Once again we have two fights to share this week in our "The One to Watch" series, and this is the second of those, following the Shun Kubo Vs Takashi Igarashi one. The reason we want to share this isn't that we think it'll be a competitive FOTY of the year but because it's on a free online stream and it features one of the best prospects in Japanese boxing fighting for the second time since turning professional earlier this year. For those who do want to watch it, it will be streamed on the Suruga Boys YouTube Channel.
The One to Watch?
Rentaro Kimura (1-0, 1) vs Takafumi Iwaya (4-3)
September 27th (Sunday)
We always want fans to get on board with prospects early on, especially Japanese and Uzbek prospects who are being moved quickly. With that in mind we are suggesting a bout to watch featuring one of the hottest young prospects in Japan, Rentaro Kimura. The bout is his second in the space of a few weeks and will be his first at home in Shizuoka. Although there's not going to be a huge crowd there will be a live stream available, giving us all a chance to see Kimura in action.
The 23 year old Rentaro Kimura was a former Japanese amateur standout who is tipped to be a future star. He's the big hope for Shizuoka, and signed with local promoter Suruga Boy in the hope of becoming their first champion. Like some other fighters however he's training at the Misako Gym, where the hope is that their success, and training will help develop Kimura and turn him from a very good amateur to a professional world champion.
On his debut in July Kimura looked brilliant in stopping Yuya Azuma, scoring one of the KO's of the year with a brutal finish and further built on his reputation as one of the best prospects in Japan.
Aged 32 Takafumi Iwaya has been a professional since 2018 and has had mixed success. Notably he lost 3 of his first 4, including one to recent Japanese title challenger Yuri Takemoto, but has won his last 3 and has certainly turned his career around. Sadly however his competition has been poor and this is, by far, the biggest and most notable bout of his career, as he takes on a top level prospect.
Whilst Iwaya hasn't had any fights televised yet he has twice had bouts shown on Boxing Raise. These included his debut, where he looked very raw and showed poor balance, little in terms of punching technique and was very easy to hit. He was game but terrible and very easy to hit. Thankfully he looked far better when he faced Takayuki Takino in 2019, and showed a lot of improvement from his debut, though was still relatively easy to hit. That improvement actually saw him beating Takino as he began to turn his career around.
What to expect?
Although Iwaya has clearly improved from his debut he is still easy to hit, very basic and defensively raw. Against Kimura that is a problem. In fact that is a big, big problem.
We expect Kimura to be aggressive from the off but box somewhat carefully in the first round, maybe even two. After that we expect to see him putting his foot on the gas and slicing through Iwaya in spectacular fashion. When Kimura puts his foot down, this will look like a showcase, and will look horribly one sided. It will, however, serve the purpose it's supposed, making Kimura look like a star.
The bad news?
This is a mismatch. There is no way to dress that up. It's a showcase for Kimura who will be getting bigger and tougher tests in 2021. He wants to win a world title in 2 or 3 years and we expect much stiffer tests very soon, but this is a simple showcase back in Shizuoka before he looks to rise through the domestic rankings and move towards his first title fights in the new year.
Last year we saw a Chinese fighter really announce himself on the world stage with two big wins in the US. Between those two bouts he fought one at home, in what is actually a bit of a forgotten treasure from the year. It's a bout that we don't think many Western fans watched, but it was entertaining, action packed and a fun little battle in Fuzhou. Albeit a rather one sided little battle, with the Chinese star battering a former world champion in impressive fashion.
Can Xu (16-2, 2) v Shun Kubo (13-1, 9)
The Chinese fighter in question is Can Xu, who announced himself in a big way in January, when he upset Jesus M Rojas to claim the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The win was a massive shock, and saw Xu become the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight. It wasn't just a big win but was an exciting win, with Xu throwing an incredible amount of leather in that fight and instantly endearing himself to US fans with his style, toughness, and personality.
After winning his title his next saw him go home and fight in front of Chinese fans, who wanted to see their new star in action. That lead to him taking on former WBA "regular" Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo, a talented and gutsy Japanese fighter.
Although Kubo isn't a big name he managed to make something of a buzz in 2017, when he stopped veteran Nehomar Cermeno, who retired between rounds 10 and 11, for the WBA "regular" title. His reign was a short one, as he was beaten up by Daniel Roman in his first defense. He bounced back from that loss by defeating Hiroshige Osawa and appeared to be fighting at a better weight for his gangly and rangy frame. It was assumed the extra few pounds would actually help him take a punch and allow him to fight at a weight more suited to his body.
In the opening moments we saw Kubo looking to create distance, use his jab and keep Xu at range. It was the type of gameplan the challenger was going to need to use to have any chance. Not only did he need did he need to keep it at range, but he also needed to get Xu's respect, some how. Sadly for Kubo that was always going to be the toughest part, given Xu has a brilliant chin, to go alongside his incredibly engine.
Kubo's tactics had success in the opening round, but by the end of it Xu was starting to cut the distance, get inside and get some of his shots off. The second round saw Xu build on a good finish to the opening round, and Kubo realised he had to respond, giving us some fun back and forth as both men let shots go up close. Kubo's gameplan had began to fall apart, and he had began to fight Xu's fight. This was where the excitement level began to increase, and where the bout began to get one sided.
From round 3 on wards Xu began to fully fight his fight, setting the pace, coming forward and letting his hands go, throwing punches in bunches. Kubo fought back, bravely, trying to do what he could to fight off Xu, standing his ground when he needed to, boxing when he could, and fight with heart and desire of someone desperate to win. That desire shone, but the gulf in ability wasn't something that be over-come by desire alone.
In the end Kubo got ground down, but not without playing his part in a short, exciting, little battle that was overshadowed by Xu's two other fights from the year. Of course those other two bouts were much memorable 12 round battles, and exhibitions in volume punching at a higher level.
This coming week we see a lot of bigger fights taking place, with world title fights and some really interesting bouts at a domestic type level. Among those is a Japanese bout featuring a former world title challenger essentially fighting to keep his career in the sport alive. It's a must win for him, and one that he will be favoured to win, despite taking a lot of punishment in some recent bouts. His opponent isn't the greatest but will be hungry to make his return to the sport count after close to 2 years out of the ring.
The One to Watch?
Shun Kubo (13-2, 9) Vs Takashi Igarashi (13-4, 5)
September 26th (Saturday)
We were big fans of Shun Kubo as he came through the ranks, beating Monico Laurente very early in his career and then beating Luis May 13 months later. He had some easy bouts but he took on enough early tests to interest us before winning the OPBF Super Bantamweight title. From there on we have always followed him quite intently, being fans of his style and his heart. Now knowing his career is on the line after stoppage losses to Daniel Roman and Can Xu we're really interested to see what he has left to off.
The 30 year old Shun Kubo is a former OPBF and WBA "regular" champion at Super Bantamweight. He's a long, rangy boxer who has a really nice style and was once viewed as the successor to Hozumi Hasegawa at the Shinsei Gym. Sadly for his nice style he doesn't have the best of chins, which makes him great value to watch, but the sort of fighter you always worry about falling apart. His heart and determination helped him survive into round 9 with Daniel Roman, despite being dropped numerous times, and his heart also kept him in longer than it needed to against Can Xu last year.
As an outside fighter Kubo is a talented boxer, but he's also a man who gets dragged into wars far too easily and can end up being his own worst enemy.
Of course it takes too to tangle and Takashi Igarashi is not someone to be over-looked here. The 24 year old from Aichi showed potential early on, winning his first 5 bouts before losing to Kyohei Tonomoto in the bout to decide the West Japan representative for the 2014 Rookie of the Year, at Featherweight. Following that loss his career seemed to fall apart and he went from 5-0 (1) to 13-4 (5) before vanishing from the sport in 2018, following an upset loss to Toshiya Yokogawa. We all assumed that was the end of Igarashi as a boxer, aged just 22. Now however he has decided to continue with his career, and will to get back on track as he takes on the former world champion.
For Igarashi this is potentially a case of "right place, right time", and despite his break from the ring he is not an old fighter. He's a man who has had almost 2 years out of the ring to mature and is the naturally bigger man.
What to expect?
We really expect this to be super tense early on. Kubo is, by far, the more skilled fighter and we expect him to try and make that show early on by getting behind his southpaw jab and dictating the distance and tempo. Despite the tense start we see Igarashi making this into a war sooner or later. He doesn't stand a chance boxing with Kubo, but could, potentially, break down the former champion.
As we head into the middle rounds this will hot up, and we expect some fire works.
We do expect Kubo to win, in fact we expect him to stop Igarashi, but we wouldn't be surprised at all if he needs to get through some rough on the way to a victory.
The bad news?
There really isn't too much bad here. The bout will be streamed live on the BOXING REAL YouTube channel, and will be available free and globally. If we are looking for a negative here the only thing we can think about is the fact the bout will likely be over-shadowed by the other bouts from the day, including the WBO Atomweight title fight on the same show. We think that will be a more exciting bout than this one, despite this non-title bout being the show's main event.
For those that will watch this one, it will be shown on the BOXING REAL YouTube channel.
In May 2019 we got a bit of a forgotten gem in the Philippines as a then rising Japanese fighter made his international debut and took on a Filipino who held a minor regional title. On paper this was a really interesting match up, and it gave us fans a chance to watch bout that combined boxing, brawling, and fighting. Neither man seemed to have the power to hurt the other, but both men managed to put on a cracking bout together and, in the 18 months or so since this bout, one of the fighters has since gone on to become a national champion one of the rising faces of the Featherweight scene.
Ryo Sagawa (6-1, 4) vs Al Toyogon (10-2-1, 6)
The Japanese fighter in question was Ryo Sagawa, who coming in to this bout had won 5 in a raw since suffering a stoppage loss very early in his career to Retsu Kosaka. Although he had an early career loss to his name Sagawa had shown some fantastic boxing skills and came in to this bout with wins over the likes of Junki Sasaki, Ryo Matsumoto and Shingo Kawamura. Despite his impressive wins coming in to this bout, this was regarded as a step up. No only was he travelling over to the Philippines for the bout, but he was also stepping up in weight, to take on an opponent at Super Featherweight.
Prior to turning professional Sagawa was a talented amateur who had turned professional with lofty ambitions. His early set back showed their was issues with how he responded to being his, but the way he had bounced from that loss was very impressive. Of course those who have followed him recently, will know that he has continued to develop and since this bouts he has gone on to great things winning the Japanese Featherweight title, and making 2 defenses of the title as we write this.
The Filipino that Sagawa was facing was 21 year old Al Toyogon, who sported a 10-2-1 (6) record and had won his previous 5. Whilst he didn't have a big win to his name he did have a number of decent regional level wins including victories over Naotoshi Nakatani, Nathan Bolcio and Ryusei Ishii. He looked like he was going forward with his career, and had won, and defended, the WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Super Featherweight title.
Although not a big name Toyogon had momentum, he was young, he was promising, he was in form, he had more experience, he was the naturally bigger fighter and, most importantly, he was fighting at home. In fact all 3 judges and the referee were from the Philippines as well. The deck seemed to be stacked in his favour, big time.
From the early going both men tried to box, and it made for a rather slow start, with both looking to get behind their jabs and box at mid range. It didn't make for the best of action early on, though Sagawa did manage to show the skills, and smoothness that we now used to seeing from him. Although the skills of Sagawa showed through, Toyogon showed his toughness, coming forward behind a tight guard and not taking too much cleanly, whilst landing probably the best single shot of the round, a solid right hand. In round 2 Toyogon began to show a bit more ambition, and clearly had the fans in the venue behind him, cheering any success he had.
Toyogon pressed the action early in round 3 as he began to come alive, and as he began to use his aggression well. That success didn't last and by the end of the round Sagawa was the one coming forward, boxing off his jab and landing some gorgeous uppercuts. Essentially walking through the best of Toyogon. Although Sagawa had success it was a Toyogon round though his momentum didn't really last and Sagawa boxed brilliantly through round 4, to stem the success of Toyogon up close and seemingly begin to take control of the action.
Whilst we know some hate open scoring it was actually in effect here, and amazingly Toyogon was leading on 2 of the 3 cards after 4 rounds, with the third judge having it even. That included one judge who had the bout 4-0 in favour of Toyogon, which was an awful scorecard. Thankfully for fans wanting to see someone put a light to the touch paper, it was perfect, as the cards essentially told Sagawa to put his foot on the gas, which he did. And he did in style.
From round 5 we saw Sagawa dropping the "boxing" mentality and become more of a swarming pressure fighting, pressing the action and turning the bout into a brawl. This was where the bout took off, as he looked to make sure the judges couldn't possibly rob him.
After 8 rounds the Japanese fighter was leading on two of the cards, leading by a point on one of the cards with another card even. He knew he could still get done on them and he knew he couldn't let off the action as we ended up getting a brilliant finish to the bout.
This is a genuine hidden gem from 2019 but one this is well worth watching, especially now that Sagawa is the Japanese national champion and is a world ranked contender. It wasn't a Fight of the Year contender, not even close, but it was a genuinely worth while bout, well worth the 55 minutes or so that it takes to watch. A very good, solid hidden gem that had some great exchanges, and built from a slow temp at range to an inside war up close.
The dynamic and action changed significantly due to the scoring, and it is one of the rare bouts where open scoring positively affected the bout. Both guys had to dig deep at times, and we ended up with a genuinely good fight here.
For this weeks one to watch we are looking at a bout featuring a once beaten former world title challenger and a relatively unknown unbeaten fighter looking to make the most of their first big shot. This wasn't the bout originally set to be covered in this series, though came about when the bout we originally wanted to write about fell apart, and the unbeaten man stepped in at relatively short notice, but more about that shortly.
The One to Watch?
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (11-1, 9) vs Cobia Breedy (15-0, 5)
September 19th (Saturday)
The reason as to why this is one to watch is the fact is features Tugstsogt Nyambayar, a world class boxer-puncher, a former amateur standout and the brightest hope for Mongolian boxing since Lakva Sim, who last fought in 2015. The fact he's up against an unbeaten fighter, looking to make a name for himself makes this an even more compelling bout, even if we did prefer the original opponent of Eduardo Ramirez (23-2-3, 10), who was replaced by Cobia Breedy about 2 weeks before the contest.
We suspect most fans who follow the Featherweight division know who Tugstsogt Nyambayar is. The Mongolian really was a stellar amateur before turning professional, with many tipping him to become the second world champion from Mongolia. He started his professional career in impressive fashion and quickly rose through the ranks thanks to his exciting style and dominant performances. Sadly thougfh the last few years have been frustrating ones for him and he was beaten last time out, in a WBC world title bout, by Gary Russell Jr.
Although a real talent Nyambayar has been plagued by issues and inactivity and with just 12 bouts to his name since debuting in 2015 his career really hasn't gone the many had hoped. Even ignoring the loss to Russell Jr we expected much more from the Mongolian, and hopefully he does still have the hunger to become a champion. Despite being a pro foe 5 years he is still only 28 and shouldn't be written after a competitive loss to a talent like Russell Jr.
Whislt we suspect must have heard of "King Tug" we don't thing many will be too award of 28 year old Cobia Breedy, who was born in Barbados but is now based in the US. He's been a professional since 2014 and for his first 10 bouts he scored wins over very, very poor opposition. Thankfully that changed in 2018, when he beat veteran Christ Martin, but he failed to really kick on, despite taking the unbeaten record of Drew Correll. On paper he's stepping up massively to take on Nyambayar here.
Although not too well known Breedy has fought on TV, beating Fernando Fuenes via technical decision on a FOX card. Watching him we see a man who is a nightmare to fight. Although not a puncher he's aggressive, has a sense of slickness to him and a lot of upper body movement. He's the sort of fighter who should make for fun fights with the right opponent and is certainly someone we have enjoyed the few times we've seen him in action.
What to expect?
Given that Nyamabayar lost to Russell earlier this year we could have given him leeway for taking an easy opponent here. He didn't take an easy one when he signed to take on Ramirez, but the task became tougher when he agreed to take on Breedy, who we think is the sort of fighter who will give him fits. With that in mind we see this as a genuine test for Nyamabayar, but a passable test.
We expect to see Nyamabayar trying to keep things at range, boxing behind his jab and trying to control Breedy, who will be looking to get in and work the body. The jab of Nyamabayar may end up being neutralised by the upper body movement of Breedy, causing Nyambayar to fight fire with fire .We expect that will cause the tempo of the action to increase in the middle rounds giving us an exciting little war.
The real question is what can Breedy take? We suspect Nyamabayar will wear him down, but he'll have to earn it and Breedy will be there, and in his face, until the second half of the fight.
The bad news?
Again we need to mention that Breedy wasn't the original choice of opponent, and we do wonder what he'll have in terms of fitness. We also need to realise this is a massive step up in class for him. We suspect the leap up in class will be too much, over the longer distance, but we are looking forward to this and suspect it will be a fun clash, even if we would rather have seen Ramirez battling Nyambayar.
As part of this Treasure Trove series we have spent a lot of time talking about the more obscure battles and wars from 2019. Today however we look at a huge bout that saw international TV exposure and was one of the biggest bouts of the year, at least in terms of Asian fighters. It pitted the top Thai against one of the top Mexican's, in a rematch that had been building for over a year. It wasn't the fight of the year, but was very damn good!
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-4-1, 41) Vs Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26)
In one corner was WBC Super Flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, enjoying his second reign as the champion. The Thai had announced himself in the US with a controversial win over Roman Gonzalez, before blasting out the Nicaraguan in a rematch. Following that he had enhanced his standing in the sport with a decision win over brilliant Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada.
At his best Srisaket was a strong, powerful, come forward fighter with scary strength for a Super Flyweight and a terminator like mentality. Defensively he has always been quite open, and often relies on his toughness to get him through tough spots, and he is slow, but more than males up for those issues by being a terrifying man to fight. He walks through punches, he comes forward, he's relentless, strong, heavy handed and, worst of all, he's a hard hitting southpaw. One thing many think, when watching him, is that he's crude, and that's actually a bit unfair, he does do some very smart work, but it's on the front foot, and is often hidden behind his pressure and physicality.
Whilst Srisaket was regarded as an offensive pressure machine talented Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada was regarded as one of the best technical all rounders in the sport. His boxing IQ, timing and control of distance is fantastic, his handspeed is criminally under-rated and he's proven that he's really able to do everything. He's one of the very few fighters who's as good on the back foot as he is on the front foot, and can pressure, box, fight or counter. He's also tough, hard to hit clean and counters brilliantly.
Although incredibly skilled Estrada's biggest issue is that he can, at times, over-look his opponents. This was seen notably against Joebert Alvarez, in what was a very close bout despite the score cards. He can also be dragged into the wrong type of fighter, and at Super Flyweight he's certainly not a big puncher. He's a very clean puncher, but does lack 1-punch KO power.
In February 2018 the two men had clashed in their first bout, with Srisaket taking a majority decision win over Estrada. Following that win Srisaket had had issues outside of the ring, splitting with his long term partner and scoring two low profile wins. The most notable of those wins came over Hiram Irak Diaz and was a less than stellar performance. Estrada on the other hand had scored two solid wins, beating Felipe Orucuta and Victor Mendez, and looked good and hungry coming into the rematch.
This was a bout hardcore fans wanted, it was a rematch of a great bout and was expected to be something brilliant. What we got was something very memorable and compelling.
The bout started with Srisaket giving up his key advantage. Rather than fighting southpaw he actually came out fighting orthodox and rather than taking the fight to Estrada he tried to box with the Mexican genius. It was instantly a weird start to the fight, and seemed as if Srisaket wanted to beat Estrada at Estrada's game. It wasn't a good gameplan from the Thai.
As the early rounds went on Srisket continued to fight the wrong fight, falling behind. Despite that both men were landing some solid shots, in what was a really technical boxing contest. This was high level, entertaining, and a show case of what an Estrada fight is. It was higher being fought with a feeling that sooner or later Srisaket's power and aggression would begin to turn things around.
Having fallen a long way behind Srisaket finally turned southpaw, finally fought his fight and finally began to make his strengths count. This forced some brilliant action in the final few rounds as he attempted to wage war on Estrada.
This is a strange bout, but it's a brilliant bout. It's got one of the best Thai's ever fighting the wrong bout, before things click and it's got one of the best pure boxers in the sport showing what a boxing genius he is.
This isn't a hidden gem, but it is a fantastic bout, and a somewhat over-looked contest that really is worth a re-watch!
Despite a string of interesting fights in July and August it does seem like boxing tails off this coming month with September having far fewer bouts of note than the last two months. As a result we get to highlight some bouts that we typically wouldn't able to focus on. That's this case here with this week's One to Watch. It's certainly not a big bout, or a major one in any way, but it's one we suspect will be worth tuning into and will deliver an interesting technical affair, with one of the men risking his unbeaten record against someone who simply cannot afford a loss.
The One to Watch?
Ravshanbek Umurzakov (10-1, 7) vs Zoravor Petrosyan (8-0, 3)
September 12th (Saturday)
Last time out we saw Ravshanbek Umurzakov have his rise through the ranks derailed in a big upset loss to Esneiker Correa, and right now he'll be desperate to get back to winning ways and put that loss behind him. In the opposite corner to him is an unheralded Ukrainian prospect looking to take his first step up in class and move his career forward. We come in to this one expecting skills from both and both men will be looking to take strides in their careers after rather long breaks from the ring.
Once beaten Uzbek fighter Ravshanbek Umurzakov looked like he had the potential to go a long way early in his career. Within his first 10 professional bouts he had beaten the likes of Eden Sonsona, Roberto Gonzalez and Roldan Aldea. He had looked talented, exciting, heavy handed and like someone to get very excited about. Sadly however he was really battered by Esneiker Correa this past January, and his rise instantly hit a brick wall. This will be his first bout since that loss and it's going to be interesting to see what effect that loss has on him. At 27 there is time on his side, but another loss will be very, very hard for him to come back from.
Unbeaten 22 year old Zoravor Petrosyan is a fairly unknown Ukrainian prospect, but is someone who looks like a real talent and is now getting a chance to show what he can do at a higher level. Prior to turning professional Petrosyan was a stand out amateur, winning Ukrainian titles at under 17, under 19 and under 22 levels, and reaching the quarter finals of the 2018 Under 22 European Championships. Sadly he's yet to shine in the professional ranks but from the footage of him he looks like a natural talent with solid handspeed, nice technical skills. He doesn't have much pop on his shots, but does have a lot to like about him and we see a really talented prospect when we see him.
What to expect?
We genuinely expect to see a very, very good performance from Petrosyan, he looks like he could end up really asking questions of Umurzakov and genuinely frustrating the Uzbek. Sadly though the lack of power in Petrosyan's punches is likely to be his downfall and whilst we do expect him to look good we don't imagine he will get Umurzakov's respect.
Technically Umurzakov is a less talented boxer than his Ukrainian foe, but he's much stronger, more powerful, experienced and mature. We suspect that, in the later rounds, that will prove to be the difference and Umurzakov will begin to grind down the talented youngster, bully him around, and eventually stop him.
We expect Umurzakov to stop Petrosyan, but we also expect that we'll be more impressed by Petrosyan than by Umurzakov.
The bad news?
This will be shown on an RCC stream, so it'll be free and widely available over youtube. There really isn't too much to complain with her, though there is a worry that Petrosyan's lack of experience as a professional could be a bit of an issue here. Fingers crossed that that won't be an issue and that Petrosyan won't freeze in what is, very clearly, a step up in class for the talented youngster.
Around a year ago we took a look at 10 teenage prospects from around Asia, and now seemed a perfect time to re-run that article by taking a look at 10 prospects who are currently teenagers and that we're really excited by.
As with last year's article we are genuinely exciting about how bright the future is looking for Asian fighters and Asia in general has a lot of young talent breaking through the ranks. Not just the teenagers we mention here, who are very much the youngest of the emerging talent, but the 20, 21, 22 and 23 year old's who are all looking to make their mark. Thankfully one thing we know about Asian talent is that the top prospects don't tend to want to waste time and in a year or two we may be talking about some of these fighters are regional champions or world contenders.
In fact with that in mind, and before we go in to the 10 for this list we'll just note that two of the men featured last year, Musashi Mori and Ginjiro Shigeoka, are currently world ranked and regional title holders, whilst several others from last year's list reappear again this year, showing just how young they actually are!
For those wondering, the ordering is by age, starting at the youngest. There is no ranking system used.
Phoobadin Yoohanngoh (9-0, 4) [16 years old]
The youngest of the prospects we've been really impressed by is 16 year old Thai hopeful Phoobadin Yoohanngoh, who fights at Light Welterweight and has already ticked off more boxes than many much older fighters. The youngster, who debated at the frankly ridiculous age of just 14, has been a professional since 2018 and actually ended the year 3-0 (2). In 2019 he really built on his momentum by winning TL Promotion's "The Fighter" tournament, and going 5-0 (2) during the year. All that was impressive but nothing compared to what we saw him do this past July when he claimed the WBA Asia Light Welterweight title with a 10 round decision win over Kulabdam Sor Jor Piekuthai.
Although he's only 16 Phoobadin is a very mature youngster and with a good 10 rounder under his belt it's hard to not be very, very impressed by what he's shown us, and potential that he has to show. He's proven he can box, move, and fight, and has battled through some adversity already. Definitely one to keep an eye on!
Dastan Saduuly (3-0, 3) 
Aged 18 Dastan Saduuly is one of the youngest Kazakh fighters out there, and is one who has shown a lot to be excited about, though we actually think it's what we've not seen from him that is more interesting. Through his first 3 fights he has pretty much had everything all his own way, and hasn't had to break a sweat. Despite that we have seen nice quick punches, good movement, a good temperament and really good aggressive instincts. There is some work to do on his technique, and it certainly feels like he's not as physically mature as Phoobadin, despite being older, but he looks like a brilliant prospect who simply needs time to develop and mature.
Saduuly debuted at the age of 16, back in September 2018, and fit 6 fights into 7 months. Sadly he's not fought since March 2019, though part of that is understandable given the current global situation. As we write this he is pencilled in for a fight in Russia later this month and that should be a credible step up for the Kazakh wonder kid.
Kosuke Tomioka (3-0, 2) 
Another 3-0 fighter worthy of real attention is Japan's Kosuke Tomioka, who is just 2 days older than Dastan Saduuly. The Japanese youngster comes from a boxing family, with 2 of his brothers and his cousin all being professionals, and was a notable omission last year. That was, in part, due to the fact he was just 1-0 (1). Since then Tomioka has become one of the must watch prospects, thanks in part to a flashy performance against Asato Mori, in October 2019.
In the ring Tomioka is a speedy fighter with a flashy style. He throws great counter punches, has fast feet, very fast hands and is confident in his reflexes and speed. Sadly last time out we saw him put on a rather dull win over Shota Hara, though that was partly down to the fact Hara had come to survive and not win, making for an awful clash. Aged 18 and fighting at Super Flyweight Tomioka is in a great division domestically, and getting attention among hardcore, both in and out of Japan, for his style, his flair and his charisma. Thankfully he blends that flash with a lot of skill and really does understand the sport, and his strengths. We suspect he's going to shine as he matures and he looks like a very, very exciting and talented youngster, with the potential to go all the way, even if it will be a long journey there.
Ayumu Hanada (5-0, 3)* 
We stay in Japan for a very, very interesting fighter who has gone the road less travelled, in many ways. Ayumu Hanada is an 18 year old old Flyweight who debuted in Mexico more than 2 years ago. He won his first 4 bouts in Mexico, and these are the 4 bouts that show up on his boxrec record, all of which were scheduled for 4 rounds. Last year he then turned up in Osaka fighting on a non-JBC show where he won a 10 round decision to claim a WBF title. That result isn't on his boxrec record, despite it taking place, and being his Japanese debut, essentially because without the JBC sanctioning it the bout isn't recognised, despite the minor title.
Back in August Hanada announced that he would stop fighting as a free-lancer and would be joining the JBC, with his pro-test taking place later this month. When that happens he will be a JBC licensed fighter and begin his climb towards becoming a star at home. We expect the 18 year old to squeeze in his JBC debut later this year and move quickly through the domestic and regional rankings, though given his career so far we wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up doing something else a bit unusual.
In regards to ability Hanada is a genuinely talented boxer puncher with quick hands, quick feet, real power for a youngster and an aggressive mean streak. There is, as with many fighters here, some real polishing that needs to be done, but we suspect sparring in Japan will help there and should help him again sort out his somewhat flawed technique.
Jong Seon Kang (11-0-2, 6) 
The Korean boxing scene has been underwhelming for years, but it does appear that the country has got some quality talent emerging through the ranks. One of their most interesting young prospects is 18 year old Featherweight Jong Seon Kang, who is a hell of a fun fighter to watch, despite being a very flawed fighter, who needs a lot of work if he's to reach the top.
Since debuting in 2017, aged 16, Kang has done a lot, without making too much noise. He scored a number of upsets in 2019, beating Ravshanbek Shermatov, Qixiu Zhanf and Tomjune Manguabet, claimed a couple of minor titles, went 10 rounds and picked fought on foreign soil. In terms of achievements in the professional ranks he has done more than anyone else on this list, but like the others he's a work in progress, and he needs to work on his defense, which is questionable at best.
Despite Kang being easy to hit he appears to take a shot well, have a great engine and a real desire to put on thrilling action fights. He is one of the most fan friendly fighters in Asia, but that may come to his detriment down the line. Win or lose he's the sort of prospect who will leave fans happy after seeing him in action, and he's bout to have a damn fun rollercoaster of a career.
Chaiyapong Phongwankittikun (3-0, 3) 
Thai youngster Chaiyapong Phongwankittikun isn't a name we suspect many will be familiar with, however his father is someone who we suspect fans will known, as Chaiyapong is the son of former world champion Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai, who held the WBA Super Featherweight title in the early 00's. The hope is for Chaiyapong to follow in his father's footsteps and allow the family to become the first father-son world champions in Thai boxing history.
The youngster made his debut in August 2019, aged 17, and sadly looked a bit raw, clumsy and over-awed by the occasion, as his opponent gave him a legitimate chin checking in the opening round. Despite being under pressure the youngster made his way through the round, even dropping his man, before calming down. He would later go on to stop his man in the 4th round, proving his resolve, guts, determination and heart along the way.
Chaiyapong didn't have the debut performance he had hoped for, and he was chastised by some for it, but it was a great learning experience, and since then he has scored 2 more wins and looked like he's improving with every fight. Given the fame of his father and the backing of Tantelecom Boxing Promotion the hope is they can take him and mould him into a success. Given his age, his toughness, and his power he's one of the ones we're going to be interested in following, and one the potential wild cards here. They know he needs time, and the talk is that they want him to have 3, if not more, years of learning the craft, and that really does seem the smart idea. There's plenty to like about him, but he's very much someone who needs a lot of time and development.
Jin Sasaki (8-0, 7) 
Japanese Light Welterweight Jin Sasaki may, potentially, be the best teenager in Asia, and the one with the biggest upside. The 19 year old puncher appears to have it, and understands what it is. He's charismatic, confident, a tough cocky even, but backs it up with aggression, speed and power. He's a brutish puncher who is growing into his frame and he looks like a genuine top tier prospect, with the potential to make huge strides over the next year or two.
At the end of August Sasaki scored his biggest win to date, flattening Shun Akaiwa in just 45 seconds, and we suspect by the time the next time the JBC rankings are updated his name will appears. With that in mind it's hard to imagine his team waiting too long before angling him into a Japanese or regional title fight.
With an international bout under his belt, and 5 wins in the first 2 rounds the things Sasaki needs now is rounds, some adversity, and a chance to prove his chin and gas tank. If his team are confident, like they appear to be, we suspect he will get a real test in the next 12 months as they push onwards and upwards with their rising star.
Sung Min Yuh (5-0, 1) 
We mentioned a little bit earlier about emerging talent in South Korea and with that in mind we want to bring your attention to arguably their best young prospect, Light Middleweight Sung Min Yuh. In terms of natural ability Yuh might be the best teenager in Asian boxing. He's a natural in the ring, with fantastic handspeed, shot selection, and slippery defense, not things we always associate with Korean boxing. He is however a fighter who seems to need to be tested to get the best from him, and he has, at times, been seen fighting well within himself, and fighting down to his opponents level.
Yuh is a really brilliant talent, who stands at 5'11", is fighting at 154lbs, is already the KBM champion and at just 19 years old is getting better and better. Amazingly Yuh only made his debut in March 2019, 12 days after his 18 birthday. He didn't look great on his debut, but since then has developed into a real talent. We just now need to hope that the desire, and mental side of the sport is with Yuh, and he can make the most of his skills. If he can this kid has the potential to be the biggest thing in Korean boxing in decades. If he can develop that potential we could see South Korea have another world champion in a few years time.
Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2)
We head back off to Japan for the penultimate name on this list as we look at JBC Youth Bantamweight champion Toshiya Ishii, an outstanding young talent, who made his professional debut in April 2019 and has rapidly risen through the rankings. His debut came against a relatively poor opponent, Adam Wijaya, but since then he has taken on two very good domestic opponents, beating the then 8-0 Fumiya Fuse and the then 8-1 Haruki Ishikawa.
Despite only having 3 professional bouts to his name, as well as a solid amateur background, Ishii has already shown the ability to box, the ability to fight and the ability to punch. He has taken his opportunities to shine and his bout with Ishikawa was one of the most exciting bouts of 2019. In that one bout he showed his heart, determination, power, ability to recuperate, and skills. We think Ishii might need a year or two to really be ready to move on to the main Japanese title scene, but given he's still only 19 that's not going to be an issue at all.
Ishii is, interestingly, one of the teenagers, along with Yuh, who is technically very good, but for Ishii the big thing he needs is experience, and of course the only way he gets that is by fighting. The technical ability and physical traits are there for him, and he has a very, very bright future ahead of him.
Talgat Shayken (1-0) 
We finish this with 19 year old Kazakh hopeful Talgat Shayken, who debuted recently following a strong amateur career. On debut he didn't look flawless, but he did look exciting and like a man full of potential. He showed a fun to watch style, a really impressive physical maturity and a solid gas tank, going 6 complete rounds on his debut. Unlike many debutant teenagers he was almost matched hard, going up against the then 5-0 Berikbay Nurymbetov, who did come to win, rather than roll over.
As an amateur Shayken always a bit rough, and relied on his physicality and physical strength. Now in the professional ranks that will have to change, and he will certainly have to polish off some technical issues, but he's only 19, there is a lot of time for him to make those changes, and given that MTK are managing him there is going to be the chance for him to get top sparring, and time to develop. Although MTK are big, and powerful, they have allowed their prospects a lot of time to develop when they have needed it, sometimes too much time. With that in mind we don't imagine Shayken will be rushed, but we do expect to see him being tested early, and often.
Yifan Wang (2-0-1, 2)  - Yes he 14!
Yoo Chan Lee (2-0, 2) 
Nan He (1-0) 
Bryan James Wild (5-0, 4) 
Issei Ochiai (2-0, 1) 
I genuinely expected this series to be finished several weeks ago. The original plan was to begin covering 2020 fights by June or July. Given whats happened this year that's not been possible, but thankfully content providers are making things available from last year, and giving more and more content for me to share in this series. With that in mind we're bringing you a DAZN fight this week.
This was actually one of first notable bouts of 2019 and turned into an unexpectedly fan friendly contest, despite being viewed as a complete mismatch going in.
Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7) vs Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26)
Fans who followed the Japanese scene knew who Takeshi Inoue was prior to the start of 2019, but those who didn't follow Japanese boxing had no idea. Some simply thought he was another relation of Naoya and Takuma Inoue, not realising how common the name is in Japan. Those who knew about Inoue knew he was a strong, but crude fighter who came forward, often neglected to set things up and instead tried to bully and hustle opponents with his physical strength.
On the domestic and regional scene Inoue had had great success. He had won the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles and scored notable wins over Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Riku Nagahama, Ratchasi Sithsaithong and Yuki Nonaka. Other than his debut, where he was held to a draw with Daishi Nagata, we had only seen Inoue struggle with Nonaka, who's smart footwork and boxing brain had caused Inoue fits. Inoue's willingness to go forward worked into the hands of Nonaka's comfortable and relaxed back foot boxing.
Although Inoue was an unknown in the West his opponent wasn't. Jaime Munguia was the WBO Light Middleweight champion and was been groomed as the next big Mexican star. He was a big, strong, powerful fighter who set a high work rate and tried to drown opponents out with volume. Technically he wasn't a very good boxer, but he was a very good fighter and had had a brilliant 2018. Although he was denied a chance to face Gennady Golovkin he had gone 5-0 (4) in 2018 with wins against Sadam Ali, Liam Smith and Brandon Cook. He had entered 2019 red hot and was expected to continue his form.
Coming in to bout it was assumed that Munguia would be too big, too strong, too powerful, too good, and too aggressive for Inoue. Just pretty too much of everything. Some fans were complaining about Inoue being the opponent for what was Munguia's 6th bout in a year, whilst others saw it as a chance for Munguia to be busy again and continue to build his moment.
What no one saw coming was what we actually got.
From the opening round it was Inoue pressing forward. Despite being much smaller he was the more physically imposing guy, pushing Munguia on to the back foot and making the Mexican swarmer turn to boxing and moving. Munguia, to his credit, boxed well at times, behind his jab, and quickly realised that Inoue was there to win, rather than just make up the numbers.
Whilst Inoue was pressing and fiery he was crude, often missing with some wild looking shots. It was a high energy effort from the challenger but one that took everyone by surprise as he pressed and pressed.
To his credit Munguia saw out the storm, tried to take the fight out of Inoue, and as the bout went on Inoue did slow down, giving Munguia the space he needed to work. When that happened we saw some huge bombs landing from the Mexican, with Inoue eating them clean but continuing his forward match in a typical gutsy fashion.
This bout, which was supposed to be a total mismatch, was being turned into a thrilling action bout thanks to a very hungry and determined challenger. The champion was being forced to work hard through out, and the new rising Mexican star was being given one of his first real tests.
Although not an instant classic, or a fight of the year contender, this quickly became a gem, and one that was much, much better than anyone had expected.
This coming is a tricky one to pick a fight to be excited about. The volume of fights is significantly reduced from what it has been in recent weeks. Despite that we think we've found a fight worthy of people's attention in a rather obscure and well hidden Thai card. The bout is expected to be the next step forward for a really talent Thai hopeful who we see as being one of the country's brightest prospects.
The One to Watch?
Nattapong Jankaew (5-0, 3) vs Samartlek Kokietgym (34-13-1, 12)
September 6th (Sunday)
We love using these weekly articles as a chance to shine a light on either a potential Fight of the Week, or a promising young prospect who deserves attention. This week is very much about the prospect, who looks like one of the true hidden gems of Thai boxing, Not only that but he's stepping up to take on a 2-time world title challenger in what is an excellent match up for the youngster's 6th professional bout!
The 24 year old Nattapong Jankaew isn't a name we expect to see being touted by many outside of Thailand, but in his short career he has shown enough to get excited about. He made his debut in September 2019 and scored 4 by wins by the end of the year, picking up an interim Thai national title in one of those bouts. He looked likely to keep up a high level of activity this year until boxing was put on an hiatus in Thailand. In his only bout in 2020, way back in January, he shut out John Kenan Villaflor over 10 rounds and claimed a minor regional title along the way.
Although we don't think many have seen Nattapong Jankaew he is someone worth trying to check out. He's a Thai who, surprisingly, uses an American-like style. Watching him we see someone who is clearly inspired by he likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr and James Toney, using a shoulder roll, looking very natural, and throwing some really nicer counters. He's also shown an ability to switch stances and looks genuinely class. There is work to do, but for a guy with just 5 fights we like him, a lot.
Samartlek Kokietgym, also known as Wittawas Basapean, is a 35 year old veteran who made his professional debut around a decade ago and has shared the ring with a who's who of who. During his lengthy career he had faced fighters like Kwanthai Sithmorseng, Fahlan Sakreerin Jr, Muhammad Rachman, Denver Cuello, Mark Anthony Barriga, Randy Petalcorin, Naoya Inoue and Akira Yaegashi. Sadly for him he has typically lost to the best fighters he has faced, but he has shown himself to be a tough guy, who lasted into round 11 with Inoue and round 12 with Yaegashi. In recent years he has been picking up a lot of losses, losing his last 4 and going 2-7-1 in his last 10, but hasn't been stopped since he fought Yaegashi back in 2016. In fact he's only been stopped 3 times, by Cuello, Inoue and Yaegashi.
At his best Samartlek was never a world beater, but was always a capable enough fighter. He liked to come forward, fight behind his jab and press an opponent. We've not seen his most recent fights, be we don't imagine he's changed his style too much. If anything has really changed we suspect it's down to his age and the fact he's fighting at higher weights than he used to.
What to expect?
On paper there is a massive difference in experience here but it's hard to imagine that mattering too much give the advantages that swing the other way. Whilst Samartlek is the more proven and much more experienced fighter he is also the naturally much smaller and much older man, who is seemingly on the slide, if not shot.
What we expect is to see Nattapong come forward, behind his defensive stance, open up when he wants and show case the eye catching defense that has really impressed us. We see him slipping and sliding the shots of Samartlek, but being fully aware that if he does get caught it really won't matter, given the natural size difference and the lack of power Samartlek has. When Samartlek does come forward the footwork and movement of Nattapon will be allowed to shine, and he'll really show off how smart and fleet footed he is.
We don't imagine Nattapong will manage to stop Samartlek, but we do see him toying with the veteran on route to a wide decision.
The bad news?
Whilst this will actually be free to watch on the Tan Telecom Boxing Promotion facebook page we know very few people actually tune into boxing on facebook. It's a shame, and it will mean people will miss out here. We hope do tune in, but facebook, as a streaming service for boxing, really has struggled, even when bigger names have been in action, for US cards.
There's also a real risk that this could be a rather dull fight, given the gulf in skills between the two fighters. This could be very one sided, but lack any chance of a stoppage, which could get dull to watch.
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.