One thing was don't see enough of is great all-Korean bouts. It seems we could be seeing a change that in the near future, and we have had one or two in the last few years, but they are still rather rare. Thankfully this weekend we get actually get two, one of which is my pick for this week's "One to Watch".
The One to Watch?
Jong Seon Kang (10-0-2, 6) vs Seong Yeong Yang (8-2-5, 4)
August 8th (Saturday)
We love action bouts and given the fighters involved in this one we are expecting nothing short of a thrill a minute, full on war with incredible action, intense exchanges, limited defense and amazing wills to win. This isn't likely to be a bout for a purist, but for those who want a rock em sock robots style fight this should be ideal. The men both like to let their hands, both men are flawed, and both know how to put on a show!
Aged just 18 Jong Seon Kang is one of the countries brightest hopes, and is already a multi-year professional, having debuted back in November 2017. Although not a big name Kang really impressed us last year when he fought 5 times, going 3-0-2 (2). Whilst his bouts weren't at the highest level he certainly wasn't just beating limited opponents, in fact he managed to upset Ravshanbek Shermatov, travelled to China and beat Qixiu Zhang, and then defeated Tomjune Mangubat in an absolute thriller in Vietnam. He's tough, gutsy, throws a lot of leather and in his win over Mangubat was a genuinely sensational bout that showed he determination and saw him climb off the to earn the win.
It's fair to say that the 24 year old Seong Yeong Yang has a weird looking record, with 5 draws from 15 bouts however don't let that fool you into thinking he's not a good fighter. In fact he's become a very good fighter after a really weird 2-4-2 start this his professional career, and he's now unbeaten in 11 bouts. As with Kang his competition hasn't been amazing, but he's shown an incredible work, amazing engine, guts and drive. His most notable result is his 2019 draw in China against Jian Wang. That bout, like Kang's against Mangubat, was just an exceptional, all out, free swinging, intense war. Defense wasn't something either man wanted to show us, and we weren't complaining!
What to expect?
Given that both fighters are limited, action fighters who have high work rates, limited defense, throw in high volume without massive amounts of power we're going to tell you all to expect something special. Really special. From the opening round we expect to see a lot of leather thrown.
Of the two Kang is probably the more technical, but he's certainly not a technical fighter in a traditional sense. Kang is probably the higher volume guy, but not by a significant amount. We would expect Kang to be more willing to move, look for angles and space, but be willingly dragged into a tear up. That will give us some exciting exchanges early on, but as the fight goes on, and the foot work slows, we expect to see more toe-to-toe exchanges in what will, potentially, be a FOTY contender.
It might seem hyperbolic but this bout has the potential to be something truly amazing. We know it's going to be relatively low level, but that doesn't matter too much here, it's going to be entertaining and that's why it's this weeks one to watch!
The bad news?
At the time of writing it's unclear if the bout will be aired live, however it's a Cocky Buffalo show under the auspices of the KBA so at the very least we know it's going to be made available online after the bout. We might need to wait to watch it, but the wait will be worth it!
Although we're seeing more boxing in the East there is still a disjointed feel to lots of things, with bouts being cancelled, and events being changed almost daily. Thankfully though Thailand seems to be on top of things, and we're now starting to see some regular action from "The land of Smiles".
With that said this week's "One to Watch" is coming from Thailand and is a bout that has seen more attention than a typical all-Thai bout!
The One to Watch?
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6)
August 1st (Saturday)
It's rare to get a bout in Thailand that has some interest in the west, but that's exactly what we have here with a bout between two former world champions who meet in the main event of a WP Boxing event. The bout won't just be a rare bout between two well known Thai's but will also likely lead the winner into another world title fight. This is a bout that has significance well beyond the realms of Asian boxing, despite featuring two Asian fighters. This has implications on the world scene.
The WP Boxing is also proof of concept behind "studio boxing" with all the events being held at the Work Point Studio in Bang Phun. We've seen BT Sport trial something similar, but the WP Boxing series dates back a few years now and they almost all run from a studio with no issues at all. For a small event in the west this may end up being something we get to see more of in the west.
We suspect almost every fan to know something about Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The 33 year old from Si Sa Ket is a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, one of the hard hitting hitting fighters in the lower weights and a human tank. He is best known for his wins over Roman Gonzalez, both of which came in 2017, but other notable wins include victories over Juan Francisco Estrada, Jose Salgado and Yota Sato. He's a power punching and aggressive Super Flyweight and a physical monster who is looking to become a 3-time world champion.
Aged 40 Amnat Ruenroeng is an ancient "smaller man", but he's had a strange career in general. He made his professional debut at the age of 32, won the IBF Flyweight title at the age of 34, and scored a string of notable wins when he was the IBF champion. During his title reign Amnat beat the likes of Kazuto Ioka, Zou Shiming, John Riel Casimero and McWilliams Arroyo. Although a talented boxer he was a master at bending the rules, knowing how to foul and get away with it. He's not typically a physically imposing fighter, but he is a surprisingly strong one.
What to expect?
We'll be honest we actually see this as being a bit of a mismatch. Although both men are former world champions Srisaket is still in, or around, his prime. Amnat on the other hand is very much coming towards the end of his career. Not only that but Amnat is also the naturally smaller man, despite having slight edges in height and reach he is less powerfully built than Srisaket. It's also worth noting that Amnat has suffered a lot of punishment in recent years, including a KO loss to John Riel Casimer, a TKO loss to Nawaphon Por Chokchai and a loss in a kickboxing bout against Tenshin Nasukawa.
We expect to see Srisaket struggle early on with the tactics and jab of Amnat, but after 3 or 4 rounds we suspect that Srisaket's strength and power will begin to break down the 40 year old, who will begin to look for a way out by rounds 5 or 6.
The bad news?
For one of the few times in this series there really isn't too much bad to talk about. The bout will be streamed for free, via Matchroom and Work Point, there's no paywall or tape delay issues. Maybe the one issue is the fact the the bout is a mismatch and the it's on at an awkward for a Western audience, but it's still worth tuning in for.
At the time of writing it's not totally clear which bouts will and won't get TV, though we are hoping that this week's "one to watch" will get some sort of tape delay television coverage as it's a bout that has had us more and more intrigued as time has gone on. The bout is on a show that we know will have TV cameras, and the main event will be shown, so we are hoping that the co-feature will also be shown, in some form, as it's the debut of a man many are tipping as a future Japanese star.
One to Watch?
Rentaro Kimura (0-0) Vs Yuya Azuma (5-3-1, 1)
July 22nd (Wednesday)
We love seeing touted youngsters making their debuts and this is one such case, with former Japanese amateur standout Rentaro Kimura making his professional debut in a 6 rounder against the under-rated Yuya Azuma, who is a very good fighter despite his 5-3-1 record. The debutant has spoke about wanting to fight for a world title within 10 bouts, so his journey to the top could be a quick one, and we would advise everyone to get on the ground level, before Kimura has raced his way into major fights.
With Kimura expecting to fight for a world title within 10 fights it should come as no surprise to learn that he was very impressive as an amateur. In the unpaid ranks he went 72-16 (26), won 3 notable amateur titles and captained his University team. Although managed by Suruga boys in Shizuoka he's expected to spend a lot of time training in Tokyo, at the Misako Gym, where he will be training with some of the top fighters in Japan. As an amateur he was a very exciting and skilled prospect, with a nice aggressive style from the southpaw stance, and if the hype is right he could be one of the next great Japanese Super Featherweights.
On paper Azuma looks like he is there to be blown away, with only 5 wins from his 9 professional bouts and only a single stoppage to his name. That, however, looks at just the numbers. In reality Azuma could easily have an 8-1 record, with several of his loses being by razor thin decisions, and coming away from home. Since his last loss he has been in good form, scoring 3 straight wins, including a pretty decent one over Ryo Tanimoto last time out. Sadly with a lack of power Azuma will find it hard to turn a fight around, but the 20 year old is far better than the numbers of his record suggest.
What to expect?
It's obvious that Kimura will want to do more than just win his debut. Given his confidence, and the positive talk about racing to a world title fight we expected him to be out to impress, not just to win. We really were impressed watching him as an amateur and can see him being very impressive here. His style looks like it was pretty "pro-ready" and he could be set to make a big statement early on. We expect his clean, crisp punching, movement, skills and speed will be on show here.
Despite not being a big name Azuma has quite a lot of footage available and he looks like a very handy fighter. He's aggressive and brings pressure, but does so with surprisingly intelligence for such a youngster. He's patient, comes forward without taking too many risks and also looks big compared to the guys he has been fighting. He looks like a genuine student of the sport, though lacks those one off attributes that you can't teach, the lightning speed and lights out power. For a man with so many losses so early in his career it's obvious those set backs have helped to improve him as a fighter.
We genuinely expect Kimura to have to work hard for a win here. Azuma might not be a special fighter, but he's certainly no pushover and Kimura should expect to be tested by the desire and hunger of Azuma. We think Azuma will make life difficult for 3 or 4 rounds, but potentially begin to be broken down by then. If Kimura gets the stoppage it should be considered a very good result for the debutant, and instead we're expecting him to take a clear, but very hard earned, decision.
The bad news?
As stated at the beginning it's unclear if this bout will actually be shown on TV, at all. If it is then it's fantastic news, but there's a chance that all we will get is some short highlights, which would be a huge shame given the hype behind Kimura.
This week's one to watch features a novice professional taking his next step up in class, as he takes on a veteran in a world title eliminator. It's not necessarily the bout any of us wanted, but it will be a decent chance to see the improvements made by one of Uzbekistan's brightest hopefuls, albeit against a much older opponent.
The One to Watch?
Israil Madrimov (4-0, 4) vs Charlie Navarro (29-9, 22)
February 29th (Saturday)
We get the chance to see one of boxing's fastest rising hopefuls take his next step towards a world title fight as he clashes with a veteran who has world title experience. On the other a veteran gets the chance to try and derail someone seen a massively exciting bright young star in the making. We love seeing prospects develop and their journey's through the rankings, and this is a great chance to see just that!
Unbeaten Uzbek Israil Madrimov is a 24 year old Light Middleweight super prospect. He debuted in a 10 round bout, in November 2018, and instantly looked sensational. He was a former amateur before turning professional and that amateur pedigree, mixed with sensational athletic ability and a flair for entertainment was on show immediately. He switching stances, he was mixing things up and at times it looked like he was trying to not just impress but also make sure he was burned into the brain of every fight fan who saw him. Since then he has continued impressing, scoring wins over solid opposition and racing up the WBA world rankings. Within just 4 bouts it's become less a case of "whether" Madrimov will be a world champion and more a case of "when".
Venezuelan veteran Charlie Navarro is certainly not the best opponent out there, but given that Madrimov's team have struggled to get opponents he's the best that's willing to face the Uzbek. Even in saying that however the 40 year old is no push over, in fact it seems he's coming into this bout with a lot of confidence after taking the unbeaten records of Damian Rodriguez and Johan Gonzalez in his last 2 bouts, and has gone unbeaten in his last 4. At his best Navarro was world class, giving the then WBA Welterweight champion Vyacheslav Senchenko a close bout in Ukraine. Sadly though that was almost 10 years ago and since then he has gone 11-5 and suffered 2 of his 3 stoppage losses. With a WBA top 15 ranking he also serves as the type of opponent that will boost Madrimov's ranking and move him towards a world title shot.
What to expect?
We could sit here and pretend that Navarro could be competitive, but the reality is that he shouldn't be, not even close. However what we do expect is for Madrimov to make a statement. The Uzbek knows he needs to do something special, every time he fights, to live up to the hype he's getting, and especially so soon after countryman Murodjon Akhmadaliev won the IBF and WBA "super" titles at Bantamweight. He will be out there to shine.
Navarro might be old, but he's rugged, tough and has enough on his shots to potentially check Madrimov's chin. If he can land clean and he knows his way around the ring. He's not a world beater, but he's a crafty veteran who can look after himself, and be a banana skin for an over-confident hopeful.
We expect Navarro to take a bit of a beating if we're being honest. We don't see him having the speed or slickness to really test Madrimov, but instead allow him to showcase what he has. We suspect we'll see him show off the switch hitting, the movement, the finding of unusual angles, the hand speed, power and in ring charisma that he has. And then to break down a resilient, but over matched, Navarro.
The bad news?
It's annoying that Madrimov can't get a bigger name in the ring with him. Hopefully that changes next time out, and we see him in with a genuine top 10 type opponent, or a former champion. Someone who can genuine be viewed as a test, rather than just a step up in class, like Navarro is.
For this weeks "One to Watch" I had originally covered the scheduled bout between Carl Jammes Martin and Renoel Pael. Unfortunately that bout was cancelled at the start of the week due to worries about the Coronavirus. With a lack of fights this coming week I've decided that instead of covering a different fight, with almost all of them being less than great on paper, I thought I'd have a look back on the fights covered in this series.
The first fight I covered was Aidos Yerbossynuly Vs Rocky Jerkic, and this was actually a good start to the series with Yerbossynuly taking a career best win over Jerkic in a good solid bout. Not a spectacular bout, but a solid one. Yerbossynuly notched another win 4 months later.
After a solid start I did pick a bit of a one sided stinker in the second bout in the series, with the debuting Katsuya Fukui stopping Sang Hoon Kim in the second round. Exactly 2 months later Fukui scored another quick win, that time over a Thai foe.
The third one of these looked at ZongLi He's bout with Hamson Lamandau, which He won by clear decision in September. Sadly He has yet to fight following this win, however Lamandau lost in December to go 0-3 in 2019.
Our fourth bout looked at Kudura Kaneko Vs Moon Hyon Yun, which I expected to be a competitive bout. Instead it was a huge win for Kaneko, and helped put him in place for his upcoming OPBF title fight, which takes place at the end of February. As for Yun I wouldn't be surprised by him hanging them up.
A week later I looked at Batyrzhan Jukembayev's fight with Mexican Miguel Vazquez, which was a step up for the Canadian based Kazakh, and a career best win. Since this win, a decision victory, Jukembayev has scored a win over Ricardo Lara and continued edging towards a world title fight.
As with Katsuya's Fukui debut I also covered Shigetoshi Kotari's debut in the series, and that also ended up being a mismatch, as he stopped Indonesian foe Lasben Sinaba in 2 rounds. Kotari will return to the ring in early March for his second pro bout.
Rather strangely our next bout never actually took place. I had looked at Yelieqiati Nihemaituola Vs Ryan Rey Ponteras, but Ponteras was replaced late on by Ardin Diale. The "Kazakh Warrior" Nihemaituola took a clear decision over Diale, who was fighting well above his best weight.
In mid-October I got a bout that really delivered, with Xiang Li Vs Ryu Horikawa being an absolute thriller. I felt Horikawa was very unlucky to not get the win, with the bout being scored a draw, but this was a real standout bout from October and well worth a watch back if you missed it. Sadly neither of these two talented and exciting youngsters have fought since their October clash.
We remained in China for the following week's "One To Watch" and it turned out to be less exciting than I expected, as Wenfeng Ge easily beat Kompayak Porpramook over 12 rounds to retain the WBO Oriental title. Since this bout neither man has fought, though Porpramook is expected back in the ring shortly. Sadly for Ge any plans are currently on hold due to the outbreak of Coronavirus in China.
The following week we returned to Japan for the East Japan Rookie of the Year final between Katsuki Mori and Shu Nawai, who were meeting for the second time. This was expected to be good and competitive, but in reality it was just a showcase of Mori's tremendous ability and only weeks later he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown.
Sadly the bout I had covered on November, a mouth watering clash between Seiya Tsutsumi and Kenya Yamashita never took place, with Yamashita failing to make weight for the God's Left Bantamweight tournament semi-final. As a result Tsutsumi got a bye, and then fought to a draw in the final with Kazuki Nakajima. Just a draw later I did an extra one to watch on the other tournament semi-final, which saw Kazuki Nakajima blast out Jin Minamide to book his place in the final.
We remained in Japan for the international bout between Keita Kurihara and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. This was, on paper, a great test for Kurihara, but his power proved too much and he crushed his Thai foe with no issues, to take a step closer to getting a world title bout.
I then got one really wrong as Koshin Takeshima and Daisuke Watanabe gave us one of the worst bouts in the series. On paper this had the ingredients to be something great, but sloppy action, head clashes, and styles that didn't quite gel forced the bout to be halted in round 4, resulting in a technical draw. Strangely this was the worst of the three "Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary" quarter final bouts on the same show. Watanabe will return at the end of the month for his semi-final bout with Filipino Richard Pumicpic.
A week later we expected to go over to China for a bout between ZongLi He and Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly this bout failed to materalise.
The following week I picked another stinker as Zhilei Zhang took an easy decision over rugged Ukrainian Andriy Rudenko, himself a late replacement for Sergey Kuzmin. Zhang really just controlled this bout with ease, and we got very, very little drama at any point. It was a chance for Zhang to make a statement in the division, but instead he just cruised his way to a decision win.
We stayed with Heavyweights for Mahammadrasul Majidov's bout against Tom Little, in what proved to be an horrific mismatch. This was Majidov doing what he needed to do, and he didn't play with his food. Instead the Azeri battered the out-of-shape British fighter in 2 rounds. Sadly, given Majidov is already 33, he's not fought since and like many fighters under the Matchroom banner he seems to be getting left out in the cold, when he should be kept busy.
Dropping back down the scales we saw exciting young Light Flyweight Tsuyoshi Sato take a hard earned win over veteran Masashi Tada, in what turned out to be a solid bout, and a real test, for Sato. Up to this point Sato had been blowing opponents out, with 4 quick wins in his previous 5, and this was the type of test he really needed heading towards 2020.
I went back up to Heavyweight action the following week as Kyotaro Fujimoto faced Daniel Dubois. This was a mismatch, we all knew it would be, but it was interesting to see Kyotaro fighting outside of his homeland. He seemed to enjoy the UK before the fight, but stood no chance with the fast rising British puncher and was stopped in 2 rounds.
The same week I did another extra "One to Watch" as I covered Katsuki Mori for the second time. This time it was Mori's All Japan Rookie of the Year final against Takumi Chono. This was a showcase for Mori,who looked sensational at times and stamped his name as one to watch in 2020. The youngster from the Ohashi gym will return in March and I expect massive things from the youngster. Despite the loss Chono will actually return a day before Mori, fighting on March 16th whilst Mori fights on March 17th.
Rather oddly the bout I covered next was delayed. It was originally scheduled for late December, then pushed back to early January and saw Da Won Gang take on Jin Su Kim. I was looking forward to see Gang in action, but I didn't expect to see him in just a cameo, as he quickly blew out Kim to secure a Korean title fight in 2020.
On the same show as the re-arranged Gang Vs Kim bout was Sung Min Yuh's win over Se Yul Yang. This was a frustrating watch with Yuh being far too good for Yang, but he refused to put his foot on the gas and got for the kill. He looked genuinely class and we're going to look forward to him getting a KBM title fight on May 3rd against Do Ha Kim, in an excellent rematch of the Battle Royal bout form 2019.
In mid-January I looked at the Knockout Dynamite tournament final between Ribo Takahata and Marvin Esquierdo. This turned out to be a pretty solid bout, nothing too amazing, but a solid fight and a great day for Esquierdo who scored a good bonus for his stoppage win. I'd love to see more of Esquierdo, who comes to fight and looks like he was made for the 5 round Prize Fight format of the tournament.
Staying with mid January I had another solid pick as the KBM Super Bantamweight title bout between Han Bin Suh delivered Shin Dong Myung. We saw Suh bringing the pressure but what was more impressive was Myung keeping his form and out boxing Suh for 10 rounds. It's a shame Myung turned pro so old as he has the skills to make a mark at a much higher level, but with his 32nd birthday in March he really needs to be fast tracked. Interesting Suh is set to fight in Japan in April against Tatsuya Takahashi.
At the end of January I featured the God's Left Bantamweight tournament final and saw Kazuki Nakajima fight to a very controversial draw with Seiya Tsutsumi. We felt, as did many fans, that Tsutsumi did more than enough to earn the win, but was denied the prize as some how the judges failed to recognise his performance. Worse of all, Nakajima "won" the tournament on the majority point rule, giving him the financial prize of the competition.
We had a second consecutive controversial draw as Alphoe Dagayloan was held by Carlo Caesar Penalosa. I felt Dagayloan, who is a hard luck fighter in general, deserved the win here due to a late charge, but Penalosa managed to just scrap a draw, likely on the basis of his name. A rematch for this, and the Nakajima Vs Tsutsumi bout, would make sense, but we suspect that Penalosa will feel no need to face the nightmare that is Dagayloan again.
In a genuine thriller for the WBC Youth Flyweight title, we saw Kento Hatanaka being given a real test by Roland Jay Biendima. This was a war, a thrilling, action packed 10 round war. At times Hatanaka looked class, but he was dragged into a fire fight and fought fire with fire. A really great fight.
A week I picked another great fight when Yuki Nakajima and Shisui Kawabata gave us a thriller. This was pure brilliance from two men who knew how to box and how to fight. Nakajima had to over-come a tough start, force his fight on to Kawabata and then stopped Kawabata with one of the best punches of the year. Real class stuff.
Since starting this series I have picked some duds, of course I have. The Takeshima Vs Watanabe bout and Zhang Vs Rudenko were both terrible, and I've seen bouts I've picked fall through. On the whole though I feel this has been a good series and is something I've enjoyed doing, and something I'll continue to do going forward. The entire idea of it has been to shine a light on a bout that will be watchable, be it streaming, television or PPV, and I think I've done that well. I hope you guys agree!
This week's one to watch is an interesting clash in Japan that pits professional novices against each other on a Kadoebi show, so we'll likely get it on tape delay on youtube. The men involved really afford a loss, but that just adds to sense of both men going out there wanting to not only win, but to win impressively. This is perhaps not one that will get much attention from the Western fans, but is certainly a very interesting, and potentially very explosive, match up.
The One to Watch?
Yuki Nakajima (3-1, 3) Vs Shisui Kawabata (2-1, 2)
February 14th (Friday)
Two former Japanese amateur standouts facing off, both of whom have shown a lot of ability already in their short careers. Despite both having a loss against their names both should still be regarded as talented prospects, with a lot of potential, and both men will know a win here will help them take a huge step towards a Japanese ranking, even this early in their career.
Yuki Nakajima, 24, is the younger brother of Ohashi Gym hopeful Kazuki Nakajima, and is a talented youngster himself. Fighting out of the well established Kadoebi gym Nakajima went 52-21 in the unpaid ranks and impressed early as a professional with his heavy handed style and aggression. He suffered his first loss last August, being out pointed by the excellent Ryu Horikawa. Since that loss Nakajima has bounced back with a win over domestic veteran Yasuhiro Tanaka.
Aged 23, though he turns 24 in March, Shisui Kawabata is a very highly regarded young who had impressed as an amateur, where he ran up a misleading 29-18 (11) record and was selected as a sparring partner for Naoya Inoue before he'd even debuted. Despite being dropped on his professional debut, by Natchaphon Wichaita he has impressed since. Sadly he was beaten last time out, losing a competitive decision to Rikito Shiba in September in a Japanese Youth title fight and since then has been developing at the Watanabe Gym.
What to expect?
Both of these kids can fan, but are skilled but aggressive, both hit hard for smaller weight fighters and both are well schooled from their days as amateurs. We expect there to be a lot of early respect. Both will want to see what the other has to offer before putting their foot on the gas. For Nakajima the key will be figuring out Kawabata's southpaw stance and this will be his first bout against a southpaw. As for Kawabata the key will be neutralising Nakajima's power.
After a couple of rounds of seeing what each other have we see the pace of this stepping up, and both men letting heavier bombs go as they try to not only beat each other, but stop the other. The respect will be there, and it won't become a wild brawl, but it will be high speed chess, with dynamite being thrown by both.
The bad news?
Sadly the loser here will have a big hole to climb out of, and they will seriously need to be given some confidence building bouts later in the year. Sure 2 losses this early in their career won't be the end. The likes of Ryoichi Tamura, Keita Kurihara and Kyosuke Sawada have all proven that losses can be used as learning experiences. But the loser here will need to be given easier buots to rebuild before they get another serious test.
This weeks one to watch comes from Kariya City where we see a touted Japanese prospect taking on a young Filipino with a point to prove, in what looks likely to be a very interesting match up.
The One to Watch?
Kento Hatanaka (10-0, 9) Vs Roland Jay Biendima (15-5-1, 8)
February 11th (Tuesday)
The bout, a WBC Youth title fight, pits a talented young prospects against someone who is a solid challenger to their crown. It comes after the champion was given a real gutcheck and lets us see what improvements he's made since his last bout. It also allows the challenger to aim for his biggest win to date. A good, solid match up between two youngsters, one of whom is destined for big things and the other is likely to have to work for everything he gets.
The 21 year old Kento Hatanaka is regarded as one of Japanese's most exciting young prospects and is following in the footsteps of his father, Kiyoshi Hatanaka. The elder Hatanaka was a world champion back in the 1990's and his on is certainly a fighter being groomed for success. Blessed with a naturally exciting style, explosive power and speed Hatanaka does look like one to watch. He impressed early in his career, stopping his first 9 opponents in a combined 32 rounds, whilst claiming the WBC Youth Flyweight title and recording a defense of the title. Last time out he got a genuine gutcheck, as he went 10 rounds with Jaysever Abcede, being dropped in the bout, and for the first time there was real questions asked of Hatanaka, who was a little lucky to get the win.
Aged 23 Roland Jay Biendima is a Filipino who has been a pro for almost 4 years and has proven to be a fighter who's better than his record suggests. He's no world beater, but he's not been embarrassed so far and his losses have come to good fighters, with defeats to Jayson Mama, Samuel Salva, Taiyo Inoue, Wulan Tuolehazi and Bin Zhou. Comparing his opponents to Hatanaka is really unfair as Biendima has been genuinely up against it, and 3 of his losses have come in the homeland of his opponents. Sadly he's yet to score a notable win, with his best being a stoppage against Ronie Tanallon, but here's proven to be a solid fighter in his losses.
What to expect?
We don't expect to see Hatanaka struggle in the same way he did with Abcede, but we still expect to see him being given a genuine test here. Biendima is a strong fighter, with a powerful jab and is physically imposing, despite not being the biggest puncher or the quickest. He's the sort of fighter who pushes forward behind his jab and keeps up a solid output.
We suspect the technical flaws of Biendima will be his undoing here against a technically sharp Hatanaka, but the Filipino will certainly make Hatanaka work for his success. The real issue Biendima has is that his hands do low and that will give Hatanaka chances to catch him clean. If he does that he could stop Biendima, which we eventually think will happen, at some point.
The bad news?
At the time of writing it's unclear how this is being made available. We expect CBC to release it online, as they have done with other Hatanaka fights, but it's not obvious when they'll make it available or in what form.
This week I had planned, and written, a "One to Watch" regarding the new cancelled Masayuki Ito bout with Yongqiang Yang. That bout is now off, due to Ito suffering a nasty injury, as as a result we have looked elsewhere and managed to come up with an excellent replacement bout for this week's hidden fight, as we head from China to the Philippines.
The One to Watch?
Alphoe Dagayloan (14-3-5-1, 5) vs Carlo Caesar Penalosa (14-2, 7)
February 1st (Saturday)
The Filipino domestic scene rarely gives us a bout that genuinely excites us, and it's a shame that the scene in Manila has been flooded by mismatches, often involving over-matched foreign talent. Here however we have a brilliant Filipino Flyweight title bout between two men who will both be in the ring looking to win, looking to claim the Filipino title and take a huge step towards securing another bout on the international stage, where they both suffered a loss in 2019. This is a bout with actual meaning and purpose on a Filipino domestic card!
In one corner is the criminally under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan, a 28 year old southpaw who began his career with an ugly looking 4-2-4-1 (1) record before reeling off a run that saw him go 11-1-1 (4). That 13 fight run saw him scoring notable wins over Mateo Handig, Madiyar Zhanuzak, Ronggup Wu, Danrick Sumabong and Esneth Domingo. The only loss in those 13 bouts was an ultra close one to Japanese fighter Ryota Yamauchi last year. We rate Yamauchi very, very highly and the fact that Dagayloan gave him genuine fits was impressive, showing how good the Filipino is. He's not the biggest puncher, or the fastest, but like countryman Richard Pumicpic he's nightmare to fight, with under-rated skills, a gritty toughness and an impressive work rate. A real horror to fight and physically strong to boot.
The 26 year old Carlo Caesar Penalosa is also a southpaw and is part of the huge Penalosa fighting family. He's the grandson of Carl Penalosa and the nephew of Dodie Boy Penalosa, the inaugural IBF Light Flyweight champion. From such a deep fighting family the expectation was on Carlo to achieve things in the ring, but sadly he's not yet managed to make a major mark on the global boxing scene. He would win his first 7 bouts before suffering a slip up to Reymark Taday and another 7 fight winning run ended last year when he came up short to Maximo Flores. Despite those losses Penalosa is a talent, he hits harder than his record suggest and he can box. He's just coming into his physical prime. In fact right now he's probably the most determined he has ever been following last year's loss Flores.
What to expect?
We don't expect this to be pretty, rarely are all southpaw bouts pretty. Instead what we expect to see is a messy yet exciting battle between two well matched fighters who will stand their ground and fight. Penalosa is the better boxer, and the better puncher, but that's not always the decider and with Dagayloan being a rugged fighter who will press up close and look to turn it into a fight. We don't think Penalosa wants a fight with Dagayloan.
If the bout is fought at mid range, and Penalosa is allowed to box and dictate the tempo he should be able to win. We however to see Dagayloan work on the gameplan that Maximo Flores used against Penalosa. Roughing up the third generation fighter and forcing him to fight fire with fire.
The bad news?
Obviously we have mentioned this could be ugly and it really could. It'll be potentially very exciting as a bout, and again we love seeing Filipino bouts with meaning, but it could be a real eye sore at times.
Action is a bit thin in January but there are a few standout bouts, and today we cover one of those. In fact we cover one of the most interesting looking bouts of the month, and better yet, it's a tournament final which features two men who have serious power in their hands!
The One to Watch?
Kazuki Nakajima (8-0, 7) vs Seiya Tsutsumi (5-0, 4)
January 28th (Tuesday)
The brilliant God's Left Bantamweight tournament comes to it's conclusion with a final between two hard hitting, former amateur standouts risking their unbeaten records in what looks like a truly mouth watering bout. This promises to be explosive and will put the winner into the mix for a title later in the year. On paper this is brilliant, and given the styles of the two men there really is no way this going to be anything but a thrilling shoot out!
Kazuki Nakajima, 26, is one of a number of talented and promising fighters from the Ohashi Gym. He was an excellent amateur, going 70-15 (30), before turning professional in in 2017. His career started explosively, with back to back opening round wins, before he got a serious test from Taiga Higashi in his third bout. Since then Nakajima has impressed bout after bout, and has reached the tournament final after opening round wins over Kenichi Watanabe and Jin Minamide. In the ring he's a boxer-puncher fighting out of the southpaw stance and is well polished with very heavy hands, good composure and patience.
Seiya Tsutsumi, 24, is also a former amateur standout, running up an excellent 84-17 (40) record in the unpaid ranks. He began his professional career with the Watanabe Gym in 2018 and quickly impressed, destroying Junpei Inamoto in an under-the-radar classic in September 2018. Sadly in 2019 he fought only once, stopping Ryan Rey Ponteras inside a round in March, before transferring to the Kadoebi Gym. He got a bye in the first round of the tournament, where he was the sole seed, and then got a walk over in the semi-final when Kenya Yamashita had to pull out. In the ring he's an aggressive pressure fighter with dynamite in both hands.
What to expect?
Both fighters will be well aware that the other man is a big puncher and that risks can't be taken recklessly. On paper things point towards Nakajima being the favourite. He's the naturally bigger man, he's been more active recently, and he's the more polished fighter. However Tsutsumi is a smart offensive fighter who is physically very strong, and will hold his own on the inside, if he can get up close and personal.
We see this as being a bout where the distance decides the outcome. If Nakajima can keep it long he'll be able to dictate being his more polished boxing and his southpaw stance. If it's fought up close however Tsutsumi has a fantastic chance to take out Nakajima.
We expect explosive action, no matter what the range for this one, and we do not expect it to go the distance. We expect bombs to be thrown, and this will be a bout that could end at any second. This could end up a blink and you miss affair, with both having the power to take the other out.
The bad news?
The bout will only be available on Boxing Raise, as the service delivers yet another amazing show. If you're not a Boxing Raise subscriber you will, sadly, miss out on this potential firecracker.
One thing we're really excited about for 2020 is Korea. The country over delivered, massively, in 2019 and if it does the same again this year it's going to be hard to not be raving about it by the end of the year. With the country able to provide great action, interesting low key match ups and some solid tournaments it's the place where we turn for this weeks "One to Watch".
The One to Watch?
Han Bin Suh (5-0-3, 4) Vs Shin Dong Myung (2-0)
January 18th (Saturday)
We genuinely love watching Korean fighters and here we have two Koreans with very different styles. In one corner is a technically well schooled fighter whilst the other fighter involved is a guy who fights with the intensity set to 11. Stylistically we're interested but it also puts two unbeaten men and it's a great fight for a Korean title!
Although not a star, by any stretch of the imagination, 19 year old Korean Han Bin Suh is the KBM Super Bantamweight champion and one of the most legitimately fun to watch fighters on the planet. The teenager is technically rudimentary but is everything we love about Korean boxing. He sets an incredibly high pace and throws so much leather that every fight of his is a fight worth watching. Although limited he swarms people to the point where they need to match him and few can do that, especially over 10 rounds, as Suh has shown he can do. He doesn't slow down, and worryingly for his opponents they do. Suh doesn't hit particularly hard, but hits that often, and takes a shot so well, that every single one of his bouts end up being amazing to watch and gruelling wars.
Shin Dong Myung is a former amateur standout who made his professional debut in September 2018 though failed to really build on impressive debut win over Hiroyuki Sagehashi by only fighting once in 2019. Prior to turning professional he had been a very successful Korean amateur with a reported 175-25 (50) record, including multiple national championships. Despite not being busy as a professional his talented has been obvious from his two professional bouts. He looks super relaxed in the ring, controls distance well and is one of the very few Korean fighters who could be described as being very technical. He's not very busy, but he is very accurate, very efficient and very clean punching. He is, however, also a bit of a slow starter, and we wonder whether he has the gas tank to go 10 rounds.
What to expect?
We expect to see Suh set a Suh like pace from the opening round, and force Myung to fight his fight. If you stand off Myung he will outbox most fighters at this level, he's simply too good. But against a little terrier like Suh, who marches forward, throws a lot and dictates the tempo so well, we think Myung will be the man forced to change his style. Early on Myung may be able to fight his fight, though given he's already looked like a slow starter we wouldn't back that idea too strongly, but as the rounds pass Suh will get more and more success and make this into a thriller. This will end up being an incredible fight by the end.
The bad news?
The live stream for the bout is on SPOTV, which isn't easy to get access to. Thankfully however BoxingM and SPOTV do tend to make things widely available on youtube in the weeks following tjhe contest. So keep your eyes out for this one!
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.