The Minimumweight division is the focus of our first look at the divisions as we head in to the new year. Over the past day or so we have looked at the world champions, "The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Champions" and the leading contenders, The state of the Division - Minimumweights - The Contenders now we look at our final part of the division, the prospects, and other notable fighters.
Kai Ishizawa (5-0, 5)
Unbeaten Japanese 22 year old Kai Ishizawa has been a professional for about 18 months but already appears to be one to watch. He's a pretty basic pressure fighter, but his flaws make him a must watch fighter, with his attitude being to stop opponents no matter what. He can be out boxed, as we've seen in the past, but his power is thudding and consistent. Potentially a real danger man of the future.
Samuel Salva (16-0, 10)
Samuel Salva is another, from the many, Filipino fighters who is making their mark on the division. The 21 year old has done his stuff relatively quietly, with out making a lot of international buzz, but is rising through the ranks and will hopefully begin taking on international opponents in 2019. He's young, active, heavy handed and building up his experience, he just needs to share the ring with better opponents now.
Daiki Tomita (12-1, 4)
The once beaten Daiki Tomita made his debut in 2015 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year the following year. In 2017 he scored his biggest win to date, defeating Desierto Nagaike and proved his ability in a loss, losing in September 2018 to Tsuaba Koura, who made it into the Contenders section. He's only 21 but has shown plenty to be excited about and he has the potentially to take his loss and really build on the lessons Koura gave him
Yuga Inoue (7-1-1, 1)
Another once beaten Japanese youngster looking to be a big success is 19 year old Yuga Inoue, who isn't related to the Ohashi promoted Inoue clan. Yuga made his debut in 2016 and won the 2017 Rookie of the Year. His sole loss has come to the aforementioned Kai Ishizawa, and prior to being stopped he looked the better fighter. Young, skilled and promising, the one thing Inoue needs is a but more physical development.
ArAr Andales (8-0, 1)
Filipino teenager ArAr Andales has only just turned 19 but has already fought in a couple of 8 rounders and looks to be developing quite nicely. He has a lot of work to do before getting a major international bout, but by the time he steps up in class there is a chance he will develop his punching technique, power and physical strength.
Ginjiro Shigeoka (1-0, 1)
Another 19 year old prospect looking to make their mark at 105lbs is Ginjiro Shigeoka, who was a Japanese amateur stand out, and who looked sensational on debut this past September. He looks like something very special, with power, speed, skills and at only 19 he is already a physically imposing fighter. Possible the best prospect in Japan right now.
Leroy Estrada (16-3, 6)
Panamanian southpaw Leroy Estrada is a former world title challenger, who is regarded by some as a top contender. For us however he's more of a "wildcard" entry in the division. He was stopped this year by Wanheng Menayothin, and made to look like a boy against the champion, but is ranked highly due to a big win over Saul Juarez. We tend to see him as someone who isn't likely to be a major player in the division, despite the high regard that some hold him in.
Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart (10-0, 4)
Unbeaten Thai Satanmuanglek CP Freshmart is seen by some in Thailand as the future of the division, though his performances as a professional boxer suggest other wise. He's been matched mostly in soft matches as a professional, but was pushed all the way last time out by Marco John Rementizo and we suspect that performance tells us more than his other 9 bouts. He might be unbeaten but we don't see him as being good enough to carry the flag at the top of the division any time soon, if ever.
Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6)
Japanese champion Shin Ono is one of the division's elder statesmen, with his 36th birthday coming later this month. He's been a professional for close to 18 years and is a 2-time world title challenger. We don't expect him to win a world title, though he does have a place as a gate keeper and only very good fighters will beat him at the weight. It's worth noting that he defends the Japanese title in January, against Norihito Tanaka, and if successful he may get one more shot at a title. A loss to Tanaka would likely spell the end of his career, but a win keeps him on the fringes of another title shot.
One of the highlights of the boxing year is the series of shows we get at the end of the year,often featuring a number of big names from the Japanese boxing world with some massive fights. It now seems like the Watanabe Gym are starting to piece together their end of year card, which will be expected to take place on December 31st on TBS. That will be part of “Kyokugen”, a huge event on TBS, which is not just boxing, but a special broadcast that combines various sporting activities.
In recent years the boxing part of Kyokugen has featured a number of world title fights. These have included shows like the 2014 extravaganza that included Hisashi Amagasa challenging Guillermo Rigondeaux, the 2015 card that saw Kazuto Ioka have his rematch with Juan Carlos Reveco and the fantastic 2017 clash between Ryoichi Taguchi and Milan Melindo.
Given how big the previous shows have been and how they have gotten progressively bigger and more significant we're expecting the 2018 card to be something massive.
We already seem to know one of the bouts on the card, a WBA Light Flyweight “super” title bout between reigning champion Hekkie Budler (32-3, 10) and former IBF Minimumweight champion Hiroto Kyoguchi (10-0, 7) [京口 紘人]. This bout has been on the cards for a while and looks to have been agreed in principle, with the only caveat being that Kyoguchi successfully defeats Tibo Monabesa on September 25th.
The bout between Budler and Kyoguchi will give Kyoguchi a chance to avenge Budler's win over his Watanabe stablemate Ryoichi Taguchi (27-3-2, 12) [田口良一], more about him later, and will reward Budler well after he gave up the IBF title, rather than fulfil their mandatory obligations to face the feared Felix Alvarado. The bout would be a tough first defense for Budler and it would give Kyoguchi a chance to become a 2-weight champion.
A second bout has been mooted with Thai sources reporting WBC Minimumweight champion Wanheng Menayothin (51-0, 18) [วันเฮง ไก่ย่างห้าดาวยิม] is in talks to face Japanese Minimumweight champion Shin Ono (23-9-3, 6) [小野 心] on the card. The bout would be huge for Wanheng, as it would see him risking his unbeaten record and fight for the first time outside of Thailand, and it would give Ono a third shot a world title. Wanheng's team had reportedly been in talks for this bout before he beat Pedro Taduran and it does look like something they have actively wanted.
Last time out Ono suffered a pretty nasty cut in his win over Riku Kano. That cut should however be heeled with more than enough time for him to go through a training camp and prepare for Wanheng, in what would be his third world title fight. Ono has come up short against Katsunari Takayama and Knockout CP Freshmart, and will know that at the age of 35 this will be his final shot whilst Wanheng will see this as a chance to make his mark outside of Thailand.
The third bout could well be the most interesting on paper. It's almost a given that Watanabe will want to feature the aforementioned Ryoichi Taguchi, who has announced his intention to move up in weight. There isn't a Flyweight champion that Taguchi wouldn't make for a great opponent against, but there's possibly a match up that makes more sense than any other. That would be a bout between Taguchi and the winner of the upcoming WBO world title fight between Sho Kimura (17-1-2, 10) [木村翔] and Kosei Tanaka (11-0, 7) [田中恒成].
Tanaka has fought his entire career on TBS affiliate CBC, and has been featured on TBS in recent years as part of their December 31st show, except for last year when he was injured. When he and Taguchi were both fighting at Light Flyweight the two had been continually linked to a fighter, but injuries and mandatories stood in the way. Now however there wouldn't be any issue.
Of course Tanaka beating Kimura isn't a given, and it's worth noting that Kimura also had a working relationship with TBS, with the Aoki man having made his first defense on the channel last year, on the New Year's Eve card, against Toshiyuki Igarashi. His style against Taguchi's would be really interesting and something that would certainly appeal to fans, though maybe not quite as much as Taguchi Vs Tanaka fight.
There's actually one other option that Taguchi may have and that's WBC champion Cristofer Rosales (28-3, 19), who won his title in Japan earlier this year against Daigo Higa. Although not as attractive on paper as the two Japanese fighters Rosales has inked some sort of deal with Teiken promotions, and they may well feel that having Rosales face off with Taguchi would be an excellent way to end the year, and get Rosales his second defense. It would be an excellent match up, it would allow Rosales build on the big win over Higa and give Taguchi a chance to face one of the best fighters in the division.
Interestingly the Taguchi Vs Rosales option would, in theory, allowed for a split site show with 4 title bouts, if Tanaka beat Kimura and wanted to defend his belt live on CBC, in Nagaoya, with a potential showdown between those winners. Though we suspect TBS would pusher harder for the Kimura/Tanaka winner to defend against Taguchi instead.
(Images courtesy of SiamSports and Sho Kimura)
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.