For this weeks "One to Watch" I had originally covered the scheduled bout between Carl Jammes Martin and Renoel Pael. Unfortunately that bout was cancelled at the start of the week due to worries about the Coronavirus. With a lack of fights this coming week I've decided that instead of covering a different fight, with almost all of them being less than great on paper, I thought I'd have a look back on the fights covered in this series.
The first fight I covered was Aidos Yerbossynuly Vs Rocky Jerkic, and this was actually a good start to the series with Yerbossynuly taking a career best win over Jerkic in a good solid bout. Not a spectacular bout, but a solid one. Yerbossynuly notched another win 4 months later.
After a solid start I did pick a bit of a one sided stinker in the second bout in the series, with the debuting Katsuya Fukui stopping Sang Hoon Kim in the second round. Exactly 2 months later Fukui scored another quick win, that time over a Thai foe.
The third one of these looked at ZongLi He's bout with Hamson Lamandau, which He won by clear decision in September. Sadly He has yet to fight following this win, however Lamandau lost in December to go 0-3 in 2019.
Our fourth bout looked at Kudura Kaneko Vs Moon Hyon Yun, which I expected to be a competitive bout. Instead it was a huge win for Kaneko, and helped put him in place for his upcoming OPBF title fight, which takes place at the end of February. As for Yun I wouldn't be surprised by him hanging them up.
A week later I looked at Batyrzhan Jukembayev's fight with Mexican Miguel Vazquez, which was a step up for the Canadian based Kazakh, and a career best win. Since this win, a decision victory, Jukembayev has scored a win over Ricardo Lara and continued edging towards a world title fight.
As with Katsuya's Fukui debut I also covered Shigetoshi Kotari's debut in the series, and that also ended up being a mismatch, as he stopped Indonesian foe Lasben Sinaba in 2 rounds. Kotari will return to the ring in early March for his second pro bout.
Rather strangely our next bout never actually took place. I had looked at Yelieqiati Nihemaituola Vs Ryan Rey Ponteras, but Ponteras was replaced late on by Ardin Diale. The "Kazakh Warrior" Nihemaituola took a clear decision over Diale, who was fighting well above his best weight.
In mid-October I got a bout that really delivered, with Xiang Li Vs Ryu Horikawa being an absolute thriller. I felt Horikawa was very unlucky to not get the win, with the bout being scored a draw, but this was a real standout bout from October and well worth a watch back if you missed it. Sadly neither of these two talented and exciting youngsters have fought since their October clash.
We remained in China for the following week's "One To Watch" and it turned out to be less exciting than I expected, as Wenfeng Ge easily beat Kompayak Porpramook over 12 rounds to retain the WBO Oriental title. Since this bout neither man has fought, though Porpramook is expected back in the ring shortly. Sadly for Ge any plans are currently on hold due to the outbreak of Coronavirus in China.
The following week we returned to Japan for the East Japan Rookie of the Year final between Katsuki Mori and Shu Nawai, who were meeting for the second time. This was expected to be good and competitive, but in reality it was just a showcase of Mori's tremendous ability and only weeks later he claimed the All Japan Rookie of the Year crown.
Sadly the bout I had covered on November, a mouth watering clash between Seiya Tsutsumi and Kenya Yamashita never took place, with Yamashita failing to make weight for the God's Left Bantamweight tournament semi-final. As a result Tsutsumi got a bye, and then fought to a draw in the final with Kazuki Nakajima. Just a draw later I did an extra one to watch on the other tournament semi-final, which saw Kazuki Nakajima blast out Jin Minamide to book his place in the final.
We remained in Japan for the international bout between Keita Kurihara and Sukkasem Kietyongyuth. This was, on paper, a great test for Kurihara, but his power proved too much and he crushed his Thai foe with no issues, to take a step closer to getting a world title bout.
I then got one really wrong as Koshin Takeshima and Daisuke Watanabe gave us one of the worst bouts in the series. On paper this had the ingredients to be something great, but sloppy action, head clashes, and styles that didn't quite gel forced the bout to be halted in round 4, resulting in a technical draw. Strangely this was the worst of the three "Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary" quarter final bouts on the same show. Watanabe will return at the end of the month for his semi-final bout with Filipino Richard Pumicpic.
A week later we expected to go over to China for a bout between ZongLi He and Alphoe Dagayloan. Sadly this bout failed to materalise.
The following week I picked another stinker as Zhilei Zhang took an easy decision over rugged Ukrainian Andriy Rudenko, himself a late replacement for Sergey Kuzmin. Zhang really just controlled this bout with ease, and we got very, very little drama at any point. It was a chance for Zhang to make a statement in the division, but instead he just cruised his way to a decision win.
We stayed with Heavyweights for Mahammadrasul Majidov's bout against Tom Little, in what proved to be an horrific mismatch. This was Majidov doing what he needed to do, and he didn't play with his food. Instead the Azeri battered the out-of-shape British fighter in 2 rounds. Sadly, given Majidov is already 33, he's not fought since and like many fighters under the Matchroom banner he seems to be getting left out in the cold, when he should be kept busy.
Dropping back down the scales we saw exciting young Light Flyweight Tsuyoshi Sato take a hard earned win over veteran Masashi Tada, in what turned out to be a solid bout, and a real test, for Sato. Up to this point Sato had been blowing opponents out, with 4 quick wins in his previous 5, and this was the type of test he really needed heading towards 2020.
I went back up to Heavyweight action the following week as Kyotaro Fujimoto faced Daniel Dubois. This was a mismatch, we all knew it would be, but it was interesting to see Kyotaro fighting outside of his homeland. He seemed to enjoy the UK before the fight, but stood no chance with the fast rising British puncher and was stopped in 2 rounds.
The same week I did another extra "One to Watch" as I covered Katsuki Mori for the second time. This time it was Mori's All Japan Rookie of the Year final against Takumi Chono. This was a showcase for Mori,who looked sensational at times and stamped his name as one to watch in 2020. The youngster from the Ohashi gym will return in March and I expect massive things from the youngster. Despite the loss Chono will actually return a day before Mori, fighting on March 16th whilst Mori fights on March 17th.
Rather oddly the bout I covered next was delayed. It was originally scheduled for late December, then pushed back to early January and saw Da Won Gang take on Jin Su Kim. I was looking forward to see Gang in action, but I didn't expect to see him in just a cameo, as he quickly blew out Kim to secure a Korean title fight in 2020.
On the same show as the re-arranged Gang Vs Kim bout was Sung Min Yuh's win over Se Yul Yang. This was a frustrating watch with Yuh being far too good for Yang, but he refused to put his foot on the gas and got for the kill. He looked genuinely class and we're going to look forward to him getting a KBM title fight on May 3rd against Do Ha Kim, in an excellent rematch of the Battle Royal bout form 2019.
In mid-January I looked at the Knockout Dynamite tournament final between Ribo Takahata and Marvin Esquierdo. This turned out to be a pretty solid bout, nothing too amazing, but a solid fight and a great day for Esquierdo who scored a good bonus for his stoppage win. I'd love to see more of Esquierdo, who comes to fight and looks like he was made for the 5 round Prize Fight format of the tournament.
Staying with mid January I had another solid pick as the KBM Super Bantamweight title bout between Han Bin Suh delivered Shin Dong Myung. We saw Suh bringing the pressure but what was more impressive was Myung keeping his form and out boxing Suh for 10 rounds. It's a shame Myung turned pro so old as he has the skills to make a mark at a much higher level, but with his 32nd birthday in March he really needs to be fast tracked. Interesting Suh is set to fight in Japan in April against Tatsuya Takahashi.
At the end of January I featured the God's Left Bantamweight tournament final and saw Kazuki Nakajima fight to a very controversial draw with Seiya Tsutsumi. We felt, as did many fans, that Tsutsumi did more than enough to earn the win, but was denied the prize as some how the judges failed to recognise his performance. Worse of all, Nakajima "won" the tournament on the majority point rule, giving him the financial prize of the competition.
We had a second consecutive controversial draw as Alphoe Dagayloan was held by Carlo Caesar Penalosa. I felt Dagayloan, who is a hard luck fighter in general, deserved the win here due to a late charge, but Penalosa managed to just scrap a draw, likely on the basis of his name. A rematch for this, and the Nakajima Vs Tsutsumi bout, would make sense, but we suspect that Penalosa will feel no need to face the nightmare that is Dagayloan again.
In a genuine thriller for the WBC Youth Flyweight title, we saw Kento Hatanaka being given a real test by Roland Jay Biendima. This was a war, a thrilling, action packed 10 round war. At times Hatanaka looked class, but he was dragged into a fire fight and fought fire with fire. A really great fight.
A week I picked another great fight when Yuki Nakajima and Shisui Kawabata gave us a thriller. This was pure brilliance from two men who knew how to box and how to fight. Nakajima had to over-come a tough start, force his fight on to Kawabata and then stopped Kawabata with one of the best punches of the year. Real class stuff.
Since starting this series I have picked some duds, of course I have. The Takeshima Vs Watanabe bout and Zhang Vs Rudenko were both terrible, and I've seen bouts I've picked fall through. On the whole though I feel this has been a good series and is something I've enjoyed doing, and something I'll continue to do going forward. The entire idea of it has been to shine a light on a bout that will be watchable, be it streaming, television or PPV, and I think I've done that well. I hope you guys agree!
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.