We wouldn't be stretching things to suggest that February 2021 was one of the quietest months since boxing restarted following the start of the Covid19 pandemic. Thankfully it appears normality resumes in March as we have a lot to get excited about, and better yet it comes from all over the globe as Asian fighters look to make a name for themselves both internationally and at home.
With that in mind lets take a look at what's to come in the first part of the month.
Municipal Boxing Gym Felix Pagan Pintor, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Ruslan Madiyev (13-1, 5) Vs Danielito Zorrilla (14-0, 11)
The first notable bout to feature an Asian will see once beaten Kazakh Ruslan Madiyev return to the ring for the first time in well over a year as he takes on unbeaten Puerto Rican Danielito Zorrilla as part of the "Ring City USA" series. On paper this looks like a really well matched bout, and Madiyev will know that a win here can get his career back on track, though in reality we suspect Zorrilla will be too good and too strong for the US based Kazakh fighter.
Miami, Florida, USA
Kozimbek Mardonov (1-0, 1) vs Abel Nicolas Adriel (23-20-3, 5)
Former Uzbek amateur standout Kozimbek Mardonov will be another Central Asian fighter to keep an eye out for early in the month. The talented 23 year old made a quick impact on his debut, at the end of January and will be looking to impress against as he takes on 31 year old Argentinian Abel Nicolas Adriel. Stood at 6' and fighting at Super Middleweight Mardonov has the potential to be a star of the future and we suspect he'll impress against the experienced, but limited, Adriel. Despite having 20 losses to his name Adriel has only been stopped 4 times, though we suspect another stoppage is on the cards for him here.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Andy Hiraoka (16-0, 11) Vs Fumisuke Kimura (9-6-1, 6)
Unbeaten Japanese Light Welterweight Andy Hiraoka returns to a Japanese ring for the first time since July 2019 as he takes on limited domestic foe Fumisuke Kimura. Hiraoka's last 2 bouts were both in the US, as he linked up with Top Rank, but there is clearly a desire to show what he can do at home as well, and we suspect he'll look to make a statement here. Sadly Kimura is 0-2-1 in his last 3, and we suspect Hiraoka will take him out relatively early on.
Yoshiki Takei (0-0) v Kazunori Takai (6-7-3, 3)
Former K-1 champion Yoshiki Takei makes his professional boxing debut as he takes on Kazunori Takai in a 6 rounder. Despite making his name in kickboxing Takei looks like he has excellent hands, and has impressed not just in K-1 but also in his pro-test with Tsuyoshi Tameda and an exhibition bout with Sho Kimura. There is genuine a lot of buzz around Takei in Japanese boxing circles. As for Takai he's a 34 year old who is 0-5-1 in his last 6, and hasn't scored a victory since September 2017. This should be little more than a show case for Takei.
Taku Kuwahara (7-0, 4) vs Yoshiki Minato (9-3, 4)
In a mouth watering clash between youngsters we'll see the unbeaten Taku Kuwahara take on Yoshiki Minato, a former Rookie of the Year winner. The talented Kuwahara has been tipped for major success since turning professional, but his career stalled massively in 2020, due to Covid19, and he'll feel he needs to make up for lost time this year. Aged just 22 Minato has time on his side, but is 1-2 since winning the 2018 All Japan Rookie of the Year and his sole win came against the returning Kohei Oba, who looked shot to pieces.
Rikuto Adachi (14-2, 11) Vs Takeru Kobata (8-5-1, 3)
The first Japanese Youth title fight of the month takes place at Welterweight as the once touted Rikuto Adachi takes on Takeru Kobata. The bout will be Adachi's second shot at the title, and his first bout since signing with the Ohashi Gym in 2020, and he'll know that he needs a win to get his career back on track after an injury plagued 2020. Kobata on the other hand will be looking to build on a solid performance, albeit in a loss, against Shoki Sakai. Stylistically this could end up being a very exciting match up, and it's a real chance of being a banana skin for Adachi.
Bolton Whites Hotel (formerly De Vere Whites), Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Viktor Kotochigov (12-1, 5) Vs Gary Cully (11-0, 5)
Staying with title action we'll see once beaten Kazakh fighter Viktor Kotochigov look to get his career back on track, and bounce back from an upset loss to Maxi Hughes, as he takes on Gary Cully for the WBO European Lightweight title. The talented Kotochigov looked lost and confused at times against Hughes, who turned in one of the best performances of his career, and it's clear that Kotochigov cannot afford another loss here. The unbeaten 25 year old Cully is regarded as one of the most promising Irish fighters and will be looking to build on a successful 2020, which saw him beat Joe Fitzpatrick and Craig Woodruff. Although not a huge bout, this is very much an interesting match up to end this portion of the month with.
It's fair to say that April has been an up and down month, rather than a spectacular month. It's given us some really good highlights, but those highlights were spread through the month and often at a relatively lower level. It's not been a bad month, but it instantly looks disappointing given that two of the months biggest bouts were underwhelming, and we have an incredible May just around the corner.
Fighter of the Month
John Riel Casimero (27-4, 18)
The month didn't have a major standout for the Fighter of the Month award, there were a number of contenders, but no one took the month by the scruff of the neck quite like John Riel Casimero. The inconsistent, though hugely talented, Filipino claimed the WBO "interim" Bantamweight title when he score a final round KO win ocer Ricardo Espinoza Franco, in an off TV bout. The bout was level on the cards going into the 12th round, and it really was all to play for, with Casimero turning it on, and taking out the Mexican in the first minute of the round. A great victory and one that instantly puts him in the Bantamweight mix. Potentially Casimero could face Zolani Tete next, in what would be a really good match up between two world class, though often frustrating, fighters.
Fight of the Month
Yoji Saito vs Aso Ishiwaki
Whilst some categories were stacked this month, it's hard to think of a bout that stood out for all the right reasons and was a genuinely good, 50-50 type bout, that didn't end in the opening round, more about that in a minute. Looking back over the month the best of the bunch, for us, was the 6 round thriller between Yoji Saito and Aso Ishiwaki, who really went to war and tried to take each other out. The fight was expected to go Saito's way to begin with, given his amateur pedigree, but Ishiwaki saw off the early storm and was perhaps unfortunate to not take a notable win in what was a thriller. A really good bout, in a month lacking sensational contests.
As we mentioned there was really good 1-round fights, or rather 1 round shoot outs. These included the brilliant Boxing Raise exclusive between Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato, and the similarly entertaining contest between Yuki Yazawa and Kazuki Nakamura.
KO of the Month
Nonito Donaire KO6 Stephon Young
We had a lot of competition in this category, with great KO's scored in Asia by Cristiano Aoqui, Koiki Tyson and Chainoi Worawut, among others. The pick of the KO's however came on a higher level as Nonito Donaire's much famed left hook left Stephon Young looking up at the lights, but with no idea where he was. Donaire, even at the age of 36, may well have the most powerful left hook, pound for pound at least, in the sport and Young just became another victim to the shot. Not only was it a beauty to look at, in it's gorgeous and sudden violence, but it was also incredibly significant, as it put Donaire into the WBSS final later in the year.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 1)
One of the toughest categories this week was the Prospect of the Month, with a number of prospects in action, such as Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov, Seiya Tsutsumi, Riku Kunimoto, and our eventual pick, Ginjiro Shigeoka. The Watanabe Wondrer Kid impressed as he beat Joel Lino in what was a huge step up in class, and it seems clear that he learrned more in the bout than many of the other prospects who were in action. He not only learned a lot, but also clearly beat a very talented fighter, and a title bout is surely just around the corner.
Kanehiro Nakagawa vs Seiichi Okada and Masayasu Nakamura vs Tatsuya Takahashi
A real rarity here, but we have a draw here with two genuinely notable upsets, both of which are impossible to split for which is the best or biggest.
On one hand we had Kanehiro Nakagawa (7-6, 4) out-point former Japanese Super Featherweight champion Seiichi Okada (22-7-1, 13) and on the other we had Masayasu Nakamura (7-3-1, 6) take a decision over former Japanese Bantamweight title challenger Tatsuya Takahashi (30-9-5, 21), in what was Nakamura's first bout in almost 3 years.
Whilst fingers can be pointed at both fights, both wins are huge for the under-dogs who should be able to use their victories as a launch pad.
Seigo Yuri Akui vs Yoshiki Minato - Round 1
One of the final shows of the Heisei Era gave us a full on shoot out, as Seigo Yuri Akui and Yoshiki Minato tore into each other, with neither showing any intention of going to the final bell. Within 20 seconds Akui had staggered his man, and Minato decided to fight fire with fire, dropping Akui with a huge left hand. When the bout resumed Minato went hunting Akui who took a few moments to regroup, turning the tables with some huge shots of his own. About 80 seconds into the round Akui had scored his own knockdown, then another 20 seconds later. Minato, who had picked the wrong fight, tried to gut it out but was stopped shortly afterwards. This may not have been technically solid, but was full on, non-stop entertainment.
As we head into May, which us set to be a crazy month we bow out of April, and to be fair to April it's not been the worst month even if there has been inconsistent action. This past week was one of those where there wasn't a steady stream of notable bouts, but there was certainly enough to be entertained. Sadly the biggest bouts of the week both failed to live up to expectations, with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai fighting with some of the strangest tactics we've seen and Zolani Tete needing to pull out of his bout with Nonito Donaire. Despite those issues this week was certainly worthy paying attention to.
Fighter of the Week
Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26)
Whilst Donaire may have seen original opponent Zolani Tete pull out of the scheduled WBSS semi final that really can't take away from the fact Donaire himself turned up, and took out Stephon Young to move forward towards the WBSS final.The Filipino veteran, now aged 36, walked down Young before stopping him in 6 rounds to retain the WBA "Super" and WBC Diamond Bantamweight titles. The performance showed that Donaire is still young enough to over-come speedy younger southpaws, though the reality was that this was a massive step down to what had been planned.
Performance of the Week
Kasumi Saeki (4-0, 3)
Japan's Kasumi Saeki may not be a name that is on the lips of many fight fans but her performance this past Saturday was fantastic. Fighting in her first world title bout, in just her 4th professional bout, Saeki was up against Mexican foe Elizabeth Lopez and shone. Saeki would totally dominate Lopez before stopping in 6 rounds to become a new world champion, just 11 months after her debut. For those who haven't yet managed to see Saeki they really should be looking to follow her, she's a very, very special young fighter.
Seigo Yuri Akui vs Yoshiki Minato (Round 1)
When we get a 1 round fight that's something special it's sometimes hard to know if this belongs in "Round of the Week" or "Fight of the Week". We had this issue again this week thanks to the brilliant opening round of Seigo Yuri Akui's bout against Yoshiki Minato. The round saw both men swinging for the fences from the opening moments. Akui would be dropped, before bouncing back and dropping Minato twice, then stopping Minato on his feet. It was crazy, intense and thoroughly amazing action, the sort of 1-round thriller that we all love. The bout was one that we had been looking forward to, and will be uploaded to Boxing Raise in the coming days, we suggest that those who use Boxing Raise make sure to give this one a watch
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai Vs Juan Francisco Estrada II (Round 11)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai put in one of the strangest ever performanes of a world champion this past Friday. The hard hitting southpaw actually fought out of the orthodox stance for the most part, giving away some of his biggests strengths. In round 11 however the Thai finally began to fight as a southpaw, reverting to his typical stance, and this lead him to have real success, taking the fight to Estrada, who let machismo kick in and gave us a great round. Srisaket picked up his pressure and Estrada was forced to respond. This was a great round, and it's just a shame that Srisaket spent so much of the fight, fighting the wrong fight.
Nonito Donaire KO6 Stephon Young
We're back with the Filipino Flash who's much vaunted and thoroughly destructive left hook landed clean on the chin of Stephon Young in the 6th round of their clash. Donaire has been looking for the shot through much of the bout, landing it less flush a few times, but the one that closed the show was truly fantastic, landing clean and sending Young crashing to the ring, hard. That was it, with Young left looking up at the lights, with the lights on but nobody home.
Han Bin Suh (4-0-2, 3)
We're off to Korea for our prospect of the week, as 19 year old Han Bin Suh gets the plaudits from ourselves. The youngster, who had scored back to back draws prior to his bout this week took the Korean Super Bantamweight title with an 8th round TKO win against Dae Young Lee, Whilst Lee was nothing special to be put into a 10 round bout this early in his career Suh is certainly one to make note of. He's perhaps a little bit fortunate that there was many other prospects in action, but that shouldn't devalue the teenager winning such a big bout so early in his career.
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) Vs Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
This coming week is set to be a very busy week, and for us the most interesting match up will see Japanese Featherweight champion Taiki Minamoto defending his title against slick southpaw challenger Reiya Abe. The bout might not have a world title on the line, but it's a sensational match up and could end up being one of the best bouts on Japanese soil this year. The styles should gel, the desire of both men will be huge and we really are expecting something very, very special here.
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