As mentioned yesterday we've got two "Ones to Watch" this week, and here is the second of those bouts. This one takes places of the weekend and is expected to be made available to watch live on Boxing Raise. It's a match up that might not look amazing on paper but it should be a very interesting one and is a meaningful bout on the domestic stage
The One to Watch?
Daisuke Watanabe (10-4-2, 6) vs Shingo Kusano (13-8-1, 5)
August 22nd (Saturday)
We absolutely love tournaments and on Saturday we see the end of the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary Featherweight tournament that began last November. The tournament, a 7 man competition, was supposed to finish back in May but due to the global situation was pushed back until August 22nd. The finalists are certainly not the two men we expected to see, and the tournament has legitimately been full of upsets, but we're here now with a bout between Daisuke Watanabe and Shingo Kusano.
The 29 year old Daisuke Watanabe is a man who has had a very odd career. His results are inconsistent, but he's been matched very tough pretty much from the off, leading to him sporting a 6-4 (3) record after 10 bouts. Despite his record he is much, much better than those numbers suggest and those results are, at least in part, down to the tough competition he's faced so far, including Sho Nakazawa, Gakuya Furuhashi, Reiya Abe, Toshiki Shimomachi, Dai Iwai and Richard Pumicpic. He's reached the final thanks to a semi-final victory over Richard Pumicpic and will almost certainly know a win here gets him right in the mix for a domestic title fight.
Defensively Watanabe has got work to do, he can be hit, he can be caught clean and he's not got an iron chin, having been stopped twice. He's also offensive, presses forward and can be countered. He is however not the type of fight you want to stand in front of too long, given his powerful right hand.
Aged 31 this could end up being the last bout of note for Shingo Kusano, who has been a professional since 2011 and has certainly had some mixed results himself. Prior to the tournament he had lost 4 in a row, and was without a win in over 3 years. His career looked over. The tournament has however seen that all change, thanks to a 5th round TKO win over Qiang Ma and a big upset over Jae Woo Lee in the semi-final. Although somewhat chinny he appears to be determined to make this tournament his and with two upsets already in the tournament it looks like he know it's win or bust for his career.
Kusano's style is that of a relaxed counter puncher. He looks to create range and land his southpaw left hands at range, backing off a lot and looking to make opponents over-reach and leave themselves open. He lacks lights out power, but is gritty, determined, and surprisingly swift for a 31 year old.
What to expect?
Neither of these men are high intensity fighters, however given he dynamic and styles of the two men this has the potential to be a compelling match up from the off.
Watanabe is a come forward boxer-puncher. He's got solid bang in his shots, looks to set things up at range. He counters nicely with his straight right hand, but often throws it in a looping fashion. His jab, whilst crisp, is often under-utilised, and whilst that can be a problem we don't see it playing into this fight too much.
Kusano is a southpaw who backs up a lot, almost invites pressure, and looks to counter on the back foot. That's a style that should gel well with Watanabe's come forward boxing, and should see both men finding a nice range to work at. Kusano style of creating range and boxing at distance could end up suiting Watanabe a bit too well and allow Watanabe to shoot off his heavy right hand regularly.
Unsurprisingly we expect to see Watanabe coming forward and Kusano back off, with Kusano trying to draw leads from Watanabe and counter them. This could work well for him, given Watanabe's loopier shots, or could end up going very badly for Kusano, given the power that Watanabe has.
This could be tactical, interesting, and although not a thrill a minute fight there could be real drama in any exchanges the two men have.
The bad news?
The only real bad news here is that we've waited so long for the bout. It was, as mentioned, supposed to be in May but got pushed back. We wonder if either man is up for it like they would have been had it been held in May, as scheduled. Also for those not subscribed to Boxing Raise this will, sadly, be one you miss out on.
This week we've decided to do two different "Ones to Watch", in part due to the fact so many we've wanted to cover in this series recent being cancelled. So for the first of this weeks "Ones to Watch" we focus on the mid-week Kadoebi show, which will give us a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title in the main event, but an even more interesting looking support bout at Lightweight.
As a result of that, and the fact it's a mid-week bout, this is a day earlier than usual, but the second of the two "Ones of To Watch" this week will be up tomorrow as a result!
The One to Watch?
Yuichiro Kasuya (13-2-2, 4) vs Masanori Rikiishi (7-1, 4)
August 19th (Wednesday)
The men involved in this one both have something in the "L" column on their records, but that barely matters in Japan where unbeaten records are less important. What is key is this is a bout we expect to be very interesting and competitive. Both of these men can box, both are looking to go places and, on paper, it's a very evenly matched bout. It pits a light punching boxer mover against a heavy hitting boxer-puncher, which can provide an interesting in-ring dynamic. The bout should be a highly skilled affair, and the winner will almost certainly find themselves on the verge of a regional or domestic title bout. This is a compelling match up despite the fact neither man is well known outside of Japan.
The talented but light punching Yuichiro Kasuya is a Kadoebi promoted fighter who is in the top 10 of the JBC, OPBF and the WBO Asia Pacific rankings. He's a talented but frustrating fighter who promised a lot as a teenager but has failed to build on that promise in the way we, and others, had expected. At just 23 years old however time is still on his side. He came to our attention way back in 2014, when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year, aged 18, but since then has gone 7-2-2 (3) and spent a full year out of the ring.
Masanori Rikiishi proved himself as a talented amateur, running up a 25-5 (15) record in the unpaid ranks, before turning professional in 2017. He would win his first two bouts but would then come up short against Kosuke Saka in 2018, in what was a case of trying to bite off too much too soon. Since then he has scored 6 wins, including a very good one last time out against Freddy Fonseca. Interestingly he's the younger brother of Japanese national Light Flyweight champion Masamichi Yabuki and at 26 years old he is tipped for big things on the Japanese and regional scene, following in the footsteps of his brother. He's a big big fighter at the weight and although not as destructive as Yabuki he is very much a talented boxer-puncher, as shown by his rankings with the OPBF and JBC and his performances against the likes of Fonseca.
What to expect?
On paper this looks really interesting and could end up being either a brilliant match up between two well matched fighters, as it looks on paper, or a frustrating mess of a fight.
We expect Kasuya to to try and keep the bout at range, he will move and box and try to stay safe, whilst using his jab to rack up points. It's something we've seen from him in the past and something that did lead to his early career success. In recent bouts he's shown more willingness to sit on his shots, and has stopped 3 of his last 5, but when he's stepped up to domestically ranked fighters he struggled and we expect to see him show a lot of respect to Rikiishi's power.
With Rikiishi we have a more aggressive boxer-puncher who can damage opponents, hit them hard and can also box to a game plan. For our money he's physically the stronger guy, as well as the bigger puncher here. He might be giving away a little bit in height and reach but his southpaw stance will help neutralise the jab of Kasuya, and he will look to land the hard shots, whilst pressing with intelligent pressure from center ring.
We see Kasuya starting well, but after a few rounds the power difference will prove to be a difference maker with Kasuya being backed up, holding, spoiling, and struggling to maintain his offense. In the end his good start will mean something, but not enough with Rikiishi taking a narrow decision.
The bad news?
This looks interesting but as mentioned it could become a frustrating mess. If Kasuya tastes the power of Rikiiishi and doesn't like it we could see him holding a lot, and spoiling. We hope that doesn't happen but it could. Also the southpaw-orthodox dynamic could result in headclashes and some really ugly moments. Hopefully we avoid those however and get a really engaging tactical bout at mid-range.
We love watching Rookie of the Year bouts due to how intense they can be, how hungry the fighters involved can be and how much both men want to prove themselves. It's rare that we we see young and hungry fighters matched against each other in the West. More often we mismatches with one fighter heading in as the clear favourite and the other there to pad the other guy's record. In the Rookie of the Year that doesn't happen. Today we look at great 2019 Rookie of the Year bout as continue to thrust our arm into the 2019 Treasure Trove.
Jin Sasaki (6-0, 5) Vs Tetsuya Kondo (4-1, 3)
In one corner was 18 year old hopeful Jin Sasaki, an unbeaten fighter who had looked really impressive and exciting since making his debut in August 2018. He was still young, a bit raw around the edges but looked powerful, heavy handed and really exciting. He was showing real signs of promise and had proven that whilst he was heavy handed he could box a big, as we had seen in his previous bout against Hikaru Sato. Whilst he looked like he was lacking experience, and his amateur experience really wasn't much at all, there was a feeling that he was a natural for the pros with his physicality being highly impressive for such a youngster.
Tetsuya Kondo on the other hand was a 22 year old who had lost a close decision on debut, to Taichi Koide, but had bounced back well with 4 straight wins to get his career on track. Despite his winning run he had, for whatever reason, been out of the ring for 13 months coming in to this bout, and had lost much of the momentum his winning run had built. Like Sasaki he was aggressive, had a fun to watch style, and and lacked the polish of a solid amateur. Saying that however he had shown some nice defensive touches against Ryugo Yanagibori in 2018.
Going into this bout, which was an East Japan Rookie of the Year semi-final bout at Lightweight, we knew we had two men who liked to be aggressive, like to fight, and could put on fun action. What we weren't quite expecting was the action we got.
Within about 30 seconds we were seeing exchanges, with Kondo sticking his jab in Sasaki's face and Sasaki pressing the action. Kondo was use smart footwork and land combinations before getting out of range a the tempo quickly increased. The styles were giving us some brilliant back and forth in the second minute of the bout. The exciting exchanges made it seem clear this wasn't going to last long, and Kondo was dropped with about 40 seconds left. He beat the count and the action resumed.
We won't ruin what happens, as the bout didn't last too much longer, but this was intense, exciting, and a lot of fun. The sort of bout that we love featuring in this Treasure Trove series.
Looking for a short fight to watch this week? You could do a lot worse than this one!
This coming weekend is a packed one with action, as boxing continues to build it's momentum and slowly returns to something resembling normal. With that in mind we had a few options for this week's "One to Watch", however we did go with the obvious on from the US on Saturday night! It's the obvious choice but it's a good choice as the one to make sure you watch this week!
The One to Watch?
Israil Madrimov (5-0, 5) vs Eric Walker (20-2, 9)
August 15th (Saturday)
There are a few reasons to be really excited about this contest. Not only does the bout feature one of the sports most exciting rising hopefuls but it's also a world title eliminator and a chance to see questions asked of a man many are tipping for the top. The bout will also, potentially, see the fast tracked hopeful needing to show what he can do against a durable and world ranked foe.
Unbeaten Uzbek fighter Israil Madrimov is widely regarded as a nailed on future world champion. The talented Uzbek was a stand out amateur who turned professional in 2018, fighting in a 10 rounder straight away, and since then has marched up the rankings towards a world title shot. So far he has stopped all 5 of his opponents and barely lost a round so far. His total professional career has lasted just 25 rounds and he already been linked to world title fights.
Blessed with freakish power, speed and athleticism Madrimov is one of the most young fighters in the sport, and the 25 year old looks ready for big things. There are however questions for Madrimov to answer still, such as questions regarding his chin, his stamina and his ability to move to plan B when he can't hurt an opponent. Given what he did as an amateur however we think he'll answer those questions with ease, when he's finally asked them.
Eric Walker on the other hand is a 37 year old American veteran who has been a professional since late 2013. Despite turn professional late, at the age of 30, he has managed to carve out a solid career. He won his first 15 bouts, including an upset over Christopher Pearson, before losing a competitive decision to Patrick Day. Walker bounced back from that loss and competed in "The Contender" where he beat John Jackson and John Thompson before losing a razor thin decision to Brandon Adams in the semi-final of "The Contender". Since then he has reeled off 3 straight wins and moved himself in to the WBA rankings.
Coming in to this Madrimov is ranked #2 by the WBA whilst Walker is ranked #6.
What to expect?
We genuinely expect to see Madrimov make a statement here and look to not just win but to look amazing on route to his victory. Walker will however look to play his part and come in to the bout seeking an upset.
Although not the most naturally gifted fighter on there Walker is a deceptive quick and sharp fighter. He's clumsy, and awkward at times, but strong, tough and has under-rated power, with shots coming from some unorthodox angles. He could ask questions of Madrimov early on with those odd shots, but we suspect that by round 4 or 5 he'll be getting used as target practice and be broken down.
Walker is tough, he's never been stopped and went to war later on in his win over Christopher Pearson. Sadly for him however that toughness will see him prolonging his punishment from Madrimov, and getting badly beaten up the longer the bout goes.
We expect Madrimov to show some patience, take a round or two to see what Walker has to offer, then begin to go to town.
The bad news?
Whilst this will be a world title eliminator it's unclear when the winner will get a shot at a world title. The WBA Light Middleweight champion is over on PBC and if Madrimov wins, as expected we could end up waiting a while to see him getting a shot. Alternatively we could end up with the WBA playing silly buggers and creating a "new title" to keep things ticking over. Sadly until the WBA sort out the mess they keep creating any WBA "eliminator" will be seen as a bit of a joke.
This past week saw something happen that has worried me about boxing in Japan, where they have a very rigid gym system in place to manage and train fighters.
Boxing gyms around the world might generally look the same but they are different in certain regions. In most countries the training facility and the promoter are very different things. In Japan however they are very much interlinked. A fighter is generally promoted by their gym, and will train there along with other fighters from the same stable. In, say, the US or UK, different promoters will work with different fighters from various gym. Some fighters within a UK or US gym might fight for promoter A, some for promoter B and some for promoter C. That's not the case, at all, in Japan.
Just to give some examples, when we talk about the Ohashi Gym, the Watanabe Gym and the Teiken Gym, the fighters train there and are promoted by Mr Ohashi, Mr Watanabe and Mr Honda respectively.
In Japan promoters typically work together to put on shows, and fighters from different promotions will be on shows put on by different promotions. The promoter of the event will typically make up a large portion of a show, with up to 50% of the fighters involved coming from one gym. A gym can't be responsible for all the fighters on a card as they aren't allowed to match two of it's fighters against each other, hence the need to work together.
With that said when an issue affects a gym, it can have notable knock on consequences. For example when Kyoei shut it's doors last year it left two fighters stranded and needed a new licensed gym to accept them just weeks before the Rookie of the Year final. Thankfully they were both able to sign temporary deals at the Hanagata gym, but there was a chance that they would have missed out on the Rookie of the Year due to the issue with Kyoei.
I'm saying all this as I think it really needs to be made very clear before I talk about the subject I'm about to touch on, just how big of an issue the current "on going situation" is to the Japanese gym system. I've simplified it a lot here, but overall the concept is pretty much as described. A gym is essentially a promoter, a gym needs to work with other gyms to make bouts, and the gym that is promoting and event will typically make up the vast majority of bouts on a card with their fighters.
On Friday news broke that Jorge Linares (47-5, 29) had had a PCR tests that resulted in a positive result. This was huge news to the international boxing community as Linares was scheduled to fight at the end of August against Javier Fortuna (35-2-1-2, 24) in the main event of a DAZN show.
Much of the international focus was on Linares, the big name fighter and the one who is known to international audiences. What wasn't really mentioned was the bigger implications of the positive test. Almost all of the attention was on the Fortuna bout, and whether Linares was going to be able to fight at the end of the month.
The more interesting thing for me however is the implication this has on boxing in Japan, more specifically the Teiken Gym, which is currently closed and will remain closed until it's given the green light to re-open from a local body It's not clear when that will be.
It should be noted that Linares himself is asymptomatic. He had no issues at all, none of the tell tale signs, like fever, headache or loss of taste and smell. It was a test that he had to take due to Californian regulations, with California being where the bout against Fortuna was set to take place. It wasn't a test he requested to check his health. We need to make that clear. He had no obvious symptoms.
Just hours after the news that Teiken, the most prestigious boxing gym in Japan, had been forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future, we saw the first bout featuring one of their fighters being cancelled. Whilst that was a low key bout, between their fighter Munetaka Kihara (3-2-1, 1) and the debuting Reiji Kodama (0-0), from the Misako Gym, it's unlikely to be the only bout cancelled due to the Teiken gym issues.
Notably, at the time of writing, Teiken have a show set for September 5th at Korakuen Hall, which will be televised as part of the Dynamic Glove series on G+. The show was set to be the first live televised show in Japan since boxing resumed and it was set to feature Teiken fighters in 5 of the 6 bouts. If the gym is closed for the next week or so those bouts will almost certainly be cancelled and the show will be off as the 5 Teiken fighters involved would have missed a week of training, this close to the event.
I've not been given a full list of bouts scheduled for Teiken fighters, though we are aware that Daiki Funayama (11-3-1, 4) is pencilled in to fight Kimihiro Nakagawa (7-4-2, 3) in Shizuoka on September 27th. If the gym is closed for the next week or so we could end up with not just the September 5th show being cancelled but this late September bout as well.
Whilst there is no blame to give to anyone, and this is just "one of those things" it's not the first time we've seen "one of these things" since boxing returned to Japan. We also saw the Osakan boxing gym cluster as well, which affected Mutoh gym fighters and forced a number of bouts to be cancelled. It's an issue that is likely to get worse before it gets better and with boxing returning to Japan we would assume more and more gyms will have issues like this. It's inevitable, especially given the fact so many people people are asymptomatic, that this won't be the last gym needing to be closed in Japan.
Precautions can be taken, and have been taken, but there will continue to be a risk of a fighting taking the virus into a gym and essentially forcing it to shut down. How do we stop this from being a problem? I really don't know.
We can't exactly expect fighters to stop sparring, that would be ridiculous and in Linares' he had been sparring with a number of Teiken fighters, including Kenji Fujita (0-0), Mikito Nakano (4-0, 4) and Gonte Lee (2-0-1, 1), all of whom would have developed immensely from ring time with him.
We also can't expect fighters to stop training indefinitely, or to spar with masks or train at home all the time, that just won't work, and is impossible for most fighters as very few will have private gyms.
The two extremes are that we shut boxing down completely in Japan, something that would stop the spread within the boxing community, and essentially kill the sport. Or alternatively we let it rip through the gyms, on the idea that the fighters are healthy and will fight it off.
They are the two extremes, and they are both stupid ideas. Almost as stupid as forcing gyms to essentially act like bubbles, keeping trainees, staff and the like in their own bubbles for weeks before an event.
What has been implemented in Japan is that fighters will be tested 3 weeks before a fight and a day before a fight. In theory that has worked pretty well, but hasn't been flawless and didn't prevent the situation in Osaka. The issue is, as mentioned, the asymptomatic carriers. Someone may not have any idea they are taking it to the gym,and may have no idea who they are passing it to, or even who they picked it up from.
The truth is it's taken minds far, far better than mine to get to where they are now, which, for the most part, has worked. It can still be improved, things can still be done to limit the spread, and make boxing gyms safer.
We're not going to see a big change to the whole Japanese gym system because of the current situation, and we would hate for that to even be considered. Saying that however improvements need to be taken in the planning of events before we begin to see big shows cancelled on a regular basis. That's not because one fighter is ill, but because half of the card belong to a gym that has had to be closed.
The only solution I can think of, for the short term at least, is that each show needs a bigger mix of gyms involved, meaning if a gym is closed we still end up with more than half of the planned bouts.
This is completely possible, but a frustrating and somewhat arduous task for a match maker putting a card together. It would also likely be more expensive and further limit just how much cross gym training fighters can do. For the short term however it might be something that will be needed to keep the system ticking over.
We need to make it clear. Single cases are not going to be a major problem in Japanese boxing. A fighter being ill isn't the issue. It's the gyms needing to be closed that will be a problem, and the possibility for a closed gym to cancel full shows. In some countries a fighter being ill will mean their bout is off, in Japan a fighter being ill can close a gym and result in bouts on various shows being cancelled, and shows themselves being cancelled.
One of the biggest strengths of Japanese boxing is the gym system, but right now, it's close to becoming one of it's biggest, and most troubling, weaknesses, and that is a massive concern for me.
After a couple of world title fights in this series recently we move down a level to a regional title fight, but give you one of, if not the, most dramatic fight of 2019, and a fight that if you missed it you really need to give it a watch now! This isn't just an Asian treat, but is a boxing treat, of the very, very highest level. We had drama, action, knockdowns, oh boy did we have a lot of knockdowns, and momentum shifts all over the place. Here we have one of the very, very best fights of the year!
Yuki Beppu (20-1-1, 19) vs Ryota Yada (19-5, 16)
The once beaten Yuki Beppu had won the 2014 All Japan Rookie of the Year and had ran off 14 straight stoppages to start his career. His stoppage run came to an end in 2017, when he fought to a draw with Charles Bellamy. He reeled off 4 more stoppage wins before losing in late 2018 to Yuki Nagano, in a Japanese title eliminator. In early 2019 Beppu scored his first decision win, out pointing Jason Egera, following his loss to Nagano and began to move towards this fight with Yada for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific Weltweight title. Although unknown outside of Japan Yada is a very heavy handed boxer-puncher. He's small for a Welterweight, but powerful, composed and a very dangerous fighter, who proved his boxing ability with his performance against Bellamy.
Earlier in this series we featured Ryota Yada's loss to Yuki Nagano, a bout that came about following Nagano's win in 2018 over Beppu, which had seen Yada lose the Japanese Welterweight title. Yada had bounced back from the loss to Nagano with a confidence building win over Robert Kopa which had helped prepare him for this bout with Beppu. Although Yada had 5 losses on his record he had started his career 3-3 and then rebuild, going 16-2, with his losses coming to Yuki Nagano and Jayar Inson. Although not the best fighter out there Yada is heavy handed, aggressive, and a pretty well rounded boxer-puncher, with a gritty toughness. He'd shown that he could run be stopped, with both Inson and Nagano taking him out, but it was going to take a fair bit to take him out.
Fans who had seen the two emerging through the ranks it was obvious this had the potential to be an excellent bout, though few would have expected it to be anywhere near as good as we got. We knew both could punch, we knew both could fight, but we didn't know they would give us the treat that we got, or give so much in their attempts to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight.
Unlike many bouts, which have a feeling out round, this was a war early on. Within 30 seconds Yada was rocked, and badly shaken as Beppu went on the hunt. To his credit Yada saw put the first wave of Beppu's offense, but was shaken again soon afterwards. It looked like we were going to get a very short fight but to his credit Yada regrouped and started to force Beppu backwards.
In round 2 we again saw Beppu's power striking early and he seemed on the verge of a stoppage as he wailed away on Yada, as he was stuck on the ropes. Yada again saw out the storm, but continued to be under pressure and was wobbled badly with over a minute of the round left. Yada got dropped to the canvas with his legs seemingly gone and would soon be dropped legitimately as Beppu hunted the early finish. He was all over the place as he tried to hold on we went to the bell.
From there on it was Yada who began to finally find himself in the bout, and he began to find Beppu, dropping him numerous times as the bout swung in his favour. Beppu would be yoyo'd to the ring numerous times, but his heart and fighting spirit kicked in, as we ended up seeing numerous knockdowns, heart and desire from both, intense exchanges, and a sense that the bout could swing on a single shot.
This was amazing. This was brutal. This was special. Sit down, grab a beer and enjoy a bout that will long live on as the best WBO Asia Pacific title bout!
One thing was don't see enough of is great all-Korean bouts. It seems we could be seeing a change that in the near future, and we have had one or two in the last few years, but they are still rather rare. Thankfully this weekend we get actually get two, one of which is my pick for this week's "One to Watch".
The One to Watch?
Jong Seon Kang (10-0-2, 6) vs Seong Yeong Yang (8-2-5, 4)
August 8th (Saturday)
We love action bouts and given the fighters involved in this one we are expecting nothing short of a thrill a minute, full on war with incredible action, intense exchanges, limited defense and amazing wills to win. This isn't likely to be a bout for a purist, but for those who want a rock em sock robots style fight this should be ideal. The men both like to let their hands, both men are flawed, and both know how to put on a show!
Aged just 18 Jong Seon Kang is one of the countries brightest hopes, and is already a multi-year professional, having debuted back in November 2017. Although not a big name Kang really impressed us last year when he fought 5 times, going 3-0-2 (2). Whilst his bouts weren't at the highest level he certainly wasn't just beating limited opponents, in fact he managed to upset Ravshanbek Shermatov, travelled to China and beat Qixiu Zhang, and then defeated Tomjune Mangubat in an absolute thriller in Vietnam. He's tough, gutsy, throws a lot of leather and in his win over Mangubat was a genuinely sensational bout that showed he determination and saw him climb off the to earn the win.
It's fair to say that the 24 year old Seong Yeong Yang has a weird looking record, with 5 draws from 15 bouts however don't let that fool you into thinking he's not a good fighter. In fact he's become a very good fighter after a really weird 2-4-2 start this his professional career, and he's now unbeaten in 11 bouts. As with Kang his competition hasn't been amazing, but he's shown an incredible work, amazing engine, guts and drive. His most notable result is his 2019 draw in China against Jian Wang. That bout, like Kang's against Mangubat, was just an exceptional, all out, free swinging, intense war. Defense wasn't something either man wanted to show us, and we weren't complaining!
What to expect?
Given that both fighters are limited, action fighters who have high work rates, limited defense, throw in high volume without massive amounts of power we're going to tell you all to expect something special. Really special. From the opening round we expect to see a lot of leather thrown.
Of the two Kang is probably the more technical, but he's certainly not a technical fighter in a traditional sense. Kang is probably the higher volume guy, but not by a significant amount. We would expect Kang to be more willing to move, look for angles and space, but be willingly dragged into a tear up. That will give us some exciting exchanges early on, but as the fight goes on, and the foot work slows, we expect to see more toe-to-toe exchanges in what will, potentially, be a FOTY contender.
It might seem hyperbolic but this bout has the potential to be something truly amazing. We know it's going to be relatively low level, but that doesn't matter too much here, it's going to be entertaining and that's why it's this weeks one to watch!
The bad news?
At the time of writing it's unclear if the bout will be aired live, however it's a Cocky Buffalo show under the auspices of the KBA so at the very least we know it's going to be made available online after the bout. We might need to wait to watch it, but the wait will be worth it!
One of the distinctly unique things about Japanese boxing is the Rookie of the Year and the way it's formatted, with the regional tournaments leading to an All Japan final in December. The tournaments, and the way they allow us to get well matched bouts with novices is one of the genuine highlights of the Japanese system. No other country, even South Korea who do run their own rookie shows, has something that comes close to the Japanese Rookie of the Year.
Kantaro Nakanishi (1-0-1) vs Shodai Morita (2-0, 2)
The All-Japan Rookie of the Year, for those unaware, pits the best rookie's in the West of Japan against the best in East Japan. To find out who's the best the fighters compete in a knockout tournament with the West and East finals typically taking place in November, before the All-Japan finals in December. Today's Treasure Trove bout is the West Japan Bantamweight final.
In one corner was Kantaro Nakanishi, who had gone 7-6 (4) as an amateur and was fighting out of the obscure HK Sports Gym in Kitakyushu City. His gym was a small one and he really was unknown, though had notably defeated a 5-0-1 fighter on debut and held a 4-0 opponent to a draw in his second bout, advancing in the tournament on a tie breaker. Aged 18 at the time of this bout he, and his team, would have been full aware that getting into the All Japan final would be huge and would give him a chance to show case his skills in front of a nation wide audience on G+ as part of the national final.
Of course the bout wasn't all about Nakanishi and Shodai Morita was also an unbeaten teenager, also aged 18. Unlike Nakanishi, who had gone the distance in both of his bouts, Morita had look explosive in his. He had blasted out Sadayuki Yamada in his debut and then stopped Daichi Okamoto inside a round to book his place in this final. Whilst Nakanishi was one of the few notable names at his obscure gym Morita was coming from the Morioka gym, which has the likes of Hinata Maruta training at it. It seemed he had the power, the better gym, and home advantage, with this being his third bout at the EDION Arena Osaka.
On paper this looked brilliantly well matched. The tough matched non-puncher against the heavier handed but less tested fighter. From the opening seconds it was clear we were going to get something really exciting.
Morita seemed the quicker man, dancing around, using his movement to unsettle Nakanishi. Despite being a novice himself Nakanishi showed great composure and didn't look flustered at Morita's movement and feints, instead remaining poised and making sure he had his say in every exchange. He was countering well, and a number of his right hands really caught the eye in the opening round, whilst Morita burnt a lot of excess energy with un-needed movement.
Despite the extra movement from Morita there was always a threat that he had the fight changing power. Not only was that threat on everyone's mind but it was clearly something that Morita himself had belief in. It was as if he felt when he landed clean the bout was going to be over, whilst he felt like Nakanishi couldn't hurt him. This made for an exciting dynamic, which one man needing to be more cautious, but still busy, and the other being a bit more reckless but also being very dangerous.
We won't ruin this one, but it's a cracking little 4 rounder that's well worthy of a watch.
Although we're seeing more boxing in the East there is still a disjointed feel to lots of things, with bouts being cancelled, and events being changed almost daily. Thankfully though Thailand seems to be on top of things, and we're now starting to see some regular action from "The land of Smiles".
With that said this week's "One to Watch" is coming from Thailand and is a bout that has seen more attention than a typical all-Thai bout!
The One to Watch?
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41) Vs Amnat Ruenroeng (20-3, 6)
August 1st (Saturday)
It's rare to get a bout in Thailand that has some interest in the west, but that's exactly what we have here with a bout between two former world champions who meet in the main event of a WP Boxing event. The bout won't just be a rare bout between two well known Thai's but will also likely lead the winner into another world title fight. This is a bout that has significance well beyond the realms of Asian boxing, despite featuring two Asian fighters. This has implications on the world scene.
The WP Boxing is also proof of concept behind "studio boxing" with all the events being held at the Work Point Studio in Bang Phun. We've seen BT Sport trial something similar, but the WP Boxing series dates back a few years now and they almost all run from a studio with no issues at all. For a small event in the west this may end up being something we get to see more of in the west.
We suspect almost every fan to know something about Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. The 33 year old from Si Sa Ket is a 2-time WBC Super Flyweight champion, one of the hard hitting hitting fighters in the lower weights and a human tank. He is best known for his wins over Roman Gonzalez, both of which came in 2017, but other notable wins include victories over Juan Francisco Estrada, Jose Salgado and Yota Sato. He's a power punching and aggressive Super Flyweight and a physical monster who is looking to become a 3-time world champion.
Aged 40 Amnat Ruenroeng is an ancient "smaller man", but he's had a strange career in general. He made his professional debut at the age of 32, won the IBF Flyweight title at the age of 34, and scored a string of notable wins when he was the IBF champion. During his title reign Amnat beat the likes of Kazuto Ioka, Zou Shiming, John Riel Casimero and McWilliams Arroyo. Although a talented boxer he was a master at bending the rules, knowing how to foul and get away with it. He's not typically a physically imposing fighter, but he is a surprisingly strong one.
What to expect?
We'll be honest we actually see this as being a bit of a mismatch. Although both men are former world champions Srisaket is still in, or around, his prime. Amnat on the other hand is very much coming towards the end of his career. Not only that but Amnat is also the naturally smaller man, despite having slight edges in height and reach he is less powerfully built than Srisaket. It's also worth noting that Amnat has suffered a lot of punishment in recent years, including a KO loss to John Riel Casimer, a TKO loss to Nawaphon Por Chokchai and a loss in a kickboxing bout against Tenshin Nasukawa.
We expect to see Srisaket struggle early on with the tactics and jab of Amnat, but after 3 or 4 rounds we suspect that Srisaket's strength and power will begin to break down the 40 year old, who will begin to look for a way out by rounds 5 or 6.
The bad news?
For one of the few times in this series there really isn't too much bad to talk about. The bout will be streamed for free, via Matchroom and Work Point, there's no paywall or tape delay issues. Maybe the one issue is the fact the the bout is a mismatch and the it's on at an awkward for a Western audience, but it's still worth tuning in for.
Regular readers of the Treasure Trove series of articles will be well aware by now that we absolutely love Korean boxing. The skill level, particularly in recent years, is lower than in many Asian countries, but that the heart, determination and action make up for the lower technical ability. This weekly series has always put action and excitement ahead of skills, and with that in mind we have a real gem to share today!
Sung Jae Jo (7-0, 6) vs Gyung Mo Yuh (3-5-3)
In one corner was the unbeaten 23 year old Sung Jae Jo. Up to this point Jo had had everything his own way, with 6 stoppages from his 7 wins, and he had stopped his previous 5 in a row, including a win over Jong Min Bang for the Korean title in September 2018. He had never looked all that well polished, but in reality he didn't need to be, he was easily dealing with opponents with just his heavy handed blows and his trudging aggression. He certainly had areas he had to work on to go further in the sport but in reality on the Korean scene he was looking pretty solid. The Korean scene might be his limit, but he was certainly going to be a fun guy to watch.
Gyung Mo Yuh was in the other corner. He was a 31 year old fighter who had lost his first 4 bouts and won just 1 of his first 9, going 1-5-3 during that stretch. He had managed to notch back to back wins on route to this fight but they had come at Welterweight, where he had won a Korean title. Despite his "recent success", he had no right to be getting a Korean Middleweight title fight and was easy to over-look as being a legitimate challenger for Jo. Sometimes however it's those who are being over-looked who put in the best performances, and whilst Jo may have been expecting an easy fight he wasn't going to get that. Yuh was going to play his part in what turned out to be a great little war.
The two men clashed in January 2019 and despite the bout looking like a mismatch we ended up a very fun and enjoyable war.
From the opening round the champion was coming forward, looking to let his shots go on the inside whilst the challenger was showing the much more rounded skills, boxing and moving, and looking to control the distance. Despite the mentalities of the men being polar opposites the bout fight would quickly descend into Jo's type of fight, with bombs being thrown toe to toe.
Round after round was intense and both men had to take as good as they got. Although not a puncher Yuh was landing some really clean head shots as he tried to slow down the champion.
Despite the bout getting messy at times, especially when the two men began to tire, the intensity and excitement never dropped and both fought as if they had to give everything they had.
For those who love absolute wars, with heavy head shots, and don't mind defensive workd being ignored as a result this is brilliant. It's crude combatitve carnage and so much damn fun!
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.