo Kim. The talented Gang is regarded by those in Korea as one of the countries best talents in recent years, and like Sung Min Yuh he won the "Battle Royale" last year. A win here sets him for a big 2020.
New Jersey, USA
Jaron Ennis (24-0, 22) vs Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1-1, 12)
The limited but heavy handed Bakhtiyar Eyubov, from Kazakhstan, is up against it here as he takes on touted American Jaron "Boots" Ennis in what looks likely to be a show case for the talented local hopeful.
Vladimir Baez (26-5-2, 24) vs Tuguldur Byambatsogt (1-0)
In a Knock Out Dynamite Final we'll see Japanese based Dominican slugger Vladimir Baez battle against Mongolian professional novice Tuguldur Byambatsogt. On paper a mismatch, but in reality this could be a big break out for Byambatsogt, who impressed us in his semi-final bout.
Ribo Takahata (16-8-1, 6) vs Marvin Esquierdo (15-2-1, 9)
Another final at the Knock Out Dynamite Tournament will see Japanese veteran Ribo Takahata take on Filipino foe Marvin Esquierdo. Notably Esquierdo fought in the first ever Knock Out Dynamite Tournament bout, and netted the highest bonus with an opening round win, will he look for the same here?
Shohjahon Ergashev (17-0, 15) vs Adrian Estrella (29-4, 24)
Touted Uzbek puncher Shohjahon Ergashev looks to kick in the new year as he takes on once touted Mexican Adrian Estrella. Neither of these are the most polished of fighters, but both are heavy handed and we expect this one to be short, but very explosive!
Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa (12-4-1, 11) vs Kazuto Takesako (11-0-1, 11)
OPBF Middleweight champion Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa defends his belt against hard hitting Japanese national champion Kazuto Takesako. This is not expected to hear the final bell, with both men being heavy handed fighters, and will be one of the highlights of the month!
Takeshi Inoue (15-1-1, 9) vs Cheng Su (14-2-1, 8)
Former world title challenger Takeshi Inoue will be looking to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight title against Chinese challenger Cheng Su. Inoue, who is enjoying his second reign as the WBO Asia Pacific champion, will be looking to get a second world title shot in the near future, but needs to get past Su to keep that dream alive.
Kenia Enriquez (22-1, 9) vs Chaoz Minowa (6-2, 5)
Talking about world title fights WBC "interim" female Light Flyweight champion Kenia Enriquez will be defending her title at home in Mexico against Japanese challenger Chaoz Minowa. For Minowa this is a third crack at world level, and a loss here will likely end her hopes of ever becoming a world champion.
Despite a rather dry January we do see action pick up, in a big way, in the end portion of the month with several major fights featuring Asian fighters.
Jesus M Rojas (26-2-2-1, 19) Vs Can Xu (15-2, 2) - WBA "Regular" Featherweight title
Talented Puerto Rican Jesus M Rojas will be looking to defend the WBA "regular" Featherweight title, just a week after interim champion Jhack Tepora attempts to defend his title, as he takes on Chinese fighter Can Xu. For Rojas, who won the title way back in September 2017, this will be just huis first defense of the title, as Joseph Diaz failed to make weight for a clash last August. Rojas is a fantastic fighter, but alack of activity through his career has been a major issue. Xu on the other is fighting for just the second time in the US and is fighting in his first bout at this level, in fact a win for Xu would see him become the first Chinese fighter to win a "world" title above 112lbs.
Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26) Vs Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) - WBO Light Middleweight title
On the same card in Texas we'll an Inoue in action, as the little known Takeshi Inoue challenges WBO Light Middleweight champion Jaime Munguia. The champion was the breakout star of 2018, going 5-0 (4) and went from being not allowed to fight Gennady Golovkin in May to the WBO Light Middleweight champion with 2 defenses under his belt. Whilst Munguia was becoming a star in 2018 Inoue, no relation to Naoya, was stuck in negotiation hell with a fighter against Julian Williams seemingly being in negotiations for months before he managed to secure this match up with Munguia. With this bout now set Inoue will know he will be in a major bout, but one where he is a massive under-dog.
New York, USA
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (10-0, 9) Vs Claudio Marrero (23-2, 17)
In an excellent match, perhaps the best of the month, we'll see unbeaten Mongolian puncher Tugstsogt Nyambayar battle against explosive Dominican fighter Claudio Marrero. This is about as good as it gets, and will set the winner up for a Featherweight world title fight later in the year. Both of these men have brutal power, both of these men have been down, and together we expect to see them producing fire works of the highest order. Nyambayar is the more technically gifted of the two men, but he has shown some poor balance issues and has been tagged before. Marrero on the other hand has a raw dangerous quality about him, defensively and offensively, and is incredibly quick. This could be an early runner for FOTY.
Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20) Vs Jose Martinez (20-0-2, 13)
The final bout of note in January is a WBO Super Flyweight world title eliminator, as Filipino puncher Aston Palicte takes on Puerto Rican fighter Jose Martinez. This bout, which will be shown on UFC Fight Pass, will set the winner up for a world title fight later in the year. Palicte came to the attention of the boxing world in 2018 when he fought to a controversial draw with Donnie Nietes on Superfly 3, since then he has been inactive though comes into this fight with a lot of hunger. Martinez on the other hand is best known for two fortunate draws against the under-rated Alejandro Santiago Barrios, who proved himself against Jerwin Ancajas last year. Despite being unbeaten we've yet to be impressed by Martinez and this looks like his toughest test so far.
After a slow start January picks up in the middle of the month, as we get a host of notable fighters in action.
Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39) Vs Adrien Broner (33-3-1-1, 24) - WBA Welterweight title
One of the first world title fights with an Asian fighter in this coming year will be a WBA "regular" Welterweight title fight, as Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao defends his title against 4-weight champion Adrien Broner. For Pacquiao's it's a chance to show that his win over Lucas Matthysse wasn't just a case of getting the Argentinian puncher at the right time, and to take a huge step towards a potential rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. For Broner this is another chance, one of many, to show that he is as good as the early hype suggested. Broner has been, for the most part, a disappointment, known more for his personality than his boxing. If Broner can perform to his best, this could be very interesting. If Broner instead fights within himself, this could be very forgetable.
Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17) Vs Hugo Ruiz (38-4, 33) - WBA "interim" Featherweight title
Prior to the Pacquiao Vs Broner fight we'll see another Filipino looking to establish their reign as WBA "interim" Featherweight champion Jhack Tepora takes on Mexican Hugo Ruiz. Both of these men are heavy handed, hard hitting and exciting fighters, suggesting we'll be given an explosive contest here. Tepora is the more wild fighter here, but is a natural Featherweight. Ruiz is technically the stronger fighter, he understands the ring more and has the better ring IQ. He also has the more suspect chin and has been stopped at the lower weights. Interestingly Ruiz is the much taller and longer man, despite having first made his name at Bantamweight.
Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17) Vs Takafumi Nakajima (29-11-1, 13)II
Japan's Shingo Wake has lost twice in the last 9 years, one of those was to Jonathan Guzman, in an IBF title fight, and the other was to Japanese domestic fighter Takafumi Nakajima. Now Wake gets a chance to avenge that loss to Nakajima, more than 6 years after it happened, as the two face off for the second time. A win for Wake is expected, as he continues his charge towards a second world title fight, however Nakajima will feel like this is a huge opportunity to get a second win over Wake, and give his career a huge shot in the arm. A possible mismatch, but one with some history behind it!
Reiya Abe (18-2, 9) Vs Daisuke Sugita (4-0, 3)
On the same card in Tokyo fight fans will also see world ranked Featherweight Reiya Abe, as he takes on former amateur stand out Daisuke Sugita. The talented Abe has been on an excellent run, since losing in early 2015 to Shingo Kusano. He hasn't just avenged the loss to Kusano but also strung together solid wins over the likes of Ryo Hino, Tsuyoshi Tameda and Satoshi Hosono. Sugita is taking a huge step up in class here, but is highly touted following his amateur career and his team are certainly not wanting to protect him. This could be a very interesting technical show case between two very talented fighters.
Jung Kyoung Lee (6-2-1, 2) Vs Samuel Colomban(25-10-1, 11)
Korean fans will get the chance to see local hopeful Jung Kyoung Lee take on veteran Samuel Colomban in a bout for the vacant OPBF Light Middleweight title. It's been a while since we've seen a Korean fighter fighting for an OPBF title so this bout will get attention on that basis, it will also get attention due to the fact it's the first card under the Annihilation banner, which has been formed by several MMA promotions working with the KBF. Lee is taking a huge step up here, but Colomban has seen better days and it's hard to know what he really has left to offer the sport. This should be a pretty interesting match without being anything huge.
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