Last week we saw Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3) claim the OPBF Bantamweight title by dethroning Keita Kurihara (15-6, 13) at Korakuen Hall in what was a highly anticipated match up, getting interest not just in Japan, but internationally. The bout managed to get listed on betting websites in Europe, Russia, the UK and US and fans genuinely seemed to want to watch it on Thursday, with many complaining about the lack of a live stream or a live TV broadcast. Thankfully it was aired, albeit on tape delay, a few days later.
With the bout now aired, and with fight fans having had a few days to give it a watch we’re now going to look back on the bout and share some of the things we took from the contest.
1-The cut was a major problem for Kurihara
The first thing that needs to be mentioned was that the cut that Keita Kurihara suffered in the first round was a genuine problem for him. It was a nasty cut as soon as it happened, and it was one that really could have forced a much earlier conclusion to the bout than we had. The bout went to the scorecards after round 9, but in fairness there were worries that the contest could end up being stopped in the first 4 rounds, which would have resulted in a technical draw. It was a deep one, it was a big one, and it was one that certainly gave Kurihara some issues throughout the bout. Thankfully Kurihara didn’t make excuses or use the cut as an excuse, and in fairness we suspect even if he had avoided the cut it wouldn’t have changed the winner of the bout.
2-Kurihara failed to set things up
One thing that surprised us here was how little Kurihara tried to use his reach and jab, and how he trudged forward whilst paying with the jab, rather than really letting it go. It was a good weapon in the first round, and should have been used throughout the contest to set up his power shots. He has a genuinely good jab, and we saw it in the first minute or two of the bout. Sadly though the jab almost vanished as he began looking more and more for a hail Mary shot. We suspect this is likely due to the cut, which came across his left eye, but it really showed as the bout went on. He came out looking for big right hands and heavy hooks and was caught time and time again. If he’d used his jab he could well have gauged range better and landed his harder shots. It’s a shame his jab really did vanish after he had early success with it.
3-Inoue’s footwork was fantastic
Whilst we can easily talk about how Kurihara failed to create openings and work on them it needs to also be said that Inoue did brilliantly at making Kurihara reset. We constantly saw Inoue on his toes, moving, changing directions, keeping Kurihara from having a range where he could have success. It wasn’t the eye catching, sparkling footwork of someone like Vasyl Lomachenko, but instead it was very, very effective footwork. Inoue was almost always in control of the range and the tempo of the bout, despite mostly fighting on the back foot. He used half-steps, forwards and backwards, small pivots, he created angles, made Kurihara fall short and really neutralised the reach advantage of Kurihara. He knew was the quicker man and made full use of that by using really smart footwork right throughout the bout.
4-Inoue KO backers - What were you thinking?
One of the strange things before the bout was the amount of money that went on an Inoue T/KO win, taking the result to almost events on the betting market. We’re not sure why so much money poured on a stoppage for the challenger here, and we suspect even he’s not sure. Before the bout he stated that he was going to box his bout, and that was a style that had only seen him pick up 3 low key stoppage stoppage wins. Kurihara has been stopped before, but his last stoppage came to Hiroaki Teshigawara, and we really don’t understand why money poured on an Inoue stoppage. Given the way Inoue fought there was no plan to go for the finish early on, and although he caught Kurihara with some very clean shots in the second half he never really hurt the champion.
5-Despite a year out Inoue was razor sharp
Prior to this bout Inoue had been out of the ring since November 2019, when he lost to Nordine Oubaali. That was his first loss and we had expected him to look, at the very least, a bit rusty. Instead he looked razor sharp from the opening moments to the eventual conclusion of the bout. His defense was on point, his footwork - as already mentioned, was fantastic, his offense was clean and crisp, and he boxed fantastically. Everything he did was pretty much on point, and we dare say that was, in part, due to the danger that Kurihara posed. We’ve seen Inoue turn off in bouts, get lazy in others, and give rounds away. Here however he was focused throughout, he was fighting like a man who knew if he was tagged he could be hurt and didn’t want to be dropped again. It was only for around 30 seconds in round 5 that we saw him in any trouble at all, and he quickly regained his composure and went on to land some of his best shots afterwards. Given this is the same Takuma Inoue that was run incredibly close by Kentaro Masuda and Mark John Yap, and was dropped by Rene Dacquel, Froilan Saludar and Mark Anthony Geraldo, this was the performance he needed. In fact we would go as far as to say this is the best we’ve seen from Inoue.
This past weekend we got the first live televised Japanese card of 2021 and if we’re being honest it wasn’t the best show we’ve seen in recent months. In fact, to be bluntly honest, much of the card seemed to meander, with a few highlights. That was until the chief support bout, which saw Jukiya Iimura (1-0, 1) make his professional debut, taking on Daisuke Yamada (6-6, 1). This was not a bout that had us frothing at the mouth or overly excited going in, but afterwards we felt we’d seen someone a little special make their first mark on professional boxing, and it seems we weren’t alone in thinking that. In fact it seems Iimura has instantly become someone worthy of making a real buzz around.
With that in mind we’ve gone and taken a look back over the bout and decide to share some of our take aways from the contest.
1-Iimura stood out immediately
It’s rare for Japanese fighters to standout in their ring walks, at least during the early stages of their careers. Iimura however stood out immediately. Part of that was the sombrero he was wearing to the ring but there was also an almost cheeky smile and a confident look to him. He didn’t look like a youngster stepping into his first professional bout, but instead he looked like a man who was about to show everyone that he was something special. It was clear, almost immediately that he wanted to catch the eye, he wanted to grab fans attention, and he wanted those watching to make a note of him. We’ll get onto his performance in a moment, but the aura that he gave off on his ring walk was telling and should have been enough to tell everyone in the venue that they weren’t about to see another rather cautious contest.
2-Iimura’s style is VERY pro-ready
Earlier on the card we had seen a number of other Kadoebi debutants, with Yudai Murakami, Yugo Kono and Jun Ikegawa all debuting on this show. All of them looked good, including Kon who suffered a 6th TKO loss to Koji Tsurumi, but they all looked like they hadn’t quite adapted to the professional style of boxing. Iimura on the other hand looked like he was made for this. Unlike the other debutants he wasn’t looking to sharp shoot at distance or point score at range. Instead he wanted to leave an impression. He came forward early on, he looked like he wanted to fight, rather than fiddle, and applied intelligent pressure. That pressure opened up opportunities to land heavy shots and he twice dropped Yamada with fantastic counter right hands, forcing a stoppage after the second knockdown. His style is already looking like that of an experienced professional. He is not only a man who seems to like being in front of an opponent and using subtle movements and footwork, but also has solid power, intelligent shot selection and he looks like a genuinely powerful young kid. His legs look particularly powerful and we suspect the amount of pop he is going to get into his shots is going to become very scary when he gets some more experience under his belt.
If you missed the performance we seriously suggest you go and watch the fight. It was very impressive from the youngster.
3-Daisuke Yamada was there to win
Although nowhere near the best fighter in the Flyweight division in Japan Daisuke Yamada didn’t get into the ring to lose. This was obvious from the way he fought. He came out with ambition and hunger. He pulled himself up after being dropped, both times, and he wanted to fight. He even had some moments of success. Unfortunately for him he was up against a fantastic young prospect who really was several levels above him, but we can’t take anything away from Yamada who wanted to do more than just make up the numbers. He wanted to take home a victory. We need to see more fighters, especially in the west, fight with Yamada’s mentality of wanting to win, even if you are very much up against it.
4-The finish was damn impressive
We mentioned that Iimura dropped Yamada twice but we really need to explain just how impressive the second knockdown was. It was a perfectly placed counter right hand, on the chin, over the extended right hand of Yamada. Watching the slow motion replay really did show how brilliant the shot was. We’re amazed that Yamada managed to get to his feet following the shot, though he obviously had little control of his body as he collapsed into the arms of Michiaki Someya and then later left the ring on a stretcher. We’ve not been told how Yamada is, but we suspect the stretcher was used as a precaution more than anything else.
5-Genuine concern and respect for Yamada
When Yamada was on the canvas after the bout was stopped it was great to see genuine concern and respect from both the crowd and Iimura himself. The youngster had just scored a really impressive win on debut, and rather than celebrating like we suspect he probably wanted to, he was subdued in his corner, and it wasn’t until he had checked on Yamada and spoke to his team that he put back on his Sombrero. As for the crowd they were silent in respect of Yamada until he was being carried out of the hall, where they gave him a round of applause. It wasn’t a big thing, from either the victory or the crowd, but it was still nice to see, and we’d like to see more youngsters showing some concern for their opponent in situations like this.
We've all heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and we've decided to put our spin on things with "Six degrees of separation" looking to connect Asian fighters you may never have assumed were connected! Today we connect Korean legend Jung Koo Chang to former world champion Malcolm Tunacao.
Just as ground rules, we're not doing the more basic "A beat B who beat C who beat D" type of thing, but instead we want to link fighters in different ways. As a result we will limit A fought B connections, and try to get more varied connections together, as you'll see here! We also know there are often shorter routes to connect fighters, but that's not always the most interesting way to connect them.
1-Korean great Jung Koo Chang was a true legend of the sport, one of the all time great Light Flyweights and a sensational fighter who, in his prime, was something very special. Although an offensive machine, with a style built around intense pressure and work rate, he was a defensively smart fighter, who often slipped shots with surprising ease. Sadly when he ended his career, in 1991, he wasn't in his prime. On the under-card of Chang's final bout was future Korean world champion Yong Soo Choi, who picked up a win over Won Taek Lim.
2-The exciting, talented, and fun to watch Yong Soo Choi would go on to have an under-rated reign as the WBA Super Featherweight world champion. During his reign he would make 7 defenses of that title, including one against Japan's Koji Matsumoto, in what was a very, very close bout. That was Choi's 5th defense and was Matsumoto's second world title bout, with many feeling that had the bout not been in Korea the title would have changed hands.
3-Although Koji Matsumoto failed to win a world title in of his three world title fights he did help craft some of the top talent at the Ohashi gym after he retired from being a fighter. He was, and is, regarded as one of the very best trainers in Japan and has been for a while. One of the fighters he has helped turn into a world champion is Katsushige Kawashima, who won the WBC Super Flyweight title with a upset win over Masamori Tokuyama in June 2004.
4-As mentioned Katsushige Kawashima was the WBC Super Flyweight champion. His reign might be forgotten by some though it was a pretty notable one. Not only did he dethrone the talented Tokuyama inside a round but he also made 2 defenses, including one against the then unbeaten Jose Navarro. Another Japanese fighter who won the WBC Super Flyweight title, and made 2 defenses, was Yota Sato. Sato's reign is, also, sadly forgotten by fans but it was actually ended at the hands of the then rather unknown Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
5-Yota Sato is one of a rather small number of fighters to win a world title after losing on his debut. In his debut he was beaten by split decision by Kazuki Yamato at Korakuen Hall in 2004. Another fighter who lost on his professional debut before winning a world title was Celes Kobayashi, who was beaten on points by Isao Mori in 1992 before building his career and winning the WBA Super Flyweight title in 2001 with a TKO win over Leo Gamez.
6-Although Celes Kobayashi would win the WBA Super Flyweight title in 2001 he had come up short in a previous world title challenger. His first world title bout saw him fighting to a draw with the then WBC Flyweight champion Malcolm Tunacao in 2000. That would turn out to be Tunacao's one and only successful defense, with the Filipino being stopped in a round in his next bout, by the Thailand's Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.
Whilst we have covered a number of fighters in this series one thing we haven't really done is look at female boxers. That changes today as we look at shining a light on a Japanese legend Fujin Raika (25-8-1, 10).
Whilst not a major name on the international boxing scene Raika was one of the trailblazers for the female boxing scene, particularly in Japan. She wasn't the first Japanese female fighter but is one of the most important and also a woman who had a really interesting life.
Today we're going to shine a little bit of a light on Raiki as we bring you 5 Midweek Facts about Fujin Raika, though the reality is we can't really do her justice here and what she did for the sport in Japan is massive, with effects still being felt now, more than 20 years after her professional debut.
1-Due to various reasons Raika grew up in an orphanage from the age of 3 to when she graduated from high school.
2-Before becoming a boxer Raiki had worked as a dental hygienist. Sadly however this career didn't seem to be for her and she reportedly left the field after just a few months.
3-In 2002 Raiki released an auto-biography, with a title that roughly translated as "I Want to Find a Whereabouts" or "I want to find a place to live". The book is available on Amazon.jp, is 204 pages and it seems like it came very much in the early stages of her career, sadly missing out on the bulk of her in ring action, including her biggest successes as a combat sport participant.
4-The poster for Raiki's 2007 bout with Ann Saccurato, the first of two bouts between the two, had a poster designed by Jyoji Morikawa, the man behind Hajime No Ippo. That's the same Morikawa who famously did a Ring magazine cover featuring his stylised version of Naoya Inoue.
5-Following Raika's retirement from professional boxing she continued in combat sport, participating in both Kick Boxing and MMA.
On January 22nd we’ll see a potentially thrilling Japanese Super Bantamweight title fight, as hard hitting champion Yusaku Kuga (19-4-1, 13) looks to defend his title against the gritty Gakuya Furuhashi (26-8-1, 14) in the headline bout of DANGAN 238, which will be streamed live on Boxing Raise.
With that bout in mind we thought it was a great time to return our “Did You Know…” series, as we take a look over the history of the Japanese Super Bantamweight title, which sees it’s history dating back to the mid 1960’s and has seen numerous notable fighters holding the belt.
-The first man to hold the title was Hajime Taroura, who won the inaugural title in 1964. This was around 12 years before the WBC recognised the weight class and around 13 years before the WBA recognised the weight class!
-Taroura’s reign saw him defend the title 9 times in total between August 7th 1964, when he won the title, to February 12th 1969, when he finally lost it. Meaning that by the time he lost it, there was still no recognition of the weight class by the world title bodies. His 9 defenses still stands as the most defenses in a single reign! His reign, that lasted almost 4 years and 6 months, is still the longest, by some margin.
-Staying with Taroura’s reign, all 10 of his title bouts, his title win and 9 defenses, went to decision.
-A final Taroura fact is 3 of his 9 defenses ended in draws, including 2 of his 3 defenses against Koichi Yamamoto. Since then there have only been 4 more draws for the title.
-The second champion was Kuwashi Shimizu, who stopped Taroura in 3 rounds to score the first KO in a bout for the title.
-Shimizu’s reign lasted less than 3 months as he, himself, was stopped in his first defense by Kanjiro Nakajima in late April 1969.
-Despite losing in his first defense Shimizu would quickly reclaim the title, stopping Nakajima in a rematch in July 1969.
-When Kenjiro Nakajima retired his record was a losing one, with a career ledger of 9-13-3-1 (5)
-In 1970 the amazingly named Attack Harada won the title. Sadly his reign lasted just over 3 months. Despite his short reign he was involved in the first, and became the first fighter to lost the belt by technical decision, when he lost to Sarutobi Koyama.
-Sticking with Harada for a moment, he finished his career with a strange looking 23-29-4 (4) record, having fought outside of Japan 15 times, with 5 bouts in the US. Strangely his record in the US was an unbeaten one, going 4-0-1 (2).
-The first man to vacate the title was the aforementioned Sarutobi Koyama, who dethroned Attack Harada and ran up 4 defenses before handing the title back. He vacated due to issues with his eyes, which also lead to his retirement.
-Snappy Asano, probably the second best name of any fighter to hold this title, filled the vacancy left by Koyama. After winning the belt Koyama reportedly entered the ring and gave flowers to the new champion.
-The 9th man to hold the title was Waruinge Nakayama, the first fighter born outside of Japan to hold the title. The Kenayn born 3-time Olmypian held the title for less than 2 years but ran up an impressive 4 defenses before a 1977 loss to Yu Kasahara.
-During his Japanese title reign Nakayama fought in the first ever WBC world title fight at the weight, losing to Rigoberto Riasco. This makes him the first Japanese Super Bantamweight champion to fight for a world title. In fact he did so twice in 1976, also facing Carlos Zarate later that same year for the WBC Bantamweight title.
-The man who dethroned Nakayama was Yu Kasahara in 1977. Kasahara would be the first Japanese champion to fight for the WBA title, facing Soo Hwan Hong. This wasn’t just the second ever WBA Super Bantamweight title fight, but it was also the first time a world title at the weight had been contested in Japan, the country that had recognised the division for well over a decade by this point!
-Kasahara, like his predecessor, also managed 4 defenses.
-On 1979 Kasahara was dethroned by Hiroyuki Iwamoto who’s first reign was an underwhelming one, with just 2 defenses. He would however reclaim the title in 1980 and record a subsequent 8 defenses, making him first in terms of total defenses of the title, at 10, and second for a single reign, at 8. He’s the only man with more defenses of the belt than Hajime Taroura, though did need 2 reigns to manage to break his record which had stood for well over a decade.
-In 1983 Takuya Muguruma dethroned Hiroyuki Iwamoto, via 4th round RTD. As a champion Muguruma held the title for just over 3 years, one of the longest reigns, and notched 7 defenses, good enough for the third most defenses of the title, before vacating it in late 1986. More notable than all that however was that Muguruma became the first man to go from Japanese champion at the weight to a world champion, winning the WBA Bantamweight title in 1987, when he stopped Azael Moran for the vacant title.
-The 1980’s seemed to be the era where the title really did come into its own. Not only did we get Iwamoto’s 8 defense reign and Muguruma’s 7 defense reign but the popular Mark Horikoshi also secured a solid reign with 6 defenses.
-Horikoshi, who was born in America, was the second non-Japanese born fighter to win the title, following the Kenyan born Wakayama.
-In 1988 Horikoshi defended the belt against Atsushi Oyakawa, this was the last time the belt was fought for in Osaka! Current champion Yusaku Kuga wasn’t even born when that happened!
-Sadly for Horikoshi his reign is best remembered for the way he lost the title in 1989, coming up short in a bout often regarded as one of the best fights to ever take place at Korakeun Hall. That was his sensational battle with Naoto Takahashi, which we’ve included at the end of this article. If you’ve never seen it it is worth watching any day!
-Despite going through hell to win the title Takahashi’s reign was a short one, with the “Prince of the Reversal” defending the belt just once before vacating it at the end of 1989.
-Manabu Saijo was the man who filled the vacancy left by the hugely popular Takahashi, and was also the first champion of the 1990’s. Sadly his reign was also a short one, losing in his second defense, when he was stopped by Hiroaki Yokota.
-Yokota’s reign ended in 1992 when he vacated the belt after 3 defenses. He would later go on to challenge Wilfredo Vazquez at the age of 32, a then record for the older Japanese fighter to fight for a world title.
-The vacancy left by Yokota was filled by Yuichi Kasai, a future multi-time world title challenger. Kasai would go on to record 2 defenses before vacating the belt, to challenge for world titles and later win the OPBF title. Much later on Kasai would become one of the most highly regarded trainers in Japan. Kasai was also the first champion at the weigh from the Teiken gym in Tokyo, though there had previously been an Osaka Teiken champion.
-Kasai to do win the vacant title and to vacate it himself, something that has only happened twice since.
-Following Kasai’s decision to vacate we saw a genuine upset as Silverio Tan stopped Yasushi Arai for the title in 1994. There is some dispute about Tan’s record, though it is accepted that Tan had more losses than wins when he stopped Arai for the belt, and the TV graphics for his first defense had him listed as 4-6 (4).
-After Tan won the title he would go a reported 1-5. Again there is some dispute about his final career record but that would give him a definite losing record when he retired in 2002.
-One final fact about Tan, he joined Nakayama and Horikoshi as champions born outside of Japan who won this Japanese title.
-Yasushi Arai would get revenge over Tan in a rematch that the two had in 1995. Amazingly after winning the title Arai notched his first 3 defenses inside a year, all of which went 10 rounds.
-In 2000 Manabu Fukushima won the belt by split decision, defeating Yutaka Manabe. This was the first time the title had ever changed hands by split decision, with all other split decisions, of which there had been 2, favouring the champion.
-Since the year 2000 the most defenses by a fighter has been 6 defenses, with Junichi Watanabe and Masaaki Serie both managing half a dozen defenses of the belt.
-In 2004 Yoshikane Nakajima defended the belt against Setsuo Segawa on a world title double header. This was the last time the bout was fought for outside of Tokyo, with the bout taking place in Saitama.
-In 2005 Shoji Kimura won the title, becoming the second man to win it by split decision. This was rather a notable bout as it came on the under-card of world title double header which saw Yutaka Niida retain the WBA Minimumweight and Hozumi Hasegawa begin his legendary reign as the WBC Bantamweight champion.
-In 2007 Akifumi Shimoda won the title and made 3 defenses. He would later win the OPBF title, and then go on to win the WBA title, making him the first Japanese fighter to complete the set at 122lbs, winning domestic, regional and world honours. He was also the first Japanese national champion at Super Bantamweight to win a world title at the weight, rather than Muguruma who dropped down in weight to win a Bantamweight world title.
-Shoji Kimura became a 2-time champion in 2009, becoming only the third man to reclaim the title. Unlike the previous 2-time champions Kimura didn’t beat the man who had beaten him for the title, and didn’t have reigns that sandwiched his conqueror, but instead it took him almost 4 years to reclaim the belt. A record that still stands as the long gap between reigns of the belt.
-Masaaki Serie became the third man to win the title by split decision when he dethroned Kimura in 2009, he almost made his first defense by split decision, giving the title it’s first back-to-back split decision bouts.
-During Serie’s reign we saw the “interim” title being used for the first, and so far only, time with Mikihito Seto winning the interim title in April 2011. This was due to Serie missing the 2011 edition of the Champion Carnival due to injury. The interim title wasn’t needed for long however with Serie defeating Seto to unify the titles in July 2011.
-Serie vacated the title in 2012 and was followed by Hidenori Otake, who won the previously vacant title by split decision before running up 5 defenses and then vacate it himself. This means Otake was the second man to win the vacant title and vacate it himself.
-Rather surprisingly Otake’s successor followed suit, with Yukinori Oguni winning the title Otake had given up, and vacating it himself.
-Oguni joined a very select list of fighters who held the title before going on to win world honours, upsetting Jonathan Guzman in 2016 for the IBF Super Bantamweight title, in one of the very final bouts of 2016.
-Since Oguni vacated the belt only 4 men have held the belt. These were Yasutaka Ishimoto, Yusaku Kuga, twice, Shingo Wake and Ryoichi Tamura.
-Interesting Kuga has beaten 2 of the 3 other champions that have held the title since Oguni, beating Ishimoto for his first reign and Tamura for his current reign, though was beaten himself by Wake.
-With 2 reigns to his name Kuga is one of just 4 fighters to reclaim the title.
-Amazingly the first “TKO1” in a bout for the title came in 2018, when Yusaku Kuga stopped Ryo Kosaka. Kuga is also the only man to have achieved that result twice, having also stopped Yosuke Fujihara inside a round in 2019.
-At the time of writing there has been 143 bouts for the title, and 1 interim title bout.
-There has been 42 reigns of the title, 1 reign of the interim title and 4 fighters have recaptured the belt.
-As previously mentioned there has only ever been 7 draws in bouts for the title. Amazingly 3 of those came in the first 7 bouts for the belt!
-Since 1998 all but 1 of the bouts for the title has been held in Tokyo, with the one exception coming in Saitama.
When it comes to boxing in Hong Kong there's only ever been one fighter of real note and that was the all action, must watch, thrill a minute Super Flyweight warrior Res Tso (22-0, 13). Tso seemed set for a world title fight in 2017 before vanishing from the boxing world, until he resurfaced and announced he was going to pursue an Olympic medal. He seemed on the verge of something huge and gave it up, just when it seemed like he was about to get a career defining bout. Win or lose, Tso in a world title fight would have been massive news for the still under-developed Hong Kong boxing scene.
With his career now looking like it's over, and with Tso being one of the fighters requested for this series, here we bring you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Rex Tso
1-Tso has admitted that he wasn't very good at school, but was a good at video games.
2-Boxing runs through Tso's veins. Prior to picking up the sport himself his father was a very talented fighter and was a multi-time national champion. In fact it was his father who gave him some basic training in the sport prior to Rex considering the sport as a potential career.
3-Talking about Rex's father he was also the trainer of Rex's future manager Jay Lau, of DEF Boxing. Lau would give Rex a job as an assistant coach, despite Rex having no experience coaching. That job would later give us the most successful partnership in Hong Kong boxing, with Lau promoting Tso through his professional career to a world rankings.
4-Despite being a boxer Tso has revealed he doesn't like violence!
5-Although he would become the "Wonder Kid" that wasn't actually the nickname some of those around him gave him originally. That was actually "Flat Tyre Rex", as he ran out of stamina quickly. That was due to the fact he was, admittedly, very lazy. Thankfully he buckled down, and would end up really changing that, and build an incredible level of fitness.
6-On January 2nd 2015 Tso got married to his long term girlfriend, Candy Wu. The two had a wedding reception in Mong Kok in March that year.
7-Also in 2015 Tso got a new trainer as he began working with former Filipino fighter Jake Verano. Although not a well known name Verano fought 39 professional bouts and went 20-16-3 (10) during his in-ring career, which saw him beat Roly Lunas, and face the likes of Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, Terdsak Kokietgym and Ricky Sismundo.
8-Although Tso failed to make it to the top of the sport, he was regarded as one of, if not the, most marketable Hong Kong athletes. This saw him working as the face of a number of companies in Hong Kong and featuring in numerous commercials. This ranged massively, but included Nike, Hauwei, INOX, Stanard Chatered, Hong Kong Broadband and Hong Kong International Airport. Interestingly the relationship with Hauwei saw Hauwei live streaming one of his fights on their Facebook page.
9-Talking about Tso being the face of something he also partnered with the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation to help promote HIV tests. This saw him featuring in a series of posters with the theme of "Love with Sextitude", with Tso's fame in his homeland being used to raise the profile of HIV tests and responsible sexual attitudes in Hong Kong.
10-In 2020 Tso told the press that he had been discriminated against in Jordan for a wearing a mask when he arrived to compete in the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifier event. It needs to be remembered the event had been moved from Wuhan, China to Amman, Jordan due to Coronavirus.
One of the best things about this sport is the unpredictable nature of it. Larry Merchant one called it the Theatre of the unexpected, and we feel like that is one of the most perfect descriptions of the sport. It's part of what makes today's Remarkable Round so amazing. It seemed be so unpredictable through out, swinging one way until the unthinkable happened. This was a round that needs reliving, it needs to be re-seen and it needs to be enjoyed once again.
Sornpichai Kratingdaenggym (16-0, 13) vs Leo Gamez (32-6-1, 24)
Back in March 1999 Venezuelan great Leo Game claimed the WBA Flyweight title, stopping Hugo Rafael Soto in 3 rounds to become a 3-weight world champion. At that point Gamez was 35, he had score just 1 win in 3 years and was assumed to have been beyond shot. He then noted his first defense in May, stopped Joshue Comacho, before travelling to Thailand to take on the unbeaten Sornpichai Kratingdaenggym.
Although unbeaten Sornpichai Kratingdaenggym was something of an unknown. He was 25 years old and, for the most part, been matched softly. His biggest wins were over Willy Salazar and Luigi Castiglione, both of which were defenses of the lightly regarded WBU title. He was entering into this bout as the home town fighter, but also the man stepping up to face a world class fighter, and the then reigning world champion.
The first 7 rounds were pretty much won, with ease, by the Thai local, but Gamez wasn't a man who was just going to hand his title over and in round 8 he managed to land some solid shots early in the round as his bull like strength paid dividends. Sornpichai responded with some of his own, but the pressure and experience of Gamez was starting to drag the inexperienced Thai into a phone booth war. Sornpichai was happy to battle and went to town with Gamez on the ropes. To his credit Gamez fought back well, picked his shots and then turned the tables managing to put Sornpichai in trouble.
With Sornpichai stumbling Gamez saw his chance, going for the kill, until he ate a huge left hand that dropped the champion flat on to his back.
Gamez, some how beat the count, but the referee was unwilling to let the veteran continue, sending the local fans into fits of joyous rapture.
This is a round that perfectly encompasses why we love boxing. It was dramatic, exciting, and like something taken from a Rocky movie. A special round, with a sensational finish, great back and forth and something that needs to be seen!
A couple of weeks ago in this series we looked at a blow out win scored by a Japanese fighter on the road. This week we actually follow up with another upset by the same fighter who again went on the road, and again picked up a big stoppage win. Unlike the last "What a Shock" however this wasn't a blow out but was an even more brutal finish.
February 3rd 2018
Bolshoy Ice Dome, Adler, Russia
Hurricane Futa (23-7-1, 14) Vs Vage Sarukhanyan (17-1-1-1, 4)
Of course two weeks ago we looked at Hurricane Futa's win over Will Tomlinson. That was a massive upset of a fringe world level contender, and came in a "blink and you miss it" fight. The entire bout lasted just 40 seconds, and essentially ended when Futa landed the first shot of any value, sending Tomlinson down for the count. Sadly for Futa he was unable to build on that win originally, losing to Ernie Sanchez in 2017, with Futa on the wrong end of an upset there. Following his loss to Sanchez we saw Futa pick up an easy win before travelling off to Russia to face the then rising Vage Sarukhanyan.
Aged 30 at this point Futa had little on his record other than the win over Tomlinson. He had been stopped by Sanchez and was 5-4 in his last 9 and 6-5 in his previous 11. He was expected to just lose against the once beaten Sarukhanyan.
Whilst Sarukhanyan wasn't too well known he was a rising hopeful in Russia. He was a skilled fighter who's only set backs, a draw and a loss, had come against Igor Ivanov, with the draw being a technical draw on the basis of rainfall. Following those setbacks Sarukhanyan had reeled off 9 straight wins, including victories over Rey Laspinas, Jhertiz Chavez and Gamaliel Diaz. He seemed to be on his way to some bigger and better things and had already claimed a WBC regional title.
Although not a puncher Sarukhanyan was looking like a very talented boxer, with a lot of skill and promise. At this point he was 27 and coming into his prime. He had confidence, youth, good form and home advantage. He was expected to continue his form here.
From the opening round Futa seemed happy to come out swinging but was made to look crude by the light feet of Sarukhanyan who got on his toes and looked to create distance and try to neutralise Futa. To his credit however Futa was keeping the pressure on, chasing the local fighter around the ring and making Sarukhanyan work for every inch of space he could get. It was a clear sign that Futa wasn't there to be a willing loser, but was their to advance his own career, and that he was hungry to win. He did take some solid shots, eating several very good right hands from Sarukhanyan, but he never seemed to be too buzzed by them.
Round 2 Futa's pressure seemed less intense, with Sarukhanyan managing to create space more often get off his work with fewer issues. It seemed like the intensity of the opening round took more from Futa than it did from Sarukhanyan but in round 3 Futa managed to show his power as he dropped Sarukhanyan for the bouts first knockdown. The knockdown came from what originally looked like a solid left hook, but on replay seemed to come from a solid headclash. Sarukhanyan got to his feet, and didn't look badly shaken, but was under intense pressure for the remainder of the round.
Futa continued to take the fight to Sarukhanyan in round 4, but it was the Russian who seemed to be finding his range and landing the better shots and countering the pressure of Futa. Despite the success of Sarukhanyan he wasn't able to slow the pressure of Futa, even when he pushed him over later in the round. It seemed the plan for the Russian was to counter, move, and hope Futa would tire himself out with his own pressure.
Sadly for the local fans Futa's energy reserves weren't wearing thin and he kept the pressure up, forcing Sarukhanyan to remain on the backfoot. The work wasn't always pretty from Futa but he was always pressing and always forcing the Russian fighter to work harder than he would have wanted. That began to show big time in round 6, as Sarukhanyan threw little and began to get bullied around, with Futa showing no respect at all to the Russian fighter.
The lack of respect continued in round 7 as Futa began to lower his hands, trying to get Sarukhanyan to fight with fire. The tactic worked and he drew more aggression from the Russian. It was the type of fight Futa wanted and Sarukhanyan began to fight the wrong fight. That aggression saw Sarukhanyan trying to unload when Futa ended up on the ropes, at which point Futa landed a dynamite left hook, dropping Sarukhanyan, and forcing the referee to wave off the bout.
The shot to end this was every bit as good as Futa's shot to stop Tomlinson, and helped secure him a minor WBC title. It was a brilliant shot and gave Futa his second big win on international soil.
Since this bout Sarukhanyan has bounced back well, going 3-0-1. Sadly Futa fought only twice, beating Roy Tua Manihuruk before losing to Masayoshi Nakatani in December 2018, in an OPBF title fight. That loss to Nakatani appears to be the end for Futa who is now 33.
Note - The video for this wasn't the smoothest and it does, sadly, have some pauses of several seconds.
Last weekend we saw Jong Seon Kang (12-0-2, 6) kick off the boxing year for Asia with a sensational 12 round decision win over Nam Jun Lee in an early runner for the 2021 Fight of the Year. For fans who missed it, we really recommend giving it a watch, especially given the general lack of action taking place in the ring at the moment, as it was 12 rounds of totally brutal, thrilling action.
The win saw Kang claim the WBO Oriental Featherweight title and push his career forward, whilst notching the 19 year old hopeful his 12th professional win and extending his unbeaten record to 14. He was also, at least for a few days, a man that fans were genuinely quite interested in seeing more of, and wanting to know about him, as well as his ceiling in the sport. Despite thinking his ceiling isn’t that high, we certainly want to see more of him and he is easily among the most exciting fighters out there to watch, with his flawed defense, incredible stamina, his toughness and his incessant work rate.
With that in mind we thought we’d look at 5 potential bouts for Kang for the rest of this year as we give Jong Seon Kang our Five For treatment.
1-Jae Woo Lee (7-3, 6)
The obvious fighter to start this with is a bout between Kang and fellow Korean warrior Jae Woo Lee, who famously took part in the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary Featherweight tournament and beat Tsuyoshi Tameda in an upset win before losing to Shingo Kusano. Lee, like Kang, has that Korean in ring mentality that sees him showing no quit at all in the ring, and happy to always have a war, even if they have the skills and tools to avoid it. The edge in power goes to Lee here, but the energy and incessant pressure from Kang may end up being enough for him to take the victory over 12 non stop rounds of action. Either way this would be brutal, thrilling, and seems like the best possible fight for Korean fans wanting to get their teeth into some Featherweight action.
2-Renji Ichimura (8-5, 7)
Having seen Kang in some gruelling wars in recent years the youngster deserves an easy one, and not one that’s easy due to a late replacement opponent. He also deserves a chance to shine on foreign soil and begin working his way towards bigger and better fights. With that in mind an “easy” bout in Japan at some point in late 2021 would be a great career move, and we don’t see many better opponents for Kang in Japan than Renji Ichimura. The 27 year old Ichimura has enough to look threatening but with 3 stoppage losses in his last 5 bouts he is certainly not a world beater. Instead what he should be is a showcase opponent for Kang, who would get a chance to break down an opponent over a few rounds on a Boxing Raise or A-Sign show. This wouldn’t be a big name win for Kang, but would help open doors for him.
3-Qiang Ma (6-2-2, 4)
Jae Woo Lee wasn’t the only international fighter involved in the Hajime No Ippo 30th Anniversary Featherweight tournament, as Chinese fighter Qiang Ma also featured in the competition. And thinking about it for a few minutes a bout between Kang and Ma would have all the ingredients of a thrilling war. Ma, like Kang, is a very flawed fighter, but Ma’s biggest issue isn’t just his defence but also his stamina and pacing. We suspect Ma would be competitive, and maybe even dangerous for 3 or 4 rounds, but as the bout went on the pressure and none stop punching from Kang would get too much for Ma. If this one happens, in either China or South Korea, it would be a thrill ride, but one that Kang should finish on top of.
4-Inthanon Sithchamuang (31-14-1, 19)
Thai veteran Inthanon Sithchamuang, also known as Tanawat Phonnaku, is a long, long way from his best. The 34 year old, who was once a credible Super Flyweight contender, is not a natural Featherweight, but he is someone who has spent the last few years competing up at 126lbs and would be a solid enough name, with former world level experience, to make a bout with Kang sellable. The reality is that this would be very, very cynical matchmaking from Kang’s team, but also very smart matchmaking to get Kang in with someone who has fought for a world title. At just 19 Kang deserves an easy fight or two, and a chance to get some ring time based about building his experience, and Inthanon should ask him questions for a few rounds, before the volume of Kang breaks him down. This might not be the best bout out there, but would be a shrewd bit of business from Kang’s team.
5-Shun Kubo (14-2, 9)
We finish this by heading back to Japan for what could be a very left of field choice, but one that Kang and his team may genuinely be thinking about, if he and his team can travel to Japan this year. That would be a fight with former WBA Super Bantamweight champion Shun Kubo. On paper it might seem ludicrous to put the 19 year old Korean in with a former world champion, at this early stage, though Kang and his team may well be looking at Kubo and licking their lips. But both of Kubo’s losses have come against aggressive fighters, who throw a lot of leather and apply almost constant pressure. Neither of the men who have stopped Kubo have been massive punchers but have instead broken down the Japanese fighter through repeatedly tagging him. Kubo is certainly the more skilled and more experienced but Kang’s style is something that has been shown to give Kubo fits. Maybe, just maybe, Kang and his team should be giving Masato Yamashita a call to get this one sorted and get their man a relatively huge win for the all action teenager!
After sharing a number of videos in this series where the Asian fighter scored the spectacular finish we've decided it's only fair to mix things up and in this "Reliving the Finish" we look at a recent KO that saw the Asian fighter left flat on his back after a short, but brutal bout in Australia.
Jon Jon Jet (10-0, 8) Vs Luke Boyd (7-0, 7)
The Asian fighter in question was Indonesian fighter Jon Jon Jet, a promising youngster with power of his own. In his 10 bouts up to this point Jet had stopped 8 opponents, with 7 of those 8 stoppages coming in the first 3 rounds. The 25 year old was one of the few Indonesians who seemed to be heading in the right direction, but was desperately in need of a step up in class. Rather than stepping up he leaped up from low level domestic competition to hard hitting international level fighters as he travelled to Australia and took on rock fisted Australian Luke Boyd.
Although Boyd wasn't a big name the 32 year old was a brute, a crude, big punching brute who had fought at a higher level than Jet. Although not a very good boxer Boyd had that nasty power, and knew that, at this sort of level, that power could be a game changer. Prior to facing on Jet he had scored 5 wins in the opening round, and his only bout that went beyond 2 rounds saw him taking out Robert Trigg, who had been out boxing him, in the 6th round.
On paper it seemed hard to imagine this one going the distance and from the first bell neither man looked like they wanted this one to go long. Sadly for Jet his power couldn't bother Boyd. Boyd's power however did hurt Jet, and did so quickly.
Just seconds into the fight Jet felt the power of the Australian and backed off. That didn't stop Boyd from going for the kill, getting Jet into the corner and unloading a vicious onslaught. Jet managed to battle his way off the ropes but quickly ate a single right hand right in the chin, sending him down, hard, to become the 8th victim of Boyd and his power.
This is brutal finish of a man who simply out of his depth against a monster puncher. A very nasty finish and one of 2019's most under-rated and under-seen KO's.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).