For us the best fights have to have drama, twists and turns. It's great to see two guys wail away on each other, but if it seems neither man can hurt the other it does take something away from the fight. The high intensity low drama bouts can be very fan friendly, but in many ways they leave us feeling just a little bit empty inside and wishing that there was a sense of danger for both men. It's with that in mind that we dig into our treasure trove this week and find a bout that had series drama and momentum shifts. It wasn't a big bout in terms of it's profile, but it was the type of bout that we love rewatching and it worth it for the turns and twists.
Ryugo Ushijima (2-0, 1) vs Shota Ogasawara (3-1, 2)
The unbeaten, 17 year old, Ryugo Ushijima he had made his debut in July 2018, with a narrow win, and followed it up with a blow out win. He looked a really talented, and promising youngster, but at the age of 17 he was still a gangly kid who looked like he needed some meat on his bones. His jab and movement were impressive for such a youngster, and he had the frame that will carry him up a weight class or two when he matures into his body.
Shota Ogasawara on the other hand was 23, he had taken a couple of unbeaten records and his only loss was in the 2017 Rookie of the Year to Mirai Imagawa, the eventual All-Japan Rookie of the Year winner. He looked more powerfully built than Ushijima, but was giving away significant size and reach to the teenager, and Ogasawara had actually been competing as a Super Flyweight or a Bantamweight through his career. He was clearly the smaller man, but the puncher of the two and if he could get inside Ushijima could be in trouble.
Unsurprisingly the taller man wanted to use his reach, his speed and his movement, the smaller man wanted to get inside and bully the teenager, take advantage of his potential fragility and make him pay for still being a kid in a man's world. The opening round saw the kid get the better of it, before we had intense back and forth drama in round 2, a round that gave us all we could ask for in the drama department.
This was proof, again, that some of the most entertaining and dramatic bouts come when both fighters believe they can and is a genuine bit of boxing treasure. Despite lacking a little something in the overall intensity of the fight this had the drama to make up for it.
The All-Japan Rookie of the Year final is one of the true highlights of the Japanese calendar and takes place just days before Christmas at the Korakuen Hall. Before we reach the All Japan final we need to find out who is representing East Japan and who is representing West Japan, do to that we get the East and West Japan finals.
This coming Sunday we get the East Japan finals and we have looked through the match ups on that card looking for the bout we view as the "One to Watch".
The One to Watch?
Katsuki Mori (4-0, 1) vs Shu Nawai (3-1, 2)
November 3rd (Sunday)
There was a lot of potential bouts to select for this Weeks "One to Watch" thanks to the East Japan Rookie of the Year final, which could have had 5 or 6 "Ones to Watch", but we setting on the Minimumweight bout between Katsuki Mori and Shu Nawai due to the combination of youth, styles and the fact Nawai's previous bout has made us so excited to see him again. The bout is also a rematch between the two men who fought in October 2018.
The 19 year old Katsuki Mori is an Ohashi gym promoted youngster who debuted in August 2018, on the under-card of a show that featured Akira Yaegashi against Hirofumi Mukai and Satoshi Shimizu Vs Shingo Kawamura, less than 2 moths later he was on the under-card of the WBSS Yokohama show, headlined by Naoya Inoue. Having been on such big cards we don't expect him to feel too much pressure here, even if the bout is a big step up. Watching him we see a very tidy boxer with quick hands, a nice aggressive style and despite some rough edges he appears to be a very strong young kid with some nasty looking body shots in his arsenal. There is clearly work to be done, and he does look like a boy rather than a man, but he looks like a natural talent.
Aged 21 Shu Nawai is also not a fully mature fighter, but he looks more like a man in the ring than Mori and looks like a very powerfully built fighter, relying more on his physicality and pressure than speed and boxing. Coming from the Watanabe gym you can see bits in his style that do look like that some other Watanabe gym fighters. There are touches, albeit light ones, of Hiroto Kyoguchi in the way he fights, and he tries to respond when he gets hit. Last time out Nawai went to war with Yuichi Baba in what was a genuinely breath taking fight and showed that Nawai could take it as well as give it. He loves the inside battle and looks really strong up close. It's also worth noting that Nawai's one loss came to Mori, in what was Nawai's professional debut.
What to expect?
Mori looks the more naturally skilled boxer but a swarmer can of course smother a boxer for space and break them down up close. That will be the game plan of Nawai, who will be looking to get up close and personal and break down the younger man. The physical strength and aggression of Nawai looks like it could be a serious problem for Mori if the younger man can't create space.
Mori needs to concentrate on his jab, which is a lovely crisp punch, his footwork and his left hook to the body. Nawai is there to be hit and Mori needs to get his respect. If he can't then the younger man will be in trouble, but Mori has really clean jabs and left hooks to the body and there is a chance he can make Nawai pay for his wide, wild and sweeping hooks.
The bad news?
The bad news for those wanting to keep an eye on this bout is that it won't be shown live. In fact it won't be aired until November 10th when G+ show the card in full. It's a shame, but it is better than it never being aired at all!
Whilst no one will ever describe the Japanese Middleweight scene as being world class it does deliver an alarming number of fantastic fights, in fact the title scene really tends to give us a more consistently entertaining fights than any other division in Japan. Thanks to great fights like Tadashi Yuba Vs Carlos Linares, Makoto Fuchigami Vs Koji Sato and Tomohiro Ebisu v Makoto Fuchigami we have started to become accustomed to Japanese Middleweight bouts being fantastically entertaining and worth watching.
This year has been no exception with 2 more great Japanese Middleweight title bouts. Today we delve into the Treasure Trove and bring you the first of those bouts, a very entertaining bout between concussive punching champion and the #1 contender. With the men clashing in the Champion Carnival.
Kazuto Takesako (10-0, 10) vs Shuji Kato (10-1-1, 6) I
It was March 2nd when Japanese Middleweight champion Kazuto Takesako returned to the ring for the first time in 2019 to make his second defense off the title. He had demolished all those who had been put in front. With 10 straight stoppage wins the hard hitting World Sports Boxing gym fighter had looked brutally heavy handed, with dynamite in his straight right hand, he was technically flawed but strong, and did enough things right to always have the respect of his opponents. He was not only able to land concussive blows up top but also had a very solid array of body shots in his arsenal and knew how to finish opponents off.
Kato on the other hand was pretty much the opposite and he was a skilled fighter not a puncher. He had respectable power, but not concussive. It was more the sort of power that kept opponents honest and allowed him to chip away at them. His real strength was in his movement, his southpaw stance and his busy jab, along with his ability to ride shots. In many ways he was the next Makoto Fuchigami, a fighter who lacked major power but had success with his skills, and although not a massively entertaining fighter he could have great fights with the right dance partner, such as an ultra aggressive opponent.
What we ended up getting was a show case of what both men were about, with Takesako pressing, constantly, and Kato countering, soaking up the pressure and unleashing his own combinations. Whether he was on the ropes or centre ring Kato was finding space for his own uppercuts and hooks, whilst Takesako's own offense looked more devastating, but less effective. The lead to a fantastic match of wills and and desire and a truly wonderful piece of boxing treasure.
Notable the two men did it all again a few months later in excellent rematch. Their second bout wasn't quite as this one, but was another brilliant fight between two men with styles that just matched up brilliantly.
The fights continue to come over the next few weeks, and whilst many of the bigger ones are getting the full preview treatment there are a few others which are worthy of some attention. This weeks "One to Watch" looks at one such bout, as a once beaten Chinese fighter looks to bounce back from defeat and faces off with a former world champion.
The one to Watch?
Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6) v Kompayak Porpramook (60-7, 41)
This is a must win between two men who know one more loss right now will be the end of their hopes of landing a big fight. With both being in their 30's the fight really is a must win. It'll be great to see what one fighter does following his first loss, and seeing what the other guy has left in his tank. Given the styles of the two men this should also be a very entertaining fight and another Chinese bout worth tuning in to.
The once beaten Wenfeng Ge is a 32 year old who was, earlier this year, on the verge of a world title fight. Wins over Amnat Ruenroeng and Ivan Soriano seemed to have put Ge on the route to the top and his team came into the year looking to continue that impressive form against Giemel Magramo. Sadly for Ge he was unable to out box or impose himself against Magramo and in the end the Filipino beat up Ge over 10 rounds before a cut gave the referee a chance to stop Ge. In fairness the bout should probably have been stopped a bit earlier, but Ge's toughness refused to yield and he ended up taking a battering.
Thai veteran Kompayak Porpramook, also known as Suriyan Satorn, has been around since 2000 and at 37 is certainly an experienced warrior. He announced himself as a world class fighter in 2011, with a win over Adrian Hernandez in a sensational FOTY for the WBC Light Flyweight title, but that is the better part of a decade ago. His reign as a world champion was a short one, losing in his second defense, and would later have a reign as the WBA "interim" Flyweight champion, before losing that belt in a FOTY contender to Koki Eto. He's not the quickest, but he's rugged, throws a lot and is always there to fight. The ideal gatekeeper.
What to expect?
We expect to see a thriller here, with Kompayak trying to pressure and push Ge whilst Ge looks to box. If Kompayak can get the fight up close and personal, roughing up Ge, he has a great chance to take advantage of the cracks in Ge's confidence and remind him of the loss last time out. On the other hand if Ge can use his feet, create some space, and land at range, he could end up using Kompayak as a big of a punch bag. Our guess is that we'll see something in between those scenarios. We suspect that Kompayak will be getting close enough to force a fight in the middle rounds, but Ge taking the early rounds and the later ones, in a very close and exciting bout.
The bad news?
Both are old and they could age over night with their age catching up with them. Kompayak has been in a lot of wars and it would be no surprise to those wars showing here in what is his 69th professional bout. This could end up being less entertaining than expected, though we'd be surprised if it ended up being "dull".
This week we delve back into out treasure trove and bring you a brutal war from the Korakuen Hall as two solid punching tough guys took it upon themselves to try and bring glory back to the Japanese Bantamweight.
The title had essentially spent 2018 as the belt no one wanted, with bouts repeatedly falling through. It's status had gone from a belt that fighters were desperate for to a belt that appeared to be cursed. Thankfully this year we have seen some thrillers for it, and this weeks piece of boxing treasure is the best of those thrillers.
Yuta Saito (12-9-3, 9) vs Yusuke Suzuki (10-3, 7)
In 2018 Yuta Saito scored the biggest win of his career, stopping stopping Eita Kikuchi in 2 rounds to claim the title, and score his most significant win. Aged 30 at the time and with 9 losses from 24 bouts he seemed unlikely to hold the title for long, but had the power to be a threat to anyone on the domestic scene. That power saw him defend the title in May with a TKO win over Hayato Kimura, who retired following the bout. It seemed that out of nowhere Saito was set for promising reign, and he made it clear that if he lost, he was heading immediately to retirement.
In his second defense Saito took on Yusuke Suzuki, a genuine tough guy who has seen his shot at a title in 2018 fade away due to one opponent failing to make weight and then suffering an injury in training. It seemed like the world was against him, but he was the mandatory challenger to Saito, and and was now 100% fit and healthy. Suzuki was 30 entering the bout, and it seemed like it was now or never for him.
What we ended up getting was a disgustingly brutal war between two men who refused to back down. They refused to accept a loss, and instead they gave each other a prolonged, hard beating, and they both seemed to love it! They were trading power shots, bleeding over each other, and getting very well acquainted up close. Despite fighting up close a lot the two men weren't being sloppy with their shots, instead they were both ripping uppercuts, short hooks and trying to out man the other in what was a truly gutsy and thrilling war.
If you're squeamish you may want to give this one a miss, otherwise this is a must watch and had it had a higher profile at the time we suspect fans would be talking about this one for a while.
In recent years we've been able to get some real gems coming out of China, which is building up it's boxing base from having a lot of it's local hopefuls take on visitors from around Asia, and Tanzania. This can give us some really poor fights every so often, but we have also had some absolute barn burners, and it's quickly making the Chinese scene one of the most over-looked in the sport. Thankfully it's also a country that gives us this week's "One to Watch".
The One to Watch?
Xiang Li (7-2-1, 2) vs Ryu Horikawa (2-0, 1)
October 17th (Thursday)
We absolutely love seeing young fighters facing tests before they get too old, and this fits that to a tee, in fact here we're seeing to young fighters facing tests in what is a genuinely mouth watering match up. As the WBO Youth Light Flyweight champion Xiang Li has already proven himself, and actually did so in Hong Kong when he beat local hopeful Raymond Poon KaiChing. For Ryu Horikawa however this is a big step forward in his career, with it being his first 10 round bout, his first title bout and his first bout on the road. This is a huge step up for the visitor, and a tough first defense for the champion. A very interesting match up.
Li is a Chinese fighter who isn't particularly well known, but has impressed, and showed a lot to be excited about last time out, when he out pointed Raymond Poon in Hong Kong. Despite being put on the back foot early on Li showed good composure, good hand speed and figured out Poon. When they went down the stretch, Li really seemed to have the better engine, landed the better shots and really turned the tables whilst landing some very crisp body shots and head hooks up top. It wasn't a flawless performance, but still an impressive one in what was clearly a bout geared against him.
Horikawa, at just 19, is a real natural talent and in his first 2 bouts he has shown he can fight or box and he appears to be one of the next of Japanese Light Flyweights, along with the likes of Rikito Shiba, Shokichi Iwata and Tsuyoshi Sato. There are flaws with Horikawa's skills, and he certainly lacks experience with only 11 rounds to his name, but he does look incredibly promising. Last time out he impressed over 6 rounds, against Yuki Nakajima, and although this is a 10 round bout we don't see Li as being more talented than Nakajima, however we do question Horikawa's stamina over the longer distance.
What to expect?
Early on we're expecting both men to be relatively cagey, getting a feel of the other. This is something we expect will be better for Horikawa than for Li, with Horikawa's more rounded boxing, movement and speed being a key difference between the two men. As the fight goes on the two will both begin to take more risks, holding their feet more, and letting combinations go. This is where we expect to see Horikawa answering a lot of questions about his stamina, durability and mental toughness. If he can can handle the increase in pace we see him really shining, despite some tough patches.
From what we've seen of both Li is the more wild fighter, but fighting out of the southpaw stance that could give him and advantage, especially with the home crowd. Horikawa will be fully aware that to get the win he needs to put it beyond any doubt, and we see that showing in the final few rounds as he tried to force the bout to be fought at a chaotic pace.
The bad news?
China doesn't have the greatest of reputations when it comes to scoring, and it would be a shame to see dodgy score-cards rear their heads so early in the careers of either man. The bout it's self is great, but we really need to hope for fairness.
Through out history Korea has provided us some of the greatest warriors in the sport's history. The mentality of a Korean fighter seems to be something that no other country quite managed to replicate. This doesn't mean that every fight in Korea is a FOTY worth battle, but the country certainly does deliver more than it's share of Treasure Trove worthy bouts. Here we share one that was just an all out war for the Korean Super Bantamweight title.
Han Bin Suh (4-0-2, 3) vs Jong Won Jung (5-7-2)
The 19 year old Han Bin Suh was the defending KBM Super Bantamweight champion, he was unbeaten and had won the title in his previous fought, stopping Dae Youn Lee in the 8th round. In the middle of July he took on the 32 year old Jong Won Jung, who's record was less than stellar, with 7 losses from his 14 bouts, and he had won just 1 of his last 8.
On paper this bout looked like an easy first defense for a quick rising domestic champion, who seemed likely to move into the regional title scene sooner rather than later. What we ended up getting however was a war. A toe to toe slugfest from two guys who lacked the single punch power to hurt the other, but looked to make up for that with volume, intensity and near none stop punching.
Although not a technically pretty bout, it was exhilarating as the two guys literally went to work, trying to just grind the other down. Defense and technique took a back seat to machismo, will to win and desire.
This might not be the prettiest piece of treasure from the 2019 treasure trove, but it is an insanely enjoyable piece, that's rough around the edges, but very hard to look away from.
The next few weeks are packed with some great action and there are a lot of bouts that are easy to miss, especially on some of the more obscure cards. Today we look at one of those bouts, on of the more obscure bouts.
The One to Watch?
Yelieqiati Nihemaituola (14-0-1, 5) Vs Ryan Rey Ponteras (22-14-3, 11)
Octber 12th (Saturday)
When a prospect steps up we're always interested in seeing how things go, and that's going to be the case here when the unbeaten Nihemaituola, a Chinese-Kazakh, takes on the rugged and upset minded Ponteras. On paper this doesn't look like it will be great, but Ponteras has often impressed us with his toughness, and his will to win. With Ponteras bringing the fight we're tipping this as being much better than it looks on paper.
Nihemaituola, dubbed the "Kazakh Warrior", is one of a number of Chinese fights with a Kazakh heritage. The 25 year old southpaw has picked up a number or minor titles but has yet to really impress, and his unbeaten record is padded with limited opposition. On paper his best win looks to be over a then 10-0 Conrado Tanamor in 2018, but since then we've seen Tanamor suffer 3 opening round blow outs in 4 bouts. In reality Nihemaituola's most impressive win was a razor thin one over Eranio Semillano just over a year ago, and in reality he's not as good as his record suggests. He's not bad, but he's certainly not a sensational rising star.
At 29 years old Pomnteras is a young veteran, with 39 fights to his name, many as the under-dog. Ponteras has gone the distance with the likes of Froilan Saludar, Jelbirt Gomera, Gideon Buthelezi, Genesis Libranza and Renz Rosia, with only the monstrously heavy handed Seiya Tsutsumi stopping him in 39 fights. Although not the most skilled, or the hardest punching he is much better than his record suggests, and he really should be holding a number more wins, and fewer losses. Do not let his record give the impression that he's not very good, because he is very decent and really should have found himself in the OPBF title mix at some point.
What to expect?
We expect Ponteras to start fact, trying to take Nihemaituola out of his stride before he can get into. If he can, then this fight becomes very interesting and he'll look to keep Nihemaituola on the back foot. Whilst the unbeaten man is more technically skilled than Ponteras he's not as proven and this should be a real test of his mental toughness, his physical skill and what he's like when he's under pressure.
The bad news?
The bout will be stream on IFL TV for fans in the UK, so it's free to watch, but the bad news is that Ponteras comes into this bout on the back of solitary stoppage loss, and we do wonder if he's taken too much through his career to give Nihemaituola the fight we expect.
This year has a lot left to give, and as we all know the Asian boxing calendar gets a bit crazy in the last few months of the year, with November and December both set to be massive months!
Of course it's not just looking towards the future that we need to do, but also looking at what we've already had, and boy have we had a great year so far!
As part of the "Treasure Trove" series we are going to share some of the most interesting fights from 2019 that may have passed you by, with full videos and some back ground details of those bouts. We're looking to shine an extra light on something you may have missed, be it a FOTY contender, a thrilling KO, a good old fashioned war or something else we feel deserves extra attention.
The only rules for fights included in this series is that they can't have been aired on American or British TV, as we want to shine a light on fights that haven't been given that level of attention, and that we're able to share them directly as an embedded video, as we obviously want you, our readers, to see them. Sadly this rules out some of the great fights on Boxing Raise.
To begin this new series we're going to look at a novice bout that was thoroughly entertaining, very short, but a fight that deserves to be seen.
Yuki Yazawa (0-0) vs Kazuki Nakamura (0-0-1)
Coming in to this it seemed unlikely either man would go on to get any attention. It was just an obscure novice bout on the undercard of a typical domestic Japanese card at the Korakuen Hall. The bout was one of the 5 bouts scheduled for 4 rounds and it held no real interest. A 30 year old debuting Yuki Yazawa wasn't tipped for any sort of great success, and at 32 years old Kazuki Nakamura was hardly a young fighter honing his craft.
Whilst Yazawa was making his debut it is worth noting that Nakamura had fought once as a professional, almost 14 months earlier, being held to a draw by fellow debutant Takumi Sato, who went on to win his next 2 bouts.
The bout genuinely could not have been any more nondescript going into it. There was nothing the bout had working in it's favour. Some how though it ended up being a bout that has been viewed close to 140,000 times on the official video put up by the promoter. It's a bout that features 3 knockdowns, a dose of show boating and a side order of a brutal knockout.
This is short, this is novices in action and this is our first from the Treasure Trove, which going forward will be posted every Wednesday following this first treat.
This coming week isn't the best, despite one or two notable names involved. The only real standout bouts aren't hidden, instead they are headline bouts on big Japanese cards, including a world title bout and a big step up for a prospect. Looking for a gem here is a bit more tricky than it perhaps should be, but there is one bout that has piqued our attention ahead of this coming weekend, and that's the debut of a touted young Japanese fighter, tipped for big things.
The One to Watch?
Shigetoshi Kotari (0-0) Vs Lasben Sinaba (3-2, 2)
October 5th (Saturday)
We always get excited by highly regarded Japanese amateurs turning professional and this is the latest in those types of bouts. Kotari was a very good amateur, he fought close to 75 times in the amateurs and won a reported 50 of those bouts, often reaching the final stages of notable national tournaments. Sinaba on the other hand is a stop of be stopped fighter and has only gone beyond 3 rounds once in his career. The visitor will be in the ring looking for a blow out against his novice foe, but will know that he can be hurt.
The MT Gym's latest signing is Shigetoshi Kotari , who went 50-23 in the unpaid ranks and recent turned professional with the same gym that has Junto Nakatani and Kai Ishizawa among their ranks. At the age of 23 really big things are expected of him, and he has shared the ring not just with the likes of Nakatani, who he took his pro-test bout with, but also Masayuki Ito, who he has been sparring with to prepare for his debut.From footage of him fighting as an amateur he's a very tall, rangy fighter who looks like he could posses brutal power in his long levers, when he gets his technique down.
On the hand Lasben Sinaba is a bit of an unknown. He's fought 4 of his 5 bouts in Indonesia, and has fought once in Japan, where he lose to the then debut Shu Ikoshi. Notably he has fought as high as Lightweight, whilst Kotari is intending to campaign around 126lbs. Sadly he's 0-1 away from home and 3-1 at home, though he is certainly capable of banging at the level he's been fighting, with all of his wins coming in a combined 9 rounds.
What to expect?
We've come to expect notable Japanese amateurs to turn to the pro-ranks with a very pro-read style, as we see time and time again. Given Kotari was such a good amateur and has been getting ring time with very solid professionals we're expecting to see him make his debut and look like a natural. He has the dimensions to fight easily behind the jab, work out Sinaba and then unleash his power shots.
For Sinaba the odds are he comes out looking to land a wild hook, and try to back himself, and his power. On paper that might sound a good idea but in reality it's his only option. We can't imagine he has any chance of holding his own in a boxing contest with Kotari and will instead have to look to take his man out. That however will be a flawed gameplan.
We suspect that Kotari will let his jabs fly, show respect to Sinaba in case his power is legitimate, then turn the screw and take Sinaba out. There is a chance Sinaba's power could be a problem, and Kotari will respect it, but it won't be enough to really trouble Kotari, who we suspect will pick up the win after 2 or 3 rounds.
The bad news?
The bout won't be televised live. Instead the show will be on tape delay the Tuesday following the bout.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.