It's fair to say that much of the Western world is looking forward to waking up on December 25th an unwrapping their gifts as we have Christmas celebrations and a day to look forward in a year that has brought so much frustration, sadness and anger. Thankfully for fight fans right around the world we'll be getting a second day of gifts as A-Sign Boxing give us a sensational show on December 26th, a day dubbed "boxing day" in some parts of the world. For this week's one to watch we're picking a bout from that December 26th show, and it's one that should be a brilliant technical war, pitting a former world champion against a current OPBF champion.
The One to Watch?
Masayuki Ito (26-2-1, 14) vs Hironori Mishiro (9-0-1, 3)
December 26th 2020 (Saturday)
On paper this is a truly fantastic match up, pitting two talented fighters against each other, both desperate for a win in what looks like the best non-title bout from the post-Christmas run. One man is a former world champion looking to bounce back from his title loss, and very frustrating 2020, whilst the other is an Oriental champion looking to claim a major scalp and move to within touching distance of a world title fight. Together they should make for a very, very high level match up and a very interesting mix of styles.
Of the two men it's Masayuki Ito who will be the more well known. The former WBO Super Featherweight champion made his biggest mark on the boxing world in July 2018, when he upset Christopher Diaz in the US to claim the previously vacant title. He would go on to make a single successful defense, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov, before losing the belt in an underwhelming performance against Jamel Herring. Since then he has fought just once, taking a win over Ruben Manakane, and had a number of issues, including surgery earlier this year.
In the ring Ito is a very capable fighter. Early in his career he was a good technical boxer, but as he developed physically he became more of a boxer-puncher and went from 15-0-1 (6) to 26-2-1 (8), scoring stoppages in 8 of his last 11 wins. There is a decent boxer inside him, but now a days he has been relying a lot more on his right hand than he used to. It has made him more fun to watch, but has also lead to a number of bad habits. Regardless, he's a very capable boxer, though does struggle with southpaws and can be made to look basic by fighters who move and neutralise his right hand. Despite being somewhat basic he has crafted a very good record for himself with wins against the likes of Diaz, Chuprakov, Takuya Watanabe, Ernie Sanchez, Masao Nakamura, Taiki Minamoto and Masaru Sueyoshi.
In the other corner will be the unbeaten Hironori Mishiro, a 26 year old who has been on the fast track since turning professional in 2017. After 3 rather low key bouts he began to take on, and beat, very good fighters like Shuma Nakazato and Shuya Masaki. In 2018, just 15 months after his debut, he became the OPBF champion outpointing Carlo Magali in a brilliant 12 bout before fighting to a draw with Masaru Sueyoshi, in an OPBF/JBC title unification bout. Since then he has recorded 3 more defenses of his Oriental title, beating Takuya Watanabe, Ryo Takenaka and most recently Yoshimitsu Kimura,
Although not well known in the west Mishiro has shown an ability to box and fight. He lacks power, but makes up for that in his skills, movement, boxing IQ and now how in the ring. When he needs to dig his toes in he can do just that, as we saw against Kimura, Sueyoshi and Magali, and we've also seen him look like an excellent boxer, with a quick jab, solid movement and a sharp right hand. Sadly his lack of power is 1 of 2 issues we have with him, the others being question marks about his chin and durability, as we have seen him hurt before, and his killer instinct. But in terms of skills he is a very, very good fighter.
What to expect?
Given that both men have been out of the ring for over a year we expect a very tense and tight start to the bout. Both men are talented, but will be rusty, and will be wary of taking a risk too earlier, especially Ito given his surgery earlier this year. Thankfully though we do expect the fight to warm up nicely in the middle rounds and by round 4 or 5 we expect this to be a very good, chess match.
We're expecting the fluid jab and movement of Mishiro to give Ito problems in the middle rounds, and make it hard for the former world champion to land his heavier shots, and essentially become rather frustrated with the movement of Mishiro when the two men are at range. He'll then need to change tactics, and follow the game plan that Kimura used to good effect against Mishiro, bullying. In the late part of the fight expect Ito to get up close, out muscle and out hustle Mishiro, reeling back the rounds that he lost in the middle portion of the fight, maybe even stunning or dropping Mishiro.
After 10 rounds we do not expect there to be much between the two men in a very close bout.
The bad news?
The real bad news here is one that will be a problem to Western fans specifically and that's the timing of this bout. The bout is part of an earlier than normal Japanese card, and to watch it Americans on the East coast will have to stay up after mid-night, whilst Europeans will need to get up very early on December 26th to see the bout live. It should be a great bout, but the day after Christmas might be one where fight fans from Europe and Africa could be nursing a sore head following a much needed Christmas celebration.
For this weeks one to watch we're actually going to cover a bout that will take place this coming Sunday, but won't be shown live until a week later. Given the Christmas period however that might actually work out to be a good thing for the bout, meaning we can all rest watch it after stuffing our faces a few days earlier. The bout in question is an East Japan Rookie of the Year bout, and features someone we are very very high on going up against what should be his toughest test to date.
The One to Watch?
Kosuke Tomioka (4-0, 3) vs Shunpei Kubo (5-1-1, 3)
December 20th (Sunday)
Rookie of the Year action is always worth of attention, but this bout in particular promises a lot, with two young talented punchers both looking to do more than just win, both will be looking to make a statement. In one corner is one of biggest favourites to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year whilst the other corner will house a 23 year old with a point to prove and a chance to make a name for himself on the Japanese domestic scene.
The 18 year old Kosuke Tomioka is regarded by many in Japan as one of the best teenagers in the sport. He's a slippery, skilled southpaw with under-rated power, a confident and cocky air to him and a very fan friendly approach to the ring. His made his professional debut in July 2019, following a solid amateur career, and since then has looked nigh on untouchable. He has blown out opponents early, stopping Shinobu Wakagi and Yota Sato inside a round, shown he can go deeper in bouts when he needs to, stopping Asato Mori in the final second of a 4 rounder, and go the distance against an awkward and negative opponent, which he did against Shota Hara.
We've yet to see Tomioka in any real trouble at any point so far. He has been too quick, too sharp, too good and too heavy handed for any of his first 4 opponents. Sadly this has mean he's not really answered any key questions, such as how he takes a shot, what he's like under intense and prolonged pressure, and how he enjoys an opponent being able to take his power, or match him for speed. Sadly we don't think we'll see him answer those questions for a very long time, just due to how good he is, however they are things we do need to see him prove before getting too excited.
Shunpei Kubo is 23 years old and, like Tomioka, made his debut last year. He began his career with 3 straight wins before being stopped in 4 rounds by Rui Ikari. That could have caused his career to his the skids, but just 4 months later he was back in the ring and beat Shota Hara to get back to winning ways. He then picked up another win this past September, in the Rookie of the Year to progress to East Japan semi-final, where he fought to a draw with Aito Abe. Despite the draw he qualified for the East Japan final due to the rules regarding draws. That draw has earned this shot at Tomioka, and a potential place in the All Japan final next year.
Despite not being as well known as Tomioka there is actually a lot of footage of Kubo out there and he's a really exciting fighter to watch. He has a stiff jab, that looks a good weapon, but is more at home throwing heavy leather, notably his solid left hook and right cross. He looks very relaxed in the ring, and very confident, with a lot of self belief and trust in his power. Sadly however he is very open and when he lets his hands go does over-commit, a lot. So far he's been able to get away with it, with opponents not punishing him, but that day will come if he doesn't tighten up. He puts a lot into what he does, and he does seem like the sort of fighter who is going to struggle with a smart boxer-mover, but thankfully for him there isn't many of those around at this level.
What to expect?
We expect to see Kubo looking to make a fast start, pressing forward, letting his shots go. Sadly for him we do see him flailing at the air a lot, as he tries to pin down Tomioka, but fails to connect with any regularity on the faster, sharper, smarter southpaw. The misses from Kubo will take the gas out of his tires, but he will always look dangerous and if he can connect Tomioka could be in trouble. The left hook of Kubo's will be his big weapon against his southpaw foe.
Whilst Kubo is out there swinging and missing we see Tomioka getting a read on his man, using his legs, moving around Kubo whilst landing single shot counters. Eventually hurting a tired Kubo and then going in for the finish in round 3 or 4. He will, however, need to be cautious as one shot from Kubo might be enough to begin the unravelling process.
We do see this being entertaining, and we do expect to see Tomioka have to work for a victory, but we do see Tomioka, fighting off the pressure and taking a late stoppage victory here.
The bad news?
The only bad news here is that the bout will not be broadcast live. Instead it will be shown on G+ on tape delay. Thankfully though that's not actually too bad, and it'll be shown about 7 days after taking place, with a broadcast set for December 27th.
As we head towards Christmas we have a few interesting shows left, including one on December 14th from Kadoebi. For us that card is one with several intriguing match ups and features a bout we want to highlight in this series. Especially given that the show will be made available to watch on Boxing Raise. The bout isn't one that we suspect will be a FOTY contender, but it is a contest that should be genuinely fascinating to see unfold, and features a man who has thrice fought in the US.
The One to Watch?
Hiroki Okada (19-2, 13) vs Izuki Tomioka (7-3-1, 2)
December 14th (Monday)
Not every bout we talk about in this series will be promising fireworks and excitement, and this one is certainly more focused in intrigue rather than excitement. This match up is a really compelling one between a former national and regional champion, looking to get his career back on track following successive loses, and a rising youngster looking to score his biggest win so far, and secure another big fight in the new year.
The 31 year year old Hiroki Okada is the more well known of the two fighters, but very much the man who is now fighting for his career. Okada began his career 19-0, he had won the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific titles and even made a successful US debut, beating Cristian Rafael Coria in 2018. And then things fell apart and he suffered back to back KO losses to Raymundo Beltran and Javier Molina, as his world title ambitions fell apart. Now Okada is set to fight for the first time since his two KO losses in 2019.
During his successful run Okada was a solid boxer-puncher, with good ring IQ, decent timing and counter puncher and solid power. He always seemed to lack that extra gear however, and often seemed to fight at quite a low tempo. He liked fights to be slow, controlled, and fought at a comfortable pace. In his losses however, and in a number of other bouts, we've seen him really struggle with a high tempo bout and with quick, sharp fighters. Which could be an issue here. Whilst he is flawed he will also be very wary that another loss he could spell the end of career. A loss to Beltran and Molina are one thing, but a loss on the domestic scene would be much, much harder to come back from.
It can be easy to write off a fighter with a 7-3-1 (2) record, like the 23 year old Izuki Tomioka, however records really aren't always what they seem and in Japan for instance a 7-3-1 type record can mean that the fighter isn't particularly good, or has been matched incredibly hard. Tomioka falls into that second category, his competition has been insane, and he's hard more than his share of success as well. In his short career he has run Masayoshi Nakatani incredibly close, losing by 11th round TKO in a bout that he was very much in, lost a debatable one against Shuya Masaski and was leading Shuichiro Yoshino after 8 rounds. He is perhaps the best 7-3-1 fighter on the planet today and, with a little bit of luck, could well have won titles and have a very different standing in the sport.
What makes Tomioka such a good fighter isn't just the fact he has been a real test for Nakatani, Sasaki and Yoshino, but also his skill set, his size and the tools he has at his arsenal. He's not a puncher or a brawler but instead he's a pretty pure boxer, one of the best in Japan, with an incredible reach and a frame made for boxing. He's tall, and rangy and has a sensational jab, in fact his jab neutralised that of Masayoshi Nakatani when the two men fought. He's quick, he's sharp, he maintains range, he lands and gets away. He is a brilliant boxer. Sadly he is lacking in physical strength and power, his stamina is questionable and he has been stopped in 2 of his 3 losses. But in a pure boxing bout he has the tools to be a nightmare on the Japanese and Oriental scenes. Notably this bout will see him testing the watter at 140lbs, but we really don't see that being an issue for him, he's a big kid, and he's still physically maturing.
What to expect?
We expect Okada to look determined, and the stronger, more powerful man. The one who will be physical when he needs to be. Sadly however we also see him being a man who will be questioning himself and will be real low on confidence. He'll know that another loss and it leaves him in an awful place.
We suspect that early on Okada will be more aggressive than we've seen from him in the past. He'll look to force his will and physicality on Tomioka. On paper it's a good gameplan, and one that really targets a weakness of Tomioka.
Sadly however we're not sure if it's actually going to be a viable tactic here for Okada, who is much slower, clumsier and doesn't have the crisp jab that Tomioka has. He has the heavier shots, but will need to be in range to deliver them against a taller, faster, sharper fighter. Whilst Okada will be trying to hurry and bully Tomioka the younger man will be staying at ranging, jabbing and moving, scoring points, and racking up the rounds.
Over 12, or even 10, rounds Okada may have stood a chance in breaking down Tomioka in the later stages. Over 8 rounds however it's hard to imagine Okada taking enough out of Tomioka's tank to close the show. With that in mind we expect a Tomioka decision win, in a bout that might get messy late on.
The bad news?
For those anticipating a war this isn't going to be that. This is very much a bout where the technical skills of both will be on show and one where Tomioka's speed, size, and jab will be the difference maker. Thankfully however the show will have wars on it, and Matcha Nakagawa Vs Ryo Suwa, Mikio Sakai Vs Toshihiro Kai and Ryoji Fukunaga Vs Kenta Nakagawa should be able to bring the fireworks to the event.
For this weeks one to watch we focus on a bout from the US as a Japanese fighter travels Stateside to take on a talented and touted Puerto Rican fighter in an interesting fight set to be shown on a Top Rank card. The bout isn't a massive one, but it is very much a must win for both men, if they are going to secure themselves a world title bout in the talented laden Lightweight division.
The One to Watch?
Masayoshi Nakatani (18-1, 12) Vs Felix Verdejo (27-1, 17)
December 12th (Saturday)
A former OPBF Lightweight champion looks to build on an impressive performance in a loss 17 months ago as he takes on one of the most highly regarded Puerto Rican hopefuls out there. If both men are 100%, or close to it, this will be a very interesting contest between two men who will likely see a win as their chance to set up a world title fight in the new year. On paper it's maybe not an A* bout, but it's certainly a solid B level match up between world level contenders.
Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani is a 31 year old who was making a name on the amateur scene before turning professional in 2011. After turning professional he was moved quickly and in his 7th bout he won the OPBF Lightweight title with a decision victory over Yoshitaka Kato. He would defend that title 11 times before making his international debut and take on the feared Teofimo Lopez in the US, giving Lopez his toughest bout to date. Although Nakatani lost to Lopez his performance drew positive reviews, with many expecting big things of the Japanese fighter.
Sadly following that loss Nakatani announced his retirement. Only to then un-retire for this bout.
In the ring Nakatani is a tall, awkward fighter, with incredibly long arms, a very solid jab, good straight punches and under-rated body work, as shown in his excellent early career win against Shuhei Tsuchiya. Although not a 1-punch KO artist he's a solid puncher and certainly has enough pop in his shots to get respect. He's a well schooled fighter though he's certainly not the quickest, sharpest, or most agile, and a speedy fighter can give him trouble, as we saw when Izuki Tomioka gave him fits.
Felix Verdejo is a 27 year old Puerto Rican who many expected to be the successor to Miguel Cotto as the next big thing in Puerto Rican boxing. He was an amateur standout, winning over 100 amateur bouts and reaching the quarter finals of the 2012 Olympics, where he lost to Vasyl Lomachenko. Soon after the Olympics he turned professional and it was assumed Top Rank would guide the youngster, who was just 19 when he debuted, to superstardom. Things seemed to be going perfect for Verdejo early on and he reached 22-0 (15) with no problems at all, whilst showing a star winning smile, an exciting and aggressive style and scarcely losing more than a round a fight. Then things crashed, literally, in 2016 as Verdejo was involved in a bike accident. Although he fought in early 2017 the year was pretty much a write off, and then in 2018 things came off the rails when he was stopped in a major upset.
Thankfully for Verdejo things have gotten back on track and he has won 4 in a row, including an eye catching win against the over-matched Will Madera back in July, and looks to be back to the point where is, once again, seen as a star in the making.
Verdejo is a very talented fighter, with a lot of promise, a good ring mind, a lot of amateur experience and good know how. He's not the biggest, strongest or most physically imposing, but he's quick, sharp and when he has a point to prove he fights like a man who is genuine world class. Sadly though he has been inconsistent, and has struggled to impose himself against his better opponents. It's also worth noting that his loss, to Antonio Lozada Torres, came to a man with similar proportions to Nakatani.
What to expect?
Whilst it's easy to look at the Lozada result and query how Verdejo will fare with Nakatani we need to begin this by suggesting that that result really isn't too relevant here. Nakatani is very much boxer, Lozada, despite being tall, is a more of a crude pressure fighter, applying pressure behind his jab and setting a high work rate. That's not to state that we ignore that result all together, as the length and straight shots of Lozada did give Verdejo fits, but Nakatani is a very different type of fighter to the Mexican giant.
We suspect Nakatani will have watched that bout though, and will be looking to have similar success with his jab to what Lozada had, and will also be looking to dig in body shots, another thing Lozada had success with. Sadly for Nakatani though we do wonder whether he has the intensity in him to do what Lozada did.
Given that result we expect to see Verdejo fighting cautiously. Although he's the smaller man he is a speedy fighter and if he uses his footwork well and his hand speed he could end up using a game plan similar to the one Tomioka used against Nakatani. Landing single shots and getting out of dodge. It could make for a boring fight, but he has got the speed for it. Whether he has the temperament is different question. One thing that is clear is that he can't be over-negative, as we've seen from him at times, if he is, and if he doesn't show enough offensively, he will be taking Nakatani's jab at range over, and over.
We expect Verdejo to be really fired up here, and looking to make a statement to Top Rank that deserves a shot at Teofimo Lopez. If he's on point we'll see him taking a decision over Nakatani, taking a step towards a world title fight. But he needs to be on point. We suspect he'll learn quickly that Nakatani is no joke, will take some early shots, then decide to box and move, picking off the Japanese fighter to take a clear, but competitive, decision win.
The bad news?
There is a worry that Nakatani will not be the fighter he once was. As mentioned he did announce his retirement from professional boxing in 2019, following his loss to Teofimo Stevenson, and there is a real worry that they have simply made him an offer here too good to refuse. At 31 however he's not an old fighter and it might just be us being cynical and expecting the worse, rather than Nakatani just going for a decent pay day. Other than that we really can't see any bad news here, and the bout should be one to look forward to. If both men are up for it, we should get a really intriguing bout.
We continue the 2020 love in with Thailand this week as we return to the Workpoint Studio for this week's One to Watch, and it's a really intriguing one, matching a once beaten prospect against a former world champion, who always brings the head. The prospect is looking to notch a third notable win in 16 months whilst the former world champion is someone who always makes for fun and entertaining bouts, win or lose.
The One to Watch?
Phongsaphon Panyakum (10-1, 5) vs Kompayak Porpramook (60-10, 41)
December 5th (Saturday)
We love seeing prospects step up and here we have a 20 year old hopeful stepping up to face someone who has previously held a world title. The youngster appears to be on his way through the ranks, has an exciting style and despite being flawed is very much a man who seems to know his strengths, and fights to them. The veteran, is one of the most aggressive, exciting fighters in Thailand, who always comes to win and despite having 10 losses never enters the ring for just a pay day. He always comes to fight. Given the styles of the two men this should be something of a thrilling war
Once beaten 20 year old Phongsaphon Panyakum isn't a name we expect many fans to be aware of. That's despite the fact he debuted in June 2017, against Kai Ishizawa, won a Work Point tournament, and holds two wins over former world title challengers. If you've seen him you'll know that he's a big, strong, aggressive, exciting, and relatively open fighter. He comes forward, he lets shots go and even his supposedly easy bouts end up being fun and exciting.
Despite being fun Phongsaphon is very much a work in prospect. He depends, a lot, on his size, toughness, strength and physical power. That power has seen him stopped 3 of his last 4, but his open defense and aggressive tactics have seen him eat a fair bit of leather from poor opposition. We suspect that, at least partly, is due to his belief in his chin, and his confidence, but he may well need to tidy up here against his most testing opponent to date.
Aged 38 Kompayak is a veteran of the ring and has one of the most crowd pleasing styles out there, based around all out pressure and aggression. During his long career he has faced Hussein Hussein, Adrian Hernandez, Jonathan Taconing, Koki Eto, Jing Xiang and Wenfeng Ge. In recent years he has been picking up a lot of losses, losing 5 of his last 6, but he has never been an easy man to beat and he always comes forward and comes in great shape with a lot of hunger and desire. Technically he's not the quickest, sharpest and more skilled, but he is among the most aggressive and exciting.
Given his aggression and style he has taken punishment through his career, though has surprisingly only been stopped 4 times during his long, 20 year, career. He's not just a come forward pressure fighter, but he's also a really tough guy and as a result he will ask serious questions of younger, less experienced opponents.
What to expect?
At his very best Kompayak was undeniable world class. His world title win over Adrian Hernandez was an amazing war that saw Kompayak show determination, power, work-rate, toughness and real will to win. Sadly however that was more than 9 years ago, and he has been in some real wars since then. There's still a lot of heart here, but at 38 he's not the same fighter he once was.
Saying that however Phongsaphon is taking a step up here, and will find an opponent in front of him who will be looking to march him down, break him up and press, press, press. The youngster will be given a real mental test here and it's going to be very interesting to see how he responds to the pressure that gets sent his way. Without a doubt Phongsaphon will be the bigger, faster, stronger man, but can he cope with the pressure and does he have the power to get Kopmpayak's respect?
We suspect the youngster will win here. We feel his natural size and youth will be the difference. But oh boy will he need to work for this win. It will not be easy. It'll be a fun tear up, with Kompayak pressing and Phongsaphon forced to respond with the two trading blows continually through the bout. This is certainly one to watch for those who like fun brawls!
The bad news?
It's worth noting that originally Phongsaphon was supposed to face Sarawut Thawornkham (21-3, 16), though he was injured in November and had to be replaced by Kompayak. This is a shame in some ways, as Sarawut would have been a more interesting test, however Kompayak is no push over and will be there to win.
For those tuning in, this bout will be shown for free, as part of WP Boxing, and we suspect it will be something very intriguing and pretty exciting, for as long as it lasts!
It's fair to say that recent DAZN shows have been under-whelming, to say the least, and that it's hard to get excited about some of the bouts they have on the docket for the end of the year. We understand the service is good for boxing on paper, but it needs to put on good bouts, and give boxing fans a reason to buy it. Thankfully it does that this week with our One to Watch. It's a bout expect will be technical, tactical, and a coming out party of sorts, for a very talented, and often over-looked, Kazakh hopeful.
The One to Watch?
Daniyar Yeleussinov (9-0, 5) vs Julius Indongo (23-2, 12)
November 27th (Friday)
This bout will see an Olympic champion take their first real step up to world class as they take on a former unified world champion in a major test. A win for the prospect will put on the verge of a world title fight, and legitimise them as a world class professional. It's a test that he needs and a chance to show what he can do against a frustrating, talented, awkward opponent. For all intents and purposes this is an acid test for a very talented and well regarded prospect.
Unbeaten 29 year old Kazakh Daniyar Yeleussinov was one of the standout fighters at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Prior to the Olmypics he had been one of the top amateurs in the world for years and had won pretty much everything there was to win in the unpaids ranks. He had taken gold at World Championships, Asian Games and the Olympics. When he turned professional there was big expectations on his shoulders to go a long way. Sadly however when he turned professional he didn't initially "click". He had incredibly skills, but something was missing. He seemed to lack that professional style early on, but recently he has shown that spite, and now he looks like a fighter who has "IT".
Namibian fighter Julius Indongo is a 37 year old who really was an unknown for much of his career. He'd been a capable amateur, and gone to the 2008 Olympics, but no one outside of Namibia really knew much about him, or followed him during the early portion of his career. In 2014 he claimed a region WBO belt, which helped him get a WBO ranking, but he was still tucked away from the vast majority of boxing fans, picking up wins in his homeland. That was until December 2016, by which point he was 20-0, when he travelled to Russia, as a major under-dog against IBF Light Welterweight world champion Eduard Troyanovsky. The then 33 year old Indongo was supposed to lose, but look like a capable opponent with his unbeaten record. He did what no one expected and stopped the Russian inside a round. He then unified the IBF title with the WBA title, beating Ricky Burns, before losing by stoppage to Terence Crawford and Regis Prograis, as he career looked to wind down. In the ring he's a long, awkward, frustrating fighter, with unexpected power, but his two losses have shown he lacks durability, and at 37 we really do wonder what ambition he has left.
What to expect?
Had this been the Indongo of a few years ago, before his losses, we think this would be an incredibly interesting and tough bout to call. He may never have been the most attractive fighter but in his two big wins the man from Namibia proved there was real talented there, and a genuine awkwardness. Now however he looks about done, and is moving up to Welterweight for this bout. At 37 we really do question what he has in the tank, and what he'll be bringing to the table.
It's not Indongo that we're expecting things from however, instead we are expecting to see Yeleussinov shine here. We expect to see that Kazakh take his chance, grab it with both hands and dominate Indongo. We expect the Kazakh to take may 2 rounds to feel his way into the bout, something expected given he's been out of the ring since December 2019, and then go to town, unleashing his power and speed on the veteran.
If this goes beyond 5 rounds Yeleussinov will feel disappointed. He'll go into this bout knowing he needs to do a number on Indongo, and that's exactly what we expect. An early, dominant, destructive, KO for the Kazakh Thunder.
The bad news?
Sadly for fans we do expect this to be a relative wash, and little more than a showcase. DAZN do put on too many show cases for our liking and this is another in a long line of them, as they try to create stars to market their service on in the future. In fair the entire card looks very much like it will be one sided. Still, we suspect this will be a break out opportunity for an often over-looked Welterweight hopeful
For this week we have a "One to watch Extra", with a second one to watch, and like the Katsunari Takayama Vs Reiya Konishi bout, this is one we are incredibly excited about, and expect fire works. We expect skills, power shots, and excitement here in a very, very good looking 8 round bout from Hyogo.
The One to Watch?
Sho Ishida (28-2, 15) vs Toshiya Ishii (3-0, 2)
November 23rd (Monday)
We love seeing talented prospects stepping up early and that's exactly what we are seeing here, with a talented 19 year old stepping up, in just his 4th professional bout, to take on a former world title challenger. Not only that but the former world title challenger desperately needs to look good here, after a set back in a world title eliminator last time out. On paper this might look like a mismatch, but in reality this is a very, very interesting match up.
Of the two men involved in this one it's the 29 year old Sho Ishida who is the more well known fighter. He's been in 30 previous professional bouts since making his debut in 2009, and doing so as one of the members of the then vibrant Ioka Gym. He was tipped as a future world champion very early in his career and seemed to tick a lot of boxes as a future star. He was talented, he was tall, rangy, a physical freak at 115lbs, and had a very good team around him. He was in the same gym as Kazuto Ioka, Ryo Miyazaki and Masayoshi Nakatani. He had also shown what he could do in good wins early in his career against the likes of Petchbarngborn Kokietgym, Yohei Tobe Taiki Eto, Hayato Kimura and Ryuichi Funai.
Sadly Ishida has never managed to win above regional level. He first came up short in a WBA world title bout in the UK, against Kal Yafai, and then lost again last year against Israel Gonzalez in a world title bout. Between those two losses he dipped his toes at Bantamweight, and struggled to really shine against the likes of Warlito Parrenas and Ikuro Sadatsune, in what was a very debated win. Sadly it appears that Bantamweight isn't a weight suited for him, but will be the weight for this bout.
Whilst Ishida is relatively well know Toshiya Ishii really isn't, but he should be. He turned professional last year, at the age of 18, and did so after a solid amateur career. As a professional been fast tracked, beating Rookie of the Year winner Fumiya Fuse, who was then 8-0, in just his second bout and then beating the then 8-1 Haruki Ishikawa for the Japanese Youth Bantamweight title in just his third bout. That bout with Ishikawa was a sensational bout that saw Ishii answering a lot of questions in a bout that saw him being dropped, hurt and showing that he can fight, punch, brawl and box. That was the sort of performance where both men came out with enhanced reputations and proved that Ishii was a legit prospect.
Although we've been really impressed by Ishii he is a 19 year old novice with just 11 professional rounds to his name and he is a short fighter, for a Bantamweight, who has been dropped and hurt. He is a talent, but this is a major step up for him, and it will be really interesting to see how he copes with someone like Ishida, who will tower over him.
What to expect?
This is a tough one to really predict, and we can see route to victories for both men.
On one hand Ishida has the size, the experience, the body punching and the speed to be a nightmare for anyone below the world class fighters in the division. He might not be able to beat the top guys, but most guys will struggle with him, and most will struggle to force him to fight their fight. He is legitimately a very good fighter, and if he can fight to his strengths he can out box a guy like Ishii. On the other hand he has struggled at Bantamweight and hasn't been a fan of a physical fight. He can box, but can he fight?
On the other hand Ishii is such a professional novice that we really don't know if he has the tools to drag Ishida into a fight. If he can then there's a great chance that he will break down the more experienced man. However there's a good chance he'll get caught on the way in, taste Ishida's power, and decide that taking risks is not something he can do against the former world title challenger.
We suspect the bout will start slowly, with both men trying to use their jab, trying to feel the other out. The height difference of the two will force Ishii to put on the gas, and we suspect he will choose to take the risk, he will take a shot or two to get in, pressing and pushing Ishida around. When that happens we suspect Ishida will try to respond, and for the final few rounds we could end up with really compelling back and forth action.
We don't think either man has the power to take the other out, but we really are intrigued by whether Ishii can over-come the gulf in experience, or whether Ishida can keep it long, rack up rounds and take home the decision.
A really tough one to call the winner for.
The bad news?
Nothing bad to talk about here, thankfully. It will be shown on TV Osaka, online, and we suspect left online to watch on demand. It's a great bout. It's free. It's intriguing and it ticks all the boxes we want to see from a fight.
This coming Monday is an exciting day thanks to TV Osaka who will be showing a couple of small shows from Japan. It's from those that we pick our one to watch, and it has the potential to be something very exciting and very action packed. It's also going to be free thanks to TV Osaka who will be allowing fans to watch the bout live on their website, and have typically archived their bouts on YouTube!
The One to Watch?
Katsunari Takayama (31-8-0-1, 12) vs Reiya Konishi (17-2, 7)
November 23rd (Monday)
Every so often we get a bout between two men who, stylistically, should guarantee something very, very special and that's what we think we'll be getting here. Both of the men involved like to fight, like to let their hands go and like to dig their toes in. The bout also marks the ring return of one of our favourite little men, who will know that a loss here will almost certainly end their boxing career, which has been one of the most intriguing of any Japanese fighter in the 21st century.
In one corner we will have 37 year old veteran Katsunari Takayama, one of the good guys of Japanese boxing and one of the most fan friendly fighters the sport has had. He's really been a man who has been a trailblazer the sport for Japanese boxing and has always been in charge of his career, along with mentor Hiroaki Nakade. Takayama has previously handed in his JBC license to pursue the IBF and WBO titles, chasing the IBF around the world, then turned amateur to chase an Olympic place before coming back to the professional ranks after missing out on Olympic selection.
For fans who haven't seen Takayama we really need to say you've missed out on a legendary career. The Japanese warrior has won WBC, IBF and WBO world titles, and the WBA interim title, before they were being handed out like candy, and he has been in sensational wars with the likes of Yutaka Niida, Roman Gonzalez, Mario Rodriguez and, of course, his 2014 epic with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. Sadly however he's now 37 and hasn't fought as a professional in over 4 years, so there are real worries about what he has left in the tank.
Unlike Takayama we've never seen Reiya Konishi win a world title, but he has had two shots at world honours, coming up short in a close bout against Carlos Canizales and losing a pretty clear one to Felix Alvarado. Despite not yet winning a world title bout we have seen Konishi involved in some great bouts as his all action style is made for excitement. He's a come forward fighter who's strong, doesn't hit hard, but throws a lot of leather. He can be bullied, as Alvarado did, but he has shown no quit, and has become a cult favourite of sorts thanks to his toughness and tenacity. Sadly for him he is a slow starter, and it does take a few rounds for him to find his groove, and this could be a potential issue here.
At the age of 27 this is Konishi's big chance to bounce back from the loss to Alvarado and to plant his flag for another world title fight, potentially against a fellow Japanese fighter in 2021. A loss, however, would likely spell the end of any dreams he has to reach the top of the sport.
What to expect?
If these two men were in their primes we would have no problem in marking this down as a "potential FOTY candidate", sadly however there are a lot of questions over it, and it's only scheduled for 6 rounds. We expect a lot of action, a lot of excitement, but we don't expect it to be FOTY contender. Sadly.
We expect a fast start from Takayama. Whilst he has been away from professional boxing for 4 years he has been dabbling with amateur boxing, over the shorter distances, and we expect that will show here. He'll probably still look rusty, but will move around the ring, use his feet well, and rack up the first few rounds on his boxing skills. In rounds 3 and 4 however we expect to see Konishi getting closer, bulling in, and making things tough. We then expect Konishi to begin to take over by rounds 5 and 6.
We expect hoitly contested action, a lot of punches being thrown, and cuts. We almost expect to see Takayama's paper skin cut every time he fights, and we don't see this being any difference. The real question is "when will he be cut?" If the skin holds up for 4 rounds we see Takayama taking the razor thin decision, any earlier and we suspect Konishi takes home the win.
The bad news?
Obviously this is going to have a 37 year old, ring rusty Takayama, with damaged paper skin. It's not the Takayama of 2014, who went to war with Francisco Rodriguez Jr. There's also a very, very real chance that he will bust open early, especially with head clashes. We are, genuinely, looking forward to this, but there is a worry it could be a bloody, messy, bout with a very early, disappointing ending. Fingers crossed we avoid that!
This week for our one to watch we focus on a bout in England, as we see a talented Kazakh take a step up and go for his first professional title in a mouth watering match up for a minor title. For once this is actually a case of a minor title being used properly and a chance for a talented youngster to show why so many fans are excited about him. For those wanting to tune in it will be shown in IFL TV in much of the world and ESPN+ in the US.
The One to Watch?
Tursynbay Kulakhmet (1-0, 1) vs Macaulay McGowan (14-0-1, 3)
November 11th (Wednesday)
In one corner we have arguably the most exciting Kazakh prospect on the planet, and a man who is being tipped to be raced to the top in a fashion seen by very, very few others. In the opposite corner we have a man unbeaten in 15, who will not be wanting to be beaten by a professional novice. This is, to us, the type of bout that top prospects should be having, and the type of bout that fight fans should be very, very excited about!
The 26 year old Tursynbay Kulakhmet was one of the outstanding Kazakh amateurs of recent years and unlike many fighters who get molly coddled early in their career he has made it clear he wants to moved quickly, rapidly rising through the ranks. On his professional debut, in August, he looked like a star in the making, showing everything we could want to see from a young fighter and we're expecting more of that here. As early as the first round in to his debut it was clear he understood what professional boxing was about, and not only out boxed, out punched and out fought his more experienced professional but also entertained. He's very much fitting in the mould of current general of Central Asian and Eastern European fighters with the right mentality of the correct understanding of what being a professional boxer is.
Macaulay McGowan on the other hand is a 25 year old English fighter who has been a professional since 2014. His career has been a bit of a slow burn one so far, but he has developed a good amount of experience over the last 6 years and has answered plenty of questions whilst running up a 15 fight unbeaten run. Sadly he has never fought above British level, and his best wins, to date, are over the likes of Sullivan Mason and William Warburton. However this is his big chance to claim a WBC International title, get a big win, and win the backing of MTK Global. In fact a win here would legitimately change his career, and help him secure the fights he needs to make a name for himself, just days before his 26th birthday.
What to expect?
Whilst this is a chance for McGowan to make a name for himself we suspect it's not much of a chance. A win over over Kulakhmet would be massive for him, though it would also be one of the biggest boxing surprised of 2020.
What we expect to see here is for Kulakhmet to begin slowly, get a feel for McGowan before going through the gears, breaking the Englishman down, and using the opportunity to show case exactly what he can do. We could even end up seeing the 1-0 fighter play with his man, toying him to the point of mental defeat just as much as physical defeat.
It's perhaps unfair to write off the chance of McGowan but for him this is a massive step up in class and it's hard to see what he has to offer to really test Kulakhmet. The Englishman lacks the fire-power, size, strength or speed to get Kulakhmet's respect, and we suspect this will be a very, very dominant victory for the Kazakh, potentially in just 4 or 5 rounds.
The bad news?
Whilst this is very much one to watch, it's also expected to be a total mismatch, and little more than a show case for Kulakhmet, who will be looking to make a statement.
For this week's one to watch we're going to go over and focus on Thailand for a compelling match up that, in all honest, we didn't think we wanted, until we saw the two men in the ring essentially announcing the bout live on Work Point TV. From the moment they did that we have been massively excited about the contest and the compelling mash of styles.
The One to Watch?
Pungluang Sor Singyu (54-8, 36) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-4, 6)
November 7th (Saturday)
It's rare, at least in Thailand, to get two pretty well known domestic fighters in the ring against each other. Typically Thai shows are "big name against unknown" or "rising prospect against faded fighter" here however we have two past their best former world champions facing off in what looks like a match watering, well matched and truly intriguing match up. This isn't one we expect will be a war, but we are anticipating a very, very interesting contest.
Of the two men we would assume that the 40 year old Amnat Ruenroeng is the more well known fighter. The former IBF Flyweight champion is a truly compelling character who was once in prison due to drug offenses, before turning his life around, having success in amateurs and then in the professional ranks. At the age of 34 he won the IBF Flyweight title and defended it against some top fighters, such as Kazuto Ioka, McWilliams Arroyo, Zou Shiming and John Riel Casimer, before losing the belt in 2016. It was assumed that would be the end of him, but he later went to the Olympics, fought Tenshin Nasukawa in kick boxing, and has a boxing resurgence in 2019.
Now aged 40 it's fair to ask what Amnat has in the tank, though he showed he was very much a tricky master last time out, giving Srisaket Sor Rungvisai a real test in August and the awkward, frustrating Thai is certainly not shot, but is shop worn.
Despite being less well known Pungluang Sor Singyu is a 2-time WBO Bantamweight champion who has been a professional since 2001, and is still only 31. Some how. He first won the WBO Bantamweight title in 2012, beating the popular AJ Banal, but lost the belt just 5 months later, to Paulus Ambunda. He worked his way into a second world title shot, and was giving Tomoki Kameda fights before being taken out by the brilliant Japanese fighter. when Kameda vacated the title Pungluang had his second reign, beating Ryo Akaho before losing the bout in a great bout against Marlon Tapales.
In recent years Pungluang has toiled a little bit, going 2-4 following the loss to Tapales, but scored a notable upset earlier this year, against Campee Phayom, and that has opened the door for a fight like this, for him.
What to expect?
One thing we expect with Amnat bouts is that they can get ugly, and Pungluang isn't against making fights ugly himself, when he needs to. So there is a risk that this could end up being a mess. Thankfully however we expect that risk will be somewhat low, with the weight, Featherweight, being one that would favour Pungluang in an up close wrestling match.
Instead we expect to see Amnat trying to play the role of move-boxer, getting on the outside, jabbing, slipping, tiping Punluang. The younger man will be coming forward, looking to throw his own heavy, straight shots, trying to get inside and work away with hooks. Interestingly Amnat is probably the naturally longer, taller man, and he'll try to use that to his advantage early on. As the bout goes on however we expect his legs to slow, and for Pungluang to try and ground down the veteran.
In regards to outcome this is a very, very hard one toi predict, and we wouldn't be surprised by a close decision either way.
The bad news?
For once there isn't really any bad news. The bout is an interesting one, it'll be available for free on WP Boxing's YouTube and Facebook pages and, better yet, it won't clash with Dynamic Glove, as the Japanese show will be shown on Tape Delay and not live!
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.