It's fair to say that January was a disappointing month in terms of action. We really didn't get too many shows, or bouts, and the month meandered slowly from one one notable bout to another, with little to keep our attention in between. Despite that we did have some stellar match ups, some great performances, and a lot of prospects. With that in mind we'll kick off the year with out first month awards for 2021!
Fighter of the Month
Despite the fact there wasn't a lot going on in January there were some standout performances, a number of really noteworthy bouts and several very solid contests. For us the winner for Fight of the Month was the fighter who impressed us the most, and that was Gakuya Furuhashi, who put on a determined and brilliant performance to stop Yusaku Kuga. Their bout was amazing, genuinely an amazing bout, but it was the performance of Furuhashi that made it what it was. He walked through bombs and looked like a man possessed as he broke down Kuga. At the age of 33 he would have known this was going to be his last chance, and fought like he knew it was now or never.
Fight of the Month
Jong Seon Kang vs Nam Jun Lee
It's fair to say that January was a very, very quiet month, and there really wasn't too many Asian shows taking place through the month. Despite that we did get some amazing bouts, and the most exciting of those was the brilliant, brutal and all action bout between Jong Seon Kang and Nam Jun Lee, who battled on January 9th in a bout for the WBO Oriental Featherweight title. This was 12 rounds of sensational action and could well be in the running for the Fight of the Year come December, a truly fantastic war to kick off the year.
Yusaku Kuga Vs Gakuya Furhashi
Riku Nagahama Vs Ryota Toyoshima
Joon Sun Lee v Tae Hyub Go
KO of the Month
No suitable KO
Note - We did get some solid TKO's but in terms of KO's there was nothing that seemed award worthy.
We had plenty of prospects in action in January but for us the one that stood out was Jukiya Iimura, who looked sensational in his debut win over Daisuke Yamada. The 22 year old, at the time, Iimura dropped Yamada twice and instantly generated buzz from a sensational debut that has left us really looking forward to seeing his next bout, which will take place in March. Iimura looked exciting, heavy handed and like a fighter who has instantly adapted to the professional style of boxing. There is work to do, but he looked really, really good, and is certainly one to get excited about.
Seigo Hanamori TKO4 Naoto Mizutani
On paper Seigo Hanamori's January 29th win over Naoto Mizutani didn't appear to be a shock, given the records of the two men. Paper however doesn't tell us the full story or explain just how big of a shock this actually was. Going into the bout Mizutani was ranked by the JBC and since 2018 his only losses had come to very good fighters, in Ryo Akaho and Fumiya Fuse. Not only that but he had real momentum in the back up upset wins over Joe Tanook and Naoya Okamoto. Despite the success of Mizutani coming in he was stopped in 4 rounds by Hanamori, who had never previously defeated a fight with more wins than losses. This really was a career best win by Hanamori, by some margin.
Yusaku Kuga Vs Gakuya Furuhashi (Rd 6)
Although we didn't get a lot of fights in January we did get a lot of amazing rounds from a number of all action wars, each delivering numerous round of the month contenders. If forced to pick a single one however round 6 of the Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight between Yusaku Kuga and Gakuya Furuhashi gets the nod, just. The fight had 8 amazing rounds, but for us the 6th stands out just a little more than the others, as it seemed, during the round, that the tide began to turn against the defending champion, giving the bout a swing. Despite the tide of the fight turning in the round, it was a round that swung one way then the other. It's a round that had intense action, clean, solid, exchanges, and the entire 3 minutes was pretty much a none stop highlight reel. A genuinely amazing 3 minutes of action.
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.
The final part of December, in fact the final part of 2019 and the last part of the decade, is set to go out with a bang as we get a lot of action in the last few days.
Sho Ishida (28-1, 15) vs Israel Gonzalez (24-3, 11) - Osaka, Japan
In a really meaningful bout in Osaka we'll see two former world title challengers clash in an IBF Super Flyweight world title eliminator. In one corner will be Japan's Sho Ishida, looking to secure his second title fight, whilst his opponent is aggressive Mexican Israel Gonzalez, who has come up short twice in world title bouts. On paper Ishida, with home advantage, will be favoured but Gonzalez is no push over and will have travelled with the intention of not just winner, but of setting up a second clash with IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas. We expect this to be really exciting bout, and Gonzalez is better than he looked against Ancajas.
Joe Shiraishi (9-0-1, 4) Vs Jukiya Washio (7-4-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
In a Japanese Youth title fight we'll see Japanese Youth Flyweight champion Joe Shiraishi defending his title against Jukiya Washio. The talented, yet relatively unknown Shiraishi, is slowly making a name for himself and a win here would help push him towards a potential domestic title fight in next year or two. For Washio this is a second title fight, and whilst he is the under-dog, he's a live fighter who will be in there to win. This could be a very fun, if some what over-looked, bout.
Tokyo, Japan [TBS - Live]
Kazuto Ioka (24-2, 14) Vs Jeyvier Cintron (10-1-0-1, 5) -Tokyo, Japan
In what will be the final world title bout of the decade WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka will defend his title, for the first time, and take on mandatory challenger Jeyvier Cintron. Ioka won the title earlier this year, when he stopped Aston Palicte, to become the first Japanese man to become a 4-weight world champion, and will be looking to end a fantastic decade as a champion. For Cintron this will be his first title bout and is a huge step up from the competition he has been facing.
Kosei Tanaka (14-0, 8) vs Wulan Tuolehazi (13-3-1, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
Rising Japanese star Kosei Tanaka looked poor last time out, when he scored his second defense of WBO Flyweight title with a win over Jonthan Gonzalez, and will be hoping for a better performance here as he takes on Chinese challenger Wulan Tuolehazi. The Chinese challenger has been a thorn in the side of Japanese boxing recently, and with wins against the likes of Ryota Yamauchi and Takeshi Kaneko, but this is a massive step up in class for him. Win or lose it's expected that Tanaka will move up in weight shortly and hunt a world title at Super Flyweight in the new year.
Miyo Yoshida (13-1) vs Li Ping Shi (5-2, 2) - Tokyo, Japan
A third world title bout on this card will see WBO Female Super Flyweight champion Miyo Yoshida hunt her first defense. The talented Yoshida will be looking to defend the title she won earlier in the year, when she out pointed Casey Morton, as she takes on aggressive Chinese challenger Li Ping Shi. Although Yoshida will be the favourite here, we do suspect that Shi will be there to win, and she could be a real nightmare for the champion with her aggression and physicality.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) Vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17) -Tokyo, Japan
Prospect of the year contender Ginjiro Shigeoka looks to end the year with his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, as he takes on former world title challenger Rey Loreto. The 20 year old Shigeoka has looked fantastic since making his debut but this is a massive step against a heavy handed, tough and expected fighter who has score a number of upsets during his career. A win for Shigeoka would take see him take a huge step towards a world title fight in the new year, whilst a win for Loreto would be another upset victory for the unpredictable Pinoy puncher.
Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13) vs Jhunriel Ramonal (16-8-6, 9) - Tokyo, Japan
Another WBO Asia Pacific title fight will see heavy handed Japanese fighter Yusaku Kuga take on Filipino slugger Jhunriel Ramonal for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Bantamweight title. For Kuga it's a chance to become a double champion, adding the belt to the Japanese title he won earlier this year, whilst Ramonal is looking to build on his huge upset win over Shingo Wake. We suspect this could be a genuinely explosive fight, between two hard hitting fighters who will both be looking to the title and a KO win. We expect this to be a lot of fun.
Marina Sayama (4-1-1, 2) vs Yume Hirayama (4-0)- Tokyo, Japan
One more title fight to close out the year will see Marina Sayama and Yume Hirayama battle for the vacant Japanese female Flyweight title, in what will be a second bout between the two women. The first time these two met Hirayama beat Sayama with a decision over 4 rounds, and if she does the same here she'll be a champion at the age of just 19! On the other hand Sayama is a former football player, and a win here would see her become a rare case of a competitor being a success in different sports.
As we head towards the new year we've had a big look at the current scene and come up with "20 fights we'd like to see in 2020", yeah another series ahead of the new decade!
As is always the case with what we do, these articles will have an Asian flavour, and every bout we mention in the series will have at least 1 fighter from Asia involved. So for those of you expecting us to talk about Deontay Wilder Vs Anthony Joshua, that won't be listed.
What we'll be looking at is well matched contests with either some form of back story, a great stylistic clash or bouts with some form of significant meaning. If they tick all the boxes then that is even better! Each fight will be given it's own article and each of these will come with an introduction to the fighters, and why the bout is being featured in the list.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14) vs Yusaku Kuga (19-3-1, 13)
The Super Bantamweight division is a truly under-rated one, but one that has the potential to deliver a lot of thrillers over the coming years, at every level. Arguably the match up that has the potential to be the most violent is a clash between heavy handed boxer punchers Hiroaki Teshigawara, the current OPBF champion, and Yusaku Kuga, the current Japanese champion who looks to claim the WBO Asia Pacific at the very end of 2019. If Kuga wins on December 31st then why not have this for all the marbles at some point in 2020?
Hiroaki Teshigawara is a 29 year old boxer-puncher who has been guided by former world champion Koichi Wajima, who is angling Teshigawara for a world title fight at some point in the new year. Although relatively unknown outside of Asia he won both of the two main regional titles, the WBO Asia Bantamweight title and the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. To go along his title triumphs are some very strong wins, including a win over current OPBF Bantamweight champion Keita Kurihara and stoppage wins over world title challengers Jetro Pabustan, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. He currently has 3 OPBF title defenses under his belt. Despite his good form he only has a world ranking with the IBF, who's world title situation is a bit of a mess right now.
In the ring Teshigawara is an exciting fighter, who burst on to the scene as a slightly crude fighter, but has adapted his style, become more patient, and is now a very skilled boxer-puncher. He's frustrating to face, creates and controls distance well an is very much a nightmare for opponents to even get close to.
Yusaku Kuga is also a 29 year old Japanese fighter, and is the current Japanese Super Bantamweight champion. He's expected to add the WBO Asia Pacific title to his collection on December 31st, when he faces Jhunriel Ramonal, and if he does a bout with Teshigawara would essentially be for recognition as the best fighter on the regional scene. Kuga is a 2-time Japanese champion and is very dangerous, with brutal power in both hands. He's not a very technically smooth fighter, but he's someone who will go to war any time, with anyone. That mentality has seen him fight in some thrillers, including 2 sensational bouts with Ryoichi Tamura.
Despite being a talented fighter Kuga is a limited boxer, and when matched wrong he can be made to look very limited. This was shown in 2018, when he was easily out boxed, and eventually stopped, by Shingo Wake. Against someone who likes a fighter however he tends to come out on top. A fight with Teshigawara would almost certainly end up being a war. Interestingly he is only ranked by the WBC, though a win in December would likely secure him a top 15 WBO ranking as well.
With all the marbles on the line, a potential world title fight for the winner and with styles that should make for a brilliant clash this is a fight we would love to see and we would expect explosive, exciting and brutal action throughout. The winner will deserve a crack at a world title and we, as fans, would get something special.
Guys get this made for 2020!
(Image courtesy of A.McGovern and Boxmob.jp)
After a flurry of activity over the past few days we now head into the back stretch of the month and it's another busy stretch, with some excellent match ups coming up.
Taku Kuwahara (5-0, 4) vs Jonathan Refugio (21-6-5, 7) - Tokyo, Japan
Touted Ohashi gym prospect Taku Kuwahara is regarded highly in Japan but has yet to step up. That changes on September 17th when he takes on experienced Filipino Jonathan Refugio in a big step up. This should serve as a genuine test for Kuwahara, who has shown touches of brilliance, but is certainly not a gimme for the unbeaten man as he goes against a foe who has given world class fighters decent competition.
Yusaku Kuga (18-3-1, 12) vs Yosuke Fujihara (18-6, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Yusaku Kuga will be looking to make his first defense of his second reign as he takes on the experienced, but limited, Yosuke Fujihara. On paper this looks a pretty even looking match up, but in reality should be little more than a showcase defense for the champion, who is a monster at the domestic level. We suspect Kuga runs through a brave Fujihara in only a handful of rounds.
Tsubasa Murachi (4-0, 3) Vs Froilan Saludar (30-3-1, 21) - Tokyo, Japan
A really good match up will see fast rising Japanese youngster Tsubasa Murachi take on former world title challenger Froiland Saludar in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. For Murachi this is a huge step up, a bit like the previously mentioned Kuwahara, though he has shown touches of being a fantastic young prospect and his team clearly have a lot of belief in him. Saludar has proven to not be world class, but he's certainly a good gate keeper type fighter and all 3 of his losses have come to world class opposition. A win for Murachi puts him on the fringes of the world rankings whilst a win for Saludar keeps his career alive, a very important bout.
Masataka Taniguchi (11-3, 7) vs Kai Ishizawa (6-0, 6) -Tokyo, Japan
In a Japanese eliminator at Minimumweight we'll see former world title challenger Masataka Taniguchi take on Japanese Youth champion Kai Ishizawa. For Taniguchi this is not a bout he can afford to lose, following a loss earlier this year to Vic Saludar, and the talented Watanabe gym fighter has lost 3 of his most significant bout to date. On the other hand this is a massive step up in class for Ishizawa, and it could end up being too much too soon for the youngster. Ishizawa has looked good so far, but his aggression is crude and he may be a fight or two away from being polished enough to take on someone like Taniguchi. This should be very exciting, and very hard hitting.
Wakako Fujiwara (8-3-2, 3) vs Yoshie Wakasa (6-1, 2) - Osaka, Japan
The in form Wakako Fujiwara looks to defend her OPBF Female Bantamweight title, as she takes on the once beaten Yoshie Wakasa. Both enter this bout on the back of a loss, though it's worth noting that Fujiwara's loss came at Super Featherweight to world champion Hyun Mi Choi, whilst Wakasa lost in a domestic Bantamweight title fight to Miyo Yoshida. Fujiwara should be strongly favoured, but Wakasa is going to be there to win and could make for a very tough challenge.
Miki Mitsuda (5-5, 4) vs Kimika Miyoshi (13-12-1, 5) - Osaka, Japan
Ina Japanese female Featherweight title bout Miki Mitsuda takes on veteran Kimika Miyoshi. Mitsuda will be looking to make her first defense of the title, following her title win in April against Asami Jinnari, and she is in good form, going 4-1 in her last 5. Miyoshi is a multi-weight OPBF champion, but has not lost her last 4 and is more than 3 years removed from her last win. This should be a competitive bout, but we can't see it really getting much attention given the limitations of both fighters.
Batyrzhan Jukembayev (16-0-0-2, 13) vs Miguel Vazquez (41-8, 15) - Quebec, Canada
Unbeaten Kazakh Batyrzhan Jukembayev takes on his biggest test so far as he battles Mexican fighter Miguel Vazquez, himself a former IBF Lightweight champion. The aggressive Jukembayev has been screaming for a serious test for a while now and here he's getting one against a very talented, though some what faded Vazquez. At his best Vazquez was a real nightmare to fight, and whilst he's still talented he has shown signs of slipping in recent years. Jukambayev isn't the most polished, and we expect the Canadian based Kazakh to struggle at times, but youth and power should be enough to earn him a win here.
Batyr Akhmedov (7-0, 6) Vs Mario Barrios (24-0, 16) - Los Angeles, USA
The WBA have created a new title at Light Welterweight and look to fill it as Uzbek born, Russian based puncher Batyr Akhmedov takes on in form American Mario Barrios, in what should be a hard hitting and exciting contest. On paper neither of these men will be in the top 10 in the division, and neither would be ready to face the WBA "super" champion Regis Prograis, but the styles of the two men involved should make for a sensational battle. Back in the day this would have been a brilliant eliminator type bout, and it's a shame in many ways that the bout is instead for a secondary title. Saying that however it should still be a great fight and well worth tuning in for.
We now head into June, and we do so on the back of a huge May that had everything a fight fan could wish for. We had regular, frequent action, at every level, we had fantastic fights, brilliant performances, and a month that is going to be one of the very, very best of 2019.
Fighter of the Month
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We had some great performances through the month, but it was clearly only one man who was in the running to be regarded as the fighter of the month, and that was the Monster. Inoue not only boosted his profile to a point of international star, progressed to the WBSS final, claimed the IBF Bantamweight title, but did so in a fashion that seemed to tell the world how good he was, stopping the unbeaten Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2 rounds. This was the type of win that made those, who dind't know of Inoue, sit up and take note. And for those who had long supported the Monster it was vindication that he wasn't just a normal fighter, in fact he was an historical fighter, becoming the first Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe.
Fight of the Month
Taiki Minamoto (16-5, 13) vs Reiya Abe (19-2, 9)
May really did have a lot going on it, with a huge number of fights, but we actually go back to the very start of the month for our Fight of the Month. That was the Japanese Featherweight title fight between between the hard hitting Taiki Minamoto and Reiya Abe, a bout that was sensational, with momentum shifts, excitement, skills, power, heart. Abe, the more skilled fighter, was dropped twice, but gritted his teeth and earned a draw in what wasn't a warm it wasn't a brawl, but it was a brilliant, high skilled, boxing contest. We love wars, and we had those through the month, but this was a brilliant fight and is a must watch for any fight fan.
KO of the Month
Takenori Ohashi TKO7 Shun Wakabayashi
When a fighter is being out boxed, out sped, out fought and out skilled there is always a chance he can bail himself out, if he's a puncher. That's what we saw when Takenori Ohashi landed a brutal uppercut, leaving Wakabayashi out cold, flat on his back and rendering any of Wakabayashi's success as moot. It was proof of the adage of "it only takes 1 punch" and proof that when a fighter is a puncher, they are always in the fight. A massive KO and a huge statement for Ohashi.
Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4)
Although we saw more notable prospects, and we saw bigger wins, we were really impressed by Macao's 22 year old Lap Cheong Cheong this month, as he took an excellent win over Muhammad Wahid in Hong Kong. The unbeaten Macau man pressed the fight through out, took the fight to his foe and tried to break him down from the first round the final seconds. Wahid's toughness prevented the stoppage, but Cheong couldn't have impressed much more. We loved hi style, mentality and hunger, and he looks like a really exciting young fighter.
Masafumi Ando KO3 Toshio Arikawa
Japanese domestic level journeyman Masafumi Ando scored the biggest win of his career, by far, by stopping former Japanese Welterweight champion Toshio Arikawa in 3 rounds. Ando, who had won just 1 of his previous 4 bouts, was a huge under-dog against Arikawa and when he was dropped himself things seemed to be against him. That however instantly changed when he dropped Arikawa and sent him into retirement. What's particularly remarkable about this win is that Ando hadn't scored a stoppage in well over 5 years, and had only beaten 1 opponent with a winning record, the then 1-0 Masanori Iwai.
Ryoichi Tamura Vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
We had some amazing fights during the month, in what was a truly amazing month. Among the best was the 10 round rematch between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga. The bout had some amazing rounds, the pick of which was the 6th round, as Tamura, who knew he was well behind, moved through the gears and began to push Kuga back. Kuga held his ground more than he did in the later rounds, and gave us a really special 3 minutes of damaging and brutal action. An excellent 3 minutes in what was a fantastic bout, and is well worthy a watch by anyone who likes hard hitting wars.
This past week has been an incredible one in the grand scheme of things. We've had Asian fighters fighting for world titles on 3 different days, we've had a whole host of prospects, Japanese title bouts, two live streamed shows on Boxing Raise, more streamed action from Thailand and Taiwan and it really has been a week to remember. With that in mind it's been a really great week for our weekly awards, and an incredible hard one to decide in terms of some winners.
Fighter of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
We suspect that there will be no argument at all with us selecting "The Monster" as our fighter of the week. He really was the talk of the boxing world through the last 7 days, not only in the build up to his WBSS semi-final bout with Emmanuel Rodriguez but also afterwards, with his 2nd round demolition of the Puerto Rican really being something very spectacular. Whilst we did feel that Rodriguez perhaps had an overly inflated reputation coming in to the bout there was no questioning Inoue's performance. He took a round to get a read on Rodriguez, then destroyed him to become the first ever Japanese fighter to win a world title fight in Europe. This was the Monster announcing himself, and doing so in a way that leave no doubt about the Japanese star.
Performance of the Week
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16)
For the first time ever our Fighter of the Week, generally given to the fighter who scored the best win, and our Performance of the Week, the fighter who impressed us the most, are the same man. We won't bother to repeat ourselves, though we will say that if you've not yet seen the performance this was something amazing.
Despite Inoue picking up the double we will just add that the performances form Yusaku Kuga, Tsubasa Maruchi, Masayuki Kuroda and Reiya Konishi were all very impressive and all would likely have been a serious contender had we not had the Monster do what he did in Glasgow.
Moruti Mthalane Vs Masayuki Kuroda
We loved the rematch between Ryuichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga, and the thriller between Tatsuya Yanagi and Koichi Aso, but the reality is that Monday's world title fight between Moruti Mthalane and Masayuki Kuroda was a level above the other bouts. This was something to behold, a 12 round war, with the skills of Mthalane put against the heart and desire of Kuroda. The champion retained his IBF Flyweight title relatively comfortably in the end, but that cannot take away from the fact that the bout was sensational. It was a really, really exciting, well fought contest that deserves to mentioned as a FOTY contender
Ryoichi Tamura vs Yusaku Kuga II (6)
There was so many amazing rounds this past week. We had things like Yosuke Fujihara v Naoya Okamoto, round 3, Koichi Aso v Tatsuya Yanagi, round 7, and and several rounds from Moruti Mthalane vs Masayuki Kuroda bout. For us however the Japanese Super Bantamweight title bout between Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga had the best round of the week. It's difficult to pick one, though we're edging with round 6, which was the round where the fight really came alive. Tamura, who was losing the bout quite clearly after 5 rounds, picked up his pace and we ended up with a 3 minute fire fight, that began the second half of a sensational fight. This was the sort of bout that we love, for the action, but hate knowing that there's a chance neither man will ever be the same. A truly brutal fight, with some truly amazing rounds.
Kenta Nakagawa TKO7 Ryosuke Nasu
For such an amazing, action packed week, we didn't really have many standout KO's on show. Whilst Naoya Inoue's stoppage of Emmanuel Rodriguez was impressive Rodriguez wasn't out cold. Arguably the best of the bunch was Kenta Nakagawa's brilliant left hand against Ryosuke Nasu, that left Nasu out in Nakagwa's corner. The bout hadn't been thje mopst notable but the stoppage was huge and really showed that, despite his limitations, Nakagawa can bang at this level.
Ryusei Kawaura (6-0, 4)
If we're being totally honest the Prospect of the Week was one of the harder categories this past week, even hard than the Fight and Round of the Week. We had notable wins for not only our winner, Ryusei Kawaura, but also Batyrzhan Jukembayev, Shakhobidin Zoirov, Elnur Abduraimov, Eric Pen and Tsubasa Maruchi. For us Kawaura's win over Renoel Pael, and the manner of that win, was what won him the award, but in reality it was really close and we got a real glimpse at some amazing talent this past week, talent that will make a mark at a much higher level in the near future future.
Carlos Canizales (21-0-1, 17) vs Sho Kimura (18-2-2, 11)
As with the week we've just had there is a lot to look forward to over the coming 7 days. For us the highlight, at least on paper, is the WBA "regular" Light Flyweight title bout between Carlos Canizales and Sho Kimura. This has the potential to be a sensational bout, and a true FOTY contender. Canizales, looking to make his second defense of the title, is the natural Light Flyweight, and is a strong powerful guy at 108lbs, whilst Kimura is dropping down from Flyweight for this. If Kimura makes the weight safely we should be in for something truly, and gruesomely violent.
We mentioned them at the start of this but they need mentioning again, Boxing Raise were tremendous. They gave us two live shows, one of which was totally free whilst one was for their members. The first of those shows was arguably the show of the week and featured a trio of amazing match ups, once again showing the level of service their cards have.
TVK were a real mixed bag, winning the first ever "Half assed" award. Whilst they were big winners on Monday, live streaming the IBF Flyweight title bout between Masayuki Kuroda and Moruti Mthalane, we are really disappointed that they've not uploaded the bout to their youtube channel for a chance to rewatch what was a FOTY candidate...come on folks!
Masafumi Ando, who scored a huge upset by stopping former Japanese Welterweght champion Toshio Arikawa. Ando was expected to be taken out but completely ripped up the script to score a career defining win, and prove that even with his poor record he can still be a banana skin to much more well known fighters.
Whilst the start of May was exciting, with a number of notable bouts taking place in the first few days of the month things go off the charts in the middle portion of the month with a string of major bouts, and some very, very exciting lesser bouts.
Keita Kurihara (13-5, 11) Vs Warlito Parrenas (26-9-1, 23) - Tokyo, Japan
In a potentially thrilling bout for the OPBF Bantamweight title fight we'll see defending champion Keita Kurihara defending his title, for the first time, and battle against Filipino slugger Warlito Parrenas. The champion is really exciting, and although not the most technically complete fighter is a really brutal puncher. The challenger, who also has brutal power, is regarded as a bit of a glass cannon, and will feel like he's in last chance saloon. This is set to be a really thrilling, all action shoot out. Of the two Kurihara is the younger, fresher, man but Parrenas has got experience at a very high level and will be looking to rely on that experience here. We're expecting fireworks aplenty here.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-4-2, 8) Vs Hironobu Matsunaga (14-1, 8) - Tokyo, Japan
A second title bout on this day will see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Nobuyuki Shindo defending his belt, for the second time, as he takes on mandatory challenger Hironobu Matsunaga. Shindo made his first defense late last year, fighting to a draw in a ridiculously good bout with Akinori Watanabe, and will be looking to build on some recent results as he takes on the in form Matsunaga is riding an 8 fight winning streak, including notable wins over Sanosuke Sasaki, Je Ni Ma and Koshinmaru Saito.
Mark Anthony Geraldo (37-9-3, 18) vs Neil John Tabanao (17-4, 11) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
An interesting GAB Super Bantamweight title bout will see talented Mark Anthony Gerlado take on Neil John Tabanao. It's rare we get really good GAB title fights, but this one is worthy of some noting, partly due to the level that Geraldo has fought at, sharing the ring with a real who's who including McJoe Arroyo, Takuma Inoue and Nordine Oubaali in recent years, and partly due to the fact Tabanao is a solid challenger. The champion is a good gatekeeper, and only tends to lose to people who can compete at the top. Tabanao on the other hand is a tough, game foe who has never been stopped and comes into this bout knowing a win could boost his standing.
Charly Suarez (2-0, 2) Vs Waldo Sabu (13-14, 3) - Davao del Norte, Philippines
A second notable bout on this card will see highly regarded former Filipino amateur standout Charly Suarez take on Waldo Sabu. This is a huge mismatch, but given how we're expecting to see Suarez make a mark at a higher level later in the near future this bout is pretty significant. We're going to be really excited to see where Suarez goes, but his next bout really does need to be a big step up in class, as he can't waste any more time at this level.
Moruti Mthalane (37-2, 25) Vs Masayuki Kuroda (30-7-3, 16) - Tokyo, Japan
One of the biggest bouts for this portion of the month will see IBF Flyweight champion Moruti Mthalane defending his title, for the second time. The talented South African will take on mandatory challenger Masayuki Kuroda. The champion looked sensational in December, when he defended the title against Masahiro Sakamoto, but at the age of 36 father time will likely catch up with him before long. The talented Kuroda is solid, but this will be a big step up for him, and he will need a career best performance to even be competitive with the champion.
Ryusei Kawaura (5-0, 4) vs Renoel Pael (23-8-1, 12) - Tokyo, Japan
Charly Suarez isn't the only hotly tipped former amateur stand out to be in action in the coming days, with Ryusei Kawaura set to take a notable step up in class and take on talented Filipino Renoel Pael. The unbeaten Japanese youngster is tipped for really, really big things and this is the next natural step forward for him. Pael has never been stopped, and has shared the ring with several notable fighters including Andrew Moloney. A stoppage for Kawaura here would be a huge statement, though a win would certainly be impressive at this early point in his career.
Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9) vs Jelbirt Gomera (14-5, 7) - Belfast, Northern Ireland
Filipino fighter Jelbirt Gomera is certainly not a big name, though has shared the ring with the likes of Can Xu and Hidenori Otake, and will now be taking on former world champion Ryan Burnett, in what will be Burnett's first bout since losing to Nonito Donaire last year. Gomera will clearly be the under-dog, but will come into the bout knowing that this is the perfect time to face Burnett, after his lay off and injury.
Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) Vs Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 11) II -Tokyo, Japan
A really interesting rematch that we'll see this month will pit Japanese Japanese Super Bantamweight champion Ryoichi Tamura against former champion Yusaku Kuga. These two had an absolute war in their first bout, and we're expecting another brutal brawl here. Both are technically limited, but very aggressive and exciting. Tamura is a volume guy, who marches forward through an insane amount of thudding leather, whilst Kuga is a puncher, who looks to take opponents out. With that combination of styles we may be set for something really, really special here.
Naoya Inoue (17-0, 15) Vs Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-0, 12) - Glasgow, United Kingdom
One of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 will see top Bantamweights collide, as Naoya Inoue takes on Emmanuel Rodriguez in a WBSS Semi-final bout, which will have the IBF and Ring magazine titles up for grabs. Inoue will be looking to create history, as the first Japanese fighter to win a world title in Europe, whilst Rodriguez will be looking to destroy the all-Asian WBSS dream final between Inoue and Nonito Donaire. Whilst the WBSS has had it's issues with this season, this semi-final, and the eventual final, are going massively anticipated by fans, and really can't complain about quality of this bout, or the final.
So once again fans, worldwide, are complaining about the judges and their scoring of a fight. In fact once again we're being told boxing is dying because of the judges, and that it won't keep it's current fans or attract new ones, whilst ignoring the fact that the recent Manny Pacquiao Vs Jeff Horn fight was a really fantastic battle shown on ESPN. The fight may have left a bad taste in the mouths of many, and may have lead to more than a few forum bust ups, but it's fair to say that the sport isn't dying. In fact over the coming weeks, to the end of July, we have some real thrillers to look forward to. And in fact we have number which feature fighters from the Asian boxing scene.
The first two come on May 9th from a show in Russia which features a number of Japanese fighters getting out their passport for a potentially thrilling show in Ekaterinburg. One of those Japanese fighters is former world title challenger Daiki Kaneko (26-5-3, 18) who takes on unbeaten Russian Pavel Malikov (11-0, 5). This bout won't set the world on fire in terms of name value, but they fighters have the ability to put on an absolute classic of high skilled, high energy and highly aggressive fighting. Malikov will be the favourite, given his unbeaten record and home advantage, but Kaneko always brings the fight and should make for a real under-the-radar war.
On the same card in Russia fans will see the once beaten Dmitry Mikhaylenko (22-1, 10) face off with fast rising Uzbek prospect Qudratillo Abduqaxorov (11-0, 8), with the Uzbek defending his WBC silver Welterweight title. The Russian has been shown cased in the US and holds notable wins over the likes of Sechew Powell, Ronald Cruz, Johan Perez, Karim Mayfield and Breidis Prescott and is a fun fighter able to fight at a high pace. The Uzbek on the other hand is a hard matched boxer-puncher with a really solid record for such a novice. Interestingly Abduqaxorov won the title he's defending by stopping Charles Manyuchi, who won the belt himself by upsetting Mikhaylenko. Expect this to be a fun back and forth, fought at a high pace with real momentum shifts.
July 15th promises to be a day that has something special at the start, and at the end.
The day begins with a really exciting WBA Minimumweight title bout as the unbeaten Knockout CP Freshmart (15-0, 7) defends against mandatory challenger Rey Loreto (21-13, 15). On paper we know this looks like a mismatch, and can under-stand fans complaining about the fact a guy with 13 losses is fighting for a world title, but the reality is that Loreto, like many Filipino fighters, was matched hard and picked up early career losses. In recent years however he has gone on a 7-0 (6) run, with wins against former world champions Pornsawak Porpramook and Nkosinathi Joyi. Knockout is regarded as one of the top Minimumweights, and is an improving boxer with solid power and very good skills. The unbeaten champion will be favoured but this is no forgone conclusion and should be a real thriller.
Talking about thriller the days ends with the massively anticipated WBC Super Featherweight title fight between Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28) and former champion Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24). It's hard not to get excited about this one, as both men are aggressive, heavy handed, exciting and genuine world class. The younger, fresher, champion will be favoured and really impressed last time when he stopped Francisco Vargas for the title, but he has shown a dodgy chin in the past and was stopped inside a round back in 2014 by the unheralded Luis Eduardo Florez. Miura came to the attention of US fans back in 2015 when he lost a FOTY contender to the aforementioned Vargas, and has since had another war on US soil against Miguel Roman. This could be a very special, very explosive and a real blink and you miss it contest to end the day, and mark the mid-way point of the month.
On July 23rd Japanese fight fans get a world title double header in Tokyo. One of those looks like a real treat, as the Minimumweight division against looks like it's going to shine. That bout sees IBF champion Jose Argumedo (20-3-1, 12) defending his title against human wrecking ball Hiroto Kyoguchi (7-0, 6). Interestingly Argumedo won the title in Japan, beating Katsunari Takayama, and will be returning their for his next defense. He's not the best boxer out there but is a big, tough, strong fighter with a style that should gel against the all action Kyoguchi, who had always hunted stoppages and will be stepping up massively. This looks almost certain to be a war, and one that could have fight fans give some real attention to the Minimumweight division, at least for the duration of the contest.
The Super Bantamweight division is one of the best in Japan right now, with the country having two world champions and a host of contenders. On the domestic scene the division is red hot and on July 29th we'll see heavy handed Japanese champion Yusaku Kuga (14-2-1, 10) defending his title against the under-rated Ryoichi Tamura (8-2-1, 5). Although this is one that will be for the truly hardcore, with the bout being shown on subscription site Boxingraise, it has the potential to be a thrilling and explosive fire fight. Kuga is spiteful puncher, who is relatively unrefined but so heavy handed that every shot he throws is hurtful. As for Tamura he has been matched hard from the off and comes into this on a 5-fight winning run, having stopped his last 4. This has the ingredients of a short lived war with combustible styles colliding in a thoroughly exciting stylistic match up. Both fighters fighters are going to be tagged, and this could be over very quickly, or be an all out thriller.
To end the month we stay with the type of bouts only the hardcore fans would look at with any excitement going in. That's the OPBF Bantamweight title fight between defending champion Mark John Yap (26-12, 12) and former 2-time Japanese national champion Kentaro Masuda (27-7, 15). On paper this doesn't look amazing, with the men having almost 20 losses between them, but records are certainly misleading and shouldn't be used to judge match quality as the styles, mentality and skills of these two are much better than the numbers suggest. What we have here are two rough and tough Bantamweights looking to move towards a world title fight and we're expecting a rough, punishing 12 round war for the Oriental title and for pride. Don't sleep on this one.
Yeah we know people are angry about the result of Pacquiao Vs Horn but don't let that cloud what should be a month of brilliant action, and really we should be excited that the next 4 weeks is set to be nothing short of brilliant and full of treats for us fans, hardcore and casual.
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