The 2019 Treasure Trove - The Hitman travels to Japan with sights set on an emerging star
For the most part the Treasure Trove idea has been a chance to show off some of the best, and most well hidden bouts of 2019 from through out Asia. Sometimes we've taken a slight detour on that idea to show bouts that were less "the best" and more "a showcase". We did theta earlier in this series with Ginjiro Shigeoka's WBO Asia Pacific title win against Clyde Azarcon. Today we return to a Shigeoka bout, and one that did have more drama than the Azarcon bout. And it always had a sense of danger.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3) Vs Rey Loreto (25-14, 17)
After kicking off his career in 2018 Ginjiro Shigeoka was earmarked as a special fighter, with a very, very high ceiling. He had been a sensational amateur and was being groomed as one of the next stars of Japan. His victory over Clyde Azarcon had shown just how fantastic he was as a prospect, but now came something more serious, a bout with a former world title challenger. For Shigeoka the question was whether he really was as good as he had looked, and that his team thought he was? And was he ready for this level? Afterall we had seen other, very talented, young Japanese fighters suffer losses to people due to the fact they simply weren't ready for the men they were facing.
On paper Rey Loreto, a Filipino dubbed the "Hitman", didn't look anything of a test. If you look at his record along you probably shrug your shoulders and ask how he even got a world title fight. The reality however is that Loreto came through the sport the hard way, losing bouts early in his career and learning on the job, like many Filipino fighters do. He lost his first 4 bouts and was 8-11 after 19 professional contests. From that start however he had gone 17-3 with wins over the likes of Wissanu Kokietgym, Kompayak Porpramook, Nkosinathi Joyi, twice, and had challenged WBA Minimumweight champion Knockout CP Freshmart. Loreto was heavy handed, tough and whilst not the best boxer he was an absolute nightmare to fight, with only a single stoppage loss on his record, from early 2011. He wasn't a journeyman, as his record suggested, but a genuine contender.
From the off it was the speed of Shigeok that caught the eye, as he looked like he had much better hand and foot speed to the Filipino, though the power of Loreto was in to the bout early and he managed to land some solid body shots on Shigeoka midway through round 1. Despite the success of Loreto it was he who was dropped, close to the 2 minute mark of the round. Smartly Shigeoka knew it wasn't a serious knockdown and didn't jump on his man, who has proven to be dangerous when he's hurt.
The pace from both stepped up in round 2, as Loreto looked to get revenge for the knockdown. It wasn't a war, but with Loreto's power there was always a chance he was going to detonate with something big. He seemed to do that early in round 3, and for the first time we saw Shigeoka actually looking a bit shaken. He responded with fire and both men launched some huge shots before Shigeoka made the decision to retreat, trying to clear his head a little. Loreto knew he had an opening, and there was a sense of tension.
We won't more of the bout, but this was a genuinely over-looked gem from the very end of 2019 that saw a youngster being asked questions, and a veteran coming to the ring knowing he had a chance to upset someone seen as the next star of Japanese boxing.
This isn't a firefight, but it's a bout that is compelling through out, with a sense of drama and danger, and a nice mixing of styles. It was interesting, as opposed to exciting, but still well worthy of a watch.
A few days ago I looked at state of the Minimumweight division by looking at the champions, now we take a look at a handful of fighters who make up some of the more interesting contenders and ones to watch.
Vic Saludar (20-4, 11)
The hard hitting Vic Saludar is a former WBO world champion who will be looking to become a 2-time world champion in 2020. He lost the WBO title to Wilfredo Mendez in August 2019, in what was his second defense, though will be sniffing around another title fight. Although not the quickest Saludar is a good technical fighter, with very heavy hands, and he has proven his quality with wins against the likes of Ryuya Yamanaka, Masataka Taniguchi Lite Dante, the current OPBF champion.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (5-0, 4)
Rising Japanese superstud Ginjiro Shigeoka is expected to fight for a world title before the end of 2020 and comes into the year following an excellent win over Rey Loreto, becoming just the second man to stop the Filipino veteran. Shigeoka is quick, well schooled and heavy handed. Although he is lacking in experience as a professional he did have more than 50 amateur bouts and certainly knows his way around the ring. So far he has already proven his ability to box, brawl and bang and if he continues the way he's going he could end up have a very long reign at the top.
Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
Ginjiro Shigeoka's older brother Yudai Shigeoka looks to be just as promising as his sibling, in fact if we're being honest Yudai maybe the more promising of the two. Yudai looks to be the better the better pure boxer, the more defensively sound fighter and the one more willing to use his legs to get out of range, rather than fight in the trenches. He is, however, also regarded as the less physically imposing of the two. His debut was a show case, but his second win saw him take a decision over current OPBF champion Lito Dante in a non-title bout, and the odds are that he will be looking for titles himself in 2020.
Jing Xiang (17-4-2, 3)
Chinese boxing is riding a high following a sensational year for Can Xu, which saw Xu win and and defend the WBA Featherweight title. The next potential world champion for China is Jing Xiang, a skilled pure boxer from the same promotional team as Xu. Although not a big name Xiang has been banging on the door of a world title fight at 108lbs and 105lbs in recent years, dropping down in weight in 2019. With wins against Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook he has created a buzz in Asia though still needs to face a top, prime, opponent to really make his mark and that could be a world title fight in 2020!
Hasanboy Dusmatov (1-0, 1)
One final interesting novice in the division, arguably the most interesting of the bunch, is Uzbek fighter Hasanboy Dusmatov. The 2016 Olympic champion is a sensational talent and should be fast tracked like the star in the making that he is. He debuted in 2019, after years of rumours and scored an easy win over a Mexican youngster. That win was little more than an introduction to the professional ranks for Dusmatov who already has his eyes on bigger and better things, including a potential world title fight in 2020 with WBA champion Knockout CP Freshmart
Kai Ishizawa (6-1, 6)
Whilst we have included fighters above who we think will be in the world title mix in 2020 we don't believe that will be the case for Kai Ishizawa, but he deserves a place on this section due to the fact that we want him to be on everyone's mind as we enter the new year. The 23 year old brawler is one of the most exciting fighters in the division, and although rather crude he is the type of fighter who puts bums on seats. Everything Ishizawa throws is with bad intention and he combines that with a high output. If you get the chance to see him fight in 2020 make sure you take it, as you'll not regret watching the exciting youngster from Kanagawa. He will likely be in the mix for a regional title at some point in 2020 and that's good enough for us!
The 3 bouts we want in 2020:
Wanheng Menayothin Vs Ginjiro Shigeoka
Knockout CP Freshmart Vs Jing Xiang
Wilfredo Mendez Vs Hasanboy Dusmantov
Whilst most of our Treasure Trove from 2019 concerns great fights, dramatic action and back and forth wars sometimes our treasure is less about the fight and more about the fighters. We have little slices of treasure that don't feature the great back and forth bouts that we all love, but do help put a fighter on the map, and gives him, or her, a chance to really make the world sit up and take note. Here we look at one of those bouts that sees a youngster make a statement, and show that was the treasure, and not the actual bout. Thankfully when you are as good as this youngster is, it's hard not to see him as a new shining emerald of Asian Boxing.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (3-0, 2) vs Clyde Azarcon (15-2-1, 5)
Aged 18 when he made his professional debut in 2018 Ginjiro Shigeoka was hotly tipped by those in Japan to be a star. He went 56-1 as an amateur, had looked fantastic on his debut and quickly stepped up to beat Joel Lino in just his third fight. After just 10 months and 2 days as professional the youngster took his next step up in class, as he took part in his first title bout, a contest for the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title. He was attempting to set the new record for the least amount of time that a Japanese fighter had needed to go from debut to winning an international title. Thing is no one really doubted him. In fact those in Japan seemed to see this as a forgone conclusion for their new superstar in the making.
Filipino fighter Clyde Azarcon wasn't well known but was well regarded in the region. He was 24, had height advantages over Shigeoka, and in 18 pro fights had never been stopped. Not only had he never been stopped but he had only been beaten once in his previous 16 bouts, and that was by the very talented Rene Mark Cuarto, in what was a very competitive 12 round decision bout. He was no world beater but he was certainly a capable fighter and typically he'd be too good for a normal 3-0 fighter. That however didn't account for the fact that Shigeoka was no typical 3-0 fighter.
What looked like a big test for Shigeoka turned out to be a less of a test and more of a coronation, and a quick one at that. This one lasted less than 2 minutes, but within that time we saw someone show that he was an item of Japanese boxing treasure, and someone who will go a very, very long way, very quickly. The youngster pressed intelligently, avoided almost everything that came his way and damn near gutted the poor Filipino with a gruesome straight left.
10 Top Teenage Prospects from Asia
One of the best things about Asian boxing right now is the rising wave of prospects making a name for themselves, many of whom are incredibly young fighters. Here we take a look at 10 teenage hopefuls all looking to build on bright starts to their career's. Some are fighters that we covered in some depth already, whilst others are rising youngster who have so far under-the-radar, but are worthy of some attention as they grow, mature and develop.
Thanongsak Simsri (11-0, 11)
Japanese based Thai puncher Thanongsak Simsri is one of the most notable youngsters out there. The Light Fly from Si Sa Ket in Thailand has been hailed as "Srisaket II" in his homeland and has been impressive against a variety of foes. Most of his competition so far has been limited, but earlier this year he scored an impressive win against Filipino Ricardo Sueno and since then he has picked up the Thai Light Flyweight title.
Simsri is naturally very heavy handed, and whilst he's not the most rounded or polished of fighters the 19 year old has strong teams in both Thailand and Japan behind him, with the long term plan seemingly being for the Green Tsuda gym in Japan to help develop him. There is talk about him fighting for a regional title before the end of 2019 and if he does that there's a chance he could be ready for a huge 2020.
Musashi Mori (10-0, 6)
Talking about winning a regional title at a young age it's hard not to be impressed by WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight champion Musashi Mori, who at 19 is a genuinely accomplished young professional. The Japanese youngster turned professional in 2016 before winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year at Super Featherweight. He dropped down in weight in 2018 and claimed the WBO Asia Pacific title, and has defended it once.
Unblike many on this list Mori does have wins over some noteworthy names, including Richard Pumicpic, twice, and Allan Vallespin. Those wins have however made it clear that he has areas to work on, and fingers crossed work will be done to tidy up his defensive flaws before he begins to pursue world ranked opposition. Given the regional depth at 126lbs there's a lot of competition out there for him, so hopefully there will be real development fights for the talented youngster in 2020.
Lienard Sarcon (7-0, 2)
Filipino southpaw Lienard Sarcon is one of the lesser raved about fighters on this list, and that's a shame as he has had a huge 2019. The young Bantamweight debuted back in October 2017 and was 4-0 going into 2019, though this year has seen him win the inaugural Ultimate Boxing Series Bantamweight crown on ESPN5. The youngster did struggle through some of his tournament bouts, but that's what happens when well matched fighters face off, and his competition through the tournament had gone 18-1-1 when he faced them.
Sarcon is one of the fighters on this list who hasn't yet grown into his man strength and power, but at 19 that's not a worry and the "UBS" win will do his career the world of good. We expect to see ESPN in the Philippines push his career forward over the next year or two and by the time he's a fully mature fighter he could well find himself in the regional title picture. Unfortunately for him he's in one of the most talent packed weight ranges, and even a move back to Super Flyweight won't give him many easy options to a regional title.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (4-0, 3)
If anyone on this list is being fast tracked to the top it seems like that is Ginjiro Shigeoka, the 19 year old has only been a professional since September 2018 but is already the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight champion and has proven to be a total a total monster in the ring. The aggressively minded Watanabe gym fighter turned professional after a 56-1 amateur record and after a straight forward first 2 bouts was taken the distance by Joel Lino before blasting out Clyde Azarcon to claim his first belt, It's unclear when he will be back in the ring, though it's assumed that he'll fit in one more bout this year.
The expectation is that Shigeoka will be mixing in more title bouts in 2020 and could well be moved aggressively to a world title bout by the end of next year. He turns 20 in October, but already appears a very mature, strong and powerful fighter, with a very polished, aggressive pressure style. Shigeoka is a youngster who is tipped to go a long way, and if you mark down just 1 name on this list this is the one we would flag as the one you "must follow".
Ryu Horikawa (2-0, 1)
Another Japanese 19 year old who hasn't been a professional long is Ryu Horikawa. The talented Horikawa turned professional earlier this year, and although he showed recklessness in his debut his second bout was near flawless as he out boxed, out punched, out fought and out thought the talented Yuki Nakajima. He'll be back in the ring in mid-October, fighting China for the WBO Youth Light Flyweight title, taking on Xiang Li in Shanghai. That's a tough ask, especially this early in his career, but a win in that bout will flag him as a clear one to watch.
Horikawa had been a talented young amateur before turning professional, and debuting in June. Despite only being a professional for a few months he already looks like a real talent, who can box and fight in equal measure. There is still polishing to do, as you'd expect from such a professional novice, but there is so much upside for the Misako gym fighter, and with Misako gym being behind him he's in a gym that is red hot right now.
Toshiya Ishii (2-0, 1)
It can be a bit too easy to get over-excited about Japanese youngsters and maybe that's the case with REBOOT's 18 year old Toshiya Ishii, but so far he's hardly put a step wrong he debut in April with an early win over Indonesian Adam Wijaya before stepping up massively and schooling 2017 Rookie of the Year Fumiya Fuse in a Japanese youth title eliminator. Next up for Ishii should be Haruki Ishikawa, in a bout for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title, and that should be a real test of his chin and what he's like under pressure.
As an amateur Ishii went 30-14 (7) but achieved a number of notable results in domestic tournaments and certainly looks like he has the basis to build a very good career on. There is, obviously, work to do and he will need to physically mature into his frame but the future is so bright for the 18 year old, and the REBOOT team certainly view as a very special talent.
Issei Ochiai (1-0)
As an amateur Issei Ochiai ran up an impressive 23-7 amateur record and made his professional debut this past August as a Celes gym fighter. The 18 year old, who is a gym headed by former world champion Celes Kobayashi, will be getting gym time with top fighters and it's clear that Mr Kobayashi things incredibly of him. The evident of how highly he's thought of is the fact he debuted against Lerdchai Chaiyawed in a 6 rounder. On paper that doesn't sound impressive, but Lerdchai had given very good tests to domestic level Japanese guys Ryoki Hirai and Seita Ogido and holds a win over former world title challenger Samartlek Kokietgym.
In his debut we weren't blown away by Ochiai, but he handled Lerdchai with ease, taking a dominant decision win over the Thai and showed good understanding of the ring, nice movement and clever foot work. There is clearly work to do with the youngster, but with the Celes gym having fighters like Ryosuke Iwasa there we suspect that Ochiai will improve, and will improve quickly as he matures into his wiry body.
Nan He (1-0)
The Chinese boxing scene isn't known for it's prospects but Nan He is worthy of some attention, despite having only made his debut a few weeks ago, and did so without any notable amateur pedigree. The youngster debuted against the then 5-0 Haiyun Duan and was expected to lose to the more experienced foe. Instead He really impressed, he boxed well, moved well, gauged distance well and used the ring fantastically for such a novice. It's rare to see someone show a natural aptitude to the sport without any amateur pedigree but He seemed to.
Given He's only 18, and even then he's a baby faced and scrawny 18 year old, he will need to physically mature before stepping up too much, but the skills are there to work with if he can get a good team behind him. Obvious a lot of work is needed here but given how he looked in his debut we're really excited to see how far He can go.
Ayumu Hanada (5-0, 3)
At the moment it's unclear when, or even if, Ayumu Hanada will fight in his native Japan, however the youngster is still well worthy of attention. The 17 year old has been carving out his career in a similar way to Devin Haney in his early years, fighting in Mexico. The young Hanada, only has 4 bouts recorded on boxrec though has apparently had a 5th at some point, and from the footage we've seen of him he may be the best kept secret from Japan.
He's technically solid for such a youngster, he has nice speed and combinations, throws heavy shots and has fantastic balance. There are technical areas to work on, but he's not relying on his laurels and earlier this year sparred with Kento Hatanaka, in what was a surprisingly competitive spar. The youngster looks like he is learning new things with every fight and in a year or 2, when he matures, he could be rushed into the title mix. Given his age there is no rush at the moment, but there is a lot get excited about, even if there is still a clear need to polish up
Dastan Saduuly (3-0, 3)
A second 17 year old who looks to be making a mark is Kazakh fighter Dastan Saduuly, who has fought solely in Kazakhstan. The youngster debuted only months after his 16th birthday and looked like a very talented fighter immediately, and also like a youngster who seemed much more mature than his years suggested. Watching him in action we see a really serious, aggressive pressure fighter who gets in the ring to beat up his opponents, who have been limited so far. He has good balance, though is a bit wild with his punches times. Despite the wildness he is powerful, quick and very confident in the ring.
After fighting 3 times in a little over 6 months, from September 2018 to March 2019, to begin his career Saduuly hasn't actually fought in the last 6 months, and it's a shame. The talented youngster was last seen stopping veteran Alexander Saltykov and hopefully it won't be too long until the the teenager returns to the ring for his next bout.
The Minimumweight division is the focus of our first look at the divisions as we head in to the new year. Over the past day or so we have looked at the world champions, "The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Champions" and the leading contenders, The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Contenders now we look at our final part of the division, the prospects, and other notable fighters.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5)
Unbeaten Japanese 22 year old Kai Ishizawa has been a professional for about 18 months but already appears to be one to watch. He's a pretty basic pressure fighter, but his flaws make him a must watch fighter, with his attitude being to stop opponents no matter what. He can be out boxed, as we've seen in the past, but his power is thudding and consistent. Potentially a real danger man of the future.
Samuel Salva (16-0, 10)
Samuel Salva is another, from the many, Filipino fighters who is making their mark on the division. The 21 year old has done his stuff relatively quietly, with out making a lot of international buzz, but is rising through the ranks and will hopefully begin taking on international opponents in 2019. He's young, active, heavy handed and building up his experience, he just needs to share the ring with better opponents now.
Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4)
The once beaten Daiki Tomita made his debut in 2015 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year the following year. In 2017 he scored his biggest win to date, defeating Desierto Nagaike and proved his ability in a loss, losing in September 2018 to Tsuaba Koura, who made it into the Contenders section. He's only 21 but has shown plenty to be excited about and he has the potentially to take his loss and really build on the lessons Koura gave him
Yuga Inoue (7-1-1, 1)
Another once beaten Japanese youngster looking to be a big success is 19 year old Yuga Inoue, who isn't related to the Ohashi promoted Inoue clan. Yuga made his debut in 2016 and won the 2017 Rookie of the Year. His sole loss has come to the aforementioned Kai Ishizawa, and prior to being stopped he looked the better fighter. Young, skilled and promising, the one thing Inoue needs is a but more physical development.
ArAr Andales (8-0, 1)
Filipino teenager ArAr Andales has only just turned 19 but has already fought in a couple of 8 rounders and looks to be developing quite nicely. He has a lot of work to do before getting a major international bout, but by the time he steps up in class there is a chance he will develop his punching technique, power and physical strength.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
Another 19 year old prospect looking to make their mark at 105lbs is Ginjiro Shigeoka, who was a Japanese amateur stand out, and who looked sensational on debut this past September. He looks like something very special, with power, speed, skills and at only 19 he is already a physically imposing fighter. Possible the best prospect in Japan right now.
Leroy Estrada (16-3, 6)
Panamanian southpaw Leroy Estrada is a former world title challenger, who is regarded by some as a top contender. For us however he's more of a "wildcard" entry in the division. He was stopped this year by Wanheng Menayothin, and made to look like a boy against the champion, but is ranked highly due to a big win over Saul Juarez. We tend to see him as someone who isn't likely to be a major player in the division, despite the high regard that some hold him in.
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (10-0, 4)
Unbeaten Thai Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart is seen by some in Thailand as the future of the division, though his performances as a professional boxer suggest other wise. He's been matched mostly in soft matches as a professional, but was pushed all the way last time out by Marco John Rementizo and we suspect that performance tells us more than his other 9 bouts. He might be unbeaten but we don't see him as being good enough to carry the flag at the top of the division any time soon, if ever.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6)
Japanese champion Shin Ono is one of the division's elder statesmen, with his 36th birthday coming later this month. He's been a professional for close to 18 years and is a 2-time world title challenger. We don't expect him to win a world title, though he does have a place as a gate keeper and only very good fighters will beat him at the weight. It's worth noting that he defends the Japanese title in January, against Norihito Tanaka, and if successful he may get one more shot at a title. A loss to Tanaka would likely spell the end of his career, but a win keeps him on the fringes of another title shot.
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.