This past weekend Japanese youngster Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) scored a brilliant win in just his 4th professional bout, beating former world champion Daigo Higa to become the new WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight champion. The win put Nishida on the map in the eyes of many, and saw him building on his fantastic December victory over Shohei Omori, in what was itself a massive step up in class.
With solid back to back wins on his record, and world rankings heading his way following the win over Higa, questions will now turn to what is next for Nishida, who stated that he'd like to face WBO world champion Johnriel Casimero in the future. Whilst that fight seems unlikely for the time being, with Casimero scheduled to face Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, there are still a lot of interesting options for Nishida for later this year. We'll take a look at 5 of those as we give Nishida the "Five for..." treatment.
1-Joseph Agbeko (38-5, 28)
We're not totally sure who, involved with the WBO's brain trust, are in charge of their world rankings, but we can only assume that Joseph Agebeko's mother has a say as somehow the 44 year old from Ghana is their current #1 ranked Bantamweight. That's despite the fact his last win of actual note came close to a decade ago. For any Bantamweight interested in securing a WBO world title fight the logical move is to beat their #1 contender, and with Agbeko, inexplicably, being ranked #1 he needs to be seen as a very serious target for Nishida and the Muto Gym. Agbeko, at his best, was a fantastic fighter, but his best came back around 2010, when he was more than holding his own with Yohnny Perez, Vic Darchinyan and Abner Mares. Not in 2021 after wins against Gabriel Ochieng and Albert Commey. We suspect a lot of fighters are chasing a fighter with Agbeko, but a good offer to fight the 4-0 Nishida may tempt him over to the Land of the Rising sun.
2-Paul Butler (32-2, 15)
Sticking with the idea of the WBO rankings a potential fight to make would see Nishida take on Englishman Paul Butler, who is currently ranked #3 in the WBO rankings. Strangely this could be a relatively easy bout to make, especially out in the middle east or in the UK, as both men have connections with MTK Global, who work with Butler and also work with Muto Gym via "MTK Japan". With both men set to be highly ranked in the next WBO rankings, this would, for all intents, be a world title eliminator and could see the winner securing a potential showdown for the WBO title later in the year, or in 2022. On paper this is also a match up that Nishida should feel super confident in winning as well. Butler is certainly not a bad boxer but he struggled with the height, reach and southpaw stance of Zolani Tete, and Nishida is also a tall, rangy southpaw. Butler is a highly skilled boxer, but lacks power and at 32 is also heading to the end of his career.
3-Takuma Inoue (14-1, 3)
At the moment getting international fighters into Japan is a major issue, and as a result we may need to look to Japan for a few potential opponents. The reality right now is that many of the top Japanese Bantamweights are already scheduled for bouts. This includes Naoya Inoue, pencilled in for June 19th, Kai Chiba, Ikuro Sadatsune, Kyosuke Sawada and Kazuki Nakajima. This leaves very few potential domestic opponents for Nishida with the most interesting being Takuma Inoue, the younger brother of Naoya Inoue. At the moment Takuma is also looking to move towards a world title fight and given Nishida's win it's fair to say a clash between the two would be regarded as a world title eliminator. On paper it wouldn't be the most explosive of bouts but would be a huge bout for Japan and one between two very technically skilled fighters. Maybe not the bout either man wants, but one that the two men could certainly make and one that would seriously enhance the winner's profile.
4-Sho Ishida (29-2, 15)
Another potential Japanese option for Nishida would be Sho Ishida, who has openly stated he's happy to fight at either Super Flyweight or Bantamweight, and is a former world title challenger. Ishida would be a very similar size to Nishida, and is a very accomplished fighter himself, with a very technical style, an excellent jab, good footwork and a rather frustrating style at times. The bout would be a test for Nishida, and a chance to see if he can work out the jab of Ishida, and it would also serve as a real test to see what Ishida's future in the sport really is. A win for Nishida would see him taking a step towards a world title fight, and be another respectable win at this early stage of his career, whilst a win for Ishida would revitalise his career after a few disappointing years.
And lets not ignore the fact it would be rather fun to see Ishida Vs Nishida being written out!
5-Lee McGregor (10-0, 8)
Whilst Nishida said he wanted Johnriel Casimero he also seemed open to fighting outside of Japan, and one of the absolute hotbeds of boxing right now is the UK. With that in mind a trip from Japan to the UK to face fellow unbeaten youngster Lee McGregor is a potentially interesting match up, one that could be made rather easily and one that would act as a potential eliminator for both the IBF and WBC titles, with Nishida expected to take Higa's rankings with those two bodies as well as the WBO. McGregor is very highly ranked by the IBF, and also in the top 15 with the WBC, making a win over a fellow ranked fighter would boost his career, whilst a win for Nishida would rocket him up the rankings. In terms of viability, both men have links to MTK, as with Paul Butler, and with fans set to return to the UK boxing scene sooner rather than later this would be a potential chance for Nishida to show what he can do on the international stage. It would be high risk, high reward for both men, and that is never a bad thing. Interestingly this would also see the EBU champion battle with the WBO Asia Pacific champion, in a legitimate clash between continental champions
Over the last few years we've seen DAZN become one of the main players in boxing distribution world wide, working with Matchroom and Golden Boy Promotions, as well as the WBSS to show a lot of action. The service, at least in some regions, the best value for money for boxing fans, and their recently rumoured deal with Matchroom, which will see them replace Sky as Matchroom's UK distributor, is huge for British fight fans.
Whilst it has certainly been a breath of fresh air in many ways, DAZN has been very much a mixed bag, with some great things, and some absolutely terrible things about the service. We've going to take a look at some of those here as we take a look at the good and the bad of DAZN so far.
Showcasing the lower weights
One of the standout things about DAZN is the fact they've active shown a lot of lower weight fighters. Over the last few years they have given us some of the best Super Flyweight, Flyweight and Light Flyweight action, and snapped up many of the top fighters between those two weights. The likes of Hiroto Kyoguchi, Elwin Soto, Felix Alvarado, Hasanboy Dusmatov, Julio Cesar Martinez, Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman Gonzalez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai have all had bouts shown on their service.
As someone who actually follows these divisions it's been great to see these fighters getting a large platform to showcase their skills on and hopefully that is something we'll see continue well beyond the pandemic, rather than be used as relatively cheap action bouts by the promoters. Hopefully we'll also see the Minimumweight division get a chance to be showcased on the service as well.
Smartly the promoters at DAZN have realised these little men can put on fan friendly bouts and those will help build the fanbase of the division's, and the fighters, leading to relatively cheap but fan grabbing bouts.
Showcasing female boxing
As with the little men the service has also done well in showcasing a lot of female boxing. We've had Eddie Hearn responsible for that on the whole, but Golden Boy may well have the pick of the female fighters in Seneisa Estrada, who has all the tools to become the face of female boxing for the next 4 or 5 years.
The female fights, like the lower weight fighters, are cheaper than the big names, but have provided some of the best action that DAZN have managed to give us. It has also helped "normalise" female boxing, something that has long been over-due in the west. Fingers crossed that the fighters showcased now on the service will lead the way for a true women's revolution in the sport over the next 10 years.
We know some fans are still not interested in female, and that's fine, though we suspect as the depth of female boxing improves, inspired by the current fighters, we'll begin to see more and more notable female fighters, more interesting match ups, and an overall much better quality and consistency of bouts. DAZN need to be given a heads up here.
Boxing from around the world!
DAZN is a global platform, in fact in many ways it's boxing's only global platform right now, and it's embraced that well with shows from a host of countries. They have had the US and UK obviously, but their deal with WP Boxing in Thailand is great, and they have touched on shows in places like Italy and Gibraltar, of all places, as well as a recent show from Uzbekistan. The platform is, by far and away, the most adventurous when it comes to their range of shows and that's something to be really appreciative of. Fingers crossed however that more countries begin to have shows aired on the service.
Regularly content from places like Japan, Germany, Russia and Canada would be hugely welcome, and would genuinely add a lot to the service. And would also help build on solid DAZN subscriptions in some of those places. It would be great to see Western fans get a chance to experience the shows from Korakuen Hall, and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. Even if it's only low level cards to begin with.
Arguably the best thing about DAZN is the pricing of the service, even if the price has changed somewhat in some regions over the last year or two. The service is much, much cheaper than a typical PPV event, and it provides genuinely good value for money. In fact it's probably the best value for money service in boxing right now. That's not to say it's perfect, but it is allowing the sport to be accessible at a solid price point, for a lot of good fights. How long it can maintain a price advantage over things like Showtime, ESPN+, Sky Sports and BT Sports is questionable, but at the moment it is still easy the best value for money.
Our major gripe with DAZN, and one we suspect many share, is the commentary which is terrible show after show, after show. The service employs some really poor commentators, that don't seem to fit well together, spend more time bickering like a married couple and don't add to the bout. They also don't let the bouts talk for themselves, and often seem to distract from the in ring action. The likes of Sergio Mora, Chris Mannix, Todd Grisham, Nick Halling and Paul Smith really have been poor and it's often been really hard to note wish that their was a commentary free feed.
Whilst the bickering between them is one thing, other issues are factual inaccuracies and issues which really shouldn't be aired. For example the homer-isms of the British team, which often seem more like cheerleaders rather the commentators, and the almost ignorance that certain commentators have of the lower weights, despite the fact the service has been showing a lot of heavy handed little guys. It may be the researchers aren't giving them the right information to go off, but we suspect that in some cases it's a more just ignorance on how boxing is right now. If we were in charge we would give a massive shake up to their broadcasts, bring in Chris Algieri and Gabe Rosado a lot more often, as they are very good, and bring the US team down to just 2 men, not three.
Not enough content
Whilst certain regions are different here, the UK DAZN has got boxing as it's bread and butter, strangely alongside some recent video game content. Sadly though there simply enough content to really work. To go with the live fights the service does have things like The DAZN boxing show, Training Room, press conferences, and weigh ins. But it feels like there is so much emptiness on their schedule.
It would be good to see in depth shows looking at some of the less known fighters and their lives, something A-Sign boxing did last year to great success. Sit down sessions with fighters in a round table discussion format, maybe with former fighters discussing their rivalries. More interviews. A documentaries on more fights from the past and fighters from yesteryear. More magazine type shows would also add to the service. The world of boxing is huge and yet the focus of a lot of these shows is really limited, mostly US and UK centric and mostly focused on modern history, and it would be great if they began shining lights on the non-stars or fighters from more than 15 years ago or stuff from Mexico and Puerto Rico, or Germany. Expand the scope of what's being talked about, massively.
Some will point to "Boxing with Chris Mannix" and "Jabs", the "Playbacks" and the odd documentary, which is great as a start but nothing to get too excited about. The service might provide the best value for money live boxing, but it provides very little in terms of shoulder programming, and we suspect that a change their could help massively with the feeling of emptiness the schedule has.
The way the service promotes future events
For some customers the service is one that they will be paying in advance, and that certainly stung last year when DAZN had a lack of content due to the pandemic and really should have paused the subscriptions of users until sport returned, but for others it's a monthly service. Sadly the way they promote to monthly customers is generally really poor.
Quote often they will put up on screen graphics of what they have lined up, but will only include their supposedly biggest shows, even if they are several months away. It makes sense to tell monthly subscribers what they are getting next month as well. If we're in March I want to know why I should subscribe through April, not what you have in May. Show me what's to come in May during April. Work with the monthly cycle to show me what's going to be coming up before I pay next, and let me decide if I want to stop and start the subscription. This is actually the same issue, in some regards, to what Boxing Raise has, and it seems a really easy fix. Simply show me what you are showing next month, and the rest of this month! Viola!
This is the stupidest thing DAZN do, and that is not show the full event. This is just a bizarre one, given that they aren't stuck by the typical broadcasting limitations of TV but still, for whatever reason, don't always show the full event. This mean two bouts from a recent Uzbek card weren't aired and the big upset loss for Otha Jones II wasn't broadcast. We know some shows go long, and some do drag, especially when most the bouts are predictable, but there's no reason to not show the bouts on events you're covering! It happens regularly and there's not really any good reason for it.
Overall I think DAZN are a really good thing for boxing, I think so far their foray into the sport has generally been a success, but there is a lot of of areas where they can improve. And lot of those improvements are easy to make. Genuinely very easy to make. A change in the way future shows are promoted, a change in commentary and showing all the fights isn't a massively difficult thing for them to do. We understand that increase in extra content will be costly, but is certainly not an impossibility, and would help fill out some barren scheduling issues.
Picking up more international cards is unlikely, unless Matchroom or Golden Boy expand into some territories that seem unlikely for now, but there's little reason that local promoters shouldn't be given a chance on DAZN, where Matchroom or Golden Boy could potentially see them feeders for their bigger events. Showcasing some more of the Cruisers, Super Flyweight and Light Flyweights from around the planet before matching them with their own fighters would be a great way to introduce new fighters and legitimise less well known future challengers.
The service is good, the service is fantastic value for money, and it's given us a chance to enjoy fights that typically wouldn't have had many eyeballs on them. But it's still got a long way to go to become the focus point of world boxing. For now it's a service that is behind where it should be, though we do expect rapid improvements over the next 12 months, but is one that has shown a lot of promise.
Is DAZN good for boxing fans? Yes. Can it do better? Certainly! Are we fans despite incessant complaints? Yes!
This past weekend we had the chance to see WBC Light Flyweight champion Kenshiro Teraji (18-0, 10) [寺地 拳四朗] retain his title as he defeated Tetsuya Hisada (34-11-2, 20) [久田 哲也] by a wide unanimous decision. The bout wasn't a FOTY contender, or anything like that, but it was one with plenty to talk about, and was one we had, legitimately, waited 4 years to see! With that in mind let's share what we took away from the clash, and the broadcast of it.
1-The broadcast shouldn't have been so hard to watch
We'll start with the obvious one here. The fight was only made available via Cantere Doga, a subscription streaming service in Japan, available only in Japan, that's run by Kansai TV (KTV), with "Cantere" being a bit of a portmanteau of "Kansai" and "Telly". That was the ONLY way to watch the bout.
When you consider that Kenshiro has a growing international fanbase, and Japanese boxing as a whole has an audience outside of Japan, this decision is among the stupidest we've seen this year. Especially as it was essentially shown for free to all Cantere Doga subscribers, with the minimum cost being 300yen (about $3 or £2.50). The bout should, really, have been on available internationally, without the use of technological work arounds, VPN's and other spoofing tricks. The smart move for KTV and for Shinsei Promotions, who promoted the show, would have been an international feed on YouTube, via Boxing Real or KTV themselves, which would have been geo-locked, locking out a domestic audience, who could pay to watch.
The way the bout was broadcast was a big, big mistake, and hopefully one we'll not see repeated in the future.
2-Kenshiro looked really sharp
Coming in to this bout we hadn't seen Kenshiro in the ring since late 2019, when he beat Randy Petalcorin. That was 16 months out of the ring, the longest of his career by far. Despite the long lay off he looked sharp through much of the bout. His footwork was on point, allowing him to get in and out, and dictate the range and tempo for much of the contest, his jab was as brilliant as ever, his combinations were brilliant, he was scary accurate, and his straight right hand was crisp and clean. He really didn't look like a man with a long lay off, or like a man who had been in trouble outside of the ring.
The right hand Kenshiro dropped Hisada with in round 2 was an absolute beauty and it seemed at times that he was going to stop Hisada, something that has only ever happened when Hisada has fought at Super Flyweight. We'll get on to why a stoppage didn't happen in a few moments.
The only real issues with Kenshiro's performance were some defense lapses, where he was caught with some solid right hands, and he seemed to lose some spring in legs late in the bout, with the lack of activity likely playing a factor on his stamina more than anything else. It really was an excellent performance by the champion.
3-Hisada is stupidly tough
There are some undeniable facts when it comes to Tetsuya Hisada, one is that he's popular in Osaka, one is that he's aged like fine wine and one is that he is as tough as they come. The 36 year old has only been stopped once in 37 bouts, and that came in 2012 at Super Flyweight against 4-time world title challenger Hiroyuki Kudaka. Here he showed how incredibly tough he was once again. He was dropped from a clean right hand in round 2 and and hurt numerous times through the bout, but never really came close to being stopped. He showed a really impressive will to win, and a steadfast determination that really did show that he wasn't happy to just be on the big stage.
Sadly for Hisada his toughness wasn't enough to cope with the skills of Kenshiro, but no one can fault his effort and we really hope this isn't the end for him.
Also it needs to be noted that despite having 11 losses to his name, Hisada is very much a world class fighter, and shouldn't be written off for having double digit losses. Revisionist history will suggest he was a "weak" challenger, but he showed that records really aren't the be all and end all.
4-The audience was massively pro-Hisada
One of the most telling things through out the bout was the strong, strong crowd support for Tetsuya Hisada. In all honesty this shouldn't have been much of a shock, given he was the local fighter in Osaka, but it was still weird just how silent fans were to Kenshiro's entrance, giving him a very polite and subdued clap when he got in the ring. The crowd also applauded Hisada pretty much any time he landed anything, whilst a lot of Kenshiro's work was met by relative silence. Despite both men being Japanese it was clear who brought the crowd to the venue, and who they wanted to see win. There was a scattering of Kenshiro fans, but they were very clearly out numbered by Hisada fans who went wild every time he landed anything of note.
The fans were also very appreciative of Hisada as he walked back to his changing room after the fight.
It should be noted that the fans were also very pro-Hisada when he fought Hiroto Kyoguchi, and it shows Hisada's local appeal, even against higher profile fighters than himself. Win or lose, and he has lost plenty, he has become a local boxing hero in Osaka.
5-Yuji Fukuchi had an easy job
When we talk about Japanese referees there are a few that stand out, and one of those is veteran referee Yuji Fukuchi. With more than 2 decades experience of refereeing at the top level Fukuchi knows what his job is, he knows how to do his job, but here he really wasn't really needed. The bout was a very cleanly fought one, and barring the knockdown there wasn't much else for him to be involved in. A few clinches to break up, a minor headclash in round 6, and very, very little else. This would be one of the easiest world title fights he's ever been the third man for.
Despite being an easy assignment Fukuchi never took his eye off the ball. His positioning was fantastic through the bout, he let them fight without getting in the way and he was focused on letting the fighters fight, something they were happy to do.
In fairness it wasn't just Fukuchi who had an easy job but also the judges, and the cards, of 119-108 and 118-109, really were the only two ways this could have been scored. Despite a very spirited and valiant effort from Hisada.
Did you know - The song Kenshiro entered to was "Ai o Torimodose!!", which is also known as "YOU wa SHOCK", and was the theme song for anime "Fist of the North Star", which focuses on a warrior names Kenshiro! We've included the full version of that song below.
This past weekend we saw professional novice Ryosuke Nishida (4-0, 1) [西田凌佑] score a career best victory as he defeated former WBC Flyweight champion Daigo Higa (17-2-1, 17) [比 嘉 大吾], and claimed the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, with a brilliant performance. The bout, which was aired live in Okinawa, then aired on tape delay in Tokyo a few days later, featured one of the best performances of 2021 so far, and it was something that is worth re-watching, and re-enjoying over and over.
Having watch the bout a few times, we're going to share some of what we took from the bout with the latest in our Five Takeaways series.
1-Nishida's composure is amazing
One thing that was apparent from the opening bell was that Nishida had absolutely no nerves coming into this bout. He was extremely confident and cocksure. Sometimes however we see confidence eroding when a fighter is under pressure, something we saw with Felix Verdejo last year against Masayoshi Nakatani and something we have seen thousands of times before. In this bout however that confidence never wavered and that was, in part, due to the excellent composure of Nishida.
Having only turned professional in 2019 it would have been easy for Muto gym to have given Nishida the kid glove treatment, but instead they put him in with a feared puncher, with an aggressive style, and sent him off on the road, from Osaka to Okinawa. On paper there was so many things that could have gotten to him. From the occasion to the pressure of Higa. Instead however he never seemed to show any cracks. In fact if anything he almost seemed to thrive at the idea of showing up Higa in front of his friends and family. Higa's pressure has forced fighters to crumble, but for Nishida that pressure was like water off a ducks back. To us a prospects composure under pressure is one of the key things to keep an eye on when judging potential and the way Nishida coped under pressure suggested, to us, that he really is an exceptional young fighter. It's also worth noting that that incredible composure helped him see counter opportunities and reserve energy, allowing him to be the man with gas in the tank in the later rounds.
2-Nishida fought to a brilliant game plan
Going in to this our view, as those who read our preview may have seen, was that natural size was going to be a major factor in this bout, and it proved to be one of the reasons why Nishida won. At range he was too long for Higa, and he used his reach really well, hammering both the head and body really well, but he also used his size up close, neutralising and smothering Higa, leaning his weight into Higa up close, and tying him up. He really showed how a bigger fighter should fight a smaller fighter and he bullied Higa around at times. He knew he was stronger than Higa and the bullying up close in the first half of the fight really paid off in the later rounds, when Higa looked about spent. Given this was the first time Nishida had been scheduled for more than 8 rounds he fought a really smart game plan.
The gameplan, created by Kosuke Takeichi, was perfect and it's worth giving real credit to Takeichi for coming up with the tactics that allowed his man to really hammer a tired Higa late on, even though Higa did try to turn things around early in 10 that was sniffed out and Nishida quickly resumed control of the action.
It's also worth noting here, that he essentially silenced the crowd for large swathes of the bout. He limited Higa's success so much that the small number of people who travelled from Osaka seemed to make far more noise than the locals.
For British fans, Osaka to Okinawa is a further distance than Land's End to John o'Groats.
3-Higa is too small for the Bantamweight division
In fairness this is something that has been obvious since his return to the ring in 2020, following a lengthy suspension for missing weight and being stripped of the WBC Flyweight title in 2018. Sadly though Higa, currently, isn't allowed to fight any lower than Bantamweight by the JBC and is in an awkward position. He's simply not big enough to compete at 118lbs, but isn't allowed to fight at 115lbs, which we suspect would be the best weight for him.
Higa has always been a very physical fighter. He's a come-forward steam roller who is strong, powerful, and has some brilliant combinations. But defensively he's raw and against opponents who are natural Bantamweights he'll always struggle to force his fight on people. He's small, short, and hasn't got the physical dimensions to be a force in the division. He landed enough good shots on Nishida to see his power really hasn't carried up, and he was pushed around way too easily here.
Sadly the warning signs for Higa have been here for a while. His draw with Seiya Tsutsumi last year, a natural Super Flyweight who is also very comfortable at Bantamweight, showed his power hasn't carried up and his recent exhibition with Naoya Inoue saw Inoue toying with him and showing him little respect. Sadly though it's really hard to see where goes from this, and he may well need to leave Japan to fight at his best weight, which would, in it's self, be a massive risk for his career.
4-Michiaki Someya continues his excellent form
The last few months we have seen some shocking refereeing but but Michiaki Someya once again showed himself to be among the very best referees in the sport. His positioning, clear instructions, and control of the action through out, is second to none. The bout certainly wasn't the dirtiest or the roughest bout ever but he was on top of things and when the fighters ended up in a situation that needed splitting he split them, the rest of the time he was happy for them to fight out of the clinches. His willingness to let them fight when they were up close, and only split them when he had to, helped this bout, and we'd like to see more referees letting fighters fight out of the clinch. Seriously for everyone considering becoming a referee in the sport, give a watch to Michiaki Someya, he is head and shoulders above many of the higher profile referees, and he certainly should get more big fighters.
5-No home town favors with the judging
To fans outside of Japan it's not always obvious just how big the country is, and how different various parts of Japan are. Most fights international fans see are from Tokyo, with Osaka coming in a distant second. Major fights taking place in Okinawa are very, very rare, and major fighters coming from Okinawa are few and far between. For boxing in the area to take off, they need local stars, and Higa, along with Toshiki Kawamitsu and Ryuto Owan are the regions 3 most notable fighters. It's also worth noting that at least 2 of the judges for the bout are either from, or based in, Okinawa and the crowd applauded almost any time Higa did anything. The judges however didn't even come close to scoring this in favour of the local star. They scored this deadly fair, and didn't even make an attempt to bail out the local star.
Given recent events judges in the UK and the US would have tried to have helped the local star, even though the bout was relatively one sided, but here they really didn't. They could have given Higa and extra round or two, been generous, and gone by the idea that it wouldn't have mattered. But they didn't. They scored the fight fairly, for all 12 rounds. Just as they are supposed to. Not as the promoter would have wanted. Not like the home fans wanted, and not like the local star wanted. We need more of that in the sport!
One thing that is probably quite obvious if you follow the Asianboxing account on twitter (and you should do!) is that I'm not personally a big fan of promotional bluster and idle chit chat from promoters. I fully understand the idea behind a promoter needing to push their show but they also need to be honest, and avoid devaluing their other shows and eroding what little trust they have with fans.
This coming weekend is a great example of a promoter trying too hard, with Matchroom's Eddie Hearn trying to convince fans that his upcoming show, this weekend, is his best show of the year and worthy of being a PPV. He also stated that the show was an expensive one to put together and it needed to be a PPV show to be made.
Now I need to start this by being quite frank. I generally don't care how much a fighter gets paid. I don't see a penny of that money, and I'm not one for being bothered by what someone makes. But for a promoter to pretty much tell fans that "the fighters need paying so you're forking out" for bouts that, in all honesty, no fans have been clamouring for is ridiculous, especially when so many British fans already fork out for Sky Sports, and many have also been left financially harmed by the on going pandemic.
I've recently done a rant on payments of fighters, and at the end of the day this is a great example of what happens when fans want to suggest fighters should make as much as they can. We end up with fighters being "over-paid" for what are relatively average fights. Chisora might be a fun fighter to watch, but a bout between him and the often terrible to watch Joseph Parker is a crap shoot as to whether it's going to be watchable or a complete stinker. Other than that the next most interesting fight is a solid female world title fight between Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas, which is a very good fighter, and then we see Dmitry Bivol defending his Light Heavyweight title against Craig Richards, in what is regarded as a mismatch, James Tennyson fighting for an IBO Lightweight title, in another bout that has "mismatch" vibes, though could be a surprising shoot out. Oh and how can I forget the farcical mismatch between Chris Eubank Jr and Marcus Morrison.
Whilst I accept betting odds aren't everything, a 5 fight accumulator on the favourites pays just better than evens, and the "best" priced under-dog is 20/11. Hardly a show of even match ups, and certainly not a single fight on the show that fans were truly demanding. Yet some how this ends up on PPV.
In the words of Eddie Hearn himself this is a "It's the card of the year. Massive card, this Saturday."
Now I'm not here to argue semantics, but for me a "card of the year" and a "massive card" are two totally different things.
A "massive card" is a stacked card with several big bouts on that fans want to see. A great recent example, from Hearn himself, was the March 13th card in Dallas, headlined by the rematch between Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez. The show had 3 really, really good match ups on it, of which two truly delivered. Another recent "massive card" was the September 26th 2020 show on Showtime PPV, the Charlo double header, which was genuinely one of the biggest cards of the last 12 months.
As for "card of the year", this, to me, is a very, very different thing. A "card of the year" candidate is not about the names, it's about how enjoyable the card is to watch. It could be a marathon of great bouts, or it could be a short card with wars, but it's how much enjoyment I get from watching it. When it comes to great cards I'll happily say the recent Top Rank card was among the very best this year, along with the 2020 All Japan Rookie of the Year finals, in February, and the January 9th card from South Korea, which featured just 5 bouts but had 4 fights that were simply amazing on it. One of those is included at the end of this article for those who want to see just a slice of what makes Korea the most exciting country to watch boxing from.
Generally I find the best cards to not be those with big bouts on, and I know I'm in the minority. I know that most fans are drawn to the big names, and the top fighters in the sport, and the most talked about fighters. And that's fine, we all have different tastes. However I think we can all agree shows with well matched bouts tend to be a lot, lot more enjoyable than shows with mismatches through them. It's just a shame that so few promoters feel the need to give us, the fans, even match ups. Instead they feel a strong desire to dress up bouts that no one wants and pretend that they are doing us a favour.
I know that millions will watch this weekend's Matchroom show, and I get that some of the bouts I rave about might be lucky to get a few hundred viewers, but at the end of the day we, as fans, need to begin demanding more even match ups, and not just putting up with the tripe promoters feel they can charge PPV for. If they continue to expect fans to foot the pocket for shows no one wants to pay to watch, and would expect to be part of their standard sports subscription package, then I don't really think they can complain about the rise of illegal streams. Especially after fans have been taken for a ride so much over the last few years. And unless every single bout on this weekend's show over-delivers, massively, this weekend's show won't be a show of the year contender. In fact, because boxing fans have relatively short memories, it will be little more than a footnoteat the end of 2021.
Before I finish this, I want to send a big thanks to Sakana who will be hosting a free legal stream of a card from Aioi Hall on May 9th, which can be seen here. The card isn't a big one, no one will be suggesting it will be the "card of the year", but from the 6 bouts on the card, there's 5 very competitive looking match ups, including the 4th bout between Yossah Matsumoto and Ryusuke Harada, who had already fought to 2 draws and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them have another. Those types of competitive bouts are the ones I personally love, and the ones that make this sport what it is to me. Not bouts with 1/16, 1/20 and 1/33 favourites.
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 former Japanese world champion Akinobu Hiranaka to former Thai great Veeraphol Sahaprom.
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-Before turning professional and winning a world title Akinobu Hiranaka was a solid amateur and competed at the 1984 Olympics, as a Welterweight. Another fighter who competed in the same division at the same Olympics was Indonesian fighter Francisco Lisboa.
2-It's fair to say that Francisco Lisboa isn't a particularly well known fighter, though he did manage to do quite a few notable things, including getting international experience in the US, Japan and South Korea and won the OPBF Light Middleweight title in 1988 with an upset win over Carlos Elliot. In one of his final bouts, in 1991, he faced Young Kil Jung.
3-Korean fighter Young Kil Jung is likely known by international fans for 2 bouts. The first is his 1988 loss to Lloyd Honeyghan, where he was KO'd off a low blow, and the second was his 1989 bout with Marlon Starling, which he lost by wide decision. Prior to those bouts he had held both the Korean and OPBF titles at Welterweight, before later claiming the OPBF title at 154lbs. He lost that title after 6 defenses, the same number of defenses that Tadashi Mihara had managed between 1979 and 1981.
4-On November 7th 1981 Tadashi Mihara did something very few Japanese fighters have ever done, won a world title at 154lbs. He claimed that title by narrowly out pointing Rocky Fratto over 15 rounds. The previous Japanese fight to claim a world title at the weight was Maashi Kudo, in 1979.
5-It's fair to stated that Masashi Kudo is the second most successful Japanese fighter at 154lbs, behind Koichi Wajima, and during his reign as the WBA champion he managed to record 3 world title defenses. Before winning the world title he had also notched up 8 defenses of the Japanese Middleweight title, between 1975 and 1978. Since his reign only 1 man has recorded more defenses of the Japanese Middleweight title than Kudo, and that was Satoru Suzuki, who notched 9 defenses.
6-During his Japanese title reign most of Satoru Suzuki's defenses came at Korakuen Hall. One of the ones that didn't was his 4th defense, which saw him scoring a 2nd round KO win against Naoki Kawahara at the Arena in Yokohama. In the main event of that show fans saw Thailand's Veeraphol Sahaprom successfully retain the WBC Bantamweight title, with a draw against Toshiaki Nishioka.
Fight fans who have any idea at all about boxing from the lower weights will be aware of Naoya Inoue, the multi-weight Japanese world champion who has helped put Japanese boxing on the map, in a big way, in recent years. What may know is that Inoue, as a professional has only faced Japanese fighters 3 times in his career. Two of those are notable fighters, Kohei Kono, a former 2-time world champion, and Ryoichi Taguchi, who went on to unify titles at 108lbs after Inoue beat him.
The third is Yuki Sano (17-3-5, 12), a much less well known fighter who Inoue beat in April 2013, in what was the Monster's third professional bout and his first one to get live TV coverage, courtesy of Fuji TV.
With Sano being such a low profile fighter we thought he'd be the perfect fighter to look at and shine a light on in our latest 5 Midweeks fact series.
1-Sano has B type blood. In Japanese blood theory this means he is thought to be selfish and uncooperative but also creative and passionate. Typically the blood type is also linked to being honest and easy going, though will share their opinions and not care too much about whether they hurt people or not.
2-Reportedly Sano began boxing in 5th grade and turned professional after having had around 70 amateur bouts, which explains why he skipped the 4 round bouts we typically see from Japanese fighters.
3-Sano was actually higher ranked by the JBC going into his 2013 bout with Naoya Inoue. Going into the bout Inoue was ranked #5 by the JBC whilst Sano was ranked #1. Despite that Inoue was the clear favourite, and those who had followed Inoue from his amateur days were very confident that the then 20 year old would overcome the 31 year old Sano. Interestingly his bout with Inoue would be the only time Sano was stopped in his 25 fight professional. After that bout Sano left a warning to fellow fighters, stating "Everyone has to fight Inoue now. Next year, next year, it will be even harder."
Notably he had been out of the ring for almost a year prior to facing Inoue, that was due to suffering from cataracts.
4-Sano took part in his retirement ceremony on March 30th 2014 at the Aioi Hall. As part of that ceremony he sparred with the then IBF Minimumweight champion Katsunari Takayama, who gave Sano an IBF T-shirt. Interestingly this took place a week before Inoue beat Adrian Hernandez to become the WBC Light Flyweight champion.
5-Following his retirement from the sport Sano went on to become a trainer at the Matsuda Gym, the same Gym that he fought for as a professional fighter.
During his career Sano was a popular sparring partner for a who’s who of Japanese fighters. Among those sparred with were Kazuto Ioka, Ryo Miyazaki and Katsunari Takayama.
When we talk about Filipino boxing now a days the first name that springs to mind is Manny Pacquiao. Back in the 1980's and 1990's however the first name to spring to mind for many fans was the exciting Rolando Navarrete (56-15-3, 33), aka the "Bad Boy from Dadiangas".
The talented Super Featherweight fought between 1973 and 1991 and was in some of the most amazing battles ever. His contests with Cornelius Boza Edwards and Rafael Limon were legendary and his high rolling, fast living party boy life style made him a hit to be around.
Despite being a great in the 1980's Navarrete's is now somewhat a forgotten figure in Filipino boxing history, with fans enamoured by the success of Pacquiao. We thought we'd try to shine a light on Navarrete here as we give you 10 facts you probably didn't know about... Rolando Navarrete
1-Navarrete made his professional debut just 3 days after his 16th birthday
2-Interestingly Navarrete suffered his second professional loss on the under-card of the "Thrilla in Manilla"
3-Navarette's younger brother, Romy Navarrete, was also a fighter and ran up a 39-16-1 (9) record. Whilst not an amazing fighter he did score a notable win over 3-time world title challenger Seung Koo Lee, and held the OPBF Flyweight title in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Notably Romy sadly lost to his most notable foes, including Yul Woo Lee, Greg Richardson and Luisito Espinosa
4-In 1984 Navarrete was sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping and sexually abusing a bar hostess in Hawaii. He only served a short sentence however due to a release on humanitarian grounds. Reports suggest that he was set up by his then manager who was unhappy about Navarrete's refusal to fight under an American flag. This wasn't his first, or final, run in with the law. In fact he was involved in street fights and petty crime years later.
5-Navarrete has been in a number of violent incidents outside of the ring where he was the victim. This included a 2008 stabbing, where he was stabbed in the neck with an ice pick, a 2005 incident where he was hit with a steel pip and a 2006 case where he was hit in the let with a shot gun.
6-Navarrete, along with Rolando Bohol, featured 1988 Filipino sports film "Kambal Na Kamao: Madugong Engkwentro", with both fighters getting starring roles. The movie is about two fighters. It's been negatively reviewed due to it's story telling, but the fighters were well regarded, which shouldn't be a shock given they had two world class boxers involved.
7-In 2009 Navarrete had his physical WBC Super Featherweight world title stolen, from his home.
8-Filipino MMA fighter Rolando Dy is the son of Navarrete. The two didn't have the best of relationships, and Rolando Dy was essentially brought up by his mother, Jennifer Dy-Subastil, due to Navarrete's wild life style.
9-As well as Rolando Dy Navarrete had another son, Rolando Navarrete Jr. Jr had a short lived boxing career himself, going 2-2-1 (2) between 2010 and 2013. Sadly his life was taken in 2019 in what appeared to be a targeted murder after Jr in September.
10-At one point after retiring it was reported that Navarrete had been making money by selling fish, earning about about 800 Filipino Pesos a day.
When we talk about this sport and it's great history of amazing fights there are certain bouts that every single fight fan should make time to watch. Whilst some of those are obvious big name fights from through out the sports legendary history others are less well known. Sadly bouts like Juan Meza vs Jaime Garza and Ray Mancini Va Arturo Frias are, in recent years at least, massively under-represented when we all talk about amazing bouts.
For this edition of Remarkable Rounds we're looking at another bout that doesn't get the attention it deserves, despite being regarded by many as the 2006 Fight of the Year, and having several rounds from it that could well have been the round of the year. It's from a bout that every, single, boxing fan, needs to see. If you haven't we advise that when you see the names below you google them, watch the fight, then come back and enjoy this remarkable round for a second time!
Mahyar Monshipour (28-2-2, 19) vs Somsak Sithchatchawal (45-1-1-1, 35)
Hosted at the Palais des Sport Marcel Cerdan, in France, the bout in question pit French based Iranian warrior Mahyar Monshipour against Thailand's highly experienced, yet unproven, Somsak Sithchatchawal, in a bout for Monshipour's WBA Super Bantamweight title.
Dubbed the "Little Tyson" Monshipour was well known for his aggression, power, and destructive in ring style. He had won the WBA Super Bantamweight title in 2003, when he stopped Salim Medjkoune, and had ran up 5 defenses, all by stoppage. In fact Monshipour was riding a 9 fight T/KO run into this bout, including wins over former champion Yoddamrong Sithyodthong, two over Medjkoune and one over Japan's Shigeru Nakazato. His exciting performance had seen him becoming a genuine boxing star in France, where he had fought since making his debut in 1996, and he was riding a 22 fight unbeaten run into this bout, going 20-0-2 (15) since his previous defeat back in 1998.
With 47 bouts to his name, or 48 if we include the no contest, it would have been fair to assume Somsak Sithchatchawal was some sort of a name by this point in his career. The reality however was that the 28 year old Thai had faced pretty much nobody of any note by this point. He had the typical "Thai record", padded to the extreme with a lot of bouts that could be regarded as "stay busy" contests. The only real bout of note on his record was a 1998 loss to Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, who had won the WBO Bantamweight title in 2004. He lacked any wins of real note, with the best being against fighters like Michael Domingo, and he had only fought outside of Thailand 3 times. He was, for all intent, someone who "looked" like a good challenger, but under inspection his record didn't stack up to much.
Of course records don't fight, and the fighters do that. Through 9 rounds they had fought their asses off, giving us one of the great Super Bantamweight bouts. Both had dug deep and traded bombs, with Monshipour pressing the action, forcing Sithchatchawal to fight off the back foot through much of the fight. Between them they had tasted leather, a lot, they had traded punches back and forth and they had given us something spectacular. Then we we got round 10.
Like the previous 9 there was little waiting around to get going. Within seconds of the round beginning Sithchatchawal got on the move before unloading a combination, seconds later Monshipour roared back at him with a huge head shot. It was clear both were feeling the pace, but were being driven on by something else. Neither man wanted to have gone through the hellish 9 rounds they'd had to come up short here. About a minute into the round Monshipour had backed the Thai on to the ropes and seemed to have his man gassed out on the ropes. Somehow Sithchatchawal did enough to survive then tried turning the tide before looking close to being spent again. They back and forth continued until the Thai somehow connected with a series of bombs, forcing Monshipour to stumble backwards.
The champion was hurt, he was on the retreat as Sithchatchawal chased him. Just as it looked like the champion was done the challenger's weary legs seemed to give up under him, with the Thai stumbling to his backside. He was instantly up, it was little more than a slip, but a slip at the most dramatic of times. A slip that could have bout Monshipour a few seconds of recovery time. It wasn't enough, however, for Monshipour, as Sithchatchawal continued to apply the heat and finally brought this one to a close.
If you've never seen the bout in full you really need to, but as a stand alone round, this is perfect. It had drama, it had heart, it had intensity and it had two men who were digging so deep into their reserves that neither ever looked the same afterwards. Both men continued their careers, though neither quite looked the same after this sensational bout.
We talk about the commentators curse, or the commentator giving a fighter the proverbial "kiss of death" and today we have a great example of that from 1983. In fact for today's "What a Shock" we have a great example of a huge upset, and for another week we have that upset coming via the hands of an unfancied Filipino in what likely goes down as one of the biggest upsets by a Filipino in Europe. Ever.
September 27th 1983
Wembley Arena, Wembley, London, United Kingdom
Frank Cedeno (30-6-3, 13) vs Charlie Magri (28-2, 21)
We mentioned the commentators curse and that's because of how the commentator began for the bout here. Working for British TB the commentator, explained that last time out "when Magri won the title in March he was the underdog, but he's not the under-dog tonight against Cedeno."
In March 1983 Charlie Magri won the WBC Flyweight title by stopping defending champion Eleoncio Mercedes, on cuts. The win had been a huge one for the popular Englishman who had been stopped in 2 of his 6 previous bouts, and had allowed him to call himself a world champion. Prior to winning the world title "Champagne Charlie" had held the EBU title and proven himself as an exciting, power punching Flyweight who came to fight and fight hard. Defensively he was very flawed, but his offense was his best form of defense.
He was now making his first defense around 6 months after winning the title. He was, as the commentator suggested, the clear favourite. This was expected to be an easy first defense against a challenger who seemed to pose little threat to the Englishman.
In Frank Cedeno we had a Filipino challenger who had scored just 13 stoppages in 39 bouts. Coming in to the bout he had won 4 in a row, but had gone 1-2-1 in the 4 fights prior to that run, and his best wins were all at domestic level. There was no hidden gem win on his record with the biggest name on his record being the then on the slide Montsayarm Haw Mahachai, who his 3 subsequent bouts before retiring. Not only was Cedeno a light punching challenger, but he was also fighting outside Asia for the first time in his career.
There was literally nothing for Magri and his team to fear....right? Well that's what we all assumed.
From the off Magri pressed forward and had the crowd roaring their support early in the opening round. Magri, the aggressor, seemed to take the opening round and landed some heavy leather on the Filipino who looked in trouble part way through the opening round. Cedeno seemed to be forced to fight fire with fire in an effort to just get Magri to give him some respect.
Despite being backed up and hammered through much of the opening Cedeno did land some good shots when he fired back. He did the same early in round 2 but as the round went on Cedeno's work rate dropped off and he took to the ropes, trying to soak up the pressure of the Englishman. It was a risky tactic but one which was done with the intention of taking the steam out of Magri.
In round 3 we began to see Cedeno come alive again, and Magri responded, in what was a fantastic round of back and forth action. The power and aggression of Magri up against the skills and toughness of Cedeno, with the challenger building in confidence. Magri tried to take the confidence away from the Filipino with some huge body shots, but Cedeno weathered the storm whilst firing back.
In round 4 the pace dropped off, which was understandable given the insane tempo of the opening round. The slower pace suited Cedeno who began to create space and land some huge shots at range. Magri, although still unloading with huge shots, was beginning to look a lot less active than he had earlier and he was beginning to feel the shots from Cedeno a lot more than he had in the first 3.
In the fifth we saw Magri slowing more. His lack of defense was now becoming a major issue, as his offense had began to slow as well. He wasn't able to sustain anything for more than a few seconds whilst Cedeno picked some great shots, with both hands. By now it was starting to look like Magri was doubting himself as both men were digging deep. The action wasn't none stop, but it was back and forth, and momentum swung one way then the other, with both looking spent and in trouble.
Heading into round 6 it was clear both men had taken a lot out of each other, and themselves. The crowd were getting behind their man with a huge "Charlie" chant, but it wasn't enough to stir their man into a second wind. He looked spent and mid way through the round he was rocked. A follow up dropped the champion, who managed to recover to his feet, before going down again. Once more Magri's heart got him up but he was done and soon afterwards he was down again, with the referee finally waving off the bout.
The upset was huge, with Cedeno dethroning the highly fancied British champion. Sadly for Cedeno his reign was a short one, and he was stopped in 2 rounds by Koji Kobayashi in his first defense. Cedeno would bounce back from the loss to Kobayashi, but lose in 1987 to Gilberto Roman, before going 2-2 in his last 4 and retiring in the late in 1980's.
In 1985 Magri would get a chance to recapture the title, but was stopped in 4 rounds by Sot Chitalada and ended his career in 1986, with a loss to Duke McKenzie.
Although not too well remembered now a days, this bout was a genuine thriller and it may well have ruined both men. Thankfully for Cedeno he took the win, scored a huge upset, and had a career defining victory that saw him become one of the very few Filipino's to be crowned a world champion on UK soil.
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).