It's fair to suggest that February has been a slow month for fight fans in Asia, in fact at times it's felt down right glacial, with little happening, especially in the middle of the month. We had a good start, and a good end but then we had almost 2 weeks with nothing much happening. Thankfully March is set to be a whole different kettle of fish with interesting bouts right through the month.
With that said lets take a look at what to expect in the first part of March!
Daiki Tomita (14-1, 5) vs Kenichi Horikawa (40-16-1, 13)
A new Month kicks off with OPBF Light Flyweight title action as Daiki Tomita and Kenichi Horikawa clash for the vacant title. For Tomita this is a second shot at an OPBF belt, having come up short against Tsubasa Koura in 2018, whilst Horikawa will be lookin to bounce back from the loss of the Japanese national title to Yuto Takahashi. Although neither man is a huge name this is a very interesting looking bout, and could either send Horikawa into one final title run, or into retirement.
Dennapa Kiatniwat (21-2, 16) Vs Jeny Boy Boca (13-6, 11) -
Former world title challenger Dennapa Kiatniwat defends his WBA Asia Flyweight title against heavy handed, but very much out of form, Filipino Jeny Boy Buca. The Thai local got a world title fight last year and looked second rate against WBA king Artem Dalakian, but should have too much at this level. Buca was once regarded as a promising puncher, but then went 4-5 (2) and lost pretty much all of the momentum he had built in his first 10 bouts.
Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Knockout CP Freshmart (20-0, 7) Vs Norihito Tanaka (19-7, 10)
Unbeaten WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart seeks his 8th defense as he takes on Japanese challenger Norihito Tanaka. The once highly regarded, and still unbeaten, champion has failed to inspire in recent bouts, and with 5 decision wins in a row his name has become rather a joke. Although talented Knockout has certainly not enthralled. Sadly however it's hard to imagine the 35 year old Tanaka having the energy and power needed to defeat the local fighter, and become the first Japanese man to ever claim a world title in Thailand.
Hironobu Matsunaga (16-1, 10) Vs Yuto Shimizu (14-4-2, 5)
In the main event of the monthly "Dynamic Glove" show we'll see Japanese Light Middleweight champion Hironobu Matsunaga defending his title against mandatory challenger Yuto Shimizu as part of the 2020 edition of the Champion Carnival. Matsunaga has looked mightily impressive in recent outings and will be looking to make his second defense. Although Shimizu is less exciting and aggressive than Matsunaga he is a big, awkward lump and give the champion fits with his size alone. A very interesting match up.
Keita Kurihara (15-5, 13) Vs Joe Tanooka (15-7-5, 1)
On the same Japanese show world ranked slugger Keita Kurihara takes on the talented, but feather fisted, Joe Tanooka in a bout that really does give us very different styles. Kurihara is a genuinely dynamite puncher who has gone 12-1 (10) in his last 13 bouts and will be looking to show he can box a but, before taking apart Tanooka. Tanooka on the other hand is a quick, technically capable fighter who will be looking to lure Kurihara into a mistake and countering. A very interesting contest, even if it lacks in terms of big name intrigue.
Reiya Abe (19-3-1, 9) vs Ren Sasaki (10-0, 6)
Former 2-time Japanese national title challenger Reiya Abe looks to move towards a third potential title bout when he takes on unbeaten southpaw Ren Sasaki. The talented Abe had a 2019 to forget, fighting to a draw with Taiki Minamoto and losing to Ryo Sagawa, and needs to rebuild his moment. In terms of achievement he should be seen as a big favourite here, however he doesn't get a gimme. The unbeaten Sasaki is no push over, and is a very decent boxer himself, having won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2017. Expect this to be a compelling 8 rounder.
Jacob Ng (13-0, 10) vs Valentine Hosokawa (25-7-3, 12)
In a potential hidden gem Australian Jacob Ng will be defending his IBF International and WBO Oriental Lightweight titles against the under-rated Valentine Hosokawa. On paper Ng should be regarded as a big favourite. He's the bigger, younger, hard hitting, unbeaten champion. And he's at home. But Hosokawa can't be over-looked at this level and the Japanese fighter is a very strong, aggressive fighter who throws a lot of leather and can take a lot of punishment. Don't be surprised if this one is one of the real highlights of March.
Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu (15-0, 8) vs Mark Urvanov (17-2-1, 9)
Unbeaten 29 year old Kyrgyzstan born Akzhol Sulaimanbek Uulu will be looking to continue his rise through the ranks, and take a huge step towards a potential world title fight as he takes on Russian fighter Mark Urvanov. This will be Uulu's first 12 round bout and we dare say if he wins here his team will begin hunting a world title eliminator for him, for later in the year. Although no world beater Urvanov is a good test at this level and comes in on the back of a career best result, stopping former world title challenger Evgeny Chuprakov back in November. Hard not to like this one....a lot!
Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov (15-0, 9) Vs Tomas Rojas (51-18-1-1, 34)
Unbeaten Tajik hopeful Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov looks to take his next step forward as he faces former world title holder Tomas Rojas. On paper this looks like a step up against a grizzled old veteran, but with the fight taking place up at Super Featherweight we do wonder whether Rojas, who was a Super Flyweight at his best, will simply be over-powered and out manned by Yaqubov. At the age of 39 and with a 2-4 record in the last 3 years we really do wonder what Rojas has left, other than his name.
Seigo Yuri Akui (14-2-1, 10) Vs Seiya Fujikita (13-4, 6) -
Hard hitting Seigo Yuri Akui looks to make his first defense of the Japanese Flyweight title as he takes on mandatory challenger Seiya Fujikita. The explosive punching Akui has proven to be scarily dangerous early on, with 9 opening round T/KO's, and will be looking to make it #10 here. Fujikita has never been stopped stopped but with only a single, low key, win in the since June 2018 it's hard to know what he has to offer. Fujikita could be the type of durable test who can see out the Akui storm, or could be the next early victim for the destroyer from Okayama.
Rey Caitom (9-0-1, 4) vs ArAr Andales (10-2, 2)
Former world title challenger ArAr Andales is going to be in rebuilding mode this year after back to back losses in 2019, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart and Joel Lino. Rather than having an easy bout to kick off 2020 the 20 year old will be up against the unbeaten Rey Caitom, in a tough looking bout. Andales will be favoured, and has impressed at a higher level, but with those losses we do wonder about how he is mentally. Caitom has fought at a much lower level will clearly be in the ring knowing a win pushes him to within touching distance of a world title shot.
Shingo Wake (26-6-2, 18) Vs Toshiya Yokogawa (11-12-2, 10)
Former world title challenger Shingo Wake was shockingly upset last year, by Jhunriel Ramonal, and now looks to begin rebuilding. He's being matched easily here, as he takes on 34 year old domestic foe Toshiya Yokogawa. Given the loss to Ramonal, and how brutal it was, we can't complain about Wake getting an easy bout here, but he really can't spend too long fighting at this level, and we suspect this will be a tune up to a much bigger bout in the summer as Wakes begins his climb, again, to a second world title fight.
Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2) Vs Issei Ochiai (2-0, 1)
On the same card we'll also see Japanese Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii make his first defense, as he takes on the touted Issei Ochiai. Ishii has impressed since turning professional and his title win, back in December over Haruki Ishikawa, was a sensational bout. The challenger hasn't quite impressed like the champion, but this is certainly a chance for him to shine. We expect big things from both men going forward, but the winner should be put on the fast track to more notable honours.
Yuto Takahashi (11-4, 5) vs Masamichi Yabuki (10-3, 10)
Another Japanese title fight will see Japanese Light Flyweight champion Yuto Takahashi make his first defense, as he goes up against his mandatory Masamichi Yabuki. Takahashi scored a surprise title win last October, when he over-came veteran Kenichi Horikawa, and will be looking to prove that he can over-come a prime puncher like Yabuki, as well as a faded veteran like Horikawa. For Yabuki this is his first title fight and he'll be looking to prove he really is destructive at Light Flyweight, having move down to the division last year.
Sandwiched between an awesome October and a brilliant looking December is a somewhat more normal November. It's not a bad month, by any stretch, but it does look a lot less interesting than the month that has come before it, and the month that is set to follow it. Despite that it does start in amazing fashion with a very hectic start to the month!
Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21) Vs Jonathan Javier Rodriguez (21-1, 15) -California, USA
Jerwin Ancajas looks for his next defense of the IBF Super Flyweight world title as he takes on Mexican challenger Javier Rodriguez. The talented Ancajas should have no problem at all with the Mexican, who has just a single win of note on his record, though we do wonder what motivation Ancajas has after a string of less than great challengers. He's a very talented fighter, but he needs to question why his team aren't matching him with any of the other notable fighters in the division.
Hiroki Okada (19-1, 13) Vs Javier Molina (20-2, 8) - California, USA
Japan's Hiroki Okada returns to the US for his third bout in the country as he takes on 2008 Olympian Javier Molina. For Okada the bout will be his first since being stopped by Ray Beltran in a thriller earlier this year, and it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back from that loss. For Molina the bout will be seen as a very winnable one, and a chance for him to continue a nice little winning run that's been going for a coupel of years. Neither man can really afford a loss here and so we're expecting a very good contest.
Romero Duno (21-1, 16) Vs Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15) - Las Vegas, USA
Months after the bout was first touted we now get Romero Duno against Ryan Garcia, in what looks like a mouth watering clash. The Filipino is a huge puncher, but technically rough around the edges, a bit crude and open and not particularly polished in how he fights. Garcia on the other hand is a talented pretty boy, who has a very flash and quick style. It'll be Duno's heavy hands against the speed and combinations of Garcia, in what could be one of the most intriguing bouts of the month.
Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8) vs Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13) - Las Vegas, USA
Talented Kazakh Meiirim Nursultanov looks to continue his unbeaten record as he faces off with Cristian Olivas, a very tough guy. Nursultanov will be going into this with momentum behind him and will know that if he keeps winning a big fight will come his way, but this is legitimately a tough one. Olivas has lost his last 3 but has never been stopped, is tough and rugged and will see this as a great chance to pick up a win against a touted prospect. We expect to see Nursultanov have to work for the win here.
Hironobu Matsunaga (15-1, 9) Vs Koki Koshikawa (9-1, 6) - Tokyo, Japan
The once beaten Hironobu Matsunaga will look to make his first defense of the Japanese Light Middleweight title as he goes up against Koki Koshikawa. The talented Matsunaga has rebuilt amazingly well following a loss, years ago, to Yuki Beppu in the Rookie of the Year final and his current run has been excellent. Koshikawa on the other hand was tipped for success when he turned professional but has yet to really live up to the expectations put on his shoulders when he began his pro career. On paper this is a decent bout and we expect it to be even better in the ring. This could be a very fun title bout.
Nobuyuki Shindo (20-5-2, 8) Vs Yuto Shimizu (13-4-2, 5) - Tokyo, Japan
Interestingly the Japanese Middleweight title bout is joined on the same show by a Japanese Light Middleweight title eliminator, as former champion Nobuyuki Shindo takes on Yuto Shimizu. Both of these are big Light Middleweights, at least by Japanese standards, though they have very different styles. Shindo a very rangy southpaw who will look to back off the back foot, whilst Shimizu is a more come-forward slugger. We don't expect this to be a great gelling of styles, but it should be a compelling match up and both men will be battling hard to secure a Japanese title fight at the Champion Carnival in 2020.
East Japan Rookie of the Year finals - Tokyo, Japan
We won't go into all the bouts, but Korakuen Hall plays host to the East Japan Rookie of the Year finals and there are a number of excellent match ups on this card. The show is full of promising young fighters and this should be a very good watch, albeit on tape delay a week later.
Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16) vs Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26) - Saitama, Japan
The biggest bout of the month, by far, will see the IBF/WBA Bantamweight titles being unified in WBSS final between unbeaten Japanese sensation Naoya Inoue and Filipino icon Nonito Donaire. This bout is one of the most anticipated bouts of 2019 and whilst it's taken a long time to get to the bout it's still a huge contest, and has sold out the venue weeks in advance. The winner of this will be seen as the de fact #1 in the division, though we wouldn't be surprised to see the winner move up in weight in 2020. This is a huge bout, and something we're really looking forward to.
Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12) vs Takuma Inoue (13-0, 3) - Saitama, Japan
A second Bantamweight title bout will see WBC Bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali take on interim champion Takuma Inoue. This is a fantastic match up and will put two very skilled, though often over-looked, fighters against each other. For Oubaali the bout will be his second defense whilst Inoue will be fighting for the first time since winning the interim title back in December, though has been out some of that time due to an injury. Whilst this bout will be over-shadowed by the WBSS bout we do expect a fantastic, high skilled and very good match up between two legitimate top 10 Bantamweights.
After a truly hectic May, which has had big fights littered through the month, we drop back to reality in June as the schedule almost tails off completely and we sort of struggle to get too excited about too much taking place over the coming weeks. Thankfully here there is still enough to talk about without feeling the month is threadbare, but it's less about big fights, and more about emerging fighters.
This past week hasn't been the best or the busiest for Asian Boxing, with a very clear down turn in weekly activity, despite some big fights over the weekend. Sadly with such a lack of activity it has made our weekly awards a little bit focused on the fights from the weekend.
Fighter of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
The last 7 days have really lacked a big win for Asian fighters, other than China's Can Xu, who retained his WBA "regular" Featherweight title with an excellent stoppage win against Shun Kubo on Sunday. The under-rated Chinese "Monster" shocked us all when he beat Jesus M Rojas in January and the stoppage over Kubo was another impressive performance by a young man with a lot of potential. Although Kubo wasn't really suited to the fight that Xu brought it's hard to take away from Xu who looks like he really is coming into his own, and could very easily be the break out Chinese boxin star the country has needed.
Performance of the Week
Can Xu (17-2, 3)
For a second week running we have a double award winner. It was hard to see anyone really competing with Xu for the performance of the week, as he pressed the action, went through the gears and broke down the determined Kubo. Whilst Kubo seemed to be the more technically skilled fighter Xu's relentless attack, combinations and physicality were impressive and, it's great to see that Xu is now finding power on his shots.
Notable mention - Yuki Strong Kobayashi
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo
With so little action it was clear that this weeks Fight and Round were unlikely to be spectacular. That's seen notably in the Fight of the Week, which, whilst entertaining, wasn't a FOTY contender or anything like that. This was just a fun, fan friendly bout with Xu moving through the gears and throwing more punches by the round whilst Kubo was eventually broken down. Kubo played his part, standing at mid-distance, trying to fight with Xu and made for an entertaining contest, until he was stopped. No one can doubt Kubo's fighting heart, but with this being his second stoppage loss in 3 bouts it's hard to know where he goes form this.
Can Xu Vs Shun Kubo (round 3)
As we've not managed to see the Osakan show from Sunday, the round of the week was another that will not stand the test at the end of 2019, despite again being fan friendly. This was the pick of the rounds from the Xu vs Kubo fight, and was the point where Xu began to step up his work rate, whilst Kubo would decline quickly in the rounds that followed and eventuaally be broken down.
We had no valid KO's this week
Tulio Kuwabata (3-0, 2)
Unbeaten Japanese prospect Tulio Kuwabata took a major step up this weekend and beat the previously unbeaten Eric Pulgo in a 6 round bout in Osaka. The talented Kuwabata looked sharp and skilled and appears to be one to keep an eye on in the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight divisions. With this only being his third bout it's hard to know how far he will go, but there is a lot of talent here.
Notable mention - Shichao Gao
Charles Bellamy (28-3-2, 18) vs Yuto Shimizu (12-4-2, 5) II
Back in September Charles Bellamy took a split deciison over Yuto Shimizu in an entertaining 8 round battle. We're expect their rematch, this coming Saturday, to be even better than their first contest. Shimizu is the under-dog, as he was in their first bout, but at 37 years old we do wonder what Bellamy has left in the tank.
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