If you go on to almost any boxing forum the world over you will find people bemoaning the lack of action in world title bouts, especially stateside. Bouts like Guillermo Rigondeaux v Nonito Donaire and Floyd Mayweather v Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, have been the most notable bouts to be slated whilst any bout involving Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins have also come in for a hard time from those wanting to watch a war in the ring.
With this in mind I've decided to give fans some recommendations of the top world title fights featuring an Asian from this last year. All of these fights have been in, or around, the highest level in the sport and all have genuine re-watch value thanks to the action and sheer violence of the fights. If you're sick of watching chess matches in the ring, these should keep you entertained, at least for a while.
Takashi Miura v Sergio Thompson
A front runner for Fight of the year, this bout saw two of the highest ranked Super Featherweights mixing it up in a bout that can only be described as special.
Miura, the defending WBC Super Featherweight champion traveled to Mexico as the under-dog to Mexico's very own Sergio Thompson. Miura knew that Thompson was dangerous with the Mexican having an early victory over Jorge Linares but yet knew he had to risk it all to take home a victory in Mexico. What we got as a result was unbridled violence, knockdowns, huge punches from both and pure unadulterated entertainment.
If Mayweather, Ward, Hopkins and Rigondeaux play chess, Miura and Thompson played rock 'em sock 'em robots.
Unfortunately for Miura this victory likely only earned him another hard bout with a strong rumour that he will be facing Takashi Uchiyama in his next bout.
Koki Eto v Kompayak Porpramook
When a Japanese fighter travels to fight a Thai in Thailand for some form of a world title they expect to lose. It's not that they aren't good enough to win, but they just don't win. Well, they didn't until Koki Eto showed how it's done.
Eto and former Light Flyweight world champion Kompayak Porpramook went at each other from the opening bell and refused to slow down until the final bell in a bout that may well have given us 8 contenders for "Round of the Year".
Eto set off at an amazing pace and Porpramook tried to match him for much of the bout as both guys gave their all. Their was no thinking afterwards that "well he could have done more to win", in fact they had both gone to the well, taken the water and found a separate well to go to.
The only black marks on this fight was that the scorecards were far too close, with Eto actually needing the 12th round knockdown for the victory, and that Thai television, for some reason, failed to show round 9
Merlito Sabillo vs Luis De La Rosa
As with the Takashi Miura fight above this one took place in Latin America with unheralded Filipino Merlito Sabillo traveling to Colombia to fight Luis De La Rosa, and just like Miura/Thompson is was a special back and forth battle.
For 8 rounds the men traded leather with the fans standing and applauded both men. Despite the fact Sabillo was in a foreign country he was still getting his share of applause as the fans forgot their nationlistic bias and just enjoyed a genuinely amazing see-saw battle.
Not only was the fight excellent from the off but the fight ending shot was a beauty as well.
The fight put Sabillo on the boxing map and whilst he's never going to be the next Manny Pacquiao he's a fighter who has been getting plenty of attention since the victory. Unfortunately De La Rosa looked like a broken man in his follow up fight losing to Moises Fuentes inside a round.
Of course it wasn't just the 3 bouts above that brought my jaws to the floor and made me feel like a kid in a sweet shop. Some others that are worth watching (or re-watching are)
Ruslan Provodnikov v Timothy Bradley
What can you say about this one that HBO didn't say for us? It was Provodnikov's first fight at world level and yet left him as one of the sports must watch fighters. His up coming fight with Mike Alvarado is another sure fire hit and win or lose that we're sure that boxing fans will be put on the edge of their seat from the opening bell.
Nihito Arakawa v Omar Figueroa
It's not often that a fighter makes fans in a clear loss but that's what Arakawa did. He was dropped several times, hurt in almost every round yet refused to quit and gave the fans an incredibly memorable fight on Showtime whilst also giving Omar Figueroa a chance to show that he is more than just a powerful an hard hitting kid. Arakawa hasn't fought since though we'd love to see him given another world title opportunity in 2014.
Denis Lebedev v Guillermo Jones
Heart is something a fighter either has or they don't. In this memorable Cruiserweight clash Denis Lebedev proved he had the heart of a lion as he fought on with a totally disfigured and swollen face before his gas tank eventually gave way against Guillermo Jones. The bout, for the WBA Cruiserweight title was not brutal with both men landing bombs but also gruesome due to the swelling of the Russian.
Ryo Miyazaki v Jesus Silvestre
Whilst not a total war like some of the others the WBA Minimumweight title fight between Ryo Miyazaki and Jesus Silvestre turned out to be a brilliant contest in it's own right. Miyazaki, fighting with cuts around both eyes was perhaps fortunate to claim the victory though the fans were the real winners in a bout that was genuine engaging from the off.
Katsunari Takayama v Mario Rodriguez
It was third time lucky for Katsunari Takayama who finally managed to claim the IBF Minimumweight title. The Japanese fighter had to really put it all on the line and it showed at the end of the bout with Takayama bloodied, swollen and looking like a man who had truly been in a fight, yet he also looked like a man who was very happy with his nights work. Although he was dropped in round 3 he was in control of the bout and knew it in the later rounds as he started to show bout, topping off a marvelous performance.
Shinsuke Yamanaka v Malcolm Tunacao
Returning to the world stage after more than a decade out Malcolm Tunacao gave Shinsuke Yamanaka a really tough battle despite being dropped several times and bloodied. The bout showed what the Bantamweight division had in both the power of Yamanaka and the grit and determination of Tunacao who had waited a long time for a chance to call himself a two-time world champion. It not have been an all out "war" but it was an action packed and tough battle that should have fans tuned in throughout.
Akira Yaegashi v Toshiyuki Igarashi
When you have Akira Yaegashi in a bout you expect excitement and that's what we got here as he took the WBC Flyweight crown from Toshiyuki Igarashi in what was widely described as a "brutal" battle. Both men wore the scars of war come the final bell and with good reason as they had genuinely gone through a war with each other. Although the bout was a bit too one-sided overall the action spoke for it's self and gave us a very enjoyable encounter that was sadly missed by many fans the first time around.
Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux (12-0, 8) is a fighter who widely splits opinion. If you listen to HBO, Ring Magazine or even Bob Arum you'd assume that Rigondeaux was as boring as listening to paint dry.
If you listen to fans of "the sweet science" however, Rigondeaux is generally seen as a supremely gifted fighter who has the ability to make good fighters look ordinary and ordinary fighters look garbage.
Sure he may not have the most exciting bouts fight after fight but one thing about Rigondeaux we can all agree on is that he's a special boxer. Not necessary a great fighter but clearly the top Super Bantamweight on the planet right now.
Unfortunately despite being the clear #1 at 122lbs it seems unlikely that HBO will willingly cover his next bout. With that in mind we started to wonder, what is next for the main who beat "The Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire (31-2, 20)?
Our conclusion was that "El Jackal" would be best off looking to the East for his next fight, as a number of top Super Bantamweights ply their trade over there, in fact there is so many match ups that Ringondeaux could be looking at if he traveled to either Macau or Japan that his career for the next few years could be as busy as he wanted it to be.
The most logical option, if Rigondeaux does look for a fight in the Orient, would be against former 2-weight world champion Hozumi Hasegawa (33-4, 15).
Hasegawa would almost certainly love a chance to claim a third divisional title, he has the ability to draw a crowd and is still, despite losses in recent years, seen as one of the top Japanese fighters.
In terms of the fight it's self Hasegawa would not only bring some TV money and a crowd but also speed, in fact he may be the only fighter at 122lbs who can match Rigondeaux for pure hand speed. His style should actually suit Rigondeaux's counter punching and whilst we could get a chess match it would certainly be a high speed and exciting one with both men having questionable chins.
Incidentally a Hasegawa victory over Rigondeaux would see him fulfilling one of his future goals in becoming a unified champion.
If a fight with Hasegawa couldn't be made for whatever reason there is a trio of Teiken fighters who would all likely be willing to fill a slot with the Cuban.
Firstly you have former WBA champion Akifumi Shimoda (27-3-2, 12), who's highly ranked by both the WBA and WBO. Shimoda certainly wouldn't be given much of a chance by the boxing public but he is known by US fans and could well serve as a supposed "stay busy fight" for the Cuban.
Secondly you have Yasutaka Ishimoto (22-6, 5), pictured, who has been on a recent Bob Arum promoted Macau show, where he scored a notable upset defeating former world champion Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Ishimoto is ranked highly by the WBO and whilst he's unlikely to put up a great challenge he's a fighter who knows that a win would open up major paydays.
The final Teiken option would be Shinsuke Yamanaka (19-0-2, 14), the current WBC Bantamweight champion. Of course Yamanaka would have to move up a division for the bout but Rigondeaux himself is a small Super Bantamweight. Although this is the least likely of the "Teiken Trio" it would certainly be a fight that would have fans across the globe very interested, arguably more so than the Hasegawa bout mentioned above.
Aside from the 4 men mentioned above there is other options, in fact there is really huge selection of options.
One possibility would be Shingo Wake (14-4-2, 7), the current OPBF champion. Of course Wake has a bout with Filipino Jhunriel Ramonal lined up for October, though after that a Rigondeaux bout would likely be his dream contest for early 2014.
In terms of mass attention, perhaps the only fight in Japan that would be bigger than a Yamanaka/Rigondeaux contest would be Rigondeaux against Koki Kameda (31-1, 17). Unfortunately this is likely to be a total no-no for Kameda who has been selective with opponents and would need to step up both a weight class and an opposition class. Saying that though the attention this bout would get, with Kameda looking for a fourth divisional title would be massive.
Of course it's not just Japan that has options and in fact Indonesia has a very, very interesting option, as long as Rigondeaux himself is willing to move up a division.
A bout between Rigondeaux and Chris John (48-0-3, 22) in Jakarta or even Singapore, at Featherweight would be massive.Sure this is a highly unlikely bout but there would be major interest from fans across the globe wondering if Rigodeaux could compete at 126lbs and wondering if Chris John can genuinely beat a world level fighter.
Unfortunately this bout really does have a number of stumbling blocks. Not only would money be an issue, or venue but also the dreaded "Golden Boy/Top Rank" rivalry which has already denied up a number of bouts.
One thing is for certain, despite what Bob Arum and HBO seem to think, there are fights out there for Rigondeaux that can draw a real interest and there are options out there. Hopefully it's not long before Arum realises he can send Rigondeaux out to Macau or Singapore and try to capitalise on the busy Asian scene.
If Rigondeaux's next fight isn't in the East, it's fair to say Arum has missed a trick.
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).