Way back in March 2019 we had a genuinely excellent card from Shanghai, with several really good bouts. Earlier in the series we spoke about the sensational bout between Baishanbo Nasiyiwula and Yusuke Konno and today we look at another stellar bout on that card, which again saw China and Japan clash. Like that clash this was a nail biting bout, but yet a very different one, featuring a prospect taking on a fighter who would end the year in a world title fight.
Wulan Tuolehazi (10-3-1, 5) vs Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4)
Chinese fighter Wulan Tuolehazi is someone we have mentioned before in this series, for his fun bout with Ardin Diale, and is best known for his 2019 bout with Kosei Tanaka. At world level Tuolehazi was exposed, big time, by Tanaka, but on the regional level he was very much in the mix and had scored notable wins in 2018 over Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Jayr Raquinel. Although not the quickest, or the most powerful, Tuolehazi is well regarded as an awkward, rangy boxer, with a good boxing brain, and enough power to get respect of opponents. He's probably not going to be winning a world title, but we expect to see him banging on the door of another title fight in the years to come.
Japanese prospect Ryota Yamauchi has looked sensational through his first 4 bouts. He was beginning to look like one of the countries rising prospects, and had already stopped the likes of Lester Abutan and Yota Hori in his first 4 bouts. He looked a bit crude and wild, but very strong, quick, powerful and big. He had shown touches of real brilliance and it was clear that Kadoebi, his promoter, thought very highly of him, highly enough to put him in this bout this early. The bout wasn't just a step up in terms of competition, but also his first international bout and his first 12 rounder. Given that prior to this bout Yamauchi had fought just 14 total rounds prior to this contest it was clearly a big risk for the 24 year old hopeful.
The bout started quickly with Yamauchi looking to set the tempo behind his jab, and it seemed like his speed and busy jab was going to be a key factor in the fight. He was forcing Tuolehazi back with it and using it to set up his right hand. Tuolehazi would begin to respond may way through the round and then we saw the two men mixing up shots in a brilliant back and forth. The action was technical, but incredibly high tempo and absolutely thrilling throughout the first 3 minutes.
We typically see feeling out rounds, but that wasn't the case here, and they would never really look backwards, with the action continuing to be hot, and the drama increasing round by round.
In round 3 we saw the first knockdown of the fight, and a major momentum shift as Tuolehazi's right hand dropped Yamauchi, putting the Japanese fighter down for the first time in his career. Even before the knockdown Tuolehazi seemingly found something that he could land, regularly, on the young, and in fact Yamauchi seemed to have no answer or defense to the shot, that regularly from the Chinese fighter.
Yamauchi would later drop the local, and would go on to turn the fight from from boxing into a brawl, as he mixed up his tactics and tried to keep the bout out of the hands of the judges.
The bout, which had started with a brilliant opening round, remained a fantastic bout, right upto the end. It was action packed, dramatic, saw both men needing to show heart, and swung back and forth. If you missed this first time around, sit back and enjoy one of the real hidden gems of 2019.
Due to the Flyweight division being in a state of change in 2018, what may go down as one of the division's most transitional years in living memory, it's been awkward in really recognising the divisional contenders. It seems like so many of the highest ranked fighters haven't had the management or mentality to fight fellow contenders and prove they deserve a shot.
Thankfully the division has delivered in terms of prospects, with a host of youngsters making their charge and looking to climb through the rankings.
If you missed out look at the champions in the division you can catch up here The state of the Division - Flyweight - The Champions whilst out look at the contenders is here The state of the Division - Flyweight - The Contenders
Junto Nakatani (17-0, 12)
Japanese 20 year old boxer-puncher Junto Nakatani might have 17 bouts to his name and not yet have had a world title fight but the youngster has already won the All Japan Rookie of the Year, the Japanese title and will fight for the main Japanese title in the new year, battling Naoki Mochizuki in February for the vacant title. He's been one to watch for a few years now and wins against the likes of Masamichi Yabuki, Mario Andrade, Seigo Yuri Akui and Dexter Alimento have all put him in a place where a world title fight looks inevitable. The biggest question when it comes to Nakatani is "when" and not "if" he'll fight at the very top level in the division.
Ryota Yamauchi (4-0, 4)
Top Japanese prospects are well known for being fast tracked and so far Ryota Yamauchi looks like he is on the fact track, having already beaten two notable names in just 4 bouts. The talented 23 year old has already stopped Lester Abutan and Yota Hori and looks like a very talented boxer puncher. Despite the obvious talent and belief of his team it does seem like we'll be seeing him held back just a touch, and wouldn't be surprised if he only competes for his first title towards the end of 2019. Over the coming years however he will likely find himself well and truly in the mix at world level.
Mekhdi Abdurashedov (5-0, 2)
The Russian boxing scene is set to have a new wave of great talent, following the old guard of fighters like Denis Lebedev and Alexander Povetkin. One of the new wave is the unbeaten Mekhdi Abdurashedov, who turns 20 before the end of the year. At such a young age it's hard to know just how good he really is, but he looked like a sensation when he stopped Prince Andrew Laurio in 3 rounds and has also impressed in wins over Iwan Zoda and Hugo Hernandez Aguilar. It might be a long wait to see Abdurashedov fighting for a world title, but after just 5 fights he already looks like he will, eventually, end up fighting at world level.
Kento Hatanaka (7-0, 7)
WBC Youth World champion Kento Hatanaka is a second generation fighter, following in the footsteps of his father Kiyoshi Hatanaka, a world champion back in the 1990's. Kento is aged 20 and already appears to have the tools needed to go a long way, with vicious power, great speed, exciting combination punching and a real desire to make an impression. There is still a lot of improving for Hatanaka to do before he moves onto senior titles, but with the tools he has been blessed with, as well as the training he'll get along side current WBO world champion Kosei Tanaka there is real potential for Hatanaka to not only improve but to go on and become a world champion of the future.
Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6)
Filipino teenager Dave Apolinario doesn't turn 20 until January 2019 but is already getting rave reviews in the Philippines due to his combination of skills, power and ring craft. The youngster hasn't really fought anyone of real note yet, but has looked incredible at the early stages of his career and already shown an ability to go 8 rounds, as well as the ability to blow opponents away early on. He's perhaps a few years away from reaching his physical prime, but when he develops his man strength he will become a very hard man to beat. At the moment we expect to see Apolinario being given baby steps, but that's certainly not a problem.
Alphoe Dagayloan (11-2-5-1, 5)
We see quite a lot of Filipino's with really misleading records, and Alphoe Dagayloan is another in that mould. The Southpaw has a less than stellar record but a lot of that has to do with baffling 4-2-4-1 start to his professional career. He is now riding a 5 fight winning run and has scored notable wins over Madiyar Zhanuzak and Rongguo Wu in his last 2 bouts. He can be our boxed, but he's a nightmare as he comes forward, throws a lot of hard shots and breaks opponents down. His record may put some off believing him to be a prospect but we've been impressed and suspect he could go on to challenge for a world title in the future, if he continues his current run of form.
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.