Quite often in this wonderful sport we see fighters who are tipped for the top falling short of the expectations heaped on their shoulders. We've all seen the Olympic gold medal winners who fails to make it to the big time and the other highly regarded former amateurs who went to the top in the unpaid ranks but failed to gain the same success as a professional.
One fighter looking to avoid joining those is Filipino fighter Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) who is now 30 years old and essentially in last chance saloon, and that latest subject of our "Who are you?" feature.
The heavy handed Saludar was tipped for major success very early in his professional career, more than a decade ago, and whilst he's yet to reach the top he banged on the door a few times and has time on side for one more charge. But who exactly is Froilan Saludar?
Froilan Saludar, dubbed "The Sniper", was a once capable amateur who competed internationally in a number of notable tournaments. Those included the Ahmet Comert Tournament, the Xinjiang International Tournament and the Asian Junior Championships all in 2007. Sadly he failed to reach the medal stages in any of those competitions, but even getting as far as he did was something. What was notable is that Froilan's success in the amateurs was overshadowed by that of his brothers, Rey and Vic Saludar, who both took medals at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
In 2009 Froilan began his professional campaign and stopped his first 3 opponents, including Jhon Gemino who later became a solid journeyman. When his stoppage run came to an end Saludar continued to pick up wins moving to 6-0 (3) before suffering a technical draw in a 2010 bout against Brian Diano. That draw was the only blip on Saludar's record in his first 20 fights, in which he went 19-0-1 (12).
Although Saludar hadn't scored any major wins in his first 20 bouts he did have notable wins not just over a young Gemino but also Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, aka Komgrich Nantapech. Sadly his unbeaten run came to an end in spectacular fashion when he was stopped in a world title eliminator by McWilliams Arroyo. That loss came in 2014 and was a major set back, but one that Saludar bounced back from by scoring 4 wins and securing a bout with Takuma Inoue. Sadly that was where Saludar suffered his second loss, and fell to 23-2-1 (14). Despite dropping Inoue Saludar was dropped twice by Inoue late on and was a clearly beaten by Naoya Inoue's young brother.
Saludar would again bounce back from a loss and run up 5 straight wins, all inside the distance, before getting a world title fight against the then WBO Flyweight champion Sho Kimura. Again the step up to world class proved too much for Saludar, who was stopped in 6 rounds by Kimura, despite a very good start by Saludar who had boxed well early on before being ground down.
As we've seen from Saludar after every loss, he has bounced back, and since losing to Kimura in July 2018 he has notched 3 wins, all by stoppage, including a very notable victory in September 2019 over Tsubasa Murachi for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title. That win was enough to put Saludar into the WBO world rankings, again, and put him on the way to another potential world title fight.
Later this month Saludar will make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he takes on 33 year old Japanese puncher Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11). A win there will boost Saludar WBO ranking further and potentially give the hard hitting Filipino one more chance to hit the big time.
Although known in the west for his loss to Arroyo, and subsequent defeats to Inoue and Kimura, Saludar is not someone to over-look. The talented boxer puncher has had to rebuild, but at 30 with experience on his side and 35 professional bouts under his belt, including 3 bouts with world class opponents, he certainly shouldn't be written off. Saludar is one of those fighters who will seemingly only lose when he takes on world class fighters, and is likely to become a genuine gatekeeper.
Whilst Saludar being a gatekeeper would be a disappointment, given early expectations, it would certainly not be a terrible position to be, given the incredible depth at Super Flyweight right now, and being a gatekeeper would mean he's only a win or two away from a world title fight.
We don't imagine Saludar ever becoming a world champion, but not every one can. Finding success at regional level, fighting for a world title and being in the general mix is a success, and we wouldn't be surprised at Saludar getting one more crack at a major title before his career comes to an end.
Whilst February certainly didn't start quickly it does get going in the second half of the month with a flurry of fights taking place with Asian fighters involved.
Shuichiro Yoshino (11-0, 9) Vs Izuki Tomioka (7-2-1, 2) -
In the headline bout of a Dimond Glove card in Tokyo we'll see Japanese Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino defending his title again mandatory challenger Izuki Tomioka in the second of this year's Champion carnival bouts. For Yoshino this is expected to be a test of his technical boxing skills, as Tomioka is a genuinely talented boxer-mover. On the other hand Tomioka is taking on, arguably, his toughest opponent to date and did come up short in his last bout at this type of level.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) Vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
After almost 2 years away from the ring former world champion Daigo Higa returns, and takes on rugged Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra. This should be a win for Higa, but we expect him to be very emotional, and he is going up against someone who has never been stopped before, so he will have to work hard for the win. It's also worth noting that Buenaobra is the naturally bigger man and will not be there looking to just make up the numbers.
Froilan Saludar (31-3-1, 22) Vs Ryoji Fukunaga (11-4, 11)
Filipino Froilan Saludar returns to Japan to make his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight title, as he battles hard hitting, but technically limited, Japanese challenger Ryuji Fukunaga. On paper this looks like it could be very explosive, and we wouldn't be surprised at all with the bout ending early. Fukunaga hasn't been able to show his power when he has faced his toughest opponents, and Saludar is certainly among the best opponents that he has faced.
Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) Vs Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2)
In a mouth watering clash of young prospects we'll see Yuki Nakajima take on Shisui Kawabata. On paper this doesn't look like one that will get fans outside of Japan too excited, but given the skills of the two men we are really excited by this one. Nakajima, the younger brother of Kazuki Nakajima, is a former amateur standout and made a real mark on the domestic amateur scene whilst Kawabata has been used as a sparring partner by Naoya, showing the quality that he has shared the ring with. We expect this to be very, very good.
Ryota Yamauchi (5-1, 4) Vs MJ Bo (8-3-2, 4)
World ranked Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi looks to build on August's win over Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly Yamauchi's win over Dagayloan cost him a Japanese title eliminator, due to the injuries he suffered in that bout, and he'll be lookign to make up for it in 2020. MJ Bo, from the Philippines was stopped last time he fought in Japan, by Yuta Nakayama, but is a capable opponent and should ask questions of Yamauchi.
Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2, 16)
Mexican fighter Emanuel Navarrete looks to make his fifth defense of the WBO Super Bantamweight title as he takes on Filipino challenger Jeo Santisima. The bout is expected to be a mismatch by many, especially given Navarrete's run since winning the title in late 2018. The champion is seen a real monster in the Super Bantamweight division and will come into the bout full of confidence. Although the 23 Santisima isn't well known outside of the Philippines he is riding a 17 fight winning run and has stopped 15 of those, so he certainly enters with a punchers chance, if nothing else.
Riku Nagahama (11-2-1, 4) Vs Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Unbeaten Japanese-Afghan fighter Kudura Kaneko looks to extend his perfect record as he goes up against the talented Riku Nagahama in a bout for the vacant OPBF Welterweight title. Although neither of these two are well known outside of Japan the bout is a significant one and the winner will see their hopes of landing a big international fight given a huge shot in the arm. Of the two Nagahama has faced better competition, but has lost in his 2 most notable bouts, whilst Kaneko looks to be a fighter on the rise. A very interesting clash.
Jae Woo Lee (7-2, 6) Vs Shingo Kusano (12-8-1, 5)
Potentially the hidden gem for the month is a clash between Jae Woo Lee and Shingo Kusano, who clash in one of the two Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi finals. The little known Lee made fans sit up and take note last November, when he stopped Tsuyoshi Tameda in a thrilling little war. Shingo Kusano also thrilled when he fought on the same November card, pulling himself off the canvas and battling back through some real scares against Qiang Ma. Expect this one to be exciting, and not to go the distance.
Richard Pumicpic (21-10-2, 6) Vs Daisuke Watanabe (9-4-2, 6)
The other Hajime No Ippo 30th anniversary tournament semi final bout will see Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic battle Japanese foe Daisuke Watanabe. This has the potential to be very exciting, or a total mess. Both guys like to let their hands go but with 6 technical decisions between them there's a real risk of headbutts derailing the fight. Fingers crossed the heads don't come in to contact too often and we instead get a bit of a thriller!
Once again we're back to looking at the Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the week we've just had, and if we're honest the lack of in ring action has left us with not too much good, and quite a lot of indifference, which thankfully isn't a header here!
1 - CBC confirm Kento Hatanaka's next fight will be streamed globally for free!
With the growing number of payment services in boxing, and PPV's again becoming more and more prevalent, it's great to see that CBC are again showing some common sense. The Japanese broadcaster confirmed this past week that the WBC Youth Flyweight title bout between Kento Hatanaka v Roland Jay Biendima will be streamed worldwide for free. The channel have helped make Kosei Tanaka a star, streaming a number of his fights, and seem to know that getting eyes on their product is key to their fighters becoming more notable. They've done it with Tanaka and are now doing it was 21 year old Hatanaka. Well done CBC and fingers crossed others see the logic behind what they do, and try to replicate it for emerging hopefuls.
2 - Junto Nakatani Vs Giemel Magramo, sign us up!
Although not officially confirmed the reports that Junto Nakatani and Giemel Magramo will battle for the WBO Flyweight title was certainly good news. In fact it was really good news! We're expecting the bout to be confirmed next week, following the report from the gondol that the bout was set. This is the sort of match up that the sport needs more of, and the type of bout that we're always going to get very, very excited about! Two young, up and coming fighters, who could go in different directions, clashing head on for a world title! Yes please. This is the type of match up that title vacancy's should be filled by, and the type of bout that instantly gives the new champion some legitimacy, even if the title had previously been vacant!
3 - Ioka Vs Tanaka in the works!
One of the few real good points from this week was the WBO ordering Kazuto Ioka Vs Kosei Tanaka. On one hand it did feel odd that they were ordering back to back mandatory defenses for Ioka, who defended the belt against a mandatory in December, but on the other hand what an amazing match up, and this is something to get really, really excited about for later in the year! It is worth noting that Tanaka didn't seem to be expecting it to be ordered immediately, and neither did we given Ioka's last defense was a mandatory, so we wouldn't be too surprised to see the WBO delay this, as the the teams try to set it up late the last half of the year.
1 - Dubois Vs Joyce on PPV
British fans really are unlucky right now. It seems that over the coming months they are going to be getting shafted by the powers that be. The Fury Vs Wilder rematch was expected to be PPV, and we expect the Joshua Vs Pulev bout to be on PPV, and both of those are legitimately big bouts. However for Daniel Dubois to face Joe Joyce on PPV in an all British clash, between two men who have yet to break through as any type of stars. Genuinely ridiculous for this bout to be on PPV, and a very tough sell given the lack of personality both men have. Don't get us wrong, we are looking forward to the match, but this shouldn't have been on PPV, and it's a missed opportunity for both fighters and for fans.
2 - Naoya Inoue picks up a fever
After taking part in his typical training camp in Guam Naoya Inoue had to miss the annual Japanese boxing award ceremony last week due to fever. The fever is said to have been brought on by muscle fatigue, and it's a real shame. Not only did he have to miss the award ceremony but also take days out of training. On the other hand it has given the John Riel Casimero camp some more ammunition to help sell the fight, and credit goes to Casimero and Sean Gibbons for their entertaining press conferences this week.
3 - Korean boxing Hiatus
Earlier in the year we had several events in China being cancelled due to Coronavirus and now, due to the spread of the illness, we've seen a number of Korean events falling victim, with 3 planned shows being postponed indefinitely. That included the much anticipated Hyun Mi Choi Vs Maiva Hamadouche female unification bout. Whilst we totally agree with the shows being cancelled, it's still a big disappointment.
1 - Jarrell Miller's comments
Our thoughts about drugs cheats are that they need to be punished. They need to be given lengthy bans, prohibited from profiting from the sport, and made to actually feel like they've been punished. The entire system in boxing right now however seems to be the opposite, and seems to be more like a toddler being told to sit in the corner for 5 minutes. That is...unless you're Jarrell Miller. Less than a year ago Miller was found guilty of, essentially, being a cocktail of banned substances. This week he came out with a pro-drug message in what was a rather clear "fuck you" to the sport, and the others taking part:
“Minor setback for a major comeback. I’m coming for everything and everyone. No one is safe. Say hello to the bad guy,” ...“Everyone wants to portray the superhero. We don’t live in a sunshine world. I’ll never be the superhero. In my world, the majority of the time, the villain wins.”
He's not just showing no remorse for failing multiple drug tests, but is using it as part of the marketing for his return and showing contempt of the sport he's participating in. Fuck him and fuck the commissions that go on to license him. We need this sort of thing to end.
2 - Eddie Hearn admits he doesn't want to match his guys
After telling us for years that "to fight X you need to sign with us" and after telling us for months that he was trying to match some of his guys, Eddie Hearn this week came out and admitted that he wants to cheer on one guy in a fight rather than two. Given the wealth of talent Matchroom have at Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Heavyweight this has really left a sour taste, especially when he's previously blamed the fighters. Given he has fingers in the purses of fighters like Gennady Golovkin, Demetrius Andrade, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders, at 160lbs and 168lbs, and Heavyweights like Michael Hunter, Filip Hrgovic, Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora there are great match ups to be made, in those divisions. What doesn't help is he then comes out and explains that certain men are divisional "boogeymen", as he did with with Michael Hunter this week. If you have most of the top names in the division and choose not to match them, they aren't boogeymen, they are just being badly handled!
3-Guillermo Rigoondeaux's Career Sabotage continues
Generally we expect the most talented people in the field to be the best, make the most money and develop their reputation to a point where people want to see them show what they can do. For Guillermo Rigondeaux however we once again saw the Cuban's knack of messing things up for himself shine. "El Chacal" finally fought at his natural weight this weekend, dropping to Bantamweight at the age of 39, but once again stunk the joint out, and once again showed why HBO refused to touch him with a barge pole. Unfortunately however this time it was on Showtime, who are also now unlikely to work with him. Loud boos filled the arena for his fight against former Super Flyweight champion Liborio Solis. What didn't help Rigondeaux was that he hurt Solis several times, but refused to go for the finish, particularly in the later rounds when it was clear Solis couldn't bother him. From siding with Carbie when he Gary Hyde had something organised, to shitting the bed on HBO against Joseph Agebko to his string of B tier wins over the likes of James Dickens, Rigondeaux has made himself unwatchable in a sport that is dependent on fans and TV audience. He might be among the most gifted natural athletes in the sport, but also one of the stupidest. His ring IQ might be incredible, but his inability to see the bigger picture, really shows a complete lack of business smarts and once again he's going to find himself totally frozen out by TV and big fighters. We know the purists might enjoy his style, but unfortunately for the Cuban they aren't the people in charge of the TV companies, or the ones that the fighter needs to impress. They are a small minority, and even they seem to be realising what a truly disappointing under-achiever Rigondeaux is.
(Image of Rigondeaux Vs Solis courtesy of Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME)
Being a second generation fighter isn't the easiest thing in the world, especially when your father is a former world champion. Despite that sons of former world champions do get a lot of attention, as we've seen in the west with the likes of Conor Benn, Chris Eubank Jr and Julio Cesar Chavez. The same is true in Asia where Juiki Tatsuyoshi has received attention due to his father, the enigmatic and incredibly popular Joichiro Tatsuyoshi.
Of course the fame of the father is key to things like that, and today "Introducing..." we look at a second generation fighter who's father did go on to become a world champion, but certainly wasn't a major name.
Japanese teenage Shinba Yamaguchi (1-0, 1) is the 19 year old son of former WBA Light Flyweight champion Keiji Yamaguchi.
The older Yamaguchi won the WBA Ligth Flyweight title in May 1996, out pointing Carlos Murillo. He would defend the title once, before losing in his second defense, being stopped in 2 rounds by Pichitnoi Sithbanprachan. His reign was less than 7 months long but was enough to keep him in the mix in the years that follow, with Keiji getting two other world title fights before his career came to an end in 2002.
Born in May 2000 Shinba was wouldn't have remembered any of his father's career, though Keiji did fight 4 times when Shinba was a baby most notably facing off with Gerry Penalosa. Despite that it's clear he was inspired by his father and went on to take up the sport as a youngster.
As an amateur Yamaguchi junior didn't set the world on fire, going 29-14 (7) in the unpaid ranks, but did compete in a number of notable nationwide competitions and showed some promising touches. He looked sharp, naturally quick and strong. There were technical flaws to work on, from the footage of his amateur fights that are available. He also seemed rather small for the weight class he was fighting in, which likely didn't help him run up too many wins. It was also suggested that his style wasn't suited to the amateur ranks, and that he would make a better professional than amateur.
Rather than staying in the unpaid ranks the Yamaguchi turned professional last year, signing with the Shirai Gushiken Sports gym, headed by Yoko Gushiken. He would make his professional debut last October and he quickly impressed, stopping Buncha Natheekeereekan in just 40 seconds. On paper it wasn't the most amazing of wins, but Buncha had never been blown out so quickly, or so vividly, with the Thai being knockdown hard. The shot left Buncha down for a lengthy amount of time, giving Yamaguchi the ideal start to his professional career.
Despite his debut only being scheduled for 4 rounds Yamaguchi received a lot of press attention after his win, due to who he father was and the stunning finish. His next bout, scheduled for February 13th, appears to be a very clear step up in class as he takes on Filipino foe Luis Borje (5-1-1, 2) in a 6 rounder. That's a big step up but a great chance for us to learn a lot more about the Japanese teenager, who has got lofty ambitions of following his father and becoming a world champion as well.
It's fair to say that 2020 has been an odd year so far, with a very stop-start feel to the boxing we've had. Things, of course, haven't been helped by shows being cancelled due to Coronavirus in Asia, but this week was just an odd, odd one. There was fights, but mostly at a low level. The top Asian fighters in action failed to pick up the wins we;d hoped for and the best of the action really came on some obscure cards. With that in mind lets have a look at this weeks award winners
Fighter of the Week
Shuma Nakazato (10-1-2, 7)
Given our criteria of fighter of the week this week was a really weird one. The criteria is the fighter who scored the best win from the week, not the best performance, which comes under the "Performance of the Week" which can account for losses. As a result we really had to look outside the box, given there was so few wins of note by Asian fighters in what was a truly odd week. In the end it seemed hard to argue that Shuma Nakazato's win over Yuji Awata was the best, and most significant. The win came on the first sole-promoted by former world title challenger Shigeru Nakazato, and gave the promoter the result they needed for the show to be a success.
Sadly this week may well end up with us reviewing how we do fighter of the week going forward, though this week was an odd one in general, and this could be an anomaly rather than anything else.
Performance of the Week
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9)
It really was an odd week for Asian boxers, with no one getting a truly big win, in fact the two biggest fights involving Asian fighters both ended in a loss. It was however hard not to be pretty impressed with how Tugstsogt Nyambayar ended up acquitting himself in his loss to Gary Russell Jr. The Mongolian started slowly, but warmed to the task well and proved that he certainly deserves to remain in the world title picture, despite a loss to the talented and speedy American. Don't be surprised to see Nyambayar's loss serve as a learning experience, and the way he picked up the pace in the final 8 rounds showed what he could do. A mixed performance, sure, but also one which showed a lot to get excited about.
Tugstsogt Nyambayar vs Gary Russell Jr
In a fight that had high level skills and was a genuine chess match Tugstsogt Nyambayar and Gary Russell Jr gave us something that was both compelling, exciting, and technical. There was no real debating the winner, with Russell Jr banking the early rounds for the win against Nyambayar's slow start, but this was still a fantastic bout, and something that is well worthy of a watch. It's not going to be a fight of the year contender, but don't let that take away from what was a genuinely solid 12 round, world level bout between two men who are both legitimate top fighters at 126lbs.
Ryosuke Maruta vs Kazunari Kosaka (Rd1)
We'll admit we tend to skip the 4 round Dangan cards, but on a week lacking in action like this the show was certainly worthy of some interest, and it provided some really great action. The best of it, for us, was the opening round of Ryosuke Maruta's bout with Kazunari Kosaka, who really went all out, swinging bombs in a thrilling action packed 3 minutes of chaos. For those wanting technically perfect boxing, counter punching and smart defense do not look at this round, but for those who wild and heavy offense this is for your. This is just great and thrilling wild, crude fun.
Andy Atsushi v Yuta Hasegawa (Rd 2)
Naoya Mitsuhashi TKO2 Harunobu Yamasaki
We stick with the 4 round Dangan cards for the KO of the week, as Naoya Mitsuhashi cleaned out Harunobu Yamasaki in brutal fashion in the second round of their bout. This is one you'll need to hunt down to find, and be a Boxing Raise subscriber to see, but it's worth it as a single clean right hand to the temple sent the 37 year old Yamasaki crashing to his knees, then flat out on his back. This is not what we expected from Mitsuhashi, who was fighting for just the second time, but we'll be keeping an eye on him after this fantastic KO
Narimichi Miura TKO1 Yota Matsui
Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov (1-0, 1)
Talented Uzbke fighter Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov kicked off his career with an expected easy win over Benjie Ebido in the Philippines. Despite stopping Ebido inside the opening round there was a lot to like about Sharakhmatov's performance, and he is certainly one to watch going forward. Make a mental note of his name as he is going to make a big splash in the years to come and should be on people's radar's now. He intelligently pressed Ebido and broke him down mentally and physically in very quick fashion. A real talent with a nice, easy introduction to the professional ranks.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15) vs Jason Buenaobra (7-4-3, 3)
Although our upcoming bout selection is usually the bout we expect to be the most exciting of the coming week this week's is a little bit different however as the bout we are most looking forward to is a bit of a mismatch. Despite it being a mismatch it's one we're excited about because it's the long awaited return of former world champion Daigo Higa after almost 2 years out of the ring. We expect Higa to beat Filipino foe Jason Buenaobra, without too many problems, however the key here is that the Higa express is back on the line after such a long break from the ring!
On Friday, after weeks of chatter and rumour, we finally saw the announcement of the all-English Heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois (14-0, 13) and Joe Joyce (10-0, 9). An excellent match up, I'm sure we can all agree. But the bout came with a nasty caveat for those in the UK wanting to watch it. It would be on PPV.
For fans in the US, UK, Australia and Poland PPV is part and parcel of watching boxing. At least watching the big bouts. The problem that in the UK, at least, PPV is no longer used for big bouts. It's no longer used for events that are to be viewed as special occasions, super fights, monster fights. Instead they are being used for what are essentially British level, or European level fights. Even competitive and good fights at British level.
The more annoying issue isn't necessarily that PPV is being used, it's how it's being used.
Dubois Vs Joyce should be used as a platform. The bout should be shown to as many people as possible, not just the dedicated hardcore fan based, and allow the winner to vault themselves into the public view. Unfortunately neither man has any personality, neither man is going to talk themselves into a payday, or get fans behind them on the back of their charisma, or rather lack of. They need their in ring performances to speak for them and a big win against a fellow unbeaten Brit in could be the leaping off pad that could capture the attention of the public. At least it could if it wasn't hidden behind a paywall, like it will be.
Of course this isn't the first time an all-British fight has been the selling point of a PPV. We've had things like Anthony Joshua vs Dillian Whyte on PPV in 2015, and whilst both have had successful careers, we can't but feel it was a case of both men fighting on PPV too early. This might seem stupid, given how both men have been since, but it's seems to have made Whyte feel entitled to be paid PPV money, causing issues in making bouts, and would almost certainly have been high profile to have been on Sky Sports.
So what the fuck has all this got to do with Asian boxing?
We mentioned a number of countries have PPV, whilst the Philippines has used it at times that seems to have vanished in recent years. Japan essentially doesn't have it, only a single show in the last 2 years has been on PPV, Thailand doesn't have it, China doesn't have it, Russia doesn't have it. The top domestic fighters, who face off, do so without the need for PPV. The recently ordered showdown between Kazuto Ioka and Kosei Tanaka, when it takes place, will be a world title fight and even that won't be on PPV, instead being on free to air TV.
Yes the cultures between the countries are massively different, but one of those countries is able to draw multi-million viewing figures. BT Sport, in the UK has fewer subscribers than tune in to a typical Japanese world title fight. Only a fraction of those BT numbers will watch on Box Office.
Rather than growing the profile of the two men, putting the bout on BT Sport and letting the fans tune in to a high anticipated all English clash, the decision has been to put the fight in front of the smallest possible viewing audience. This will put the loser of the bout in an awful position, losing in front of a small audience, with a "1" in the L column of their record, and given their lack of personality, could essentially destroy their longer term potential and ability to bounce back. The winner will also expect PPV type money going forward, and unfortunately that means will end up struggling to see them again on BT Sport...at least until they lose.
Both Joyce and Dubois have the potential to mix it at world level. And credit to them for facing off here. It's a shame the profile of the bout will be so small, as the ugly face of PPV is showing it's self again here.
PPV should be used sparingly, it should be used for super events, and not just when the promoter and broadcaster feel the need to fleece the fans. It's been this behaviour that has damaged the fanbase of the sport and continues to cause resentment between factions of fans.
On the subject of fans, can we just end this by asking you all to get on the same page on one thing and hold all promoters accountable for their bullshit? Stop the inconsistency and favouritsm to your preferred promoter and hold them all to the same levels please! Be it Frank Warren, Eddie Hearn, Bob Arum, Golden Boy or anyone else hold them responsible for their shows, their match ups, their promotional strategies. It would help the sport improve if we could all get on the same page there!
One of the things we seem to find out selves talking about quite sporadically through the year is the downfall of Korean boxing, which has really fallen a long, long way from the golden years of the 1970's and 1980's. Remarkably however the country was still a major back in the 1990's and today we are 25 years removed from a Korean card in Seoul that featured 3 men who would later win world titles.
The event, held on Wednesday February 8th 1995 is one that we doubt many fans are aware of, but was one that was certainly worthy of note, now looking back on reflection.
At the time the most experienced of the world title winning trio was the then 9-0 Jong Kwon Baek.
Baek would score a 10th round KO win over Filipino journeyman Al Coquilla on the show, extending his perfect record to 10-0 (10). This was Baek's first bout against a non-Filipino, and his first contest in 11 months, following a victory over Kap Young Lee in March 1994 for the Korean Lightweight title. It was more than 2 years later that Baek would make a mark at a higher level, winning the OPBF Lightweight title in March 1997.
After 2 defenses of the OPBF title Baek then got his shot at the big time, and over-came Mongolian monster Lakva Sim to claim the WBA Super Featherweight title in October 1990. The win over Sim was controversial, with Baek winning a split decision that would have been a split draw had it not been for an 8th round point deduction from the Mongolian.
Sadly Baek's reign was a disappointing one, successfully defending the belt once, with a draw against Kyu Chul Choi. He would lose the title, by TKO, to Joel Casamayor in his US debut in 2001 before ending his career with two low key wins in Korea before retiring with a 23-1-1 (20) record.
Although not the most skilled fighter Baek was a warrior, and exciting crude, action fighter and a man made for TV friendly fights. Sadly his lack of skill was clear against Casamayor, though he had certainly made his mark on the Korean fans with his wars, including his thrilling title win.
The second most experienced of the trio was In Jin Chi, who was 7-1 heading into the show, where he blitzed Janjan Gigataras inside a round. The win saw Chi move to 8-1 (3) and just 2 months later he would beat Jess Maca to claim the OPBF Bantamweight title, which he sadly never managed to defend.
Following his win over Gigataras on this card Chi would rack up 16 more straight wins before getting his break out bout in 2001, against the then unbeaten Erik Morales. Despite losing a clear decision to Morales, the then WBC Featherweight champion, Chi had left a lasting impression on fans who saw him and appreciated his will to win and incredible toughness. When Morales went on to vacate the belt Chi would manage to win it, in his second brutal bout with Englishman Michael Brodie.
Chi, like Kwon, had a relatively short reign, with only 2 successful defenses over the course of 21 months, before losing the title to Takashi Koshimoto in 2006. Despite that loss he would reclaim the title 11 months later, after defeating Rodolfo Lopez in December 2006. Sadly Chi would retire before defending the title.
Of the trio Chi is certainly the most well known, performing in memorable bouts in the US and UK, as well as being a 2-time champion. His career was damaged by financial issues, but the action he gave, and his incredible toughness, made him a clear fan favourite.
The third of the trio is In Joo Cho, who is likely the least remembered of the trio but actually had the longest and most notable reign, by far. At the time Cho was 6-0, though went on to stop Mario Parcon in 5 rounds to move to 7-0 (3).
Cho, a talented and speedy Super Flyweight who fought as an outside fighter, would slowly move up the rankings and 3½ years later he would get his shot a world title. At the time he was 12-0 (6) and relatively unknown when his team got WBC Super Flyweight champion Gerry Penalosa over to Seoul to defend against Cho. The Korean would take a very controversial win over Penalosa to win the title.
Having won the title in controversial fashion Cho's would have wanted an impressive first defense, but instead he just squeaked past Joel Luna Zarate. Thankfully for the Korean he did mange to make a lasting impression in his second defense, landing arguably the punch of a life time to take out Thai challenger Pone Saengmorakot in the 8th round. That was followed by a defense, in Japan, against Keiji Yamaguchi.
In his third defense Cho took another very controversial win over Gerry Penalosa, with Penalosa being deducted late in the bout. Many felt that Cho had been more than lucky in his first win over Penalosa, and with this win as well things seemed to be very much against the Filipino great great.
Cho would make one more defense, defeating Julio Cesar Avila, before losing in August 2000 to Masamori Tokuyama. Cho lost the title by decision to the very talented, but controversial, Tokuyama, over in Japan and then lost a rematch in Korea, when he was knocked out in 5 rounds, before ending his career in 2001.
Whilst none of the trio had massively influential reigns, they all played a part in what was essentially the last run of top Korean fighters. This trio, along with Yo Sam Choi, made up what was essentially the last set of Korean world champions, and since then the country had struggled, massively, to even make a mark on the boxing world.
Fingers crossed we don't wait another 25 years for another trio of future Korean world champions to appear on the same, obscure mid-week card.
The second fighter we featured in our "Introducing..." series was the then 19 year old Ginjiro Shigeoka (then 1-0, 1) he had made his debut in September 2018, and looked sensational in stopping Sanchai Yotboon in 3 rounds. Now, more than a year on, we'll "Revisit" Shigeoka and see how his career has gone since we introduced him in January 2019.
Following his debut expectations were high for Shigeoka heading in 20219 and he exceeded those expectations with a sensational year that saw him move from novice professional to world ranked fighter. Watanabe Gym, clearly aware of the talent they had on their hands, strapped a rocket to him and he, more than any other fighter in the Introducing series last year, moved through the rankings in a way that got a lot of attention. In fact he got to much attention that towards the end of 2019 he was featured in Anson Wainwright's excellent "New Faces" series on Ring's website, with that being available to read here.
So since we first looked at Shigeoka was has he done? Well the youngster has gone from 1-0 (1) to 5-0 (4), taken his first professional world title, stopped a former world title challenger, turned 20 and announced himself in the world rankings. Not a year at all for the former amateur standout.
Shigeoka's 2019 kicked off with an opening round win over Gerttipong Kumsahwat, in what was an easy second pro bout for the youngster. That was followed up quickly with a decision win over the tough Joel Lino. Although Lino is no world beater he has been proving himself as a capable fringe regional level fighter and gave Masataka Taniguchi 12 good rounds in 2018 and later went on to give Toto Landero a really good test before stopping Arar Andales. A win over Lino in just his third bout was excellent and a clear sign of how good Shigeoka was, despite failing to secure the stoppage. In fact by taking a decision over Lino we saw Shigeoka answer some questions, such as proving he can fight over 8 rounds and had a back up for when his power wasn't too much for an opponent.
In July 2019 Shigeoka got his first title fight, taking on Clyde Azarcon for the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title. Up to this point Azarcon was 15-2-1, he had never been stopped and had mixed it with good competition, losing a close decision to Rene Mark Cuarto less than a year earlier. He was expected to be a test for Shigeoka, but instead the Japanese wunderkind just blitzed in 72 seconds, closing the show with a truly brutal body shot. This win was just 10 months after Shigeoka had made his debut, and saw him becoming one of the very few Japanese fighters to win their first title in 4 fights and in less than 12 months from their debut.
Since winning the WBO Asia Pacific title Shigeoka has defended it once, stopping former world title challenger Rey Loreto in 5 rounds at the end of December. The Japanese youngster dropped Loreto in the first round, and again in round 5, before Katsuhiko Nakamura stopped the bout. Loreto was on his feet at the time of the stoppage, but the decision was made by Nakamura to save the Filipino from any further punishment.
After the win over Loreto we saw Shigeoka break into the top 10 with the WBA and the top 15 with the WBC and WBO.
At the time of writing it's unclear when Shigeoka will be fighting again, through it's expected to be in late Spring 2020, potentially against a fellow world ranked fighter as he begins his climb towards a world title fight. The youngster seems confident he could handle himself against a world champion, though his team have apparently suggested he gets a bit more experience first. With that in mind we would expect Watanabe to match him with world ranked fighters to prepare him for a shot in late 2020, potentially at the very end of the year.
In the ring Shigeoka is proving to be an explosive fighter who can box or bang. He looks much better on the front foot than the back foot, giving him an area where improvements can be made before getting a world title fight. The most impressive thing about him is his power, which is incredible for such a youngster in the Minimumweight division.
We do have worries, still, about Shigeoka moving up in weight, but he looks a star in the making at 105lbs and is talking like a fighter who wants to dominate a single weight class, rather than moving up the scales. To us that's a good sign, and shows that the youngster knows his frame isn't suited to a move up in weight, where he would be up against taller and longer fighters, rather than being over confident and pushing himself in a direction that isn't suited to him and his career.
On February 8th in we see Mongolian fighter Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-0, 9) get his biggest fight to date, as he takes on WBC Featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr (30-1, 18) in Pennsylvania. Fans who who don't follow the depths of boxing are unlikely to know much about Nyambayar ahead of his big bout this weekend, so we've decided that the Mongolian will be the latest fighter covered in our "Who are you?" series. A series that tries to shine a light on a fighter ahead of a notable bout.
To begin with, the basics. Nyambayar is an unbeaten Mongolian fighter, who is currently 27 years old and has been a professional for close to 5 years. He turned professional with a lot of expectations on his shoulders but has had a stop start professional career due to hand issues, which have prevented him from reaching the top of the sport as quickly as some had anticipated.
The reason Nyambayar was expected to be fast tracked was due to his amateur pedigree, was was genuinely excellent. He claimed a national title back in 2009, then added a Bronze medal from the Asian Games and a silver medal from the World Championships as he began to explode on the international amateur scene. That amateur success bread more success, including a Silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Unlike many who medalled in London Nyambayar didn't rush to the professional ranks and actually continued in to the amateurs to 2014, picking up Mongolian national titles in 2013 and 2014 but failing to make it to the medal stages of major international tournaments.
Nyambayar also had mixed success in the WSB, going 3-2 in the semi-professional league. Interestingly his final WSB bout, which came in 2011, saw him lose to Frenchman Nordine Oubaali, who currently holds the WBC Bantamweight title.
In 2015, Nyambayar finally began his professional journey signing with advisor Al Haymon and trainer Joe Goosen, who seemed to be immediately impressed with the Mongolian hopeful. To begin with it seemed like a match made in heaven and Nyambayar was active through 2015, racking up 4 wins in his first 9 months as a professional, including an impressive stoppage against Arturo Badillo. His consistent level of activity continued in 2016, when he added 3 more wins, again all by stoppage, including a stoppage of German Meraz.
Sadly after racing to 7-0 (7) in just 21 months Nyambayar's career has really faltered and he has fought just 4 times since the start of 2017. Whilst those bouts have been at a higher level, with bouts against the then unbeaten Harmonito Dela Torre and former interim world champions Oscar Escandon and Claudio Marrero, the activity has been a real problem for a man who has been banging on the door of a world title fight. In fact he became the mandatory for the WBC title over a year ago and hasn't fought since!
Whilst some of that activity has been down to waiting for the WBC to order the fight with Gary Russell, a fight that will take place on February 8th, he has also suffered some nasty hand injuries. Those injuries saw him need to take a break between May 2018, when he beat Oscar Escandon and January 2019, when he faced Claudio Marrero. The waiting for the WBC and Russell Jr also saw plans being scrapped for an August 2019 bout.
Although not a big name Tugstogt Nyamabar is a top Featherweight contender, and someone who will look to put his name on the boxing map when he faces Russell Jr in their eagerly anticipated world title clash. He's heavy handed, technically well schooled, physically strong and a man on the hunt to become the second ever Mongolian world champion.
So that was January 2020 and the first month of a new decade was interesting without really being sensational. We certainly had plenty of noteworthy action, though compared to December was a significant downturn, and a much less interesting month. Then again that is pretty normal for a January.
With that said lets have a look at what we deem the best of January!
Fighter of the Month
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6)
The fighter of the month was a pretty obvious pick, with Uzbek Super Bantamweight Murodjon Akhmadaliev being the clear, and standout, winner. The talented former amateur standout ended the month was a fantastic, albeit very competitive, win over Daniel Roman. The win, which netted Akmadaliev the IBF and WBA "Super" titles, was huge and it's hard to deny that "MJ" has kicked off the year in a huge way! If he can build on this win through the year he really could be one of the names for 2020, much like Can Xu was in 2019.
Fight of the Month
Han Bin Suh Vs Dong Myung Shin
There was some good fights this past month, but nothing that will be in the conversation for Fight of the Year. Despite that it's hard to pick fault with the compelling 10 round Korean Super Bantamweight title bout between Han Bin Suh and Dong Myung Shin. This was compelling through out, with Suh refusing to ever accept defeat, and instead he kept ploughing forward hoping to break down the much more polished Dong Myung Shin. This was brilliant and a real hidden gem part way through the month. It wasn't the most high skilled bout of the month, or the most exciting, but it blended the action, activity and skills well.
KO of the Month
Shohjahon Ergashev KO1 Adrian Estrella
It was a weird month for KO's with very few of them really standing out, though it may take a while for us to see a better one than Shohjahon Ergashev's body shot KO against Adrian Estrella. This was naturally beautiful and left the Mexican in pure agony on the canvas, It's rare for body shots KO's to be this good, and it's another KO for an Ergashev KO reel. A truly sensational shot, that is going to be worth watching and over through the year.
Tuguldur Byambatsogt (2-0)
January had a lot of stellar performances from prospects from all over the place, with emerging fighters from Uzbekistan, Korea, Japan and China all impressing. It was however a Mongolian that shined the brightest, with Tuguldur Byambatsogt really showing what he could do with a clear and impressive win against Vladimir Baez. This young man from Mongolia is a potential star of the future, and no one impressed quite as much as he did. For a fighter in just his second professional bout Byambatsogt has put down a marker of intent and hopefully he and his team will continue to aim high through the rest of 2020.
Esneiker Correa TKO7 Ravshanbek Umurzakov
We didn't have too many upsets of any note this past months, but the one that did raise have the most shock value came in Russian when 21 year old Venezuelan Esneiker Correa stopped previously unbeaten Uzbek hopeful Ravshanbek Umurzakov in 7 rounds. We'd expected the highly regarded Uzbek to pick up his 11th straight win against someone who was fighting outside of Latin America for the first. Instead Correra broke down and beat up Umurzakov to claim a massive victory in the 7th round. This wasn't just a big upset for Umurzakov but the type of win that allowed him to announce himself as one to watch. And seriously we would advise keeping an eye on this young puncher, he is someone to get excited about.
Takuma Takahashi vs Leonardo Doronio (Round 3)
There were some amazing rounds, truly amazing rounds. For us the the third round between Takuma Takahashi and Leonardo Doronio takes the honours, just. This was drama, controversy, and action all rolled into one. Takahashi twice dropped Doronio, could have had points taken both times for hitting his downed opponent, and was cut in a round that was absolutely sensation. This was almost 3 minutes of chaos in which both men were hurt. Well and truly worth a watch below!
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