Since suffering an opening round TKO loss in 2013 we've seen Yuki Nagano (16-2, 12) go on a fantastic run of 14 straight wins, against some of the most notable Welterweights in Japan. the latest of those wins as in April when he travelled to Osaka and defeated Ryota Yada to become the Japanese Welterweight champion. This coming Saturday he returns to the ring seeking his first defense of the title, as he takes on veteran foe Makoto Kawasaki (11-7-1, 2).
The talented Nagano really has turned his career around after a 2-2 start to life in the professional ring and wins over the likes of Giraffe Kirin Kanda, in the 2015 Rookie of the Year final, Riku Nagahama, Yuki Beppu and most recently Ryota Yada really have been impressive. Now aged 30 he has a great combination of experience, skill, power and is still young enough to have not really lost any of the physical traits. He's also helped out by being a southpaw, and being backed by one of the most notable Japanese promoters, Teiken.
Although on a great domestic run it's hard to imagine Nagano mixing on the world level. There's a fair argument to suggest he's one of the best fighters at Welterweight in the Asia Pacific region, but he's a long, long way behind the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr and Terence Crawford. He's pretty basic, but heavy handed, patient, accurate and has good time. He has also shown a real will to win, though of course he has question marks about his chin and after winning the title does he still have the desire that lead him there?
Kawasaki is a proper veteran, he's 35 years old and has been a professional for over 7 years, yet hasn't really managed to have consistency in his biggest fights, despite facing several notable names. His debut came against Koki Tyson, and ended in a draw, and since then he has been a win some lose some fighter through his career, losing to the likes of Hironobu Matsunaga, Ryota Yada, Daisuke Sakamoto and Xingxin Yang. Although he has picked up losses he has shown an ability to score upsets, beating the likes of Kazuya Murata and Yuichi Ideta. During his 19 fight career he has only been stopped once, being taken out in 7 rounds by Yada back in 2016.
In the ring Kawasaki is a pretty tough fighter, but lacks real power, and boxes mostly off the jab. He has struggled to get respect of fighters in the past and, when he's been backed up, he has been unable to force opponents to respect him. His first 3 losses, all in 4 or 5 round bouts, were close, but his last 4 have all been much clearer defeats and it really does seem like he's struggled as he's stepped up in levels and has had his jab neutralised.
We're struggling to see how Kawasaki can pull it off here. He's the big under-dog and although a veteran appears to have been selected as an easy first defense for Nagano, who we see taking a dominant and clear win. The winner isn't in much doubt, here, and it would be a huge surprise to see Kawasaki upset the in form, younger, stronger, hard hitting champion.
Prediction - TKO9 Nagano
If we're being totally honest the Flyweight division is at a bit of a low point right now. There is talent there, and a lot of promise, but right now it feels like there is a big drop off between the champions and the contenders. One way to bridge that gap is having the contenders actually facing off for a chance to fight for a title. That's exactly what we'll see in the Philippines this coming Saturday when the once beaten Giemel Magramo (23-1, 19) takes on Komgrich Nantapech (25-5, 16), aka Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking, in an IBF eliminator. Not only is this an eliminator but it may also be the low key fight of the week, with the two men having styles that should gel amazingly well.
Of the two fighters it's Nantapech who is the more recognisable. The 30 year old Thai has been a professional for more than 8 years, and fought under a host of names during that time, and in the last few of those years he has found himself stuck around the world title scene. He's best known for his 2017 bouts with Donnie Nietes and Juan Carlos Reveco, and although he lost both he showed that he was tough and in fairness he gave Nietes one of his toughest bouts. Sadly against Reveco the Thai was made to look slow and clumsy, but Reveco never came close to taking him out.
Since the loss to Reveco we've seen Nantapech going 3-0, though unfortunately he did have to pull out of a 2018 eliminator with Masayuki Kuroda and hasn't fought since the very end of 2018. So coming into this bout he'll have been out of the ring for 9 months, the longest break he's had between pro bouts. Not only has he been inactive but he also has history going against him here, with a 1-5 record on the road, and a 0-3 record in the Philippines with losses to Nietes, Froilan Saludar and Albert Pagara.
In the ring the Thai is a tough, aggressive fighter fighter. He's technically limited and slow, a bit clumsy, but has a style that can, with the right foil, make for some really fun fights. He looks to have a fight up close and will apply pressure trying to make that happen. If a fighter moves however he can be made to look as flawed as he is.
Although relatively unknown outside of Asia Magramo is one of the biggest hopes for the Flyweight division, and the hard hitting, aggressive, exciting 24 year old Filipino is very unlucky to even have a loss against his name. He's a third generation fighter, following his father Melvin Magrama and grandfather Ric Magramo, and has the sport running through his blood with 3 of his uncles also being former professional fighters.
Magramo debuted back in 2012, at the age of 17, and won his first 17 bouts before losing a very close contest in South Korea to Pakistani Muhammad Waseem. Since the loss he has gone 6-0 (6) taking out former world title challenger John Mark Apolinario, Petchchorhae Kokietgymand Wenfeng Ge, taking Ge's unbeaten record in a dominant display back in January in China. What we've seen from those wins is that Magramo is Magramo is an aggressive boxer-puncher, he's defensively not the tightest but offensively he is a machine, stalking is prey then unleashing power shots up close. He switches between head and body wonderfully and whilst he's a hard hitting he's not a 1-punch KO artist. Instead he's more of a grinder, who will break down his opponents.
Given that both are aggressive, exciting and like to let their hands fly this has the potential to be a real FOTY contender, and a total phone booth war. Both come forward, both like to fight and both are defensively questionable, leading to both to taking more shots than they really need to. In a fight like that it tends to come down to the fighter with the heavy hands and the more varied output. We feel that man, for this fight, is Magramo, who will also be helped by the crowd cheering everything he does.
Although both are tough we're expecting the war to leave both damaged, and eventually Magramo will break down his Thai foe, in an absolute barn burner!
Prediction - TKO10 Magramo
In August 2017 Zulipikaer Maimaitiali (now, 11-1-1, 7) lost a controversial and close fight in India to Vijender Singh, in what was Singh's second defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title. Singh would only defend the title once more, in December 2017, before it was essentially forgotten about and left on the side. Now, just over 2 years after Maimaitiali lost to Sing, he will be getting a second shot at the title, as he takes on Tanzania's Abdallah Paziwapazi (25-6-1, 22), and essentially helps to reactivate the title that has been dormant way too long.
The Chinese fighter is, like many in China, fun to watch. He's not the most skilled or the heaviest handed, but he's tough, comes to fight and does have under-rated skills. His loss to Singh ended a 9 fight winning run and was incredibly close, with a point deduction in round 6 for blows costing the Chinese fighter a majority draw. Since then he has notched up 3 wins, though spent the entire of 2018 out of the ring and has only fought once this year, way back in January.
Although no world beater the 25 year old Maimaitiali looks like a really tough out at regional level. He's not only under-rated in terms of his skills, but he's tough has a solid work rate, good size and a southpaw stance, making him awkward to look good against. There's a lack of polish and experience to him, but they can come in time, especially given his age.
We're not really sure how Paziwapazi qualifies for an Asia Pacific title, given that Tanzania is in Africa, though on paper he should be a decent test for the Chinese fighter. "Dula Mbabe", as he's known, is a 26 year old who debuted at the end of 2013 and has been active through his career with 33 bouts in less than 6 years. Not only has Paziwapazi been busy but he's also been on his travels, fighting not only in Tanzania but also in Italy, China, Germany and Russia, with this up coming bout set to be his second in China.
On paper Paziwapazi looks to be a real puncher with 22 stoppage wins in his 25 total victories, in reality however his best wins are against Francis Cheka and Andrey Kalyuzhnyy, who he actually beat in China back in 2016. His power certainly seems like it's not as impressive as his record suggests, though it is worth noting that he's proven to be fairly tough, with just a single stoppage loss which came in 2016 to fringe contender Umar Salamov.
For this bout we're expecting to see Maimaitiali really ease himself into the bout to begin with, shaking off some ring rust, before taking the fight to the Tanzanian. For Paziwapazi the key will be to start fast, try and surprise Maimaitiali in the early rounds, though we don't believe his power is devastating as his record suggests. Instead we see him trying to start fast, before the Chinese fighter turn the tables.
Prediction - TKO9 Maimaitiali
By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
On August 24th, at the RCC supershow in Russia, top Cruiserweight contenders clash as the 2 time IBF International champion Aleksei Papin challenges boxing veteran Ilunga Makabu for the WBC Silver title.
Aleksei Papin (11-0 / 10 KOs) before starting his career as a boxer, he cut his teeth in the world of kickboxing. As an amateur, he won the European & World championships thrice each, while as a pro he held the prestigious ISKA title, amongst other belts. In his 7 years in the sport, Papin defeated numerous top kickboxers and world champions like Danyo Ilunga, Zinedine Hameur Lain, Igor Bugaenko and many more.
As a boxer, Papin boasts a 91% KO ratio, with most of his fights have ended in less than 5 rounds. During his short time here, he has stopped 2 world title challengers, in Rogelio Omar Rossi (20-8), with a short right hook in the second, as well as Ismayl Sillah (27-6), whom he finished in just one round after landing a crisp right straight and then connecting with 2 left uppercuts, as he was going down.
He earned his 1st championship when he met with Willbeforce Shihepo (25-11) in 2018, for the vacant IBF International title. Papin imposed himself on his opponent, overwhelming him with his impressive power and speed. After a year on inactivity, he reclaimed that same belt, by knocking out Alexandru Jur (18-4). He now goes for another title against a man, who’s possibly his biggest test yet.
Ilunga Makabu (25-2 / 24 KOs) despite suffering a loss on his pro debut, he made a shift comeback and finished all of his next 13 opponents, before facing Dmytro Kucher (24-3) for the vacant WBC Silver title. Kucher was undefeated at the time at 21-0. It was a close encounter from which the Congolese fighter came out on top, after putting together some good combinations, working both the head and the body.
He marked his inaugural title defense against Eric Fields (24-4) in 2013. Makabu weakened Fields with a plethora of uppercuts and finished him off in the 5th after a vicious left hook, which has proven to be his biggest weapon in the ring.
Makabu also broke Ruben Angel Mino’s (33-9) undefeated streak (20-0 at the time) in just 2 rounds, dropping him twice, once with the uppercut and then with a snap, short ranged left hook.
After 3 more knockouts, including one over former IBF World champion Glen Johnson (54-21), Makabu squared off with Tony Bellew (30-3) with the vacant WBC World title on the line. Even though he scored a huge knockdown in the opening round, after landing a straight left hand on Bellew’s face, dropping him hard on the canvas, the British boxer regained momentum and returned the favor in the 3rd to become the new champion.
Makabu went on to win 5 fights in a row, all stoppages, and remained undefeated in 2017 & 2018. This past June, he went face to face with former WBC Silver, WBA International & world title contender Dmitry Kudryashov (23-3). Makabu weathered the early onslaught of the Russian and put him down with a thunderous left hook, connecting clean on the chin in the 2nd and almost did it again at the end of the round, weren’t it for the ropes saving Kudryashov. Both men went back and forth, in what can be considered one of the best brawls of 2019. After 5 rounds on incredible action, Kudryashov was a bloody mess, taking unanswered shots which led the referee stopping the fight and crowning Makabu a 2 time Silver champion. He now returns to action, only 2 months later, to defend his strap against a fellow champion.
Papin versus Makabu has all the elements of being a fight of the year candidate. Both men are knockout artists. Papin has finished 10 out of his 11 matches, while Makabu 24 out of his 25 victories. The Russian likes to trap his opponents against the ropes and deliver the punishment, whilst the Congolese prefers to keep it in the middle of the ring, dismantling his opposition before going for the kill. It’s also interesting to consider how Papin has made short work of the previous world title challengers he has fought, but at the same time, we have to keep in mind that Makabu has a knack of ending unbeaten streaks. Either man has the ability to end this match in the blink of an eye, especially if Makabu lands his left hook. Both have a great momentum going into this one and a win here could very well brought them close to a world title opportunity. Do not blink, because this fight won’t last long.
August 24th is set to be one of the best days for fight fans of the lower weights. We not only have both Kosei Tanaka, John Riel Casimero and Vic Saludar defending their world title but also a number of other notable bouts in the lower weights. One of those other bouts is a show down between the fast rising Kento Hatanaka (9-0, 9) and world ranked Filipino Jaysever Abcede (19-8, 12). This bout, on the under-card of Tanaka's mandatory title defense against Jonathan Gonzalez, could end up being the most interesting bout of the day and is a clear step up for the destructive Hatanaka.
The 21 year old Hatanaka is seen by some in Japan as the next star of Chubu, following stable mate Kosei Tanaka. He's a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of father Kiyoshi Hatanaka, a former world champion at Super Bantamweight, and has been guided so far by Hatanaka senior. He made his professional debut in late 2016 and has gradually built a reputation for himself as a hard hitting, exciting and really promising young fighter. He's already his first title, the WBC Youth Flyweight title, and is starting to get real traction thanks to wins over the likes of Kenta Matsui and Songsaeng Phoyaem.
In the ring Hatanaka is aggressive, heavy handed but also educated. He takes calculated risks, and brings his aggression being intelligent pressure. He backs opponents up behind good footwork, he fires off combinations between head and body and is very hard hitting for such a young fighter. Like many of the emerging Japanese youngsters he really uses body shots well and whilst he's still a long, long, way from a world title fight he is moving in the right direction.
On paper Abcede looks like a really poor opponent for a top prospect. With 8 losses from 27 bouts he's no world beater. However Abcede is going through a really good run of form. He's been unbeaten since suffering a decision loss to Ivan Soriano in December 2017, and has scored big wins on the road since then, stopping both Stamp Kiatniwat in Thailand and Seigo Yuri Akui in Japan. Those two wins are far better than anything on Hatanaka's record, and a win over Abcede would be huge for Hatanaka at this point,
Abcede isn't a world beater, but he's a tough, rugged and hungry fighter. His losses, typically, come to good fighters, like Panya Pradabsri, OPBF champion Lito Dante, former OPBF champion Tsubasa Koura and current world champion Wanheng Menayothin. He's not only notched the bit wins over Stamp and Akui but also holds wins over Pigmy Kokietgym and Orlie Silvestre. If we were to put Abcede into a pigeon hole, he's a gatekeeper, a really good regional gatekeeper. He has under-rated power, a lot of heart and brings intelligent pressure behind his southpaw stance. He's not the quickest, the biggest puncher or the best boxer out there, but he has become a very solid fighter who can be a genuine threat to a prospect, and their unbeaten records.
We expect to see Hatanaka entering the bout with clear instructions not to try and blast out Abcede. Instead Hatanaka will be told to box, and if the opening come he's to jump on them. If he takes risks there is a genuine danger that Abcede will punish him for them, likewise if Hatanaka looks to set a super high pace there's a risk of him gassing in the later stages.
If Hatanaka can boxing intelligently, use his brain and find openings he can certainly stop Abcede and continue his perfect KO run. Alternatively he can box safe, get 10 good rounds under his belt and prove his stamina. From the first round to the last Abcede will be dangerous and he will be tough, but Hatanaka should be good enough to take the win, and continue his rise. We expect to see the youngster being tested, hard, but do more than enough to take home the win.
Prediction- TKO9 Hatanaka
The Flyweight scene in Asia is a rather weird one right now. There are some amazing fighters there, like Kosei Tanaka, and some really fast rising hopefuls, like Junto Nakatani. Sadly though there is a really awkward gap between some of the regional level fighters and the world class fighters.
Among those stuck between the Oriental scene and world level is current OPBF champion Jayr Raquinel (10-1-1, 7), who travels to Japan later this month to make his second defense of the title. In the opposite corner to the champion is former world title challenger Takuya Kogawa (30-5-1, 13), who appears to have slipped significantly from his prime.
Aged 22 Raquinel has a lot of potential to make a mark at world level, much like the aforementioned Nakatani and fellow rising youngster Ryota Yamauchi, though his has a lot of questions over his head. He showed his ability to perform on the road in early 2018, when he stopped Keisuke Nakayama to claim the title and then again just months later when he stopped Shun Kosaka in his first defense. Sadly his rise hit the skids last year when he lost a competitive decision to Chinese foe Wulan Tuolehazi, in China, and he's not fought since that bout. Whilst his title wasn't on the line against Tuolehazi the bout did cost him momentum and his unbeaten record and it's almost a year since he last stepped in the ring.
At his best Raquinel is a solid boxer-puncher. He's got a hard hitting southpaw left, a good right hook, and smart movement. Sadly for all the positives about him he can often look lazy in the ring, too reserved and unwilling to let his shots go. Against Tuolehazi he looked great, when he threw his punches, but all too often looked happy to not do much, cruising and waiting, often waiting too long and letting Tuolehazi do enough to take the win. Given his age that loss could be a great learning experience, or could be a setback that he struggles to ever really rebuild from.
The 34 year old Kogawa has long been one of the most fun to watch fighters on the planet. Having debuted 14 years ago Kogawa has been one of the staples on the Flyweight scene much of that time. He began his career with a 17-1 (10) record, and won the OPBF Super Flyweight title, before getting a world title fight against Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in 2011. Kogawa lost to Wonjongkam but bounced back and won the Japanese Flyweight title just 6 months later. It's been the Japanese Flyweight title that has really been the focus for much of Kogawa's career over the last 8 years with title bouts against the likes of Shigetaka Ikehara, Suguru Muranaka, Hiroyuki Kudaka and Masayuki Kuroda.
Through his career Kogawa has been in some amazing bouts, his fights with Muranaka, Kudaka and Kuroda stand out.He has had a career from being a boxer-brawler, with a high tempo style, that has seen him take a lot of punishment. Sadly in the last few years Kogawa has started to show the damage of those battles, and looks to have slowed significantly from the star he was. Whilst some of that could be put down to lingering effect from a serious ear injury, which he suffered in 2016, it's fair to say that his warrior mentality, hard fights and really hard rounds, along with his age, has simply caught up with him.
At his best Kogawa would be strongly favoured over Raquinel, sadly though he's a long way removed from his best. This version of Kogawa has struggled with the likes of Naoto Fujimoto and Hideyuki Watanabe, limited domestic foes. Even with Raquinel having been out of the ring for a year we suspect his youth, freshness and speed will be the key. With Kogawa being aggressive we see Raquinel getting chances to sit back and counter, rather than in the Tuolehazi fight where the Chinese fighter didn't give Raquinel opportunities to counter.
We suspect Raquinel will come out on top here, and Kogawa will then end his long, and thrilling career.
Prediction- Raquinel UD12
In the west fight fans are often quick to write fighters off after a loss, especially one early in their career. In the east fans are a lot less harsh, with losses often being used to develop a fighters skills, and coming less from being exposed and more from being tested. If you test your guy and they come up short, they can rebuild and work on what has caused them to lose.
On August 23rd we see two men who have had their cherry's popped facing off in one of the most under-rated bouts of the week. In fact it goes down as one of, on paper at least, the most intriguing bouts of the month so far and will certainly push the winner towards a really significant contest. That bout in question is an 8 round contest between once beaten Japanese hopeful Ryota Yamauchi (4-1, 4) and in form Filipino Alphoe Dagayloan (13-2-5-1, 5). On paper this may not get attention from fans who are unfamiliar with the two, but the match up is set to be something very, very special.
The 24 year old Yamauchi made his debut in 2017 and quickly became one to watch, scoring wins over Lester Abutan and Yota Hori in his first 3 bouts. Sadly he was beaten, albeit somewhat controversially, when he took on world ranked Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi in Shanghai. The two men traded knockdowns, in one of the most interesting bouts of 2019, but in the end the 3 Chinese judges all scored it to the local, with two of the judges only giving Yamauchi 2 rounds, including the one he dropped Tuolehazi in. Had the bout been anywhere else there's a really solid chance Yamauchi would be 5-0 (4).
Despite being unlucky against the awkward Chinese fighter Yamauchi really had some flaws shown up. His inability to defend against the unique right hand of Tuolehazi was a major issue, from the opening moments right through the bout. That was the shot that repeatedly landed on Yamauchi, and showed he had real work to do on his defense. Offensively however he was brilliant and he answered serious questions about his stamina, work rate and heart. We already knew he was heavy handed, exciting and had good shot selection, but he ticked other boxes, even in defeat.
The 27 year old Dagayloan, from the Philippines, is a really interesting example of a fighter developing after a less than amazing start to professional boxing. He made his debut at the age of 18, way back in 2010, and had the strange record of 4-2-4-1 after 11 bouts. Since then though he has "come good" and gone 8-0-1, with notable wins against Madiyar Zhanuzak, Danrick Sumabong and Esnth Domingo. He hasn't just improved, which he's done significantly since a 2016 loss to Jason Dogelio, but he's become a very good fighter and a very hard guy to beat.
From the footage of Dagaloan out there he is a smart, but aggressive fighter. He's a sharp puncher, pick his shots well and uses the southpaw stance well. He lines up fantastic left hands, to head and body. When he has his man hurt he really does know how to turn it on, but he's not someone who takes risks until he feels his man is ready to be taken out. What's particularly impressive is his body punching, and his inside work.
Coming in to this we do see the bout as a bit of a 50-50 clash, though we're swayed slightly in favour of Yamauchi, who will have a point to prove after the loss to Tuolehazi. He will have to over-come the southpaw trickery of Dagaloyan however, and that is not going to be easy. If Dagayloan can force his intelligent pressure on to the fight he could give Yamauchi real problems, especially with his straight left hand and his backhand uppercut at close range, which he does love throwing, though we're expecting the Japanese fighter to do enough and take home the victory.
Prediction - UD8 Yamauchi
Earlier this year we saw Can Xu claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title with a huge win over Jesus M Rojas. That win really put Xu on the map and gave Chinese boxing a massive shot in the arm. Since then he has defended the title once and kept momentum going in China, which has also seen see Wulan Tuolehazi put himself into the mix at Flyweight.
One other Chinese fighter looking to get a big break in the near future is Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3), a talented fighter who has broke into the world rankings whilst making a name for himself at Light Flyweight. This coming Saturday he drops 3 lbs and heads to Minimumweight and takes on once beaten Filipino Jomar Caindog (10-1-1, 4) in a bout for the WBO International Minimumweight title, which will be held in Shenzhen.
The move to 105lbs is a smart one for Xiang, if he can make the weight comfortably. The 5'3" slickster is a natural talent, with incredible skills, but at Light Flyweight he was always going to be lost in the shuffle with so much depth in the division and even if he got a shot at a title, he would be a massive under-dog against fighters like Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kenshiro. At 105lbs however there is less talent, and he could certainly give the champions at the weight a run for their money, if not manage to dethrone them.
Looking at Xiang's record won't impress many, with just 16 wins in 22 bouts. It is worth noting however that he has turned around a 3-3 start to his professional career with a record of 13-1-2 in his last 16 bouts. It's also worth noting that his losses have come at Bantamweight, Super Flyweight and Flyweight, including a very early career loss to Jerwin Ancajas. In his last 16 he has scored notable wins over the likes of Ben Mananquil, Dexter Alimento, Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook and certainly deserves a huge fight if he can continue this run of form.
During Xiang's current form we have been really impressed by his skills, and he doesn't fight like most Chinese fighters. He's a fighter who has a pure boxing style, he fights behind his, moves well, and counters brilliantly. His combinations are fantastic and whilst he lacks power he does find in defenses and lands a lot of shots. In terms of pure skills he is arguably the best in China.
Sadly not so much is known about Caindog, a Filipino who has almost no footage out there and has done little in his career far. Aged 24 he is coming into his physical prime but this is a massive step up in class for him. From his debut in June 2014 all his bout, so far, have been at home in the Philippines. Through his 12 bouts to date his competition hasn't been notable, at all, other than a then 2-0 Samuel Salva, who will fight for a world title in September. Salva beat Caindog over 6 rounds and the only other mark on Caindog's record was a 2018 draw with Lyster Jun Pronco.
Sadly, given the lack of footage,it's hard to say anything about Caindog's style but his competition so far suggests his team haven't got a lot of belief in him and a bout against Xiang looks like it's a case of "sink or swim" for him.
It can be hard to judge a fight without footage of one of the fighters. The reality here is that we know Xiang is very, very good, and if he can make 105lbs without any problems he's a handful for anyone in the division. We know about Xiang to suggest, confidently, that he'll be too good for a man who has been protected on the Filipino domestic scene.
There is a chance that Caindog is a diamond in the rough for the Filipino scene, but our guess is that he's not, and that he will be clearly beaten here by the skills and trickery of Xiang.
Prediction - TKO9 Xiang
Earlier this year Korean fighter Jung Kyoung Lee (7-2-1, 3) scored a career best win, stopping Samuel Colomban to claim the OPBF Light Middleweight title. He returns to the ring later this month to make his first defense of that title, as he takes on Japanese veteran slugger Akinori Watanabe (37-7-1, 31) in what could be a really fan friendly contest, and the next step on the rebuilding process of Korean boxing.
Lee was a former martial artist who turned to boxing in 2017 and despite suffering a couple of early career setbacks, stumbling to 3-2-1 after 6 bouts, he has really come into his own with a 4 fight winning run. That winning run hasn't just had 1 good win over Colomban, but also includes a notable decision win over Tonghui Li, in what was a very oddly scored bout. Those two wins are two of the best of any active Korean boxer and shows that the man from Seoul is getting better.
Although improving Lee does still have a lot of areas that he needs to iron out. He's not the quickest, the biggest hitter or a particularly smooth fighter. He is improving, and rounding off, but there is a lot of work left for him to do. What he does have is a good tank, good physical strength and a gritty toughness. He'll never been a naturally smooth fighter, but he appears to be a hard worker, and as far as the Korean scene is concerned he actually comes across as a bit more intelligent than many Korean fighters, countering and using a bit of lateral movement. Whilst he does have some intelligent aspects he is very much a left hand happy type of fighter, who doesn't make the most of his southpaw stance.
Whilst Lee is on the way up it's hard to really know where Watanabe's career currently stands. The heavy handed Japanese fighters was long regarded as a glass cannon, but in recent years has shored up his defense and began to show some more durability, to go along with his attacking prowess. The 34 year old southpaw has been a professional for over 15 years and has gone on to achieve notable success. He has not only won the Japanese, OPBF and PABA titles at Welterweight but also claimed the Japanese "interim" title at Light Middleweight, a title he vacated to pursue this title bout.
Watanabe is a somewhat crude, but powerful, hard hitting and exciting fighter, willing to take one to land one. That mentality saw him suffering 3 straight stoppage losses in 2007-2008, but since then and another stoppage loss in 2010. Since then he has only really been stopped in wars, losing to Toshio Arikawa and Magomed Kurbanov, with that stoppage coming from facial swelling. His biggest issue is still his defense,
and in recent years his face has had a reputation for swelling badly, but seems to feel his offense is his best defense. Not always an effective tactic, as we saw when Takehi Inoue bullied him around the ring, but something that does see him playing to his strengths.
The experience and power edges both sit firmly with Watanabe, though he is the older man and is certainly the more damaged fighter. He's also on the road, fighting in Korea and the naturally smaller man. Although Watanabe is a live under-dog we do see him coming up short against the younger and hungrier Korean hopeful.
One thing to add is that this bout is taking place a rescheduled date. Originally it was supposed to take place much earlier in the year but Lee suffered a training injury forcing it be rescheduled for August 11th. This has seen Watanabe age a bit more, though we suspect there is still plenty of life in the veteran.
Prediction - UD12 Lee
Every so often we get a bout that just stands out to us as being worth a little extra interest, even if the don't have any title implications or long term significance. It's just, a bout, but an interesting one. This coming Saturday we get one such bout as former Rookie of the Year winners Yuga Inoue (7-1-1, 1) and Daiki Kameyama (7-3-1, 2) get it on in a 6 round bout in Hyogo.
To fans out side of Japan this bout has little real significance, and even for those in Japan it's not a major bout, but it is a compelling bout between two very talented young men, each looking to bounce back from a loss last time out and looking to get back on the right track. It's a bout that will put the winner on the verge of a Japanese ranking, and leave the loser with work to do, but a lot of time to do that work.
The younger of the two men is 20 year old Inoue. Despite his surname he is no relation to the Inoue brothers but he is an exceptionally talented young man. Hailing from Hyogo Inoue made his name in 2017, when he won the Minimumweight rookie of the year, moving his record to 5-0-1 along the way. Along the way to the Rookie crown he had beaten the likes of Daiki Yamanaka and Retsu Akabane and had taken a draw against Tatsuro Nakashima, himself a still promising hopeful.
With the Rookie tournament behind him Inoue entered 2018 with real expectation and towards the end of the year had his first title bout, taking on the hard hitting Kai Ishizawa. Through the first 4 rounds Inoue looked the much better boxer. He neutralised Ishizawa's power and offense with his smart boxing, sharp punching and ability to get in and out of range. Despite the success Inoue made some novice mistakes, standing and trading just a little too much, and after a cut in round 5 he was beaten into submission in round 6. He's not fought since then, but showed enough, in defeat, to remain hopeful about. What that loss showed was that the youngster, whilst talented, wasn't physically mature, and lacked not only power but also a physical strength, it was almost as if staying at 105lbs had taken it's toll, so moving up seemed logical and looks to be what he's done here, as he heads into the bout with Kameyama by moving up to Light Flyweight.
Kameyama took a year longer to make his mark on the sport, though his rise has been just as notable. He lost on debut, to Yuya Gunji in 2016 before suffering a pair of setbacks in 2017 to all action warrior Tsuyoshi Sato, who held him to a draw in early 2017 and then took a decision over him later in the year. In 2018 he went on to win the Rookie of the Year at Light Flyweight, beating Tetsuya Mimura in the final. Sadly his only bout since the Rookie triumph was a wide decision loss to Shokichi Iwata, in what was Iwata's Japanese debut. Despite the loss to Iwata, who is an sensational prospect, the 22 year old Kameyama cannot be written off and it's clear he can, and should, be able to come again.
What we saw when Kameyama took on Iwata was a really quick, fighter, who looked to do things, but was simply up against one of the best prospects in world boxing. There was so much talent on show here that the bout really didn't get the attention it deserved and it was obvious that Kameyama had the ability to go a long way, with a lovely southpaw jab and smart boxing. Just unfortunately for all his good work, it was just not even close to being enough against someone like Iwata.
With Inoue and Kameyama now facing off one thing we're sure about is that we're in for a treat as two highly skilled young fighters are taking each other on in a battle of skill. Both are very talented and both are very quick, so this should be a bout that flies by with real technical skills on show. Inoue will have to show how he looks at Light Flyweight, and how he copes with the southpaw stance, and Kameyama will have to deal with the sharp straight punching of Inoue. Both will have to answer questions as to how they are after losing last time out.
We favour Kameyama to take home the win, making the most of his southpaw stance, but the reality is this is a total toss up, and should be seen as one of the potential gems of the month. This is the sort of fight that should interest purists, and those who love watching competitive bouts and prospects. A genuinely excellent match up.
Prediction - SD6 Kameyama
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.