The Boxingraise service has been truly fantastic and one of the best additions to the boxing scene over the last few years. Whilst it's not the cheapest service out there, costing 980JPY a month, it is a service that has promised a lot, and in terms of quality it has over-delivered with some amazing battles. Today we get to enjoy one of those as part of the The 2019 Treasure Trove. Boy is this a good one!
Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 12) vs Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1, 6) II
To put some quick backstory behind the bout. In 2017 the hard hitting Yusaku Kuga won the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, stopping Yasutaka Ishimoto. In his first defense he retained the belt by beating Ryoichi Tamura in a sensational 10 round war. Kuga would make one more successful defense, blasting out Ryo Kosaka, before losing the belt in July 2018 to Shingo Wake. In his second bout following that loss he got a shot at Tamura to reclaim the belt, with Tamura winning it after Wake vacated.
For those who haven't seen Kuga he is a rough and tough boxer-fighter. He's got heavy hands, though due to being a bit crude around the edges he can't always land the big power shots clean. When he does connect he hurts opponents. Sadly for Kuga his biggest issues have always been his defensive issues. Whilst he has a solid chin, he can be out boxed, and fighters who are smart, like Wake was, managed to out box him comfortably in 2018, showing up major flaws with Kuga.
Whilst Kuga is tough and heavy handed Tamura is more tough and high octane, but has the same defensively flaws as Kuga. What Tamura does so well is physically bully opponents around, pushing them around the ring and unloading an incredibly intense barrage of punches. That energy and output was seen brilliantly in his title win, in January 2019 against Mugicha Nakagawa, but like Kuga he could be out boxed. It was always going to take a very, very good fighter to beat him, but he was beatable.
When we get iron chinned puncher against an iron chinned swarmer we can get some spectacular fights and that's exactly what we got here. In fact this was one of those rare fights that got better the longer it went on.
In the early going Kuga took control, boxing and moving well, landing good clean shots and avoiding many of Tamura's wilder shots. The first 2 rounds weren't bad, by any stretch, but they were surprisingly quiet. Then things came alive in round 3, and in round 5 he put Tamura down. Following the 5th round we had open scoring and that point the bout seemed a foregone conclusion with the scorecards reading 50-44, 49-45 and 48-46 all in favour of Tamura.
Then the bout moved up a gear as Tamura fought like a man possessed trying to keep his title and drag himself out of the hole he was finding himself in. It was with Tamura trying to take Kuga out that we ended up going from a great bout into great bout territory.
If you like rough brawls, a lot of heavy leather and great action this is for you. The bout isn't the quickest to get going, but when it moves through the gears it quickly becomes a sensational war and something that is well worthy of 40 minutes of any fight fan's time.
The Super Bantamweight division is a bit of a strange one when it comes to prospects, with very few fighters being fast tracked, and more of the prospects having records that, on paper at least, are similar to those of contenders. Despite that is does show the depth of talent in the division, and in many ways is actually notable for showing just how deep the division is today.
If you missed our previous articles from this mini series they can be read below:
The state of the Division - Super Bantamweight - The Champions
The state of the Division - Super Bantamweight - The Contenders
Hiroaki Teshigawara (18-2-2, 11)
OPBF champion Hiroaki Teshigawara is a 28 year old verging on being a contender. His last loss came in October 2016, to Ryo Akaho, and since then he has gone 6-0 (5) and scored notable wins over the likes of Keita Kurihara, Jetro Pabustan, Jason Canoy and Teiru Kinoshita. Although not the most rounded fighter Teshigawara is an aggressive, hard hitting, tough and exciting fighter who will be a handful to anyone just below world level. He's a very exciting Japanese fighter.
Yusaku Kuga (17-3-1, 12)
Another exciting Japanese fighter is Yusaku Kuga, a former Japanese national champion who lost the Japanese title in 2018 to Shingo Wake. The loss to Wake is Kuga's only defeat since losing to Yasutaka Ishimoto in 2015, a loss that was later avenged. Kuga is a hard hitting and exciting fighter who has a rugged crudeness to him. He can certainly be out boxed, as Wake showed, but few fighters will look to have a war with him. As with Teshigawara there is an argument that Kuga is more of a fringe contender than a prospect, but we do feel that both would be highly unfancied against world-class opponents.
Jeo Santisima (17-2, 14)
With 19 fights under his belt, Filipino 22 year old Jeo Santisima is a very advanced prospect, who has managed to secure good wins over Rex Wao and Victor Uriel Lopez during his current 15 fight winning streak. With power, speed and stamina Santisima has the tools to go a long way. At the moment Santisima needs to work on his technical ability, but if he can sort out his technical flaws then there is a lot that the youngster can go on to achieve and he could end up being a very notable contender over the years to come. Before he reaches to the top however there is a fair bit of work to do.
Ye Joon Kim (16-1-2, 8)
Korean boxing has really lacked notable fighters in recent years, however they do have a real natural talent on their hands in the form of Ye Joon Kim, a gifted boxer-puncher. The 26 year old "Pacquiweather" was inactive for just over 2 years before returning this past November and stopping Waldo Sabu. Before his break he had beaten the likes of Vergil Puton, Yoshiro Utsumi and Yuki Strong Kobayashi. Kim had gone 4-1-2 in his first 7 bouts, losing to future OPBF champion Sa Myung Noh, but has since reeled off 12 straight wins and proven himself as the most promising Korean native.
Arnold Khegai (14-0-1, 9)
Interestingly, having just mentioned Ye Joon Kim, it's worth noting that 26 year old fighter Arnold Khegai is a Ukrainian prospect born to Korean parents who is now based in the US. He's also one of the most promising fighters in the division and has recently beaten the likes of Jorge Diaz and Adam Lopez. There's a long way for Khegai to go, but he's a confident, experienced fighter with a lot of potential. Given he's now in his 20's we're expecting 2019 to be a huge year for him and perhaps a world title fight will follow in 2020 or 2021.
Joseph Landeros (15-0, 15)
At just 17 years old American fighter Joseph Landeros looks to be a prodigy. Amazingly, given his age, he has already crammed 15 fights into his career, which remarkably began when he was just 15. Despite that level of activity he has only had 31 rounds as a professional. Given his average length of bout and his young age it's clear he has yet to be tested really, but his competition has been stepping up, and his last 3 opponents have all had winning records. We suspect Landeros will be a long term "one to watch" but he is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Antonio Russell (12-0, 10)
The unbeaten Gary Antonio Russell is one of Gary Russell Jr's many boxing brothers and is rising prospect at Bantamweight/Super Bantamweight. At 25 years old he is just starting to reach hi physical peak and really that seems to have shown in recent results, stopping his last 5 opponents and 8 of his last 9. Despite his solid form he has lacked a big win, and a step is likely to come in 2019. Hopefully stiffer competition will draw the best from Russell, though given how his more famous brother has fought there is a worry that Russell will have bouts of inactivity when, or rather if, he reaches the top.
Wasiru Mohammed (10-0, 9)
Ghana's Wasiru Mohammed appears to be one of the division's hidden gems. He's a heavy-handed fighter who made his debut in April 2017 and is already the WBO Africa champion, and the Ghanaian champion. Mohammed came to the attention of many fans for his win over Isaac Sackey, a win that was followed by a riot at the Bukom Boxing Arena in Accra. The stoppage over Sackey was very questionable, however his KO win over Raymond Commey was very impressive. We'd love to see Mohammed fighting outside of Ghana and he looks like a handful, even if he is a bit of a wild slugger. With dynamite power and exciting style there is real potential for him to move on to the world scene in the years to come.
Carlos Caraballo (9-0, 9)
Unbeaten Puerto Rican puncher Carlos Caraballa is a 24 year old who made his debut back in 2016 and took make steps forward in 2018, with a notable win over Jesus Martinez, on his US debut. The footage available of him makes him look speedy, intelligent and heavy-handed, with a stiff jab and a calm demeanour in the ring. Although clearly confident in his power. Caraballo doesn't seem to rush his work and is instead a calm and calculated pressure fighter. With Golen Boy now involved in his career it's going to be fun seeing how far Caraballo goes in 2019.
Alberto Ezequiel Melian (3-0, 2)
Argentinian fighter Alberto Ezequiel Melian is a 28 year old prospect on the fast track to the top. He made his debut in December 2017, in an 8 rounder against former world title challenger Deigo Ricardo Santillan, and since then has fought back-to-back 10 round bouts whilst taking the Argentinian title, beating Julian Evaristo Aristule in just his second professional bout. Given his age it's clear that 2019 will be a big year for Melian who will be making his US debut on January 26th against Edgar Ortega, a win there will likely set up a potential world title eliminator later in the year.
Yuki Yamauchi (2-0, 1)
Japanese 23 year old Yuki Yamauchi made his debut this past July and is already being touted as a potential star. The southpaw stopped Jimboy Rosales on debut before taking a step up and out classing Alvin Medura in October. He's managed by the powerful Shinsei gym and is a former amateur standout, who will likely be pushed hard by a gym that has been signing up young talent in the Hyogo area. Given his age he probably won't be put on a similar fast track to Melian but will certainly be moved aggressively over the next few years, potentially in a similar fashion to stablemate Shun Kubo, who fought for an OPBF title in his 9th bout and a world title in his 12th bout.
We return to out look at the best Japanese fight of 2018 ahead of this coming weekend, a weekend that promises to deliver a lot of action in the country.
This is part three of a multi-part article and will look at 5 bouts that took place from July 27th to August 16th. More parts to this will be posted in the coming weeks, so please keep your eye on for those!
If you missed part 1 than can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 1)
And part 2 can be read here The best Japanese Fights of 2018 (Part 2)
July 27th – Korakuen Hall
Yusaku Kuga (16-2-1, 11) Vs Shingo Wake (24-5-2, 16)
One of the most anticipated Japanese title fights of 2018 was a Super Bantamweight bout between Yusaku Kuga and former world title challenger Shingo Wake. The bout pitted two of the best domestic fighters at 122lbs against each other and it promised so much. At domestic level Kuga was vicious and had made 2 defenses of the title leading into this bout. Wake was a sharp shooter who had battered into a pulp against Jonathan Guzman in 2016 but had bounced back with 4 stoppage wins leading into this bout.
August 9th – Korakuen Hall
Taiki Minamoto (15-5, 12) vs Tatsuya Otsubo (12-8-1, 4)
It's fair to say that August was the month where things really picked up for Japanese fights, with a lot of great fights. The first one that really caught fire was the Japanese Featherweight title fight between defending champion Taiki Minamoto and Tatsuya Otsubo. On paper this looked like a mismatch but turned out to be a real thriller as both men unloaded on the other in what was a bit of a dark horse fight. For Minamoto it was his first defense of the title, following a very impressive performance against Takenori Ohashi whilst Otsubo was having his second Japanese title shot, and this turned out to be a real treat.
August 11th-City Sogo Gym
Ryota Yada (16-4, 13) vs Kazuyasu Okamoto (14-5, 4)
The action from August went from strength to strength and on August 11th we saw Japanese Welterweight champion Ryota Yada make his first defense, as he took on the unheralded Kazuyasu Okamoto. Much like the Minamoto/Otsubo bout this wasn't expected to be too exciting but certainly exceeded expectation and was one of the many treats asign boxing has given us this year. Notably it wasn't the best fight on the card, but was still a high tempo, hard hitting and worth while watch.
August 11th-City Sogo Gym
Keita Kurihara (11-5, 10) Vs Kazuki Tanaka (9-1, 6)
Records don't tell us what to expect when we get a fight, instead the styles of the fighters involved should tell us whether we should be excited or not. When Keita Kurihara and Kazuki Tanaka were matched we knew to expect something special. Tanaka had been a former amateur standout who was tipped for big things as a professional whilst Kurihara was best known as a heavy handed slugger, who was always worth watching due to aggressive style and defensive flaws. When the two got in the ring, with a very hot crowd, they delivered a short but thrilling action bout.
August 16th-Korakuen Hall
Daisuke Sudo (4-6-3) vs Jun Ishimoto (5-5-1, 3)
Not all exciting fights are high profile or expected to be great fights and the clash between Daisuke Sudo and Jun Ishimoto proved just that. The two men entered the contest as total unknowns and were fighting in front of only a smattering of a crowd on the under-card of a world title bout. Despite the relatively small crowd watching the two men put on a show, fighting a high tempo and exciting 6 round contest. What made this really good was that both men fought as if they had a point to prove, like they could pick up a relatively rare win and really take a chance to shine. If you like high tempo wars this is well worth your time.
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.