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.
The Super Flyweight division is a really notable one due to the depth in the division, and the wonderful mix of recognisable top tier names, former champions and rising hopefuls. It's not the best division in the sport right now, but it is certainly a good one for the contenders, even if the champions have failed to shine recently.
For those who missed our look at the champions, that's available to read here The state of the Division - Super Flyweight - The Champions
Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13)
Japanese star, and former 3 division world champion, Kazuto Ioka is one of the biggest names in the lower weights, and is one of the biggest attractions in Japanese boxing, despite having only fought twice since the start of 2017. Ioka has won titles at Minimumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight and will be looking to become a 4 weight champion on December 31st when he faces Donnie Nietes for the WBO title. Ioka is a brilliant boxer-puncher, one of the best body punchers in the sport and a smart fighter. Although he took time to grow into the Flyweight division he now looks like a very strong Super Flyweight and really impressed in September when he dominated McWilliams Arroyo. At 29 he's still relatively young, and hasn't had a hard career, so could well a lengthy reign if he defeats Nietes
Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23)
Having mentioned Kazuto Ioka it makes sense to go stright to Filipino fighter Donnie Nietes, the man Ioka will be facing. The 36 year old "Ahas" has also won world titles at Minmumweight, Light Flyweight and Flyweight and will be getting his second shot at a Super Flyweight title when he faces Ioka. The Filipino veteran has been a professional for over 15 years and his record reads like a who's who of the lower weights, with wins against the likes of Pornsawan Porpramook, Jesus Silvestre, Ramon Garcia Hirales, Moises Fuentes, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Edgar Sosa Juan Carlos Reveco. Technically Nietes is an excellent fighter, but given his age, his relatively small size and long career it's unclear how long he will remain in the sport, win or lose at the end of the year.
Roman Gonzalez (47-2, 39)
With Ioka and Neites both fighting to become 4 weight champions at the end of the year it's worth noting they would join Roman Gonzalez in achieving the feat. The Nicaraguan great, who we like many others regarded as the pound for pound #1 before his first loss to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, is still a major name in the division and was one of the few fighters in the lower weights who really helped prove what the little men could do. Sadly at Super Flyweight Gonzalez looks under-sized, but he is still a very dangerous fighter, with great speed, hurtful power and fantastic combinations. If Gonzalez picks his opponents carefully he can reclaim a world title at the weight, but will need to avoid the big Super Flyweight fighters, like Srisaket, in the future. At 31 years old he still has time to come again, but it's unclear what his body has left after a very tough career.
Juan Francisco Estrada (38-3, 26)
Mexican boxer-puncher Juan Francisco Estrada is one of the few truly elite level fighters in the sport, to not currently hold a world title. He's a former unified Flyweight champion, judges distance and tempo excellently, puts punches together fantastically and has an amazing resume. His record includes close losses to Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, and rematches with either man would be welcomed in 2019, as well as wins against a who's who including Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr, avenging his first career loss, Brian Viloria, Milan Melindo, Giovani Segura, Carlos Cuadras and Felipe Orucuta. Although he's not the biggest Super Flyweight he is strong at the weight and is a very technically rounded fighter.
Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20)
Filipino fighter Aston Palicte is best known for his debatable draw with Donnie Nietes form back in September, in what was a bout for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight title. That's the one mark against the hard hitting, physically imposing and under-rated Filipino boxer-puncher. Palicte hasn't had much coverage in the US but has proven to be a very capable fighter with very heavy hands. His best wins are against the likes of Ismael Garnica, Vergilio Silvano, Oscar Cantu and Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, but he looks like he will be a fixture on the world stage for years to come. There are some technical improvements for Palicte to make, but if he can make them he will become very hard to beat.
Ryuichi Funai (31-7, 22)
Japanese veteran Ryuichi Funai is a relative unknown outside of Japan, though he recently became the IBF mandatory title challenger with a TKO win against Victor Emanuel Olivo. That win was Funai's 7th straight win, and followed short reigns as both the Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific champion. He's been a professional since 2005 and lost a number of early bouts, but is 23-3 (17) since losing to Shinsuke Yamanaka way back in 2009. Funai is a hard hitting fighter, who's not the quickest or the sharpest, or has the highest work rate, but really can bang with his right hand. We suspect that he'll come up short at world level, but certainly deserves a shot given his recent form.
Andrew Moloney (18-0, 11)
Naoya Inoue isn't the only fighter going by the "Monster" moniker, and another is Australian Andrew Moloney, a very talented boxer-puncher, and the brother of Bantamweight hopeful Jason Moloney. The unbeaten Andrew Moloney is a 27 year old who has been ranking up good wins in recent years against the likes of Renoel Pael, Rene Racquel, Richard Claveras and Luis Concepcion. He's made it clear that he wants a world title fight but is perhaps going to have to wait until the end of 2019 to get one, given how fighters are now queuing up for shots in the division. He would be the under-dog against any champion, but would be a very live under-dog.
Daigo Higa (15-1, 15)
Japanese exciting boxer-puncher Daigo Higa was stripped of the WBC Flyweight title earlier this year, due to failing to make weight, and suffered his first loss a day later, being stopped by Cristofer Rosales. Following his failure to make weight he was given an indefinite suspension by the JBC but it now seems likely that suspension will be lifted in 2019. In the ring Higa is an incredibly exciting fighter, who is still a boxing baby at the age of 23, and we're looking forward to seeing him back in the ring. Whether he stays at 115lbs for long is unclear, but we wouldn't be surprised at all to see him make a mark there with his style and aggression. A bout between Higa and either Roman Gonzalez or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai would have FOTY potential.
Sho Ishida (27-1, 15)
Former WBA title challenger Sho Ishida lost in a competitive, but forgettable, bout against Kal Yafai in 2017. Since then he has reeled off 3 wins, including a stoppage victory over Richard Claveras and a decision over Warlito Parrenas, to get himself back in the title mix. Although a talented fighter, with wins against the likes of Yohei Tobe, Ryuichi Funai and Hayato Kimura, Eaktwan BTU Ruaviking and Petchbarngborn Kokietgym there has long been a feeling that Ishida doesn't quite fight to his best, and we're still waiting to really see how good he actually is. He's certainly a leading contender, but it's hard to know if he's a future world champion still, or someone who's just going to bang on the door a few times.
McWilliams Arroyo (17-4, 14)
Former amateur standout McWilliams Arroyo is a heavy handed boxer-puncher who has lost 3 of his last 5 but is a real notable contender who is much better than his record suggests and will only lose to the top men. He's fought for the IBF Flyweight title, back in 2014 losing a split decision to Amnat Ruenroeng, and would lose in a WBC Flyweight title fight to Roman Gonzalez in 2016. In 2018 we saw Arroyo upset Carlos Cuadras before losing to the returning Kazuto Ioka. He's certainly someone who belongs in the title mix, but at the age of 33 it's hard to really know what he has left in his career.
Norbelto Jimenez (29-8-4, 16)
Tricky Dominican fighter Norbelto Jimenez is best known for a 2014 draw with Kohei Kono in a WBA title bout. Since then he has gone 9-0 (6) to run up a 30 fight unbeaten run, going 27-0-3, since May 2011. Although relatively unknown he is ranked #1 by the WBA and is expected to be their next mandatory challenger for Kal Yafai. The bout with Kono is the only one that has seen Jimenez share the ring with a world class opponent, but he is certainly a contender, courtesy of his WBA ranking, and hopefully he does get a big shot sooner or later. If he loses at the top level then we can remove him from the mix, but by not giving him a chance he remains a contender and as someone who really is being over-looked, something we've seen since the Kono fight.
Yanga Sigqibo (12-1-1, 3)
The South African boxing scene currently has world champions at Light Flyweight, Flyweight and Bantamweight. They also have a very interesting Super Flyweight contender in the form of Yanga Sigqibo, who is a relative unknown but is racking up decent wins in the last year or two and is to be considered a genuine contender. Footage of Sigqibo is hard to come by, but wins over Rene Dacquel and Keyvin Lara have seen him pick up minor WBC and WBO titles and shoot up the rankings. It'd be nice to see him travel outside of South Africa for a bout in 2019, allowing him so notable exposure, but for now he seems happy to develop his skills and record at home. He's a bit of a divisional dark horse, but certainly deserves a bit of attention at the moment.
Jonas Sultan (15-4, 9)
Earlier this year we saw Filipino fighter Jonas Sultan challenge Jerwin Ancajas in an IBF title fight. Sultan looked poor in that bout, but is a genuine contender at Super Flyweight despite the loss. He holds notable wins over Brian Lobetania, Rene Dacquel, Makazole Tete and John Riel Casimero. Sultan is a technically solid fighter, but is an uninspiring one, who seems to lack a higher gear and can be a frustrating fighter to watch. He's good but not exciting and certainly needs someone else to force the action so that he can show what he can really do. Interestingly when he is facing more aggressive fighters he does look better, so it could be that he needs to be matched against fighters who can make him look good, rather than expect Sultan to make the fight.
Francisco Rodriguez Jr (29-4-1, 21)
Former unified Minimumweight champion Francisco Rodriguez Jr seems to have been around for years, but is only 25 and is proving himself to be a very credible fighter at Super Flyweight, where he's been fighting the last few years. He naturally outgrew the Minimumweight division, where he beat the likes of Merlito Sabillo and Katsunari Takayama, and never really found success at Light Flyweight, but looks to be a perfect fit at Super Flyweight. His recent bouts at 115lbs have seen him stopping the likes of Hernan Marquez, Yohei Tobe, Pablo Carrilo and Ronald Ramos, and he looks to be a very strong and very powerful fighter at the weight.
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.